The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pop Star Mika Offers Web Marketing Advice - Diversify Your Online Marketing Channels

Mika Teaches Web MarketingFor those of you who obsess about what you do for a living (like me) and you are constantly thinking about new ideas related to your business, you’ll definitely understand the angle of this post. You see, I have an uncanny ability to hear music, and on the fly, map that song to something Internet Marketing related. I know, amazing super power, right? :-) It’s hard for me to turn off this super power… Last weekend one of my nieces started playing a song by Mika called Lollipop….hold on, hear me out! So, my uncanny super power kicked in and I couldn’t help but believe that Mika was reaching to out to internet marketers. I have provided the internet marketing translation of a segment of Lollipop below. Click the button to hear a segment of the song and the Glenn Gabe translation will show up.

Diversify Your Online Marketing Channels
I believe it’s easy for a company to fall into the dangerous practice of focusing on a limited number of online marketing channels to support their business. For example, some companies may focus entirely on search (Organic Search and Paid Search revenue). With the dynamic and competitive nature of Paid Search and Google dominated Organic Search, you shouldn’t rely entirely on your search marketing channel to completely support your business. I love search marketing, but what if Google tweaks their algorithm and your rankings drop for a month or two? It could happen. Another example would be relying entirely on your in-house list. Although I believe your in-house email list is one of the strongest assets you can have as a web marketer, you shouldn’t entirely rely on it to support your business. What happens if your current customers start to go elsewhere? What if they simply aren’t buying that month, quarter or year! Again, this happens.

So What Works? How Many Online Marketing Channels are Enough?
The answer to this question completely depends on your specific business, but I can tell you that you should test as many channels as you can to determine their viability. And…test them while your current online marketing channel(s) are humming. You might find that you need to grow your in-house list and that search marketing is the vehicle you will use to accomplish this task. Then you might find that within search marketing, Paid Search yields the most registrants where Organic Search yields the most revenue. Then as you grow you in-house list, you can use email marketing and other communications to build a solid base of revenue per month. You might test Social Media to see how much quality traffic and/or links you can build, which can increase revenue directly (from Social Media traffic) or indirectly (by increasing your link popularity and Organic Search rankings). You might find that banner advertising doesn’t do anything for your business, but that blog advertising does. Then, within blog advertising, you might find that paid bloggers don’t impact revenue, but forming relationships with bloggers in your industry does. You get the gist!

My point is that if you find something that works, but you don’t expand your marketing efforts outside of what works at that point in time, then you are taking a huge long-term risk. Think about it, you probably wouldn’t invest all of your hard earned money in one stock, right? You would probably diversify your investment to lessen your risk. You should follow the same philosophy with online marketing.

A Hypothetical Example
Cookies, Pies and Pastries Inc. (CPPI) launched two years ago and although they have the best homemade pies in the region, their online business has struggled out of the gates. They rely heavily on Organic Search to gain most of their visitors and revenue. Their site has gained a good amount of natural search power since its inception and it ranks for several competitive keywords. They have a small in-house list and most of their customers from search have been one time buyers. They are hitting their revenue goals, but here’s the problem…although Organic Search is a low cost (technically free other than paying for their SEO consultant), search visitors can be extremely transient. Think about it, compare someone who has bought from you in the past versus someone searching for what you provide. There’s a huge difference in the type of visitor, right? Also, your Natural Search rankings might bounce around and you might be on page 1 this week and then on Page 3 the next, only to return to Page 1 a few weeks later. Relying entirely on search traffic isn’t a viable path for CPPI. So, their web marketing consultant recommends that they expand their online marketing efforts to include Paid Search, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM), and other online marketing campaigns (both on-site and off-site) to increase their in-house list. WOM would leverage their current customers to help get the word out about CPPI’s great homemade pies, Paid Search would be used to increase registrants and revenue, and CPPI will test several online marketing campaigns (both on-site and off-site) to increase the size of their in-house email list. In addition, to keep Organic Search moving in the right direction, their consultant believes they should launch a link-building campaign. One idea is to invest in their blog and use Social Media to gain inbound links. I think you get the idea…

This is just an example, but as you can see, there are several ways to help diversify CPPI’s online marketing channels...and hopefully while they are already hitting their revenue goals. Leveraging one or two channels is downright dangerous and if you are like me, you are a contingency nut. If one channel starts losing its power, you don’t want to be in a dire situation…like trying to do everything I listed above in 2 weeks since revenue dropped off a table! :-)

In closing
So, Mika knows more than you thought about Internet Marketing, huh? I was surprised too. ;-) The next time a teenager turns on a new song, keep your ears open and see if there are any good marketing lessons to learn. You never know, maybe Mika’s tour next year will be in front of corporate executives and not teenagers!


