Category Archives for "Tools"

October 19, 2017

Octoparse Web Scraper Review

I’ve been searching for a tool that will collect data on businesses within a certain market sector.  I need something that is semi automatic, ethical, in continuous development, and with good support.  So I’ve downloaded a copy of Octoparse and I’m now working through the tutorials while writing this Octoparse Web Scraper Review.

If you’ve searched for such tools yourself (or any other software for that matter) you’ve probably spotted that there are many that promise a great deal but which haven’t been updated for a year or more.  There are fake reviews that are blatant affiliate promotion pages and there are one or two that look promising.

It’s time consuming finding the right product and you don’t know who to trust.

I should therefore be transparent and state that I’m writing this review because the team behind Octoparse are offering a free month of Pro subscription to anyone who writes a review.  They didn’t say the review had to be a five star endorsement, just a review, so here’s mine.

My Review of Octoparse Web Scraper

I registered for a free account on their website and downloaded the trial copy.  As soon as this was installed there was a notification of an update so the first thing I did was to update it to the latest copy.  I find it a little reassuring that there’s a recent patch or upgrade.

The UI is pleasantly free from distractions and advertising.  Like all new and unfamiliar pieces of software it takes a few minutes to navigate about but there are handy built-in tutorials or you can dive straight in and start a task.

There’s a wizard option to build tasks or you can go in advanced mode. I chose the wizard option as this is all new to me.

I set up the task and entered the URL that contained a list of companies with links to pages giving more details of each. I wanted to collect all the contact information for each company.

By clicking on example fields in the internal browser window the software quickly learns what to collect.  The only niggle I had was capturing the company’s URL.  Perhaps that’s my inexperience or a limitation in the trial copy.

Anyway, within a few minutes I had captured about 50 records and exported the data into an Excel spreadsheet.

Obviously this being the first attempt this took a little while but already I can see how the Octoparse Web Scraper will save me a lot of time.  I need information from several pages of a directory.  It’s not a lot but it’s a laborious processes to do it manually and consequently I tend to procrastinate or find other things to do.

This tool will save a lot of that time and effort, and I’ll be able to get on with using the information it gathers.

Ethics of Web Scraping

It’s easy to stray off the straight and narrow path when using tools like this that gather information.  If someone has gone to all the trouble of building a web directory there is the potential for someone to scrape all the data and build a duplicate directory under another name.  That of course would plagiarism and unethical, not to mention illegal.

However, data is published in directories so that others can find it and if you need to contact many companies within the same market sector then there’s no harm in saving some time and effort by gathering that data and putting it into a spreadsheet for future reference.

So my advice is:

  • Don’t over do it. Take only what you need.
  • Don’t ever re-use the data and pass it off as your own.
  • Give something back to the source e.g. create a quality backlinks, use their adverts, buy something from their site, recommend them in appropriate forums and in social media.



July 9, 2016

Retail Arbitrage UK – Buying Low and Selling High

Retail Arbitrage UK

The process of buying low and selling high dates back into ancient history.  It’s as old as human civilisation itself.  Merchandising and trade are one of life’s constants and the only things that change are the products and the tools.  However, retail arbitrage is something relatively new and its existence is due to the technology and innovation that can be found in the online world.

In the world of retail arbitrage UK sellers have a smaller market that their US counterparts, but they should not think that they are the poorer cousins for it.  Amazon’s reach is long and stock sent to UK fulfillment centres can be sold in Germany, Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere in Europe.

The UK is a smaller but different market.  Developing expertise in this arena will equip Amazon sellers with the experience that will help hugely if and when they decide to branch out into the USA.

What is Retail Arbitrage?

Simply put, retail arbitrage is the process of buying products from retailers and selling them yourself as a retailer at a higher price (e.g. on Amazon).

This is made possible by the fact that some retailers have excess stock they want to clear to make way for other products.  It could also be due to the fact that the product sells so well on Amazon that the price has not been reduced due to the demand.

There may be other reasons, but the point is you can buy things from online shops, ship them to Amazon, and sell them at a profit, even after you’ve deducted the Amazon fees and shipping costs.

This provides an opportunity for Amazon sellers and merchants, but the tricky bit is finding the products.  Not only that, you need to find them and buy them when they are in stock and before the price difference closes.

Profit Sourcery for Retail Arbitrage

Profit Sourcery is a tool that does all the hard work for you.  It is a browser based product research tool available on a three tiered subscription.

