I get hit up by recruiters 3-5 times a week. I usually share the positions with a close network of friends.
I took a break from writing 3 years ago after ClickEquations was sold. It was easier to keep up with articles as a B2B marketer where content is part of the job description. I’ve been reading and tweeting, but an update was due.
After Channel Intelligence acquired us, I decided it was time to make 2 big changes: move to New York and switch to B2C marketing. Philly is a great starter city, but the options for a career in digital marketing are limited. After 8 years in the same place, 4 years at the same company, and an acquisition, it seemed like a natural break personally and professionally.
I moved during Hurricane Irene, quickly dropping all of my plans to catch the only Amtrak out of town, and started a job at H.Bloom — makers of lovely flowers for businesses and consumers.
Last January, I took a new position at Seamless handling digital on the customer acquisition team. It was a big change in a lot of ways. I had been mostly working as a team of one for 6 years. My roles were largely that of a generalist. I had reported into CEO’s the entire time and never had a team.
It was also a company size change. When I joined, Seamless was around 300 people. It was the middle of the busy season (winter), and the start of a fast trajectory. In the year and a half since I’ve been there, we merged with GrubHub, combined teams, and had an IPO. The company is a blast to work for and I’ve grown tremendously as both a marketer and team member, due in no small part to a supportive team of smart marketers and excellent leadership.
New York has been what I expected and more. There’s a palpable difference in the quantity and quality of ideas and professionals here. If it works in New York, it usually works elsewhere. Not a lot works in New York. That distinct combination births a fascinating number of choices, at a speed that accomplishes in 1 year what often happens elsewhere in 5 or 10.
Professionally, I keep my feet in both waters — growth companies and startups. The startup scene is fascinating to follow, but being at a growth company has helped me expand my skillset with resource and opportunities that smaller companies can’t provide. I still enjoy testing every possible new service and app that comes out, so much so that even the Genius Bar employee was shocked at how many apps I had downloaded.
I’ll write, less so, but hopefully with better quality. I spend time in the marketing community, but less so, also hopefully with better quality. If you’d like to say hi, send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve had a lot of positions at my current company (ClickEquations, formerly Commerce360), but one of the ones I most enjoyed was a multivariate testing project I did with a large entertainment provider.
In preparing for the project, I read a ton about testing, what to test, past tests that worked, etc. There is no shortage of information about what to test or how to test it (see. www.WhichTestWon.com, for example).
What surprised me about the experience was that very little time was spent talking about the most important elements of a successful test: people.
Specifically, the people you need to help you with a test.
CRO & Big Companies
If you manage your own website, launching a test happens in an afternoon and you’re making the calls. If you’re heading up a conversion rate project for a website with hundreds of thousands of visitors a day, it quickly becomes a project convincing people to help you test with some conversion rate optimization attached.
That was the case for the company I worked with, as it was one of their first forays into testing. Getting momentum required buy-in from several key stakeholders:
- Champion – We had an awesome internal advocate who prioritized the project and rallied the troops. He served as the central point of contact to coral everything on the client side while my coworker (the account manager) and I got to focus on the testing.
- Executive Sponsorship – The client had to lay out money for both software (we used SiteSpect) and our consulting fees. Working on our project also meant diverting hours for contributing departments (see below) from other projects to testing.
- Development Buy-In – Every testing project involves some changes to your site in one way or another: DNS changes, tags in footers, Mboxes, etc. The bigger the site, the more cautious the IT and development team. You need to get in their sprint cycle. I recommend you choose a technology that allows you to ask for help from development once and then permits changes on the fly afterward.
- Creative – Someone has to create all of those test variations and in bigger companies, they generally have to be sensitive to brand guidelines or other restrictions. More importantly, you need an ally on the creative team who is will to let you butcher their work and possibly test something that, from a design perspective, they may not necessarily agree with.
- Analytics – Chances are, there is already someone in the company doing analytics or, as was the case for my client, statistics. You’re going to need access to analytics data to design an effective test and they might even review it with you.
Converstion Team Optimization
Testing can fundamentally change how a business operates and where decision making power lies. It also involves new and different business processes. That is to say, testing means change. People, especially bigger companies, are often slow to change.
In my experience, a great Champion and Executive Sponsor set the tone for the rest of the team. They approve budgets, timelines and the allocation of resources. A great process and communication help win over the rest of the team, but that’s for another blog post.
