A new hidden-object adventure game from Storm Dragon SoftwareTM
News and Views
Random comments about playing and developing games, developing game engines and other custom software,
Just discovered your blog. I can't wait for this to come out also.
08.17.16 Meta tags: KeywordToday I'd like to tell you the truth about keyword meta tags. Unfortunately, I don't know the truth, and apparently neither does anybody else outside of a few reclusive and secretive wizards working for Google, Bing, Yahoo, and their ilk. Even the wizard only knows the truth for his own search engine, because keyword usage apparently varies among engines. It used to be (maybe) that the keyword meta tag was the principal tool that search engines used in determining page rankings, but now what you see on the web about its importance varies.
As near as I can tell, the keyword meta tag is probably definitely not used by Google and definitely probably not used by Yahoo, except for spammy keywords, which may get your site penalized.
After a fair amount of reading, I came to one certain conclusion and a few tentative ones. I could be mistaken even when I'm certain, because it's clear from the range of opinions that a lot of people are mistaken. Before you change your keyword habits, you should do some reading of your own.
08.16.16 Meta tagsWhen you visit a website, you see a (more or less) pleasing arrangement of text and graphics on the screen. When a crawler visits that same website, it "sees" that information, but it also sees a ton of instructions meant primarily for computers, servers, browsers, and crawlers, and not for the human visitors. Most of these instructions are written in html (hypertext markup language) or php (hypertext preprocessor). The html and php written by the webmaster are handed to the server, which translates the whole package into html and passes it along to the browser so that the browser knows how to display the text and graphics on the visitor's screen.
The html itself does not appear on the screen (unless the webmaster makes a mistake). A fair amount of the html isn't even trying to put something on the screen. Instead, it's talking to the crawlers, using html in functions called "metatags." What you want your metatags to say to the crawlers is, "Hey! Over here! Look at me! Ignore all those other billion websites and bring the eyeballs here!" For the next few days, I'm going to talk about metatags and how to make them work for you.
08.15.16 "A Picture Perfect Murder" is on Humble Bundle!We're pleased to announce that you can now buy our game, "A Picture Perfect Murder" on Humble Bundle as well as here in our own store. I haven't completely figured Humble Bundle out yet; Madison is the one who has been working with them. It is clear that they are an established store for computer games and digital comics, at least. They apparently run specials where a few games or comics are bundled for sale together. Part of the purchase price goes to charity. As I learn more about Humble Bundle, I'll let you know.
We're still greenlighting. If you have a Steam account, please wander on over and give "A Picture Perfect Murder" a Yes vote, and share this post with all your friends.
08.12.16 Make it easy to link to your site.One last word about links: make it easy for people to link to your website, or to a particular page if you are so inclined. Here's a tiny bit of code that you can cut and paste into your own website to make a link to this page (please do!):
<a href="http://www.stormdragonsoftware.com">Buy 'A Picture Perfect Murder' at Storm Dragon Software.</a>
Putting in text that you can copy and modify to put code for a link to your site into your site puts me into a bit of a loop, so instead, I'm giving you a picture of what you need to type into your own code. Substitute your own URL and message for mine. I tested this one from scratch and it worked for me, but I've told you everything I know. If it doesn't work for you, sorry, can't help you there.
|08.11.16 Check for broken links.
If a crawler comes to a broken link on your website, it stops. I suspect that it also gets out its little book and makes a black mark next to your domain name, although I don't know that for a fact. Best case: it indexes only part of your site, and all the lovely information you've put on the other pages is never found. Even worse, the real people visiting your site can't find the information either, and they are annoyed by the "404" messages that they keep getting.
You definitely need to fix this problem, in one of two ways. You can, of course, check every link by hand. That's not too bad on a small site like this one, but one of my websites has 416 pages. What I did was to Google "link checker online," found a checker that doesn't look too invasive, and had it check my sites.
This site that you are looking at apparently has no broken links; however, my big site has 20 broken links. It looks to me as if the broken links fall into two main groups. About half of them lead to external pages that I have no control over, so what I'll do about those links is just delete them. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I may try track down the information and put in a new link. People, and even organizations, move their data to new domain names and don't necessarily notify you about that. The other half of the broken links are ones where I apparently mistyped or miscopied or misthought when I was putting in a link to another page in my own website. Well, that's embarrassing! On the other hand, those are easy to fix.
