Istanbul from the Bosphurus. See the whole set on my photography site.

What Do You Get for $19 Billion?

Mar 11 | Comments (0)

As most of you have heard by now, Facebook recently purchased WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, for $16 billion, plus another $3 billion in retention bonuses. At lunch recently, a few of us talked about why Facebook might spend this kind of money on an app that many of you may not have heard of before the acquisition. The answer to that is both simple and complex.

So what gives? Here are a couple of things to think about. First, Facebook needs to continue to grow its user base and it has traditionally been weakest in the very geographies where WhatsApp is strongest. Second, with nearly half a billion users, WhatsApp presented a strong challenger to Facebook in both the messaging space (a core component of Facebook) and in the mobile space, where Facebook has been playing catch-up for a long time. If nothing else, this acquisition took a significant challenger off the playing board, much like the Instagram acquisition eliminated a significant mobile/photo challenger.

Finally, there is Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to become synonymous with the Internet for as much of the world as possible. Take a look at this article from ReadWriteWeb for a little more insight.

Back to the Good Ole Days™

May 25 | Comments (0)

A couple of weeks ago news of Amy’s Baking Company, a Scottsdale, Ariz. restaurant, broke as the owners showed the world what not to do when it comes to social media.

For background on the story, click here.

This case has been getting a lot of attention, particularly about the owners behavior on social media. The real lesson to learn, though, is that people who are jerks in real-life will likely be jerks online … except more so. Now, this might seem like a trite observation, but if you expand that thought to any kind of behavior (e.g. secretive, oversharing, verbose, etc.) then you can quickly see how not every company is cut out for social media. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Every company can have a successful social media presence, but some may need our help as communication experts to educate them how to behave in public – which could include hiring the right person or team to speak for the company.

The moral of the story is this… in today’s world, digital and real life are THE SAME THING! The best thing we can do is help our clients to start equating the two and to stop thinking about digital (and social media) as something mystical or arcane – or even special. Yes, there are some things that engineers do that you don’t have to learn, like setting up an Apache server and there are certainly best practices for creating content for social media. But, we are all on Facebook (or almost all) and we interact with the digital world every day. Many companies have become very good at not talking to their customers, or only talking to them in controlled settings like press releases, surveys, focus groups, call center scripts and special events. Now it’s back to the Good Ole Days™ when your word was your bond and you had to look your customer in the eye.

There’s nowhere left to hide!

Clicks and Conversions: Measuring Success in Search Marketing

Aug 14 | Comments (0)

Metrics and return on investment are two of the most common topics of conversation in marketing these days, particularly when discussing online marketing. Because every click can be tracked, we are led to believe that we can analyze and optimize our campaigns into the perfect marketing engine. But like most perpetual motion machines, the reality is much murkier.

Setting aside the larger issue of conversions versus impressions and the balance between awareness and sales, there remains the thorny question of what exactly should you measure in your quest for ROI nirvana. At first glance it appears that there is a simple answer — conversions — after all, a conversion is the ultimate goal. Tracking conversions is an important part of the equation (and often a difficult one, particularly with B2B and offline purchase scenarios where the real conversion doesn’t happen online). There are other metrics, however, with which we should be concerned, particularly click-through rates (CTR).

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, why bother tracking the click-through rate of my ads when the conversion is where I make money? After all, it doesn’t matter how many people see my ad or even click on it if they don’t buy my product (or download my white paper). Seems like a reasonable question until you realize that there are many levers to adjust when creating and optimizing an online marketing campaign.

Ideally, a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign will be equally concerned with click-through rate (CTR) and conversion. Obviously, conversion is the metric we all care about the most, but click-through rate plays a key role in the process. In fact, in a well-crafted campaign, there needs to be a balance between the emphasis on CTR and conversion. At the simplest level, the more click-through’s, the more opportunities for conversion. The reality is a bit more complicated than that.

Each conversion begins with a click-through which is dependent on the effectiveness of the ad copy as well as the Quality Score (QS) of the ad (which is determined by Google). The quality score impacts how prominently the ad is placed as well as the cost of the click. One of the key metrics that Google uses for determining the quality score is the click through rate. Therefore a higher CTR directly impacts how much you pay-per-click as well as how prominently the ad is placed. Both of these impact the overall ROI of each conversion, and — since click throughs are the raw material of conversions — it directly impacts the number of opportunities for conversion you have.

Conversions themselves are most impacted by the landing page. The more generic the page the less likely the click-through will result in a conversion. The more you can optimize the landing page for conversion, including reducing the number of distractions (outbound links that are not part of the conversion process) and increasing the relevance of the content to the ad itself, the higher your conversion to click through ratio.

It is certainly possible to choose keywords and ad copy that are optimized for conversion, in other words, higher in specificity which helps drive more qualified leads. Too much emphasis on this approach, however, will negatively impact your quality score and will hurt the overall performance of the campaign.

When we first begin a search marketing campaign for a new client we typically optimize for click through, particularly when it is a new account, because we need to establish authority with Google (in other words, improve the overall quality score so our cost per click and placement are solid). At the beginning of a new campaign, we also work with our clients to define conversion goals and to begin creating and refining optimized landing pages. This process can be challenging as we work to find measurable online conversion points and to connect with offline conversions by integrating with customer relationship management tools. Until conversion goals can be fully defined and accurately measured, it is not possible to get an accurate ROI for the campaign.

That does not mean that you should wait to begin your search marketing campaign until all of the pieces are in place. Measure what you can and improve the process as you go. As you gain more clarity around your conversion goals and have more control over the entire process you can begin to bring more focus to measuring conversion. However, don’t lose sight of the click-through rate as it is an equally important metric for the overall process.

If you are still interested in the details of balancing click-through rates with conversions, the following links from Search Engine Land, one of the leading sources of up-to-date information on search engine marketing, will be helpful in explaining the link between CTR and conversion.

Coke’s new marketing strategy in an amazing video

Apr 25 | Comments (0)

Coca-Cola has posted a video (Part One, Part Two) which details the new approach they are taking with their overall marketing for foreseeable future. This is a remarkable video both for how open they are about the process/plan and for the ideas themselves. This isn't about tactics (although they mention some and you'll want to keep your freeze-frame finger handy), it's about the overall idea of where they want to go with marketing, testing, measurement, etc.

I realize that Coke has what seems like unlimited budgets, cool brands and the best marketing people, but this video shows that even companies like Coke sometimes need to step back and recalibrate.

iPad Magazine Procurement: An Unpleasant Affair

Dec 06 | Comments (0)

Justin Williams of CarpeAqua points out the lameness of most iPad magazine apps, particularly the process for downloading new editions.

"I’m convinced that the people who actually write for magazines, edit them and publish them have never actually tried using their iPad versions for more than a few moments. If they actually did try to use their publication’s app as the actual means to read each issue, things would have to improve. Right?"

Like Justin, I love magazines. My first design job was a magazine and I subscribe to numerous publications. I want to love reading them on my iPad, but the experience just isn't there yet. Of course, the iPad experience is light years better then it is on my Kindle Fire.

There is a huge opportunity for the big publication companies to step up and make better use of the platform.  

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