We’ve all had that moment. You know, the one where a friend leans across the table and discreetly whispers “You’ve got something in your teeth.” Instinctively, you cover your mouth and scurry off to the bathroom to fix the problem. A flipbook of social interactions races past and you wonder how many people you talked to while that piece of spinach stole the show and undermined your credibility.
As it turns out, while I’ve been yapping on about paid search and web analytics, there’s been a big, old piece of digital spinach stuck in my blog: malware.
Both Phil Pearce (blog) and Nick Stees contacted me to let me know they got a malware warning when from AVG, a security program, when they tried to read my site. Instead of my mildly entertaining insights, they were greeted by a big, ugly warning sign screaming: Run Away!
(click to enlarge)
Not exactly the welcome mat, right?
Removing The Malware
Among his many useful tips, Phil pointed me in the direction of Sucuri. They bill themselves as a “provider of web-based integrity monitoring and malware detection solutions.” Or, more amusingly, “In simple terms, we clean up the mess. If your site got hacked, blacklisted or infected with malware, we fix it for you. If your site is clean, we monitor it to let you know if a problem ever happens.” I can personally back up their claim. My site was cleaned within 30 minutes of submitting my ticket, all for $10.
Until this incident, I never know Sucuri even existed and only had a vague familiarity with site monitoring and maintenance tools. It’s a bit like traveler’s insurance: you only really pay attention after you lose your luggage.
I’ll leave the details of how my site got infected and the potential defenses to the long list of tips Phil generously shared (included below). The larger point here is that when we think of measurement, we usually focus on marketing and site experience. Most of our analysis includes metrics that are easily accessible in our web analytics tool and generally understood. Even qualitative data focuses on site level and page level surveys.
But what happens if someone can’t get to your site? You may notice a dip in traffic, but if the segment isn’t big enough, you may not. That was certainly the case with me. I only learned about the problem, because two kind souls followed me on Twitter and took the time to reach out. How many more had an issue before I discovered it? What was the hit to my credibility? I’ll never know.
I took away two lessons:
- If you own the site experience, as a marketer or web analyst, you’re also directly or indirectly responsible for site uptime and security. Typically, this belongs to the realm of IT or webmasters. But, we can empower ourselves with our own tools, like Sucuri, to get alerts before issues spread to epidemics.
- Being easily accessible is valuable. A small number of people would ever both to take the time to track me down and help me with my site. It would have been virtually impossible for them to do that if I wasn’t public (on Twitter as DigitalAlex), participating in the conversation and welcoming of contact (I put my phone number and email address on my profile).
On a final note: My apologies if anyone experienced issues after visiting my site. I’ll try to keep the damage to bad analogies.
Phil’s Tips and Links
You can also try the malware scanner on this site – it can verify the WordPress install is secure – once you have restored from backup (requires login)
WordPress Malware & Media Temple
- Backing up and restoring a MySQL database: http://kb.mediatemple.net/questions/129/
- Hardening WordPress and checking for exploits: http://wiki.mediatemple.net/w/Hardening_Wordpress
- Working with a hacked or compromised server: http://kb.mediatemple.net/questions/1577/
- WordPress Backups: http://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Backups
- Database Users on the (gs) Grid-Service: http://kb.mediatemple.net/questions/1650/
- WordPress support - http://wordpress.org/support/topic/421834
WordPress Invisibile Administrator Hack (aka JohnnyA)
- How To Fix WordPress Invisible Administrator Attack – http://www.thinkerati.com/whiterabbit/seo-and-online-marketing/wordpress-invisible-administrator-hack/
- WordPress Permalink Hack – http://www.studionashvegas.com/wordpress/latest-wordpress-hack-check-your-permalinks-people/
Paul Adams is a user experience research at Google. He recently gave a speech outlining research by Google and others into how people connect with each other and what that means for the internet.
It’s easy to follow, persuasive and, most importantly, not about technology. It’s about persistent facts about how people behave and what that means for designers (his audience) and marketers (my audience).
It’s a long read, but well worth the time: The Real Life Social Network v2
Google does not make money from organic search. It’s simply content they need to monetize like any publisher.
As with all publishers, their goal is to maximize revenue by:
- Increasing market share
- Improving user loyalty and product usage
- Monetizing users more effectively
In the past few years, Google has made significant improvements in the relevance of their organic search results (content) by introducing Universal Search – the integration of new types of content such as video and product listings directly into search results.
