Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, March 13, 2009

Let's Spread a Little Hatred

New Reason to Hate Google

Free transaction processing via Google Checkout will end in May. Currently, their nominal rate of 2% + 20 cents per transaction is waived on sales up to 10 times your previous month’s AdWords spend. That’s always meant free processing.

Their new rate will be 2.9% + 30 cents, with no waivers. That’s cheaper than PayPal, but more expensive than my average charge sale. So much for reducing payment processing costs. Discontinuing GC would be easy enough, but I’d only be doing so out of spite. It was a bitch to get working right in the first place, it’s a very small percentage of my business, and it costs about the same as other payment methods. For my customers’ convenience, I will continue accepting it despite its flaws – defective realtime shipping lookups chief among them, but that’s a whole ‘nuther subject (see the “Reasons to hate Google” subject tag, and particularly this post.)

PPC Advertising Again

I got an email from Yahoo warning that more than half of my bids are below those of my competition. That tells me that my spending cuts are paying off. Another message warned that my account reached its daily spending cap 52% of the time last month. That tells me that my bids are still higher than I’m willing to pay. I wish I could convince myself to shut Yahoo down entirely, but since PPC is the only advertising I do, I can’t really justify closing off one avenue completely. (OK, I did shut down MSN a long time ago, but they were never a contender).

Google is running me nearly $10 per day. I need to get it below $7 to be within budget, and I need to do that without harming sales. I fixed some ancient ads whose old-style Sunshop URLs landed on broken pages. I’m finding lots of keywords whose minimum effective bids have skyrocketed (example: EcoFluxx went from 15 cents to $1 for page-one placement – who in their right mind is bidding a buck a click for a $14 card game?). Keywords that have been priced out of the market are obvious deletions. I'm cutting my bids on winter products and raising the ones on warm weather stuff, like bird kites – which just happened to be among the ads with broken landing pages.

Another New Reason to Hate Google?

This might be premature. Google just emailed a late-night announcement about their AdSense program – the little text ads that get inserted into web pages. They’re introducing something called “interest-based advertising”. I haven’t studied this in detail yet, but here’s the gist of it:

“Interest-based advertising will allow advertisers to show ads based on a user's previous interactions with them, such as visits to advertiser website and also to reach users based on their interests (e.g. "sports enthusiast"). To develop interest categories, we will recognize the types of web pages users visit throughout the Google content network. As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we will add them to the "sports enthusiast" interest category.”

If I read this right, it means they’ll be displaying those ads based not on a website’s content, but on the visitor’s browsing history. That’s a little disturbing, don’t you think? The bit that really got my attention is this:

“As a result of this announcement, your privacy policy will now need to reflect the use of interest-based advertising. Please review the information at (URL) to ensure that your site's privacy policies are up-to-date, and make any necessary changes by April 8, 2009. Because publisher sites and laws vary across countries, we're unfortunately unable to suggest specific privacy policy language.”

If I read this right, it means their new data collection will invalidate most existing privacy policies.

I only use AdSense on this blog (which Google owns). My readers have clicked the Google ads exactly 116 times in the past three years, generating a whopping $88.68. Hey, I’m finally nearing the $100 payout trigger! If you’re running Firefox with AdBlock, you probably can’t even see Google’s ads. If you can see them, please help a guy out with an occasional click. Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait.

Since the revenue involved is trivial, I’ll probably either opt out of their new program or remove AdSense entirely...after I reach that magic $100 payout, that is. Either way, this is one more thing I need to investigate.

Speaking of revenue...traffic has gradually fallen from 175-200 daily to under 150. Should I blame my advertising cuts? The calendar? The recession? It’s probably all three. Regardless of falling traffic, I’m only $33 under plan with a day and a half left in the week.

Web Hosting: Somebody New to Hate

My web server has been acting cranky again – timing out or encountering errors several times a day. It's a chronic problem. Sometimes MochaHost finds and fixes a problem and performance improves for awhile. Once, they even moved me to a new server. More often, they deny that there’s anything wrong.

Moving a website is not trivial. I’d need to pay my developer to perform the actual move. The new host would have to coordinate with GoDaddy to install my SSL certificate. I’d have to restore all of my customizations to the newly-installed site. It would cost $hundreds, take a lot of time, potentially disrupt business, and harm my search engine rankings (Google rewards an IP address’s longevity). And I don’t know where I’d find substantially better hosting at a comparable price anyway. Mocha charges only $75 annually, while a lot of other places get $25 per month or more. I’d willingly pay a little more for better performance, but I can’t afford to quadruple one of my few fixed costs.

So I’ve opened another non-specific support ticket with Mocha. I hope they can find something wrong with the server. I hope they won’t need to move my site internally again. Even though my heart isn't filled with rage, this week’s theme is spreading hatred. Therefore, please welcome the “Reasons to hate web hosts” tag.


  1. Click click.

    But as a google investor I say, please don't hate teh google.

  2. Maybe their new paradigm will display ads for something other than merchant services banks. This must be one boring blog if the ads it attracts don't even interest *me*.

    Thanks for the clicks. I am obsessed with collecting my $100 now. :)


What do you think? Leave a comment.

Google Search