SEO Software: Trying To Catch The Spiders…

SEO software does what exactly?SEO software frequently starts from the following assumption:- look at the page that ranks number 1 in Google,- do exactly the same + a bit better,- and you will be number 1SEO software will then examine “all” the SEO parameters that it finds out about the number 1 site in Google. Then this SE software will automate the process in mimicking this for your site.SEO is more than a software-approach!SEO is the art of ranking number 1 in any search engine for any keyword.Spiders rank a web site number one because spiders “think” that this site deserves to be number one. Of course the spider cannot think: there needs to be a programmer who programs the spider to find out which site is best.Now if you are smart enough to feed the spider exactly what the programmer thinks is important, you will have the knowledge to rank number 1.This is exactly what SEO software does: it claims to know and tackle “all” the parameters that make a web site ranking number 1.Pitfalls of a software-approach to SEOSuppose you find all the parameters needed to rank a web site number 1. You manage to get all this parameters onto your site and you even manage to be rank number 1.Now if your site is really deserving to be ranked number 1, all is fine. But if surfers start complaining that you are not, the search engine will be blamed!It won’t take long until Google finds out that “somebody broke the code” of the spiders. The spiders will be updated to give quality results to the visitors!This means you need to get an upgrade of your SEO software approach… : you are running after the facts in stead of above the facts.How to be ranked number 1?You rank number 1 because you deserve it.In spider logic this still means:- your page talks about the keyword you are optimizing for- you page has lots of incoming links about the keyword you are optimizing for.This is what ranking number 1 should be about.But my SEO software is really up to date, or is it not?Your software can only be up to date AFTER the spiders’ software is updated. Unless you write the spiders yourself, you will always be a bit later.You cannot know all the parameters the spider takes into account, unless again you are writing the spider software yourself.Some of the parameters you cannot influence: age of the web site is one of them. Suppose the spider needs to choose between 2 websites: the oldest one and the SEO mimic: which one to choose? The oldest one would be the easiest bet, and you cannot change the age of your web site can you?A close look at SEO softwareSEO software advertisements could say that you can get a top 5 Google Ranking in under 30 Days… If that is true, then check out to see:- is the web site of this SEO software ranking number 1 in Google for SEO or SEO software?- are the example web sites the SEO software mentions to be ranked number 1, really number 1: number 1 in Google that is?It’s very easy to type in the keyword phrase of the SEO software example web site and see if they are number 1 or not.And don’t be fooled by SEO software that gives numerous examples of number 1 rankings in MSN or Yahoo: if you want to have a long lasting number 1 ranking in any of the search engines, you better start having a number 1 ranking in Google.I didn’t say that it is a guarantee to rank number 1 in Yahoo and MSN once you rank number 1 in Google, but you will surely be high up there as well. On the other hand, a number 1 ranking in MSN can mean that you are no where to be found in Yahoo nor Google.So you say: well, then I just try to rank number 1 in MSN since it seems to be easier. Well, it is easier, but then it is easier for your competition as well, so it won’t take then too much effort to out-play you again. Therefor do the job good once and for all: thrive to be number 1 in Google and then fine-tune if needed for MSN or Yahoo.Why do you do SEO in the first place?SEO is 1 of the ways to get more traffic to your web site. But there is more in getting a lot of traffic to your site, than “blindly ranking 1 in Google”:— Always make sure you rank number 1 for a word a lot of people are looking for! —If you buy any SEO software or out-source your SEO to the SEO specialists: always check their SEO examples:- are they ranking number 1- are the keywords they rank for popular search keywords (bigger than 10.000 searches a month in the Keyword Selector Tool from Yahoo’s search-marketing is considered not too low)- how long did it take them to be number 1- how big is the competition for the keyword-phrase (smaller or bigger than 5 million? As a general rule : above 5 million keyword-phrase results in Google, things become though)- how big is the competition for the quoted “keyword-phrase” (smaller or bigger than 33.000? As a general rule : above 33.000 quoted “keyword-phrase” results in Google, things become though)If for all these items the SEO software or SEO specialist can answer YES, then you can start taking them very seriously!Try it out for each example web site any SEO software claims to have ranked number 1 for a certain keyword-phrase. And of course, always