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - How HBO is Using Buzz Marketing for a Movie That Hasn’t Been Made on a TV Show That Isn’t Real, Or is It?

HBO Using Buzz Marketing for MedellinTheFilm.comEntourage on HBO
If you have HBO, then chances are you watch Entourage. How can you not love this show, right? It gives you a view into the life of a big time actor in Hollywood and all the craziness that goes along with it. I’ve watched the show since its first episode and I’m glad we started then! For those of you who don’t know Entourage, here’s a quick rundown. Vincent Chase is an up and coming actor (actually a star by now.) He grew up in Queens and brought his buddies out to Hollywood with him (his entourage). You get to follow Vince and his entourage through landing movie deals, spending exorbitant amounts of money, dealing with big time agents, producers, and directors, and encountering all sorts of eclectic folks in Hollywood. In addition, there are many cameos from Hollywood stars, which adds a genuine feel to the show. It’s a fun ride! Watch it if you don’t already…you won’t be disappointed.

HBO Creating Buzz About a Fictional Movie Getting Buzz on the Show, Which Might End Up Creating Enough Buzz to Yield a Real Movie! What?
Phew, now that’s a tough sentence to get out. As part of the storyline, Vince Chase finds a script he loves called Medellin about the notorious drug villain Pablo Escobar. He wants the movie bad enough to buy the script for millions of dollars, ends up as executive producer (along with his buddy named “E”), hires a loose cannon director named Billy, and shoots the movie in South America. As a viewer, you take a journey through the making of a movie, including all of the nail biting situations that real producers go through. You almost start to believe that this is actually going to be a movie… More on this later. As part of the last episode, the trailer for Medellin gets leaked onto YouTube, and the world starts to see the masterpiece (or bomb) that Vince and E produced. By the way, that was on the show, but someone really leaked the trailer on move. I won’t go into the granular details of the episode or storyline, but it’s hilarious to see the behind the scenes moves of agents, producers, directors, and what goes on in Hollywood in general. Again I recommend watching it! So, someone leaked the trailer on YouTube and it started getting a ton of views. Great buzz marketing tactic, right? Was it leaked? Was it a ploy? Who knows, but heck, it’s a TV show!

The (Real) Bzz Marketing Begins…
At the end of the last episode, where you typically watch scenes from the following week, you were hit with what seemed to be the beginning of a movie trailer. I was really surprised… What was this?? It was the trailer for Medellin. Brilliant! We watched it 3 or 4 times, again, starting to get sucked into the real, sorry fictional, world of Entourage. :) At the end of the trailer, they flashed the website URL for the movie, OK, we’re there! There are 30 million subscribers to HBO, so how many people do you think ran to their computers like we did to visit the official website of Medellin? How many people started blogging about it (like I am now)? Digg already has a bunch of stories about it, and I’m sure the original story was from someone at HBO! We first typed and ended up at some weird site that had nothing to do with the show or movie. Then I quickly found a blog post explaining that many people were entering the wrong URL, and that it was actually Again, keep in mind, this is for a fictional show and a movie that’s part of a fictional show… The official site must have received a ton of visitors over the past few days. With one, 90 second trailer at the end of a show, HBO started a craze on the web to find the trailer, the site, and this all generated serious bzz on blogs, forums and social media sites ALL ABOUT A MOVIE THAT’S NOT REAL!

Medellin, The Real Movie?
HBO might generate enough buzz that Medellin the movie could actually get made. Heck, if you were HBO, wouldn’t you create an original film knowing that millions of people are already on board? Wouldn’t it be wild if Vince Chase stars in the movie? Remember, there is no Vince Chase…he’s a character in Entourage. Confused?

