Online Marketing Skills: Business Thinking vs. Programming Thinking

online marketing skillsThere is a constant struggle in online businesses between business people and technology people. From each perspective, you always hear bad things about how the other guys (sorry, it's usually guys) don't get it. Both perspectives are right from their own side but the characteristics of online business necessitate something that includes both, very good business skills and a programming approach. You need to be analytical and intuitive at the same time. Extreme analysis of a fragmented market is essential, but you can easily get lost in so many details if you don't have a good overview of the big picture. Although the numbers can tell you that something is definitely wrong with a page, your judgment and sense will lead into a good diagnosis of what might be wrong, what to test, and what new options to creat. The business mind and the programming mind are both crucial, yet they are both flawed when it comes to having a complete grasp of the online business.

Doing campaigns online is somehow similar to writing a program. You are telling a computer to behave in certain way under certain conditions, and if something else happens, you tell the computer to do something else. The process runs on its own and you'd better 'program' it properly or you will get surprised with terrible results. For a programmer, this kind of program is easier than the easiest program they ever wrote. It's just a smal set of rules, and they are managed in a simple way. The granularity the programmer has allows him to manage much more complicated processes, and they find this one very easy. The flaw is in the business sense. Most programmers get lost in the details of the trees, and cannot see the forrest. This is their problem.

For a business person, conceptualizing the campaign, thinking of options, writing ads is extremely easy, because they know the business, know the language, and are familiar with marketing terms and language. Their flaw is the lack of granularity. They tend to be sloppy when it comes to details, and they tend to miss out on important 'small' things that can cause disaster.

The online marketer has to somehow be both, a little bit of a business person to know the big picture, strategy, marketing, and the human touch, at the same time, they need to be able to handle details and go granular in their approach and execution.

AdWords Tips For The Search Network

I'm constantly creating new campaigns for different businesses, and constantly in touch with people who do the same. Many times, I see a lot of money being wasted just because the client wants to "be everywhere", or the account manager wants more fun options in doing their AdWords campaign. In many cases the problem is not having a good business focus, and over complicating the campaign in the process.

Here are some tips that I think can help AdWords account managers with their search campaigns, and it can be fun if you have a good start, especially when the maintenance work becomes significantly less than the people who start clueless.

