Algorithm Fatigue

An algorithm is a set of instructions and multivariate calculations that learn and adapt over time. The premise for using algorithms for digital advertising are enticing because an algorithm can take in bigger data sets than any person could analyze on their own and make smart decisions based on the instructions it is given. An algorithm should meet customers’ goals and create value in the most cost-effective and transparent ways possible.

Unfortunately, the word algorithm is often one of the first talking points that vendors in digital advertising refer to but can say very little about given that most platforms are built on proprietary technology.  This overuse of the word has created ‘algorithm fatigue’ and resulted in loss of meaning. The value proposition for many vendors is, “our algorithm does the heavy lifting and will meet your advertising goals, so sit back and don’t worry about how.”

The problem is that I want to worry about how. I’m glad that the algorithm has figured out how to meet my advertising goals, but were they the right goals- should I have set them higher/lower? What does the algorithm know about my customer, competition or industry that I don’t? How much money is it keeping for itself from arbitrage between me and the publisher?

Vendors and advertisers alike should focus the conversation around algorithms on customization to fit their needs and bottom line revenue results that are transparent.

Add comment March 11th, 2013

Product Adoption Curve Marketing

Most marketing campaigns are tailored to the Innovators and Early Adopters and then prematurely abandoned. I’ve been thinking about what a long term marketing plan would look like if it were based on the diffusion of innovation bell curve. Below is a marketing plan to build a sustained campaign that meets consumers at their level of product adoption rather than trying to get them to become innovators or early adopters.

These people are itching to go first and be the ones to share with everyone else their opinion. Your objective here is to build buzz for everyone who comes later.

  • Create coming soon trailers for the product. (Kickstarter is pretty much just a giant “coming soon” site for introducing new products)
  • Seed product to a select few – typically niche bloggers and tastemakers who are hungry for exclusives and breaking news for their audiences
  • Presale to the best customers and allow them to flaunt their exclusive invitation through social media
  • Send an email to your best customers giving them first dibs, stroke their ego by giving them something to share that fits their personality
  • Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook status updates are applicable here. Social media is short lived and focused on breaking news

Early Adopters
Encourage those that get a thrill out of being the first to explore, adopt and adapt. Make them the heroes on your site. This is as far as most project launches go.

  • Create the hub of content on one your site. This page will be the place all in-bound links point to and aggregate all external content
  • Gather the early reviews, re-tweets, reactions, youtube “unboxing” videos and sort them all on this dedicated category page on your site
  • Use display ads hyper targeted to be on the most important niche blogs and sites of interest to the target audience
  • Be as relevant as possible about the exciting new release

Early Majority
Social proof is important to the early majority. Leverage your content hub page to give them this proof.

  • Use product reviews in emails to convince them of the consensus of the crowd to overcome their risk averseness
  • Create content around the product – Highlight all the use cases that have been identified from the early adopters
  • Paid search – broad category keywords to capture people who are in the market for your product but uneducated to your offering
  • Incentivize affiliates to post about your offering

Late Majority
Statistical proof is important to the late majority – in their minds just because it’s popular doesn’t make it worth it.

  • Build campaign landing page with keyword research and backlinks in mind to grow in organic rank in search engines (if your product is on the first page of google it must be good)
  • Promote all reviews together in quantitative format showing average review over time
  • Paid search – product specific keywords to capture people who know exactly what they are looking for
  • Advertise on comparison shopping engines for these people who know what they want but are looking for the best deal
  • Use remarketing display ads to remind past visitors of your offering to keep the purchase top of mind

They are risk averse, skeptical and patiently waiting to make the best choice.

  • Put it on sale
  • Use affiliates to promote the product with coupon codes

Mostly all of these tactics can run in tadum (except for the tactics for innovators and laggards) because each customer is at a different point in the curve at a different time. Just because something doesn’t take off right away doesnt mean its not worth sticking with – especially online, it doesn’t take much effort to design something to last.

Add comment March 4th, 2013

Omni Channel Check List

What it is that defines a retailer as an “omni-channel” retailer is a little difficult to pin down, something about web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar “integrating” into a  “seamless” customer experience. The fuzziness of the definition is what causes “omni-channel” to be such a buzzword that executive leaders, gurus and CEOs like to throw around with little reprise because no one really knows what it means.

