Why Is Tracking202 Free – My Mistakes – Launching Under Fire

I’ll have to admit, we have made some mistakes during our launch, but I’m the one to blame. Although we are still gaining momentum in our marketing push the initial launch was quite shaky, if we had to do our initial launch into the market place again I’d absolutely do it differently. But what is done is done, and now we must work quadruple hard to improve our situation as much as possible.

It is quite clear that the product we have just introduced into the marketplace is quite controversial due to the required information that our product must store in order for it to work correctly. What has happened, and although we expected their to be some hesitation to use it, I’m not sure we fully grasped the magnitude of the situation to know that prior to launching we should have spent significantly more time in building our credibility.

The basic fundamental question that is being asked about our product is not if the actual product is good, in fact, even some of the negative (but helpful) feedback that some people give mentions that, “they think the product looks absolutely fantastic, but they feel uncomfortable that their PPC information is stored on the Tracking202 servers.” Almost everyone agrees the product looks great, what the question of the day for everyone is if our company has integrity and if they can trust their data with us.

What we did wrong is that we mainly focused on the product, building the features, adding this, adding that, and while all that was great, what was more important, than the product was that we should have invested as much, if not more time, into thinking of ways to make our product more credible. We showed how the product worked, we have videos, we have screenshots, we have hours and hours invested into our product and although we also invested time into explaining the reasons behind Tracking202 being completely free, we should have spent more time explaining it clearly.

My focus has now shifted into seeing how we can make Tracking202 a more credible company, whether its adding HackerSafe Icons, or moving more towards self-hosted scripts, or showing pictures of the world class datacenter we are moving into, or gathering more testimonials from users or networking with other influential people in the industry who can help us gain credibility, this is what I will be focusing on now. Here are some lessons that I have learned, and I will share my lessons with you.

  • When you are handling other peoples’ information, especially information related how people make a living, you should focus on making your product feel safe, secure and as trustworthy as you possibly can. You absolutely have to make sure your users data is completely safe on multiple different levels of security. If you manage peoples’ information, the success or failure of your company can be attributed to the effectiveness in which you handle other’s data.
  • When you build a company, the marketplace is going to judge you as an individual and your personal integrity and ability to accomplish what it is you say your going to accomplish. This goes on understanding that YOU, branding YOU, becoming AWARE that people are going to watch you and judge YOU everything you do. They are going to ASK if I can trust this person, can this person deliver, is he or she true to their word? Your customers will google your name, look at your blog, look at whom you’ve been interviewed with and they will make a conscious decision on whether or not they like you, which will either make you look good, or it will make you look bad. Be very cautious with your name, and what you say on your blog because people will read it, as many people are now reading mine to see if the CEO of the Tracking202 program has good values, and if they would trust him.
  • If you plan on marketing your products through forums, it would be wise to invest some time first to contact the administrator of the forum and bounce your idea off to them prior to launching a promotional thread on their forum.
  • Be as personal as you can in your company while it is small, you want people to feel they can contact you directly if they have a problem. They should believe if they have a problem or question, you are there to answer it immediately because you have always been prompt in responding. Customer Service, and replying to questions AS SOON AS POSSIBLE is extremely important. Whether it be a business, or even a blog, respond to your emails.
  • When you decide to make a long-term decision, in our case, making our product completely free (which is now going to affect us for several years down the road) it would be wise, when making a long-term decision, to take a very long-time in really thinking everything through, before making a decision. Take a long time, before making a decision that can have a long-term effect; make sure you think it, the last thing you want to do is make a quick decision that ends up begin a negative one for a very long time.
  • If there is controversy about you, your company, or your product take a considerable amount of time, and explain your reasons for why it is, you, your company, or product is doing what it is and the way it is. In that specifically I’m addressing the fact that I failed, I failed to explain in-depth why we have decided to launch our product free, and I’m going to spend a considerable amount of time in explaining to everyone why it is we are doing what we have done, and our strong reasons behind it. Be clear about yourself, don’t allow people to second guess, or question you, explain your reasons well, so there are no questions, and that you provide reasons and even examples of why you choose to do what it is you are doing.

