Episode 34 | Answers to Your Questions
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[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 34.
[00:12] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or are just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:20] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Rob?
[00:25] Rob: I’m doing good. I’m just coming back from about 10 days off. It was Thanksgiving last week, so that will give everyone an indication of how far in advance we recorded this episode. But took a long break, went to San Francisco with the family.
[00:38] I was really pleased with how things turned out work-wise, because I basically just left. I barely checked email. I only brought the iPad. A few times during the week I popped on just for kicks. I did a lot of reading on the iPad, read some blogs and stuff purely for fun. But I spent maybe two hours total on email over the course and really no major repercussions. So I was excited about that. I’m always glad to get back and…
[01:04] Like I said, I kept on eye on if anything were to explode while I was gone. But to really get back and have a little bit of work this morning…I mean I did have 150 unanswered emails. Aside from that, it feels good. How about you? What’s new?
[01:18] Mike: I took the family to Disneyworld for vacation last week during Thanksgiving. I had the pleasure, instead of a Thanksgiving dinner, we had Domino’s pizza. [laughs]
[01:26] Rob: That is awesome! How did you possibly convince your wife to do that?
[01:30] Mike: You know, it really wasn’t that difficult, because when we down there…we have a timeshare, and the way things ended up working out, we ended up staying at three different places. And on the day after Thanksgiving we were going to have to move to a different place and go to a hotel for just one night so that we could catch our flight out on Saturday morning. And because of that, we really didn’t have any way to store leftovers or anything like that, or any time to get rid of them. So instead of trying to do something or trying to figure out after we got down there how we were going to arrange for a turkey dinner or something like that, we just said the heck with it and we went to Disneyworld instead.
[02:08] I’m pretty sure it was Magic Kingdom that day. And it was actually not nearly that busy as I would have expected. But the day after we went to the Wild Kingdom, which is their animal themed park, and that was even less busy. There was virtually nobody there, as compared to earlier in the week on the Friday after Thanksgiving. So it was pretty cool.
[02:29] Rob: I have an update on something I talked about in a couple of the earlier episodes, and it’s the audio version of my book “Start Small, Stay Small”. I finished recording it and it’s all edited, and it’s actually been up for sale now for about two weeks. I had emailed everyone who purchased the paperback or the PDF version and gave them a deal on it, basically.
[02:53] So if you’re listening to this and you didn’t get that email, certainly let me know. So now I’m offering package deals. If you get the PDF you get the audio book for another 10 bucks and blah, blah, blah. But it’s had a really good reception and I’m very pleased that I did it. All told, it took somewhere between seven and eight hours of my time to read it.
[03:15] And I could have hired out the voice talent, but I just did not want to do that. I really wanted it to be my voice, and I felt like I could do it more justice than anyone. It’d be kind of like outsourcing my blog; these are just some things that I really want to have my voice to them.
[03:29] So it took a lot less time than I thought. I had estimated 12 hours of reading time. And then sent it to an editor and it was all set up in just a few days. And I think it came out good. I mean it’s certainly not super publisher production, $3,000 an hour studio quality, but for being recorded on my laptop with a USB headset, it’s definitely legit. And I’ve received a few compliments and stuff. And it allows me to sell it for cheap and not have to sell it for $30 a pop or whatever the big publishing houses do. So I’m stoked about that, and I’ve already received several people who’ve been pleased that it was released like that because they said they weren’t going to buy the paperback or PDF versions.
[04:11] Mike: That’s cool. I would have expected it to take you longer than seven or eight hours to read through it.
[04:16] Rob: I know. I think for some chapters I read quicker than I had expected, or like I drank caffeine and read quicker. Because I started listening to it just spot-checking things, so I was skipping around, and I was like, “Oh, this chapter is noticeably faster than the earlier ones.” But it’s good. I already made much more back than the editing costs.
[04:34] So, you know, if you are interested as a listener, if you’re interested in the audio book, go to StartupBook.net. And actually, you know what? I’m going to set up a little discount page. If you go to StartupBook.net/podcast. [laughs] I just made that up. I will give you $5 off. And I’ll just keep that up for probably just a week after this airs.
[04:55] Mike: Cool.
[04:56] Rob: I have another update. I talked a couple episodes ago about a promotion I was going to do with Wedding Toolbox. It was with coupon codes. And I had a VA who was submitting them to different coupon sites. And I was pretty leery of whether it would work or not. And it was a miserable failure!
