Thursday, May 31, 2007

Statistically Valid Data

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” - Albert Einstein
Hey don't take my word for it... listen to my boy Al, he knows what he's talking about. Test your ideas, question the success of your control, and always strive for more.

Before I discuss more testing tips lets talk validity.

Your tests must be statistically valid. If the test group is too small or the results are too few your test will not be accurate.

All tests have some element of random statistical noise. Two randomly split panels with the same creative & offer may show that one panel by chance will have more orders, and thus a higher response rate. Does this mean you now have a "control?"


There is no winner here. (you can have no winner) It's just happenstance that A beat B in this case. It's just "white noise."

The good marketer is one who can distinguish a marketing signal from marketplace noise. To go to the next level you must understand basic statistical calculations.

So... how do I do that? How do I know if my test data is valid?

1. Make the sample panels (A/B) as large as possible. For online testing I think groups of 25,000 is a good start. If this is not possible, and sometimes it is not, just do the best you can. Get the most impressions or names or opens or clicks that you can... knowing that the validity of ALL data is based on both the results of the test (the difference between A & B) AND the sample size.

Thus, if you only get a small sample size, it will result in a larger than acceptable margin of error. A test that is not statistically valid.

2. The results MUST double that of the control to have a clear winner. Some say a winner can be as low as 20%, some say 40% - I want 100% difference! That being said, to get a 100% difference you really must test big.

To me... that means if you're changing only one word on a page that you won't get an increase that pays for the time spent. See the CVoD issue Karma & Doubling Your Results for more on BIG tests...

Let's look at some results of a landing page conversion test:

Copy Visits Leads Conversion
Landing Page A - 1,205, 32, 2.66%
Landing Page B - 1,145, 94, 8.21%

In this example, the difference between the number of leads is significant. It's the 100% difference you aim for. Yea, we have a winner!

Ummm, no.

Look at the visits... not enough data has been collected for this to be trustworthy. In other words, since the data for both landing pages is still relatively small, there is too large of a possible margin of error for you to rely on these results now. I advise waiting until the visits increase thereby, reducing the possibility of error.

The test is not statistically valid, although with time it may be.

Does that make sense?

If you are ever unsure... just ask. I'm certain there is someone in your firm who understands these concepts. If not, dear reader, email your friendly CVoD editor.

Oh, and for no real reason... here's one more picture from Courtomer. Did I mention the red wine was wonderful.

Shh... Karma is still listening.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Karma & Doubling Your Results

"A black cat crosses your path once, bad luck. It crosses your path twice, really bad luck. But three times, well that's when karma's trying to tell you something."-- My Name Is Earl, U.S. TV-Series 2005
It's hotter than heck here in Baltimore. It feels like the middle of summer, and yet it's still May. I know why, and it's not global warming... sorry Al.

It's Karma.

You see I wanted to build a raised bed vegetable garden for my kids in the back yard this weekend. My wife, a garden designer by trade, drew up the plan and ordered the materials. As such, there was three pallets of stone and a front loader dump of gravel waiting for me in front of my house upon my return from Courtomer. It was my job to move it the 40 yards to the back yard this weekend, and then start building.

But then came Karma.

Karma... for leaving my wife, my 4 year old boy and not yet three month old baby girl... to spend a week in the French countryside talking marketing. AND what did Karma give me? A Memorial day holiday weekend with record high temperatures to do 8 hours of labor each day. Sigh...

Yes I deserved it.

Let's talk testing... testing I can do with sore muscles... testing is easy. The problem is most young marketers do it wrong... so I put together some important tips on testing, none of which is more important than to "Test one thing at a time."

Simply put you take one variable (such as the offer) and change it in a way that you believe will improve results, then conduct a small test mailing to see if you are right.

You keep all other variables (timing, design, list etc.) the same. This way if you get a bump you know exactly why. Conversely, if you changed 3 things and got a bump how would you prove what caused it? You couldn't.

Makes sense, eh?

Next, make your tests big.

