Author: Rob Watts

Playing With Attribution Modelling and Getting Aha moments

One of the great things about working for yourself is that subject to resource you can virtually do what you like.

I spend far too many hours messing around with what I’ve learnt over the years and applying aspects that will offer limited return. I guess I do it because it’s fun and it sates a curiosity and if I’m really lucky it sometimes causes me to stumble on something of real value.

We all read mountains of stuff about conversions and attribution and the challenges faced in matching up the various channels to their respective ROI pots. People will naturally gravitate to positions that effectively back up the department for which they’re responsible for, so it’s no surprise to read all manner of conflicting viewpoints that make the case for the relative efficacy of channel a or tactic b.

The best way to understand things is of course to pull them all apart and put them back together again, often in the wrong places just to see what happens. Record the results and draw a few conclusions. Rinse repeat until you’re bored or until you’re happy with what you have.

Much of today’s analytics suites are built around cookies and a bit of embedded script on a page somewhere. For those who don’t know ( and I suspect a few of you reading this will so apols to you guys)  when we view a web page on a device the web server has access to a number of environment variables. Not every web page utilises all these as they’re too much hassle (for most) to code into their projects and for most, analytics pages like GA or Omniture are as good if not better for what they need.

Attribution modelling is pretty much covered in most analytics packages but as referenced above it’s all about the set up of the funnel and the interpretation of results. What message you need and who you need to tailor it to. SEO is an amazing channel and it’s no surprise that Google for example, systematically seek to disassemble the ease of measurement whilst introducing new features at the same time. It’s pretty easy to lose people in technical theory; especially if we don’t all speak with the same understandings.   HSTS super cookies, super cookies, cross domain tracking, cross device tracking cookies are just a few examples that most folk will struggle with conceptually.

Anyways, I’ve gone off track a wee bit, so apologies…

So, what have I been playing with and how is it of use potentially?

If we have a big domain with lots of users who come to our site and buy or use and then go away and come back again then we can pretty much begin to measure what they are doing, frequency, visitor length, page views and all the standard stuff that analytics packages will tell us.

1000’s of domains don’t have user accounts and for ecommerce sites  especially, this is a huge lost opportunity.  Check out systems are rightly cautious in enabling folk to purchase without the need for an account (it’s easier to convert folk from the purchase email anyway; incentives etc)

If we have users who are account holders and who return frequently, then we can begin to model behaviour and do a whole lot more useful stuff with tracking.

If we record (locally) specific details about the devices used along with environment variables such as screen, color depth, resolution, IP addresses used, referers, mouse behaviours, GEO data and all those things that are unique to them, then  can we not begin to model the behaviours of those who aren’t logged in displaying similar behaviours  also and begin to assign them to user type pots perhaps? Yes we can.

We might for example, know that user A (lets call him John) originally turned up from Google and he landed on a page that sold Triumph Rocket Touring Back rests.

A very specific page with words relevant to backrest , Triumph, Rocket and Touring. All of the meta and page data, urls etc were pretty tight in terms of KW accuracy so, despite Google hogging all of the query data for themselves we could pretty much determine that John searched Google for a Triumph Touring Back rest or at least a subtle variation.

We can assume That John either went straight to Google himself or that someone suggested he search on Google . Whatever way it’s diced, we know that he came from Google and he used his iPhone to do so.

He didn’t purchase though and we didn’t know who he was. He was at work on their wifi and he wasn’t ready to commit to the purchase as he was in research mode. He looked again on the way home this time on the train, from an edge or 3G connection as he hurtled through the burbs on his way home.

Later that day when he he got home he opened his iPad and he searched Google again or maybe he used the link that he emailed from his phone earlier and went straight to the page. His wife meanwhile was sat on her Mac or PC even. John talked to her about how his back hurt and he wanted a backrest for his bike. John’s wife’s a bit of a bossy boots so asked him to ping her the link via iMessage. The page looked amazing on her retina screen super expensive Mac and after much interrogation, she agrees that it’s a good purchase decision.  Great says John and proceeds to make the purchase on the Mac.