To make the buzzword mean anything I think it helps to define the tactics that make it up. The following is a checklist of tactics that would make the web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar “integrate” into a “seamless” customer experience. When a retailer does these things they would be “omni-channel”.


  • Order online and pick up in store
  • See instore product inventory online
  • The ability to filter products online for only products available in your local store
  • Access information about products in the store using mobile (for example: qr codes on products lead to online reviews)
  • The ability to recognize an offline shopper when they are shopping on your site to personalize their shopping experience
  • Measure the influence of online paid media to offline purchases
  • all shopping channels work from the same database of products, prices, promotions, etc
  • Offers are customized to the customer’s purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, in-store visits, loyalty programs, etc.
  • The item in the mobile shopping basket persists in the basket when the shopper logs on to their account with the same retailer using their laptop, or any other device
  • A relevant, targeted single marketing message across all channels and touchpoints
  • Drive customers to stores with advertising on mobile to customers within a certain distance from stores
  • Store associates can have access to inventory online if items are out of stock in store
  • Individual Facebook pages and other social media sites for each store
  • Each store has its own localized page on the website
  • Buy in store and get incentives to join email or social groups online

I’ll add more as I come across them.

Add comment February 25th, 2013

The Key To Omni-Channel Retailing

All retailers are talking about is “omni-channel” retailing – where the “web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar integrate into a truly seamless customer experience”.  Customers expect the experience to be the same and accommodating on al touch points – the site, their phone and the store. When right, customers are more satisfied (and hopefully more inclined to loyalty) and it gives retailers more visibility into customer behavior, allowing the retailer to understand and influence the customer journey across all channels.

The key to succeeding in omni-channel retailing is data – the ability to collect it, aggregate it and make decisions with it. If you have the data that shows how online influences offline, how mobile influences shoppers in store or how social media is used on mobile, desktop and in store – then your channels can work with each other instead of against each other in providing the experience the customer expects.

All departments need to have aligned incentives. The ecommerce team most likely has their own online revenue targets apart from the targets of the stores. This give ecomm no incentive to appeal to in-store shoppers, because any shopper that doesn’t convert on the site is a lost sale – even if that customer was just there to gather information before going into the store. If they had the data that lead to the insight that X% of offline shoppers are referred from online they could do more to becoming more “omni-channel”. But without the data why bother becoming more seamless for the customer? It only makes your channel look bad.

If you want something to count, it helps to figure out a way to count it. To put it another way, “You manage what you measure.” Until Omni-Channel is measurable, it will be more of a buzzword with good intentions rather than a force for becoming more customer centric.

Add comment February 18th, 2013

5 Use Cases For AdWords Remarketing For Search

AdWords Remarketing for search allows you to change your bid for a keyword if the user has been to your site before. Here are some interesting tactics to utilize this new feature:

Drive Incremental Sales With High ROI
Its hard competing with broad keywords while maintaining your ROI goal, as a result these broad keywords tend to be left inactive. So, create an adgroup that only competes in auctions for broad high volume keywords if the user has been to your site before.

  1. Create an adgroup for your high volume keywords
  2. Create a remarketing list for visitors to your website
  3. Add that remarketing list containing visitors to your adgroup

Bid More For Repeat Customers
If you have data that shows repeat customers on your site have an average basket size that is 20% larger than that of a new visitor you can bid more aggressively to put your ad in front of those repeat customers.

  1. Create a remarketing list based on visitors to a purchase confirmation page
  2. Add that list to a copy of an existing Adwords adgroup
  3. Edit bids so that they increase bids by 20% (or whatever) versus your original adgroup

Stop Paying For Clicks From People Already Subscribed To Your Email
If you have a goal to convert users to your email marketing list then you would want to exclude current subscribers from ever seeing ads. Once they have visited a page on your site that only email subscribers can get to, you can exclude them from your search campaigns.

  1. Create a remarketing list based on visitors to a subscription confirmation page.
  2. Navigate in Adwords to an existing campaign aimed at obtaining new subscribers
  3. Add your remarketing list containing visitors to your subscription confirmation page
  4. Click Custom Combinations
  5. Choose None of these audiences (“NOT” relationship)

Treat Different Users Differently
If your website has three different offerings to visitors you may want to message those repeat visitors with tailored ad messages.  So, customize the advertising message these visitor groups will see.