I’m now going to being the process of explaining first on my blog why it is we decided to make our product free to the market place, and our reasons behind it. This will be the start of what will most likely become a very in-depth article explaining the main reasons why Tracking202 is free. And let me start out by what tracking202 is not.

  • Tracking202 is NOT free because we want to steal peoples’ keyword information and use it to our own benefit.
  • Tracking202 is NOT free because we want to shave off peoples’ traffic and use it to our own benefit.

Here is why Tracking202 is free, and here is why even though it is free it can still generate a significant revenue stream without taking advantage of anyone’s data. We are simply following the business model of one of the most successful companies in the internet industry, Google. Google provides a variety of free services that people use, you know many of them, and they have lots of products that I’m sure you use on a daily basis. Google had free a free search engine for several years and for the longest time they did not make any money, but they gained a user base, a dedicated user base, and overtime their user base became so big that they were eventually able to develop additional products and services towards their users which will ultimately made them one of the most profitable companies in the world today.

We are offering a free product like Google once did. The goal of Tracking202 per say isn’t to make a bunch of money to begin with, if it was we would have charged a monthly subscription fee for it, which was the original plan. But instead we decided we would rather build a free application for the Affiliate Marketing industry, we are interested in gaining a large user dedicated user base of people who use our applications. To keep it alive during our time we are going to generate money through advertising, and negotiating referral agreements between affiliate networks for referring affiliates to them.

As all of you know hosting a website isn’t really that expensive, the costs aren’t extremely high. Even though I have invested thousand of dollars into server equipment and our hosting is going to be in the thousands of dollars soon a month, that isn’t anything a couple good advertisement deals couldn’t support. We are just simply trying to stay alive in the next year or two, and eventually come with additional products and services to our user base and generate significantly more income than we would have if we just charged for our tracking services.

That is the real reason that Tracking202 is free, I hope that explains it more clearly in-depth our reason for making a free product for the industry. Our product has had a lot of controversy about it now, and this is my answer to explain our reasons so there is no questions left unanswered to the affiliate marketing community. This is our reason, and it is the real reason why Tracking202 is free for you and anyone else to use.

To be 100% genuine and honest to everyone out there, I’m not a super affiliate and I do not plan on ever being a super affiliate. I’m a web 2.0 developer who invest into real estate, I do affiliate marketing as of now because it is the best way I know of right now that I can generate enough income to live on and program at the same time. I even wrote it on my blog post before I got even to involved much with Tracking202, if I focused and hit a monthly net income of $20,000 a month doing affiliate marketing I would completely stop doing AM and start to program full-time.

And the reason I would stop completely is honestly everyone, I do not want to have to put up campaigns all day, I have been working full-time for the past 3 years almost 10-15 hours a day consistently, day in and day out, I will keep going but I get tired sometimes, I’m human and I honestly do not want to have to work setting up PPC campaigns every single day! That does not excite me, that isn’t what I want to do, that isn’t success to me personally.

We had someone offer over $100,000 for our product before it was even released into the public, I don’t need to be low and steal other peoples’ information to make a living and ruin my personal image, My Name, on the internet over someone’s keywords that I could have just found myself by using a keyword generation tool, or someone else text ads when everyone can see them anyways when you search a keyword, or someone’s landing page where again anyone can simply copy and paste their html and use it themselves.

If we needed money that bad, we could raise a round of investment right now for a percentage of the company and have enough money just from that to live on and continue to develop the application full time. I’ve already had an offer by a family member but I’m not interested in doing that, because we don’t need the money; we are a bootstrapping web 2.0 startup that has expenses, but they are maintainable. At the end of the day, and you might disagree with me on this but if you actually look at my ‘ACTIONS’, because actions speak louder than words, you can take a look at me and see if I’m ultimately telling the truth.

At the end of the day, I will generate more personal net worth, maybe not (cashflow) but I will generate more net worth using my knowledge of (AJAX, PHP, MYSQL and other Web 2.0 technologies) developing internet applications and services that can be used by potentially millions of people, with options of selling out, or doing an IPO than I ever would setting up campaigns all day. That is not to say setting up campaigns is bad, my friends and associates make way more than me right now, but that is not how I build income, my friend said to me once, “to each his own,” in that there is a lot of money in PPC AM, but that isn’t my interested, that’s not what I’m passionate about, that is not what I’m best at. I’m best at developing web 2.0 applications on the Internet that people use and it is what I enjoy doing.

