Friday, October 1, 1999
=======October 13, 1999==========
Hi portal kids!
First off, I wanted to stay in touch with all of you but I'm feeling a little guilty about using Jim's forum. He's indicated to me that we have his support but I certainly don't want to take advantage of his generous nature so I thought today I would use the e-mail.
I wanted to address a couple of things. First, the server is up! I'm so sorry about it being down and I promise to do whatever it takes to get it stable and reliable. The server has GOT to work!!
Second, I know we've been having some problems with the forum. Shane is fixing that as we speak. The forums are our best place to be able to work together to make the most of this little project. I'm hoping very soon we can get past the tech problems and start focusing more on how to best market this stuff. I've got some ideas but I would very much like to include all of you before I start making decisions. I respect your opinions as much as anybody on the web and I fully intend to fish in the idea pool as much as possible. The thing I want to keep stressing is that the more people we get involved and caring about their site, the more traffic they will all be sending us. I'd like to se us come up with a "new" type of web ring for example.
Third, I just found out that the SK e-mail account is not automatic like I thought it would be. Originally the idea was to have you get an e-mail account that matched your portal name. This was how we were going to check the availability of your chosen name. It doesn't work like it's supposed to so for the time being I need to get you to sign up for it. I urge you to do this so you can get an e-mail account under your portal name before someone else does. I checked and all the names are available.
Next, I know some of you are having problems getting rolling. I'm so sorry. The idea from the beginning was to make this very simple but as we got into it, we kept finding features that we wanted and of course with each feature a new set of install problems came up. Whatever, it's my responsibility to make this thing user friendly. Most of the general public is not going to be as patient with me as you all are being. So, Shane has put up a page that basically explains very simply how to change your front page. It's at www.searchkingportal.com/start.htm
For those of you that are still having problems, I honestly hope this helps. If not, I need to know. Just remember that all that config stuff is there for you BUT it doesn't have to be changed at all. If you just focus on getting your pages set up and getting sites into your database, everything will start coming together. As we go along we will all teach each other how to get really slick with it.
BTW, Karen, your portal look GREAT! Very good job.
Finally, Mike Stone who has cars.searchking.com and teens.searchking.com has just told me about a little marketing tip that I thought was pretty smart on his part. He already has his cars portal listed in the Infoseek Go directory. He became an editor and his site was in within 24 hours. He said that becoming a go guide is very easy and that he fully intends to start generating a million hits a month to his portal so he can make a deal with double click and start making a buck! If anyone would like to ask Mike about the go guide stuff, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ok, now for the work. I need a little direction here. My question is this: Should I start considering deleting some features to make the set up easier or do you feel like one of the selling points of this program is that it is so comprehensive. If I leave all that it has, how should I best approach getting people with limited experience up and running with as little grief as possible?
Publisher -- Bob Massa
=======October 16, 1999==========
Hello portal partners. I just wanted to touch base and give you kids a couple of ideas on how to get your portal sites running, (and hopefully making you a buck or two).
I also wanted to welcome the newest members of our little growing family of portal partners. All of you, please welcome:
Jordan Martin youngandmodern.searchking.com
Patricia Krenik vitamins.searchking.com
Sandy Aggarwal realtor.searchking.com (I'm expecting some really good things from this one).
Teresa King advice.searchking.com (I love the name. No, we're not related.)
Susan Bridges truesue's.searchking.com
Mike Rotter 530.searchking.com (Mike is SK's webmaster. He has done a really exceptional job on his portal, take a look. Also, Mike does freelance design work if anyone is needing top notch design he's good and inexpensive. Which is of course one of the reasons why we hired him. Before you decide on any kind of design though, I recommend taking a look at graphicdesign.searchking.com a portal ABOUT design.)
Mike Wood worldoffreestuff.searchking.com
Jay Martin satellite-dish.searchking.com
And last but not least . . .
Daron Babin drugs.searchking.com (Daron is one of the best placement specialists in the business, so if you want to know a little bit about how he plans to do it, keep an eye out for him in the forums. He's a busy guy but a nice guy too whom I'm sure will help us all out.)
For all you newbies, (and old hands as well), be sure to bookmark the forums at www.searchkingportal.com/UltraBoard/UltraBoard.pl
These forums were set up for the specific purpose of providing a training resource as well as a discussion about how best to take advantage of your portal. They can go a long way in helping relieve some of the stress of getting started. They are also there so you can ask specific questions or discuss ideas or problems with other portal partners and members of Searchking's staff.
