Khalid Khames

Khalid Khames

Khalid Khames

Latest Blog Posts

    Why I started and stopped selling on eBay and Amazon

    After my two years in taxi marketing I exited taxi websites and invested in a terminal idea; a touch screen terminal that would allow users to book a taxi at the touch of a button in up to 9 languages.

    I had big plans; to offer restaurant bookings, tours and more, all from a little Android tablet. My employer (and friend) invested and we set about finding venues.

    Within a few months I had signed up close to 100 venues, all whom wanted a tablet in their venue and in return would be paid a small commission for each booking. Using a leading Hackney taxi company in Edinburgh I then agreed a deal that they would pay for a year’s contract up front, which would part fund the overheards.

    Things were setup nicely but it it fell at the first hurdle; Wifi in hotels is notorious for breaking/going down so I had to teach most venues how to reset the terminal. This was fine at first but then they forgot or just didn’t bother.

    The second hurdle was getting the taxi operators to actually check another screen for independant bookings and service them quickly. The software companies responsible for leasing/selling dispatch software weren’t keen on giving me the api to their web backend (or wanted a BIG fee) so it had to be done separately.

    The third hurdle was getting the taxi company to actually visit the venues and ensure the terminals were being used. I regularly visited hotels to find the terminal switched off and business cards from rival taxi companies on the desk.

    To cut a long story short it didn’t work, and I was left with a hole in our accounts.

    During this time I was, and still am, working. In our attempts to reduce cost in the business I began looking at our suppliers, in particular those that sold us ancillary items such as nails, screws, dust sheets, tarpaulins etc. I then used the company we had setup to go direct to manufacturers and buy the items in bulk, for cheaper. I couldn’t just sell to one client – my employer – so took to the web and began shifting items online.

    At first I thought it would be easy. List your items cheaply, sell loads of them. But it doesn’t work like that. I was able to make a profit and have returned 70% of money invested in our previous venture but it was a LOT of effort for NOT A LOT of money and I figured my time could be better spent elsewhere.

    I’m not going to go into the depths of trading online but will cover one or two bits that will make you think twice. And before I begin, not all customers / sales are like the below but I’m giving you an indication of what it can be like;

    Feedback is really important.

    My most popular items weigh 5-10kg per box, and shipping for that weight isn’t cheap. I offered myHermes at £6.99 inc VAT costing me £5.50 ex VAT or next day at £7.99 costing me £7.49.

    myHermes takes 3-5 days to deliver and buyers are made aware of this, however I lost my “Top Rated Seller” status because those who paid for that delivery option would then mark me less than 5 stars because of the time it took to arrive.

    Next Day delivery isn’t always next day. The courier business is worse than eBay and from speaking with drivers their vans are filled to the brim, sometimes meaning deliveries booked on for that day aren’t fulfilled. Now because couriers know this, they don’t offer your money back or compensation for late deliveries…but an eBay buyer expects you too.

    Now say you do get the item to the customer on time and there’s a problem…how many customers are going to pay to return the item? Not many, so you risk negative feedback or do a deal.

    Bear in mind all this time you’ve probably make a tiny amount on this item and the time taken to even try to resolve an issue is costing your business money.

    Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity

    I’ve had to sell things at a loss to capture sales and drive up the interest in my items. It is a common occurance, and I doubt you’ll be able to work differently..

    If I sell one dust sheet I lose £1 but if someone orders two I profit as I save on the courier fee. It is a risk, and one you’ll generally lose as most people only want 1 x an item. Bear in mind the loss I am making is when buying direct from a manufacturr in pallet quantites. Oh yes, and then you need to add on the cost of storing the pallet!

    I know one seller who makes no money selling dust sheets online but sells one pallet per month. By increasing the volume he buys from his manufacturer he gets the sheets cheaper and in turn makes more money off Joe Bloggs who walks in to his trade counter and buys the item at a regular retail price. He also benefits from reduced seller fees associated with selling on third party sites.

    You will be undercut

    I guarantee you that someone will undercut you unless you are selling one-of-a-kind items. Babz Media is infamous on eBay for being the cheapest seller on the site and I’m convinced they sell some items at a loss in order to beat down the competition. If they can absorb the losses in the long run it’ll force other sellers to abandon the site or certain lines, leaving Babz a biggar share of the market.

    The benefits

    1. Economies of scale – sell more and the unit cost is less. This is great if you have a shop or online store where you sell at regular retail prices because you can make better margins

    2. Keep staff busy – If you are selling on eBay/Amazon for no profit but moving 1,000 items a week you’ll keep your staff busy. This is good for morale at least!

    3. Marketing – Selling 1,000 items per week will allow you to target 1,000 new customers per week with marketing material in the hope they’ll visit your shop / online store

    4. Remaining current – Argos have recently agreed a deal with eBay to allow customers to “click and collect” – this could be the future of retail and you don’t want to be left behind

    5. Instant business – Setup and sell on eBay / Amazon and you’re instantly in front of millions of people

    Conclusion

    My general advice would be; if another business can buy the item you are selling cheaper, or undercut you in any way, don’t bother.

    If you can remain the cheapest, or sell items that are one-offs (e.g. second hand cars, bespoke furniture, personalised items) then go for it.

    I would say more and more people want quality over price, but all markets are dominated by money right now and unfortunately the majority is your customer base, not the minority.

    The change has come

    “It’s all gone Pete Tong” is a simple way to sum it up.

    Google and it’s array of black and white animals are chucking out websites left, right and centre.

    The web marketplace has changed forever; buyers want more for less as the risk is ten fold what it used to be. What’s the point in pouring resources and effort into a site that can go “poof!” the next day?

    Nominet and their stupid proposals continue to threaten the .co.uk domain marketplace.

    Domainers and .co.uk dabblers are having fire sale upon fire sale to remain bouyant as those golden domain names they once had are no longer worth much. I mean, when did you ever see a three letter domain name got for less than £500 a few years ago?

    And man I am sick of this recession!

    We’re in it, we’re out of it, we’re affected, we’re unaffected. It’s all rubbish, things have changed and times are hard.

    Over the past year I’ve remained pretty quiet, not blogging or building at the same speed I used too. I didn’t have much to say, I didn’t know what to do. It seems like it’s all doom and gloom, with so called “experts” saying SEO is dead and it’s all about branding now. I agree to some extent, but you’re an idiot if you have a full time business that relied solely on SEO for its success. Prior to Penguin, Panda and all the other ridiculous names for fucking up the SERPs branding was just as important but costly, where as a link from a relevant blog was only $10. Which would you choose?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful purely from SEO but in my employment and taxi business I never ever relied on one form of traffic. You need to spread you risks and it’ll be interesting to see how smaller web companies do that moving forward.

    We’re all affected by what is happening and we’ve all got our opinions but the clever ones amongst us will adapt and strive to improve. I never thought I’d actually use newspaper advertising but I do and it works. Going back to basics is sometimes what is required.

    So where am I now? I haven’t flown the nest; I simply love my job too much and the salary that comes with it. I still buy and sell, build and flip, but I’m now looking at revenue models that will provide recurring income with recurring visitors rather than one-off chances to make 20p a click.

    I’m also looking at going offline, building an actual real life business, but part of me reins my enthusiasm back in as building profitable websites doesn’t require the same level of input from other people or startup costs.

    All I know and can share is that you need to adapt or exit.

    Why the high street is failing and how it can be stopped

    Most high streets and shopping centres now feature numerous “To Let” or “Lease Available” signs protruding out of the front of old shops that were killed off by the recession. It’s a sad sight but I’d be telling a porky if I said I didn’t see it coming.

    When shit hits the fan and sales start to drop it the detached upper management of large corporations start to cut costs, and expensive units are usually the first to go. For years they’ve authorised high rent and rates, expensive shop fittings and overwhelming staff numbers because the money was rolling in, but now they’re heading in the opposite direction. A little too late perhaps, and sometimes just stupid. We’re now checking out our own goods with machines instead of people, and we have to pay for a bag too. We can’t get help at the customer service desk because the “supervisor” who wears 10 different hats to cover the employee cut-backs is busy doing something else. And cheaper, younger staff can’t offer you the advice you need because they’ve had no training but that’s ok because they cost less. Is this really the answer to the problem?

    British retailing really needs to take a look in the mirror. We pride ourselves on being a great nation but when it comes to the crunch it’s dog eat dog. I don’t blame the staff, I blame the management, and the management above them, and the management above them. It’s easy to draw a £100k a year salary and swan into work with a tailored suit, but rolling your sleeves up and working a shift in the store you “manage” to find out where the real problems and solutions lie is a bit beyond you. That’s bullshit, and that’s exactly why great businesses are sinking like the Titanic.

    Forget your image or upsetting the people around you by sticking your nose in; doing exactly that might just save the company you’re happy to have pay for that suit! Don’t be ashamed to listen to your staff, talk to your customers and knock some heads together. If you think I’m spouting rubbish take a few examples;

    - RyanAir – If you want a piece of stationary you need to ask for it and give a good reason why you need it. You don’t get to take what you need or charge it to your company card. You can’t pick what type of paper you want because there’s an individual with the sole job of ensuring costs don’t spiral out of control who’ll stop you.