I try to test every link when I put it in. Either I missed some, or I moved some of the data to another page without notifying myself about it. Today I'm going to fix all of the broken links, and I'm going to try to check my links more frequently in the future. Maybe I can get the crawlers to erase the black marks against my domain name.
|08.10.16 Check before you invest.
Yesterday I said I was going to update my manta.com information. Also yesterday, I got a call at 8:05 a.m. (from a live person, at least) offering to sell me a "cash-flow accelerating" tool, and I deleted about 30 spam emails without opening. When I looked at my current Manta listing, I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, the one link to my website is rel="nofollow," which as discussed earlier means that it doesn't affect the page rank of my site. On the other hand, my phone number and email address are in plain site. I'm not aware that manta.com has ever generated any sales for us, but it would be easy for spammers and phone marketers to use this page to get in touch with me. The site offers free listings, and it probably would be great if I had brick and mortar, but maybe when we're trying to generate business through website traffic, we need to be a bit discerning about what free offers we're going to invest our time in.
|08.09.16 More on Generating Backlinks.
Yesterday I found a free online directory of city businesses and put in a little information and a link from there to ducksnm.com (parent of Storm Dragon Software). I found a free online directory of state businesses and did the same. I don't expect immediate results; neither site has a lot of listings, which I would expect if they were producing a lot of traffic. But they are now linked to my site, and neither one is "nofollow." My ISP has a listing; I used to be on it and now I'm not, so today I'll get back on there. I've got an old, outdated listing on manta.com, and I'll try to get that one up to date today. Now, consider this: you think this is a boring post, right?  Trust me:  doing the work is boring, too. However, I figure the chances that the webmaster of some really high-quality, high-traffic site is going to stumble across this one and link to it on his, her, or its own are roughly one in a billion, considering the number of websites there are. I can improve those odds by putting in some boring work. The only reason to learn about this stuff and do it is to drive traffic to our websites -- but that's a pretty good reason, don't you think?
|08.08.16 Backlink Checkers.
When I was checking backlinks on Friday, one of the links to my other website came up with a rel="nofollow" attribute (which I think is a relatively new addition to the link). This means that the webmaster on the site with the link is telling Google not to follow that link when it's crawling the web, and consequently the link does not affect my page rank. According to Google's information on this attribute, webmasters should use this tag for untrusted content, paid links, and crawl prioritization. None of these apply. The source site is closely related to my website; the link is unpaid and put in by mutual agreement; and the source website actually wants its users to come to my site. Since this would probably be my highest quality backlink - if it were not "nofollow"! - I immediately wrote to the webmaster asking him to remove the tag. I haven't heard back yet, but be assured that I plan to follow up (hahaha). And by the way, not all of the backlink checkers gave me this information, so be use more than one of them.
The point is, it's good to have backlinks, but you need to make sure they are working for you as well as possible. I know for a fact that people have seen this link and come to my website, not knowing anything else about it, and that's good; however, having it improve my page rank would be even better.
|08.05.16 Backlink Checkers.
If you want to see how you're doing on generating backlinks to your site, Google "free backlink checkers." No, seriously, check out the most recent winning lottery combination and use that, because as near as I can tell, it would be about as accurate. Yesterday I checked for backlinks to my other website (which gets about 1000 downloads a day, remember) and the number ranged from 3 to 53. And I didn't even try all the checkers! Probably what I would do if I were serious is to make a table for myself that compiles the results from all the free backlink checkers. Then I'd actually follow all the links to see whether they were organic links, directories, or whatever. Then I'd break for hot chocolate.
|08.04.16 Generating links to your page, 2.
Of course our goal is to get lots of backlinks from related pages that get a lot of pageviews. For example, if I could get a backlink from Steam, I'd be done marketing by now. According to their website, there are currently more than 10 million gamers online at Steam right this minute. If 1/10 of 1% of those folks clicked through, and 1/10 of 1% of the click-throughs resulted in a sale, I'd be selling 10 games a day, for a gross of $99.50 daily. Well, maybe I wouldn't be done, but I'd be a lot better off. Steam would be a very high-quality link for a game site, but I'm not going to hold my breath until they decide to link to me.
However, a second thing that many people seem to agree on is that poor links - from unrelated pages that don't get many pageviews - are better than no links. If you have a friend or business acquaintance with a website, ask for a link to your page. You may have to trade links, which is of less value, but it's still better than no link. If you can find a free directory - maybe your ISP, city, or state has one - get your site into it. If you are running two completely unrelated websites, put in a one-way link from the high-traffic site to the low-traffic site. Find an appropriate forum that allows you to append your URL and make interesting and pertinent comments - don't try to sell your product! If you have a Facebook page, put in a little "Like Us on Facebook" link.