  • Always use [exact match]: this match type gives you maximum control, because you know exactly which keyword you are bidding on, so you don't have any bad surprises with match type. But the most important thing is that since it is the most specific, and therefore the most relevant to your users, you are more likely to get a better quality score, and therefore lower cost-per-click. This is especially crucial at the beginning of you campaigns, because the account history plays a role in determining the quality score of your new campaigns. Ideally, you should have all your keywords in exact match, but this is practically impossible, because you cannot possibly capture all the different variations that people can think of. And because you cannot capture all the different possibilities of keywords that your users might use. This is why you should utilize other match types.
  • "Phrase match" to discover new possibilities: this match type gives you less control and specificity. It helps you get much more reach than exact match, and more importantly it lets you discover new keywords that you didn't have in mind. This discovery happens when, after having accumulated some clicks, you can go to the keywords tab and click on the "see search terms" button and see which keywords users actually used to trigger your ads. You can do several things in this case:
  1. Use -negatives: you will definitely see some irrelevant or bad keywords that you didn't plan for, so you can add these as negative keywords to refine your keyword selection. For example, you might find that users use 'cheap' together with your brand products. If you are not a discount store you can use negative match type for 'cheap' 'discount' or 'free', to make sure you only target the right audience.
  2. Use [Exacts]: the top keywords that were searched for should be added as exact match. Learn an easy way to know where to draw the line when segmenting your numbers.
  3. Create new ad groups: With some of the keywords that were triggering your phrase match keywords it would make sense to create a special ad group for them, or move them to a different one, because they are more relevant in another place. For example, if you have 'technology news' as a keyword, and then discover that it is triggering 'android technology news' it might be better to place this keyword in the 'android' ad group.
  • Don't use broad match: Confession. I completely stopped using broad match. It just doesn't make sense for several reasons. First, you almost never have unlimited budget, so you are better off going with the more targeted options mentioned above. Second, Google's algorithm may go crazy in what it determines to be relevant for the broad match keywords. I once had a broad match term 'sports news' and my ad was triggered by searching for "iraq", which was definitely a 'news' keyword but not really a sports one. I recommend doing more extensive keyword research and gradually growing the account as opposed to getting some bad surprises. Broad match might be useful if yo have an extremely small niche you are targeting, and it would be really profitable to just capture one client. It can also make sense when you are in a completely new industry and keywords are not yet established. In any case, it should be used with care, starting with a small budget, keeping an eye on irrelevant keywords, and utilizing negative match to make sure you eliminate unnecessary impressions.
  • Use the broad match modifier: this is a very good option in an industry where you are totally new, and need to know more about keywords. It gives you more control and relevancy than broad match.
  • Start with analytics: Many advertisers start with the keywords then write ads and choose landing pages. I prefer starting with discovering what is already working and building on it. I like to look at the site's analytics and discover the best landing pages in terms of bounce rate, conversion rate, pages/visit, or whatever your metric is. Then, after identifying the best ones, I try to see what ads can attract users to this content, and then find the relevant keywords for it. This helps build your account's history, and you make sure you are sending users to pages that are the most likely to convert, compared to other pages on the site. The only case you can't do this is with brand new sites, where you will have to make your own judgment.
  • Do the campaigns with the objective of building an understanding: If you approach the campaign as a learning experience as opposed to just 'optimizing', your focus will be on discovering what works for your targeted audience and your website. Whatever you do in terms of keywords, ads, landing pages, will (should) be used to build on your understanding. Start with questions like, "are electronics shoppers more interested in free shipping, or better prices?", "what sells better for sports fans, deadlines that induce immediate action, or deals that are better than the competition?" If you go with this curiosity your mind will be looking for ways to answer these questions, and this will help guide your strategies and especially testing. Speaking of which...
  • Test, test, test: Never have one ad per ad group. Let the name "ad group" remind you that it has to be a group of ads. At least two. In order to answer the questions you are trying to answer, you need to be split testing your ads. This means you have two ads that are identical in everything but one element. This element could be the headline, call to action, benefit, feature, or anything you want to test. This way you can attribute any differences to that element. After you identify the better performing ad, you should pause the lower performing one, and create a new one hoping to 'beat' the one you already have, and so on.
  • Tightly group keywords: The more focused you ad groups are, the more relevant your ads would be for your audience. The ad group split is the most important element in your account structure, because this is where you decide that a certain group of keywords are relevant to a certain group of keywords, which show very similar user intent. There is no magical number to how many keywords you should have, but here is a way to group keywords for your campaigns. 

The general principle is not to get lost in the features of keywords, ad groups, and landing pages, and simply focus on the business needs of the website, the users who can benefit from them, and how to connect the two together. If you get that figured out, choosing which technique to use become a much easier and fun process.

Online vs. Offline Marketing: Whatever you Think, Think the Opposite

Whatever You ThinkHaving dealt with many traditional marketers entering the online world, and having gone through the transition myself, the best advice that I could share with anyone joining this world (and everyone will, eventually) is the title of this book. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite is a brilliant book that doesn't have to do anything with online or offline, but the advice makes a lot of sense to me because almost everything that we do online is counter-intuitive to the thinking of traditional economics. Paul Arden presents his ideas by using the medium he is best at, advertising. The pages of the books have the structure of an ad. A big image with a headline and some descriptive text. Each page can be read separately without having to read other pages for context. The only difference between these pages and ads are brand and logos. So, me easy advice would be to think the opposite of the way you think. Most of the thinking and planning works the other way round; big becomes small, one becomes many, decide become discover, etc. Here I outline some of the main differences in doing marketing online compared to the thinking offline.