    - John Lewis – To combat expensive rent and rates they began opening compact stores with less glamourous surroundings. They kept their excellent service and reliable products but provided it within a cheaper setting.

    - Greene King Pubs – The pub and restaurant chain posted a rise in profits during the recession by introducing new deals.

    Don’t let your firm become another victim. Do something now, before it’s too late.

    Two Years in Taxi Marketing

    For around two years I’ve been marketing numerous taxi websites and generating revenue by charging a fee per call to a local taxi company. My main operation was in Edinburgh, with others in Aberdeen (partnering with Mark Boyd before buying him out) and Glasgow. I also owned a number of other generic names that were being held for development.

    Once I had managed to push the sites into prominent positions online I felt I had to expand my marketing efforts further afield – particularly offline – for numerous reasons; I wanted more business and to not solely rely on SEO to build a brand. During this time I’ve been holding down my full time post whilst supporting my partner Christy as a student. It was fun and exciting to have a venture that was generating a respectable income and something that, to my knowledge, had never been done before (this particular revenue model in the transport industry).

    I was not planning to sell the operation for a few years, but due to some unforeseen circumstances I decided it was time to purchase a house and have long term security. I’ve always been happy to rent as it is easy and means if I ever hit the jackpot I could quickly fly out the country haha!

    I vaguely outlined (to avoid tyre kickers and idea thieves) the operation on a number of forums and John Lamerton, whom I’ve had dealings with before, is now the new owner. Under the new terms I still retain a small shareholding in the operation to assist in the smooth running of it and future developments, which I’m only happy to do. I think the operation has a positive future and no doubt in time John and his team will continue to build on the success. At this stage I feel it is only respectful to John not to detail specifics as I wish to protect his investment but we’re both happy with the arrangement.

    The revenue model I promoted is now being used in other markets by friends and colleagues, and some taxi companies have even began offering it to hotels and guest houses as a way of securing new business. I’m proud of what I achieved and I’m already working on another exciting project.

    Scottish Independence and who it will really benefit

    I’m not one to get wrapped up in politics because it never ends well. Family occasions seem to be a natural birthplace for political debates and I’m always accused of being too Margaret Thatcher like to have my say counted. It was clear my views were very different to those around me until I began carving a career. Nowadays my business associates and I will chat for hours about how we’d put the world to rights, and where the government is going wrong. We’re all in agreement that we’re getting a rough deal, but would it be any better if Scotland became independent?

    I don’t think running any country is an easy task, but if charities can stay afloat on donations why are we in a trillion pounds of debt? I was happy to see successful businessmen like Sir Alan Sugar give his opinion and advice in a bid to help, citing financial wastage such as the police renting buildings and not even using them.

    There are a lot of things to fix and it will take years to accomplish (that’s if they manage to do it), so will Scotland really be any better away from it all?

    On a grand scale Scotland is a tiny part of the World with not a lot to offer. No offence to anyone but we don’t have the weather for tourism (it accounts for only 3%of our GDP), we can’t grow much to export and our manufacturing industry is dead. We’re pinning our hopes on one thing; the North Sea.

    Now, let’s stop for a second and think; does anyone in their right mind think that our beloved Government in England will simply allow us to gather up our things, make Scotland independent and keep all the natural resources in the North Sea?

    According to OilforScotland.org, in 2008 all revenue generated from drilling activities north of the border in amassed a £12 billion fortune that went straight to the crew that ran Downing Street. I doubt they’d be happy to let us keep that sort of change should Alex Salmond have his way.

    Furthermore, Scotland lost 6,000 square miles of the North Sea because Tony Blair moved the marine boundary from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Carnoustie. Would he have been able to do that if Scotland were independent? Probably not, but it’s already been done, why do you think that was?

    An article in the Guardian quoted that in the year 2008-2009 Scotland provided £1.3 billion more revenue that we spent, which seems like a lot. But really, that’s less than 1% of our GDP and includes our share of North Sea oil revenue. If you were the country’s accountant, would you want to split your partnership in a business because you were making 1% more than you were spending? Note, in 2008 crude oil prices were at a record high which could account for the 1% margin. I certainly wouldn’t like to pin my future on a product that’s price went up and down like a yo-yo.

    Many believe Scotland can offer more than just what is beneath the sea, which is true, but it is also limited. Take off-shore wind energy (that we certainly have the weather for); it is her Majesty that owns the shoreline so we’d end up sending money down south again for being green!

    Where Scotland does have strength is in the financial sector which accounts for 6% of our GDP. Scotland is the home of 4 clear banks; Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank and Lloyds TSB Scotland. But, England is the true financial hub of the UK so would these banking giants really have to stay in Scotland if we became independent? There is a morale duty for them to have a presence here just now as we’re one country, but would that remain if we split? Let’s be honest, it is more expensive to have two bases instead of one.

    In theory I’d love Scotland to be independent as I absolutely detest the current setup, but I wouldn’t cut my nose to spite my face and I truly believe that’s what we’d be doing if we split from England.

    Unless there are some dramatic economic changes first, I really do not think Scotland can stay afloat without its bigger brother by its side.

    The Future of Facebook

    Facebook recently announced their intention to float on the stock exchange, sparking media interest from around the world and getting every analyst to throw in their opinion over the future of one of the World Wide Web’s biggest websites.

    For me, Facebook has been overvalued for a long time, and becoming a public company with shareholders will only inflate those figures. I have nothing against Facebook, I’m an occasional user with a few fan pages I use for my businesses and it is certainly a great social media platform, but to value it at between $75 and $100 billion is ridiculous. Sure, Facebook is a profitable company and has, on the back of its success made companies like Zynga extremely profitable, but it is no Microsoft in my eyes. At the top end of $100 billion Facebook would be one of the biggest companies in the United States, but if it is worth all the cash then why are they even floating it?

    Having shareholders on board improves cash flow, but surely if you’re generating enough money that’s not a concern? Personally I wouldn’t want the headaches of pleasing shareholders and answering their questions if I was running a successful company that is already generating $1.5 billion in profit (According to CNBC’s Julie Robertson). Is it all smoke and mirrors?

    On the other side of the fence, will the floatation affect Facebook’s 800 million users? I think so. As a shareholder with an investment in a company with 800 million users, I certainly would want to monetise the machine and squeeze more out of it. If you can generate $1.5 billion why not generate ten times that? So, will Facebook begin to complicate their layout with paid advertising like Google has, or begin to compete with other businesses and offer similar services like flight comparison and hotel search facilities?

    The truth is the future of Facebook is unknown and all our opinions are insignificant until we see what pans out. I’ll definitely not be buying shares though.

    Why AdBlocking Software only Hurts the Viewer

    I was recently asked what I thought about AdBlocking software and how it may impact a website’s revenue. Here’s what I said:

    A large proportion of the content available on the web today has been funded by the revenue site owners receive from displaying advertising. According to WorldWideWebSize.com the number of web pages indexed by Google in the past two years has grown by 30 billion, and as a result the value placed on a web page has diminished.

    Webmasters are now generating less revenue online through traditional advertising and software designed to blog advertising doesn’t help. What users don’t realise is they’re only hurting themselves.

    For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and in the case of this kind of software, webmasters are now actively combatting it by implementing some of the following;

    - Reducing the number of times they update their website with fresh content as it simply isn’t as profitable anymore.

    - Turning to alternative revenue streams such as subscriptions and “members only” areas.

    - Installing recognition software that will ensure no content is displayed at all for web viewers with ad blocking software installed.

    Advertising is all around us, and whilst sometimes pop-up pages and flashing banners can be annoying, remember that the website you are surfing costs money to maintain so it is only fair that it is recouped somehow. The World Wide Web isn’t just a playground, it is a business marketplace too.

    Having Some Fun

    In an attempt to enjoy my hard work and engage with my customers, I began hiring some real “characters” to perform short videos for my site Edinburgh Taxi. The results were amazing and truly made me laugh, but have generally had a good response from friends who have watched them.

    I’m not expecting any of them to go viral, it’s really just a big of fun and something different.

    What do you think?

    There’s more over at my Edinburgh Taxi Youtube Channel.

    It’s All Bullshit

    Back in 2008 or there abouts I was hooked on blogs by infamous individuals claiming to “make money online”. I’m not talking about the eBay sellers pushing 99p eBooks or the one page website owners, I’m referring to a small yet popular group of individuals who had some success online and were cashing in by telling everyone.

    I used to read blog after blog every single day, signing up to the networks they were signed up too, promoting products they were promoting and somehow trying to emulate their success. I set myself challenges, told myself and my readers that is was a simple case of building blocks and putting time and effort into sites that I know today aren’t going to live for much longer.

    I build and flipped like crazy, which is there the money was, yet I somehow still thought I was doing something wrong because I wasn’t blogging to the world how I promote network X and get $300 a day.