(I’ve written two other posts about it: Profit Sourcery Tips and Amazon Shipment Warnings.)

The tool collects all the data (freely provided by Amazon) relating to products, prices, seller rank, size, weight and much more  It then analyses all this and presents the results on your own dashboard.

Each subscriber sees a unique set of products on his or her dashboard each day so you’re not competing with other Profit Sourcery subscribers.

Subscriptions are paid monthly.  You can cancel or upgrade in your dashboard. There are no long term contracts and you can cancel at any time.

Using the online training provided by the Profit Sourcery team, and by reference to their extensive supporting documentation, you can quickly learn how to interpret the data and make good buying decisions.

If you get stuck, have any questions, or just want to give some feedback, you can send messages to the team through your dashboard.  I can tell you from personal experience that they are usually quick to respond.

Once you get the hang of it you’ll see how your profits can be reinvested to buy ever increasing amounts of stock.  The online business grows according to the pace and scale you choose.

However, my guess is that the people at Profit Sourcery will eventually limit the number of subscribers.  There is mention of this in the video interview below with Ed Brooks (Profit Sourcery founder), so if you haven’t tried it yet I suggest you do so soon.

Sign up now for a free 7 day trial.

June 11, 2016

Amazon FBA Shipment Warnings

ProfitSourcery TipsI’ve had some good wins with Profit Sourcery this week.  The product stream has been mostly toys for a range of ages.  It’s really satisfying to see that toys I packaged and sent to Amazon one evening earlier in the week have already been sold to customers in Spain, France, and Germany.  However, I encountered two Amazon FBA shipment warnings this week and here I explain what they were and what I did to resolve them..

This past week plastic figures of characters from films like Star Wars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a good buy, and so were certain dolls that are part of a range, which makes them collectible – children love to have the full set!

One thing that I saw for the first time was this message:

Inventory alert.  We’ve identified this product to be slow-moving, overstocked or both, and it likely will incur Long-Term Storage Fees. We recommend that you remove it from the shipment.”

This appeared while adding products and preparing a shipment in the Amazon Seller dashboard.  Obviously I double checked the analysis on Profit Sourcery, and I went ahead with the shipment anyway because all the indications were good.

I suspect that the Amazon mega computer flags this as a warning in case you’re about to ship hundreds of a single product, but if like me you’re only shipping in small quantities, five to twenty-five for example, then there’s no need to worry.  It may be something that sells slowly, but it will sell out eventually.

What it does remind us though is the importance of the size of the products.  The volume i.e. the amount of space that your product takes up in the Amazon warehouses has a proportional effect on your long term storage fees, so if you do ship a slow selling product then it’s probably best not to send anything large and bulky, particularly if the profit margin is less than ideal.

Another warning I encountered for the first time was in the form of an automated email that came started with this statement:

We are writing to inform you that we have temporarily blocked your ability to create and send in shipments to fulfilment centres due to a problem that we found with your inbound shipment (FBAXXYYZZ). 

No need to panic though.  It was quickly resolved by going to my Seller dashboard and clicking a few acknowledgements.  The shipment was then accepted and the block was instantly removed.  I suspect that I made an error with the labels and/or the packing lists as it was a two parcel shipment.

That’s probably the main lesson of the week – take the time to examine each product’s analysis carefully and concentrate when preparing the shipment.

Give Profit Sourcery a go yourself and let me know how you get on in the comments below.


June 4, 2016

ProfitSourcery Tips For Making a Profit Selling on Amazon

Here are my ProfitSourcery tips for beginners and intermediate users. It’s a great tool that has provides fresh ideas every day of the week. The support from the ProfitSourcery team has been excellent and they continue to improve the service based on the feedback they receive, so do talk to them using the chat feature at the side of your dashboard.

The website contains a wealth of guides and tutorials so I’m not going to repeat them here. These are my own tips based on what I’ve learned so far having used the service for several weeks. I make no claims or guarantees as to the accuracy of the information here. Please test and check the results, then proceed with purchasing decisions based on your own judgement, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you generate a profit.

ProfitSourcery Tips

ProfitSourcery TipsIntroduction

ProfitSourcery is a web based tool with three subscription options. Each day you log in to your dashboard to see 3, 5, or 10 products for sale online at a lower price than the current selling price on Amazon. This enables you to buy low from the retailer and sell higher on Amazon.