  Offline   Online
General Implementation: Planing, planning, planning, and then you have one big bang.   Start small, very small, extremely focused, based on results improve, expand, optimize, and grow. Start spending big ONLY when you have good results.
Time to analyze resuts:  Takes several weeks, if not months, needs a different process of a sampled group of people to give their feedback.   Almost immediate results on your campaigns, per creative, per placement.
Restuls Analysis: Based on people's feedback.   Based on actual usage (clicks, impressions, conversions, etc.).
Campaign Analysis:  A separate process, involving additional cost and research.   An integral part of the campaign.
Campaign Cycle:  Ends when the ad is seen, and there is no direct link to the customer behavior based on the ad.    full cycle is measured from impression, to click, to landing pag, to funnel, and finally the 'thankyou' page.
Targeting:  Usually one big market, at best segmented based on medium   Extremely fragmented, potentially every keyword is a segment. 
Customization:  Fixed messages can only be changed in different campaigns or editions of a publication.   Can be tailored to each segment, and can be based on previous performance data. 

Marketers and Greed

Gordon Gekko teaches us that, "greed is good" in the classic movie Wall Street. It is such a relief to get approval for one of our basic tendencies by such a successful person. He's making a lot of money, and enjoy it after all! I agree that greed is good, with some caveats, but that's a different subject. I was recently accused by a good friend of mine that I'm becoming too greedy, and mainly focusing on generating money, as opposed to being passionate about the work itself, and loving it for its own sake. My response is thatWall Street - Money Never SleepsI'm a marketing person, I do business. And my job is to create / manage products and services that liveor die based on whether or not they make money. We marketers get excited when we find a niche in a certain market, and when we can see that there is hope that what we are offering to this niche is making money. Otherwise, it's just a cute idea, without commercial value.I generally judge ideas based on the value they provide to the ecosystem and the world ito which  they belong, but from a strictlymarketing perspective, the name of the game is to create stuff that people are willing to pay money for.Since our measure is generally how much money (or any other result) we can consistently make we tend to enjoy the process the more money there is.A designer's greed consists in creating something useful, beautiful, and easily understood. The engineer wants to create a great system that is efficient, and works nicely. The doctor needs to do difficult operations, and get higher degrees and specialization.The difference is that if a doctor is too focused on the money, he would probably be compromising something of his work's quality. If an actor or musician thinks mainly about what makes money, then there is the risk of being influenced in that direction as opposed to truly communicate their vision to their audience. This could potentially negatively influence the quality of their work.On the other hand, when a marketer doesn't focus on making money, he is not doing his job properly!

Content Management Systems as Marketing Tools

Althought the name is related to "managing" content, and usually they are used only to add articles, and simple user management, CMSs have evolved to give the marketing person huge power over functionality, business rules, and layout tweaks.
This presentation was shared in our Web Analytics Wednesday - Dubai Group, using my favorite (Drupal) as an example on the capabilities it provides marketers in managing our online products much more effectively and efficiently.


Why The Next Big Thing is the Previous Big Thing

"The Next Big Thing" is a very nice thing to figure out. To be ahead of the market, to invent something that nobody thought about, and make a revolution. That's all cool stuff, nothing against it. As everything else, because the potential gains are enormous the risks are enormous too.

You can't 'know' what the next big thing is. You can speculate, do your homework, take the risk, and hope for the best. Again, nothing against that. I'm just analyzing what needs to be done.

The preious big thing, however, is the trend, brand, or idea that is no longer in fashion and buzzing, but started to gain credibility as a viable business option, and it is on its way to maturity.

In this case you have the most profitable option because you are benefiting from the momentum, maturity, and experience that has been gained in the industry.

Email marketing is a great example. It even sounds outdated! But it is still one of the most cost-effective and profitable marketing methods out there. There are many providers giving you tons of options, the analytics and testing are evolved, and there's a ton of data about people's behavior and responses. Furthermore, you can learn a great deal about it, and become really good and sophisticated in your offering.

All these factors make it much easier for you to sell the previous big thing, and since it is still not completely flat in terms of growth you can charge a big premium for it.

Unless you can afford the risk and budgets of going into the "next" big thing, sticking to the "previous" one can be much more profitable.

