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  • NorCalSports.net 6:57 pm on June 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bay area marketing, efficient frontier, estorm, networking, , sports basement   

    Online Marketers SummerFest at Sports Basement 

    I attended the Online Marketers Summer Fest in San Francisco last week. It was a really nice event held at Sports Basement in Potrero Hill. The party was hosted by eStorm and Efficient Frontier to celebrate a new partnership between the two companies, one in which the companies will be working together synergistically on projects. It will be interesting to follow this relationship. I spent most of the night talking with eStorm Founder, Nancy Riveong and Beer Mistress Extroidinaire Lisa McGuire who worked the Fat Tire (if I remember correctly, yum!) tap all night. I met stop motion animation experts, local consultants, and young entrepreneurs; all great people. And of course, collected some business cards and made some new connects on LinkedIn.

    The venue was a nice idea as well. I must say I had never thought of this type of event, although looking back I’m sure this type of marketing mixer is probably not that un-common. Both companies sponsored the party and set up food and libations in one portion of the store (Sports Basement is a large sporting goods store, not a bar) and upon signing in you were given a 15% off coupon to use during your stay in the store. Plus they had a decent dj spinning off to the side. It worked great. They probably should have positioned the food in a little better spot, it was cramped. I mean, having to reach over a huge pile of official Sports Basement trucker caps, and across a table, just to snag a chocolate chip cookie because there are 14 people in front of the food is annoying. But hey, that’s just me…I’m a big guy and I like my chocolate chip cookies to be close.

    Online Marketers Summer Fest at Sports Basement - Portero Hill San Francisco, CA

    The venue did encourage a lot of shopping from a lot of the attendees. Also, the theme of the party was Summer Fest and the tie in was to do a meet-n-greet and get ready for a safe summer and happy summer. I bought a hat, but not the official Sports Basement trucker hat ;o). I met several interesting people that were very active in the local online marketing space. One thing that was interesting, was that the casual (and retail) environment lent itself to more casual discussion rather than a bunch of Bus. Dev talk. Don’t get me wrong, I like to talk shop, and will do so with passion. But every once in a while it’s nice to just relax, drink a Fat Tire, and get to know people. I think a good time was had by all. Looking forward to the next one guys!

     
    • SEO Company 10:28 am on June 27, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Summerfest for online marketers at a sports shop…that’s something new.

    • 120mm fan 12:35 pm on November 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      there are sporting goods that are very cheap but the quality is not very good .;-

  • NorCalSports.net 5:13 pm on June 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Marchex, marchex adhere, marchex enhance, pageviews, panama, qualified traffic, search engine land   

    Marchex. A new suit and lookin to party! 

    marchex logo

    Looks like Marchex is doing some big things these days. I noticed this story about them over at Search Engine Land last week. Can’t wait for their launch party on Tuesday. Free booze, free food and networking potential.  My girl, Kyla will not be making the trip down from Seattle for the party, but I’ll catch up with her during the next shindig at Moscone Center.

    They have a new name, a new look, and a new traffic partner mix…so fresh and so clean! I like the new blue color of the UI instead of the old orange Enhance look. There are a few new features here as well, but it’s pretty much the same. And your old accounts are still there. Gone is Enhance and in is Marchex’s AdHere. They boast a premium line of content sites in their network. One things for sure, they are definitely planting themselves firmly in the second-tier of search engines/traffic sources. I work with Marchex’s Enhance…err…AdHere advertising platform a lot, and I’m usually pretty satisfied with the traffic that I get from them.

    Their UI is easy enough and surprisingly self explanatory.  And while Google it is not, it’s still pretty easy to navigate, start campaigns, change bids, and all that other good stuff.   You know…the basic stuff that SHOULD be easy to do (insert derogatory comment about MSN adcenter or Yahoo Panama here) Plus, your ads are launched right away, and there’s no annoying review process (insert another derogatory comment about Panama). It does take a little time to get your terms popping on the network, so be patient at first.  My advice, is – was – and always will be, if you are spending significant dough then get yourself an account manager to help you optimize.  Track the referring sites that send traffic to your domain and then adjust accordingly based on your conversion metrics.

    For the most part, their traffic usually does what I need it to do, which is pageviews per visit. There’s not much need in going granular here, although you can, and I have. But I usually get the results I need by running the same amount of keywords that I would run in a couple of different groups, and running them in the just one group. The key here is to write a good ad that will convert nicely regardless of the slight differences in your keyword bucket.  Your not running multiple ads in an adgroup with Marchex, so this is easier to justify.   Belive me, I’m a big, big fan of granular, but like I said, this isn’t Google.  Plus I just find that you get more traffic, faster, this way.   Also, it saves you time on PPC management; build out time is shorter, ads go up fairly quick, large keyword groups allow more high level mass cpc bid changes, etc.

    I’m currently using Enhance/Marchex to drive traffic to a large publisher site where the only conversion is a pageview (PV), with mostly a CPM ad model.  We do a decent amount of CPC as well, with AdSense, and the traffic works good with that as well.  Naturally in the CPM rev model you want as many pageviews as you can get per visit (PVPV).

    For the most part these guys will send traffic that turns at least a couple pages with a reasonable bounce rate for a second-tier traffic source, which tells me that these ads are getting at least some amount of  exposure with a fairly qualified audience. Their traffic partners are many and they list Yahoo as one of them.  Well Yahoo certainly has a lot of traffic (relatively, of course), but to be honest I get better results from Marchex than when I buy direct from Yahoo.  (insert derogatory comment about Yahoo’s ability to keep up in search)

    Have you used Marchex yet? Check em’ out.  If you have, see you at the party!

     
  • NorCalSports.net 10:49 pm on June 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: admarketplace, , eBay, eBay affiliate, ina steiner,   

    Traffic is as traffic does… 

    So, I met briefly with Adam, CEO over at adMarketplace.com today. I’m surprised to find out about them, but very interesting stuff and I wanted to share. So AMP started out early on, 2000 or so, using PPC to arbitrage on keywords for eBay sellers and affiliates. So well so, that they were picked up as the exclusive provider of PPC for eBay until 2003. (Steiner, 2006) Eventually they were dumped, but only to find themselves sitting atop a huge content network that they had created over the years. And like all good businessmen, they took that to market for the masses. They boast a titanic 300 million queries a day from their network! They actually provide a lions share of the traffic that you may currently be purchasing from the second-tier guys (Ask, Miva, Looksmart, Marchex, etc.).

    “Our ads are currently displayed on Ask, Looksmart and Miva, along with several other shopping-specific inventory partners. We also have deals in place with Google and MSN and will be integrated with them by end of Q4,” Epstein said. “Still, its misleading to tell users that they can simply go to a site, type in a keyword and see their ad, because we are constantly optimizing our partners to make sure we are delivering the highest performing inventory to our advertisers at all times.” (Stenier, 2006)

    Oh really?! So essentially I can buy direct now, cut out the middleman and his chunky UI, and get a dedicated account manager to optimize my campaigns and monitor click fraud for me?! For reals?! “Well, how’s your traffic?”, I say distrustingly, knowing that content networks can bring in some “shady” customers. “How about we put $1500 worth of $.05 traffic through your account on the house and go from there?”

    You had me at hello…I’m sending my keywords over right now.

    Stay tuned!

    Steiner, Ina (2006) “adMarketplace Replaces eBay Keyword Program, Sellers Adjust” Retrieved June 5, 2008 from http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y06/m11/i03/s02

     
    • ariel 7:14 am on June 19, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      hi man,
      nice blog, very informative.
      i wanted to ask u something about admarketplace before i launch something with them.

      10x

      r.e.l.

    • fm last 6:51 pm on November 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      how did your test with admarketplace go?

      • norcalsem 11:17 pm on November 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Sorry for the late response. The adMarketplace test was not fruitful. There is rarely a way to beat the quality and distribution offered by Google anywhere in the online ad world. One caveat is that these smaller players know they are not a “must buy” and will in most cases go above and beyond from a service perspective. One thing I’m not fan of is large up front monetary commitments to “test” this type of traffic. Good luck if you are still considering a test.

  • NorCalSports.net 12:24 am on June 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , dynamic insertion, , google dance, , piggybacking   

    Piggyback rides – Nobody rides for free! 

    As a former lead generation pirate, I know a thing or two about piggybacking. And in the online lead generation world, where the world of black hat and white hat gets lost in all the gray haze it bears noting that this does piss people off, namely the person who is giving the piggyback. At some point, they will get tired and decide not only to put you down, but send you a nice letter from their lawyer. Hope you enjoyed the ride. Does Google bear any responsibility to police this since the action is occurring in their AdWords product? Google says no. Don’t shoot the messenger is probably what they think. In my experiences we used a multitude of brand names that corresponded to products we were collecting leads for. It makes sense, because many people type in brand names or head terms into Google and then click on an ad rather than using direct navigation or bookmarks. In some cases, a trademarked term used in your ad creative would cause Google to issue a warning and decline your ad copy due to infringement. But that is the ad, not the keywords, which are usually free game to bid on. A little dynamic insertion technique will render the title you need regardless of Google’s attempt to keep that term out of your ad copy. The net net here is that you can effectively siphon brand name traffic searches into your site…in droves!! I made it a practice [personal ethics] not to officially claim, falsely, that the searcher was going to enter the branded site, but if the ad copy is good enough you can still get the click and pull the customer in under an inference that you are somehow “affiliated” with the company you are bidding on you win, even if you do feel a bit “dirty”. To make this even worth doing, you’ll need content on your site that discusses the brands that you are using in your copy and bidding on in your keyword inventory, or your quality score will suffer immediately before your “gray” hat project even works out for you.

    So what do you do when you get the letter from that company’s lawyer telling you to stop using their name in your ad copy? Well, you can take out the dynamic insertion and play it straight on the ad copy, but continue to advertise your “similar” product by bidding on the trademarked terms (known as a ‘conquest buy’) until your heart’s desire. Google only goes after trademark issues in ad copy and they usually won’t investigate this type of stuff unless they are alerted by a company that has been victimized. Every so often, Google makes changes to it’s algorithm, affectionately known in the industry as a “Google Dance” and you can just cross your fingers and hold your breath. I have heard of and personally witnessed the “Dance” crush some PPC campaigns into tiny little pieces. I mean, it makes sense. As a consumer, don’t you want an environment where you are not subject to any “slight of hand” to complete your transaction? You don’t want to be confused and Google doesn’t want you to be confused either. What I mean is this….doing this is a short-term gain! At some point, you will either be buried in legal paperwork or Google will kill you. When Google kills you and a keyword bid jumps from $.10 to $10, you know you had better get into another vertical. Many online lead gen companies own so many urls that they will vanish and reappear under a new url and new AdWords account, using the same content that worked before. Sometimes this will work and sometimes it won’t. Affiliates will always keep living on the edge of ethics, they need the clicks and many figure the risks are worth it. If you are selling mesothelioma leads then you’re probably right, the legal fees and harassments may be worth every penny.

     
    • EMay 9:45 pm on June 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Way to go Clay! You’re blog is great reading.

      I must offer one contradictory point to your article, which is that some companies who have trademarked terms, have ONLY their trademark going for them. Consumers may click on their ads and be directed to un-navigable sites that neither answer consumer questions nor offer appropriate follow up for their inquiries.

      Take the following case, albeit, this “gray” case: There are third party affiliate sites, who bid on trademarked terms, use DKI in their ads, but use benign language like “compare ‘such & such’ with ‘such & such’ and save”, but who also offers consumers a site with more information (i.e. unique content), more follow up (wholesale lead market/brokers), and a site that is easier to navigate (based on the perceived search engine coding preferences and consumer conversion rates), than the company who’s trademark off of which they’re profiting.

      As long as the consumer is not misled.

      Furthermore, I am also still stuck on the “brand name” search logic. I want auto insurance, so I search for “geico”, not because I want geico insurance, but because Geico is synonymous with online auto insurance…ultimately, I, the consumer, want the cheapest price, regardless of which brand name and/or lizard-friend is stuck in my head.

      In the meantime, I’ve got to go grab a “starbucks” at peets and go add toner to the “xerox” machine.

  • NorCalSports.net 6:34 pm on June 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cell phone, , , google mobile apps, google search, , , mobile search, phone   

    Google Search Bar on Your Mobile Phone 

    So continuing on a bit further down the mobile road I was cruising on in my last post….I recently downloaded the Google Apps that are available for mobile to my phone. One of the features that I have been using a little is the Google search bar that now sits right in the middle of the home screen on my phone. This makes accessing Google super easy and takes out the annoying steps of connecting to your internet, waiting for your carrier’s boxed environment home page to load, then selecting favorites and going to Google. It even makes it easier than connecting to the internet on a phone with Google set as the home page. You just type in your search and click select on your phone’s keypad and you are instantly taken to a Google (mobile format) SERP (search engine results page). This is a phenomenal application for solving that argument you might have in the cab with your buddy about whether that was Tom Sizemore in that movie you saw last night or Mickey Rourke. It works well on local searches it too, so typing in pizza on your way home could pay off really well for you. (for local search, I have been more impressed lately with MSN’s Live Search for mobile – more on that in another post). But Google knows that the mobile medium is/will be huge and that is why these mobile apps have graduated from the lab in mountain view and are now available to the general public. By getting that Google search bar on my phone’s home screen I bet I shave at least 10sec. of my mobile search time. That almost makes up for the time it takes me to dig the phone out of my pants pocket. At least I’m breaking even!

     
  • NorCalSports.net 1:15 am on June 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mobile communications, , mobitv, moto Q9c, sprint speed, sprint tv, windows mobile   

    Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. How about Cheaper?! 

    So, for a while now, I have been extremely geeked up on mobile and all the possibilities that it holds.  I’ve been in several phones, and now reside inside a sleek MotoQ9C.  It runs on Windows Mobile, which is decent in usability and I have Sprint, so SprintSpeed is how I roll!  It works really well.  Even when I’m watching Sprint TV during a commute or while walking the dog, the data speeds have come so far. 

    It seems like just yesterday (but actually is 2 years ago give or take) that I downloaded MobiTv, located over in Emeryville, CA, and was using a Palm Treo at the time.  I liked the idea of getting small chunks of different programing, but the data speeds were slow and the resolution spotty.  With SprintSpeed, you get some real nice transfer speeds, I think Sprint TV is the old MobiTV anyways, but the point is the data speeds are faster now.  If I’m watching the NFL Network, where there is a lot of fast moving action, it can be a bit wonky, but with a nice fixed image, such as; John Stewart or Joel McHale’s weekly tv roundup, The Soup, it can be a nice way to spend a few minutes.  Plus with CNN, I can put the phone in my pocket and listen to the news cycle through on my bluetooth while I’m walking Miles Davis.  I mean, who needs to watch the talking heads anyways?  Plus it leaves my hands free to pick up dog crap. 

    Mobile remains a new frontier for advertisers because right now the consumer shoulders the entire financial burden of the medium.  The consumer pays for everything; the data, the applications, the service, and the hardware.  Once these variables find subsidization, possibly through ads, it will truly launch mobile computing and mobile communications to the next level. 

    Two of the two largest barriers to advancing mobile right now with the consumer are the handsets and the data plans.  For starters, most companies have expensive data plans.  Some charge you minutes while online, some charge by the data usage, and a variety of other things.  For the most part, the data plans just aren’t low enough yet to crack the masses.  

    Another big hurdle to mass adoption of mobile services and data access is the high prices of the handsets.  I mean, why are we even paying for these things?  The ones they give you for free don’t do a whole lot, other than text, and I guess that is enough for most consumers at this point.  Although I have seen smartphones, such as the Palm Centro, down at the $99 rate, most are expensive (iPhone) and cost prohibitive to the average consumer.  The price of phones and data plans are just two problems with the advancement of the mobile marketing industry, albeit two of the most basic and important.  I don’t see this lasting too long, though. 

    At some point in the next couple of years I would expect to see smart phones become the new flip phone and come free with service.   And data plans should follow suit and become better, faster, and more affordable.  Sprint is already offering an all inclusive user package, which includes unlimitied text, talk time, data usage, and email for a flat $99 a month.  I use my phone for almost everything (more on this in another post) so for a savvy power user this is pretty acceptable, but for the average user this is not yet a justified use of discretionary income.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction though and I applaud Sprint’s CEO for pushing this excellently marketed campaign to market.  This should help to stimulate competition from other carriers for cheaper usage packages.  It won’t be long until that $99 access package is down to $49 and those data plans carry HD quality streaming video and audio directly to your handset wherever you are.  Better, Faster, Stronger…and Cheaper!  Now mobile is ready for the masses. 

    Advertisers and Marketers!….Start your engines!

     
  • NorCalSports.net 11:10 pm on May 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ad creative, advertising, cpa, cpl, cpm, ctr, shimon sandler, sphinn   

    Want me to renew? Not with that CTR! 

    In a recent post by Simon Shandler that I read on Sphinn he talks about the differences between ‘conversion’ marketing and ‘brand’ marketing.  It’s very important to know what type of campaign you are optimizing for.  As Simon mentions, you may find that bidding your ad to the #7 spot on the SERP may be perfect for the objectives of a ‘conversion’ campaign, whereas with ‘branding’ you’ll need to be in one of those top two spots, or at least above the fold.  Branding is about visibility, without regards to CTR or any true conversion.  And although your ad won’t stay above the fold, for a reasonable price anyways, if it does not garner a passable CTR, conversion is not a true measure of a branding campaign.