Merchants selling on Amazon use two main methods:

  1. FBM – Fulfilled by Merchant. The merchant lists the products on Amazon, but stores, packs, and dispatches them from their premises. They also deal with the order enquiries and returns. The advantage is the saving on Amazon fulfillment and storage fees. The disadvantages are the administrative overhead to the merchant. This method is best suited to merchants who have an existing online store and/or a physical shop.
  2. FBA – Fulfilled by Amazon. The merchant ships the products to Amazon and they take care of everything. They process the order and deal with all enquiries. The advantage is the low administrative overhead to the merchant and the fact that you don’t need to store, pack, and dispatch each and every order. The disadvantage is the fees you pay Amazon for this service. This method is best suited to the small, part time operator who perhaps works from home and doesn’t want courier vans coming and going day after day.

If you haven’t yet set up a seller account on Amazon then you’ll need to learn how to do that first. It seems complicated at first but take it step by step and in time you’ll be confident with adding to your inventory and managing shipments.

ProfitSourcery Dashboard

Let’s assume that your Amazon seller account has been set up, your ProfitSourcery subscription is active, and you’ve just logged in to your dashboard.  We’ll now review the various sections, starting on the left of the dashboard and moving right.

Do the products match?

Click both title links and review the product on Amazon and the the retailer site. If you suspect that the two products don’t match then inform ProfitSourcery by clicking the ‘Let us know’ button on the right.

Product Dimensions

This information is useful for gauging how much shipping is likely to cost. It is also has value for estimating the storage costs if the product doesn’t sell and incurs fees for storage by Amazon, or the likely space it will take up if you store it yourself.

Product Competition

Here we see the top five sellers on Amazon. Obviously the fewer there are, the less competition there is, but even if there are more than five it could still be a good idea to buy this product if other indications are positive. You can see the full list of sellers by going to the Amazon page and reviewing them under the ‘Available from these sellers’ link.

Fee Calculator

This section shows you the purchase price, selling price, and Amazon fees. Here we see the estimated profit per item sold. These figures include VAT and don’t take into account shipping, nor any additional packaging and labeling costs.

For example, if you have a box of 20 toy soldiers with an estimated profit of £4.60 per item then the total estimated profit will be £92.00. If you buy these, take delivery, re-label them, and ship them to Amazon using the same packaging in which they arrived then your packaging costs are almost zero and you might pay about £5.30 for shipping (if it’s one box under 5kg).

However, but if you ship 20 dolls with the same profit but in three of four boxes then your shipping could be £10-15 or more. You may have to re-box them if they were delivered in bags which took a bit of a battering in transit. So your profit might be reduced by £20+ instead of just £5+

So size is important, as is weight. You also need to factor in the cost of labels, printer ink, and parcel tape. You will use all these for all shipments.

External Links

i. Price Sales & Rank History button. This takes you to Register for a free account to see all the available information and log in before you click on your product link. There’s a lot of information on this site, enough for several blog posts. I suggest you explore this tool and experiment with it until you’re confident of reading the results correctly. Look for an average price that is equal to or more than the current sale price on Amazon. Look out for a healthy sales rank. Remember that the lower the number, the stronger the rank. Sales ranks can rise and fall seasonally, so use the date slider on the right of the box to check back a few months.

You may see the message ‘We don’t have enough data to chart, please check back later’. If so, use Jungle Scout (see below).

ii. Check Product Details button. Visit Amazon through this link and get to know the product. Check the reviews and read a sample of both positive and negative. If the product has negative reviews then use your best judgement based on all the factors and information. It may still be a strong seller even with several negative reviews. Some people leave negative reviews because they didn’t understand how to make the best of the product, or because they are giving feedback about the seller and not about the product itself.

iii. Check Availability button. This is the link the retailer that’s currently selling the product at the lower price. If you click this button you can check for the quantity available by adding as many as it will allow to your shopping cart. Then go to the start of the checkout process and see if you can increase that number to 99 or even 999. It may tell you then how many are available. This doesn’t work for all retailers but when it does it’s very useful.

Jungle Scout Extension

Jungle Scout is a separate tool that is designed for those seeking niche products to sell on Amazon. I use both for its designed purpose but also in conjunction with ProfitSourcery.  If you buy a licence for Jungle Scout and install the extension in your browser you’re all set to do some further checks on products.

Assuming the tool is ready then navigate the product page on Amazon and click on the Jungle Scout icon in your browser toolbar. JS will then gather data about the product and show you some statistics in a row at the top of a box that appears. The row includes a Price and a Rank column. The values in these columns are hyperlinked. Click on the price to see the price history over the past few months. Is the price falling steadily? Maybe it’s not such a good buy. Click on the Rank to see the Sales Rank history. You may see data here that wasn’t able to provide.

