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Favorite Industry Blogs and Websites: The Romeo and Juliet of the MarketingExperiments community share the love

February 19th, 2010 No comments

“…that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
But might not be as well branded…”

Ugh, sorry for that. After a video, a blog post, and an interview, I’m all out of witty love-plus-marketing puns. Just goes to show, Transparent Marketing is more powerful than a Tweet Memarketing gimmick any day.

So I’m going to turn it over to the MarketingExperiments community. We asked you to send virtual Valentines to your favorite industry news sources to celebrate this well-marketed and quite gimmicky holiday that celebrates a martyr who…well let’s just say it moves a lot of product.

We wanted you to call out those blogs and websites that don’t just help you do your job better, but have truly found a place in your heart. Here is the response from our favorite Romeo… Read more…

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Shall I Compare CNNMoney.com to a Summer’s Day: MarketingExperiments team sends virtual Valentines

February 12th, 2010 No comments

“Loooovin’ you, is easy because you’re marketable….la la la la la la la laaaa.”

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and love is in the air all throughout the MarketingExperiments lab. In honor of this well-marketed holiday, we sent a few virtual Valentines to our favorite advertising and marketing industry news sources.

Cuddle up with your favorite blog and watch the love flow… Read more…

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The Google Slap: Affiliate Marketers must stay in compliance with Google and the FTC

January 25th, 2010 6 comments

Affiliate SummitMy colleague, Robert Reynard, and I just returned from Affiliate Summit. Special thanks to Shawn Collins and Missy Ward for having us. This is not the first time I have been, but nonetheless it impresses me to see the number of people who have an interest in this space.

Affiliate Marketing Regulation

One of the most interesting topics this year was around government actions which are threatening many who have profited from this space for many years. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on Internet sites that profit from promoting other’s products or services without disclosing within that promotion that they received some sort of compensation from the company.

Compensation in this instance is not limited to cash. Let me give you an example that I heard at the show:

Let’s say a stay-at-home mom begins a blog to help other stay-at-home moms. A diaper manufacturer sees that blog and decides to send her a box of diapers with the hope that she would try them on her children and then blog about how well they performed.

That mom must disclose that this was a gift from the manufacturer and she must disclose that this blog post is partial to them for that reason, even if she would have blogged about “the diapers making it through the night without leaking” anyway and was in no way influenced by the fact that the diapers were a gift. In other words, even mommy bloggers could be held liable for product reviews.

This may be an extreme example, but thanks to some who may have been taking advantage of consumers through use of exaggerated claims and fake reviews and testimonials, it has become a necessary part of affiliate marketing.

Google Adwords frustration

Another hot topic surrounding this event was affiliate frustration with the Google Adwords program. Over the last year, many affiliates who used Google Adwords to advertise their site(s) were notified that they were no longer welcome to use the Google advertising platform.

OK, so “notified” may be a bit of a stretch, typically the way they found this out was without any sort of notification at all but rather by noticing that sales are lower or perhaps non-existent and logging into their Adwords account to troubleshoot.

After looking around for a bit, they probably found that everything seemed to be in order. On the surface at least. They then may have scrolled over a status column which, when hovered over, opens a small box showing a users Quality Score. To the affiliate’s surprise, the Quality Score ranking that once read 7/10, 8/10 or even 10/10 now says 1/10.

A 1/10 Quality Score ranking in Google Adwords is about as effective at removing advertisements as deleting the campaign altogether. Worse yet, starting over with a new campaign will not help. An advertiser’s Quality Score remains with their domain.

I have heard, but this has not been confirmed by Google, that the only way to receive a 1/10 Quality Score across an entire account is for a Google Policy Team Member to manually place this on the account…meaning that this does not naturally occur. Perhaps this is why affiliates have affectionately labeled this occurrence a “Google Slap.”

Can you imagine being in business one day and out the next? That is what is happening to some of these affiliates. So why would Google do this? After all, affiliates are paying them, right? Well, Google, like the FTC, is probably reacting to the bad apples. Google is fanatical about protecting its customers (i.e. search users) and if it takes hurting some legitimate affiliate’s business to protect customers from the bad apples, it looks like Google is okay with this concession.

What this may mean for 2010

It will be interesting to see how both of these situations play out over this year. I counted 46 businesses from the advertising and marketing industry that made last year’s Inc 500 list of the fastest-growing companies, private companies.

Many of these businesses have deep roots in the affiliate marketing business. Their growth rates have skyrocketed on the backs of affiliates using Google Adwords to advertise, and in some instances have grown off of sites that now must alter their pages to abide by the new FTC guidelines.

Will these companies be able to adjust their business models and continue these impressive growth rates in the face of these new obstacles? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post or start a conversation with your peers in the MarketingExperiments Optimization group.

 

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Email Marketing: What’s the biggest buzz at MarketingSherpa Em@il Summit ’10?

January 22nd, 2010 No comments

Right now, 650 of the lead email marketing practitioners and thought leaders are gathered in Miami for MarketingSherpa’s Ema@il Summit ’10. To get the inside scoop on the biggest buzz from the event, we pulled MarketingSherpa President Bob Lorum out of one of the sessions to get his real-time insights.