And I think if you were to go back, and look at my previous blog posts, you would see my PASSION about building a world class company, and potentially selling it for several million dollars in the future is all along, what my focus has been. If I don’t need the money from Affiliate Marketing, I’m not going to work on affiliate marketing because my energy is better investing into building a world class company that over one million dollars a year in sales, which is highly scalable, highly systematic, that employs people and has a serious opportunity to be acquired in the future.

And I believe you can see if I’m telling a truth because you do not have to believe what I say, because you can look at what my actions, because my actions speak louder than words. As I grow older I do not look at what another says, I watch what another does. Those were the great words spoken by Andrew Carngie, and I ask you to apply them to me, ultimately you will see my actions will prevail. I have moved to another city, Silicon Valley to build an internet company, I’m bootstrapping and doing everything I need to do to stay afloat.

I spend my time reading PHP and MYSQL books, books about FlickR and how they scaled their website, books on PHP Security, geek stuff about how apache security works, how SSLs work, how MySQL indexes work, how to setup load balancers, memcache servers, mysql replication servers, backup servers. I go to PHP and MYSQL meetups and talk with other developers, I spend all the time I possible can programming and learning how to program, I only do affiliate marketing 2-3 hours a week just because I have to have some sort of income to live off of. Other than that I would personally rather not work on any campaigns.

I have so many features I have to program it’s not even funny. There is so much work to do and the to do list gets bigger by 5-7 items every day, and I can only program so much per day. All my affiliate managers know my personal affiliate leads in volume has gone down significantly because all I do is develop the application, they know that, and they would tell you that if you asked them. I’m not a super affiliate, and I do not plan on being a super affiliate because I do not want to be a super affiliate. I want to be a successfully webpreneur who is known for developing website application that thousands and millions of people use on a daily basis and be immersed in the web 2.0 startup community and really be apart of the innovation of web technologies.

I wrote this out of my heart, I poured a lot out here and I really hope you can get a better glimpse into Tracking202 and my personal philosophies in life. If you are a PPC Affiliate Marketer I hope you would give us, and yourself a chance to really see how the Tracking202 product works and test out its features. And just remember there are bad and good people in the world, some people would return a wallet they have found lost on the ground, I hope that you give us a chance to show you that we are one of those good people who are really trying to help others.

  • Wow, I can’t believe I just read all that. It was long but definitely sincere man. I sure hope people will give it a chance.

  • Dan

    ^ With Steven ^

    There was a tear here and there, but the sheer passion you put into your writing makes me wonder why you haven’t written a book already!

    It’s really easy for humans to come out and gloat their pride, but when it comes to humility and admitting certain mistakes, people refrain.

    You Wes, have not – and that has made you stronger.

    D

  • Peter

    Why not just let people use the product on their own server?

    Under this method, you dont have to worry about your servers being down and people wont be worried about losing their keyword data? That would solve the whole issue.

  • I agree with you, the marketplace may be more interested, in a self-hosted package that people can host on their own servers.

    Although it is possible to create a product that can do that, our friend who has generated an internet product before us allowed people to purchase it and host it on their own websites, a landing page generation script. Soon found his software on bit-torrents being pirated, even though all of the code was encrypted. If there was a way to secure this and make it absolutely surefire that our code could not be pirated all around the world we would do this, unfortunately every company windows, adobe, online software is practically always cracked into and bootlegged.

    Peter, I’ll seriously take your suggestion into consideration that is the marketplace’s response, and we are listening. We will have to keep running Tracking202 for another 6 months to a year, to ultimately see what the end result, and the final decision whether or not the product was a success or not. Although right now progress is slow currently, momentum is building, and we seem to get more people interested in using it each day.

  • Peter

    I use a self-hosted Tracking Program at the moment called Adwatcher. I’m sure there is a cracked version of this software if I seach for it on BitTorrent. But I like to believe most people are honest and will pay the yearly fee instead of using an free version. What Adwatcher does is it does not allow you to login after your subscription has expired. So you’ll have to pay to keep on using it.