    The fact of the matter is that It’s All Bullshit. There’s no such thing as an “easy way to make money online”, no free eBook or download, no guarantees, nothing! Making money online is the same as making money anywhere else; it is hard, takes time and isn’t for everyone. What started out as a few bloggers recalling their success became a blogging shithole of greedy people charging hundreds of dollars for an ad on their blog, getting you to subscribe to networks through their affiliate links and even promoting random products in a bid for that little bit of extra cash.

    These blogs were like gold, and some even for sold (Remember NetBusinessBlog.com – the domain forwards to a Forex page now) for ridiculous amounts of money. It is a sad state of affairs when sharing news and tips becomes a way of sucking time and money out of people.

    I’m glad I went and did my own thing. I can’t say I wasn’t sucked in by it all, but through time and learning I’ve realised that the best way to make money anywhere is to put your head down and get on with it. I still share any updates and have helped numerous individuals who have asked for help via e-mail. In fact, I still ask for help from my friends too…but they don’t ask me to click through an affiliate link and then download their eBook first.

    I have no doubt some downloads and courses etc are worthwhile, but it just seems like greed has taken over and any old trick in the book is punted to whomever will chew it down. And it is for that reason I no longer read the crap they churn out and instead look for anything else with an ounce of quality in it.

    Sorry for the rant, I had to get my point out.

    Khalid.

    An Update on Borrowing Money

    My last post questioned what you would do if you had to borrow money to boost a marketing campaign. After listening to some advice I held off on radio promotion and opted to promote Edinburgh Taxi offline. Face to face marketing gets peoples attention, especially when you’re standing in a bright yellow t-shirt handing out plastic business cards. Yes, plastic – they don’t tear or bend, but they’re bloody expensive!

    edinburgh taxi marketing staff

    At this point I should mention I shelled out a lot to buy a card printer and consumables but people have been snapping the cards up so it has been a worthwhile task. The credit card was used but I know I can pay it back. No risk = no reward.

    I’ve avoided posting about the success of my taxi partnerships as I’ve been focusing on making them work, but I’m happy to announce things are going well. If I could sum it up without getting into specifics, the money earned on a monthly basis from Edinburgh alone is in the low four figure range. This is a great achievement on a geo domain name and some offline marketing but it hasn’t been easy. Whatever I earn, and more, goes back into the business to generate more custom.

    People often think that I sit behind a desk and the money rolls in; try saying that to me at 5am after standing all night in the cold with a couple of pr staff! I work day and night on my projects and radio advertising is still on the “to do” list but I’ll need to hammer the telephone number into people’s heads and get a few more thousand calls before I ask for that invoice!

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    Taking Risks and Borrowing Money

    “The deal isn’t a deal until the money is in the bank” – a saying my good friend Rob goes by. And it’s true…the money isn’t yours to spend until it belongs to you, even if all the T’s have been crossed and the I’s have been dotted.

    But, what if the money in the bank isn’t enough? Do you save then spend, or do you take the risk and borrow money? For many startups the latter is often the case, but that’s not without its difficulties. I recently asked Santander for a £1,000 overdraft to help with cash flow in the event more money came out that went in, and I was refused. Yet, Barclays were more than happy to give a £6,500 credit card with all the bells, whistles and offers without even asking what the money was being used for. You can do some serious damage with £6,500 – you just need to remember the money isn’t yours and needs to be paid back!

    Right now I’m promoting Edinburgh Taxi mainly, and things are going well, but every penny that comes in goes back out into marketing…and whatever else I have in my accounts! The money isn’t wasted, call volumes are rising month on month, but there’s only so much “cheap marketing” you can do. By that I mean low volume offline work and now I’ve come to a crossroads…

    Do I…

    a) patiently wait and save and stop marketing for a few months then do something big like a radio campaign?

    or

    b) pay for the big radio campaign on credit and pay it back over a few months?

    Different people will have different views, and ultimately the decision is mine, but like any business decision there’s risk involved and it’s a choice. There’s alternatives sure, but with the increasing competition and rising costs of variables such as printing, man power, fuel etc, it needs to be done properly or not done at all and the costs come out the same.

    The radio is simply an example of a big campaign I could do, there are others, but you need to alter your marketing to capture different markets and that’s where the difficulty lies.

    So my question to you is; would you charge your credit card or would you play it safe and save?

    Some Retailers Have It All Wrong

    Like many aspiring entrepreneurs I rushed out to get my copy of this year’s Rich List, flicking through the pages scanning for any internet types to see if I knew anyone. After a while I diverted my attention to the actual newspaper, and after reading about how US Special Forces killed Bin Laden, my attention was turned to a small article about Thomas Cook. The company seems to be closing some retail outlets in favour of going online, which has both benefits and downfalls. The article pointed out that walk in customers generally buy their holiday and many extras in the shop at once, and by closing stores Thomas Cook risked losing that.

    Having recently launched a UK airport transfers website I was only too keen to try to get in touch with someone at Thomas Cook to see if I could discuss a commercial partnership whereby they used my infrastructure and sold transport to their customers. Whilst the commission per transaction may be low, the sheer volume of customers who need transport to and from their home to the airport is huge, and Thomson has access to a large proportion of them.

    However, like many websites, I failed to find the contact of someone who could point me the direction of the person I needed to speak too. And this led me to try other firms, all with the same result. Now I appreciate large firms don’t want to be pestered by all types wanting a piece of their cake, but what about people wanting to offer something valuable?

    The Easy Group have the right idea, as does Go Compare to name a few, so why don’t others follow suit?

    Let me know your thoughts,

    Khalid.

    What has happened to blogging?

    Where has everyone gone? No posts from me or other internet types with blogs for a while now…have we all got sick of publicising our lives?

    Personally I love to write when I have a clear head and something substantial to jot down. I’ve never been one to blog for the sake of it, because “I must do 5 new posts a week”. I quickly realised I’m no John Chow and the idea of talking about how much money I make from my WordPress site simply doesn’t appeal. For me, blogging is a way of recording where I’m at and where I’ve been; almost like my online memoirs.

    I’ve spoken to a couple of friends who mention that people who are intent on blogging and posting on forums daily would get somewhere by actually doing instead of talking. I think they’re completely right and I’ve put it into practice recently by putting my head down and moving forward with my plans. I’m really proud of the progress I have made and it has given me a much needed boost to keep going.

    I’ve also been dedicating some of my time, both in my employment and personal time, to aiding charities with website help and financial donations. The work is really rewarding and makes me feel like my time is not only spent on me but lending a hand to others.

    Hopefully I’ll have some exciting updates soon!

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    Why SEO is getting harder…

    Over the past few months I’ve been working as a ghost link builder for numerous companies in addition to managing my own clients and my employer’s website(s). The beauty of having multiple sites in different niches is that you can apply what works on one site to another, within reason off course.

    I also own a small collection of sites myself, some of which are geo-domains focusing on a particular area. My first difficulty was to accommodate Google’s recent obsession with local listings. The problem is, Google hasn’t stopped at geo-sectors. Now, on an increasing amount of searches local listings appear.

    Whilst this is fantastic news for small business owners and nearby shops/services, if you want to order something online do you really want a shop 20 miles away coming up first with no idea if they have the product in stock or if their price is competitive?

    A number of pessimistic views have been posted on the likes of UK Business Forums to suggest SEO is dying, or indeed has died. However, the death of such a huge industry is extremely unlikely and tactics can be adopted to assist in ranking under local listings. The beauty of SEO; you’re constantly learning.

    As the World Wide Web grows at an alarming rate and as social media sites blossom – YouTube says that 35 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute – search engines have more and more content to chew and rank. So, when it comes to outranking these sites more time and money is required to achieve the same results you could do with your eyes closed previously. Competition is not the only problem, Google is definitely clamping down on links it previously gave juice too and people with quality sites are demanding top dollar for advertising.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change and growth. But, do we need Twitter feeds or YouTube videos getting preferential treatment in search results? It has even been suggested that Google gives preferential treatment to its own products and services. Mind you, if you were Google wouldn’t you?

    Some people are even taking things a step further and instead of attempting to outrank a competitor fairly, they’re using negative SEO to devalue other sites. Talk about sneaky!

    The exact match domain boost that webmasters – including myself – have ridden on for years could be coming to an end, but again that’s talk just now. Those who perhaps have spent considerable sums of money on such names could see their value cut overnight, simply because of a tweak here and there by the Big G. The only good that could come out of this is that webmasters will be forced to build brands around their site and not simply rely on web traffic.

    Perhaps these changes will force greater investment by webmasters to go beyond creating a site and doing some SEO. Perhaps in years to come Google will find a way of chucking out the crap and focusing on sites with more than an exact match and a few backlinks. A clean up is in order and I think it’ll happen, so if you’re serious about the future don’t sit on your arse and pretend everything will be fine. Change can happen, and it will. Oh, and when Facebook launches its own search, there will be another competitor in the running.

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    For Technorati: 77MQX7KVWJHE

    How NOT To Apply for a Job

    I regularly use Gumtree.com to find temporary workers, such as promotional staff. Occassionally, I also use it to find full time employees for my workplace, however this post relates to the former.