Content Management Systems / Drupal For Marketing People

Although the name is content management system, I found out that they can potentially be one of the strongest tools an online marketer can have access to.


engaging your existing traffic is more important than attracting new traffic

you should only atract new traffic when you are happy with your conversion rates

"Product" is still one of the 4 P's i.e. what the product is, is one of the most important aspects of the marketing

The more you can tweak your product, business rules, layout, the more control, speed and efficiency you gain in your marketing


Drupal gives you that.


SEO Modules

Path: allows you to simply change the URLs of your pages manually from within each post

Pathauto: allows you to create an automatic system for generating URLs based on certain "tokens" you specify. For example, if the default URL structure is /prodcuts/123 you can change it to cameras/sony-digital.

Page Title: You can simply change the title of your pages, which is one of the most important factors in determining the relevancy of a page.

Here is a more detailed analysis of Drupal's SEO modules.

Statistics / Measurement:

Statistics: general statistics on traffic, visits, top referrers and error pages. Although most of this is more meaningful through your web analytics package, some (like top "page not found" and "access denied") help a lot in understanding where some bugs or misunderstandings are.

Google Analytics Module: Makes it easier to install it and helps with automatically doing some advanced stuff like trakcing outgoing links, file downloads, and similar things.


Drupal Modules for marketing


Testing Modules

Statistics / Measurement Modules

Behavioral Targeting Modules

CRM / Notifications Modules




The Marketer vs. The Technician

An interesting thing I read recently mentioned that Google transformed advertising into a software program. Well, they are not the only ones. Many other companies have transformed many other crafts and professions into software programs.
That is what appears to the superficial observer. People, who have learned how to use a specific software start thinking that (or forget) they are (should be) marketers.
Real people, selling real things, to other real people, who are responding to messages meant to convince someone to do something.
A very clear symptom is when these people start talking solely in terms of click-thrus, conversion, and any other technical terms used to evaluate their efforts.
The way to tackle this issue is two fold:
1. Technical: Yes, you need to master each and every feature of that program you are using. The better you get at it, the more freedom and efficiency you will gain and it will have a great impact on your original objective.
2. Marketing / Business: Well, this is why you exist, isn't it? You need to master the understanding of PEOPLE you are trying to influence to do something. The ins and outs of the business, and what those people are like, how they think, what their preferences are, and what you can learn in order to create a great following.
The more you walk on this parallel path (both at the same time), the more each will make sense, and the more you find value in every new discovery you make in either path.
Try exchanging technical terms with human terms to remember what you are really doing.
The Click thru rate increased: people interested in X responded to this emotion better.
The conversion rate dropped: we need to better understand what is preventing people from trusting us enough to buy the product.
This is not an exercise in positive thinking, it is a focusing tool so you don't get carried away with all the new features you learned how to use, and focus on the core activities you need to focus on.

AdWords Workshop - Social Media Forum

I shared this presentation during the last Social Media Forum in Abu Dhabi, and it was great interacting with AdWords users at different levels of expertise in CPC and online marketing in general.

My main frustration is with AdWords technicians who view it as a software that they just "use", instead of dealing with it as one of the tools available to them as online marketers.

Hence, the structure of the presentation is on how to best use AdWords for effective marketing, and didn't give much focus on the details of setting up accounts, campaigns, etc.

For simplicity, the concepts were presented in three main sections:

1. Understanding the market: using whatever AdWords provides in tools that help in research, and how to use the data for segmenting the market and inferring user intent from the keywords. The two main tools are the Keyword Tool, and Insights for Search.

2. Understanding your website: something I don't usually see in AdWords teaching materials, but I think is vital before you start any campaign or any marketing activity. Understanding comes in terms of what kind of website you have, and therefore what are the actions that you want your users to complete when they come. Another frequently neglected aspect of campaign is checking whether or not the content on your site reflects the needs of the market (you need to compare the understandings of section 1 and 2). Finally web analytics should be used to know what is already working and what is not on your site, so as to point users to the right pages.

3. Strategies and Tactics: based on the understanding of the market and your website, you are now ready to formulate your strategies and tactics and to decide on what tools you will use to maximize your results. This section explores the main options available.

Here is the presentation: