Archive for January, 2008

Mention in Social Networking Blog and NASCA membership

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I noticed that we got a right up in the The Social Networking Weblog and it’s a nice write-up.

Our NASCA has also come through, in case you don’t know NASCA is a huge association for lifestyle couples mainly in North America. As well as being mentioned on the website we will be going into their handbook.

Onwards and upwards!

Regions & States

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Here’s the top 10 regions/states on Fab Swingers:

  1. Scotland
  2. North West
  3. South East
  4. East Midlands
  5. Greater London
  6. North East
  7. West Midlands
  8. South West
  9. California
  10. Wales
    1. The good news out of this is that California is doing pretty well considering how short a time we’ve been doing any marketing there. It’s also good to see Dublin in the number 11 position.

      Scotland has a population of 5.1 million verses 7.5 million for Greater London however on Fab Swingers Greater London has only 60% of the members that Scotland has, so it is only half where it should be. So, in addition to the California marketing I am just going to kick off a small campaign aimed only at London until we get London up to at least an equal level with Scotland.

      I wonder if part of the problem is down to not having a chatroom for London and the South East? Or maybe it’s just because we don’t have a champion promoting Fab Swingers in London.

Yahoo Mail, Google Mail, Hotmail and AOL comparison

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

So I changed the IP address of our mail server when we moved from ServePath to The Planet. Here’s what happened with the different major email providers:

Hotmail blocked us fairly quickly after the move but after exchanging a few emails (which after the first holding mail were very promptly and professionally answered) it was all sorted out. They also have a cool feedback system where you can see how many mails you’ve sent on a particular day and what percent generated complaints (showing less than 0.1% for us).

AOL also blocked us but after a single email which was dealt with within 2 hours they removed the block so again I was pretty happy. They also have a nice feedback loop system.

Google Mail were arguably the best of all and there was no interruption during the mail server move, I guess their algorithms must have registered that none of our mail was generating spam reports so there was no need to block us despite a sudden spike in email traffic from a new IP address.

Which finally leaves Yahoo who I am afraid have been staggeringly unprofessional. I have been mailing constantly since the server move and have been unable to get anything other than a canned response. They are not interested in the number of complaints I’m getting from Yahoo users. They do have a feedback loop system but it’s taken them nearly a week to get application details to me.

Worst of all by throttling the mail they have caused huge backlog of mail to develop which has impacted our users who are on higher quality email providers. I’ve now resolved this by changing the application so it doesn’t mail Yahoo addresses but that is not ideal.

I am really now pretty stuck as to what my next step is. Maybe I need to put something on the homepage explaining that Yahoo cannot handle a high volume mailer who changes IP address and that people should use another provider but it’s not really a route I want to go down.

I’m not sure there’s much point continuing to mail Yahoo, they obviously aren’t interested in their more than 10,000 users who are unable to use our site properly.

Advertising and progress

Monday, January 21st, 2008

I finally managed to get round to setting up an advertising page for Fab Swingers. I’ve also mailed a few of the bigger pay sites to point them at it. The first sale was within an hour of setting the page live!

The Californian adventure is still going fine, we’re now up to 719 members. This is probably about 33% of what we need before it will begin to take off by itself (if California behaves as the UK did). It’s also been good to see the Recommend Us form being filled in a few times which is also a sign that there might be some other word of mouth going on that we don’t know about.

The UK is looking great, despite the problems caused by the server move (which are now all resolved) this month is still going to be our best ever for sign-ups and by quite a large margin.

Finally there is a new feature in the works for the site which I want to see released in February. This will be something pretty distinctive and if we get it right could see even more growth in the UK — more on that later!

Email Hassle

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I’ve finally got round to implementing proper bounce handling. It’s quite important to do if you don’t want to end up treated as a spammer. I’ve implemented a Variable Envelope Return Path (VERP) on all automatically generated mail, added a procmail script to sort out the bounces from other mail and then a Python script to put the bounces into a database. We’ll then mark an address as bouncing if we get three verified bounces.

I also tested our new SPF record and it does seem to be okay.