    Many companies seem to forget this when they make large media buys on ad networks under the pretense of branding.  Every attempt is made, usually, to traffic the ad creative to a segmented audience.  But even if the buy is made in an attempt to brand a certain product or service, the reason they do not renew almost always has to do with the creative’s CTR, which the publisher is usually blamed for when it’s low.  I guess I understand, because if I spent money to advertise, I’d want some instant gratification as well, but common sense should tell you that branding may not come with instant, actionable steps by consumers.  When companies plunk down large gobs of advertising dollars on CPM based ad creative across the web, and then make life hard for publishers due to low CTR, I think they are asking a bit much of the publishers, and the consumers for that matter.  What if your creative sucks?!  Ever thought of that?!

     
  • NorCalSports.net 5:04 am on May 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blogging, microsoft office 2007, office 2007, seo, wordpress   

    Syncing Blog Posting to Office 2007? That’s using your noggin! 

    Just ran across this nice little feature while looking for a document template in Office 07. Pretty handy, if you ask me and I’m also probably just the last in the blogosphere to find out about it. But that’s ok, cause’ this is just the first day! Anyways…you can choose a blank blog posting document and enter your blog service provider info (one time) and you get one button publishing directly from Office. You manage multiple blogs this way as well. Well, howdy do! I wonder how many bloggers out there are publishing the same blog entries to multiple blogs. I guess that is the only way some of these guys can keep up with all the blogging. Yeah, I know, I’ve posted over three times today….what of it?! But that is mostly due to the “newness” of it all, I’m sure.

    An SEO comrade of mine tells me that blogs are a great way to build buzz and create publicity during down times between projects, therefore using blogging to essentially keep the momentum and therefore the money rolling in. I’m definitely looking to use this blogging experience to figure out how to make money roll in for me. Or walk in. Or fly in. Or limp in even. What ev! Seriously, it’s really nice and you have all the same features available at WordPress and then some.

    And now to test that one button publishing….

     
  • NorCalSports.net 2:09 am on May 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: adwords qualified individual, , hanapin marketing, ppc hero,   

    I’m good at SEM, I swear! 

    My associate, Jeff, recently took the Google exam and became a Certified AdWords Professional.  I must admit, that logo they give you looks really cool.   Jeff now has instant credibility when it comes to his ability to market his Google AdWords skills.  As more and more companies (outside of Silicon Valley) realize the cost benefits of ditcing the large media agencies in favor of in-house SEM professionals, that credibility is gonna come in handy.  It reminds me of all the network certifications that you can get from Microsoft or the ASE certified mechanics you see at your local autoshop.  Credibility is one of the many ways you can market yourself as a professional.  Something about that ‘piece of paper.’

    As a matter of fact, my 3+ years in SEM may not mean squat if I’m sitting across from a corporate VP of Marketing one day trying to convince him that I know what I’m doing.  He may want to see my ‘piece of paper’.  I mean, afterall, I look for that ASE patch on the mechanic’s shirt whenever I drop my car off for service.  I guess it’s about time I make myself credible.  Plus it irks me that Jeff has it and I don’t….which brings up another trait that will make you succesful…competition!

    Amber, over at Hanapin Marketing, left a great post on PPC Hero recently about how to get certified.  The only way I can beat Jeff now is to get certified in Google and Yahoo and MSN.  Certified in all three?  Now that’s credibility!

     

     
    • Chris 8:57 pm on May 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Clay, I don’t think that MSN has a search certification program… You’re going to have to be satisfied with the Google and Yahoo certifications, but, I’ll give you 5 gold stars to wave in front of him for being awesome! How have things been going for you?

    • Jeff 11:11 pm on June 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      You forgot to mention the secret handshake that Google taught me. I could show you, but then I’d have to… well you know how it goes.

  • NorCalSports.net 11:47 pm on May 28, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: adwords editor, , , google editor, ,   

    PPC Management Tools 

    The Google AdWords Editor is a beautiful thing. I rarely work on AdWords from within the AdWords UI anymore. The current company that I am managing PPC for has over 14 Google accounts, so the Editor is the only real way to get any work done.

    My colleague and business partner, Jeff Lane, is currently working on specs for a PPC management tool that will allow us to operate Google, Yahoo, and MSN from one, single UI. There are other applications out there already, such as Aquisio, but we have too many accounts for most applications to manage. Also, most companies want to charge a percentage of spend and a licensing fee.  We are simply interested in an outright purchase.   Perhaps we will have our own custom editor at some point.

    The opportunity costs of not properly advertising on MSN and Yahoo are huge.  But Panama and AdCenter leave a lot to be desired when it comes to usability and efficiency.   Perhaps we will have our own custom editor at some point and can leap this hurdle and open up even more traffic volume!

     
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