You have to kind of work hard for each of these links, and they probably won't be super-high-quality links, but each one is another route to your site. Eventually you will start getting "organic" links, which are links from related pages where the webmaster happened to see your site and thought it was useful enough to link to. Next up: backlink checkers.
|08.03.16 Generating links to your page.
Apparently Google can find one of your webpages even if you don't put in a link to it, unless you take measures such as password protection. Even so, a page without links into it, called backlinks, is a page that virtually nobody is going to come to. For good or evil, Google is brilliant about listing web pages in order of usefulness when you enter a search term. Although Google's ranking algorithms are a closely held secret and change frequently, just about everybody agrees on one thing: lots of backlinks from different pages that get a lot of pageviews and are related to your topic are good for generating lots of traffic to your site.
So how do you get these links? Unfortunately, the rich get richer and the poor get neglected. If you are near of the top of Google's listing, more new people will find you, and more new webmasters are likely to link to you without your doing anything about it. Then even more new people are likely to find you. If you put exactly the same useful information on your own little #70,000 page (don't plagiarize!), no one will find you anyway and no one will link to you. Right now, this page is getting about 130 pageviews a day. Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the actions I've taken to generate backlinks to my other web page, which gets roughly 1000 page views a day.
|08.02.16 Remember what you learned in kindergarten.
One of the first words children learn is "Mine!" One of the first words mothers try to teach is "share." I post original material 5 days a week on my other Facebook page. It has 666 likes this morning, and the number typically goes up by half a dozen or so per week. The reach, on the other hand, is typically about 10 people per post; although it varies from 2 to 20 or so. The reach is the number of people who have seen a particular post. Occasionally a reader will like one or several posts, and I can't really see that "likes" affect the reach. For the July 21 post, the reach was 100! Why? Because one reader "shared." So if you are using a Facebook page for marketing, it is essential to train your readers to share every post. If you figure out how to get people to share, please let me - and mothers everywhere - know how you did it.
|07.29.16 What can you give away for FREE?
Many of you are too young to remember door-to-door salesmen like the Fuller Brush Man. Now we have a Schwan's truck and various high school kids working for scholarships, etc., but one huge difference I've noticed is that the new breed doesn't give you a free sample. The Fuller Brush people always gave you a little gift, whether you were a new or old customer. Consequently, when they showed up at the door, you let them in and usually ended up buying something. The new breed, with no free samples, generally gets a quick brush off.
How is this related to Internet marketing? If you want people to come to your website and buy something, you need to give them something for free. Many game sites, including this one right here, give you a free one-hour sample download. Many informational software sites, like Ancestry, give you a free two-week subscription. Others post free recipes or whatever. Figure out what you can give away that won't cost you much or anything, and use it to attract people to your website. Be sure to use the word "free"!
After cats, it's possible that the #1 Internet search term is "free." This is one reason we give away a FREE Ogg file decoder for other game developers to use.
The Ogg file format and its codecs are rapidly becoming a standard for playing sound and video in games. It is powerful, efficient, and most importantly, license free. Unfortunately, anyone who has worked with the libogg and libvorbis knows that they can be daunting. Madison created a solution for that, and our company, Ducks in a Row, Inc, gives it away! FREE! Why? Primarily to drive traffic to our website, but also to support ogg as a video standard. Our tool, WinDOgg.dll, simplifies reading an ogg file. It currently supports Theora (video) and Vorbis (audio), the two most common codecs used by ogg files. In addition, WinDOgg.dll is designed to be safe for naive multi-threading: Any thread can enter the .dll and request any frame from any file without a problem.
|07.27.16 Adorable Kitten Commits Heinous Crime! News at 6!
You don't have to look at Wikipedia to know that cats are all over the internet. All you really need is a pulse and a connection. Cats and kittens are everywhere: smart cats, dumb cats, old and young cats, beautiful and ugly cats. People love cats on the internet.
The other thing that people love is news - mostly bad news, I'm sorry to say - and they love to get it frequently. Heinous crimes get 24/7 coverage around the world until the next heinous crime.
I conclude that a daily blog about an adorable kitten who commits heinous crimes would immediately hit the #1 slot for pageviews, downloads, and unique people seeing your website, however those might be related. (If you use my idea, you must put in a link to this website!)