The vendor some days later is looking at the purchases and tracking who came from where and what. He sees this isolated purchase that came from a Mac. One page view of the product and a purchase within seconds. No dilly dallying at all. He sees that the credit card info was from Mrs P Whatsherface (the details stored in John’s wife’s digital wallet)

On the face of things, the vendor has no real way of determining who to attribute the sale to. His ill configured analytics package, attributes it to the direct visitor pot and the vendor concludes that it was either from WOM or that amazeballs local motorcycle magazine campaign he paid extortionate money for just days prior. After all, he sees quite a few of these so they must be from his offline marketing efforts.

In any case, he’s kind of happy, he’s made a sale. He’s even going to renew his motorcycle magazine advert as maybe it’s working well after all. 50 sales of this type already this month…

Meanwhile, the day after, John is on the train to work. He’s on his iPhone again, fiddling around, going through emails and reads the follow up email about his back rest purchase. He clicks the link excitedly and logs in to this account on the motorcycle vendors website. He has a little browse and he’s off again.

So, what can we deduce from this little story? What lessons are there for the vendor?

At John’s first visit from his iPhone, the vendors server or analytics package should have segmented John’s visit in to a pot or database and recorded the various aspects relative to iPaddress, device type, referer, length of stay.

It would have dropped a little cookie too.

When John then returned whilst on the train it could have began to have matched some of this data, it could have seen the cookie and said aha!

It might have noticed the different IP addresses and said aha again!

It might even have noted the different ISP’s and GEO locational stuff and said aha again and then it could have seen those Mac purchase variables and concluded something different entirely.

It could have learnt that there was a whole pre purchase journey that did indeed start with Google and that when it ran a similar back reference model across a multitude of similar purchases that there were similar behaviours.

He’d have saved a small fortune on that crappy motorcycle mag ad also.

So, this is what I’m doing at the moment. Playing with these kinds of factors and seeking to create pots or tables that record specific user and device behaviour and record the various aspects of what they get up to.  I’m in danger of making this a TL;DR post so I’ll shut up for now, but if you’re interested in some of the specifics of how it might work or indeed, if you have any ideas yourself then I’m all ears.

Facebook has enormous power in this regard, but that’s a post for another day perhaps.

Moral of the story? Create accounts, convert your visitors and track everything and analyse retrospectively too.

 

How easy is it to determine a good or a bad link?

Is that a Good Link or a Bad Link?

I played with a new tool this morning. It was some kind of link evaluation tool.

It purported to tell you whether a link from a URL was good or bad or somewhere in the middle.

Cool, I thought.

So I gave it a go and popped in 6 URL’s. All came up with wildly wacky results, all were deemed to be spam, all suggested I should do something funny with them and run away screaming.

Haha.

Continue reading

Buying and Selling Links to Rank on Google in 2013

Everyone buys and sells links

So, if buying links that pass Page Rank is against Google’s terms of service and to do so means a potential ding to your rankings what should you do? Not buy links?

But wait, what IS buying links exactly? Where is the line drawn?

Are the links that came about due to the hours of research put in to a piece that investigated or highlighted common interest piece {topic}, bought links, or are they free earned links?

It’s a serious question.

Continue reading

Slapped with a bouquet of barbed links

Spam spam spam!

I was going to say something about Interflora but It’s pretty much been said by virtually the whole SEO world now so I won’t but I will talk about various issues arising as there’s always value in pulling that apart.

In terms of penalties, of the 10’s of 1000’s of brands one or two brands getting dinged every 8 months or so is hardly earth shattering (unless you’re the brand of course) but imagine if Google dinged a brand every week or other week?

What then?

Today, the scale of Google being spammed across most verticals by brands of all descriptions is HUGE.

Few brands ranking in Google today for 100’s or 1000’s of keywords have a totally clean profile, in fact it’s fair to say that most will be more than a little grubby, especially if they’ve used companies in the past who advocated any of the tactics that Google has since frowned upon.

Few will hold their hands up and most will vehemently protest at how their tactics are Google compliant and blah blah blah… What else can they realistically say?