    Recently, I placed an advert for leaflet distribution staff, which is a minimum wage job in my opinion. I asked simply for some personal details, their availability and any previous experience. Here’s the worst yet funniest reply I’ve had…

    hi there my name is luciano and i would like to help u on that my number is 07********7 and i live in edinburgh and would u be able to pay abit more per hour like maybe max £10 for hour if thats possible coz im really needing money i skint so wb asap please thanks..

    This is 100% genuine, I’ve only edited the telephone number. Now I appreciate it is a minimum wage job but I didn’t realise that translated into discarding grammar, punctuation and manners!

    The Recent Student Protests Over Education Fees

    For a number of reasons I commend the students who are demonstrating peacefully against the increase in tuition fees. Having completed a degree and completed numerous job applications and interviews, I’m only too aware of the need for a degree in today’s competative job market.

    The UK is becoming a services industry; we grow/manufacture less, we export less and we’re not exactly a major holiday destination.

    In my opinion our income from our services will become the backbone of our economy and for those reasons we should be concentrating on education and training as many young hopefuls as possible. What the UK government are doing is making further education less attractive, forcing successful graduates to pay back enourmous amounts of money and advertising our country as a bloody expensive place to live where people just accept change.

    Never have I seen any country so happy to sit back and watch petrol prices rise, tax on everything to become a norm and our education system to become a means to repaying the trillions of debt we’re drowning in. Everyone says how terrible it is, yet when protests become a little hot under the collar they’re quick to insult those actively campaigning against it.

    I don’t agree with violence, afterall the police officer you’re probably fighting against has student debt too or is sick of how at least a third of his salary goes out the window. But, something needs to be done.

    In an effort to avoid getting into confrontations with people on either side of the fence, here’s my suggestions as to what the government could be doing to better our country…

    1. Run the country like a business -  We’re wasting billions on absolute crap, as highlighted by the likes of Mr Green, Mr Taylor and FOE.

    2. Stop giving out money to people who don’t want to work – If you’re disabled or require any sort of assistance then fine, but otherwise get off your arse and get a job. Despite there being a recession companies like my employer are still recruiting because we’re pro-active.

    “Welfare now costs £192 billion a year, a “staggering” increase of 45 per cent in a decade, Mr Osborne said. “We are wasting the talents of millions and spending billions on it,” – Telegraph.

    3. Stop the UK being treated as a “Free” country – If you want access to the like of the NHS then at least 12 months of paying National Insurance (unless you’re part of point 2) is required.

    4. Stop letting people off - If you get arrested for e.g. drunk & disorderly, no more “warnings”! You pay a fine equivalent to the cost of arresting, transporting and detaining you.

    5. Chain gangs - If you’re in jail then there’s tonnes of snow that need clearing, plenty of streets that could do with a clean and much more we’re paying for we could be getting as a payback for your stay.

    6. Bye bye Royals – Pay them off! They’re good for tourism I agree, but bloody hell they’re already rich why should we keep paying them! £37.4 million saved.

    7. If you’re obese through laziness, flat chested due to being unlucky, an alcoholic because you a few too many beers or unfortunate that you can’t have kids then help is going to cost you! -  Hospitals are an emergency care service, not a place for free gastric bands, new boobs, a transplant because you want to drink more or IVF because you cannot conceive naturally. Sorry, but there’s hard working, good people who need emergency treatment, the NHS isn’t a system that we can abuse.

    8. Insert more here - I’m sure after publishing this post I’ll think of hundreds of other ways the UK could save money!

    Alan Michael Sugar’s Book – What You See is What You Get

    After leisurely reading through Sugar’s biography, I sadly managed to finish it. The memoirs of a electronics mogul provided me with an endless amount of laughs and I was upset it didn’t go on further when I turned the last few pages.

    I’ve read books by Theo, Peter, Duncan and Richard, yet none contained the same in-depth memories like Sugar’s did. I suspect because he wrote it by himself without any assistance, such as the use of a ghost writer. Thumbs up Alan!

    I was surprised at the audacity of some of his suppliers, particularly Seagate, for supplying Amstrad with faulty hard drives. It seems that no matter how far up the ladder you go, people are always willing to screw you, or at least try. Note to self – being a millionaire comes with its downfalls!

    We all know scary “Sir Alan” (now “Lord Sugar”)  from the boardroom and how intimidating he can be. But, when you read the tales of his youth and early ventures, it is hard to think it is the same man who wrote the autiobiography. He often refers to his cold nature and how he is aware of it; I think there’s a beating heart in there somewhere.

    I was surprised at how little I knew of Amstrad. I certainly didn’t realise they were behind the unsightly 9 million sky dishes (Guardian, 2008) that line the outside of houses across the UK. And I didn’t know Amstrad is a name no longer owned by Lord Sugar. The book contains more than a few things I didn’t know, and it added to the great read.

    I’m not going to review every chapter of the book and give my thoughts, but let’s just say it was £10 well spent!

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    Marketing a taxi company

    It has been a while since my last post, and that’s really been for two reason; 1. I’ve not had much to report and 2. I don’t want to report what I’ve been doing. As some of your may know from the pages of Ethan Hardy Ltd, I own Edinburgh Taxi and Glasgow Taxi (.co.uk and .org.uk).

    I have agreements setup with companies in both cities to accept and complete work that come through the telephone numbers on the sites in return for a referall fee, a new kind of affiliate marketing. I am fortunate enough to have Mark Boyd working as an affiliate for me and promoting a companies on his Aberdeen Taxi site.

    Things are progessing well with us racking up in excess of 1,000 calls per month. Mark and I are constantly competing between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, however he has a sub-affiliate promoting his number so qudos to him!

    I’ve been trialling new marketing methods, including pairing up with local companies to co-promote each other’s services. I’ve also paid for adverts on student radio and Spotify, which I hope will spread the word about the number. I’ll let you know how that goes at the end of the month!

    Like Rob, who is pushing some promotional items for his Claims site, I’ve got a giveaway in the pipeline that my friend Frank and a few others voted as a great idea.

    I’m cautious about publishing every step I am taking as the taxi trade is particularly competative and it is difficult to comment on what worked and what didn’t as promoting a taxi number does not guarantee instant results – people may not use one for months to come and there’s no cookies tracking the booking!

    Expansion online is one thing I’m focusing on as I’m fortunate enough to benefit from good positions within the SERPs and I’ve built up a small yet growing fan base on Facebook and Twitter.

    Things are going well so my head is down and I’m working this idea until those 1,000 calls turn into 10,000!

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    Honestly Stick To What You’re Good At

    A while ago I posted about sticking to what you’re good at and since then I’ve tried hard to stick to my guns. It is difficult focusing on one thing until it is actually making a fair amount of cash or you’ve got no money left to do something else. It’s like ADD for entrepreneurs, do you suffer that?

    With domain registrations costing £5 odds, it is incredibly easy to think “oh I’ve got another great idea I’ll go buy the name” or “I’ll reg that name because it has xxx exact searches and will generate loads” . That domain registration soon becomes a site and the next thing you’re ordering content and building backlinks. Then, surprise surprise you don’t generate the “loads” you thought about or you’re bored and off onto the next idea.

    At the time of writing this I have about 200 domain names in my account, yet only a handful actually generate any revenue. I’m not saying those 195 domains are useless and will never make any money, but the fact of the matter is they mostly sit there un-used and those registration / renewal fees add up. If I took the £xxx saved and put it into my profitable ventures I’d probably end up better off.

    As I type away I am thinking that I’m typing what I should be telling myself, and often that sums up my blog posts. It is really easy to preach, but actions are harder. So, I took my domains, un-used websites and began selling them off.

    So far I’ve raised £2,100 in revenue from the sale of a network and one mobility name. This revenue will be used to boost the cool stuff I’m doing that is actually bringing in revenue, and the hope is that the low three figures I’m earning will end up in the mid region.

    As I plug away finding the cheapest ways to make this happen, I cannot help feel sorry for my friend in Greece who, in the time it has taken me to start and run Ethan Hardy Ltd (my company), has built and sold a petrol station, purchased (and now trying to sell) a holiday home in Bulgaria, was taken for a ride on a newsagents partnership in the same country, bought land in Brazil and is chasing the developer and now lost about 12,000 Euro’s on the stock market.

    It breaks my heart to see him try different things and suffer the consequences of rushing into the unknown. We all want to be successful and I genuinely admire those that have, but I realise it cannot be rushed and my friend has proved more than enough evidence of that.

    So once again I’d like to remind you to stick to what you’re good at until such times as you can try something new and break any potential fall without placing yourself in a position that you cannot get out of.

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

    A Week Off in Pictures

    So Sunday brings the end to a week off – well, a week from driving to and from work but that’s about it! Having two puppies means you’re still up in the morning, and Christy started her university course so I was up when she was anyways.

    It was good to sit back and take time away from the rat race. Watching my new ventures take shape whilst sitting with my French doors wide open and soaking up the sun reminded me of how much I want to become self employed; slowly but surely I’m getting there.