Having just finished that, I then began to notice that we were getting a lot of complaints from Hotmail/MSN addresses saying that they were not getting mail from us. It turns out that we needed to re-register the server with them, it seems to be the policy that if you have a high volume, unregistered server then they will silently delete all mail that you send.

I really wish that they would reject the mail instead to that senders would get some sort of error message to let them know what’s going on.

I received a response from Microsoft. The first problem that Yahoo’s spam filter put the message into my junk folder so I didn’t see it immediately. The second problem was that their response was that we should send less mail! I now need to think of something to say to the 15,000 Microsoft users on our site…

The Planet Hosting

Friday, January 11th, 2008

This is going to sound a bit like an advert for The Planet but I have been absolutely delighted by the speed and helpfulness of their support team over this set up stage.

The deal I got was absolutely brilliant, coming in at around half the price of where I was and to top it all the new network is running much faster too.

I also really like their DNS setup, which has allowed me to kill off my nameserver and switch to theirs.

The only negative is the choice of operating systems being very limited - surely they could offer Debian or even Ubuntu?

Progress in America

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Visits from USA (which is really just California at the moment) are now 2.7% of the UK total, up from 0.2%. Of the first ten-fold increase is much easier than the second ten-fold increase as we started out with such a small amount of traffic.

We’ve still got another few months of hard slog before we’ll see any organic growth but it’s good, steady progress.

Growth in the UK has been the best we’ve ever had. The secret seems to have been stopping all marketing! In reality, I think the growth is through word-of-mouth and a natural function of the site maturing. There have been quite a few champions/opinion leaders who have become fans of the site and brought 30-40 people each with them from pay sites. And of course the 30-40 people tend to bring their own friends too.

We’re still some way from this happening in the US though because we just don’t have a big enough membership for the site to work completely, features like the chatroom don’t work at all with this number of members and even the basic feature of finding lots of interesting people nearby isn’t quite there yet either.

So it’s just question of time and keeping on with it.

UK Swingers Site Rankings

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Here are the latest swinger site rankings. This time I’ve removed UK Swingers and Swing2Us as both sites have now dropped too far in traffic. Their replacements are and SwingFans which have been doing a lot better.

Alexa Rank PageRank Site
68 7 AdultFriendFinder
7,364 4 Sex in the UK
11,703 3 Swinging Heaven
14,827 4
45,780 3 The Adult Hub
46,449 2 SwingFans
71,436 3 Fab Swingers
95,336 2
98,504 2 Local Swingers

The biggest mover has been Fab Swingers, shifting from 128,952 to 71,436 which has been great progress for only two months.

Local Swingers has had a terrible time, when I first did these ranking they were at 29,790 so the fall to 98,504 has been a pretty steep decline. Although The Adult Hub has improved slightly over last time its 45,780 is also a terrible drop from the original 14,864.

Sex in the UK continues its incredible progress on the back of a huge PPC spend. Their UK Alexa ranking is an amazing 147 verses AdultFriendFinder’s 62 so it is quite possible that they may take the number 1 spot in the UK.

New year, new server

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Over at The Planet, they had an offer that was just too good! A Dual Xeon 2.8, 2 GB memory, 2 x 80 GB drives and 2500 GB bandwidth for $177 a month!

Currently we’re paying $170 a month for a Pentium 2.4, 2 GB memory, 1 x 80 GB drive and 1500 GB bandwidth so for an extra $7 a month there is a more than doubling of processor capacity, doubling disk and nearly doubling bandwidth.

The only negative is that The Planet do not support Debian as a standard distribution, their options are CentOS and Red Hat neither of which I particularly like however this is a small price to pay.

For the future, I found out that a 100Mb unmetered pipe is $1650 although it is not available on the cheaper servers. This is a fraction over ServePath’s $1500 however it doesn’t have the one connection per customer limit — not that I will be needing more than one unmetered 100Mb connections for now!

Before the server goes live I am going to spend some time performance testing. It’s really good to have the opportunity to performance test on exactly the hardware that will be deployed.

The present server is easily doing 0.5 million page views a day in addition to email and serving all of the static assets (mainly photos) so I would like to get to at least 2 million page views a day on the new server.