  1. Create three remarketing lists by putting three different remarketing tags on different portions of your website
  2. Make three copies of an adgroup
  3. Edit adtexts for each adgroup copy to put the most appropriate message to the users
  4. Add the appropriate remarketing list to each adgroup

Re-engage Comparison Shoppers
If your customers tend to compare you to your competitors back to back you could serve ads on competitor’s brand terms only after they have visited your site first. Bidding on competitor’s brand terms tends to be expensive but using remarketing for search could make it more affordable.

  1. Create an adgroup for your competitors keywords
  2. Create a remarketing list for visitors to your website
  3. Add that remarketing list containing visitors to your adgroup

Add comment February 11th, 2013

Online Retailers Becoming Online Agencies

For most big brands their largest distribution channel is still through retail stores (WalMart, Target, Best Buy, etc.). Once the brand sells their products to the retailer its up to the retailer to sell it through. The brands then go to work building buzz in the marketplace in hopes that they will drive people to the retailers that have their product stocked.

Retailers have their work cut out for them but one area that they can shine in is becoming an online agency for the brands products that they sell. Since ecommerce retailers already have the expertise of selling all of the merchandise they buy from brands, why not also work as the agency for those brands?

For example, let’s say that Orvis brand fly fishing equipment wants to promote their latest fly rod. They could go to a traditional agency but the agency will charge a markup on all the media they purchase. Or they could go to a retailer like Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops ecommerce team, who is already selling their fly rods on their site, and give them their budget in the form of co-op advertising dollars. 100% of the co-op dollars will go towards the media, no markups, and the retailer also has more skin in the game – the better the media budget is spent the more money they make.

Brands are used to do broad mass marketing but its becoming less effective and retailers are becoming experts and driving sales online. Combine the two and you can get closer to the opportunity in between mass marketing and direct response.

Add comment February 4th, 2013

Making Online Campaigns Live Long Term

Too often marketing campaigns that brands create are too short lived online. It takes too many resources to do an initial push and drive traffic to landing pages that will just eventually be torn down. There are instances where this makes senses, like a valentines day themed promotional page but most of the time it’s costly, risks losing followers and squanders potential.

I think there are three reasons that campaigns are forgotten so soon – online is treated like a physical retail store with limited space, too many campaigns live on social media which is inherently fleeting and traditional marketing departments incorrectly assume that if it doesn’t take off at launch it never will.

An advertising campaign in a physical store is different – there is limited space and a store can have only one look at a time so you better make it the latest and greatest. Online you have infinite space for unlimited landing page designs and concepts. Why limit yourself with arbitrary end dates?

A campaign that involves inviting people to pin to Pinterest, “tweet to win”, upload to Instagram, create a board at Polyvore or interact with a Facebook status update has a ticking expiration date the moment it’s posted (studies show social media lasts on average as little as 3 hours). To get the most out of a campaign build it in on your owned domain where it can have a long life, use social to let people know about it initially and then let people continually discover it as time goes on.

Not everyone is interested in a campaign at the same time. For most things we all fall into the mass market, we wait to see what the reviews say, what makes the best-of lists, becomes cheap and is widely adopted. But each of us is an early adopter for some specific category or genre. I am the first in line for Tim Armstrong’s latest but am the biggest laggard for the latest cool restaurant. The problem is that brands obsess only about the launch and as soon as its launched they’re off to the next sexy thing.

  • It takes time to gain inbound links and crawl up in search rank, Google is designed to work in favor of content that sticks around.
  • More time will give you an opportunity to collect data and from new insights.
  • Use broader keywords in the content with a more evergreen perspective in mind.
  • Give those early adopters on social media time to recommend it to the masses who choose to wait and haven’t decided to take the leap yet.
Life Span Of A Link From This Site

Life Span Of A Link From This Site

Just because something doesn’t take off right away doesnt mean its not worth sticking with – especially online, it doesn’t take much effort to design something to last.