    So, here’s a few snaps from the week…


    The View From My Flat

    Chinese Takeaway!

    Walking The Dogs in Glasgow Green

    BBQ King Chef at Christy's Parents

    Christy's Parents, the Dogs and Me!

    Christy and I


    I hope your week was as good as mine.

    Good luck with your pursuits,

    Khalid.

Why I started and stopped selling on eBay and Amazon

After my two years in taxi marketing I exited taxi websites and invested in a terminal idea; a touch screen terminal that would allow users to book a taxi at the touch of a button in up to 9 languages.

I had big plans; to offer restaurant bookings, tours and more, all from a little Android tablet. My employer (and friend) invested and we set about finding venues.

Within a few months I had signed up close to 100 venues, all whom wanted a tablet in their venue and in return would be paid a small commission for each booking. Using a leading Hackney taxi company in Edinburgh I then agreed a deal that they would pay for a year’s contract up front, which would part fund the overheards.

Things were setup nicely but it it fell at the first hurdle; Wifi in hotels is notorious for breaking/going down so I had to teach most venues how to reset the terminal. This was fine at first but then they forgot or just didn’t bother.

The second hurdle was getting the taxi operators to actually check another screen for independant bookings and service them quickly. The software companies responsible for leasing/selling dispatch software weren’t keen on giving me the api to their web backend (or wanted a BIG fee) so it had to be done separately.

The third hurdle was getting the taxi company to actually visit the venues and ensure the terminals were being used. I regularly visited hotels to find the terminal switched off and business cards from rival taxi companies on the desk.

To cut a long story short it didn’t work, and I was left with a hole in our accounts.

During this time I was, and still am, working. In our attempts to reduce cost in the business I began looking at our suppliers, in particular those that sold us ancillary items such as nails, screws, dust sheets, tarpaulins etc. I then used the company we had setup to go direct to manufacturers and buy the items in bulk, for cheaper. I couldn’t just sell to one client – my employer – so took to the web and began shifting items online.

At first I thought it would be easy. List your items cheaply, sell loads of them. But it doesn’t work like that. I was able to make a profit and have returned 70% of money invested in our previous venture but it was a LOT of effort for NOT A LOT of money and I figured my time could be better spent elsewhere.

I’m not going to go into the depths of trading online but will cover one or two bits that will make you think twice. And before I begin, not all customers / sales are like the below but I’m giving you an indication of what it can be like;

Feedback is really important.

My most popular items weigh 5-10kg per box, and shipping for that weight isn’t cheap. I offered myHermes at £6.99 inc VAT costing me £5.50 ex VAT or next day at £7.99 costing me £7.49.

myHermes takes 3-5 days to deliver and buyers are made aware of this, however I lost my “Top Rated Seller” status because those who paid for that delivery option would then mark me less than 5 stars because of the time it took to arrive.

Next Day delivery isn’t always next day. The courier business is worse than eBay and from speaking with drivers their vans are filled to the brim, sometimes meaning deliveries booked on for that day aren’t fulfilled. Now because couriers know this, they don’t offer your money back or compensation for late deliveries…but an eBay buyer expects you too.

Now say you do get the item to the customer on time and there’s a problem…how many customers are going to pay to return the item? Not many, so you risk negative feedback or do a deal.

Bear in mind all this time you’ve probably make a tiny amount on this item and the time taken to even try to resolve an issue is costing your business money.

Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity

I’ve had to sell things at a loss to capture sales and drive up the interest in my items. It is a common occurance, and I doubt you’ll be able to work differently..

If I sell one dust sheet I lose £1 but if someone orders two I profit as I save on the courier fee. It is a risk, and one you’ll generally lose as most people only want 1 x an item. Bear in mind the loss I am making is when buying direct from a manufacturr in pallet quantites. Oh yes, and then you need to add on the cost of storing the pallet!

I know one seller who makes no money selling dust sheets online but sells one pallet per month. By increasing the volume he buys from his manufacturer he gets the sheets cheaper and in turn makes more money off Joe Bloggs who walks in to his trade counter and buys the item at a regular retail price. He also benefits from reduced seller fees associated with selling on third party sites.

You will be undercut

I guarantee you that someone will undercut you unless you are selling one-of-a-kind items. Babz Media is infamous on eBay for being the cheapest seller on the site and I’m convinced they sell some items at a loss in order to beat down the competition. If they can absorb the losses in the long run it’ll force other sellers to abandon the site or certain lines, leaving Babz a biggar share of the market.

The benefits

1. Economies of scale – sell more and the unit cost is less. This is great if you have a shop or online store where you sell at regular retail prices because you can make better margins

2. Keep staff busy – If you are selling on eBay/Amazon for no profit but moving 1,000 items a week you’ll keep your staff busy. This is good for morale at least!

3. Marketing – Selling 1,000 items per week will allow you to target 1,000 new customers per week with marketing material in the hope they’ll visit your shop / online store

4. Remaining current – Argos have recently agreed a deal with eBay to allow customers to “click and collect” – this could be the future of retail and you don’t want to be left behind

5. Instant business – Setup and sell on eBay / Amazon and you’re instantly in front of millions of people

Conclusion

My general advice would be; if another business can buy the item you are selling cheaper, or undercut you in any way, don’t bother.

If you can remain the cheapest, or sell items that are one-offs (e.g. second hand cars, bespoke furniture, personalised items) then go for it.

I would say more and more people want quality over price, but all markets are dominated by money right now and unfortunately the majority is your customer base, not the minority.

The change has come

“It’s all gone Pete Tong” is a simple way to sum it up.

Google and it’s array of black and white animals are chucking out websites left, right and centre.

The web marketplace has changed forever; buyers want more for less as the risk is ten fold what it used to be. What’s the point in pouring resources and effort into a site that can go “poof!” the next day?

Nominet and their stupid proposals continue to threaten the .co.uk domain marketplace.

Domainers and .co.uk dabblers are having fire sale upon fire sale to remain bouyant as those golden domain names they once had are no longer worth much. I mean, when did you ever see a three letter domain name got for less than £500 a few years ago?

And man I am sick of this recession!

We’re in it, we’re out of it, we’re affected, we’re unaffected. It’s all rubbish, things have changed and times are hard.

Over the past year I’ve remained pretty quiet, not blogging or building at the same speed I used too. I didn’t have much to say, I didn’t know what to do. It seems like it’s all doom and gloom, with so called “experts” saying SEO is dead and it’s all about branding now. I agree to some extent, but you’re an idiot if you have a full time business that relied solely on SEO for its success. Prior to Penguin, Panda and all the other ridiculous names for fucking up the SERPs branding was just as important but costly, where as a link from a relevant blog was only $10. Which would you choose?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful purely from SEO but in my employment and taxi business I never ever relied on one form of traffic. You need to spread you risks and it’ll be interesting to see how smaller web companies do that moving forward.

We’re all affected by what is happening and we’ve all got our opinions but the clever ones amongst us will adapt and strive to improve. I never thought I’d actually use newspaper advertising but I do and it works. Going back to basics is sometimes what is required.

So where am I now? I haven’t flown the nest; I simply love my job too much and the salary that comes with it. I still buy and sell, build and flip, but I’m now looking at revenue models that will provide recurring income with recurring visitors rather than one-off chances to make 20p a click.

I’m also looking at going offline, building an actual real life business, but part of me reins my enthusiasm back in as building profitable websites doesn’t require the same level of input from other people or startup costs.

All I know and can share is that you need to adapt or exit.

Why the high street is failing and how it can be stopped

Most high streets and shopping centres now feature numerous “To Let” or “Lease Available” signs protruding out of the front of old shops that were killed off by the recession. It’s a sad sight but I’d be telling a porky if I said I didn’t see it coming.

When shit hits the fan and sales start to drop it the detached upper management of large corporations start to cut costs, and expensive units are usually the first to go. For years they’ve authorised high rent and rates, expensive shop fittings and overwhelming staff numbers because the money was rolling in, but now they’re heading in the opposite direction. A little too late perhaps, and sometimes just stupid. We’re now checking out our own goods with machines instead of people, and we have to pay for a bag too. We can’t get help at the customer service desk because the “supervisor” who wears 10 different hats to cover the employee cut-backs is busy doing something else. And cheaper, younger staff can’t offer you the advice you need because they’ve had no training but that’s ok because they cost less. Is this really the answer to the problem?

British retailing really needs to take a look in the mirror. We pride ourselves on being a great nation but when it comes to the crunch it’s dog eat dog. I don’t blame the staff, I blame the management, and the management above them, and the management above them. It’s easy to draw a £100k a year salary and swan into work with a tailored suit, but rolling your sleeves up and working a shift in the store you “manage” to find out where the real problems and solutions lie is a bit beyond you. That’s bullshit, and that’s exactly why great businesses are sinking like the Titanic.

Forget your image or upsetting the people around you by sticking your nose in; doing exactly that might just save the company you’re happy to have pay for that suit! Don’t be ashamed to listen to your staff, talk to your customers and knock some heads together. If you think I’m spouting rubbish take a few examples;

- RyanAir – If you want a piece of stationary you need to ask for it and give a good reason why you need it. You don’t get to take what you need or charge it to your company card. You can’t pick what type of paper you want because there’s an individual with the sole job of ensuring costs don’t spiral out of control who’ll stop you.

