Prices from 143 florists for a dozen roses

Judy's Book,Products by on January 29, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Doing work so our users don’t have to, we called 143 florists from around the country and found out how much it would cost for a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day.

Prices varied wildly by city. Philadelphians can get a dozen roses for about $50, whereas New Yorkers pay nearly $100. BTW, a round trip bus ticket between the two cities is just $20 and takes about 2 hrs. The average price from national florist websites is $65.

Next time we’ll hopefully include delivery fees.


Coverage at:

Thanks guys!

Improving the Information Cycle

Business,Judy's Book by on January 27, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Whether you’re building a website, launching an adwords campaign or running an email newsletter, the information cycle is critical. This cycle determines how quickly you can test, launch and learn. Short cycles mean faster learning, better performance and ultimately better meeting the needs of the marketplace. If you’re a business that depends on iteration, identifying and improving upon your weaknesses in this cycle is critical.

The information cycle online looks like this:

  1. Concept: determine what you are building, define the metrics you will measure
  2. Launch: build and take into production the product, feature, campaign, etc.
  3. Collect (monitor): Allow sufficient time for enough data to be collected to have meaningful results
  4. Analyze: How successful were you? How were the key metrics impacted? What worked and what didn’t?

and of course cycles again back to concept.

If you are unable to execute quickly on any one of these four components, your business will get trounced by someone who can. There is certainly a tremendous amount of depth in each of these components and entire books are written about each one. We’re working on improving the cycle at JB, although our cycle is slower than we’d like it to be today.

How to spam the Yellow Pages

Judy's Book,SEO by on January 17, 2007 at 9:16 pm

It pissed me off to see this ‘extreme local SEO’ post by Chris Smith of (via Search Engine Land).

While some of his tips are good, others amount to spamming the yellow pages (and local search). This spam creates a mess for users, and especially publishers like JB that have to wade through the crap. Here are the most offending tips and why they amount to spam.

  • Use “A” in the first part of your business name, some local search engines list business alphabetically. Actually don’t use “A”, use “#”. Believe it or not, there are listings for “A Best locksmith”, “AAA Locksmith”. “A A A Locksmith” and “#1 A A A Locksmith” in the Yellow pages. Yes, local search sites should deal with this crap much like Google deals with search spam, and they will in time (this is largely not an issue at Judy’s Book because we rarely sort alphabetically).
  • Get a separate directory listing for every city in your area for which you provide services. In just about every yellow pages, you’ll find an equivalent to what we found in Boston. There are listings for “Newton Plumber”, “Brookline Plumber”, “Wellesley Plumber”, etc. They all have different numbers (local of course) & different names, but they all get answered by the same person.
  • Get people to improve your business ratings on the local search engines. This is actually a great tip (but customer’s shouldn’t be compensated). I would have liked to Chris to warn businesses not to review themselves. We have nuked more user accounts (and business listings) of business owners that reviewed their own business (or my favorite, negatively reviewing their competitor’s business) than any other reason. This is fairly easy to detect and we, like many other sites, take a stern position to the approach.

The Yellow Pages and Local search sites don’t appreciate being spammed (apparently Superpages does). Users like it even less. Don’t be surprised if you use these more ‘extreme’ optimization techniques and find your business removed from the results pages.

Getting to Break-Even in Local

Business,Judy's Book by on January 9, 2007 at 11:56 pm

Local sites have been drastically scaling back because many are realizing it is very expensive to even build a break-even business purely in local. This is manifesting in the significant changes at local online startups, and even monday-morning quarterbacking on the shift at JB. This problem is two-fold:

  • Local businesses mostly do not self-serve online. Even mighty Google has outsourced to local sales forces to sell search ads (everyone from yellow page companies, to to It costs $200 to $300 to sell a local business via telesales that has an average life of ~12 months. These numbers seemed to hold up across different online local sales forces.
  • User passion and high value categories rarely overlap. Users love restaurants. They love reading about them and they love writing about them. They don’t really relish writing about their real estate agent or contractor. Restaurants pay Opentable $1 per reservation, and traditional methods (adsense, ypn, banners) are atrocious. Contractors pay ServiceMagic up to $100 a lead. Shopping is an exception - value and passion align nicely.

