Monday, December 10, 2012

SimplePart Newsletter: September 2012

Welcome to our News and Update wrap-up for September 2012.

This is our second monthly newsletter – thanks for following along with us, and please let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the future.

This month, SimplePart added a VP of Business Development to the team – his name is Michael Oki, and you can email him directly at That now makes us a total of seven people!

If you want to reach out to Michael or I via LinkedIn, we’d love to connect with you.

SimplePart is currently handling 3,800,000 daily page-views (at less than 0.75s average delivery time per request) and about 1,000,000 unique human visitors per month – for more on this 50% jump in page-views, check out the Industry News below. September was another outage-free month.

Industry News

1.       Google and Bing crawl rates. Ordinarily on any website, most of the traffic (page-views) comes from automated “spiders” that each of the major search engines operate. These spiders traverse (crawl) every page on every website on the Internet and catalog the contents, so that the search engine can return results that match your queries. Before September, we were running at around 2,500,000 page-views per day – of which roughly 180,000 were actual human shoppers and the remainder was spider traffic.  This rate has always been fairly regular, and would increase (in big, fixed jumps) when we brought new client websites online.

As of this writing, we’ve jumped to 3,800,000 page-views delivered per day. This is an incredible 50% jump, which happened basically overnight. Almost all of this increase came from search engine spiders run by Google and Bing. First, Bing doubled the rate at which its spider crawled our websites on the 7th of September. Then, Google doubled its rate at which it crawled our websites on the 20th of September.

Why is this important? Several reasons.

First and most obvious, servers are made to handle a certain number of page requests per day. Being able to absorb a 50% increase overnight is not something most can handle.  We’ve built our infrastructure to reliably handle several times the load we’re currently supporting, both for our long term growth but also to absorb these sorts of uncontrollable outside changes.

Second, we know that Google and Bing are in competition for search supremacy – this is happening at several levels (primarily search, paid ads and shopping). When we see a change in crawl behavior that is this dramatic, we can only assume that changes are coming – maybe a new product, maybe a change in policy. Furthermore, to have Bing double its rate and then have Google follow along two weeks later suggests that one is a response to the other.

Expect changes from Google and Bing in the near future, and know that we’re doing everything we can to make sure your websites are prepared.

2.       Google Shopping changes. Remember that the “free” Google Shopping is scheduled to turn off today, 10/1/2012. You may see traffic changes as a result. If you have not yet switched over to the new paid Google Shopping (PLA) program, please contact us ASAP.

3.       Major bank DOS attacks. In news this week, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, US Bank and PNC Bank websites have all been hit with DOS (Denial Of Service) attacks. What this means is that these websites were built to handle a certain number of page-views per day. An attacker constructed a “spider” that hit these websites for more page-views than they were built to handle, causing the websites to crash or become unavailable. It is not expected that anyone’s banking information was compromised – but at the same time, customers were unable to use the banking websites and trust in the security of those websites was certainly impacted.

These kinds of actions by individuals or groups to “take down” a website are not uncommon at all. These are daily occurrences, all around the world – they happen regularly to your websites too. It is because of these kinds of attacks that we work regularly to ensure compliance with best practices, and that we work to have a strong hardware infrastructure in-place to handle spikes in demand. As a side-effect, when our partners (Google/Bing) spike our traffic, we’re just as well equipped to handle them.

For more reading on this:

4.       Amazon auto parts team. In their effort to capture Shopping market share, Amazon has created a three person team to spearhead their entry into the Auto Parts segment. Current research suggests that 30% of online shoppers begin researching their purchase with Amazon – that’s twice the number that begin with a search engine. This time in 2009, 24% of shoppers began researching with a search engine, and 18% with Amazon. In the last year, shopping searches have grown by 73% on Amazon, while on Google they’ve stayed flat. This is a heated battle.

We’ve been talking with Amazon about integrating your catalogs with their shopping engine, and will keep you updated as/if those talks progress. The sticking point is a lack of color images, thus far. For those of you who are taking color images of your “A” moving products already, please get in touch about a possible Beta with Amazon.

For more (very interesting) reading on this:

Tips for October

What factors drive sales on your websites – and how can we use knowledge of those national/international factors to forecast sales?

We try to consider a wide range of factors when forecasting sales – and when “reading” changes in traffic and sales retroactively. We do this on a website-by-website basis, as well as at a macro level which includes performance of all of our client websites together. What we see, in broad strokes, is that web sales of auto parts are affected by certain regular seasonal effects, and “surprises”.

The regular seasonal effects for online sales at a national level include: temperature (heat wave, drought, etc), start of the US public school term, spring break, popular summer vacation periods, national holidays, valentine’s day, mother’s day, fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Around these times of year, parts shoppers are spending their time and money elsewhere.  

We also find that we can track performance of the Dow and see correlations between sharp Dow drops, and slow sales on a day or week. This, of course, is easy to track online.

Furthermore, we know that when looking at the times of year when families travel for summer vacation, sales tend to be down. Did you notice that this year that period – a slump in sales over a two week period – came later than it has in previous years? In most years, that happens towards the beginning of summer – this year, it happened in late August and the week after Labor Day. This happened to coincide with a period which is traditionally slow because families are back-to-school shopping, causing a more pronounced than usual effect. There were still families traveling during the “normal” period too, so the slump behaved far differently this year than most.

For more reading on using fuel prices to measure the travel window:

Factors affecting the US are relatively easy to identify and plot on a calendar – but what about factors affecting those of you who do a strong International business?
Were you affected by the Canadian Postal Worker strike last year?

How many of you were affected by the Brazilian Postal Worker strike that began on the 19th of September?

What are the national holidays of the most popular countries you ship to?

New Features Just Released

1.       A new “Refine Car” page has been released. This is a significant improvement to our “SEO Path” through the website, whose purpose is to capture broad search terms and be traversed by search engine spiders. With this revision, the page is a far more effective landing page for this incoming traffic and also keeps up with the latest best practices. Improvements we make to these pages will help you show up for broad searches like “[make] [model] parts”

2.       On the Order page in your Control Panel, you now see the number of notes present on that order shown next to the Notes link.

3.       A new “Cart” page has been released. This is also a significant improvement over the previous iteration of the page. On the new page you can also now get shipping quotes for your state, without having to begin the checkout process.

4.       The Print New Orders button now shows the credit card type.

5.       New feed format testing for Google Shopping is complete, and we’re rolling it out one website at a time over the next couple weeks.

We are running behind schedule on deployment of the new Cisco firewalls. This project got bumped by several weeks due to the Google/Bing crawl changes, and the P2 product line rollout. Will advise when we get closer to installing this new infrastructure.

Thanks for your continued business, and please email or call if you have any questions, special requests or feedback on the newsletter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.