Burts AIS, osCommerce & More Blog
New URL: www.osworld.biz

Friday, March 31, 2006

Niche Products Monthly is re-opening slots

A couple of months ago, I was one of the first to post about "Niche Products Monthly", a membership site set up to give you three "adsense style" sites per month (along with a lot of extra features). I have just learned that a number of original buyers subscriptions have ended, and so slots for new members are going to be available shortly. Niche Products Monthly - simply click the "CLICK HERE to Start Your Risk-Free Membership NOW!" link, and this will take you to the notification page. Fill out your details. When the slots become available, I guess everyone will get an email. You can then decide whether or not to buy into this. Of the first batch of purchasers, I can almost guarantee that 50% won't have done anything with their sites. They won't even have uploaded them! You'll be asking yourself why this - pretty simple: procrastination. They bought into the idea, but never found the inclination to upload the sites... Are you one of that 50% ? Link: Niche Products Monthly

Is your osCommerce site really slow?

Another way that my Blog gets found, is via the (Google) search phrase "my new oscommerce is really slow" - when first installed osC is quite clunky, but there are many ways that you can make into a lean, mean site. You need this eBook that I wrote: This shows a number of ways to make your osCommerce site faster, ranging from simple solutions (such as making images smaller) to more expert solutions. Link: Speed Up osCommerce

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Where were You ?

In an attempt to find out a bit more about each other, I decided a good way would be to ask "where were you?" 1 year, 5 years and 10 years ago... It might take off, it might not - might be interesting, might be not...answer the questions, then send them on to three others! 1 Year ago (2005) Pretty much doing what I am doing now - as little as possible in a self-employed status. Working on creating streams of income! Set up around 10 or 12 sites. 5 years ago (2001) My first year of self employment, but sub-contracted out to a small hosting firm. First got involved with osCommerce (The Exchange Project as it was). Set up Dot Drag Net with an online buddy, this is still going strong with an interesting bunch in the DDN Forum. 10 years ago (1996) Working all-hours for one of the largest Life Assurance firms in the World. It would be another 2 years before I first accessed the Internet! Got married (divorced soon after & still living with the consequences)! How about you? I pass this onto Boo, Rich and Chris.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Amusing Search Phrases

I find it quite amusing to look through my referrals from Search Engines, to see what people have search for in order to find this Blog. Here's my favourite from today: michelle dewberry "i would"

SEO is so hard. Or is it ? No, not really...

Over the past few years, I have come across countless individuals and companies whose holy grail is to get to the top of Google for their chosen search term. Everyone says that getting to the top of Google is so hard, but in reality it is not at all difficult. What many fail to realise is that when people are searching for something they don't put in a generic phrase. They search locally or "niche'ly". Example, what would you search for if you needed a broken tooth fixed: Dentists or Emergency Dentists in your town You can plainly see that targetting your pages to search phrases is likely to be much more beneficial to you. It's not rocket science! To test this out, I recently made a post about "osCommerce Training". Guess what? As of now, that Blog Post is #1 in Google for osCommerce Training (Google Search)! What can we surmise from this? Google loves Blogs. Google loves Blogger Blogs. Google updates really quickly. What about Yahoo and MSN? What about them ? MSN shows the same Blog Post at #9 and Yahoo will probably pick it up soon enough. So, as a business owner you should be Blogging! Why not? It's another way to get your message out to the potential buyers of your product or service. Why bother optimising your website, when you can set up a Blogger Blog, and have #1 listings really rather easily? That's a rhetorical question by the way, no need to answer it. All you need to do is make some good, interesting posts with links to your main site, and you'll soon find you're getting more and more traffic... Further Reading Yaro over at Small Business Branding wrote an excellent piece on this very subject.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Open Source and GPL *does not* mean FREE