start with checking if they are ranking number 1 in the first place! If they are not, then you are going to buy SEO software that doesn’t do the job! Ranking number 2 is ALMOST number 1, and even worse, ranking number 9 is nowhere near to ranking number 1.SEO software web sitesWhenever you are interested in something to buy on the Internet, check out the overall web site of the product you want to buy!Some SEO software web sites are 1 page web sites: just 1 page with the product, no links, no extra pages…Again back to basics. What was the first idea to set up the Internet? To give people information, lots of information.And we are talking about a “NET” in Inter”NET”: “net” means links here, links there, links everywhere… (that’s why links are so important in SEO)If you don’t see lots of links nor lots of content on a web site about SEO, then the SEO web site is not serious about its own subject: SEO!Back to Basics: web-trafficYour purpose is getting as much people to your site as possible, isn’t it?SEO software has the purpose of ranking 1 in Google.Now it is very easy to rank 1 in Google for the keyword-phrase “jhdkghgkbdcds”,
but who is looking for “jhdkghgkbdcds”??? Nobody!So if nobody looks for “jhdkghgkbdcds”, then why bother to rank number 1 with it?What is a nice number when it comes to “popular keyword searches”? If you use the Overture Keyword tool, anything above 10.000 searches a month means quite popular, but: also know that above 10.000 “the big boys’ are competing
with you, below 1.000 you have the field for yourself. So a good SEO advice is work yourself from the bottom up: start with keywords that are not so popular, and once you are ranked high for those, then tackle the next more popular keyword on the list.SEO software ConclusionSEO is the art to feed the spiders what they like.
SEO software is running after the spiders trying to catch their attention.Always check the numbers and the facts about any SEO software and (this) SEO article!Then make a decision yourself. If you see that the SEO software- is ranking well for it’s own product- is ranking web sites for popular keyword well,only then you can consider buying it.

Investing Wisdom From Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital

Investing Wisdom from Howard Marks of Oaktree CapitalMy regular listeners probably heard one of my earlier segments where I spoke about Howard Marks, the 67-year old billionaire who co-founded investment management firm Oaktree Capital which now manages about $84 billion in assets and is a publicly-traded company with ticker symbol OAK.Oaktree focuses its investments on high-yield bonds, distressed debt and private equity, and has delivered a whopping 23% average annual return over the past 25 years… so Marks has rightly earned his fame and fortune. To give you an idea of just how much a 23% rate of return is: If you invested $10,000 25 years ago, it would be worth $1,769,000 today.And, like Buffett, Marks too sends out folksy memos to Oaktree clients where he outlines his views on investing, the markets and the economy that are insightful, direct and sharply written. And today, I’m going to share a few insights from Marks’ latest memo – morphing his thoughts so they apply to individual financial planning. I’ve decided to break this up into a two-part series – with the first half of Marks’ memo today, and the rest to follow next week.Key Questions to Ask FirstSo in this latest memo, Marks first addresses philosophical questions on what to consider in setting up your investment portfolio. Once you have a clear idea on what your investment goals are, based on your retirement needs, Marks says you should discuss the following questions with your advisor:- Is it possible to build a retirement portfolio that can beat the market? If yes, then how, and to what extent can we beat the market?- What’s the best way to manage risk?- How do we define success, and what risks are we willing to take to achieve investment success?Then, as you build your portfolio, you’d want to balance it out between index investments (where you should not expect market-beating returns), individual stocks such as dividend payers, and perhaps some alternative investments to a smaller extent. If you’re closer to retirement, you might also want the safety of inflation-protected bonds. And for the safety of bonds, index investments and dividend stocks, you should be willing to accept “average” performance. But for the alternative investment portion of your portfolio, you should expect above-average or superior returns, as Marks calls it.Pick Funds that Dare to be DifferentFor your alternative investments where you’re seeking superior returns, look for funds that are backed by a strong track record, and where fund managers dare to be different. You see, if you pick a mutual fund that’s run by a manager who is essentially following or mimicking what others are doing, you’ll just end up paying high fees without getting any real bang for your buck.So for this alternative portion of your portfolio, look for managers that are courageous enough to be different and open to being wrong… managers who