You can also obtain this data using the free browser extension Jungle Scout has it embedded, but the advantage of Jungle Scout is the other data, like the number of sales per month, and of course you can use it for searching for niche products to buy in bulk from wholesalers as a separate project.

The Jungle Scout sales per month figure enables you to calculate how quickly you’re likely to get your money back and go into profit. For example, if you bought 20 toy soldiers and Jungle Scout says there are about 30 sales per month they won’t have to wait long, but if it’s only 5 per month obviously it could take four months to get your return. These figures may be affected by the seasons, particularly with toys before or after Christmas. They are also significant because it can effect your costs for storage.

Buy Jungle Scout here.  It’s a one-off payment and the guides and support are excellent.  Watch the introductory video on the homepage.  There’s also a very active user group on Facebook.


There are lots of things you can do to make a little money online, but the beauty of this service is the fact that you can start slow at a low risk and scale it up if and when you’re ready.  You might not want to build it up and you might continue with turning over just a few hundred per month, but it also has the potential to grow into a larger business.

The knowledge and experience you gain by using this service will prepare you for other larger scale businesses like importing wholesale and shipping direct to Amazon in the USA, UK, and elsewhere.  Make a start by subscribing to ProfitSourcery today.  You’ll get seven days free and you can cancel at any time.

March 4, 2016

Why I wouldn’t be without Roboform Password Manager

If you’ve spent more than a week online you’ll know that most websites ask you to log in in order to obtain the most functionality out them.  It’s a necessary chore when shopping online and it’s mandatory for a lot of other sites, particularly if you manage any of your own.  Years of working online have taught me the vital importance of password management and this why I wouldn’t be without Roboform Password Manager.

Why you need a password manager

Do you have locks on the doors of your house?  Your windows?  Your car?  It’s pretty obvious isn’t it, yet despite this people still leave themselves wide open to theft, vandalism, and the distress and upset that can be caused if someone gains access to your online profiles with malicious intent.

I’m going to assume you’ve got enough gumption to realise:

  • Weak, easily guessed passwords offer no protection
  • Hard, obscure password are a necessity
  • Storing passwords securely is as important as storing your house and car keys securely

Essential functions of a good password manager

Password managers are software products which store your usernames and passwords for all the sites you visit and use.  However, the good ones do much more than than act as an online copy of your scribbled post-it notes. The data needs to be stored in such a way that it cannot easily be seen.  It needs to be kept up to date across all your devices.

Roboform‘s functions include:

  • Storing all the password data in encrypted files.  If anyone steals any of your computers, tablets, or phones they would need to know the master password to get into your password files.
  • Synchronises between devices.  You might have a desktop PC, a laptop, a tablet, and a phone.  Roboform can synchronise between all of them so that your list of usernames and passwords are always up to date on each device.
  • Automatically generates passwords.  You’re using a new site which stipulates that your password ‘should contain at least 8 characters, one upper and one lower case character, one special character, and two digits’.  Don’t sit there staring at the screen or scribbling notes.  Use Roboform’s password generation function to create a new password that matches the criteria.
  • Prompts to store new entries.  When you register at a new site and create new login details Roboform spots this and offers to save the details as a new entry in the master file for you.
  • Prompts to update existing entries.  Your stored password has expired.  You have to generate a new one.  Roboform gives you the option to update the existing details.
  • Fill out forms with one click.  Tired of filling out forms with your name, address, date of birth etc?  Do it once and store it as an identity.  The next time you have to register at a site that asks for all these details Roboform will complete the form with one click.
  • Password management on holiday.  Imagine you’re somewhere with no wifi, no phone signal, and your only access to the internet is using a public PC in a internet cafe or hotel lobby.  How do you find all those passwords?  Carry Roboform with you on a USB stick, or log in to your account on the Roboform homepage.

Password Management = Time Management

Imagine you log in to several sites every day.  You’ve followed the best practice of creating unique, obscure passwords for each site and although you’ve stored them securely you have to keep looking them up and typing them out manually.

Now multiply that time consuming chore by the number of times you have to do it each week, month, or year. and then consider how time you would save if only the process was semi automated in the way that Roboform can do it.

I’ve been using Roboform for about six years.  It’s probably one of most useful software tools I’ve ever bought.

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Roboform Password Manager