Increasing your Butter Mileage

Butter is my all time favorite food. Sure I use it for all the ordinary things – garlic toasts, batches of cookies – but I use this soft yellow gold for all kinds of other things too. A pad of butter to finish off steak brings it to a whole different level, for example, and starting a gravy with a huge dollop of butter and frying flour into it is a New-Orleans inspired way to make gravy that blows your socks off.

Butter is such a centerpiece to my diet that it’s the only grocery item that I check the price for at every single grocery store. To this day I can tell you that the cheapest price I’ve ever found (in Canada) is at the Safeway in North Vancouver, where it was on sale for $2.50 a pound. I bought 8 pounds that day, and if I thought it would have kept forever I would have bought 100.

My butter obsession got so severe that at one point we were burning through 2 pounds a week, which starts to become a serious expense at Canada’s ordinary 4$ or 5$ per pound prices.

That’s when I started to look into some tasty substitutions for butter in some of the recipes we make daily.

The best substitutions we’ve found so far are lard and bacon grease.

simmering-bacon

I don’t know what it is about pig fat, but a spoonful of pig fat goes so much further than a spoonful of butter. Roughly twice as far. It’s almost as if the pork fat molecules are packed denser. I find that you only need 1/2 to 1/3 of the amount in pork fat where you would normally use butter.

Bacon grease for many people will be free – assuming 2 things.

1. You already eat bacon, and

2. You’ve been throwing out the grease.

Just by saving our bacon grease in a mason jar in the fridge, we’ve easily halved our butter consumption and have only improved  the taste of our food.

I don’t use lard as often as bacon grease, because I like my grease source to have as much taste as possible. But it’s easy to find at just 1$ a pound – so in baking, lard is a significantly better deal.

Obviously you can’t sub pork fat in for everything. A butter and jam sandwich, for example, would not be improved by a transformation to a bacon grease and jam sandwich. Not for me anyway.

I’ll share the single biggest saver of butter in our household. I eat a batch of Gordon Ramsey’s scrambled eggs almost every day. What makes these things so damn tasty  is that you start with an enormous dollop of butter.

If you cut or scrimp on the butter in this recipe, it just ain’t the same. But you can substitute the 1/4 cup butter with 1/8 cup bacon grease. Instead of drying out your eggs as would happen if you just cut the butter out, the bacon grease adds much more flavor to the eggs – improving rather than diminishing them.

So if you’re not yet saving bacon grease and stocking your cupboards with lard – and I know that very few people do – start. Especially if you’re a willing butter addict like I am.

Don’t Assume Bulk Bins are Cheaper!

I was raised on that assumption – probably because it used to be true. But in an era of flagging retail profits, grocery stores are doing everything they can to increase margins – whether by hook or by crook.

My mission today was to find the best price on cashews. Prices vary widely for cashews, so it’s an item that is worth shopping around for. I found a difference of over 50% between the first cashews I found and the cashews I ended up purchasing.

I went to 2 stores and found 6 different prices on cashews. I wrote down every price as I went along.

Safeway

  • Salt & Pepper Cashews (can): $32.40/kilo. On sale for $27.80/kilo.
  • Salted Cashews (can): $25.00/kilo

Canadian Superstore

  • Bulk Bins: $22.50/kilo
  • Can: $18.20/kilo
  • Tub: $14.10/kilo

All of these cashews prices were available within the same city block. The time between finding the first can at 32$/kilo and the best priced tub at $14/kilo was only about 10 minutes.

Especially interesting is that the bulk bins were the most expensive way to purchase cashews at Canadian Superstore. Even the small name brand can of cashews in the nut aisle was cheaper by 4$ per kilogram.

canister-of-cashewsI also compared prices for another item on my shopping list, whole milk, which is a commodity item and not a luxury item. Most families buy milk weekly. Prices ranged between $5.29 and $5.99 – not very much at all.