I see this mistake everywhere when people tell me they are testing pages. Don't test tiny tweaks. Run bold tests that have the potential to change your business. Subtle tests will, at best, yield subtle results, often too small to detect. I want to double the result. Only something BIG will do that.

For example, offer a free sample versus no sample, or, if you are testing copy, test a four-page letter against a one-page letter. The bottom line: if the change you make is not different enough from the original, you cannot trust your test results.

Plus, I've see too many so-called tests that were not tests at all simply because the changes were not big enough to make any difference.

So don't waste your time and mine - TEST BIG!

More tips tomorrow...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Myth Busting

“Everything popular is wrong.” - Oscar Wilde
So what did I talk about during my visit to Normandy?

The title of the presentation was "Direct Mail on the Web: Test your hunches via The Court of Last Resort."

Sounds sexy, eh?

OK so it's not... but it's profitable. You loyal CVoD readers have heard it all before. Well most of it at least. It's all about testing... the art of it and the need for it.

So at an old French chateau in the small town of Courtomer, I started with the premise that we should not believe any of the so-called myths of the Internet, such as, only short copy (bullet points) works on the web because the readers are so vastly different.

The myth says that online readers are not at all like other mediums... these readers are surfers and have short attention spans.


Ummm... no.

The millions in revenue I've help produce online with long direct mail copy would say otherwise. The fact is readers are different (and the same) everywhere and in every medium. You won't find people who just skim on the Internet - you'll find them everywhere.

A research study done by the Poynter Institute shows on average, online readers actually READ 77% of they say they’re going to read. Compared to Tabloid readers read 57%… and Newspaper readers read 62%. The study found that nearly two-thirds of online readers, once they chose a particular item to read, READ ALL OF THE TEXT.

This is why long copy works online and offline. Remember... it's not the size that matters... it's what you can do with it. With the words, i.e., good copy works regardless of medium.

But just because long copy works for you don't think then that all your file is long copy readers. It's never all or nothing, and the fact is we really don't know. But here is what we do know...

We know there are two types of readers everywhere...

1. Methodical readers: They read from top to bottom without much scanning...
and often re-read material.

2. Scanning readers: Scan pages, read headlines and other display elements FIRST without reading text, they read part of a story, then jump to photos, graphics or other call out items.

BOTH of these types are in your files. As such you must make sure your message appeals to both. In other words, use sub-heads and other visual elements for the scanners, and also make sure your copy is “meaty” for the methodical readers. You can play to both on your web site simply by offering multiple offers in different forms.

It's all about testing. Testing copy, copy formats, offer copy - everything you can think of. This must be done regardless of the "type" of readers. The good marketer will test their copy and find out what works best, when and where, and thus, they'll get the best conversion for their file.

More on testing, including 10 tips for online testing later this week...


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Online Trap, Redux

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison
I just ran across this quote and had to post it. Edison sums up the CVoD issue The Online Trap in one sentence.

Thanks to those readers that sent in comments. Some sent these quotes:

"Just do it" - Nike's award winning branding campaign

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill

"There are no problems, only solutions" - John Lennon

"People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents." - Andrew Carnegie

Sigh... Don't let this happen to you. Find the fire within. (Right... getting off the soapbox now. Back to marketing tomorrow.)


PS - Office Space is a cult 1999 comedy film written and directed by Mike Judge. Here's a scene that recently caught my attention exploring worker motivation and company mismanagement. Good stuff:

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?

Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime; so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob... I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?

Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.

Bob Slydell: Eight?

Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled; that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Neologisms & Google

Opportunity is always present in the midst of crisis.
~A Western Misappropriation
I've heard it said many times that the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" is made up of two characters signifying "opportunity" and "danger."

Ah... the wisdom of the East teaching us again in the West.

Bull. It's a fiction, and to a native Chinese speaker it's not true. The word for danger is "wei xian" and opportunity is "ji huay." These are obviously two different words. The word for crisis is "wei ji" and the fact it contains elements of both terms is just a coincidence.

"Wei ji"
literally means precarious moment - so don't believe everything you hear.

