Why are trade pub pumping out more digital products?

Chasing the ‘new thing’ is always tempting … and risky. For the potential consumer of the ‘new thing’, the answer of whether it was the right answer is obvious. That’s why there is so much at stake on a movie’s opening weekend, for example.

And when we get pitches from B2B trade pub salespeople, you can oftentimes sense they don’t even know the true value of their newest e-product, except to their quota.

I had one salesperson show me download numbers for one such product. Numbers were well below three digits in most cases, yet he was calling them good. I don’t have time (or money) to try to reach 100 potential prospects (or really, suspects) with some customized product with a message I’m not sure I have ready to go. Sounds like work, not an opportunity.

So I found this post from TheMarketFarm.com advising what B2B trade pubs should be doing these days, titled: The time has passed for revenue-enhancing digital products.

“In essence, trying to invigorate the company by adding more digital products is just going to lead to more fatigue for everyone – and at best provide only incremental revenue gains.

The real opportunity – and the only real option – is to use digital tools to increase the organization’s footprint and prominence.”

Actually, this advice could go for any organization. It’s not an easy task to find the technology that fits with the organization’s strategy, but it’s going to have to be done. Let them do the work, bring me the opportunity. Make me want to line up on opening night, and make it a blockbuster!

What does the data mean?

Every time I open up Google Analytics, the glance over the home/overview page. A number of stats on this page are averages of user behavior. Wow! Look how busy my website is. However, what does all this mean?

Specifically, these two bug me: pages/visit & time-on-site. Are visitors so busy on our site because they are gobbling up the information … or are they just frantically clicking to find some nugget of info they want or need? In all likelihood, it is some mixture of both, but it makes these numbers pretty much useless for me.

But for those making decisions on data, assuming that they know why it is behaving that way could make some horrible mistakes. Thinking your site is ‘sticky’ when in fact it is horrible to navigate would be pretty bad.

So I direct you to this week’s episode of On The Media. Luckily, with only a glancing blow to Malcom Gladwell, the several stories in this show help remind us of the fagility of data-driven reporting and decision making.

Basically, it comes down to this: we don’t have data about the future.

The most fascinating story is the last, about the Decline Effect. This is from one of my favorite shows, Radio Lab. Radio Lab is great for bringing stories from the unknown, much about mind and nature behavior. In this case, the effect of test data declining for each iteration of a test. Really makes you wonder if being data-driven is smart at all!

Free advice from Google

Lucky me! My AdWords spend finally earned me a free consultation with a staffer from Google. I thought I’d share what I learned:

1. Use the ‘search terms’ version of your keyword screen/report to select to see ‘all’ the search terms being used by clickers. (See below)

2. For well-segmented (aka low-traffic) campaigns that can’t be set to CPA bidding, you can set to ‘Enhanced CPC’ for a more predictive bidding method designed to improve conversions.

3. Leah also suggested duplicating my campaigns targeting mobile traffic only. Makes sense to do this because: 1. Mobile users behave differently. 2. Mobile traffic may not have the same value as regular searchers. (This is something she could easily do for me, that would be a pain-in-the-neck otherwise.)

4. Finally, she suggested revisiting my ads. Yes, I optimized them a while back, but she suggested some freshness may help raise clicks. And, I guess, I might find a new approach that works better, as well.

What they say about free advice:

It’s just nice to have a pro look and agree that everything is pretty much in order and nothing stupid or out-of-place.

(5. Oh, and a final value to Google: she pointed out that my daily-spend limit was too low. I knew that, but was afraid to raise the limit again.)

Sitting on your hands is a marketing strategy

Back in the days when my #1 online spend was Overture, I was called into the president’s office. Seems he had received a call from a competitor concerned about our website coming up when someone was searching for theirs on Yahoo.

Yep, I had been keyword advertising against their brand name. (I did point out that our brand name was in their meta-tags. So there!) I had considered it an experiment anyway … it was the only way at the time to see how much search traffic their brand was getting compared to ours.

Not too long after that that I realized this was legal and fair, but … I saw no reason to be so cut-throat and do it again.

More recently two software companies took this competitive battle to Federal Circuit Court. (Note that for software companies each sale increases their margin and commissions, unlike us equipment makers, amping up their need to be cut-throat.) The defending company was confirmed the right to advertise against the other’s brand by the court.

They won because they played clean: they didn’t attempt to deceive searchers, they didn’t even use the competitive name in their ads or copy.