[05:12] Mike: [laughs]
[05:13] Rob: It was probably, I would say, about 15 minutes of my time…well, maybe 20 minutes including the email to her and generating the codes and stuff. She’s three bucks an hour, so it was two to three hours of work. And there were no signups. I got some traffic from the sites, but there were just no conversion on it. So, it is what it is! Probably won’t be doing that again. But I just wanted to update people on that as an interesting idea.
[05:39] Mike: So today what we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be taking some time to answer some of the listener questions that have been coming in. We’ve been getting quite a few of them that have been stacking up, so what we’re going to do is we’re just going to walk through what we’ve seen as some of the more interesting ones.
[05:54] And the first one that we’re going to start off with is that we had asked for people to email us or let us know the strangest place they’ve listened to a podcast from. And this one came in, and I’ll leave the poster anonymous. But someone says:
[06:10] “Rob and Mike, you asked for the most unusual place I’ve ever listened to your podcast. I am an intelligence analyst for…” And I’ll leave out the actual place, but it’s basically a government agency. And it says, “I got here through an early career in IT, mostly database work and software development. So becoming a data practitioner was a logical career progression. Surveillance can be a long and boring job. I was watching a warehouse to see what time some people came to load their vans, listening to ’12 Ways to Add Hours to your Day’. You guys have been the motivation I needed to finish a project I’ve had going for years.”
[06:40] I just find it interesting that somebody’s doing government surveillance and listening to our podcast at the same time.
[06:47] Rob: Yes. So he’s doing like government spy work, covert stuff, and “12 Ways to Add Hours to your Day”? I do find it ironic. He was probably sitting in that van for 12 hours watching these guys and he’s listening to that podcast. Hopefully he didn’t do it on double time. I think when you have 12 hours, I would listen to it on single time.
[07:05] Mike: I think so too.
[07:06] Rob: Well, cool. Thanks for sending that in. We definitely appreciate it.
[07:10] Mike: Yeah, so if anyone has any others, feel free to send them in.
[07:16] Mike: And the next one comes in from Peter, who says:
[07:19] “Today I listened to your latest podcast, and one question popped into my mind. How do you guys deal with sitting all your days behind computers? How do you treat your bodies? How do you stay in shape? Working on your own products in the evenings after sitting at the computer for eight hours in a day job can be stressful to your body. I understand that you’re not doctors, but I’d be interested in how you deal with associated health issues. What’s your favorite workout, etc? Thanks again, Peter.”
[07:40] Rob: I’ll take a first crack at this one. So, I am probably not the best person to ask. I did used to be an athlete. I was an athlete in college and such. But I feel like since I started programming, I’ve really let all that slide.
[07:53] Recently, though, after the past 6-12 months, I have started jogging again. So just doing some basic, like 30 minutes a day of running. I’m actually running on the road, not using a treadmill and stuff. But actually getting that exercise in makes me more energized in rather than tired. I think it’s been scientifically proven that doing this creates endorphins and basically does things physiologically that actually improve your performance at other things, even at mental work.
[08:21] And so, up until when my son was born, which was about four and a half months ago, I was jogging again. And the way I justified it was I was able to…I’m able to listen to podcasts during that time. You know, because I have a real hard time just going out and jogging for 30 minutes. I know it’s worthwhile, but I have a tough time justifying it. So since I always have really good content to consume during that time, it totally made it worthwhile.
[08:44] And the other thing I’ve been doing is I actually landed some really good discounts on Groupon. They’ve been growing really fast and they have local deals for you. So I’ve been getting these 50% off massage coupons, because massage is pretty expensive. You know, they’re like $60-$75 an hour here in the states. And I’ve been getting them like 50% off, and it’s crazy how much tension that I’m keeping in my shoulders from all the mouse work, and just hunching over, and the typing and everything.
[09:14] And so, about every two months I’m trying to get someone to…It’s a full body massage, which is great, but I’m trying to get someone to really work on my shoulders and kinda work out…you know, there’s acid buildup, lactic acid and all types of stuff that builds up in your body when you hunch over and just work at a desk all day.
[09:30] So those are the only two things I’ve been doing. I have really been meaning to get back into a gym, which I haven’t done for a couple of years. That’s, of course, a big recommendation, because then you can do the treadmill and lift weights or whatever suits your fancy. How about you, Mike? What do you do?
