Monday, September 23, 2013

Google's Delilah Moment

Since the dawn of web search, when you searched on Google, clicked on an unpaid search result and were delivered to a company's website, Google would in its referral URL let the website you were directed to know what keyword/search you'd performed to get there in the first place. This search keyword referral data has been one of the foundational pieces of information upon which millions of websites around the world have relied in order to better serve customers.

Now that Google is a wantonly blood-sucking, monopolistic parasite of a toll-road upon which the global economy must travel, they have - under the guise of protecting consumer privacy (yes, isn't *that* a laugh given their collusion w/the NSA?) just today stopped giving ANY keyword referral data to websites for organic search traffic. As you can imagine, this will immediately and materially reduce transactional websites' ability to understand

1) why people are coming to their site;
2) what product(s) to show them;
3) how to optimize conversion rates

To use a biblical analogy, being able to search online is super-human strength, Samson is the world's advertisers, and Delilah (the Philistine prostitute who betrays Samson) is Google. Gioacchino Assereto's 'The Philistines Gouging out Samson's Eyes' captures what advertisers around the world are starting to feel who've come to rely on Google for traffic.

If someone plans a spontaneous protest at Google HQ today, I suggest the throng walk around the streets and charming Google walkways acting as though they've just gone blind, as that's pretty much what's just happened. The only way to 'see' going forward = buy AdWords. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Facebook Exchange: The Next Big Direct Response Channel

Now that Facebook has lifted the PR embargo, I can tell you what I've been working on these past six months: getting ready for the next big paid marketing channel after SEM. Triggit - the display advertising technology firm I joined earlier this year - is one of the initial launch partners for Facebook Exchange, as detailed on Triggit's blog.

Triggit's core business is retargeting on Facebook Exchange for large direct response advertisers.  Having deployed and optimized FBX campaigns since its inception, we know this will be the next big marketing channel after SEM, not just a side project. 

To succeed in the ad market Comscore says is 28% of the Internet's ad impressions, advertisers & agencies need a Facebook Exchange partner that has a scalable bidding system, FBX-ready dynamic creative, server-side cookie store to enable necessary ROI tracking, and Facebook-specific bidding algorithms. Advertisers should demand a flexible pricing model and no long-term contracts - that's Triggit, and we're ready, today.

Here's a video that explains Facebook Exchange and Triggit's role in it; take a look, and reach out to me [ chris at triggit dot com ] if you'd like more details.

Facebook Exchange is the next big channel for large direct response SEM advertisers, and it looks like SEM did back in 2001 = wide open for conquer!

Monday, April 23, 2012

CTR Half-Lives: NASDAQ's Biggest Unasked Question

With their IPO getting closer and closer, the massive variance in opinions as to Facebook's enterprise value can be seen from Wall Street to Main St. On the buy side, you have grandmothers calling their Silicon Valley grandkids to say they plan to buy shares at the IPO, and sell-side analysts baking four as-of-yet non-existent lines of business into Facebook's current enterprise value.

On the sell side, most discussion forum trolls, direct response advertising guru's and employees at Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and Apple are equally confident Facebook's IPO will crash and burn, relative at least to the presumed $50-100Billion valuation.

Me? I know better than to make a call here, but I will say this: whether or not Facebook lives up to the valuation hype will depend more than anything on their ability to deal with the fact that their standard ads have a click-thru-rate (CTR) half-life of approximately two days. As the below chart from WebTrends shows, Facebook ads' CTR typically halves within 48 hours, due to the simple fact that their targeting system results in largely the same people seeing the same ads.

If Facebook solves the half-life problem, then their massive user base and engagement levels allow for a sustained $50-100B valuation. If not, Facebook's revenue growth will quickly fall to zero and it'll become a mid-tier cash cow.

Solutions to this problem exist...

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Decision 2012: An Online Marketing Scorecard

In a scene from 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?', corrupt Southern politician Pappy O'Daniel shows he understands the power of New Media in electoral campaigns:

In 2012, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney 'get' online marketing, but a deeper look at the candidates' websites and marketing efforts shows Obama is clearly the better tactician. What follows is a comparison of the campaigns' website and online marketing technology usage, and my own verdict on who wins in each category:

SEM. Paid keywords: 1535 (Obama) vs 208 (Romney) [Per SpyFu] --> Obama wins

SEO. Organic ranking keywords: 1587 (Obama) vs 475 (Romney) [SpyFu] --> Obama wins

Display ads: 83 vs ZERO [MOAT]. It may just be that MOAT's not tracking Romney's ads, but I can't recall seeing any. According to this article, both candidates are making use of retargeting, but Obama destroys Romney based on the MOAT data.