In fact, SearchEngineWatch’s article about the case says:

“It is OK (currently) to buy trademarked names in AdWords, if:

  1. You don’t mention that product/service on your site.
  2. You don’t mention that trademarked name in your ad.
  3. Don’t try to harm the competitors reputation or product.
  4. Don’t have comparisons with trademark infringements.”

And I while #1 or #4 could count as legitimate marketing, when you are getting traffic off their name as a keyword, you can’t. (Not sure if this is from the courts or Google.)

Doing a quick check, the only company advertising against my brand on Google is a used-equipment dealer who resells our stuff. Certainly this is a legitimate use, and I’ve never had an argument about it.

So, if you’d consider your marketing strategy as cut-throat (hopefully only short-term), you can do advertise against the competitions’ name.

But, if you look around, you’ll realize that most all marketers don’t do this, and it isn’t just because they are afraid of being called into the president’s office. Sitting on your hands makes a statement– you aren’t punching, you aren’t grabbing.

Email newsletter advertising math

Newsletter sponsorship for an admittedly ‘targeted’ list:

  • 12,000 subscribers /$1,900 = 0.15 per impression
  • 1/3 open rate = 0.45 per impression
  • 1/3 open rate * 3 issues (for possible exposure to entire email list once) = $5,700
  • Clicks per issue (ads & content) = 900 / 15 links = avg. 60 clicks per link

Okay, the math is done. Now the manager has to take over:

  • Are those sixty clicks worth $1,900?
  • Will clicks drop or rise if I run multiple times?
  • Is exposure to 4,000 readers worth it?
  • Will the other 8,000 subscribers ever open if I run multiple times?
  • How many insertions will I have to run for branding effectiveness beyond clicks?
  • What are my other choices? Can I reach a similar audience any other way?
  • What is the quality of this email list?

That last question is ultimately the most important. Kinda makes me wish I had a BPA audit of the list and traffic numbers (like you get from print trade publishers). Really, I guess I should make sure the publisher’s salesperson wish he had a BPA audit.

Stupid Press Release Distributors

Last year one of the shows we were going to made this offer: We could get a free press release published by PR Newswire.

Now I don’t really care much about press releases. But for this show we actually had news, and were working with another company on a new project. A press release would be great! Of course the PR had to mention that we would be at the show.

A couple of the publishers for that industry did run the press release in their newsletters, and their websites. But the press release was published on another thousand websites.

A thousand websites! Forever, apparently.

We don’t really need our news of corporate cooperation posted at CBS-19, The Eye of East Texas. It’s still there eight months later. If it had a link back to my website, it would at least give me some Google juice.

I can only assume that these 1,000 websites hope that they get some traffic to their sites so that they can earn page-views for their advertisers.

So, what’s the point? Stupid stupid stupid!

Email marketing a high priority? Really?

There was a day when I thought I was a progressive, internet-savvy industrial marketer.  Still today, among B2B marketers willing to fill out an online survey, I’d like to think I’m ahead of the curve.

But apparently the rest of the industrial/B2B marketers have moved on and decided that email marketing is the most important type of marketing they’ll be doing in 2011.

I was stunned to see blogger Chris Rand’s BMON’s response from 183 marketers “Where are you advertising next year?” survey:

What do we find? Firstly, there’s a clear winner. Email marketing is going to be the most important area of investment for industrial and scientific companies next year. Over 80% said it was going to be “high” or “medium” priority, and only 3% said they wouldn’t be using it at all.

I’ve got one niche mailing list I use a couple times a year, and email blasts culled from my CRM for the few shows we do. I don’t even count those as enough to get me out of the lowly 3%, let alone the bottom 20%.

I’ve always put us scientific/industrial/capital-equipment types as ‘demand driven’ marketing. Email should be a lower priority, while optimizing being ‘found’ would be the top goal.

All I’m going to do with email marketing is annoy the very same engineers who will sooner or later be shopping for our type of equipment. They remember what salespeople and companies annoy them. Trust me on this!

Both extremes:

I’ve seen the rise of ‘marketing automation’, and been confused by it all. But for certain marketers (technology/software marketers especially) where nurturing, educating, and creating demand are key tasks, I’m sure it makes sense. Slickly done, with a dedicated staffer running the program, it has to easily show value.

Then there are the really lame email blasts I get from companies that are going to try email marketing about once, half-heartedly. The messages are so bad, no one responds, and email marketing is declared a waste.

Somehow, I suspect there are a lot more than 3% of marketers who fall in the ‘really lame’ category. They certainly aren’t thoughtful enough to read a blog or respond to a survey, though.