    There will most likely be a way around this, but if you look at most PPC Affiliates, our specialisation is in keyword research and creating landing pages, not cracking software products. A monthly fee of $30 is considered cheap if you’re spending hundreds/thousands of dollars daily on Adwords etc.

    In the end, I think it comes down to whether you think the software technology is “proprietary” enough to be worried about being cloned if you release a self-hosted version. If other programmers can easily replicate your software features, you’ll be better off at focusing on Marketing the software heavily and getting more users. A case in point – Look at AuctionsAds . The concept wasnt hard to duplicate , thats why Shoemoney focused all his efforts on getting users because people are lazy and would not want to change if a similar program came out.

    More importantly, your software benefits a LOT if you manage to capture users because most PPC affiliates I know would not change their Tracking URLs for Google advertisements unless there is an compelling reason. Between spending $50 a month more / Changing a few hundred Ad URLs’ , I’m sure most affiliates would chose the former as this time can be spent on researching new campaigns etc.

    I suggest you talk to more experienced PPC affiliates for your business model because at the moment, I doubt any affiliate spending $400+ daily will migrate to your system , we’re an extremely cautious bunch and would rather keep absolute control over our keywords then switch over to a system which is not self-hosted.

    Of course I might be wrong, you could just check the average no. of clicks each account receives daily from the Search Engines to see whether my hypothesis is corect.

  • marc

    Wes, I won’t use your product BUT I like you somehow, even tough I don’t know you lol (kinda wierd eh?^^)
    My opinnion on this is, if you plan to ever release a paid self hosted version of this, don’t wait another 6 months – 1 year… Your product will be hyped now for a while, because it is really good and you guys put a lot of effort into it. BUT be sure the copycats are already at work to create products similar to yours and they will sell it.

  • Wes, as a programmer of web apps and REI with 19 units currently I really respect and admire your dedication and non greed. Strangely, i seem to trust you. I think b/c Uber Paul has given you the nod. I’m going to try out your application mainly b/c I don’t rely on AM for my living. It’s my very part time gig right now and I don’t have much to loose. When/if the time comes to close your site or sell it or pack it up to a privately hosted package I request that you give enough warning ahead of time to your users. I’m excited to see your feature set and a sincere thank you for making this app available, open and for all your late nights coding. I would enjoy talking to you sometime.

    Corey

  • Wes, great to hear about your experiences again.

    With you business and application it is still early days Wes, reputation is built on both time and experiences. Just look at Google…I remember the early days when it was just coming out, no advertising just plain search. Which was fantastic, it was better than any search engine I have ever used. I started to tell my colleagues when they technical help, dont ask me just Google it!

    In terms of sales component perhaps you can offer certain features to be free. Any of the advance features offer as a subscription. I recall talking you about Subscription is the key.

    Good luck with your endeavours. Hopefully one day I will trial AM and use Tracking202 again but at this stage I am concentrating on my 100 Website Experiment.

    Norm

  • Tim

    Hello Wes!
    I think you will make more money, if you sell the product as a stand-alone version. Less popular programs are actually hard to find on P2P. Try and do a search of affiliate products; you will hardly find one or two.
    Tim

  • @ Peter,
    Thanks again for the feedback, I do really like your idea on asking all of the super affiliates on their personal input, and will heed your advice going into the Affiliate Summit West, and will propose your question. I agree with you on switching over, even in it’s stage right now it can take some time to transfer over a lot of existing campaigns if there are a lot of text ads because a lot of it is currently manual insertion.

    @ Marc,
    Your right someone is probably at to work to copy it again in a different way, I’ll make sure we move as fast as possible now. Thanks for the first comment, really thank you, it means a lot to see support like that.

    @ Corey,
    Thanks for the comments and the trust, I won’t let you down, I promise. I would love to talk further, and it sounds like you have similar interests, 19 units, wow, that is incredible. That makes sense about the warning in advance, someone else brought it up earlier that if it was acquired everyone should know in advanced because they might not be so trusting of the new party. Well it’d be a pleasure to talk some more, I use AIM, MSN, GTalk, but it is easiest to get a hold of me on AIM at T202Wes, if you have AIM!

