Category Archives: Marketing

Software Marketing Glossary from DP Directory

If you have not seen it yet, check out the Software Marketing Glossary created by Al Harberg, who runs the press release distribution company DP Directory. This is an impressive collection of the short (and some not so short) articles describing different terms used in the software marketing business, neatly organized and illustrated. It also has quite a few of reviews of the marketing books. I thought that after being in the software business for so many years I knew everything related to software marketing, yet when browsing the Software Marketing Glossary I discovered quite a few things I didn’t know about. If you are a software developer who is just starting with marketing your products, this list could be a good starting point to become familiar with all the different things involved in marketing of your digital products.

By the way, I’ve been using DP Directory to distribute our press releases for more than a decade now, and Al’s service has always been top-notch. (And no, Al does not pay me a commission for this recommendation, I’m just a satisfied customer.) In addition to the press release distribution, Al also offers several other marketing services, including web site reviews, copy writing, SEO optimization, and so on. I’ve used some of them as well and was very satisfied with the results. Check it out!

Getting ready for ISVCon 2012

In less than two months I will be at the ISVCon conference in Reno, Nevada. If you are an independent software developer (or just thinking about becoming one) and have not registered for ISVCon yet, it’s not too late: go to the ISVCon registration web page and use the coupon code AB2012 to get 10% discount. (No, I don’t get a commission, I’m just a happy participant of the past such conferences.) Note: Better not delay the registration and do it before the end of June, because in July the registration fee increases quite considerably.

During my career as an independent software developer I’ve been to quite a few such events in the past, and I’ve always found the presentations informative and useful. This year’s schedule is no exception and I’m looking forward to attending quite a few of the sessions, on many different topics, including marketing, mobile development, modern trends in the software business, and so on.

I’m also looking forward to the social events, and to the opportunity to meet other developers face to face. It’s one thing to read what other people write on their blogs or in the ASP forums, but it’s entirely different thing to actually talk to them! Besides, if the conference is within the driving distance, my wife and I are always take the opportunity to take a few days off and make the driving to and from the conference fun, too.

Here are a few random photos from the past software events I attended:

The ice sculpture that Tucows put up at their Software Industry Conference booth in 2000, in Florida:

Bob Ostrander brought his potato bazooka to the shareware schmooze in 1999 in Columbus, OH:

The women of software are beautiful (Software Industry Conference in Denver, 2005):

Software developers can be fun (Software Industry Conference in Denver, 2005):

Yours truly, “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona”, on the way back from the Software Industry Conference in Denver, 2007:

Once again, if you have not registered for ISVCon yet, don’t miss your chance: go to the ISVCon registration web page and use the coupon code AB2012 to get 10% discount. See you there!

Getting through the Google “winter”

Winter came early to the usually sunny and warm South-West Utah this year. First, early frost came in the beginning of October, killing tomatoes my wife was so fond of, as well as quite a few other outside plants of hers. Then, at about the same time I’ve got an email from Google stating “Removal from Google’s Index … In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.” WHAT??? It took me a few seconds to understand what it was about: Goggle decided to penalize my main business web site for something that violated its terms of service. Considering that Google was a significant source of visitors to the web site, my heart skipped a few beats.  It looked like we were up for a long, cold winter this year.

I went to review the source pages of the web site right away, to see what exactly triggered the Google penalty. It turned out, I had a paragraph of text on the page enclosed with the tags <div class=”description”>…</div>. Nothing bad by itself, until you pull the style.css file and see that the definition for class “description” was: .description { display: none; } In other words, the text that was between the tags was not displayed on the page. Yet it was visible to the googlebot. A clear violation of the Google’s terms, indeed!

How come I had that piece of hidden text on the web page? It happened a few years ago, when I was doing the last redesign of the web site. I was playing with different style sheets, one designed to display the web page on the screen, and another one to be used when the page was sent to the printer.  I was using the display: none; attributes in the printing style sheet to suppress the printing of the non-essential elements (like menus, which have no use when printed on paper). While playing with the different layouts, I forgot about one invisible piece of text I left there. And now, several years later, Goggle finally figured out that the text was hidden and decided to penalize me.

Once I realized what the problem was about, I removed the hidden text from all pages, and submitted a reconsideration request to Google. They replied: “Please allow several weeks for the reconsideration request.” Several weeks! As if the stock market crisis was not enough of bad news at that time.