I'd like to remind users of Open Source, GPL'd programs such as osCommerce, Zen Cart and the like that this does not mean that everything associated with such programs has to be free. The freedom that the GPL brings is the freedom to do as you wish with the script and associated services. As an extreme example, you could download osCommerce right now, and then sell copies of it on eBay for $1,000,000 - I expect it would be hard to find a buyer, but that is your freedom. A true story I offer no Technical Support at these prices, in fact I charge extra for installation (should the buyer require me to install). This is quite well explained on my site Conditions of Purchase. Last week someone purchased a £9.99 ($20) template from my osCommerce Templates site - they did not order the installation service, so this is an AIS purchase. They buy, they install. I the received an email a few hours later asking why their osCommerce Store was not working. I took a quick look and easily determined it was a known bug within osC that is to do with MySQL paging on 4.1 - I simply pointed the customer at that page and politely explained that the cost of the template does not include Technical Support (unless my template has caused errors). I'm thinking that this should now be the end of it. A few hours later I get another email asking for help - he had tried to apply those fixes, but everything had gone wrong; so he deleted everything. Because I am such a nice guy, I reinstalled, installed the template and fixed the paging error - all free of charge. After all, it is only a few moments work. At last, the customer is now happy... Oh no, another email received. He decided to try Zen Cart instead, and had deleted osCommerce. He had already decided not to stay with ZC, and wanted me to reinstall osCommerce - I agreed on payment of my standard install fee. I consider this to be extremely fair based on the low price of the template (it's on special offer) and the fact I already installed it once for him free of charge. The problem here is the misconception that everything Open Source/GPL should be free (as in "no money") - this is simply not the case. If you are using osCommerce and need the help of a 3rd party, expect to pay a reasonable fee!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Shopping Cart - stop abandonment now!

Do you get lots of Spam Email - I do. It's annoying to the point of me actually finding phone numbers, then ringing up these people and telling them (very bluntly) to remove my email from their database. Anyway, I digress, I had a Spam that had a couple of interesting nuggets of information:

1. 75% of all e-shopping carts are abandoned before the purchase is actually complete? 2. Nine out of 10 shoppers who abandoned their carts did so because of a lack of customer service. (Web Merchant, Fall 2003, Cybershopper Survey) 3. 72% of respondents said that customer service is critical in shopping satisfaction. 4. Less then one percent of all ecommerce Websites offer live customer assistance. (eMarketer, June 2002)
Even though these nuggets are quite old (certainly in Internet terms), they are still very valid. As a shop owner, what have you done to track where people are leaving your site? A few years back, I spent a few days watching one of my clients osCommerce store - it soon appeared that a very large % would abandon their cart at the "log in" page. I changed some code around and reduced this by over 50%... The main problem with almost all osCommerce installations, is that the customer must create an account before he sees the full cost of his order! How dumb is that? Of course, this is because osC needs the customers address before it can give a shipping quote - but how many Store Owners have realised that this is a major turn-off for buyers? What can be done about it? There are a couple of contributions which can help quite a bit, 1 is "ship in cart". Another idea would be to give an estimated cost of postage, based on the weight (or number) of products in the shoppers cart. Anything is better than nothing. Have a think about how you can streamline your osCommerce Store - it could result in more sales being made, which is always a good thing!

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Stress Free way to move an osCommerce site