- John Lewis – To combat expensive rent and rates they began opening compact stores with less glamourous surroundings. They kept their excellent service and reliable products but provided it within a cheaper setting.

- Greene King Pubs – The pub and restaurant chain posted a rise in profits during the recession by introducing new deals.

Don’t let your firm become another victim. Do something now, before it’s too late.

Two Years in Taxi Marketing

For around two years I’ve been marketing numerous taxi websites and generating revenue by charging a fee per call to a local taxi company. My main operation was in Edinburgh, with others in Aberdeen (partnering with Mark Boyd before buying him out) and Glasgow. I also owned a number of other generic names that were being held for development.

Once I had managed to push the sites into prominent positions online I felt I had to expand my marketing efforts further afield – particularly offline – for numerous reasons; I wanted more business and to not solely rely on SEO to build a brand. During this time I’ve been holding down my full time post whilst supporting my partner Christy as a student. It was fun and exciting to have a venture that was generating a respectable income and something that, to my knowledge, had never been done before (this particular revenue model in the transport industry).

I was not planning to sell the operation for a few years, but due to some unforeseen circumstances I decided it was time to purchase a house and have long term security. I’ve always been happy to rent as it is easy and means if I ever hit the jackpot I could quickly fly out the country haha!

I vaguely outlined (to avoid tyre kickers and idea thieves) the operation on a number of forums and John Lamerton, whom I’ve had dealings with before, is now the new owner. Under the new terms I still retain a small shareholding in the operation to assist in the smooth running of it and future developments, which I’m only happy to do. I think the operation has a positive future and no doubt in time John and his team will continue to build on the success. At this stage I feel it is only respectful to John not to detail specifics as I wish to protect his investment but we’re both happy with the arrangement.

The revenue model I promoted is now being used in other markets by friends and colleagues, and some taxi companies have even began offering it to hotels and guest houses as a way of securing new business. I’m proud of what I achieved and I’m already working on another exciting project.

Scottish Independence and who it will really benefit

I’m not one to get wrapped up in politics because it never ends well. Family occasions seem to be a natural birthplace for political debates and I’m always accused of being too Margaret Thatcher like to have my say counted. It was clear my views were very different to those around me until I began carving a career. Nowadays my business associates and I will chat for hours about how we’d put the world to rights, and where the government is going wrong. We’re all in agreement that we’re getting a rough deal, but would it be any better if Scotland became independent?

I don’t think running any country is an easy task, but if charities can stay afloat on donations why are we in a trillion pounds of debt? I was happy to see successful businessmen like Sir Alan Sugar give his opinion and advice in a bid to help, citing financial wastage such as the police renting buildings and not even using them.

There are a lot of things to fix and it will take years to accomplish (that’s if they manage to do it), so will Scotland really be any better away from it all?

On a grand scale Scotland is a tiny part of the World with not a lot to offer. No offence to anyone but we don’t have the weather for tourism (it accounts for only 3%of our GDP), we can’t grow much to export and our manufacturing industry is dead. We’re pinning our hopes on one thing; the North Sea.

Now, let’s stop for a second and think; does anyone in their right mind think that our beloved Government in England will simply allow us to gather up our things, make Scotland independent and keep all the natural resources in the North Sea?

According to OilforScotland.org, in 2008 all revenue generated from drilling activities north of the border in amassed a £12 billion fortune that went straight to the crew that ran Downing Street. I doubt they’d be happy to let us keep that sort of change should Alex Salmond have his way.

Furthermore, Scotland lost 6,000 square miles of the North Sea because Tony Blair moved the marine boundary from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Carnoustie. Would he have been able to do that if Scotland were independent? Probably not, but it’s already been done, why do you think that was?

An article in the Guardian quoted that in the year 2008-2009 Scotland provided £1.3 billion more revenue that we spent, which seems like a lot. But really, that’s less than 1% of our GDP and includes our share of North Sea oil revenue. If you were the country’s accountant, would you want to split your partnership in a business because you were making 1% more than you were spending? Note, in 2008 crude oil prices were at a record high which could account for the 1% margin. I certainly wouldn’t like to pin my future on a product that’s price went up and down like a yo-yo.

Many believe Scotland can offer more than just what is beneath the sea, which is true, but it is also limited. Take off-shore wind energy (that we certainly have the weather for); it is her Majesty that owns the shoreline so we’d end up sending money down south again for being green!

Where Scotland does have strength is in the financial sector which accounts for 6% of our GDP. Scotland is the home of 4 clear banks; Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank and Lloyds TSB Scotland. But, England is the true financial hub of the UK so would these banking giants really have to stay in Scotland if we became independent? There is a morale duty for them to have a presence here just now as we’re one country, but would that remain if we split? Let’s be honest, it is more expensive to have two bases instead of one.

In theory I’d love Scotland to be independent as I absolutely detest the current setup, but I wouldn’t cut my nose to spite my face and I truly believe that’s what we’d be doing if we split from England.

Unless there are some dramatic economic changes first, I really do not think Scotland can stay afloat without its bigger brother by its side.

The Future of Facebook

Facebook recently announced their intention to float on the stock exchange, sparking media interest from around the world and getting every analyst to throw in their opinion over the future of one of the World Wide Web’s biggest websites.

For me, Facebook has been overvalued for a long time, and becoming a public company with shareholders will only inflate those figures. I have nothing against Facebook, I’m an occasional user with a few fan pages I use for my businesses and it is certainly a great social media platform, but to value it at between $75 and $100 billion is ridiculous. Sure, Facebook is a profitable company and has, on the back of its success made companies like Zynga extremely profitable, but it is no Microsoft in my eyes. At the top end of $100 billion Facebook would be one of the biggest companies in the United States, but if it is worth all the cash then why are they even floating it?

Having shareholders on board improves cash flow, but surely if you’re generating enough money that’s not a concern? Personally I wouldn’t want the headaches of pleasing shareholders and answering their questions if I was running a successful company that is already generating $1.5 billion in profit (According to CNBC’s Julie Robertson). Is it all smoke and mirrors?

On the other side of the fence, will the floatation affect Facebook’s 800 million users? I think so. As a shareholder with an investment in a company with 800 million users, I certainly would want to monetise the machine and squeeze more out of it. If you can generate $1.5 billion why not generate ten times that? So, will Facebook begin to complicate their layout with paid advertising like Google has, or begin to compete with other businesses and offer similar services like flight comparison and hotel search facilities?

The truth is the future of Facebook is unknown and all our opinions are insignificant until we see what pans out. I’ll definitely not be buying shares though.

Why AdBlocking Software only Hurts the Viewer

I was recently asked what I thought about AdBlocking software and how it may impact a website’s revenue. Here’s what I said:

A large proportion of the content available on the web today has been funded by the revenue site owners receive from displaying advertising. According to WorldWideWebSize.com the number of web pages indexed by Google in the past two years has grown by 30 billion, and as a result the value placed on a web page has diminished.

Webmasters are now generating less revenue online through traditional advertising and software designed to blog advertising doesn’t help. What users don’t realise is they’re only hurting themselves.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and in the case of this kind of software, webmasters are now actively combatting it by implementing some of the following;

- Reducing the number of times they update their website with fresh content as it simply isn’t as profitable anymore.

- Turning to alternative revenue streams such as subscriptions and “members only” areas.

- Installing recognition software that will ensure no content is displayed at all for web viewers with ad blocking software installed.

Advertising is all around us, and whilst sometimes pop-up pages and flashing banners can be annoying, remember that the website you are surfing costs money to maintain so it is only fair that it is recouped somehow. The World Wide Web isn’t just a playground, it is a business marketplace too.

Having Some Fun

In an attempt to enjoy my hard work and engage with my customers, I began hiring some real “characters” to perform short videos for my site Edinburgh Taxi. The results were amazing and truly made me laugh, but have generally had a good response from friends who have watched them.

I’m not expecting any of them to go viral, it’s really just a big of fun and something different.

What do you think?

There’s more over at my Edinburgh Taxi Youtube Channel.

It’s All Bullshit

Back in 2008 or there abouts I was hooked on blogs by infamous individuals claiming to “make money online”. I’m not talking about the eBay sellers pushing 99p eBooks or the one page website owners, I’m referring to a small yet popular group of individuals who had some success online and were cashing in by telling everyone.

I used to read blog after blog every single day, signing up to the networks they were signed up too, promoting products they were promoting and somehow trying to emulate their success. I set myself challenges, told myself and my readers that is was a simple case of building blocks and putting time and effort into sites that I know today aren’t going to live for much longer.

I build and flipped like crazy, which is there the money was, yet I somehow still thought I was doing something wrong because I wasn’t blogging to the world how I promote network X and get $300 a day.