While those changes occurred, PPC ads have largely remained text only. It’s possible that as universal search has gone mainstream, clicks on paid search ads may have suffered. Something had to give.
The Text Ad Revolution
As I noted in my post 2009: The Year AdWords Attacked Organic Search, Google made a series of changes, some rather dramatic, to their once staid text ads last year.
- February 20, 2009 – Updated Display URL Policy
- March 4, 2009 – Expandable Rich Media Ads on the Content Network (beta)
- March 11, 2009 – Interest Based User Targeting on the Content Network (beta)
- May 14, 2009 – Google Loosens Their Trademark Restrictions
- July 24, 2009 – Local Extensions for Local Business Ads
- August 6, 2009 – Google Moves Paid Ads Closer to Organic Listings
- September 17, 2009 – The DoubleClick Ad Exchange is Integrated on the Content Network
- October 29, 2009 – New AdWords Comparison Ads
- November 3, 2009 – Ad Sitelinks in AdWords
- November 11th and 24, 2009 – Product Extensions Open to All
These changes largely fall under Google’s AdWords New Ad Formats Initiative. When I was at SES Chicago, I asked Devin Sandoz, Product Marketing Manager for AdWords, about the guiding principles behind the initiative. He pointed to the evolution of organic search results as the model for the initiative.
Google is playing with the visual balance between organic and paid search to balance user satisfaction and the average revenue per click/SERP. Any combination of images, videos, PlusBoxes, icons, product listings and multiple text ad links can now appear mixed in with paid search ads.
And this is only the beginning.
2010: The Year of Universal Paid Search
2010 will be the year of what I’m naming Universal Paid Search – the evolution of online advertising served to searchers on Google and across the web.
Universal Paid Search will be driven by 4 major trends:
- Increased Ad Diversity
- Moving Beyond Clickthrough Rate
- Personalized Text Ads
- Search Retargeting with Display
Increased Ad Diversity
Text ads will continue to dominate most search results. However, we’ll see a greater percentage of SERPs with new ad formats and ad extensions blended into text ads, specifically:
- Product listings ads
- Product listing extensions
- Comparative Ads
- Ad sitelinks
The conditions that trigger comparative ad and ad sitelinks are somewhat limited. It’s more likely, then, that product listing ads and extensions will be the first step in increased ad diversity.
Click to Enlarge
New ad formats are more disruptive than ad extensions, so I expect that Google be more liberal with their beta tests for ad extensions. These often come in the form of their PlusBox. For example, rich media ads were introduced to the Content Network through the PlusBox earlier this year. As this analysis shows, the presence of PlusBox does increase clickthrough rates.
Click to Enlarge
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see video ads wade into the waters through the PlusBox. They’ve already tested these out in the entertainment area. PlusBox could also help recoup some of the massive drop in search spending within the pharmaceutical industry by adding a place for fair balance.
This post originally appeared on SEOMoz.
Referenceable content is the holy grail of online communities. People talk about it, comment on it, link to it, tweet it and visit it over and over again. In a world full of chatter, it sets you apart as an authoritative voice.
Creating referenceable content is an art. Measuring it, however, can be more of a science.
Using the Google Analytics top content report, I’m going show you how two methods to identify content that your audience loves.
What Behaviors Matter?
Referenceable content is addictive and it drives audience loyalty. Metrics wise, this means people who:
- Visit repeatedly
- Bookmark your content
You can get a quick snapshot of the top content for your returning visitors by visiting the Top Content report in Google Analytics and selecting “Returning Visitors” from the Advanced Segments drop down in the top right:
Easier Analysis with Pivot Tables
It’s sometimes useful to compare how much a particular piece of content drives new vs. repeat visitation. You can do this by selecting the New Visitors segment as well, but this creates a difficult to read report.
Instead, try this:
- Go to Top Content
- Select the Pivot Table view (the last one on the right)
- Pivot by Visitor Type
- Pick “Unique Pageviews” from the “Showing” menu
- Sort by Unique Pageviews in the Returning Visitor Column
The result will look like this (click to enlarge):
You can now clearly see the overall top content for Repeat Visitors next to New Visitors.
Segmenting Content by Source
You can further pivot the data by traffic source or medium (use the drop down next to Page), but I find the result difficult to interpret.