As Bob said, there is an emphasis on strategy versus just tactical implementation across the board. And email integration with social media and other mediums is becoming more relevant and important.

In his keynote presentation, Joseph Jaffe commented that “retention is the new acquisition.” Organization will be more successful if they use email and other mediums to retain existing customers.

There is clearly a consensus that email is on the rise and becoming an even more important part of an organization’s marketing arsenal. Of course, creating email campaigns that truly drive revenue in such a crowded market is easier said than done. That’s why MarketingExperiments launched a new, focused research offering at Em@il Summit ’10 to help you address your unique challenges and opportunities.

Since our lab can’t meet the demand of marketers seeking intensive Research Partnerships, we have started a program to create custom Email Response Optimization Packages that will allow more marketers to leverage our scientific email campaign optimization strategies. These Packages can help you connect the dots between our research into “discovering what really works” and finding specific ways to make those discoveries really work in your organization.

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Creating a Culture of Testing: How to defeat the tyranny of best practices

December 14th, 2009 4 comments

You can hear Senior Manager of Research Partnerships Andy Mott answer the question How Can You Make Your Web Site Smarter? on the replay of Omniture’s latest webinar. But in my experience with these events, there is usually an interesting back story. So I cornered Andy in his office at a vulnerable time (his beloved Gators had recently lost the SEC Championship game) and found out what he really wanted to say…

 

Q: You discussed the 2009 Omniture Online Conversion Survey on a recent Omniture webinar. What surprised you the most?

Well I won’t say this surprised me. Maybe saddened is a better word. The survey asked “How frequently is online marketing testing employed in your company?” About half of the respondents said infrequently or never.

 

Q: Wow! That is pretty shocking, especially considering that these people are already familiar with testing through Omniture or MarketingExperiments. Maybe I could understand if this were the general population of marketers. But why have testing tools in place and not test? Why do you think half of them are flying blind?

Well people know they need to test. They probably know their competitors are testing and getting results. But the idea of executing a test is such a paradigm shift in the way that they’ve always done things.

Those that are higher in an organization tend to be more experienced. And if they are more experienced, they may be locked into the advertising agency way of doing things from 30 years ago, just like the doctor who overlooks recent findings and does what worked best for him when he went to medical school.

 

Q: Change is difficult. But still, thirty years ago these same people were also wearing polyester and doing the hustle. I’m a little skeptical that they would still try to shoehorn old media principles into new media.

It’s not intentional. If something has always worked for you, why change?

But what we really have is the tyranny of best practices. I’ll give you a great example. Many marketers still believe that they must have the call to action “above the fold” on a web page. Yet testing has shown this to be an utter myth.

 

Q: And nothing disproves a best practice better than a test that shows what actually works for their specific situation.

That’s the thing. Once companies start testing and see the ROI they are absolutely hooked.

Test

 

Q: How do you take that first step? For, say, an email marketing manager reading this, how do you create a culture of testing in an organization?

Business-level executives don’t care about optimization or testing or even online marketing really. What they care about is results. So you need to talk to them in their language.

At MarketingExperiments, we publish all of our research and it is available for free. So go to the research archive and pull some experiments so you can show example results and make the business case for testing. At this point, all you are looking for is a small budget to begin testing.

Those first tests will help you establish a beachhead that you can use to further penetrate the organization. Because once businesses see the results they can gain from testing, it can get addictive. It’s like eating chips while watching a football game, you just can’t stop.

 

Q: The challenge is to just get the ball rolling. This sounds great in theory. Do you have any real-world examples?

I have countless examples. Since we started this conversion by talking about my recent webinar with Omniture, let me tell you about a Research Partner that first got interested in testing by attending an Omniture webinar that featured Dr. Flint McGlaughlin.

Companies that test usually like to stay anonymous because they view this process as such a competitive advantage. So I’ll just say they are a very large financial institution.

So this marketing manager attended Flint’s webinar and was totally sold. He was convinced that they should begin testing. But he’s only responsible for a very small patch in this giant company. It took him six months to get the approval to begin testing, doing the things I previously mentioned.

 

Q: Six months? It’s easy to get discouraged in that time. I’m not sure how many people would see it through.

But here’s the kicker. That marketing manager and his boss are now charged with trumpeting this win across the entire organization. He is now in front of his boss’s boss’s boss presenting his test results. In fact, in a few days he will be presenting in front of the SVP committee that advises the CEO.

 

Q: Well then he must have achieved some really out-of-this-world test results. What did he get…three digits…four digits? I mean, how common is that?

They got a 38% revenue boost over what the agency was doing.

 

Q: Well, that sounds decent, but a committee of SVPs really cares about 38% in one test?

You say that because you are so used to the power of testing, so you just want to see huge numbers. Let me put this another way – by not testing they would have been leaving 38% more money on the table since the cost of testing was infinitesimal compared to their massive marketing budget.