    @ Norm,
    Yeah I was very passionate about subscriptions and still am, if we do ever launch something else that requires subscription I like your idea about having free tools, and upgradeable tools, sounds like a good concept to me. Thanks again, I wish you luck on your 100 Website Experiment, I like to say now, “focusing for the win.” 100 Websites sounds like a lot of websites to experiment with!

    @ Tim,
    Interesting Tim, I haven’t even thought about looking for other products on bit-torrent that can might be placed in the same category of business model as us. I’m just aware of our friend’s system, was bit-torrented, but I haven’t looked honestly much else into seeing really how much has been bootlegged.

  • I’ll definitely be checking the application out this weekend. Here are a few thoughts…

    In addition to a password to login, perhaps users could use a “key” that would all of their data. In this way, every single piece of data in the database would be encypted/hashed, unless the user supplies their decryption key after logging in. Of course, you still have the ‘trust’ factor here as users will have to take your word for it tha the data is actually encrypted.

    This would solve my personal worry – that someone else would gain access to the data and use it for their own good. I’m not worried about you or your company at all; you seem like a very respectable person and I admire your vision for the company. My biggest concern is the database being compromised somehow.

    The hosted solution could work well with an encryption tool such as ioncube. I’m a big fan of the Stuffed Guys tools, ProjectNova and Stuffed Tracker, which use IonCube for encryption, and a license key, etc. It works really well and they’ve been very succesful.

    I’ll let you know what I think about the product after I’ve taken it for a test drive. (aim: adscapeinc) Congrats on all your hard work. You WILL NOT fail on anything you set your hard on. Most people fail because they give up, so keep up your efforts.

  • Dr Nick

    Use client-side encryption and decryption in javascript. There’s a way you can do it so that even you won’t be able to decrypt your own database (all your keywords would be garbled) but on the client-side it will decrypt into the proper keywords.

    It requires a bit more setup on the user side, but it will at least provide them with a way of securing their own data themselves, plus you could prove that you do not have access to any meaningful data.

    The beauty of it is that you would not need to change anything to your database calls, but you will need to develop some cookie-based javascript code for storing some algorithms & passwords defined by the user.

  • Zin

    Wes,

    I like your beliefs. I am also a programmer-affiliate marketer. I code in Ruby/Rails and attend Ruby events in London. Very much like yourself with PHP.

    My aim is to learn to code as well as I can in order to build reliable affiliate marketing web apps for myself. I also want to release related Ruby plugins and foster an Open Source Affiliate Marketing community. Perhaps we can share code/designs in the future.

    I’m going to check out Tracking 202 now. Thank you for making this freely available.

    Zin

  • Tim

    Wes, here are some more thoughts on the stand-alone (executable) version:
    First of all you may release it with some fancy security (dongle etc.) that will delay the cracking of it for a while. You may even use that as one of your selling points.
    You are right that there is no sure-fire solution, but if you release frequent worthwhile updates that will create a huge pain in the *** for someone with a cracked version. They will need to wait weeks for a new crack every time! There are some “dynamic cracks”, but they aren’t really effective.
    I am gonna say something similar what Uberaffiliate said, if you release the executable version, then give me a cut 😉

  • @ Derick
    Hey Derick thanks for the compliments, which is an interesting idea on the key. Hm I’m trying to think, how much extra overhead that would cause because then every piece of data is encrypted so going in it has to be encrypted and coming out encrypted with a special key. Yeah I see what you mean, it would basically insure what loss of data if a potential hacker, broke into the database and stole all the information which is a good concern you bring up. We are working on SSLs, HackerSafe, and the datacenter we are moving into has 24/7 security and is a world class facility, I’ll take some pictures of it. As of right now the main data that is encrypted is the users password, in an irreversible way so someone can’t harvest passwords later on and decrypt to get the actual passwords. But I do like your idea, I can’t promise anything honestly I think it would be a lot of overhead so I’m not sure if we would be able to do it. Early on we had some scalability problems, we redirect and analyze for the t202 users about 10-20,000 clicks a day already and analyzing it can sometimes can a long time already for heavy usage users sometimes, so encrypting everything might make sacrifice to much security for performance? I guess just have to weigh the options, I’m going to throw this by Rob our system admin to see what his thoughts are on it. Also I got your AIM now I’ll shoot you an IM tomorrow if you around!