Instead, I think it’s easier to drill down into Top Content reports for individual mediums, in particular Direct Traffic and Organic Search.
Let’s take Direct Traffic to start:
- Open Traffic Sources
- Click on Direct Traffic
- Select Landing Page from the drop down below the Site Usage tab
- Choose the Pivot View
- Pivot by Visitor Type
The report will look like this (click to enlarge):
You can follow the same steps to see the landing pages the drive repeat traffic from Organic Search. I recommend you also add the organic keyword into the mix. Pick the “Keyword” from the second drop down above the list of pages:
Promote The Content People Love!
Now that you have a list of content that drives repeat visitors, promote this “best of” content across your site, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. Raise the profile of your most important content to increase loyalty and attract links.
A Note on Bookmark Tracking Google Analytics
Bookmarks are a common way for users to access your most useful content. Most people (myself included) think that Google Analytics tracks bookmark visits with Direct Traffic.
As Justin Cutroni points out in this video and companion post, they’re actually attributed to whatever traffic source is in the Google Analytics cookie (which I believe is always the last source).
This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch, where I will be a (semi-regular) contributor
You can’t make money in web analytics just by looking at reports.” With that, SES Advisor and New York Times bestselling author Bryan Eisenberg set the stage for the state of analysis in search marketing.
As budgets flow from offline to online, they’re moving disproportionately to search. Search has always excelled at accountability, but as the spend increases the bar is being raised.
We all have and know what web analytics are. Data quantity isn’t the issue, action quantity is.
Matt Bailey (SiteLogic) summed it up perfectly with the word “velleity”. It means “the desire to do something, but not enough of a desire to take action.” It describes the feeling of marketers who have been burnt by reporting that isn’t actionable.
Over the course of the Analytics, Conversion and Attribution sessions during the first day at SES Chicago, the speakers each addressed three of the core challenges in fighting velleity and taking action on your data:
Web analytics has come a long way from the days of log file analyzers used by the IT department. Naturally, people tend to want to make tools bigger, faster and more complicated, however “if you have a tool, everything looks like a nail,” says Jim Sterne of eMetrics and the Web Analytics Association.
The problem is “what should I look at?” and “what do you actually analyze?”
Jim suggests you bucket and prioritize 4 ways
- Revenue that is at risk
- Anything the boss’s boss’s boss asks for
- Requests that do not overwhelm the department
- Analysis that requires an analyst rather than simply being self-served
Your job is to find a specific process and optimize that, for example a shopping cart, experience from a search campaign or lead generation page. Go to your data and ask “How can you help me optimize the process?”
In another session, Jim reminded us that traditional web analytics tools tell you “where the problem is and which one is most significant at the moment.” To really understand why, you have to augment those tools with usability testing and surveys.
In a nod to his upcoming book, Jim also shared a framework for prioritizing analysis for one of the most discussed topics at the conference–social media:
- Reach – How many people could possibly see my message (blog mentions x blog readers)
- Frequency – How often is my message being discussed, ex: comments on a blog post
- Influence – The more authority the author, the bigger the halo effect and potential viral spread
- Sentiment – Having lots of people talk about you is great… unless they say bad things. The tools aren’t great yet, so hire interns.
- Outcomes – Did they take the action you wanted them to?
Of course, even if you prioritize your analysis, there is no such thing as an average user. People who come to your website aren’t looking for the exact same thing. They all have different needs and wants. We can’t treat visitors the same. Unique visitors aren’t all the same. Segmentation matters. We have to look at what people wanted when they came to the site.
But, as Matt Bailey (SiteLogic) says “analytics dashboards tend to be as usable as Ikea furniture instructions.” The cure for dashboards that suffer from average-itis is to segment.
Matt shared his 7 favorite tips:
- Create Keyword Buckets “Segments” – Start with the big buckets, e.g. digital cameras and then develop smaller buckets, e.g. digital cameras, professional digital cameras, etc.
- Segment Based On Acquisition (Channels) – Ask “which source is bringing the best traffic?” Matt shared an interesting a pattern that drives engagement: the more engaged a visitor was with a message about your company or product before they got to your site, the more likely they’ll be engaged after. Twitter is at the bottom of the this inverted pyramid: Blogs & Articles, YouTube, Forums, Search, Social News and Twitter.