But let's be romantics... and not let the facts get in the way of a good story. Let's assume this timeless Chinese wisdom is true... because if it were true... boy, do I have some opportunity for you!

Remember... no matter the difficulty of the circumstances, no matter how dangerous the situation, at the heart of each crisis lies a tremendous opportunity.

Got it?

OK here goes... Google is undertaking the most radical change ever to its search results.

While I was hard at work in the French Countryside chasing down cows and talking Internet Marketing... Google announced a deep-seated update to its search algorithm affecting all future ranking of crawled pages.

Surprised? Not me... We'd have to be naive not to have seen this coming. It's neither good nor bad. It will help some and hurt others. The smart marketers will make it work for them.

What are we talking about?

A new "universal search model" from Google that will change the way pages are indexed. According to their press release it's, "...a universal search model that will offer users a more integrated and comprehensive way to search for and view information online."


"Our focus has always been making our users' search experience as simple and straightforward as possible," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google. "The ultimate goal of universal search is to break down the silos of information that exist on the web and provide the very best answer every time a user enters a query. While we still have a long way to go, today's announcements are a big step in that direction."

And what does that mean exactly?

Google's "vision", besides world domination, is for each query to be answered across all its content sources, giving the reader what Google thinks he/she really wants. In other words, search rankings will now incorporate information from a variety of previously separate sources – including videos, images, news, maps, books, and mixed with the web page results.

And how does it affect my business?

Incorporating more databases means that the universe for every search query just expanded. You could know be competing against twice the completion than before for the same high ranking.


Yep... News and video results will be pushing some website rankings down. Good if you work with video... bad if your a small player with little content to start with. You're now possibly losing organic traffic.

Isn't it fun being at the mercy of one omnipresent being?

But since your name collection is diversified... you'll be just fine right?

But that's not all... Google also unveiled a new navigational interface allowing for vertical search results, (I smell opportunity here) which allows the reader to navigate within its search results and between different Google sections.

You may have noticed the vertical search text links before... they were directly above the Google search query box. Now they are moved to the top left-hand side of the page. Google calls this the "Google Navigation Bar," and it is intended to help you easily find various search properties, such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs.

Did I mention world domination yet?

Seriously... check all your pages and your sites and be ready to tweak if you lose ground. All is not lost... there is an opportunity to gain the ground you lost with multiple hours of hard work. Keep at it!


PS - Besides the Chinese neologism above.. the word Google itself is a neologism, a variation on the huge number, a googol.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Online Trap

"You can't teach people to be lazy - either they have it, or they don't." - Dagwood Bumstead, from comic strip Blondie
I came to the French countryside thinking I knew an important “secret of success” to Internet marketing. My PowerPoint was ready and I was confident in my approach. My presentation went well and the audience seemed to understand my premises and conclusion. (I'll discuss my presentation and this "secret" later in the week.)

The trip was a great success although not because of anything I said or did... it was a triumph because of what I took away from the journey. I truly learned more from the other speakers and attendees than anything I could have communicated or taught them. I took away a more important "secret".

In fact, I'll never forget learning one absolute that I actually taught myself... and that is...

The biggest obstacle that will stand in the path of an Internet marketer is...


Thats' right... the key to reaching your goals is avoiding laziness AND apathy and focusing on pushing yourself, continuing your education and never giving up.

That sounds basic, eh?

But it's not. It can be too complex for those who enter the web-marketing field expecting greatness to come by just doing the least possible. Admit it, everything I write on the CVoD blog sounds easy and simple, right? But it’s not.

I recently read that 90% of Internet marketers drop out of the industry within 6 months. How can that be?

Internet marketing in my opinion is based on simple logic, simple business procedures, with a concentration on direct response marketing. Yet, I see thousands do it wrong everyday.

And when I finally stood back and asked myself why... in the midst of the French countryside... after drinking too much red wine... and talking too much web marketing... the Epiphany came... most marketers are lazy.

It is those marketers that push themselves to learn more and test more that are leading our industry and pushing their conversion levels to new highs.

There it is in a nutshell.

Let’s be honest here… I've been guilty of being lazy myself, I think we all have at one time or another.