Add comment January 28th, 2013

It’s Never Been More Important To Own Your Own Site

John Scalzi explains it so well:

“So, let’s go back to 1998. You’re a new writer and you want to establish a permanent residency online. Which would be wiser: Having your own site at your own domain, or putting up a site at GeoCities? It’s 2001, same drill: Which is wiser: Having your own domain, or creating a site on AOL servers?
2003: Your own domain, or a Friendster page?
2007: Your own domain, or a MySpace page?
(Hindsight is a useful thing.)
And now it’s 2011 and the choice is one’s own domain or a page on Facebook. Guess which I think you should do.”

Yet brands still continue to promote their facebook and twitter pages over their own domains. In every published media and commercial are vague hastags of company taglines. “Like Us On Facebook!” (BTW this is not a compelling call to action) messages are still predominantly shown over domain names.

Ever since Facebook launched EdgeRank it has become a very bad option in trying to keep customers looped in. Since Facebook wants you to be as engaged as possible whenever you visit, they use an algorithm to decide what would be the most relevant content for you to see. So it is not possible to reach people who have explicitly pressed “Like” to receive your updates, unless you want to pay Facebook for more reach.
Going forward you really can no longer make any claims or give incentives to people about receiving timely updates via facebook because you can only reach 10% – 15% of them with every post.  Dangerous Minds has written a very good post on why “putting a lot of energy into building a Facebook presence is a sucker’s game”.

These kinds of changes in social media that put more control in the hands of the company rather than in the hands of the user is a trend that isn’t about to slow down. Warren Ellis reports that the first cycle of social media is coming to an end:

“This may be the end of the cycle that began with Friendster and Livejournal. Not the end of social media, by any means, obviously. But it feels like this is the point at where the current systems seize up for a bit. Perhaps not even in ways that most people will notice. But social media seems now to be clearly calcifying into Big Media, with Big Media problems like cable-style carriage disputes.”

Your own site gives you credibility, control, analytics and the ability to collect information from visitors and choose how you want to communicate with them. Use social media as the spokes to which your personal site is the hub.

Add comment January 21st, 2013

Amazon Is Quickly Becoming The Comparison Shopping Engine Leader

Amazon is huge and only getting bigger. As Amazon continues to grow it also is becoming the largest shopping engine online for advertisers. As Google remains the search engine for all information and sometimes shopping, Amazon is exclusively for shopping. It’s no surprise that advertising on Amazon is very efficient.

Amazon Product Ads allow advertisers to load their product feed into Amazon and advertise their products alongside Amazon’s and their marketplace partner’s inventory on a cost-per-click basis. The ads show up not looking like ads at all in search results, below product detail pages, in side columns and in their own product pages and all drive customers away from Amazon and directly to the advertiser’s site.

Google Shopping still dominates in terms of volume but Amazon is catching up. From what I can see year over year across all accounts, revenue from Amazon Product Ads grew in the triple digits. Not only is it growing in revenue but it’s conversion rate is much higher than Google’s. This makes sense because any user that’s already on Amazon and searching is automatically a very motivated buyer–as opposed to someone on Google who may just be searching for information.

How long before Amazon is the portal for all shopping online – whether you’re buying from Amazon or just shopping for anything online? Google has long held the status of being the starting point for people shopping online but I think they should be very concerned with Amazon beginning to be the ones to hold that mantle.

Add comment January 14th, 2013

Keyword Match Type Parity

Using broad match as your keyword discovery tool will help you expand the keywords in your account and once you have found good performing keywords its smart to add them as phrase and exact match too. With the same keyword on broad, phrase and exact match, results can be segmented based on match type and optimization strategies can be implemented for each keyword.

With a big account its easy to lose track of keywords that are active in broad match but not exact or phrase. Vlookup is one way to do this and another is using Google Analytics.

In Google Analytics go to Advertising > Keywords and then in the upper right hand corner of the data table click the Pivot button. Then pivot by Match Type and for the pivot metrics you can choose visits and revenue to see how efficient they are.

Pivot data in Google Analytics

Download the report in CSV (to add more rows than 500 look for rowCount%3D in the URL and add the amount of rows you want after the D) and sort visits descending under the broad match column and then filter the exact match column to only show 0. Now you can see the keywords that are driving revenue in broad but not in exact. Add these keywords as exact for more insight and flexibility.

Add comment January 7th, 2013

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Hi, my name is Zach Olsen, internet marketing professional, web entrepreneur & proud dad. Read more...

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