And that’s the thing. This company has a huge marketing budget. They sponsor the Olympics. They name stadiums. They purchase a ton of media. And since they don’t have space to sell in most of these executions, they’re driving everyone to the website. So if they find they could make more 38% more money without having to increase any of these huge marketing spends, the increase in ROI is humongous. Even a one or two percent increase could make or break a quarter.

 

Q: I see. I didn’t make the connection to that old media marketing spend. But I would think it goes beyond just old media driving people to a website. Online marketing is growing by leaps and bounds. I would think companies want to make sure they are getting a return on that investment as well. According to Forrester Research, digital spending will nearly double over the next five years at the expense of traditional marketing.

Forget five years from now, even today companies spend more than $25 billion on interactive marketing – things like mobile marketing, social media, email marketing, display advertising, and search marketing. That is 12% of all advertising spending. So when enterprises, like that financial institution I discussed, learn that they can take just a tiny fraction of the spend on this growing segment and invest it in a way that ensures the effectiveness of everything else they do – with real-world, statistically valid data – they get very excited.

 

Q: And I would think, for the employees that can tell management “I know how to get the best ROI from this” – not think or have an opinion, but know with real numbers – that’s quite a smart career move.

If other people are discussing so-called “best practices” and you’re showing real results, then you become the go-to person. The one who knows how this stuff really works. Because nothing defeats the tyranny of best practices as well as the audacity of testing.

And if you’re the guy that knows the right things to do in an explosively growing field like Internet marketing, while marketing budgets on everything else are falling, you’re in a good place no matter what the economy is doing.

How did you get the ball rolling on testing in your organization? What are your biggest challenges to create a culture of testing in your organization? Share your triumphs and challenges in the comments section below or post them to our MarketingExperiments Optimization group.

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Google adds more flexibility and intelligence to Analytics and Website Optimizer

October 20th, 2009 7 comments

As I sat in the conference room of building 14 at the Googleplex last week, my excitement about what Google was doing to improve its analytics and testing platforms went through the roof. At the 2009 Partner Summit, Google gave a preview of the new Website Optimizer (GWO) features as well as soon-to-be-launched, feature-packed version 4 of Google Analytics.

So what’s new with GWO? Well, there is not a lot, but the few features Google added to its testing platform are HUGE! For me, two of the most notable updates are:

  1. Management API for the creation and management of experiments outside of the Website Optimizer interface
  2. Daily conversion tracking

The GWO API will allow you to much more easily set up tests and record stats, especially if you are using a content management system or a third-party shopping cart. Basically, you will be able to do almost anything you can do in GWO, but with your own interface.

As for the daily conversion tracking, I have always been one of those people who like to see test results to the minutest detail. Until now, Google has only allowed you to see aggregated stats for the entire testing period.

As of today, we can now see daily conversion rates:

Daily Conversion Rate

This will give us much more intelligence regarding daily conversion swings and subtleties between the performance of experiment combinations. To read more, visit the GWO blog.

Now, I am even more excited about a couple of new features Google Analytics has included in its newest version. My favorites are:

  1. 20 Goals, including brand new engagement goals
  2. Custom alerts
  3. Advanced filters built into report interface

I’m sure many of you have shared my frustration when trying to track more than four goals for one website. Before, we would have to create a duplicate profile of our website just to add goal five, six, seven….

Well, that’s all changed! Google has announced 20 goals for each profile. These will be grouped into four sets of five, but you will be allowed to use the 20 slots however you want.

Screenshot of new 20 goal limit:

More Goals
But it doesn’t stop there. Add on top of that the fact that you will now have the ability to set user engagement goals. And you are no longer limited by a goal being attributed only to a pre-defined conversion page. The new engagement Analytics goals are:

  1. Time on page
  2. Pageviews per visit

Engagement Goals
You will also be able to set custom alerts to be emailed to you. By “custom,” I mean you set the variables however you want. So if I want to know if my website’s New York PPC traffic drops 15%, Google will let me know and I can act accordingly.

Screenshot of custom alerts:

Custom Alerts
Finally, they have added custom filters to the report interface. Sure you could export the data to Excel then sort, filter, and do whatever you wanted to make the data make sense to you. But now, Google has added the flexibility to get a clear and intelligent picture of what’s going on with your website without having to go back and forth between its interface and Excel.

Screenshot of advanced filters:

Advanced Filters
Say I’m looking at my Top Content report and I want to sort by bounce rate to see which pages are performing poorly so I can dedicate new resources for improvements to be made. Previously, I would see many pages with a bounce rate of 100% simply because they just had one or two visits.

Now, I can set the filter to only look at pages with a minimum of 100 visits and a bounce rate of less than 70%. This will allow me to make much more sense out of the heaps of data that Analytics is collecting.

You should be seeing all of these new features and many more appear in your Analytics and Website Optimizer interfaces over the next few weeks. We will be taking advantage of them right away with our research partners.

Check back next month — after we’ve tested some of these new features, we’ll offer suggestions on how you can make the most out of them.

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