How many times have we completed projects on our check list... only to look back at it 4 months later to say, "…ugh, how did that get published!"

It's easy to do, you're busy... you rush to completion... and a piece of tripe get published. The result?

Neither names nor sales occur, or if they do the page is terribly under
performing. You then put your head back down and go back to your check list.

Ugh… so wrong.

Are you doing your job? Technically yes... but you're not being a *marketer. A marketer must not cling to the checklist... a marketer must be more.

(*I am using the term "marketer" and not "web marketer" as I think this applies to all marketing, not just via the Internet)

A marketer must get it done... then review it... AND always look to make it better... in other words, test, test, and test.

Launching a page does not mean you are done. It's step one of hundreds.

Again, Internet marketing may seem simple to some in theory... but the practice is hard work. It's having pride in your pages... and working into the night until they are perfect. Then testing until improvement.

The lazy marketer doesn't test. The lazy marketer brings in the cheapest and easiest names. The lazy marketer works 9 to 5. The lazy marketer lets technology dictate their strategy.

As in life, apathy kills on the web. It's the one thing that I can't tolerate. Online, I've done every job from a practical standpoint. So I understand being overwhelmed and rushing. I understand how we can forget the basic principles as we rush at 100 miles per hour to market our products via the web. But I also understand opportunity costs... and how we lose money everyday we don't launch a campaign on time.

It's not a cliché when I say, "time is of the essence" AND "time is money".

If you believe that it is acceptable to say, "... lets just launch it tomorrow" then you are in the wrong business. Get out of marketing.

I’m not saying you need to work 80 hours a week. But I do think you need to work until the job gets done. I don’t care how long that takes.

I have always told people, “…contact me anytime - we’re always open!”

It's said tongue in cheek but it’s true. The Internet does not close… therefore I don’t either. I will work all day, and then check-in at night and on weekends. If needed that means being online late into the evening. In fact, I do my best SEO after my son goes to bed every night. It’s just a routine part of my day.

That being said...

My advice is to learn as much as you can from the successful marketers you have access to. Never stop learning. Never stop reviewing yourself and your business.

For your day-to-day operations... every now and then take a step back... make sure you are not making the mistake of rushing and cutting corners. Don't fall into the online trap of laziness. You can stop that.

You can stop that today… and instead apply the basics that you know.

And if you want to be... you can still be a marketer.


PS - I've been in web marketing for some 9 years... and after a week of listening to some of the marketing Masters... I am once again a marketer.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Still Learning

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. ~Chinese Proverb
Attention all CVoD loyal readers... I may not be able to post over the next week as I have a speaking engagement coming up. I will be discussing web marketing at the Chateau de Courtomer in Normandy France. (I am told they have Internet access but I can't guarantee that.)

The Chateau is owned by a company I have great respect for... in fact I hope to learn more from my fellow speakers than I think I'll actually teach in my lecture. Boy that sounds bad, huh?

That's beacause I'll have the privilege of hearing one of my mentors on marketing and business building.

The conference will also address copy writing, brainstorming for package development, launching a product, list research, market analysis, the seminar business... to name just a few.

I hope to post a nugget or two during my stay, if not I certainly will upon my return.

Keep bringing in names...


PS - I am sure you are thinking, " can he do this to his wife with a newborn in the house?" Hehehe... I know. This certainly was not in our plans but she understands the opportunity. Plus, we just hired a nanny who will start the day I leave. So wish us luck.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

There's A Bad CPA On The Rise

"One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes;
one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."

- A Chinese Proverb
I was asked a good question today that I thought would be great for CVoD to republish...

Top o' the morning to you.

Question: Any reason, one-way or the other, why the Google PPC cost per new sub acquired is rising? I noticed it's gone from $4 (Feb) to $4.95 (Mar) to $5.50 (Apr)? Is there any level for Google that would cause you to want to pull back, change the landing page, etc?



Good Question, eh?

I'm a big believer in keeping communication flowing between IT, marketing, copywriting and editorial. I enjoy working with people who are not afraid to ask questions and are looking to learn. Those are the people I want on my team. Conversely, the biggest fear I have as a businessman is apathy. It's a cancer and will kill your business fast.