    @ Dr. Nick
    Just to clarify, are you mentioning something like Derick’s idea, and each user would have a specific “encryption key” that encrypts and decrypts a user’s data? I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean yet, am I on the right path?

    @ Zin
    Hey Zin, absolutely if you are planning on developing more tools for the industry I’d love to network and bounce off ideas, we have some more products that we like to launch and would be happy to network with another developer in the AM realm! My AIM is T202Wes if you want to contact me directly, would love to network.

    @ Tim
    Hey Tim, I actually like your idea that makes the most sense of what I’ve read so far, that it will be cracked, and then I guess the way is just to keep coming out with new updates so it will throw off the crackers (or just make it so everyone keeps upgrading), I think your on to something, that would probably be the only way to do it (depending on how fast I can come up and develop new features tho, lol, sometimes a feature can take me several weeks to just get it right.) But your model you mentioned I think would, that is the best way to potentially do it a self-hosted. We’re still not sure if were going to do the self-hosted, and honestly it would be 6 months to a year out but I think I’d be safe to say we’d run with your suggestion on releasing updates on a frequent level to make it inconvenient to really want to hack new version every time. Lol@ the UberAffliate comment on the commissions

    —-

    Hey thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions, they have all been takin heed, we are talking about a self-hosted but it is 50/50 between the other people I work with and everyone in unsure, I think it is obvious now that this is what the market is interested in, I think we will be thinking about this one for a long time, because it is going to have some dramatic long-term effects, both negative and positive in certain aspects.

  • Tim

    Wes,
    As far as I understand a self-hosted version would have open source interpreted by the server? I am proposing to compile it into an executable stand-alone version (closed source code).
    Tim.

  • Dr Nick

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-key_cryptography

    Basically, you need to implement/copy two javascript functions. The user gives you a public key, that you apply to encrypt any keyword or textual data in your tracking script that the user places on their pages. The user can verify that you are not passing on any additional information to your servers by looking at your js code.

    Your second javascript function requires a private key that is entered by the user and stored client-side (i.e. a cookie) — something that is never passed to your server. When you display data, before you output any keywords or text, you call the decrypt function with the user’s private key.

    e.g. “document.write(decrypt(‘kjfvclaylsery’,$cookie_private_key));”

    Your database can number-crunch just as it did before — it’s only on the HTML output that you need to add the decrypt javascript functions too. It shouldn’t even take long to implement.

    If you need more clarification, feel free to send me an email on this (email in comment form).

  • @ Tim,

    Yeah if we did it, it would be closed sourced most likely, it could be potentially open source but I think we would try to limit it. It’s kinda a tough call we have some trade secrets with how we filter out data, and the formula would be seen by everyone, so its sorta like how coca cola builds their cola, and don’t tell anyone the recipe they use, we have a trade secret on filtering process which I developed and the whole system is based on that, and if it was visible it be a huge loss to us.

    @ Dr Nick

    I assume this only works if you have a landing page type setup correct? Where the user punches in a javascript key to encrypt it? I see what you mean, but wouldn’t users still feel at the end of the day that I we could potentially crack it if we really wanted to? Or would you argue not so much?

  • Wes,

    By encrypting the data on your db side, youre keeping malicious users from benefiting by grabbing that data. You’ve got a massive list of keywords in your possession that belongs to the users that inputed that into your system. You also know what keywords are successful and which ones are not. You shouldn’t be able to see them, nor should some script kiddy running some sql injection scripts, only the user.

    I think you’ve got a really good model here — there are just way to many flaws to justify me dumping my keyword lists into it. I “trust” you — its your system I do not trust. Even if you gave this product away for people to use on their own servers, you should have encryption built into it.

  • Thanks deStone apologize for the delay response, I’ve taken yours and everyones suggestions and we have a self-hosted version in the works as we speak, it should be done by the end of this month.

  • thanks for the info on the scripts.