The fact of the matter is that It’s All Bullshit. There’s no such thing as an “easy way to make money online”, no free eBook or download, no guarantees, nothing! Making money online is the same as making money anywhere else; it is hard, takes time and isn’t for everyone. What started out as a few bloggers recalling their success became a blogging shithole of greedy people charging hundreds of dollars for an ad on their blog, getting you to subscribe to networks through their affiliate links and even promoting random products in a bid for that little bit of extra cash.

These blogs were like gold, and some even for sold (Remember NetBusinessBlog.com – the domain forwards to a Forex page now) for ridiculous amounts of money. It is a sad state of affairs when sharing news and tips becomes a way of sucking time and money out of people.

I’m glad I went and did my own thing. I can’t say I wasn’t sucked in by it all, but through time and learning I’ve realised that the best way to make money anywhere is to put your head down and get on with it. I still share any updates and have helped numerous individuals who have asked for help via e-mail. In fact, I still ask for help from my friends too…but they don’t ask me to click through an affiliate link and then download their eBook first.

I have no doubt some downloads and courses etc are worthwhile, but it just seems like greed has taken over and any old trick in the book is punted to whomever will chew it down. And it is for that reason I no longer read the crap they churn out and instead look for anything else with an ounce of quality in it.

Sorry for the rant, I had to get my point out.

Khalid.

An Update on Borrowing Money

My last post questioned what you would do if you had to borrow money to boost a marketing campaign. After listening to some advice I held off on radio promotion and opted to promote Edinburgh Taxi offline. Face to face marketing gets peoples attention, especially when you’re standing in a bright yellow t-shirt handing out plastic business cards. Yes, plastic – they don’t tear or bend, but they’re bloody expensive!

edinburgh taxi marketing staff

At this point I should mention I shelled out a lot to buy a card printer and consumables but people have been snapping the cards up so it has been a worthwhile task. The credit card was used but I know I can pay it back. No risk = no reward.

I’ve avoided posting about the success of my taxi partnerships as I’ve been focusing on making them work, but I’m happy to announce things are going well. If I could sum it up without getting into specifics, the money earned on a monthly basis from Edinburgh alone is in the low four figure range. This is a great achievement on a geo domain name and some offline marketing but it hasn’t been easy. Whatever I earn, and more, goes back into the business to generate more custom.

People often think that I sit behind a desk and the money rolls in; try saying that to me at 5am after standing all night in the cold with a couple of pr staff! I work day and night on my projects and radio advertising is still on the “to do” list but I’ll need to hammer the telephone number into people’s heads and get a few more thousand calls before I ask for that invoice!

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

Taking Risks and Borrowing Money

“The deal isn’t a deal until the money is in the bank” – a saying my good friend Rob goes by. And it’s true…the money isn’t yours to spend until it belongs to you, even if all the T’s have been crossed and the I’s have been dotted.

But, what if the money in the bank isn’t enough? Do you save then spend, or do you take the risk and borrow money? For many startups the latter is often the case, but that’s not without its difficulties. I recently asked Santander for a £1,000 overdraft to help with cash flow in the event more money came out that went in, and I was refused. Yet, Barclays were more than happy to give a £6,500 credit card with all the bells, whistles and offers without even asking what the money was being used for. You can do some serious damage with £6,500 – you just need to remember the money isn’t yours and needs to be paid back!

Right now I’m promoting Edinburgh Taxi mainly, and things are going well, but every penny that comes in goes back out into marketing…and whatever else I have in my accounts! The money isn’t wasted, call volumes are rising month on month, but there’s only so much “cheap marketing” you can do. By that I mean low volume offline work and now I’ve come to a crossroads…

Do I…

a) patiently wait and save and stop marketing for a few months then do something big like a radio campaign?

or

b) pay for the big radio campaign on credit and pay it back over a few months?

Different people will have different views, and ultimately the decision is mine, but like any business decision there’s risk involved and it’s a choice. There’s alternatives sure, but with the increasing competition and rising costs of variables such as printing, man power, fuel etc, it needs to be done properly or not done at all and the costs come out the same.

The radio is simply an example of a big campaign I could do, there are others, but you need to alter your marketing to capture different markets and that’s where the difficulty lies.

So my question to you is; would you charge your credit card or would you play it safe and save?

Some Retailers Have It All Wrong

Like many aspiring entrepreneurs I rushed out to get my copy of this year’s Rich List, flicking through the pages scanning for any internet types to see if I knew anyone. After a while I diverted my attention to the actual newspaper, and after reading about how US Special Forces killed Bin Laden, my attention was turned to a small article about Thomas Cook. The company seems to be closing some retail outlets in favour of going online, which has both benefits and downfalls. The article pointed out that walk in customers generally buy their holiday and many extras in the shop at once, and by closing stores Thomas Cook risked losing that.

Having recently launched a UK airport transfers website I was only too keen to try to get in touch with someone at Thomas Cook to see if I could discuss a commercial partnership whereby they used my infrastructure and sold transport to their customers. Whilst the commission per transaction may be low, the sheer volume of customers who need transport to and from their home to the airport is huge, and Thomson has access to a large proportion of them.

However, like many websites, I failed to find the contact of someone who could point me the direction of the person I needed to speak too. And this led me to try other firms, all with the same result. Now I appreciate large firms don’t want to be pestered by all types wanting a piece of their cake, but what about people wanting to offer something valuable?

The Easy Group have the right idea, as does Go Compare to name a few, so why don’t others follow suit?

Let me know your thoughts,

Khalid.

What has happened to blogging?

Where has everyone gone? No posts from me or other internet types with blogs for a while now…have we all got sick of publicising our lives?

Personally I love to write when I have a clear head and something substantial to jot down. I’ve never been one to blog for the sake of it, because “I must do 5 new posts a week”. I quickly realised I’m no John Chow and the idea of talking about how much money I make from my WordPress site simply doesn’t appeal. For me, blogging is a way of recording where I’m at and where I’ve been; almost like my online memoirs.

I’ve spoken to a couple of friends who mention that people who are intent on blogging and posting on forums daily would get somewhere by actually doing instead of talking. I think they’re completely right and I’ve put it into practice recently by putting my head down and moving forward with my plans. I’m really proud of the progress I have made and it has given me a much needed boost to keep going.

I’ve also been dedicating some of my time, both in my employment and personal time, to aiding charities with website help and financial donations. The work is really rewarding and makes me feel like my time is not only spent on me but lending a hand to others.

Hopefully I’ll have some exciting updates soon!

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

Why SEO is getting harder…

Over the past few months I’ve been working as a ghost link builder for numerous companies in addition to managing my own clients and my employer’s website(s). The beauty of having multiple sites in different niches is that you can apply what works on one site to another, within reason off course.

I also own a small collection of sites myself, some of which are geo-domains focusing on a particular area. My first difficulty was to accommodate Google’s recent obsession with local listings. The problem is, Google hasn’t stopped at geo-sectors. Now, on an increasing amount of searches local listings appear.

Whilst this is fantastic news for small business owners and nearby shops/services, if you want to order something online do you really want a shop 20 miles away coming up first with no idea if they have the product in stock or if their price is competitive?

A number of pessimistic views have been posted on the likes of UK Business Forums to suggest SEO is dying, or indeed has died. However, the death of such a huge industry is extremely unlikely and tactics can be adopted to assist in ranking under local listings. The beauty of SEO; you’re constantly learning.

As the World Wide Web grows at an alarming rate and as social media sites blossom – YouTube says that 35 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute – search engines have more and more content to chew and rank. So, when it comes to outranking these sites more time and money is required to achieve the same results you could do with your eyes closed previously. Competition is not the only problem, Google is definitely clamping down on links it previously gave juice too and people with quality sites are demanding top dollar for advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change and growth. But, do we need Twitter feeds or YouTube videos getting preferential treatment in search results? It has even been suggested that Google gives preferential treatment to its own products and services. Mind you, if you were Google wouldn’t you?

Some people are even taking things a step further and instead of attempting to outrank a competitor fairly, they’re using negative SEO to devalue other sites. Talk about sneaky!

The exact match domain boost that webmasters – including myself – have ridden on for years could be coming to an end, but again that’s talk just now. Those who perhaps have spent considerable sums of money on such names could see their value cut overnight, simply because of a tweak here and there by the Big G. The only good that could come out of this is that webmasters will be forced to build brands around their site and not simply rely on web traffic.

Perhaps these changes will force greater investment by webmasters to go beyond creating a site and doing some SEO. Perhaps in years to come Google will find a way of chucking out the crap and focusing on sites with more than an exact match and a few backlinks. A clean up is in order and I think it’ll happen, so if you’re serious about the future don’t sit on your arse and pretend everything will be fine. Change can happen, and it will. Oh, and when Facebook launches its own search, there will be another competitor in the running.

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

For Technorati: 77MQX7KVWJHE

How NOT To Apply for a Job

I regularly use Gumtree.com to find temporary workers, such as promotional staff. Occassionally, I also use it to find full time employees for my workplace, however this post relates to the former.