Note: I hate surveys because benchmarks don’t always apply to what is right for me. This is certainly the case. But I’m just surprised to be so far in the minority!

Is industrial marketing this boring?

The magazine for every B2B Marketer

BtoB Magazine has its hands full, trying to offer content for different types of B2B marketers: Agencies, technology companies, big companies, small companies.

The August 16 issue has a two-page feature on ‘manufacturing marketing’ with three articles and a list of manufacturing trade pubs. (Barely a feature, but it did pull a full-page ad from Penton Media, see it below.)

Okay, I thought, this is my vertical … let’s see what the latest and greatest is.

Marketing like it’s 2002.

The articles all talk about online marketing like its something new. Here are the articles and a taste of what they had to say, and my reaction:

Online proves its ROI mettle: This main article talks about resumption of web initiatives by manufacturers as the economy improves. Sample point: “Manufacturing marketers are moving online because Web advertising and search engine marketing are much more measurable.”
Dave says: MEASURABLE? We know that! How about the web is way more functional for B2B marketing.

Outlook improving for manufacturing A two question interview with GlobalSpec’s Marketing Maven based on their benchmarking surveys. Interview response: “Budgets are shifting online: 47% [of respondents] are spending more than one-third of their marketing budget online.”
Dave says: BUDGETS SHIFTING? That ended eight years ago, IMHO. (Okay, the next article proves me wrong, but hey …)

On Site Gas manufactures leads with Web effort
A case study from an agency that helped move a $150K marketing budget to online and overcome lead-management issues. Marketing tactic: “Search marketing efforts included country-specific pay-per-click campaigns as well as an aggressive organic program.”
Dave says: PPC AND SEO? Playing catch-up with the competition?

I shouldn’t be so cynical

So manufacturers are increasingly relying on online marketing tactics? That’s been going on for a decade. I admit we still have a long way to go in improving and maximizing the value of the internet. But we have all committed to online marketing at some level, which makes these articles sound patronizing, thus my reaction.

Like we do any better with print…

Bonus: I also received BtoB’s annual reader survey that highlights a few ads for our opinions. This year was no, different … they were mediocre at best. (See my 2006 comments.)
(Hover for my snark, click for a closer look.)

OMG, Yahoo Search PPC is a rip-off

I don’t say this lightly: Yahoo Marketing Solutions’ search advertising is junk … a rip-off. It was an expensive and surprising lesson in online marketing.

(I don’t mean their content network, I knew that was worthless years ago, as is Google’s.)

I’ve been an advertiser with Yahoo since the GoTo.com days of 1996. Later, as Google gained prominence (and bidding on Yahoo got out of control), I effectively ignored Yahoo. I think most marketers have. Getting billed a hundred bucks by YMS every so often was tolerable, especially as AdWords started sucking in thousands.

Earlier this year, the frequency of billing notices from Yahoo was noticeably increasing. I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure it out, or prove it. Today I noticed something in my site analytics that clued me in! I’m shocked, and my YMS campaigns are now paused indefinately.

The short of it:

Yahoo has been adding ‘search partners’ indiscriminately. The partners remain largely invisible to us advertisers, but we are billed for the very low value clicks they generate. My investigation found that in the last twelve days,  just 2.5% of the 243 clicks I received via YMS have been from Yahoo.com, the site. The rest have been from 59 other ‘search partners’ which are junky, spammy websites.

Worse than that, looking at the data, I see sure signs of click-fraud from these partners.

The proof of it:

There is a ton I could say about what I saw when comparing data in my YMS reports and Google Analytics, but the amazing thing is how real the activity looks, and how well it is un-noticable. But when Yahoo reports the same amount of clicks as AdWords over the same time-frame, I knew something is up!

1. Over-extended search partners:

Once I figured out that most of my YMS traffic wasn’t being logged as coming from Yahoo, I knew why I’d been deceived: Lots of onesy-twosy clicks from sites that I don’t even see in the bottom of my Analytics referrer list. Someone got greedy and created enough traffic for me to notice (especially when their conversion rate was 29%). I went to their site and saw my Yahoo ad. Bingo!!

I found this very insightful post next: Improve your Yahoo Traffic Quality NOW with A New Ad Delivery Report by “Search Marketing Sage” Tad Miller, posted 9/11/09. He described a new report that Yahoo enabled so you could see where your search-ads were being shown. The rather tame title covered this scathing commentary:

After running my first Ad Delivery Report, all of what I believed about the quality of this traffic has been reconfirmed (a lot of this traffic is CRAP).  I would encourage All Yahoo Sponsored Search Advertisers to check out the Ad Delivery Report ASAP, and actually go the URLs that are delivering clicks and impressions.  I’m finding lots of questionable sites that look like they are designed more for getting revenues off of sponsored search than actually helping searchers find what they want.