In closing…
I believe there’s a lot to learn about Buzz Marketing and Amplified WOM from this example. Leave it to HBO get people buzzing about a movie that hasn’t even been shot yet! ...And all on a TV show that walks a fine line between fact and fiction, and with real, I mean fictional characters, agents, and directors in the wonderful world of Hollywood.

It’s amazing to see how 90 seconds can light a fire under so many people. Is there another medium, other than the web, that could drive buzz like this? I don’t think so…and it's why I love what I do. :)

My final thoughts for Entourage fans:
Keep watching Entourage, try to find your own Ari Gold, root for Drama because there's no hope, laugh at Turtle so HBO keeps him on the show, be as bold as E, and eat up risk like Vince Chase…all from the comfort of your own home!

It’s not TV, it’s HBO. :)


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Friday, July 06, 2007

Multivariate Testing with Google Website Optimizer – Increase Conversion Rate and Take Guesswork Out of the Equation

Multivariate Testing Using Google Website OptimizerWebsite and campaign optimization has become an extremely hot area of web marketing recently. My guess is that you’ve heard the terms split testing, A/B testing, multivariate testing, Taguchi method, etc. thrown around on blogs and at conferences recently. What do these terms mean?? They all refer to the concept of scientifically testing your marketing campaigns in order to increase conversion (whether that’s increasing sales, downloading a whitepaper, filling out a contact form, subscribing to your RSS feed, etc.) This post is intended to be an introduction to multivariate testing using Google’s free optimization tool called Google Website Optimizer. I’ll explain more about it a little later on.

Let’s start with a quick definition of multivariate testing:
Multivariate testing enables you to test several components of a website to determine the optimal combination for increasing conversion. But unlike a traditional split test, which tests one creative versus another, multivariate testing enables you to test the combination of elements on a page and then will determine the optimal combination of those elements for increasing conversion.

Here’s a quick example:
Let’s say you are running a paid search campaign and you have set up a landing page specifically for your paid search visitors. The page currently converts at .75%. You’re not thrilled… In addition, your analytics package shows that you have a 60% bounce rate on the landing page. Again, you’re not thrilled. With multivariate testing, you can take that landing page and then determine key components of the page that you would like to test in order to increase conversion. For example, you might want to test the header graphic, the headline, and a call to action on the page. So, you have 3 components (or page sections) to test and then you can create multiple versions of each component. Let’s say you tested 4 versions of each component, which would mean that you have 81 possible combinations of elements. Your testing application would automatically change the content for different visitors and then measure the effectiveness of each element and the combination of elements. Cool, right? Note, the more components you test and more versions of components will extend the length of your test. There needs to be statistical significance in order to accurately determine the best combination of elements.

Enter Google Website Optimizer:
There are several tools on the market to help you with multivariate testing, including Offermatica and Optimost (probably the most popular services.) However, you might want to consider a great starter application before diving into the more complex applications listed above. That’s where Google Website Optimizer comes in. It’s Google’s free optimization tool that does a great job with basic multivariate testing. It’s a great way to start your in-house testing program. Heck, it’s free! I’ll take you through a quick example below.

A Real World Example, Step by Step:
One of my clients sells software (B2B) and they noticed a lot of people visiting the demo page, which also has customer testimonials as part of the page. After utilizing their web analytics package to analyze the past few months of activity, I could clearly see that visitors weren’t taking the next step and clicking the call to action to buy the software from the page. So, to increase conversion, we decided to use multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer.

Here is what I did and how it worked:

1. I broke down the demo page into the core components we wanted to test. This ended up being the header graphic, the headline, and 2 calls to action (one at the top of the page and one below the fold). Note that mapping out your test is probably the toughest part since if you test the wrong components, then you probably won’t achieve your goals. :-) I recommend including everyone at this stage, including the designers, the marketing group, your VP, developers, etc. You don’t have to take everyone’s recommendation, but it typically gives you a good view of the possibilities.

2. Access Google Website Optimizer, which can be found in your AdWords account under campaign management. Create a new experiment and follow the steps for setting up your experiment. There are 5 steps and I briefly touch on each of them below.

3. Click the button for identifying your experiment pages. This will include the page you are testing and the conversion page.

