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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.
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Friday, July 03, 2009

The QuickBooks Crisis Ends. I Hope.

You’d think that setting up my first new computer in four years would be fun, but business machines are so boring that I didn’t even take my new Vorlon out of the box for three days. Then I spent two days installing and customizing programs and utilities, leaving Wednesday open to deal with Quickbooks.

I started at 11:30 am. Basic installation was routine. Thanks to the warnings that I’d read, I knew enough to patch the program before converting my company file. By 12:05 pm I was ready to register – aw, CRAP! – by telephone. Even though I knew it was coming, enduring a sales pitch from India to obtain a six-digit code pissed me off -- can't computers do that nowadays? By 12:25 I was finally up and running. My 65 MB company file runs great on this shiny new computer. With the QB hurdle finally cleared and only a few minor details remaining, I moved my old Inspiron aside and put the Vorlon in its place of honor. I held a little ceremony. It was emotional.

Thursday morning the QB shortcut was missing from my desktop and from the Programs list. In fact, the QB executable was gone without a trace! The program folder was there. My company file was where QB wanted me to put it. But the program itself is nowhere to be found, not even in the recycle bin. WTF? How is it even possible? I reinstalled, and thankfully didn’t have to reactivate the program. The .exe survived the night and is running normally. Today QB asked me to reapply the big R7 patch, so if that’s what ate the .exe last time I might not be out of the woods yet.

I tried to set up the online banking feature that everyone was complaining about. It seemed to work once, but crapped out on me this morning. Maybe I just don't understand how it's supposed to work. It doesn't matter.


I’ve been using Kosh long enough to pronounce a verdict on the Dell Vostro 1520. The glossy plastic lid is a fingerprint magnet, although it looks sleek when it’s clean. The onboard speakers are weak and tinny compared to my Inspiron’s robust sound. The screen is very bright and has great contrast, but (like most LCDs these days) it leaks backlight around the edges, and both of the bottom corners are shadowy. Worst of all, it doesn’t have any rear USB ports, and the side ports are near the front of the machine – convenient for changing out USB devices, but anything plugged in permanently (such as the cord for my wireless mouse receiver) is inevitably in the way. My machine is supposed to have 3 GB of RAM. Windows system info shows 2.99 GB of memory. Yet a little freeware system monitor that I installed is only reporting 2 gig. I choose to fault the utility. Functionally, the Vorlon is a great little machine so far. The real test will be how well it runs Fall from Heaven 2.


I finally made good on my repeated threats to shut down Yahoo Search Marketing. Since July is doomed anyway, why watch the remaining $78 in my account slowly dribble away? I can always reactivate my campaigns when consumers start consuming again…maybe in the fall.

Readers who don’t care about numbers should skip down to the next section break.

I’ve spent $682.35 on YSM year-to-date. That bought 4716 clicks (14.5 cents/click) and 42 conversions ($16.25 per conversion). I’d need a programmer to implement Yahoo’s sales tracking code to know what those conversions were worth; I arbitrarily set their value at $20 – the price of one lighted cap -- which would be $840 in revenue. Am I really paying $16.25 for $20 worth of business? No, the numbers are more slippery than that. A “conversion” means one advertised item sold (thus a conversion can bring along piggyback dollars). Even conversion tracking itself is inexact – for example, Yahoo reports something called “assists”, which seem to be an ill-defined way of inflating their conversion count. Buyers who have cookies turned off don’t register at all. Even if each Yahoo conversion is really worth my average sale (currently $42, but falling rapidly), that’s still just $1,764 in gross sales. With advertising budgeted at 9% of gross, the $682.35 that I spent would need to return somewhere around $7,000 (I don’t know how to calculate that, how embarrassing) to be cost-effective.

It looks to me like I spent 39% of my Yahoo sales revenue on Yahoo advertising, which is to say that each Yahoo ad dollar brought in $1.61 in sales (is that right?). So the roughly $100 per month that I save on YSM should only reduce sales by $161/month.

I might improve this by completely revamping my ad campaigns, or possibly by cutting out all keywords except a dozen or so proven winners. Perhaps I’ll set myself a goal: By September, I want to reopen YSM with a stripped down, cost-effective campaign.

For comparison’s sake, here are my equivalent Google numbers: $1,718.68 bought 152 conversions, for $11.31 per conversion. If those 152 conversions were worth $42 each (the number I awarded to Yahoo), then I spent 27% of gross to drive $6,384 in sales. The same warnings about imprecision apply – if my overall advertising percentage was really that high I’d have gone under years ago.

No matter how you slice and dice it, Google ads are a better investment. I’m going to nudge my Google budget up by the $100 that I’m saving on Yahoo. Theoretically, spending that $100 on Google should drive $173 in sales, or $12 more than if I’d spent it at Yahoo. Whee!


Traffic and sales are both plummeting now. By the end of June I was down to barely 100 visits per day – 50% below where I should be. This first week of July was even worse. Remember how I said that last week was the worst of 2009? Well, this week is going to be the worst since 2007. My next paycheck will be the smallest I’ve seen in two years. It’s breathtaking how rapidly things fell apart.

My next big project will be figuring out how to use Twitter and Facebook for marketing. Yes, I’m getting desperate. The gods know I have enough time on my hands these days.

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