Social. Both use FB Like & Twitter Follow buttons, but only Obama has a Twitter Tweet button, making it more likely he'll get key viral effect from social. --> Obama wins

Tracking. Obama using Chicago-grown tag management solution BrightTag, making his campaign more flexible and better able to understand & optimize against cross-channel attribution. --> Obama wins

Conversion Optimization. Romney appears to be the only one using any sort of A/B or MVT testing solution (Optimizely in Mitt's case, data from BuiltWith). --> Romney wins

Obama uses HTML5; Romney uses Flash. --> Obama wins on mobile.

OVERALL SCORECARD: Obama wins 6, Romney 1

If might equals right, Obama's cleaning Mitt's clock and setting the stage for another four years in the White House.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook's Revenues: A Fool's Game

While researching Facebook's metrics over time, I stumbled upon two data sets that, together, confirmed a hunch I'd had, namely that Facebook ad CTR and intelligence are inversely correlated. The scatter graph below shows Facebook ad CTR by state (X axis, data from WebTrends*) and state smartness (Y axis, data from the Morgan Quitno State & City Ranking Press).

X-axis: Facebook Ad CTR Rank (1 is highest CTR, 50 is lowest CTR)
Y-axis: State smartness rank (1 is smartess, 50 is least smart)


  • States in the top 50% of Facebook ad CTR have rank 32.6 in 'smartness' vs. 18.36 for the bottom 50% of ad CTR states.
  • States in the top 20% of ad CR rank only nominally lower in smartness (33.8) than the top 50% (32.6), but the bottom 20% in ad CTR are significantly smarter (14.8) than the bottom 50% as a whole (18.4).
  • Hawaiians might not be the smartest (#42), but unlike their unsmart peers, they rarely click on ads (dead last in ad CTR). But then again, if you're living in Hawaii, what more do you need?
Lowlight: my horrible Excel skills, duly noted

It is of course worth noting that the Morgan Quitno state ranking methodology is merely a proxy for the relative smarts of people in various states, but I do think it's sound enough to prove that Facebook ad CTR and user intelligence are most probably inversely correlated.

Now, if I could just get my hands on some by-state Google CTR data. Anybody?

Source: Facebook Advertising Performance Benchmarks & Insights Whitepaper from Webtrends, published January 2011.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mintigo: Big-Data Analysis For Customer Acquisition

I've made my career out of finding (in some cases stumbling upon) disruptive online technologies early in their lifecycle and evangelizing them into companies that usually see tremendous benefit. Netscape ('95-99), RealNames (early paid search company that first convinced Google to try our paid search ads in 2000), Efficient Frontier (#1 SEM platform, acquired by Adobe last year), Omniture (acquired by Adobe) and Dapper (dynamic display, acquired by Y! last year) are firms I helped customers profit from over the years.

After talking with dozens of startups over the past several months, I've settled on one as my next wild ride that has more positive disruptive potential than any other, one that if widely adopted will bring the type of macroeconomic boost I'll proudly bore my children with.

The company is Mintigo, and the pitch is both simple and elevator-ready:

Mintigo profiles B2B companies' existing customers across 1000's of semantic, tech, social and personnel indicators, crunches terabytes of web data to find all prospects matching that customer DNA, then delivers fresh, accurate, high-converting prospects into your CRM system.

Please take a look at the short videos below, and reach out to me at if you'd like to discuss.

More to come as I get my head fully around this one...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jeremy Lin: A Palo Alto Local Article Compendium

We Palo Altans have always had much to be proud of, whether in search engine marketing (Google's first office was above a yogurt shop on our main street), technology (Facebook, HP, Zerox, dozens of other majors) or music (The Grateful Dead, Joan Baez). But it is Jeremy Lin who most completely captures what is best about Palo Alto. So that people can get a better perspective on Linsanity's uniquely Palo Altan nature, I've put together a list of the most insightful locally-written articles, including several from Palo Alto High School's own publications. Of particular note is the first one ('Jeremy Lin: My Reflection On Our State Championship') which is to team sports what Rousseau's Confessions were to self-awareness; Enjoy!

1. *You will get chills* reading this Paly Campanile piece written by Lin himself, in which he reflects as wisely, humbly and truthfully upon the concept of 'team' as has ever been done.

2. MaxPreps article (includes many photos of their state championship game in 2006)

3. SJ Mercury article on Lin Palo Alto memorabilia - in
cluding his JLS jr hs yearbook - going on eBay for Linsane prices

4. Article from the Paly Voice, w/reactions from Paly students. Great photo of him after winning state championship

5. JLin Palo Alto HS photo gallery

6. JLin PAHS photo gallery #2 (SJ Merc)

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