- Segment Your Bounce Rates – Typically if it’s high, it’s a word that means something totally different in another industry. You have to look at the context. Sometimes it’s not just their intent, sometimes it’s your design (ex: Fluid width design on a large screen monitor)
- Segment Your Content - Divide your analysis by Persuasive pages (which ones drive conversions), entry pages, time on page and search behavior
- Segment Behavior – Divide the behavior on your site, but make it more accessible by giving the data friendly names for the audience your presenting to (ex: someone with “O” in their title would understand)
- Segment Entry Points – You could have the right ranking on the wrong page
- Take Action – After you segment, take some action!
In his 21 Secrets of Top Converting Websites (which he will deliver as the keynote of SES London), Bryan emphasized how important it is to also analyze trends by segments in search. For example, focus on “what’s changed” reports of keywords that are rising and falling the fastest by CPC or Revenue, instead of just analyzing the top 10.
Of course, prioritization and segmentation are both part of a larger web analytics process. As Bryan reminded us, “to do web analytics correctly, you have to make a to do list regularly.” An actionable list addresses:
- What marketing efforts or parts of your site have challenges
- What you think needs to be improved
- What things you want to test
- What efforts you should do less of
- What efforts you should do more of
The core of an actionable web analytics process is data driven decision making. Nothing does that better than testing, using the tools that fit your questions and budget:
- Google Website Optimizer for A/B and Multivariate Testing (free)
- Monetate for onsite behavioral target (paid)
- UserTesting.com for usability reviews (paid)
- 5 Second Test for quick voice of the customer (free)
Part of a successful process is optimizing for your conversion rate, which often hovers around 2%. Dr. Phil Mui challenged us to expand by process by asking “How do you measure success for the rest of the 98%?”
First, map out the micro-conversions that fall into that 98% for you business type, for example:
- Ecommerce – product research account signups, contact us
- Non-profits – volunteer leads, promotion of the cause
- Video Sites – Account registration, newsletter signups, premiums account signups
- Blogs – Links to your blog, comments on your posts
It’s also important that you optimize holistically in your process. Don’t just test elements on your landing page; also test which landing page choice makes sense, for example: a category page vs. a product page.
You can’t forget to test what people see before they get to your site. Optimize search creatives for conversion. Test multiple ads and measure which one drove conversion.
Regardless of the tools and process you use, the message every speaker conveyed is that more action is better than more data, so measure, focus, optimize and repeat.
That’s the realm of predictive analytics, a little covered topic in the measurement community. I interviewed Dr. Eric Siegel, President of Prediction Impact, to introduce the topic, explain its role in search marketing and talk about the upcoming Predictive Analytics World conference (PS: use the exclusive discount code ALEXCODC09 to get 15% off a 2 day pass))
Can You Briefly Define Predictive Analytics?
Predictive analytics is business intelligence technology that produces a predictive score for each customer or prospect. Assigning these predictive scores is the job of a predictive model which has, in turn, been trained over your data, learning from the experience of your organization.
Predictive analytics optimizes marketing campaigns and website behavior to increase customer responses, conversions and clicks, and to decrease churn. Each customer’s predictive score informs actions to be taken with that customer. Business intelligence just doesn’t get more actionable than that.
Who is Using Predictive Analytics in Search Marketing Today? How?
Yahoo! was reported as using predictive analytics to select website content most suited (personalized) to each user — i.e., most likely to elicit a response, although I am not certain if this applies within their search product specifically.
Google is in the game, as covered in this Predictive Analytics World case study last February:
Predicting Bounce Rates in Sponsored Search Advertisements [PDF]
Social networking giants are targeting ads analytically: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/technology/18myspace.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
One “killer application” of predictive analytics for search is to dynamically select the landing page most likely to lead to conversion, based on what is known about the visitor the moment they first come (cookies, search string, time of day, geographical location, etc.). More generally, the business applications surveyed in the article I link to below will provide value for most business conducting search optimization.
What Tools Can Help Search Marketers Use Predictive Analytics?
Applying predictive analytics always starts with expertise. If your organization has not yet established internal competency, a good place to start is a training program, plus enlisting professional services to get you started.
The choice of tool can be made at a later stage in the process; there are a large number of options, and the choice often depends on many factors determined only the project has begun. That is to say, this is a hard question to answer – let’s hear how the vendors would address this (readily accessible at PAW’s expo).