Then, after a few days passed, the frost was gone, and the usual warm fall returned to Utah. One morning, while checking the Google search results the N-th time, I saw my web site back in the results. Hurray, Google has lifted its punishment, and allowed my web site back into its index! It turned out that instead of “at least 30 days” or “several weeks” the penalty lasted only about 6 days. (Of course, I’m not complaining!).

Looking at the web site statistics, here is how the Google penalty affected the traffic:

Google "winter"

The decrease in the traffic was noticeable, but not devastating. Why? Because the “organic” Google traffic, although significant, was not the primary source of the visitors to my web site. What was the primary source then, you might ask? Sorry, I’m not telling (I have a lot of competition!) Let me just mention that the “word of mouth” kind of traffic, that is people telling their friends and colleagues about my products, the web sites recommending my products to their users, and other similar sources, play a very prominent role in keeping my business alive.

Even though the Google punishment was light, I promised to myself that I will pay better attention to the web pages in the future and make sure I don’t do something stupid again that would trigger the Google “winter” again. It may not be so short next time.


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A book review: “Conversation Marketing” by Ian Lurie

Summary: If you are a small business owner who’s got a web site, but is unsure what to do next,  where to invest your hard earned money to make the web site actually work for your business, this book will serve you well as a good introduction into the Internet marketing.

Although anyone can read this book online for free, I’ve ordered a paper version of it about a year ago, after seeing it mentioned by Bob Walsh in his blog. I was not in the marketing mood, and I did not read it then. These days, I’m getting closer to releasing a new software product (stay tuned for the big announcement here, any day now :-) ), and I’m preparing myself to switching from the programming to the marketing mode for some time, so I decided it was time to read it now. I’m not a novice in the Internet matters (I created the first web site for my business back in 1994, before Google, Yahoo!, and MSN even existed), still I found this book of a good value.

Not that it took too long to read the book: it’s only 93 pages, including the Table of Contents and Acknowledgments. That was my first suprise when I got the book, “Can a book this thin be any good?”. It was, although not without some shortcomings. The biggest of which were rather awkward analogies used throughout the book. For example, the book begins with a description of an imaginary Farmer’s Market that is neat, shiny, visited by a lot of people, but that happens not to have any lettuce on its shelves. This analogy is used to illustrate a poorly designed web site, that does not do a good job of delivering what the visitors are looking for. To me, the analogy is poor: the problem of the missing lettuce was probably caused by a one-time misjudgement of the market’s management, and is easily fixed (by ordering the lettuce!). Problems with web site design and navigation are not so easy to correct.

Another example of a poor analogy is further in the book, when the author explains that you must use a double-opt-in method of subscribing people to your email list. “Don’t sign them up and then ask to unsubscribe!”, writes the author, “That’s just rude, like eating the last piece of cake and then asking if anyone wants it”. Sure, eating the last piece of cake is rude, but it does not illustrate the rudeness of the subscribing to an email list without asking for the permission first. A better analogy, IMHO, would be, for example,  a situation when you are standing on a bus stop, waiting for your bus, and a taxi driver would suddenly stop by you, push you into the car, and start driving, yelling “I’ll take you whenever you want to go, if you don’t want that, I can drop you off on the next corner!”. Now that’s what’s getting on an unwanted email list feels like, if you ask me.

Anyway, those are minor things, which fortunately did not diminish the good value of the book itself for me. What I really liked about the book is the practical advice the author has given, taking an imaginary small business as a case study. Too many books on the Internet marketing give a too abstract advice, that’s difficult to apply to the reality. “Choose the right keyphrases”, “implement good site navigation”, “start a blog”, all that sounds well in theory, but when it comes down to the reality, the question “how do I apply that to my particular situation, to my specific business?” often remains hard to answer. What the author of “Conversation marketing” did, he illustrated the advice he was giving by applying it to the specific situation of a specific small business, step by step, taking it from a regular “brick and walls” business to a business with strong Internet presence, and solid Internet strategy for the future.

The author does not go into the technical details too deeply, and that’s probably why the book turned out so thin in the end. But that’s a good thing, in my opinion: you don’t need to allocate a lot of time for reading it, just a few hours would be enough. Of course, when you start applying the advice to your own business and web site, you will want to revisit the pages, to make sure you’re not missing anything.

To summarize, if you are looking for a good review of the current state of the art and practical advice on doing business on the Internet, get this book. (Just ignore the analogies it has or come up with your own :-) )