assemble a portfolio that is different from those held by most other funds. As Marks puts it, to be a top performer, the fund manager has to “escape the crowd” by being active in unusual market niches, buying things others haven’t found, don’t like or consider too risky to touch. A good alternative fund manager avoids what the market considers to be a darling, or all the rage, and engages in contrarian cycle timing, and concentrates heavily in a small number of things that he thinks will deliver exceptional performance… everything that personifies great investors such as Howard Marks and Warren Buffett.As Marks puts it “the cautious seldom err or write great poetry” in referring to fund managers that follow the herd.So look for fund managers who dare to be different, have a consistent history of market-beating performance and are transparent with their investors. That said, you also need to recalibrate your expectations with such alternative funds because their investments often could take longer to bear fruit… so only invest a small portion of your funds that you’re not planning on touching till you reach retirement… because if you picked the right alternative investment fund, those superior returns could compound very nicely over time.Now I know that it’s near impossible for most individual investors to really evaluate alternative investment funds, so this is where a good, qualified advisor can offer advice and help kick some of your returns into high gear.And as I mentioned above, Marks’ company – Oaktree Capital – is publicly traded with ticker symbol OAK, so you can buy shares to participate in Oaktree’s success; When you invest shares in OAK, you are not buying into Marks’ portfolio, but rather participating the company’s profit from its portion of the investment it takes for itself and the fees that are generated from his clients. Oaktree shares also offer a pretty compelling 7.7% dividend yield at current levels… but this is not a recommendation so please do your own research should you consider buying Oaktree.Most great investments begin in discomfort.Most people feel good about making investments where the underlying premise is widely accepted, where recent performance has been positive and where the outlook is rosy – but such investments are high in demand and are unlikely to be available at bargain prices.Bargains are usually found among things that are controversial, that people are pessimistic about, and that have been performing badly of late – investments that generate discomfort for most people. And this is where good alternative funds excel. For example, Oaktree Capital focuses on distressed debt – bonds issued by companies that are on the ropes in some way or another, bonds that are priced at pennies-to-the-dollar… bonds that comfort-seeking investors would not even think about. This discomfort is what causes distressed debt to be priced cheaper than it is really worth, and it’s one sector that has helped fuel Oaktree’s outsize returns. This area of investing is practically impossible for the typical investor to get into and one has to have superior skills in order to avoid being burned badly if things don’t work out.Marks also says; Dare to Be WrongMarks also reminds us that with courageous, discomfort-generating investments, you must also be prepared for failure as an inescapable potential consequence of trying to do really well. In other words, be prepared to lose money on this alternative portion of your portfolio… it’s not something anyone wants, but get into alternative investments with the understanding that non-mainstream investments could be harder to liquidate and have greater risk, and while your fingers are crossed for the upside, be aware that you could also lose money. That said, a good alternative investment fund should protect you significantly on the downside too.So look for alternative funds that invest judiciously, have more successes than failures, and make more on their successes than lose on their failures.Alas… No Magic FormulaMarks also cautions us that there is no easy formula to produce superior risk-adjusted returns – because if there were, everyone with a positive IQ would be rich.Or, as good ol’ Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s Partner bluntly puts it, “Investing is not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid” and does not understand investing’s complex and competitive nature. Hardly the words of someone who wants to be politically correct, but he makes a good point. Why should successful investing be so easy that the uneducated and lazy investor achieves superior rate of return? It just doesn’t happen that way.Superior investment results can only come from a better-than-average ability to figure out when risk-taking will lead to gain and when it will end in loss. And this is not easy task. So it’s good to look for fund managers that ideally have a strong background in economics, financial math, accounting and investment analysis.Okay, I’ll wrap up here for today, and continue with more on Howard Marks’ thoughts on investing next week.

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?