But some webmasters are allergic to cats. What to do, what to do? The principle is still the same: add frequent new material about something people are interested in, preferably something you know about or are willing to do some research on. Please humor me and don't repost stuff as fact just because you've read it on a couple of other websites - how do you think they got it? A couple days ago I challenged something a friend said, and she asked, "Then why have we always heard that?!" The implication, of course, is that something you've always heard is true. I did some research in the original sources, and it simply cannot be found there. Not only does a little research give you something to say, it often gives you something different to say, along with a way to back it up.
Plus, of course, writing on a topic you know about is easier and faster, and probably a lot more interesting to you. Trust me on this: for long stretches, you will have the feeling that you are talking to yourself. Best you are interested in what you say. The only benefit I've found to posting my blog on Facebook is that it gives readers a really easy way to provide a bit of feedback. I never have a clue why one person likes this post and another one likes that post, but at least I get a warm fuzzy feeling for roughly a second.
|07.26.16 How do we increase pageviews?
So let's say you put up a website, you've had 0 pageviews, and you are Number 1 Billion in the pageview rankings. How do you move up? One thing that you can do is just sit tight: unless you take precautions against being found, eventually the web crawlers, like Spider, will find you and you'll start getting a few hits a day. The crawlers report you to the search engines, like Google, and you'll start coming up in search results. However, you'll probably appear on page 3726 of the Google listings, so relying on web crawlers and search engines alone to promote your site isn't going to work.
Google's ranking algorithms are a secret, and they change all the time, but here are some actions that just about everybody agrees will help direct people to your site:
|07.25.16 Bears and Pageviews.
Some friends and I were planning a trip to Alaska, and naturally one of the topics of planning was bear safety. My friends assured me that they had no intention of trying to outrun a bear. All they planned to do was outrun me.
Their strategy is actually closely related to today's topic: pageviews for your website. According to Internet Live Stats, there are more than 1,057,811,700 websites online right now. (I can't find a reliable estimate of how many of these are in the United States, but in the neighborhood of half.) A number of other websites debate such questions as "How many pageviews per day are enough?" and "How many pageviews per day does it take to qualify as a big website?" Starting at the top, Google gets 220,943,456 people per month, according to Quantcast.* That works out to roughly 7,400,000 people per day. Ignoring the question of how a "pageview" is related to a "person," that means that to become #1 out of more than 1 billion, your website must somehow (probably by magic) start getting 8 million pageviews per day. Maybe we should think about a more realistic short-term goal for our website than becoming #1 in the world.
I mentioned the other day that my other website gets about 1000 downloads a day. Ignoring the question how "downloads" are related to either "pageviews" or "people," this suggests that it gets roughly 30,000 pageviews per month, probably not all unique. Going back to Quantcast and doing a lot of paging down, I discover that 30,000 unique people per month should rank a site somewhere around #24,000 in the US. Two hundred unique people should rank around #50,000, and I'm pretty sure I get more uniques than that. So my website ranks somewhere between 24,000 and 50,000 in the USA.** Maybe that doesn't sound too impressive, but remember the bear: I'm running faster than more than a half a billion websites! So the moral is, you don't have to beat Google to be doing okay for yourself.
* Really, Quantcast? You are giving us an estimate to 9 significant figures??
** Actually, they don't list my site at all, which raises some questions about their rankings. But the principle still holds true.
|07.22.16 Commenting Online.
You need a pretty thick skin for any kind of online marketing, because normally there's a way for people to give immediate feedback on whatever you post or sell. For example, you could easily respond to this post using the widget above. For better or worse, unhappy people are apparently more likely to respond than happy people, if they don't know you personally. (The opposite is true if they know you, in my experience - I almost never get negative feedback from friends and family in the two or three places I post regularly for that group.)
Negative feedback can be helpful and show you how to make immediate improvements in your product. A couple of days ago I sent an email to my ISP pointing out a difficulty I was having with their new homepage design. Not only did they fix it right away, but they even sent me an email saying it was fixed! My comment was (1) specific, (2) detailed, (3) polite, and (4) asking for something that wouldn't irritate another customer. Too often, online comments are (1) generalized, (2) vague, (3) rude, and (4) asking for something that would cost a million dollars and be hated by just about everyone else. So do make online comments - business people want to know what you think, and bloggers want to know that someone is reading! Positive comments can be short and sweet ("Yeah"), but negative comments should say exactly what the problem is.
|07.21.16 Steam Greenlight.
