Big Announcement: A New Membership System Coming!

This is a long post, but please read it as it details some very important changes coming to IMAutomator in the coming months and how we arrived at this decision.

How Our Submission Engine Works

IMAutomator never has and never can achieve a 100% success rates across all sites – though there are some sites that do. The way our system works is that when you submit a job, all of the individual submissions are scheduled for a date & time and put in a queue. This queue for all jobs & members is very large.

We then have a submission engine that runs all the time checking the queue to see if there are any jobs ready to submit. It processes a large number of jobs in parallel so at any one time there are a large number of submissions going on to a large number of sites. Because of the volume of submissions that we make, and to avoid patterns we use proxies for submission.

How Proxies Affect Our System

A proxy is like an extra step between our server and the target server and each proxy has a unique IP address. If we didn’t use proxies then all submissions would come directly from our server using our server IP address and with the volume of submissions made, the target servers might think “hmm, that’s an awful lot of submissions from one IP address – we’re going to block that”, and indeed that is what we did in the very early days of IMAutomator.

So over the years we have improved the submission process and refined it. We have a large pool of proxies, these are rotated across all submissions to spread the load and we swap out the proxies for new ones on a regular basis. We also try new proxy providers now and then to see if they perform better.

Proxies Are Unreliable

See, the problem with going through a proxy server is that it is much slower than a direct connection and this causes errors. The most common problem is a timeout – the target server simply does not respond in time, and the submission is aborted. Timeouts are needed otherwise the whole system would hang. Sometimes the proxy gets refused altogether so in general, proxies are a necessary evil that we have to use to provide the service.

But what we have found is that performance is not linear – it goes up and down in waves. Some weeks we’ll have 95% success rates across the board and then a few weeks later with no changes at all – a whole bunch of sites might drop to say 70% and then it goes up again. Whilst there are specific measures that we can put in place to improve things – such as increasingly the number of times a submission is re-tried before it is finally deemed a failure, there are external factors outside of our control that affect success rates.

Ensuring Members Only Pay For Successful Submissions

Up until recently, before we implemented the Submission Credit functionality, these failures in submissions translated directly to a failure of IMAutomator to provide the service being paid for because once a submission failed, it could not be re-tried. Plus, the way we charged a simple blanket monthly fee and then advertised a certain number of sites to which you could submit – if only 80% of those submissions succeeded, you were only getting 80% of the service you paid for as an example.

Whilst we’re always going to be working on improving success rates, we know that we’ll never achieve 100% and so we are now leaning more on Submission Credits as a way of providing our customers with a service where they only pay for a service that works. When you select credit sites in your submission, the credit amount is taken from your balance but as the submissions are processed, any failed jobs are refunded their credit amount so you only ever pay for successful submissions.

Whilst it is still annoying to have failed submissions, it is preferable to at least know that you only pay for the ones that succeed. When we first introduced the Submission Credits it was through necessity – almost all new sites we find now have a CAPTCHA on the submission form that we have to pay to have solved so we want to control the volume of submissions made to these sites. The sheer volume of submissions made to our regular sites prohibits the use of a CAPTCHA solving service as the expense is simply too much to absorb.

A Brand New Membership System!

However, over the last few months we’ve started to see a better way of offering our service. Our long term plan has changed. Before, we had planned to launch several releases of the software – each with new tools and new sites for the tools and each with a higher price tag. We are currently on Release 2.

Whilst we still plan to build new tools and of course add sites for those tools, we will no longer be adding sites in the old way that get submitted to automatically when you submit a job. Instead, ALL new sites are going to be made into credit sites and as a result, we will be increasing the number of credits allocated each month. We will NOT be increasing the current price but instead be offering lots more options.

We are gradually going to shift towards a complete credit-based system and when we do this we will also re-launch our membership system with multiple tiers of membership with varying monthly fees. The way it will work is that we will still have a monthly fee but when this new system is in place that fee will buy you a monthly credit allowance. We’ll have 5 or 6 different levels (we’re still working out the finer details) and the larger packages will allow you to buy credits more cheaply.

Also, we’ll be completely doing away with the restriction on what tools you can use. Our membership will start at $5 per month and even at that level you can use any of the tools. Want to do mainly bookmarking but submit your RSS feed and maybe an article here and there? That’s fine – you can spend your credits however you wish. Want to do just article marketing and ignore the other tools entirely? That’s fine too. We feel this will provide so much more flexibility for our customers – you choose how much you want to spend each month, exactly what tools you want to use, you choose the sites you want to submit to, and you only ever pay for a successful submission.

We’ll also allow you to buy credit packages in addition to your monthly fee so for example if you are on the $5 a month plan but want to do a few extra submissions without increasing your monthly fee, you’ll be able to just buy a one-off credit package.

We expect all this to be a little way off yet but we are definitely aiming for this year (2013). Our past track record for estimating delivery times has not been great but this has now become our sole focus for the time being and we’re confident. There are some steps we need to take along the way. For example, we need to extend the credit site system to work on all tools. More importantly we are going to do away with the somewhat inflexible and cumbersome Secondary Submissions tool and instead design a whole new way of re-submitting failed jobs. This will be available to all members – not just the current Pro members. This particular change is quite large (well, very large) and will probably take a while.

Lastly, we want to get many more sites in the system – particularly for bookmarks. We’re heading towards 50 now which is good.

Another step along the way is to encourage members to use their credits. We’ve noticed that some members have a ton of credits but they just submit using the default options which will only submit to the non-credit sites. Today, we’ve had to remove a couple more sites that had stopped working and as a result we are now down to just 19 non-credit bookmarking sites. If you do not use your credits you are missing out on a whole lot of backlinks and some very high PR ones I might add!

Monthly Submission Credits Increased to 2,000!

Also as of today, as the number of non-credit sites has dipped below 20, we’re increasing our credit allocation again – from today, Pro members will now receive 2000 credits per month! Light members are not affected as they only get 15 submissions per job. This will take effect from your next payment – credits are allocated within 24 hours of the payment being made.

Once again I re-iterate – USE YOUR CREDITS! 🙂

Open Membership & The Affiliate System

Until recently, we have had a limit on the number of Pro memberships that were available. When we first launched Release #1 that was priced at $24.95 and we allowed only 100 members as we knew we’d increase the price later and didn’t want to saturate ourselves at the lower price whilst we were still developing the software.

On Release #2 we did the same thing with the intention of having at least 2 further releases which each one being higher priced than before. Over the last few months we’ve been thinking about moving to this credit system and having a whole bunch of different membership options. When we do that it will make no sense to restrict memberships because we won’t be offering higher priced membership fees in the future – instead your fee will purchase credits and you get to choose how many you want to buy.

As such, our membership is now unrestricted – it has been for a while actually and we have no plans to restrict it in the future with the exception of the Light membership which we closed to new members a couple of months ago.

This also impacts our affiliate program. We had planned to wait until we were on the final release at the highest price point to release our affiliate system because we couldn’t offer an affiliate system when there were no memberships available! With an open membership this issue goes away.

First we want to implement these new changes and once we’ve done that and ironed out any kinks, we will launch our affiliate system which will offer a 50% commission rate. You can sign up for our mailing list for when this opens here:

http://www.imautomator.com/affiliates

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