4. Name your experiment and locate your test page and conversion page.

5. The second step (at least in Google Website Optimizer) is to plan your experiment. I briefly explained my client’s experiment above, but this is the step where you figure out which components to test in order to increase conversion. I determined that the header graphic, the headline and 2 calls to action would be the components to test and that we would test 3 different versions of each (giving us 81 possible combinations).

6. Add the JavaScript tags to both the test page and the conversion page. Google gives you detailed instructions for doing this, so I won’t add each step of accomplishing this task. Basically, you’ll be adding some JavaScript to each page and then identifying the unique sections of your page that you will be testing. Once you identify a section, such as the headline, then you will add specific JavaScript so Google Website Optimizer can swap out content on the fly for testing purposes. If you are familiar with HTML and JavaScript, this process is fairly simple. If you aren’t familiar with HTML and JavaScript, then have a developer help you.

7. Then you can click “Check tags on page” once they are uploaded and Google will automatically check them for you. A nice feature…Note, you can also check local pages, if needed by browsing your computer for the webpages.

8. Now is the fun part. You will create the different versions of each component. Don’t be shy here…make sure each version is significantly different or your results may not tell you anything! Remember, we are testing conversion, not how pretty something is. To me, I love this part of website testing. Why? Because it’s sometimes the ugliest component that pulls the best response. Nothing drives designers crazier that showing them an ugly element that converted twice the rate of the prettiest graphic. :-) And remember you are always starting with the original page and elements as a comparison.

9. Once you create and enter each variation for your test components, then you can preview the experiment. You can also tell Google Website Optimizer how much traffic to use for the test. For example, 50% of the traffic to the page, 75%, or 100% of the traffic. You can determine this, based on your exact experiment.

10. Preview your experiment. Having 4 components and 3 variations of each component yields 81 possible combinations. And, Google Website Optimizer enables you to view each combination in a slick preview screen. You can use dropdowns to select each combination or specific versions of each component. **Note, if you see something wrong, change it now. Close out the preview and click the back button to re-edit your versions. If you go live with the experiment, you will NOT be able to change the component versions.

11. When you are ready and everything looks perfect, simply click the Launch Now button to start your test. Now all you need is traffic. :-O By the way, you should start with a page that gets a lot of traffic. In order to scientifically determine which combination of elements works best, you need enough traffic to thoroughly test all of the combinations. The more components and variations you have, the more traffic and time you will need.

Go have a snack, grab lunch, hit the local bar, or wherever you want to boast about the multivariate test you just set up. :-) Check back a few hours later and you can start to review the reporting for your experiment. I plan to write a post that extensively covers the reporting in Google Website Optimizer, but in a nutshell, you can see the following statistics:

Under the Combinations Tab:
* which combinations are performing the best
* which combinations are performing the worst
* each combination’s chance of beating the original
* each combination’s chance of beating the other combinations
* observed improvement over the original
* conversions per visitor

Under the Page Sections Tab:
* the estimated conversion rate for each element within each component
* each variation’s chance of beating the original
* each variation’s chance of beating the other combinations
* observed improvement over the original
* conversions per visitor
* section relevance rating, which basically tells you how important variations in that section are to the overall experiment.

The results of my experiment:
And why I love multivariate testing…we never would have picked the combination that pulled the best response.

1. A header graphic that was relatively cluttered from a design standpoint, but one that builds credibility, performed the best. Needless to say, the designers never would have chosen this header. :-)

2. All 3 of the headlines performed well. The original actually performed better than the rest, but not much better…

3. A simple call to action (as compared to the other variations) performed the best at the top of the page.

4. For the lengthier call to action below the fold, a conversational call to action performed the best. This played on the fact that if you actually got down to the second call (below the fold), then you probably went through most of the content on the page.

Taking Action:
Based on the multivariate test, the optimal combination (out of 81 possible combinations) showed a 60% observed improvement over the original. So we reviewed the results and recently implemented the winning combination.

In Closing…
I hope this post helped you understand what multivariate testing is, how you can use it, and leaves you wanting to set up your first experiment. What I like best about scientific marketing is that you take opinion out of the equation (or mostly out of the equation). If your VP loves one piece of creative and you believe it’s not the right one…test it! It’s hard to argue with real data…and the reporting can act as nice buffer, which will help you keep your job! ;-)


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