The other day, Rich posted about the stress of a server move. It can be a nightmare to move a site, particularly a dynamic, interactive sites usch as an osCommerce Shop. Here's how I move osCommerce sites: 1. Purchase a cheap temporary domain name (eg: www.yoursite.info) 2. Select your NEW host, and get the account set up (using the NEW domain name). 3. *Copy* all files across from the OLD host to the NEW host. 4. Set up the NEW configure.php files using the NEW domain name. 5. Set up the OLD host so that the MySQL Daemon can be accessed from the new host. Using cPanel (uugh) this is very simple, if you don't have cPanel, then the host can easily do this for you. 6. Go back to the NEW configure.php file and set up the DB connections at the bottom of this file to access the OLD hosts database connection. Now, think about this. You have two sites, each of which is exactly the same as the other. Except for domain names. Most importantly, both OLD & NEW sites are pulling from the one database. You can now take your time to make sure everything works on the NEW host by using the NEW domain. Once happy: 7. Make your DNS changes on your ORIGINAL domain name, to match the NS details the NEW host gives you. 8. At the same time, PARK your OLD domain on top of the NEW one. 9. And change the Domain Details in the NEW configure.php to match your OLD domain name. We know that dns changes take between 1 hour and 48 hours or so to update - this means that ISPs around the world will see the NEW hosting at different times. Because you still have the NEW hosting using the OLD hosting MySQL, you are still running 1 database, thus you will lose no orders during the changeover. Once you are sure that the DNS changes are complete: 10. Close down BOTH OLD and NEW sites for 20 minutes (say on your quietest time in the middle of the night). During these 20 minutes; 11. Take a dump of the OLD database 12. Set up MySQL on the NEW hosting. 13. Transfer the DB to the NEW. 14. Change your configure files to stop accessing the OLD host DB and make sure that they are accessing their own DB (on the NEW). It sounds complicated, but is in fact really very simple. Doing a server swap this way, ensures that you lose the minimum of orders, as you will be down for only about 20 minutes maximum. If you work quickly, it is possible to have downtime of less than a couple of minutes! Sure, you'll have spent a couple of pounds for a throwawy domain name (you could go on to use this for something else, perhaps a feeder site for your main domain, or a different site entirely). If you buy the cheapest possible, a .info for 1 year, you'll be paying less than $3 (£1.50) or so. This is beer money compared to loss of orders, surely?

Serious Advice for all osCommerce Store Owners Don't rely on a host to understand the best way that a 3rd party script works => go to someone who you feel can do the job quickly and without fuss! It might cost a little more in terms of money, but will cost a lot less in terms of stress, hair loss, and keyboard pounding.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I think I found out why Harald does not like me

Regular, long-time readers will know that HPDL of osCommerce does not like me. Even though I've been a staunch supporter of osCommerce for well over 4 years, it appears that I have upset him somehow - I still don't know how or why he is upset, but there we are - he won't answer my emails. Anyway, if you want to read more about that, see here and here. Anyway, I received email from someone who reads my blog but prefers to remain anonymous:

A couple of months ago, Harald invited me to be a Contrib moderator. I agreed. After a few weeks had passed, and I had neither been invited to their Skype meetings nor given any further instruction, I asked if they were waiting on me for something. Harald replied that they were no longer sure they wanted me on the team, since I was "staff" at osCommerce-Freelancers, and Bobby had indicated he was working on a fork. I was therefore affiliated with a fork.
Hmmm, this is what someone alluded to in my recent threads, but I was certain that Harald would not punish someone for being friends with someone else. That's akin to Ford (motor company) requiring all employees to drive Fords. It just wouldn't happen.
I recently emailed Harald that due to the time involved, I was assuming I'd been silently un-invited, but would have appreciated a yes/no rather than silence.
I also suffer the sound of silence. I wish that Harald would answer me once and for all to say what the problem is (rather than just say "it's a personal problem").
I'm 99% sure that my team invite was retracted solely based on the fight between Bobby and the team. Nothing to do with me. I hope that clarifies my comments. I didn't want to post them under my name in the case that there is still a shred of a chance that I can help the community as a moderator.
It certainly sounds like it. To be honest I was not ready to believe that such actions can take place - I guess I know better now. I am now 100% sure that my being involved in the "freelancers" project is the real reason why Harald decided that I (as in me personally) am not a good fit for supporting osCommerce. Oh well, at least I now know that it wasn't something that I had done to upset him - it was simply his fight with someone else that I was dragged into by Harald himself. Fair enough - I am now happy that I know the reason, and this can be the end of it as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New Look - might go wrong...

I'm going for a colour change - grey. Whilst I am doing this, the blog'll look a bit strange. That is all.