[09:46] Mike: Personally, I feel the same way as you do, probably, is that I feel like exercise is something of a necessary evil. You kinda have to do it, but at the same time, it’s like this giant waste of time, kind of like sleeping, to be perfectly honest. I feel that way about sleep. I could get so much more done if I didn’t have to sleep.
[10:04] It’s funny, because I knew this girl in college who could sleep literally an hour and a half to two hours a night and that was all she ever needed. Like, she literally could not physically sleep more than that. So she would just do all of her homework and watch TV and stuff like that, because nobody’s awake and she didn’t have anything else to do.
[10:21] But for me, what I like to do is I kind prefer the exercise bike. And the reason for that is I can catch up on a lot of TV shows and things like that that are basically time wasters; they’re time sinks. But, at the same time, they help your mind relax a little bit. And just like you use podcasts when you’re running, I tend to watch movies on my iPad while I’m sitting there on an exercise bike, which helps me…I used to run a lot, probably the same as you did, but I’ve got some pretty severe lower back problems, so I can’t run nearly as well as I would like to. So I don’t find that that’s as much of a problem when I’m on an exercise bike.
[11:02] So, for me, exercise bike works. If I had the choice to go running, I’d probably do the same thing as you do and listen to podcasts. The only downside I find to listening to podcasts when I’m on the exercise bike is if I want to take notes of any kind, I really can’t. So how do you deal with that?
[11:17] Rob: That’s a good point. I actually tend to listen to more of the entertaining podcasts when I run. So I listen to things like maybe Tech Zing. I used to listen to Cranky Geeks a lot, which is no longer on the air, but I like that show a lot. Or, just shows that are more like Twit and Twig, This Week in Google, This Week in Tech. They’re just not things that I’m necessarily going to learn exact things from that I need to take notes.
[11:44] When I do listen to stuff that I need to take notes, since I’m listening to it on my iPhone, I have stopped and popped up my notes on the iPhone and typed up a memo real quick to myself. I obviously don’t like to do that a lot, but it has happened now and again.
[12:00] Mike: If that happens to me, it’s usually when I’m driving or something like that. What I’ll do is I’ll stop, I’ll throw on the voice recorder and just record a quick note to myself about something and then come back to it some other time.
[12:11] Rob: Yeah, cool.
[12:15] Mike: So this next one’s an interesting one. And forgive me for probably butchering the name, but it’s from Ola Joich [sp]. It says:
[12:22] “Hi, I’m reading your great book and have been listening to the podcast since episode 1. I’ve also been reading on SEO elsewhere. There’s one thing that I don’t get about your approach to SEO. As far as I understand it, you optimize each new blog post to a new set of keywords. Do you have one overall set of keywords for your site and different but related keywords for each blog post, or all are pages optimized for the keywords? Thanks for a great show, Ola. PS: I’d like a little less focus on servers, etc and more on the business side.”
[12:49] Rob: Awesome! We get mixed feedback. You know, some people like more of the tech stuff. So, the question is, do you have one overall set of keywords for your site and different related keywords for each blog post?
[13:01] The answer is it depends on the purpose of your blog. So, with SoftwarebyRob.com as an example, I really don’t target keywords with a blog overall. Maybe I could target “startup blog” or something. I mean it just doesn’t even seem worth it. I don’t look to Google for traffic to my blog. It’s so much more about Hacker News and social media, Twitter and that kind of stuff.
[13:24] So for the homepage I don’t look at keywords. For blog posts, I don’t tend to look at keywords, though I do give it a thought. I do give it some thought. I’d rarely go to the keyword tool and type things in, just because it is so much more about writing a solid headline that people are going to notice, whether it’s on Digg, or StumbleUpon, or Hacker News, or Reddit. I think there’s so much more important there than actually ranking in Google for the term, because how many people are going to be really searching for “start marketing the day you start coding”? That’s a recent post I did, and that title was good and got a lot of clicks. But I don’t know of a good way to modify that to make it SEO friendly without ruining the headline impact of it.