Tip #1 Getting URL'S For YOUR Database
Mike Mackin had a really good suggestion in the VP moderators forum. His suggestion was to post invitations to submit a url to your database in topic specific newsgroups and discussion boards. This is not spam. The people in the newsgroups are very likely looking for ways of promoting their site and by giving an invitation and NOT trying to sell them anything, this should be a very good way of getting submissions.
Tip #2 Awards
Designing and giving out your portal specific award is a great way to establish yourself as a valuable resource on your chosen topic AND to encourage submissions. It does one other thing too. LINKS. Searchking has been giving the King of the Web award for almost two years now and as a result, we have over 3,000 links to our sites. This of course includes sites that link to us just because we're a search engine, but the concept will work just as well for you. For many of you, there is no other resource available like a portal ABOUT your chosen topic. People with websites that are relevant, where else are they gonna go?
Along this line of thinking, it's not a bad idea to build and link to it from the front page a "link to us" page. Provide the public with two or more graphics like a banner or button that represents your site. You'll be surprised how many people will take you up on it and install your banner, which of course gives you a greatly enhanced image, credibility and link popularity all at the same time.
For an example, take a look at: searchking.com/skmenu.htm. You'll see that it doesn't take much and it provides you with more visible space where you can sell another sponsorship.
If anyone has any question about how to set up an awards or "link to us" page, just post a question in the forums and we'll tell you how to do it!
In closing for today, I just want to say again how proud I am of all of you. We're making internet history here and I truly thank you all for giving me an opportunity to be a part of it.
Bob Massa Searchking, Inc. Where You Rule the Web www.searchking.com
Publisher -- Bob Massa
=======October 28, 1999==========
Hi again portal partners. I haven't forgotten you kids I've just been very busy with the move of the servers and the new programs for Searchking. We have been having access issues for the past two weeks and we've tried several things but the bottom line is we have to get the servers moved. They will be moved this weekend!
I've had some very good questions in the forums lately and it's important that you are all aware of them. So for this week's update I've decided to just use them. Next week I'm going to start including tips to make administering your portal easier. I'll try to give some simple steps each week on stuff like:
• How to change the portal name
• How to use your spider function to make adding sites easier
• How to use your mailman feature to build a newsletter subscriber base
• How to get links to your portal using an award
• How to set up your own chat and forum instead of defaulting to SK
Things like that. Of course I'll always try to base those tips on the questions from the forums and the input I get from our partners.
Anyway, here's the first question from Lynne:
How are things going? I've been checking back regularly, to catch any updates, but haven't found anything so far. I haven't seen any changes in my portal, either. Has progress been made? Is there a timeline for completion? I hope this doesn't sound like pressure, but it would be nice to know these things, so I can plan promotion, advertising, etc. Clues, hints, hard dates, whatever, would be greatly appreciated.
Lynne, I'm very glad to see you haven't given up on us. There is no point in me trying to explain how much focus and effort I've been giving this because you've all been in the same boat. We're pretty much all experienced webmasters here and we've all had the experience of dealing with the internet and of course experience is what we get when we're expecting something else.
As luck would have it, your timing is impeccable. I was planning on sending out another of my little e-mails to all the portal partners today and we ended up having to wait on someone else for a little piece of the puzzle and it's forced me to have to wait until tomorrow.
I will tell you that we have finally made the deal on the new host just tonight and we're planning on moving the servers this coming Saturday. This should eliminate all the DNS problems we've been having for the past two weeks.
Secondly, some of you may have read my post in VP about having to make some hard decisions about how Searchking operates in order to address the speed issue. Well, (this I'm really happy about), go do a search on Searchking now and if you don't get results back within 2 to 10 seconds please let me know! We've been testing now for the past 4 days and are consistently getting results on the average of 3 seconds. YIPPEE! We still have all the instant features as before. We index instantly BUT, we update the static database every 2 to 3 days. So your edits, submissions and votes are all recorded instantly but they aren't displayed for a day or so. This was a hard decision for me but I can't have all of you being represented by a search service that was too slow. In order for the portals to work, Searchking has to work. Now it does!