Bootstrapper Notes

Whilst checking out my stats I found quite a few interesting blogs. So far, the best of which is this one: Bootstrapper Notes As I find more quality blogs, I'll update this thread...

Re-monetizing a Site [more]

In yesterdays AIS-potpourri post, I briefly mentioned that I had rejigged a site to try and get a better adsense value from it. Yesterday was the first full day in it's new format, and here is the Adsense Screenshot for the last 7 days: You can plainly see that the effect of my change (late Monday Night) has increased the site's adsense value by quite a factor. You can see that the $2.03 value was for the remainder of the day (half of monday) when I made the change and the $5.66 value from the first full day (tuesday) after the change. So, I spent 10 minutes to rejig the site (it's only a 1 page site!), and this has increased income by a big factor. Of course, this is not really enough data, but I hope to make you see that a simple change can result in big increases in income. Of course, this may be co-incidence, but I think not. In about a month, I will provide more data, and maybe before & after screenshots of this particular site.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Paypal Fees Reduced

Just received this...

PayPal is pleased to announce that from 16 March 2006, the small fee you pay for receiving payments of more than £6,000 per month has got even smaller.
Great! Now, if only I could reach £6k per month it might be a help ;) But then, I suppose there are many people who do receive that kind of cash via Paypal, so it's a help to them. Well done Paypal.

AIS potpourri

A few things for todays installment of AIS adventures... My first Donation I received my first donation from Easy Menu - this is a site I purchased about 10 days ago as it fits nicely into my portfolio. The basis of this site is not adsense, but is all about raising money via donation/payments for use of the semantically correct list. Thank you to the Donator :) Re-monetize an underperforming site Late last night I took another look at one of my underperforming sites - it should be doing better than it is! Last month it averaged just $0.27 per day. In one month I will come back to this post and let you know the effect of the changes that I made. Basically all I did was rejig the content of the site (it is only a 1 page site), and place adsense more prominently. It took about 10 minutes. osCommerce Templates You'll know by now that one of my sites was "featured" in an article in the popular UK computer magazine .net - I made an offer for all .net readers to get an extra 25% off and have had a few orders on the back of this over the past coupple of days. Update on PLR Manna PLR Manna sales have dropped off. I knew that this particular product would have a fairly short shelf-life, but was hoping for a little longer yet. I'll keep the site up for now as it has PR and may be useful for something else in the future. This site earned it's way though as I made a nice profit though I did over-estimate the sales I would make (I should have taken the 7.5k offer that was made for it). Oh well, at least I cannot say "what if" (if I had sold the site). New AIS upcoming! I am in final preparation to launch a new product AIS (no adsense). It's linked to my other AIS's and if my previous is anything to go by, it should sell around 50 products at an average of $50 each. We'll see. More on that when I launch (which should be by the end of this month). The Dawn of a New Age? Over on one of my other Forum haunts, Boo posted this:

Anyway, I had a spare few minutes earlier today and so logged into my adsense account for the first time since Dec, just to see if ANYTHING had changed - and what did I find? I've got over $200 dollars sitting in there! Checked the stats in a bit more detail and since Jan I've been averaging just under $5 per day. And this is all from sites that I'd completely forgotton about - zero promotion, nuffin. So I'm a very happy bunny - and it seems that those of you saying 'stop stressing, sit back and give it time' were right!
This is a good result, nice one Boo. Now, please update your AIS blog ;)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Website Owners & Back Links

Over the weekend I decided that my websites need quality backlinks, so I got in touch with a number of people in order to ask them to remove my links from their pages & sites. 95% were quite OK about it, but the odd one or two were not. This raised an interesting question; Does a website owner have a right to ask another site owner to remove a backlink? I think "yes", but would be interested to know what you think.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oli's Site Builder Service

I just learned that Oli's Site Builder Service is going to be limited to just 100 members. I know quite a bit about Oli's service and can tell you that you want to be a part of this as the cost is incredibly low. Oli, I'd have charged a lot more money! Anyway, take a look - if you are into Niche Site Building, this will be a good way for you to quickly and easily build a portfolio of web properties. Remember that all the hard work is done by Oli, and no 2 customers get the exact same site. Link: Oli's Site Builder Service.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Back in the Country ...

