Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Donald's Amazing OPEC Greed Index

When the economy fell off the cliff last fall, Donald Trump predicted, "I'll tell you one piece of good news: you will see the price of oil drop like a rock!" And he went on to say, "I hate OPEC. Every time the stock market goes up, OPEC raises the price of a barrel of crude and takes the profits. Every single time!"

He was right. Within days gasoline prices followed the price per barrel down, down, down from the high over $4.00 a gallon last summer to a little over $1.00 at its lowest point in the depths of the stock market decline. But now, with the market improving, up, up, up goes the oil price again, creeping up through the dollar-something range to just over $2 at the pump. Then, yesterday, here, ka-boom! Up suddenly 16 cents per gallon all over town! They couldn't even wait for Memorial Day weekend.

Some say they're just responding to increased demand for summer driving. I say balderdash, they're following OPEC's deathlock stranglehold on the Dow. Summer driving's actually predicted to be lower this year, but the oil companies and station owners are gleefully jumping the gun on declaring the recession over, I guess. (Odd how they all seem to agree on the same amount to hike their prices in one day in our "free market system" isn't it.)

But The Donald's insights may provide a convenient index to how much we've grown the economy since the pits last January. If gas has gone from about a dollar to about two dollars per gallon, then the economic recovery, by the Trump Index, has come back about 50%. Similarly, if it fell from about four dollars per gallon to about two dollars, it has fallen about 50%.

Forget about the Dow, the Consumer Confidence Index, the Gross Domestic Product and all the other imposters that attempt to tell us how well or how poorly we're doing. Trump's OPEC Greed index may be all we need.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

pageamonth.com lives! (but it's lots harder than blogging)

My budget spreadsheet enterprise, formerly at nbkauffman.com (see previous post below), has a new home now at pageamonth.com. I gambled that a more descriptive domain name might better facilitate searches for budget programs. And I set it up with justhost.com, ranked number 1 in Best Web Site Hosting reviews, chose my domain, and set up shop.

This time I'm not just referring potential customers to affiliate sites as I did before because I had no way to accept payments conveniently on my former site. (Snail mail, checks or money orders, etc. ". . .went out the window with the cracker barrel cask and demi-john," as the song says. Today's buyer expects instant access for digital products, and rightfully so.) So I set up a Paypal purchase button on my homepage that accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, or Paypal accounts and triggers an instant download. Most of the rest of my pages provide help with setup, use, budgeting advice and faq's.

Next I needed to try to get listed in the search engines and directories which could help steer traffic to my website, and of course soon got overwhelmed with offers from the legion of advertising and Search Engine Optimization companies who all promise the moon. It's odd that anyone trying to start up an online business of any kind would believe they could move a new budget spreadsheet product, which lists on average about 70,000,000 sites each wanting the user searching for "budget" on Google to click on them alone, into the top ten listings in two days, as many promise and often guarantee.

The hardest part of setting up my new dot.com has been waiting for the various search engines to send their robots to my website and crawl my content, set up my listings, and announce my birth to the world wide web of ecommerce. When I was creating the site for a few weeks, I always had things to be done, and I worked in "terrier mode," as Barb calls it, till it was ready. After I installed my Paypal system, I bought my own spreadsheet twice, once each with my Visa and my Mastercard, to make sure the customer experience was smooth. It didn't cost me very much, about 80 cents each, to test these. I quickly got my spreadsheet onto my own desktop as ordered.

But for nearly a week, while the search engine bots have had their way, I have tried to occupy myself tweeking, refining my pages and my product, and strategizing my marketing. But I hate to wait.

This afternoon about four pageamonth.com finally popped up on MSN's Live Search, my new site's first listing on a major search engine. And this time my search for "pageamonth" didn't direct me to nbkauffman.com, but to pageamonth.com. I've rejected trying to redirect or add nbkauffman.com to my pageamonth.com site as too expensive. To register a second domain for the sake of a redirect almost costs more than the first name. Besides, as I whined in the previous post below, no one besides family visited nbkauffman.com for a whole year when it was on my previous hosting company. There's no reason to think they would on a new one. I'll just have to make sure pageamonth.com moves ahead of it in the listings with use, which I think will happen since anyone who clicks on the now defunct nbkauffman.com will get a 404 page not found error.

I notice Google and Yahoo have now both sent their robots to index my site, so their listings should follow MSN's soon. But I still fear what every ecommerce "startup upstart" fears: no one will visit the shop, no matter what tags we use, no matter where or how much we advertise, no matter how many links to our site we beg from our friends and relations, or even in desperation subscribe to link farms to push up our rankings. Visitors won't come, because of a simple reason: they won't know about us. We'll get lost in the hundred gazillion trillions of other sites doing the same thing, offering similar products, and people won't have the patience to find us after the first ten pages of trying higher-ranked budget sites first.

My original problem, as I see it, remains: No one knows what a pageamonth is. I thought of pageamonthbudget.com instead but concluded it was too long. Now I'm having second thoughts, because at least the latter tells a potential buyer what my product is, and that it's not what the only other pageamonth listed seems to be: a wedding planner.

Unless and until I throw up my hands and end this torture yet again, I'm sure I'll have more perils of pauline to relate about my plunge into ecommerce again through the summer. But this much I can assure my blog readers: ecommerce isn't for the faint of heart. It's not a blog, and you're not going to get curious visitors like a new blog, or higher rankings from creating more posts, text, and photos like a blog. Anyone who expects to get rich for little effort as an online merchant is just nuts. And the only good reason to try it, the one that drives me still, is that he believes in the usefulness and value of his product. I do. I wrote my budget spreadsheet and have used it rather than Quicken or MSMoney or the more sophisticated software packages for many years, wish others would try it, and invite anyone interested to visit the emerging pageamonth.com and have a look, tell your friends, spread the word, buy one for your graduate, and let me know what you think with any suggestions you might have, in comments here or at my email, nbkauffman@yahoo.com. I'll "get a hit out of you," as another song says, and move up my ranking a notch from 69,998,762.