Citysearch, the most successful online local property to date, required tremendous capital to reach break even. Sure, they could have been leaner, but the reality is that their business is driven by their sales force not their website. And, their sales force is mostly selling non-Citysearch inventory (and then funneling this money into ‘citysearch’ ads on Google and Yahoo that take you to a business page on citysearch -essentially small businesses are directly funding Citysearch’s ad budget).

We intend to build a sustainable business without significant additional funds. We raised a lot of money, but we didn’t (and didn’t want to) raise enough to build a local sales force. There is still money to be made in local online - it just doesn’t involve selling to small businesses.

Super-useful X-mas Shipping Deadlines Guide

Business,Judy's Book,Personal by on December 5, 2006 at 9:01 pm

We just launched a very useful holiday shipping guide at Judy’s Book. For the top 50 Retailers, the guide shows:

I hope you find it useful.

Being Authentic

Business,Judy's Book by on November 29, 2006 at 8:59 am

Fred Wilson has a great post stressing the importance of Authenticity of consumer web services (although it applies to any business really, it is particularly important to the consumer Internet. Seth Godin also stresses the importance of authenticity in ‘All Marketers are Liars

And, it can’t be faked. At Judy’s Book, we initially expected to make our money from local advertising (small businesses). However, the economics aren’t and won’t be right side up on this model for a long time. So, we’ve shifted towards content that is closer to business sustainability: local sales, local and online coupons and great deals.

The trouble is, we tried to tell our users that we were making this shift because they asked for it. To be fair, they had expressed interest in this content, but they weren’t banging down our doors telling us to add it. They were banging down our doors telling us to fix their inbox (long standing bug that is painful for our most frequent users). So, not surprisingly our users howled when we made the shift and tried to tell them its because they asked for it. I’m pretty sure we learned our lesson, and I’d certainly advise other sites (particularly community sites) to be as up front as possible when they make changes – don’t try to ‘spin’ it.

Does your search traffic define you?

Business,Judy's Book,SEO by on October 5, 2006 at 2:29 pm
A week after the launch of we began to receive substantial traffic from the search engines. In fact a month after launch, search traffic comprises well over 60% of our activity. An interesting thing has happened though. The content that receives search traffic is different from the content that our regular users engage with.Take a look at our top categories of deals (as determined by aggregate traffic over the last week):
  1. Freebies (70% of traffic is from returning users)
  2. Personal Care (9% of traffic is from returning users)
  3. Apparel (66%)
  4. Kids & Baby (37%)
  5. Food (44%)
Put another way, our users only care about 2 of our top 5 categories (Freebies & Apparel) . The other three categories would be replaced by categories that didn’t make this list. We have different interests among our regular and our new users.

At this stage, we’re developing to serve the needs of our regular users. Our website stats supplement conversations that we’re constantly having with our users. However, we might have misread their needs had we settled for the first order analysis.

Tools for the local website

Business,Judy's Book,SEM,SEO by on May 11, 2006 at 2:26 am

At JudysBook, we have a tremendous interest in helping local businesses succesfully build their businsesses online. There are a number of resources that they need to investigate:

Create a free business listing at:
  • Judy’s Book (of course, I’ll list our service first)
  • Google: Do a search for your business name on Google Local. Click the Edit This Listing link at the bottom of the page
  • Yahoo: Don’t get the free web site. Yahoo just uses this to sell advertising to other businesses
  • AOL: Go to Navigate to your city and your category. Click the Add/Update a listing link at the bottom of the page.
  • Amazon A9. Find your business on Amazon A9’s yellow pages. Select the Update this business info box in the lower right (not the bottom right).
On every site, read the reviews of your business. If the reviews seem fraudulent, send an email to the website.  On JudysBook, they can go ahead and respond to a review on the same page where the review is listed.
Advertise on Google and Yahoo
  • A really useful tool for building your keyword list is here:
  • AdWords supports geotargeting. So in addition to the local list you’ll build at the link above, you should take all of your generic keywords and restrict them based on geotargeting.
  • Yahoo doesn’t support geotargeting, so you can’t use generic terms (restaurant). You’ll need to use ‘seattle restaurant’
This list is by no means complete, but it should give a pretty good starting point for marketing your business online.  I’ll try to add types of resources in later posts.
« Previous PageNext Page »
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Dave Naffziger's BlogDave & Iva Naffziger