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ACORN NEWS December 1, 2003

2004 Pricing

Acorn Internet Services will NOT be increasing their pricing at the beginning of 2004. Development and marketing services will remain at $40 an hour, and hosting will remain at $10 a month. We will re-visit our pricing structure mid year 2004.

Server Upgrade

All of our hosting customers are now up and running on our new server. This new service is provided out of Ft. Lauderdale Florida, and is faster, and even more stable than the server we had been using in Colorado!

Web Site Tracking

Complimentary web site tracking services are now provided by our new hosting vendor. We are NOT going to charge our customers to access this information. You no longer need to have your free hit counter on your web site. Please e-mail marian@acorn-is.com to schedule a 5-10 minute training session on the new tracker. You need to save off your statistics from your old tracker and once that is complete, we'll remove the old counter button from the site.

For those of you who paid to use the $30 a year Deluxe Hit Counter Tracker, if you are satisfied with the new tracking software, you won't need to re-subscribe to Deluxe Hit Counter next year.

The main information most inns need in a tracker is available...

- Total Unique Visitors per day and per month
- Referring Web Sites per month
- Search Terms typed per month

There are also many other pieces of information, if you choose to record it.

Credit Card Processing

As any small business knows - credit card processing can be quite expensive. Basically there is no cost-effective online processing available - and to continue to keep our prices low for you, we are going to put the ability to accept credit cards for your Acorn Payments on hold for another 6-8 months. During that time we will continue to look for a cost-effective alternative. We want to keep our prices low and continue to offer the best service possible at that lower rate. So for all of you who have been asking us to take payment via credit card - please be patient with us - we'll keep you updated.

Current Invoice Information Available via Billing Orchard

Did you know that you can see your current billing and past invoices online? If you'd like to receive the access codes to do so - please e-mail marian@acorn-is.com and request your Billing Orchard Access. This is a great alternative for those of you who have AOL and have been having trouble reading the attached invoices when they come out at the end of each quarter.

Google - New Filters to Determine Placement

During the middle of November Google installed a new filtering placement algorithm - different than the placement algorithms they have been using for the past 2-3 years. These new filters appear to be singling out phrases that are pre-determined to have "high traffic". These phrases are what the public are typing. If you'd like to check out phrases that pertain to your web site - go to the Overture - Click on Advertiser Center - Click on Tools (top bar) - Click on Term Suggestion Tools and type in the phrase you want to see. The smaller the phrase - the more matches you will find.

Google doesn't appear to have filtered all keyword phrases at this time - so where your site may not show up for one phrase it once did - it may still show up on other phrases that are still going through the old filters.

Example: colorado bed breakfast

Before the filter was applied (pre November 16th, 2003), when this phrase was typed - the first 5-6 displays were directories or listing services, the rest were independent individual inn sites. Today - you can look at 100 listings and beyond and ONLY SEE Directories or Listing Sites - ALL INDIVIDUAL INN SITES ARE GONE. Look at the url at the bottom of each listing to see the web site that is being displayed.

Listings and Directories appear such as : colorado-bnb.com, www.innsofcolorado.org, www.bbonline.com, www.virtualcities.com, www.coloradodirectory.com, www.lanierbb.com, www.innsite.com, www.fourteenernet.com, www.bnbfinder.com, www.theinnkeeper.com, www.innrentals.com, www.traveldata.com, www.selectregistry.com, www.roomsplus.com, www.ibbp.com, www.goin2travel.com, www.bedandbreakfast.com, www.subee.com and on - and on.

You can see the pattern here - large listing or directory sites - that have many pages - and many back or reciprocal links.

If you disable the filter buy typing -mt-tb.cgi at the end of any phrase you want to search on, you will see the old results before the installation of the filter mid November.

Example: colorado bed breakfast -mt-tb.cgi

This isn't just happening in our industy, it is also happening across many other industries.

See what others are saying by logging into the Google Group Discussion Chat Room. If you take the time to read through the postings - you will see many upset business owners that are very un-happy with the new filtering algorithms.

Here are a few theories on why Google installed this new filter ...

1 - They are positioning themselves to go public the beginning of 2004 and by removing all the "free" advertising for small businesses right before the holidays they can drive up their bottom line by forcing placement through their Pay Per Click program Ad-Words Select with plans to remove the filters after the holiday season.

2 - This is their new long term strategy, and will continue to provide listing and directory results over the small independent sites.

3 - Their developers simply made a programming error, and are yet to fix the damage.

If you would like to say something to Google about your lost placement - you may e-mail Google at search-quality@google.com

Finally, even though Google appears to be changing their strategy, and currently those feeds are also being pulled into Yahoo, other sites such as MSN, Ask Geeves, Lycos, Hotbot, Alta Vista, etc. still work as they always have. The sad part is that 2/3rds of the search world are now getting less information than they were before mid November.

What does this mean for your web site? For the moment, we don't have many choices...

1) Make sure you are in some of the listing services that are shownig up - most of you are in BBONLINE - so the public still has "round-about-way" of finding you on Google and Yahoo.

2) Make sure you are the best you can be on all other search engines such as MSN, Ask Geeves, Lycos, Hotbot, Alta Vista, etc.

3) If you haven't paid to be included on Position Tech - first make sure your site is Search Engine Friendly and then submit your site (the current fee is $104) for 1 year of indexing of your home page.

4) Finally - you can set up a Pay Per Click account with both Google - Adwords Select and Yahoo - through Overture.

Beyond that - I think we all have to wait and see. The web surfing public won't put up with bogus "round-about-listings" for long. Hopefully Google will listen to their decreasing number of followers and remove the filters.

Web Site Popularity through Trading Links

For those of you who have taken the time to work on trading links with appropriate other web sites, you know that your placement in the Search Engines has gotten better. To make requesting a new link be added to your site easier, now all you have to do is e-mail links@acorn-is.com We'll double check to make sure it's appropriate, and that it's not a link farm, and will make the change on your site.

Would you like to make changes to your site yourself? We are Looking for your Input!

On the agenda for next year, we want to offer an additional service to our customers to be able to update Recipes, Calendar of Events, Specials and Links pages. This will be a Database driven add-on to your current site. But before we finish our design, we'd like to get as many of our customers involved in how they'd like the information to appear on the screen. So if you are interested in this feature and want to be in on the ground floor of helping us to design the look and feel layout, e-mail lisa@acorn-is.com and we'll start gathering your suggestions.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer this as a free service.

A $5 Monthly Fee for use of the database to store your recipes, events, specials and links will be charged.

One Time Start up Fee - estimated at 1-3 hours at our current development rates - depending on which of the database pages (recipes, events, specials and links) you wish to add to your site.

Let us know if this type of service is something you would like to have on your web site! E-mail Lisa at lisa@acorn-is.com.

Sign Up for new Bed and Breakfast Listing Sites

Don't have the time to submit your information to all the new sites out there that allow for free listings? When you get the request via e-mail to join the latest and greatest sites, simply forward on to submit@acorn-is.com and we'll check it out and handle it for you and let you know the results. This time is charged at our administrative fee rates.

How is my Site Doing?

If you'd like us to walk you through how your site has done in the last year, and what your next steps should be if you choose to make changes to assist with placement, e-mail marian@acorn-is.com This time is charged at our administrative fee rates.

Help us keep our costs down so we can continue to pass on our lowest rates to you.

Please use the following numbers to reach your front line Acorn Support Staff.

Marian Talbert (724) 791-2554
Ali Parker (719) 635-6568
Lisa Kolb (719) 471-9265

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