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Interview With Ken Ilio

INTERVIEW

Ken Ilio of Tanikalang Ginto

     Dr. Ken Ilio is the founder of Tanikalang Ginto (www.filipinolinks.com), which has been on the Web since 1994. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to "pick" his brains, and to share his valuable insights with you.

Joel Mangilit: Can you share with us just a little about yourself?

Ken Ilio:
DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), University of the Philippines 
MPhil (Master of Philosophy), Massey University 
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Postdoctoral Studies - Northwestern University 
Currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago. 
Hobbies: surfing the net, photography, writing 

Joel Mangilit: When did you put up www.filipinolinks.com and what was your goal for the site? 

Ken Ilio:
www.filipinolinks.com was (still is) the link page of, originally, The First Philippine Page of Trivia established sometime in September 1994 which eventually became Tribung Pinoy (www.tribo.org). Since the beginning, the links page was already called Tanikalang Ginto, but only in 1997 that I bought a domain name (www.filipinolinks.com) for it. Last year, 2001, Tanikalang Ginto became a registered trademark. 

The goal really since 1994 is to collect in a directory Philippine-related websites. In the beginning, I listed sites without organization - I listed them when I found them. In mid-1996, the list became huge (and popular - it even got listed in the now defunct Netguide magazine) that I had categorize the links to have some kind of organization. 

Joel Mangilit: Have you achieved your goals for the site? 

Ken Ilio:
Basically yes. The database is huge - I don't even know how many links are in the database. And it is in transition - as I am moving the links from straight html file to a flat database that can be accessed by a cgi. It's a huge undertaking. There are about 9,000 links in the new database and more in the old database. 

Joel Mangilit: How many hours did it take to build the site, and how many hours to maintain?

Ken Ilio:
My last re-design was in August 2000. It took me about 4 hours (hand edit) to redesign. You can track the redesigns of filipinolinks.com at www.archive.org. It's soo coool. 

Since the site is updated every day, maintenance could be anywhere (depending on how much I enjoy surfing that day) from 1 hour to 12 hours. 

Joel Mangilit: How many visitors has your site gotten to date? What is the average number of visitors per month?

Ken Ilio:
About 1 million for the front page. For the whole site, I have no idea. I get more than 4,000 hits a day for all the pages in Tanikalang Ginto. On the average, the front page gets about 700 unique hits a day. My other sites (Tribung Pinoy, Pinoy First, madeinthephilippines.com etc.) are also popular and colletively they probably get more than 2,000 hits a day. 

Joel Mangilit: How did you promote your site (e.g. search engines, affiliate programs, banner ads, mailing list, offline promotion, etc)?

Ken Ilio: 
To tell you the truth, I really didn't. Because the site is one of the early sites out - it has always been listed in the major search engines - it used to be ranked high too - but no longer. I really haven't done anything much to promote the site in last two years except requiring submitted sites to put up a link to filipinolinks.com in their sites. No reciprocal link, no listing at Tanikalang Ginto. 

Joel Mangilit: Of the various ways of promoting your site, which brings in the most traffic?

Ken Ilio:
The reciprocal link is a very effective way of promoting the site. This is why I stringently require this now. The reason being, the more a site is linked in other websites, the higher it is ranked in search engines. It is both a plus for the site being linked and the site that links it because the linking site becomes recognized by the spiders of the search engines and thus incorporated in their database. 

Joel Mangilit: Is your Web site a profitable endeavor, or just a labor of love? 

Ken Ilio:
It used to be profitable - during the Internet boom with so many start ups sprouting, the banner ads that I had on my sites were making money. It used to be that you can earn as much as 40 US cents everytime the banner is clicked. Now it's something like 5 cents a click. My click rate then was also very high. Filipinos are very faithful and loyal audience. :-). I also used to design websites but now everyone is doing it. 

So now, it's a labor of love ... a hobby gone berserk. I love it though. 

Joel Mangilit: How much does it cost you to maintain the Web site (e.g. web hosting fees)? 

Ken Ilio:
I have now my own server that doesn't cost a lot which allow me to host other sites for a fee :-). I don't promote this service that much though. But the server pays for itself. 

Joel Mangilit: What are the factors that made your online endeavors successful? 

Ken Ilio:
Because I have a niche (Filipino) and I started early and I stuck to it. 

Joel Mangilit: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are exploring the possibilities of the Internet for their business? 

Ken Ilio:
Have a gimmick and be passionate about it. Be original. Don't be ningas cogon. I am guilty of this (as some of my sites have not been updated) but they're not commercial. I've seen Filipino commercial sites though which promise a lot of stuff but don't deliver. 

Also a pleasing design of the front page is important - should be a balance between artistry, functionality and speed. Java applets, and Flash animations are nice but they are annoying and many readers don't have the time to wait UNLESS they really want to visit the site and unless the site is a graphic arts site or a web development site (so you have to show that you do know how to use these programs etc.). However, some web designers are so mayabang to show that they know how to do flash and applets and whatever and design commercial sites with all the borloloys for the sake of having borloloys. Most of them are really beautiful - Pinoys are very good at designing websites - we really excel in this area - but there's a but - a site with a lot of borloloys - the download is slow and for many readers who probably are just sneaking into the net during their break time or so, time is important, so many would just go on to another site instead of waiting. Many access the net still with 28.8 modem - so you have to design to the least common denominator. Also, a high percentage of readers are using old browsers which don't have the capabilities of reading applets and flash animation. So as much as possible, if your site is not a showcase site, stick to fast loading front pages (or at least offer the readers a choice). 

The model really is Yahoo. They stuck to their design since the start - drab, gray but somewhat pleasing to the eye and most of all, fast loading. Same thing with amazon.com. 

I am guilty of slow download because my site has a Filipino-oriented photograph on every page, but I don't care. Tanikalang Ginto and especially Tribung Pinoy are also galleries of my own photographs (as well as my friends' and readers' who send me their beautiful photos  to be featured on the site). You can't imagine how many of my own photographs are being "stolen" and used by other sites without permission. Even commercial sites. And also because I really would like to show the Philippines. Most of the photos are of the Philippines ... I may sound altruistic in this goal, but since the start ... it has always been about the Philippines. 

Again, my thanks to Ken for taking the time to share his valuable insights, and invite everyone to visit Tanikalang Ginto at www.filipinolinks.com.

                                                                         Sincerely,
                                                                         Joel R. Mangilit
                                                                         Joel R. Mangilit

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