Back in the country after a few days of R & R. Need to catch up on some forums and blogs that I read, after which I need to catch up on my viewing of TV (mostly business type programs). I also learned (cheers Paul!) that one of my AIS sites has a small write-up in one of the UK's leading computer magazines; I did notice a an upturn in sales and wondered why. I've now had the chance to check this out and I have a screenshot and a couple of lines of text at the end of a large e-commerce article. Nice! Don't know why they didn't ask me to pitch for a part in the actual article though ;)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Posting from Gay Paree (that's Paris for you non-mac lovers)

And, may I say that wi-fi access is mega expensive!  But it's all good fun, and much easier than trying to find an Internet Cafe...

Ok, so we came over on the Eurostar (Channel Tunnel Train), today we did the usual suspects:  Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Boat ride down the Seine.  Tomorrow I think we have a cycling tour of Paris (as in pedal bikes, not motor bikes).  With what I have seen of French Drivers, this should be fun ;)  OK, with that said, and because I am paying an extortionate amount for net access, that's it for now.

If I survive the bike ride tomorrow, I may post, but if not, I'm back next week sometime after doing a spot of house hunting on the west coast.  If anyone is expecting email from me, I think I've done the most important ones, others can wait a little while - sorry!

Cheers, Gary

Friday, March 10, 2006

osCommerce - Customer Groups

If you run the "Customer Groups" contribution [ this one ] on an osCommerce store it gives the ability to define a "group" (eg for 25% discount). Some shops need the ability to give trade discount to a group of customers for example. I've been running this for a while to deal with Resellers of my osCommerce Templates, but have found it increasingly mind-numbing to not know actually who is in a group (detailed in one place). The usual admin page looks like this: Pretty useless really. What I did was add a few lines of code to this page, so that it will now list each customer in the "group". The customers name appears like this: In addition, I linked the customers name directly through to the customers detail page (so I can easily see who has ordered what, how many times they've logged in, their address details and so on). This is now much more useful and less time-consuming to use!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lack of Interaction - is AIS bad for your health ?

Though working from a home office is nice, I've come to the conclusion that doing this is not what I need at the moment.  For the last 5 years, I've basically been self employed (though I did sub-contract myself out for a couple of those years).  What I've been striving for over the past 18 months or so is building enough streams of income to allow myself to take as much time out as I need and not lose income.

To test this, I have not done any work since approx 10/02; income has pretty much held steady at around $176 per day (across all my income streams).  With this in mind, I'm pulling back a bit from AIS as this amount is more than enough to have fun with (consider I have no major outgoings);  I've decided to offer on-site osCommerce training to companies in the UK.  I'll probably do this 2 to 3 days a month, which should bring in a nice amount, but also, more importantly, get me out and about, making contacts and networking.

I already have my first gig booked for the end of March, 2 days intensive setting up a brand new osCommerce site and then 1 extra day providing training on the Admin section.  It's kind of going back to what I did when I was working in a corporate environment (training & development), but mixed in with what I've learned during my self employment (how to build websites & ecommerce integration).

Should be interesting!

osCommerce Training in Edinburgh (or anywhere else in the UK)

If anyone in the UK is looking for on-site training for anything osCommerce related, please feel free to email me on oscshops@gmail.com - my daily rates are very reasonable.

Wahey! Adsense Referral Payout

I'm stoked - I just recevied my first $100 payout for an Adsense Referral. Many thanks to whoever it was that signed up using my link :) Thanks Google for the nice little bonus.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Keyword Avalanche

I've just learned that the Keyword Avalanche Forum is re-opening it's doors. If you are at all interested in learning about entrepreneurship, marketing and such, then you need to join up. The main slant of the Forum is in creating "Adsense" sites, but the community there is (in the main) open to new ideas and processes. I often pick up tidbits of information that have helped my business. Link: Keyword Avalanche Hand on heart, I can tell you that if I was not a member of this forum I would have missed out on around $7000 of sales during the past 2 months. This is my top recommendation for anyone (whether experienced or not) to join a community that has no barriers to success.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My osCommerce Site has suddenly picked up...