Recently, I placed an advert for leaflet distribution staff, which is a minimum wage job in my opinion. I asked simply for some personal details, their availability and any previous experience. Here’s the worst yet funniest reply I’ve had…

hi there my name is luciano and i would like to help u on that my number is 07********7 and i live in edinburgh and would u be able to pay abit more per hour like maybe max £10 for hour if thats possible coz im really needing money i skint so wb asap please thanks..

This is 100% genuine, I’ve only edited the telephone number. Now I appreciate it is a minimum wage job but I didn’t realise that translated into discarding grammar, punctuation and manners!

The Recent Student Protests Over Education Fees

For a number of reasons I commend the students who are demonstrating peacefully against the increase in tuition fees. Having completed a degree and completed numerous job applications and interviews, I’m only too aware of the need for a degree in today’s competative job market.

The UK is becoming a services industry; we grow/manufacture less, we export less and we’re not exactly a major holiday destination.

In my opinion our income from our services will become the backbone of our economy and for those reasons we should be concentrating on education and training as many young hopefuls as possible. What the UK government are doing is making further education less attractive, forcing successful graduates to pay back enourmous amounts of money and advertising our country as a bloody expensive place to live where people just accept change.

Never have I seen any country so happy to sit back and watch petrol prices rise, tax on everything to become a norm and our education system to become a means to repaying the trillions of debt we’re drowning in. Everyone says how terrible it is, yet when protests become a little hot under the collar they’re quick to insult those actively campaigning against it.

I don’t agree with violence, afterall the police officer you’re probably fighting against has student debt too or is sick of how at least a third of his salary goes out the window. But, something needs to be done.

In an effort to avoid getting into confrontations with people on either side of the fence, here’s my suggestions as to what the government could be doing to better our country…

1. Run the country like a business -  We’re wasting billions on absolute crap, as highlighted by the likes of Mr Green, Mr Taylor and FOE.

2. Stop giving out money to people who don’t want to work – If you’re disabled or require any sort of assistance then fine, but otherwise get off your arse and get a job. Despite there being a recession companies like my employer are still recruiting because we’re pro-active.

“Welfare now costs £192 billion a year, a “staggering” increase of 45 per cent in a decade, Mr Osborne said. “We are wasting the talents of millions and spending billions on it,” – Telegraph.

3. Stop the UK being treated as a “Free” country – If you want access to the like of the NHS then at least 12 months of paying National Insurance (unless you’re part of point 2) is required.

4. Stop letting people off - If you get arrested for e.g. drunk & disorderly, no more “warnings”! You pay a fine equivalent to the cost of arresting, transporting and detaining you.

5. Chain gangs - If you’re in jail then there’s tonnes of snow that need clearing, plenty of streets that could do with a clean and much more we’re paying for we could be getting as a payback for your stay.

6. Bye bye Royals – Pay them off! They’re good for tourism I agree, but bloody hell they’re already rich why should we keep paying them! £37.4 million saved.

7. If you’re obese through laziness, flat chested due to being unlucky, an alcoholic because you a few too many beers or unfortunate that you can’t have kids then help is going to cost you! -  Hospitals are an emergency care service, not a place for free gastric bands, new boobs, a transplant because you want to drink more or IVF because you cannot conceive naturally. Sorry, but there’s hard working, good people who need emergency treatment, the NHS isn’t a system that we can abuse.

8. Insert more here - I’m sure after publishing this post I’ll think of hundreds of other ways the UK could save money!

Alan Michael Sugar’s Book – What You See is What You Get

After leisurely reading through Sugar’s biography, I sadly managed to finish it. The memoirs of a electronics mogul provided me with an endless amount of laughs and I was upset it didn’t go on further when I turned the last few pages.

I’ve read books by Theo, Peter, Duncan and Richard, yet none contained the same in-depth memories like Sugar’s did. I suspect because he wrote it by himself without any assistance, such as the use of a ghost writer. Thumbs up Alan!

I was surprised at the audacity of some of his suppliers, particularly Seagate, for supplying Amstrad with faulty hard drives. It seems that no matter how far up the ladder you go, people are always willing to screw you, or at least try. Note to self – being a millionaire comes with its downfalls!

We all know scary “Sir Alan” (now “Lord Sugar”)  from the boardroom and how intimidating he can be. But, when you read the tales of his youth and early ventures, it is hard to think it is the same man who wrote the autiobiography. He often refers to his cold nature and how he is aware of it; I think there’s a beating heart in there somewhere.

I was surprised at how little I knew of Amstrad. I certainly didn’t realise they were behind the unsightly 9 million sky dishes (Guardian, 2008) that line the outside of houses across the UK. And I didn’t know Amstrad is a name no longer owned by Lord Sugar. The book contains more than a few things I didn’t know, and it added to the great read.

I’m not going to review every chapter of the book and give my thoughts, but let’s just say it was £10 well spent!

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

Marketing a taxi company

It has been a while since my last post, and that’s really been for two reason; 1. I’ve not had much to report and 2. I don’t want to report what I’ve been doing. As some of your may know from the pages of Ethan Hardy Ltd, I own Edinburgh Taxi and Glasgow Taxi (.co.uk and .org.uk).

I have agreements setup with companies in both cities to accept and complete work that come through the telephone numbers on the sites in return for a referall fee, a new kind of affiliate marketing. I am fortunate enough to have Mark Boyd working as an affiliate for me and promoting a companies on his Aberdeen Taxi site.

Things are progessing well with us racking up in excess of 1,000 calls per month. Mark and I are constantly competing between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, however he has a sub-affiliate promoting his number so qudos to him!

I’ve been trialling new marketing methods, including pairing up with local companies to co-promote each other’s services. I’ve also paid for adverts on student radio and Spotify, which I hope will spread the word about the number. I’ll let you know how that goes at the end of the month!

Like Rob, who is pushing some promotional items for his Claims site, I’ve got a giveaway in the pipeline that my friend Frank and a few others voted as a great idea.

I’m cautious about publishing every step I am taking as the taxi trade is particularly competative and it is difficult to comment on what worked and what didn’t as promoting a taxi number does not guarantee instant results – people may not use one for months to come and there’s no cookies tracking the booking!

Expansion online is one thing I’m focusing on as I’m fortunate enough to benefit from good positions within the SERPs and I’ve built up a small yet growing fan base on Facebook and Twitter.

Things are going well so my head is down and I’m working this idea until those 1,000 calls turn into 10,000!

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

Honestly Stick To What You’re Good At

A while ago I posted about sticking to what you’re good at and since then I’ve tried hard to stick to my guns. It is difficult focusing on one thing until it is actually making a fair amount of cash or you’ve got no money left to do something else. It’s like ADD for entrepreneurs, do you suffer that?

With domain registrations costing £5 odds, it is incredibly easy to think “oh I’ve got another great idea I’ll go buy the name” or “I’ll reg that name because it has xxx exact searches and will generate loads” . That domain registration soon becomes a site and the next thing you’re ordering content and building backlinks. Then, surprise surprise you don’t generate the “loads” you thought about or you’re bored and off onto the next idea.

At the time of writing this I have about 200 domain names in my account, yet only a handful actually generate any revenue. I’m not saying those 195 domains are useless and will never make any money, but the fact of the matter is they mostly sit there un-used and those registration / renewal fees add up. If I took the £xxx saved and put it into my profitable ventures I’d probably end up better off.

As I type away I am thinking that I’m typing what I should be telling myself, and often that sums up my blog posts. It is really easy to preach, but actions are harder. So, I took my domains, un-used websites and began selling them off.

So far I’ve raised £2,100 in revenue from the sale of a network and one mobility name. This revenue will be used to boost the cool stuff I’m doing that is actually bringing in revenue, and the hope is that the low three figures I’m earning will end up in the mid region.

As I plug away finding the cheapest ways to make this happen, I cannot help feel sorry for my friend in Greece who, in the time it has taken me to start and run Ethan Hardy Ltd (my company), has built and sold a petrol station, purchased (and now trying to sell) a holiday home in Bulgaria, was taken for a ride on a newsagents partnership in the same country, bought land in Brazil and is chasing the developer and now lost about 12,000 Euro’s on the stock market.

It breaks my heart to see him try different things and suffer the consequences of rushing into the unknown. We all want to be successful and I genuinely admire those that have, but I realise it cannot be rushed and my friend has proved more than enough evidence of that.

So once again I’d like to remind you to stick to what you’re good at until such times as you can try something new and break any potential fall without placing yourself in a position that you cannot get out of.

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.

A Week Off in Pictures

So Sunday brings the end to a week off – well, a week from driving to and from work but that’s about it! Having two puppies means you’re still up in the morning, and Christy started her university course so I was up when she was anyways.

It was good to sit back and take time away from the rat race. Watching my new ventures take shape whilst sitting with my French doors wide open and soaking up the sun reminded me of how much I want to become self employed; slowly but surely I’m getting there.

So, here’s a few snaps from the week…


The View From My Flat

Chinese Takeaway!

Walking The Dogs in Glasgow Green

BBQ King Chef at Christy's Parents

Christy's Parents, the Dogs and Me!

Christy and I


I hope your week was as good as mine.

Good luck with your pursuits,

Khalid.