Just go and look at who’s ranking in your favourite vertical and answer with hand on heart that company X hasn’t used a tactic that under a microscope isn’t just slightly questionable. It’s all in the interpretation and of course, who’s doing the interpreting. Continue reading

The Magic Box of Glut – Wizards, Sampmerians, Elves and Pink Marshamallow Castles

The Magic Box of Gluttony in the Land of Glut

A world without search

Once upon a time there was a magical world called Glut – Everything happened in the world of Glut, the people within it did all manner of things. They built pink castles from weather resistant marshmallows and cool lakes made out of lemonade and beer where hamburger flavoured fish swam. Some folks knew how to make really fast cars that ran on magic beans made by their friends in the forest of emeralds.

It all seemed ideal in the world of Glut but progress was slow. Few knew how to fish for the hamburger flavoured fish and the magic beans that grew in the forest of Emeralds were known but to the people of Fark. The bottom line was that news traveled slowly in Glut, information was often controlled by the powerful and where it wasn’t, it was difficult for merchants to gain wide reach or appeal for their ideas and products.

Building a search engine to conquer all

Up on a hill next to a mountain in a place called Gooleg  there lived two special wizards.

They were clever wizards backed by the powers of InvestorLand who knew that everywhere they went in the world, people had ideas that they wanted to share so they went to a little known place called Altavistaland and took on the mighty wizard Inktomi where they learnt the secrets of  Retrivicus Informanicus. They went to Microland and bought the ingredients required and built a big magic box. Continue reading

PPC Conversions and Local Business Search Marketing

Niche products, volume, PPC, landing pages and matters arising

I was talking with someone the other day about the challenges faced with getting new business for what was a very niche product. The product is the type that has limited demand, is very niche but adds huge value to the people who want it.

We briefly talked about what they do and how they currently do it, what appears to work and what doesn’t. We touched upon the various online channels particularly with regard to PPC, SEO and Social media. I didn’t get too deep, but my takeaway was that it wasn’t really working as well as they’d liked or expected.

It might be useful to others, to run through a few things as they come to me. Nothing too structured, just a general meander through some of the issues and what we can at least begin to try and do about them. Continue reading

A Value Added 2013 to all

2013 – Wow, how’d that happen?

I don’t post much these days (you noticed huh?).

You could say I got bored with stating the obvious or adding to the general noise of the blah blah blah brigade.

There’s little value add to that.

“Value add” seems to be a prevailing theme that keeps popping up a lot for me these days; be it in my conversations with friends, face to face, or with my kids veiled in failed subtleties designed to try and impart that little something without the alienation part, or online in a comment or a tweet somewhere.

I tend to look a lot more before I leap these days. No point making mistakes if you just keep on making them eh!?

Today, I like to think that in a lot of my actions I’m far more considered; I like to think that I give things a whole lot more thought than I once did. Sometimes I practice what I preach and sometimes I’m pretty sure that I don’t, but hey, I’m trying! That’s all of any of us can really do, right? Continue reading

Dear Redacted

Dear redacted

Further to our discussion the other day, please find a bit of a brain dump below. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about then it’s no surprise that we’ll keep treading mud, so hopefully this will help 🙂

Just like those big buy now messages with phone numbers that we see in printed media, it’s crucial that web pages also have similar calls to actions. It may seem obvious, but today, your site is devoid of all these. People will not dig that deep to find a way of calling or emailing you. The web’s a big place and they can easily just go elsewhere.

Search marketing as a marketing discipline has evolved over the years and increases in sophistication yearly. This is inevitable as platforms like Google, Facebook et al seek to monetise and deliver quality experiences to their searchers and would much rather that people clicked on their ads. That said, they have to maintain an illusion of natural algorithmic search as few people would hang around if they simply offered a page of ads.

My view with regard to redacted has been from the outset that on-line, it has a whole lot of potential and with the right drive and coherent vision should do very well.Whilst I may have banged on about code and what not and a less than ideal CMS, it isn’t entirely about the code and the structure, it’s far more than that.

The content of a website in 2012 is a vital component of any successful strategy, both on and offsite. You need to be creating content that creates content elsewhere through links and conversations back to you.

What’s that I hear you say, elsewhere!? Yes indeed, elsewhere, just like you’d want people in the street or the local community to tell their friends about their positive experiences, the same can be said of the web (but more on that later).