 

“Pick a Niche then Pick a Strategy – and stick with them.”

That was the advice given by Paula from AffordAnything.com on a recent interview with the Mad FIentist, a podcast that I listen to.

She was talking about investing in real estate, but the advice applies to building any asset base where the goal is building passive income.

So for example, if you’re thinking of getting into real estate, you should commit to single family homes or you should commit to mobile home park land, or you should commit to 20-unit apartment complexesthen proceed to learn everything you can about that niche.

As for picking the method, it could be buying distresses units and reselling them after putting in a bunch of work to fix them up. Or it could be holding them and relying on that monthly rental cheque. Pick one, and learn it, backward and forward.

My niche is blogging, since I don’t have the money to pay cash for real estate, and I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to bear a six figure mortgage. My strategy is to write better than average content which attracts a more balanced traffic strata than other for profit blogs. That way I’m not overly dependent on one traffic source (Google.) I shoot for traffic sources split approximately 33% between each – referral, direct and search traffic.

For fun, here’s my Niche and Method for winning Roller Coaster Tycoon. Pick a high traffic area, build a slide, and charge 3$ per customer. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, win scenario!

7-slidesAchieved 8,000 monthly income with a 18,000 company value. That’s what – a  500% annual return?

achieved

 

Optimizing with Tim: 0% to 2.82% conversion in 3 short emails!

This is a guest post from a business friend named Tim Perry. He’s much smarter than I am. He managed to improve his conversion rate from nothing to 2.82% within 3 emails with his knowledge of conversion optimization. In this feature article he shares his exact thought process, his funnel graphs, and the fixes he made to supercharge his campaign.

To build his profile as a recording studio designer, Tim decided to expand his services globally by building an online reputation.

 

Tim was able to build his email list to 2000 subscribers by offering free blueprints for do-it-yourself sound diffusers, which are a type of acoustic panel that scatters sound. Acoustical engineers use these in music rooms, recording studios and concert halls to modify how sound behaves when it bounces around in the room.

 

He started offering acoustic consulting services by tapping into his background in audio engineering and acoustics. As his list of subscribers grew, he gained more and more opportunities to design music studios and show producers and recording engineers how to apply acoustic treatment in their rooms.

 

Tim first warmed up his list of subscribers by giving them some new free acoustic treatment blueprints. A week later, he started pitching his consultancy service, offering to enhance their room acoustics (show them how to soundproof a room and where to place acoustic panels).

I’ve been using a great free app called Streak (http://www.streak.com/) which gives you a CRM / sales funnel right in Gmail. I’ve been using it to keep track of leads and prospects, track where they are in the sales funnel, and to schedule emails that I want sent at a specific time. Following are the 3 reports Streak generated for me.

Email Pitch Test 1

This first image shows the long funnel that initially required them to enter their email before seeing the landing page. As you can see, some people indicated interest by entering their email address, but not many people actually made it to the landing page.

This test was run on 307 people not from the USA, as it was the week of July 4th and I did not want to pitch Americans during that time. And no one from that batch completed their project submission, probably because the survey required them to have a budget.

room-treatment-long-funnel-test-SEG1a-july-3-6

Email Pitch Test 2

Next, I pitched 158 Americans, sending them directly to the landing page. Unfortunately, at this point the landing page did not perform well because the CTA button still said “Submit Your Project” rather than “Get a Free Quote”. I changed it to “Get a Free Quote” after most of the people had already seen the page. The project submission conversion rate for this email was only 1/158*100 = 0.6% according to the image (actually it was 1.2%, as the next day, after I changed the CTA button, another person who did not open the email the first day, opened the email the second day and applied).