Speaking of marketing, if you had a product, wouldn't you rather get 50% of your sales price at WalMart than 100% at your own personal roadside stand? Clearly WalMart is a better option - they are open somewhere 24/7, and people have heard of them and go there all the time. The same is true in software marketing. Yesterday we put our game into the Steam Greenlight process, for two reasons. First, of course, we'd love to be on Steam. Steam is huge, and most gamers have heard of them. We are (currently) small, and almost no one has heard of us. Second, running a greenlight campaign is a marketing tool all by itself. Since yesterday at 12:30 p.m., 446 people have seen something about our game who probably would not have without this campaign. If you have a Steam account, please wander on over and give "A Picture Perfect Murder" a Yes vote.
|07.20.16 Social Media.
Whenever you read anything about marketing these days, it consists of just six words: social media, social media, social media. How does that work, anyway? I have a public Facebook page (Daily Bible Study Tips) that I have added original content to, five days a week without fail, for a few years. As of this morning, it has 647 "likes," and it gets several new likes a week. A typical daily "reach," on the other hand, is only about 10, because Facebook doesn't automatically send your stuff to everyone who likes your page. One day I had more new "likes" than I had "reach"! How can that even happen? So Point 1 is, the people who tell you to use social media don't tell you how to make it work. I mean, for the same time investment, I could walk down the block and hand out flyers to more than 10 people.
The Facebook page arose out of the website, also called Daily Bible Study Tips, that's been going for about five years. This site also consists entirely of original content (except for the artwork illustrations). I don't add stuff to it every day, but rather every few months I add several pages from the daily tips that I send out by email. The website usage runs to about 1,000 downloads a day, which isn't phenomenal by any means, but which is 100 times better than the Facebook page. So Point 2 is, don't neglect your website.
|07.19.16 Affiliate Programs.
A long time ago when I worked in a consulting firm, both I and the boss were out one day. An Amway distributor dropped by and talked to the other two young employees, apparently trying to recruit them as lower-level distributors. As I got the story, he was explaining that they would make money by recruiting even lower-level distributors, and they kept asking, "But who sells the soap?!" Finally he said, "Nobody sells the soap!" and left in a huff.
In an on-line affiliate program, one party, such as Storm Dragon Software, manufactures a product, and another party, called the affiliate, markets and sells it. The money goes to the manufacturer, who pays the affiliate a percentage of the total.
Do you have a website? Would you like to be our affiliate? We've already got "soap" - a game - and we're looking for people to sell it. Contact us.
|07.18.16 One little thing you can do to promote your website is to provide an RSS feed like the one above. Say that someone is interested in your site, but they don't necessarily want to visit every day just to see if there's anything new on it. They can subscribe to your RSS feed, and it will let them know that you've posted something new. Of course, you do have to go to the extra trouble of updating the material in the feed as well as the material in your blog. It's extra work for you, but it makes your site friendlier.|
|07.16.16 One of our Kickstarter rewards was a signed certificate with unique art work from the game. One backer immediately framed his certificate and hung it in his den! While we were creating the physical certificates, I decided that "next time" we will do digital certificates that people can use as the desktop wallpaper on their computers. After this backer's reaction to the paper certificate, I may have to rethink that.|
07.15.16 2:00 p.m. This just in: "A Picture Perfect Murder" is for sale on the Amazon Digital Game Store.
In addition, there are two books titled Picture Perfect Murder and one titled A Picture Perfect Murder, not to mention numerous other books titled A Picture Perfect [Something]" or [A] Perfect Murder. Now, I distinctly remember checking the title at the time without finding much of anything. I guess this title is just an idea whose time had come.
07.15.16 "A Picture Perfect Murder" is finally finished and "on the market." What this means, in practice, is that instead of spending our days doing something we know how to do - software development - we spend our days doing something we don't know how to do - selling software.
There are a number of online game retailers, and so far we've been in touch with seven of them. Two have not responded at all. One said it wasn't their kind of game. One said they need "Steam keys," which means you have to be on Steam. One said they "wanted to like it" but thought it would be too difficult for their customers to play. One is taking a long time between steps, and one seems to be in the process of accepting it.
We haven't tried Steam yet, because as near as we can tell, Steam is now crowd-sourcing the decision on what to accept, and no one has heard of us. Which brings us back full circle to doing what we don't know how to do: marketing.
All that said, obviously you can and should buy the game here!