Visitors are but a click away from going elsewhere, so it’s vital that we make the best opportunity of every visitor we get. We should be looking to determine what it is they do when they arrive, how they got there, what they did, why they did it and more. The installation of an analytics  package like GA (Google Analytics) is a great start and we’ll be able to gain insights from this as time progresses. Through looking at user journeys and tracking sign ups and conversions(sales)  we can then take decisions that will impact future choices around direction and products.

Today,  I do appreciate that the organisation isn’t really run that way and that many of your staff aren’t really attuned to embracing a web based vision and all that this entails. Somehow, this needs to change. If it doesn’t then I’d be surprised if we gained much traction. This may seem like a gargantuan task but it isn’t really, it’s just a case of getting buy in from others and setting it all in train. Your staff should jump at the opportunity and your users (if happy) should be more than willing to provide a little paragraph or two as to their perceptions.

Creating conversations

Internet usage is on the increase. People seldom use old methods to find things or learn things. If we provide a service/product in a space then we should be looking to ensure that we offer people as much as we possibly can in relation to this.

The most successful sites on the web have rich engaging user experiences that ultimately translate to sales.They are easy to use and effectively create conversations.

They are invariably,  websites that are ‘alive’ and embrace user interactions with the people onsite, offering their potential/existing customers a means and ability to follow up on their purchases, experiences, treatments, leaving reviews for example, praising the experiences they’ve had or sharing content via share buttons. Websites that are socially connected with places like facebook, twitter, Google and other open platforms make all of this a whole lot easier.  Facebook pages, G+ accounts and twitter profiles are all great places to share and build audience. You’ve made a great start with these, we’ll look at how we can build on these going forward.

Search engines increasingly look for signals from these places and use these to determine interest and relevancy. Links from other websites like these and others in related spaces are seen as votes the websites that they link to. The more votes a website gets from other websites that are deemed to be related or of authority help boost performance in the search engine results for keywords that websites would like to rank for.

It’s almost a virtuous circle of:

Website creates fantastic useful user experience >> user is happy so talks about it elsewhere online in blogs and forums or other social media >> search engine sees conversation (link back to website) and assigns temporal boost >> website ranks better for keywords >> more users see websites for searches >> circle is repeated.

Rinse repeat.

If  people aren’t talking about you online then it may  be because there is little to talk about. It may be because your sites content is old or out of date, or just doesn’t add sufficient value to the space. The internet contains a wealth of choices that people can quickly gravitate to. It’s important therefore to do one’s very best to give people something that answers their questions and increases their confidence.

The wealth of products and services  offered by redacted  is a testament to what you have built – your vision, your experience, your passion and commitment. That said, this isn’t necessarily being transmitted on-line.

The site as it stands has little of the freshness and vibrancy that your paper marketing materials offer and of course lack that personal touch they’d get from meeting staff.

There are ways of remedying this. A few ideas are as follows.

No one knows that you do it unless you tell or show them

Show people what you’re all about.

Give people quality visual insights.

Create a youtube account for redacted. Upload videos of redacted perhaps.

https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?service=youtube

Get your product specialists to wax lyrical over what they do and how they do it and upload them to the site.

Put these on the pages of the products that discuss the various services.

Install a blog and get product specialists to enthuse about what they do. Show the human side, show people that friendly engaged specialist full of knowledge, advice and insight passionate about the vale that they will bring to prospective new business.

(you might want to draw up a house style and format that people adhere to perhaps, unified message etc)

There will be resistance for sure, but why shouldn’t these people be prepared to talk about what it is they do? I’m sure if they are told that through doing so, they’ll benefit too. Enhanced profiles, increased sceptic trust, greater reach and dissemination of their message.

Talk to your customers, ask them for their thoughts, get a few paragraphs or send them a survey. Put those thoughts on your product pages. Show people those real world valued experiences.

In short, you alone cannot inject the required passion, enthusiasm and content that is needed to excel online in 2012 and beyond. Places like Google are becoming increasingly competitive. Local businesses are legion and compete with each other to occupy what are in effect 1 or 2 effective spots in a Google results page.This is likely to contract further.