Burty, posting by the power of email :-)

Many of you will know that one of my longest serving and trusty AIS sites is my osCommerce Templates site at <a href=" www.oscommerce-templates.co.uk">osCommerce Templates</a> - over the last 18 months or so, sales have gone steadily downhill, this due to a couple of reasons:

1/  Template Monster started selling osCommerce designs.
2/  I withdrew from the osCommerce Community.

These two things combined have reduced my AIS income on my Templates sites from around $500 a month, to around $100 a month.  However, over the last 6 weeks or so, there has been quite a turnaround, and I'm pleased to say that income from template sales on this particular site has risen back up to around $400 a month on average.

I do have a few resellers of my templates, but sales on this are very few and far between - I am considering closing the scheme down as it is just not bringing in sales.  I'll have to ponder that a bit further, maybe set a minimum sales threshold every quarter or something.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Testing 123 - sent by email!

As I'm not in the office for the next 2 weeks, I'm posting this via the power of email.  It should show up as a post in my Blog. 

Friday, March 03, 2006

Record Day for AIS in February

I don't really update you all with my monthly stats anymore; however, I did promise to let you know of any particularly good days; On Feb 21st, I earned $834.06 for absolutely no work. A couple of template packs, a very nice affiliate commission, some adsense and a few sales of my latest script. I was hoping to break the 4 figure barrier, but fell short. If only every day was like this! To give this some perspective, 2 days before (19th) I earned just $25.46 (all adsense)...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A new addition to my portfolio

Yesterday I purchased a website, which is another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is my portfolio of web properties. It links in well with a few of my other AIS's and should raise a small amount of money each month. I paid over the odds really, but I can see some potential for the site. I already jigged the site a bit to provide better revenue streams and changed some licensing on the site to provide a better revenue model. Site: Easy Menu I also have a few other ideas for raising revenue from the site, but these are not really connected with the actual site itself...that probably doesn't make sense, but all will become clear as time goes on.

Looking to start an Empire ?

If you are looking to start up an AIS Empire, look no further than Niche Sites Monthly. This is a new service started up by one of my online buddies - basically, you get 10 niche websites per month. There are many other places you can get "already made" sites from - indeed, I used to sell such sites at $49 each! With Niche Sites Monthly, you get 10 unique sites! The next buyer gets 10 sites on the same topic, but with a different website & different articles/text. And so on & forth. In effect, every customer gets similar (but different) sites - this means that no-one should get hammered by any duplicate content penalties. Of course, such a service is a real PITA to provide, but I am sure that Oli will rise to the challenge! For now, you can get the first 10 sites for just $30 ! Well worth looking at, I recommend this service highly - think of it as another arrow (or 10 arrows) with which to shoot at the Adsense Target! Link: Niche Sites Monthly

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Good Year so far

I didn't actually do much work for almost all of February. I still managed to some in at almost 167% of target. What that means is that the over-age in January and February will make up for any loss of income during March. Based on my daily target amount, I am 39 days ahead of myself - so I basically have a 39 day buffer => in plain english; I can earn nothing for the next 39 days and still be ahead of my daily (cumulative) target for this year. Can't be bad!

The Apprentice, Round 2 tonight

BBC2, 9pm. So last week we lost Ben Stanberry - basically the guy didn't have the ability to lead his team. I was quite surprised that Alan Sugar had a downer on the women for getting free fruit and veg to resell - seems to me that that is a proven method of creating income for a lot of companies. On a side note, this blog is getting loads of search engines hits, from people looking for details about The Apprentice => The Apprentice Official Site