Finally, we lucked out and made a deal to offer the complete Hyperseek engine to all portal partners. Now every link works, every feature works and much easier. This is the exact same program that gets marketed only to ISP's and such for $25,000 but now we are offering the same program to our portal partners for free!
More news to follow soon. We will be sending letters to all partners the first part of next week to let them know their new programs are installed.
The next question comes from Rod B and is a very good one regarding the promotion of your portal site and specifically promotion using the Open Directory Project.
The standard template comes with a ODP cool site logo. Presumably this needs to be removed or is it still part of the deal? Does anyone have experience of submitting a portal to ODP?
One of my problems with ODP is that so much of the way it works is up to individual editors so that one editor may give you one answer while another says something different.
I have been in contact with one of the editalls discussing this very thing. ODP should have no problem listing your portal. How could a search service help their searchers anymore than by providing links to a whole portal site based around a specific topic? If a searcher is looking for maps, does a directory want to provide a bunch of links to short doorway pages, or to a site with forums, classifieds, chat and a search engine all related to maps?
One of the reasons we set this up like we did is because of my background with Magic-city. I know these portals will place well on most engines by simply naming your interior pages with your topic in the titles. In other words, don't leave the forum or chat page with the title "Forum" change it to "Maps Forum". Insert your meta tags and that should be about all you have to do to gain good placements under your keywords. As far as the directories like ODP and Yahoo, just supply links in your database and provide decent content the same as you would with any site you did and there is not much of a way that any editor could not say that you actually did submit a site with unique content.
Now we may have two problems with ODP due to their unique nature.
#1 You are expected to let one of your competitors decide if your site is good enough or not to get accepted. My problem with this is that while I truly believe that many editors at ODP are honest and more concerned with doing a good job for ODP than simply promoting their own site, the fact is that they are human and many editors are going to see your portal and view it as serious competition for their own. Remember that the whole idea of editors is to get people who know something about their chosen topic and the sad fact is that the vast majority of editors have their own commercial websites that fit into their category. I see a potential problem with the editors wanting to find a reason NOT to accept your site. If this happens, I don't see a lot of recourse for the portal partner outside of spending quite a bit of time trying to go over that editor's head and find an editall or meta editor that will be more objective.
#2. I am totally convinced that once we get this portal thing down to where the set up is as easy as getting a free web page from geocities, we are going to have thousands if not millions of people as portal partners. If I can get the admin stuff developed to a click and paste kind of thing, why would anyone want a free page when they could just as easily have a free site with all the features of the Hyperseek engine? Ok, assuming that I'm right, ODP typically does not like listing affiliates or multiple sites from one domain. They do like accepting the best possible sites for a specific keyword and have no problem with third level domains. So in theory, they should judge each site based on it's own merit regardless of what the root domain is. I mean come on, they got geocities sites in there.
After talking with the editall, I am completely convinced that the portal sites will be accepted. It may involve correspondence with Rich Skrenta himself but there is no reason for ODP to just refuse to review our portals for any reason except for one thing. What's going to happen when we have so many portal partners that there are 15 or 20 portal sites for any given keyword? The one thing ODP is not going to like is listing 15 searchking portals in the top 20 results under any keyword or category. While this may become an issue at some point at least in the beginning there should not be a problem.
Still, my job, (and yours too for that matter), is to convince the world that this is no different than any other free site. These portals are completely independent of SK and are not affiliates of SK but simply people using a powerful tool to provide the internet with the best site the portal partner can provide and due to this fact they should be judged on their own merit and not anything else.
As far as the cool site logo, I really should have Mike either just delete that from the template or incorporate that into the SK logo making it a little more clear that SK is a cool site and not necessarily that particular portal. We do not want to take any action that may be perceived as misleading. The whole basis for all of our success is honesty, quality, fairness and professionalism.
Finally, I would like to say "thank you" to Karen Webber for her kind offer of help last week. I've been having a little problem with this mail to the portal partners and she offered to let me use her as a list server and eliminate those problems. I fully intended to take her up on her offer but before I could, we made the deal with Hyperseek and it includes the Mailman which is a neat little mail tool. That's what I'm using now.
It allows you to set up specific folders with up to 1000 names in each. Then just hit the button and it goes. So I decided to take advantage of this as opposed to imposing on Karen. This does not lessen the degree of gratitude that I have for her generous support. Thanks Karen.
See you kids in the forums.
Bob Massa Searchking, Inc.
Publisher -- Bob Massa