Be the best.

Hope that helps, catch up with you soon 🙂

Is your expert link builder worth the trouble?

Don’t buy questionable link building packages, buy good ones

I was just talking with a friend about link building. He’s a small biz chap with a good product and looking to try and grow what he does.

He asked me for my thoughts on link building and it got me thinking of the variety of services that are out there.  The game’s changed, primarily due to the increased perception of risk generated by the chatter and dings delivered by Google.

It’s basically pretty stupid to pay anyone for anything that takes a cheap arse ‘button press’ type approach to link building. 1000 directory submissions, 20 blog posts and 100 forum sigs might seem fairly attractive, especially if it’s packaged up in a £50 one time fee parcel with promises of boosts for your target keyword/s.

I probably sounded almost cliched but I found myself talking to him about  creating genuine conversations and buzz and how that one of the best ways of achieving that might be to build a fully integrated platform that enabled him to do so, which might possibly mean creating the most kick arse resource in the country/region/planet for his  niche.

I pointed him to a resource that’s fairly niche in the home improvement vertical and showed how they were enabling their visitors to ask questions, give feedback, review products and how they could read  product  how to’s with guides and tools and videos and podcasts  along with the usual social box ticking.

There were a few other generalisms but the point of it all was to try and convey the idea that if you set out to make stuff that is  link worthy, as in kick arse useful content that people will want to share on youtube,  niche home improvement/green/save the world/ type communities, blogs, social networks etc, then half of the battle is won.

I guess I was trying to say that even if his end product out there in the real world is top class, well priced, sought after that if his online shop front didn’t do the same then in lots of ways, he’d be wasting his time. Why do people expect inferior shitty boring user experiences to rule their niches?

Socialise get down, let your souuuul hit the waves shake it now, go ladies, it’s a living dream… *

I don’t need to bang a drum that says that the web is becoming increasingly social. Anyone with half ounce of eighteen pence knows this already. The fact is that if you have a bog standard, say nothing space on the web, then by and large people just aren’t going to talk about you.

So I kind of went full circle and said something like your link building company should really be talking to you about these very things. Your brand, your product, your offering. How they’d go about creating something viral perhaps or how they’d use his voice and identity and add genuine value to the places that they engaged with on his behalf. He’s a small business, he can’t be everywhere, but maybe his link building company can give him some stellar advice as to how he can get others to do so. If they can’t then there’s a chance that they are stuck in some time warp creating very little else but shit.

Sure,  you CAN go and buy links of course. You can go out and spam forums, blogs, pr networks with your stupidly crafted laser targetted anchor text and build links  that way. It’ll work too, for a time, but eventually you might get caught up in some mess that see’s your domain Pandarised or Penguinated. I won’t mention Karma. I won’t mention the offence you’ll cause to all and sundry as you pay a bunch of wankers to go pollute the web with your pony “hi nice post” type comments, or your useless kill me now type shitty guest blog posts, or your no one gives a hoot type add no value to the world type press releases as I hope that’s a given.

 

My closing words were something along the line of ask this ‘expert link builder’ what it is they’ll do.Cut through any old bollocks they give like directories, shitty press releases, guest blog posts in spammy networks and instead listen to those who talk about you and your brand and their understanding of what it is that you are trying to achieve. If they can’t understand that then, I  doubt that long term you’ll get any links worth having.  Sure, there may be some short term SERP success; but if it’s built on a house of cards, then it’ll eventually fall. Far better to take a long view and do it properly the first time around.

Thanks for listening.

 *

7 gift ideas for men and geeks

Christmas  Gift Ideas for Geek and Dudes

So it’s Monday morning and a year to the day of the first post I’ve decided to edit this one and add and subtract  a product or two so, here are a few gift ideas for dudes and geeks.

Looking for Xmas gifts for ones dad or brother, or boyfriend or husband  at Christmas is never easy – I’m not saying this post will make that task any easier either and most of these ideas for Christmas gifts are quite probably a little out of the budget range for some, but…,you might be feeling generous so what the hey. There’s a mixed bag ranging from a tenner up to a couple of k, so fill your proverbial boots and happy Christmas shopping!  Continue reading

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