[14:06] With that said, when I’m doing a blog for a product where I really am going after SEO, then the answer is yes. So there’s longtail keywords that get a little bit of traffic each, and then there’s head keywords that get a lot of traffic, and those are the more generic keywords. Typically, I will make the homepage target a head keyword, maybe one or two related, and then each blog post will target two or three related longtail keywords. Typically, it’s one longtail keyword and maybe one related one.
[14:40] Yeah, optimizing all pages for the same keywords, as Ola asked, really wouldn’t make much sense, because then you are essentially competing with yourself for the same keywords. So, you know, over time you really want to throw out a lot of different…You’re kind of throwing out a big net, and the more posts you read, the more links in that net you have to catch the search engine traffic, this longtail traffic.
[15:01] Mike: Yeah, personally, I don’t optimize my blog at all, same as you. For keywords and searches and stuff, it’s all about getting links into some of the social media sites and people reading them. And then, six months later when you are least expecting it, your server crashes because it ended up on the front of Hacker News or Digg or something like that.
[15:22] So I don’t do that at all. But I think I get where he’s going with this. In terms of products, if you have a product that you are blogging about the industry, I’ll say, you’re exactly dead on. You have a couple of keywords for your main site for your homepage. You’ll have different landing pages that you want people to go to that are specifically relevant to that.
[15:44] So if you were trying to sell beer, for example, maybe you had a distillery kit that you were trying to sell. The idea would be that your homepage would be geared for people who are looking for this do it yourself beer kit. And then you’d have all these different landing pages set up for, maybe, different types of beer or different parts of the beer brewing kit that you might need to have access to. You might sell bottles or you might sell caps for the beer bottles, or you might sell hops, or some of the various ingredients, or what have you. Anything that goes along with you would have a different page for that as a landing page, and each of those would obviously funnel back to your main page.
[16:26] What you would probably not have is too many links to each of those landing pages back from your homepage. But I’ve certainly seen a lot of websites out there where if you scroll down far enough, you’ll see at the bottom they’ll have like 50 million links from their homepage back to all those different landing pages so that those pages end up getting indexed in the search engines.
[16:45] So that’s probably the tact that I would advocate taking with those, but you really want to focus them all on a specific site around a specific type of search term. They’ll all be somewhat related. If you have a much larger site, like Amazon comes to mind, where they just have this behemoth number of products and different things, you’d probably have a very different approach than you would for a smaller site where you only have maybe one to 10 products or something like that.
[17:19] Rob: And our next question revolves around how much information you should reveal on a landing page. And this is from Glen at Emmersive Media. And that’s at emmersivemedia.com.au. It says:
[17:33] “Hi Rob and Mike. First of all, I would like to thank you both for the podcast. I’ve been listening since episode one and really enjoy it. I hope you guys enjoy making it. I have a question for you regarding building landing pages for products that are still in development. I’m currently working on a concept for a nonprofit idea and have started working on designing a landing page. My problem is that while I think, at the moment, there isn’t anything like my idea out there, I feel it wouldn’t be too hard for a company with more time and resources to beat me to market.
[17:58] So my question is, how much information should you put on the website initially? I think it’s important to have enough info to explain the concept in order to entice people to join the mailing list so that launch day has some traction. Thanks again for your help, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. PS: Just got an iPad, it rocks. Cheers, Glen.”
[18:16] Mike: You know, I remember this quote from a long time ago that if you really have a good idea, that you’ll probably have to cram it down people’s throats. And I forget where I heard that or who said it, but I really feel like it applies to this sort of thing as well.
[18:33] The reason I think that is because until you see somebody who is being successful at something, chances are good that you’re probably not going to copy them. And I really think that applies to products as well. If you were to go out and look at the market of people building software products and you saw some blog where somebody said, “Hey, I have this idea and this is what I’d like to build,” and it’s not for this massive market, then the chances of you looking at that and viewing it as a green field or this massive untapped potential market for a product that you could build presumably quicker than somebody else, I just don’t see that as happening.
[19:17] I just feel like it’s a lot more time and effort for a business to go after a market that simple has not proven itself yet. And it’s a huge risk. You may very well end up with some people who don’t have anything better to do that might try to rip of your idea and try to do it quicker than you. But chances are good that they’re going to have about the same amount of resources as you do available to them. And they’re going to have to work on it during their off hours. They’re not going to have a lot of time or money to dedicate to it.
[19:48] And at the end of the day, whatever you build, it’s the marketing that wins anyway. It’s really not about the product. But the product itself is not going to make or break your entire business. It’s more about the marketing that you do and how well you relate to the customers for your market.
[20:07] Rob: Yeah, I think you bring up a good point there. If your idea is something that someone could beat you to market at, and therefore beat you to the punch, then what happens if you launch, you’re first to market, and it’s a good idea, starts catching on, and after a month or two the same bigger company, now they know your idea, they see your app, they could basically copy it pretty easily.
[20:30] If they can beat you before, why can’t they just beat you two months after you’ve launched? I think people overestimate the value of being a first mover, because if someone else has better marketing expertise and/or a larger budget, they will crush you unless you can out market them. The marketing is what’s going to win, so whether you do that before or you do it after the product is launched, it kind of doesn’t matter.
[20:52] So I would be less concerned about giving away information or trying to hide stuff. With that said, I tend to believe that the less information you give away on the landing page is almost better, assuming you do it well. The idea is to build anticipation without giving away the punch line, so to speak.
[21:12] As an example, there’s a couple landing pages that I’ve seen that talk about specific features, and maybe they’ll show a screenshot. I question if that’s the right choice. I feel like the landing pages that have gotten my attention the most are ones that tend to be one sentence, and they really build up my anticipation.
[21:30] So if you were building a nonprofit donor management system, you could have a sentence that’s like, “The donor management system that you’ve never seen,” and have something like, “It will reduce your donor management time by 80%,” or, “It will produce it from 10 hours to one hour.” Or just some kind of claim, like a benefit. More than going into like, “You’re going to be able to track your donors with this cool XML data grid!” You know, it’s like this stuff doesn’t matter to customers.
[21:58] So to give you a couple examples, back when I was launching my book, the entire landing page was just the title of the book, so it was “Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup”, and then below that, all I had was three sentences: “The startup book that assumes you don’t have $6 million in venture funding sitting in your bank account.”
[22:18] And that’s really everything that describes the book. The next sentence says, “Coming to you in PDF and paperback in June.” And then the last one is “Sign up below to be notified.” So really, aside from the title, I had one sentence that summarized the entire book of, you know, 50, 60, 70,000 words.
[22:33] But the idea is that I built anticipation with that. I didn’t have to say, “There’s going to be seven chapters. The first one’s going to be about finding a niche. The 7th one is about getting a virtual assistant.” Even though it did include all that, this was really to say, “If you’re interested in this kind of topic, then provide your email. It’s up to me to not disappoint you, essentially, to deliver on this promise.”
[22:53] There’s another really cool landing page. It’s LukeStevensDesign.com/book. And it just says, “Hi. Are you a designer? If so, a new book just for you is coming out in 2010. It’s called ‘Performance Based Design’. It’s what comes next after Web Standards. You’re going to love it, so sign up now.”
[23:11] So that’s it. That’s his whole landing page. He doesn’t really tell me what performance based design is. He doesn’t really tell me what all the chapters are going to be, how long it’s going to be, what format. And it’s nothing like that. It really peaks my interest. If I’m a designer and I know what web standards are, and I want to be at the cutting edge, I’m signing up for this. All I have to do is give him my email. He’s a trustworthy guy; he has a blog and stuff. I know he’s not going to spam me.
[23:34] So I guess that’s more of what I’m getting at in terms of if you have this idea, this is where copywriting is super, super important. And boiling it down to the product name and a tagline, and maybe that’s it, or maybe one or two sentences, can have a lot more impact than going on about some detailed feature set or even some detailed benefits that someone else could try to steal from.
[23:57] So I guess I both argued for don’t worry about people stealing your idea, don’t try to hide anything, but also, be as succinct as possible, you don’t really need to give away that much and still convert and still get emails.
[24:11] Mike: Yeah, I don’t think it’s about explaining your ideas so much, because they probably would not have clicked on the link to your website to begin with if they weren’t interested in the topic.
[24:22] Rob: Cool. Well that’s about all we have time for today. We actually have several more questions. And Mike, I think we’re going to push it out into Episode 35 and just do a part two of this episode. And that about wraps us up!
[24:36] Rob: If you have a question or comment, call it into our voicemail number at 888-801-9690. You can email it in MP3 or text format to firstname.lastname@example.org
[24:47] If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “startups”. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com.
[24:58] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website, startupsfortherestofus.com. See ya next time.