It’s bordering on criminal where Yahoo as looked the other way for years on this revenue stream.  I’m seeing several foreign language websites that my clients would never want to have their ad show on.  I really wonder if they are cleaning up their act with this traffic as part of their future search deal with Bing.

Bordering on criminal? Yea, I’d agree to that. (Check out the links at the beginning of  Tad’s article for more on the subject.)

Oh, I guess I knew that Yahoo had ‘search partners’. So does Google. But I’ve never really thought about those filling up the long-tail of my website’s referrer report with junky clicks.

So, I ran the Ad Delivery Report … and instantly felt like a shmuck. Just 12 days worth of data, but Yahoo looks like they are running the mother of all click farms. In twelve days:

  • 417 different domains and sub-domains displaying our Yahoo PPC search ads, with a total of 6,095 impressions.
  • 59 of those domains showed click-thrus, with a total 235 clicks.
  • Six, just six, of those clicks came from search.yahoo.com.

This all comes from Yahoo’s own report. Here is the original CSV export of the list of websites, impressions, and clicks (less my company name and account number).

Side note: This report apparently only works if you have YSM’s analytics/conversion tracker set up properly. The report also only works … if you know it exists!

2. Sure signs of click-fraud

What got me looking at Yahoo this morning was Google Analytics showing ‘conversions’ that were hitting my thank-you ‘goal’ page first, the one that is supposed to show after a quote request is submitted. That page should not be an entrance page!

So I traced conversions on a Sunday when Yahoo’s and Google’s reports showed multiple conversions, yet I had only one email-submitted lead. After dropping the one AdWords-generated visitor (matched to the legitimate lead), I could focus on the activity of the other ‘conversions’. Two hit the goal page, then another random page and left … total time on-site? Five seconds!

At least that activity is traceable. The top three most expensive converting sites, yampot, thinktarget, and ecocho don’t even show up in Analytics as having any traffic on my site. Did Analytics miss 133 visitors and 24 conversions? Or did a click-bot do all the dirty work? Hmmm. One thing for sure, Yahoo got paid for those visitors. Damn!

Taking it in the shorts

My research showed that activity from Yahoo.com jumped up last November, and I suspect these partner sites might have gained prevalence around the same time. Here is my Analytics filtering just Yahoo cpc conversions (not including other possible spammy partner sources):

Conversions from Yahoo cpc

Unfortunately, ignoring what used to be ignorable has cost me a decent amount of my search budget. At first it looked productive, but now I see all the numbers and activity simply don’t add up. The Ad Delivery Report was there for me to use, if I had known it existed, and if I had an idea this was a problem.

I wouldn’t be posting this if I didn’t think that what Yahoo was doing to me and other marketers was deceitful and wrong. Loading up their search network with spammy sites (and with obvious click-fraud) is unconscionable. The Yahoo brand is morally bankrupt in my eyes now.

Sue them?

Well, Yahoo settled a class-action lawsuit for just such practices last fall. Did adding the new report and documentation required relieve them of liability for still using “spyware, domain name parking sites (bulk registration sites), pop-ups, pop-unders and typosquatting sites”? (The lawyers got $4M, the advertisers basically nothing, which is a whole ‘nother conversation about criminality.)

So the best I can do is drag the Yahoo name in the mud on my tiny little corner of the interwebs, which I set up long ago to write about just such experiences. Yahoo PPC may be old-school for discussion on blogs, but in this case, I think everyone needs to take a fresh look at what they are doing!

The real beginning of the end for trade pubs?


Reed Business Information’s Shocking News (Russ Green @ godfrey.com)

“Friday’s news that Reed Business Information is closing many of its US trade publications and web sites – without warning – is truly shocking to B2B marketing professionals who have relied on these vehicles to reach technical audiences.”

Wholy crap! (Read the news & list from the RBI site.) Looks like they sold about half their pubs, and finally gave up on selling the rest (looks like 23). I know one of those shuttered, and I can say it was not doing well, but wow. A big gap in the trade pub world for sure.

Russ continues in his posting encouraging B2B marketers to develop their own content and audiences. Interesting that we should start calling our customer base ‘audiences’ and not ‘prospects’ any more. Maybe that’s the other part of this paradigm shifting.