The landing page itself only has a conversion rate of 2/191*100 = 1.05%. (the funnel makes it look like it’s 0.52%, but that just means that one of the people who submitted the survey did not complete the Aweber confirmation. In fact, they did continue to converse with me and we are now discussing their project).

room-treatment-short-funnel-test-SEG1-july3-21 (verified)

Email Pitch Test 3

This is the stats for the final email I sent to 425 people, which contained a direct link to the survey and the CTA “Click Here for a Free Quote”. Of those 425 people I sent it to, 8 completed the survey and many more emailed me back, resulting in 12 new prospects on the path to becoming clients. So, the project submission conversion rate for this mini-funnel is 12/425*100 = 2.82%. I also gained a couple other prospects through individualized, targeted emails.

room-treatment-short-funnel-test-SEG1b-july-9

6 Room Treatment Pitch Seg1 #3 (36hrs)

Fixes that Turn a Lagging Campaign Around

FIX 1

(May or may not be significant)

I simplified the application process by removing the first step from the funnel all together (the part where they enter their email address and ask for more info). Instead, I sent them directly to the sales page. I originally had this first step (where they enter their email to request more info) because it was an easy way for them to express interest without having to do a full survey.

This partly worked as intended, BUT, while lots of people did enter their email address, no one actually followed through and made it to the end of the funnel! So I removed that step and instead sent people straight to the sales page.

FIX 2

This is a big one… most people who entered the sales page were not entering the survey, so I changed the call to action on a button that leads to the survey. It used to say “Submit My Project”. I changed it to “Get a Free Quote”, which the data indicates is much more enticing for people to click.

FIX 3

I changed the survey, so that entering a budget is optional, not mandatory. People were quitting the survey half way through because it required that they give their budget, and I expect that requires a lot of work for them to figure out.

FIX 4

In my final email, I removed all major point of resistance by straight up offering people a free quote and linking directly to the survey. This one email got me over a dozen interested prospects who requested quotes (prior to that, only 2 people who were good prospects).

Final Conclusions

I learned that to get lots people to act, you need to make an offer that’s irresistible 🙂 (in this case, the offer of a free quote) and streamline the application process (remove unnecessary steps that cause resistance).

I now have 17 prospects I’m filtering through and negotiating with.

I also learned that (in this case) it was more effective to convert customers through email than to rely on my sales page. Way more people completed the survey by clicking a direct link to the survey in the email, versus by clicking  a link that leads to the sales page (the goal of the sales page is to get people to complete the survey, but it does not do a great job of this). So, for high value clients, 95% of the selling is best done through building a relationship via email. The sales page important too, but it’s the icing on the cake. Right now, my sales page on its own is not very effective.

Tim is an acoustical consultant who provides music studio design services.

Replacing the Hard Drive in an External

Recently my motherboard was shorted out by a coffee spill. Computer components are cheap, but the data on a hard drive is probably priceless. I was worried that I would have to buy a drive case for my hard drive to get the data off it. But I found out that I can just tear apart my external, swap the drive out, and it’ll work.

My drive is a 500gb Seagate FreeAgent. I checked online to make sure its connector is a SATA before opening it.

external-driveSee this little green board? That’s the adapter that turns SATA into USB and powers the drive with a tiny connector.

internal-to-external-boardHard Drives, side by side. 500gb from inside the external and a 1000gb from inside the shorted out computer. The 1000gb is about 5 years newer, but hopefully they’re still compatible!

hard-drives-side-by-side

Testing the drive to make sure it’ll work before I put it all together.

hard-drive-plugged-in

 

There she is! Everything works perfectly. Note: it only shows 750gb out of a total 1000gb because i left 250gb open in case I wanted to dual boot this drive with another OS in the future.successful-test

First attempt at putting the drive back together. Ugly but still functional.

putting-back-together-wrong

So Fortunately for me, I won’t have to buy a drive cage. Total savings 20-40$

Search Growth Changes

My search engine traffic volume stopped growing on the day my server was hacked. No idea if the two are related, but looking at the chart it certainly looks suspicious.
search-graph

search-graph-lines

I had heard that there was a google Panda update around that time, but according to this Penguin&Panda calendar, that’s not correct. March 25 saw a penguin update, as well as July 18 – just a few days ago.

That July 18 Panda update actually looks like it may be a turning point but it’s probably too early to call.

search-graph-lines-jul18

 

8 Month Itchy Feet

I find that with very few exceptions I don’t stick around at a job for more than 8 or 9 months. Maybe it’s a generational quirk. My parents stuck with jobs for 5 to 10 years, and their parents even longer.

Most recently I’ve been getting sick of constantly writing articles, day after day. Not mind-block sick of it, like the way Taran gets when looking for jobs, but “what a chore” sick. To me it means the clock is winding down. In a month or two I might loathe what I do. The same kind of thing happened at Pedal to Petal. I was doing the minimum amount of work I absolutely had to keep the company running and to keep enough money coming in. The difference there is that I stuck with that gig for 18 months, a good deal longer than the mean for me.

So it’s time to start considering new projects. This most recent one was the smartest thing I could do with 8 months ever before in my life, because the system I spent that time building won’t go away. Unlike when I unplugged from the UBC system and those fat paychecks were cut off completely, this time I’ll hopefully see an ongoing benefit for years – or decades even – into the future.

Maybe this is the psychological profile of a serial entrepreneur. Build a system, replace yourself, and move on.

Not to say that I’m any good at entrepreneurship. I’m actually shockingly bad at motivating people; I think I’m too easy going. I let things slide and by no means demand the best of people. And if I never have to do a cold call or bring donuts to an office in the hopes of future clients, I will die a happy human.

Fridays are Facebook Days!

For the last few weeks I’ve been braining my brain on how to get more baseline traffic on FGI. I’ve been writing longer articles, submitting some of them to reddit again, and doing even more keyword research. For some reason ever since zend hacking day, my search traffic has stagnated. Earnings and overall traffic are still growing, but I know that without steady search traffic growth numbers, I won’t be able to grow this sapling to the size where it can shelter me.

Today I’ve decided to sacrifice one of my content days (there are currently 7 content days a week) to scheduling facebook posts over the next 7 days. I’ve already got pinterest down – it’s fun so I just post on there for every article – but I’ve hated doing facebook for a long time, so I have to force myself to do it if I’m going to do it.

So I’m going to start dedicating fridays to facebook. I’ll look forward to fridays because scheduling 7 facebook posts is actually a lot easier than researching and writing an article. I just did it and it took maybe 30 minutes, where an article can easily take 2 hours, give or take.

These are the posts I scheduled this friday. I probably won’t publish my posting schedule every week, but since I’m starting the program today I figured I would make note of it.

All posts are published using facebook’s newish “scheduling” feature, except for today’s post which was published instantly. All posts are are launched at noon, which is both when I wake up and when my website traffic has hit its daily plateau.

july 19 ash bucket
july 20 egg washer
july 21 end table
july 22 garden hose
july 23 freezer organizer
july 24 csa box
july 25 cut open 55 gal drum

The facebook page currently has 207 likes, which is significantly up over last time I checked which was when I topped 100. My website has 550 likes, but these likes are not “traffic” likes because they aren’t shared with friends (i don’t think) and they don’t subscribe a “liker” to posts in the future. I may very well change the homepage facebook button to like the facebook page instead depending on the results of this test.

7 posts, so I’ll have 7 little experiments to run against each other and see which sort of post gets the better response. Is it the picture? The blurb? Personal stories? Longer or shorter sentence? It could even be time of day for all I know. I won’t know until I test. fucking. everything.

Fridays are Facebook days!

Adsense Rich Media Changes on my site

Just a quick note about the adsense changes I made today.

I took the “text only” ad out of rotation – it’s clear that people click on rich media ads and that CPC has gone up so I think I’m happy with rich media ads. One advertiser selling foldable containers is advertising on the site, and I’ve been quite happy with that advertiser since they seem to be selling something quite useful and it’s well targeted at my readers.

It’s also still been reported as earning higher this week just as last week. I suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes so if this change hurts overall earnings I can easily put it back into rotation.

I’ve also changed the bottom ad to rich media+text – so now all 3 main ad units will accept rich media ads, whereas 2 months ago I accepted no rich media ads on the entire site.

I’ve left the mid-page ads which show up only on the most popular articles out. I plan to phase them out completely before long as those pages are now trying to display 4 ads, which is impossible and always leaves a yellow hole.

 

 

Adsense Rich Media Ads Results part 1

Well it’s been 32 days since I started the Adsense rich media ads experiment on my highest earning ad block.

I’m using data from June 6 to today, July 8. The 2 or 3 days the server was hacked will be included because both ads would have been affected the same, and earnings were very low on those days anyway so any statistical noise will affect data very little.

So here are the results.

32-day-adsense-rich-media-test

 

I’d rather not disclose exact dollar figures, but I’ve disclosed the important data for each ad unit. As you can see, they are almost identical. The key numbers to look at are RPM – or revenue per 1000 visitors for each ad type. Over the last 32 days, the revenue for text-only ads has been almost exactly the same as the revenue for rich media ads. The difference is only about 2% – and it’s actually the text ads which are earning slightly more! So it would seem at first glance that google’s advice to switch to text-and-image ads is, at least for me, bad advice.

But what about my concern that since one ad block is new and one is months old, this will distort the data? Well let’s look at just the last 1/4 segment of the data – RPM for the last 7 days.

1-week-adsense-testJust taking the last 7 days into account, we are in fact seeing a significant difference. Now instead of a -2% difference, it’s a positive 25% difference showing up in the data when comparing the two side-by-side.

It’s worth mentioning that overall CPM is lower for both ad units for the past 7 days because of enormous referral traffic from Reddit and other sites. This always lowers my CPM while doubling or tripling overall traffic – an overall boon for my statistics.

Adsense Experiment Conclusion

Sorry, but there isn’t one – at least not yet. The data seems to be displaying 2 different messages, which to me means we need to gather more data! So I’m going to leave this experiment running for at least another 30 days.

Soon – I’ll run the numbers on the banner ad I put up mid-june and see whether I should remove it, or test a different ad block.

 

This Website Need Only Make $10 a Year

Websites are amazing because they are so damn cheap to run. The real estate that this site sits on costs me about 10$ per year, that’s for my fancy domain name – www.justscrapingby.com. Sure hosting costs money too – but each additional website I put on my server doesn’t cost me any extra – so that’s a “sunk cost” to use economist’s lingo. Plus I have web clients that lease server space from me, so I break even on web hosting anyway.

I have this one website I’ve been running with my brother for 3 years – DFStories.com. It’s very popular in the Dwarf Fortress community, the site is well designed and the articles well written. But it’s not a source of revenue for me because the audience is the least likely to click an ad or buy a product of any audience. The readers for this site are highly technically competant males in their 20’s and 30’s. Even the ones who don’t have adblock installed are exceedingly unlikely to click an ad or buy anything.

However, because this site is still capable of making a piddling 22$ per year, we can keep it up forever as a service to that community. Because its internet real estate costs the same as any other website’s real estate – just 10 dollars each year.

Imagine if AFK real estate cost so little, how society would be different. If rent for a basic place to live cost just 50$ a month, for example, people would be so much freer to pursue a way of life that feels right to them – not just a high expenditure, high workload existence. Not that I think that way of existing is necessarily a bad way to live, but wouldn’t you rather have the choice? That’s why I’m an advocate for Slum Zoning – which is a term I made up because no city councillor would dare to think of it before. But we’re already seeing tent cities popping up all over America – why not zone for them?

So today I’m putting a couple of ads on this website – and I’m shooting for an ultra conservative earnings target of 10$ per year.