I digress... here's my answer...

The costs are always rising. The clicks are competitive and thus we often have to pay more to get a high placement. In the alternative... we could choose not to bid for the most active keywords and thus, pay less per name. However, that would result in acquiring half the names we are currently getting. I won't do that... it's not good marketing.

Most of the time costs rise due to falling conversions. That is the case here... our landing page conversions are going down.


For one, we are targeting the campaign to cover a narrow area of the world. That means more competition and higher bids. Copy fatigue is common too... after all this campaign is three months old. So the drop in conversion is normal.


We've tested format and copy in A/B splits. We've also recently completed a multi-variable test with 108 different combinations... it gave us a new control with a 19.8% conversion rate. That is extremely high - the envy of every marketer I talk to.

And now we are testing that page against the runner up... and then after that we'll test another 100 or so combinations to push the conversions even higher.

That's what I do...

All that said, I have talked to the powers at be about scaling back... but they said due to the roaring market to keep going. You don't change horses in the middle of the stream, eh?

So we go forth... with a goal of always improving landing page conversions.



PS - My goal is to stay under $5... and I didn't do that in April. We need to improve on that.
If you have any marketing questions... please feel free to forward them to and I'll answer them on the blog.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Marketing And IT

"Go where the money is...and go there often." - William "Willie" Sutton, a prolific U.S. bank robber.
Google is where the money is online.

So we market to Google... both organically and paid (PPC). Sounds like alot of work... and it is. Of course it's worth every dime spent by your company as you bring in more names and more sales marketing to Google than via any other source.

Google is like having a billboard, no make that a store, on Times Square with everyone passing by... and everyone has an opportunity to drop in. Not just random strangers... but potential clients who have shown an interest in your subject matter.

But did I mention it's alot of work?

Oh Yeah... but not impossible. It just means hiring someone. So the choices are you can hire an outside consultant, bring in someone as a full-time employee or find someone in your company to do it. But not part time... this is a full time gig.

My advice... bring all your SEO in-house.

Consultants can be too detached... SEO is not a turn-key. Unless they already know your business the learning curve is too high. You'll end up just spending money and seeing limited results. So please be careful. Do your due diligence before hiring.

Bringing SEO in house is the best way... now who is going to do it and whose team is this new person going to be on.... marketing or IT department?

Uh oh, here comes company politics... yeah sometimes that rears it's ugly head but let's examine this without that dynamic.

I don't think it matters if you hire fresh or transfer a team member... but let's be clear about this...

This a marketing job.

I find it's easier to teach the technical skills to a marketer than to teach marketing to an IT geek. (I use the term "geek" with affection, of course.) The position does require knowledge of both... now if you can find that person - hire him or her now!

But you won't find that person - those kinda of people are hard to find. So I look for an individual with a marketing background first... specifically direct mail. Those are the principles that I think an SEO campaign should be based on.

To me... it's all about landing page copy. It is the conversion of this one page (or versions of it) that will make or break your cost per acquisition and ROI. An IT geek won't understand that.

I am not saying the technical aspects are not valuable. In fact, they are mandatory. You can't even be in the game without the proper technical skills. But that is less than half the battle. It's all about constantly improving conversions and you do that by testing, testing and testing.

Thus you need a marketer to lead this effort AND that is why this blog is marketing based. We need marketers to understand the concepts of technology and then fall back on direct mail theory.

So you should go out and hire a marketer, right?



That's right... this is a two person job. First, a marketer to lead the SEO efforts, set the strategy, work on the copy, administer the campaign and test the crap out of it. Second, a tech geek is needed plain and simple. Someone has to be there to implement the optimization techniques and make the pages.

Time is of the essence on the web... everyday a campaign is not LIVE you are losing opportunity... losing names and losing sales. So having two employees will speed up your efforts. The return on your investment will be faster with two.

So don't be cheap... if you're going to do it - Do it it right.

Go to Google and two time them!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

301 Equals More Names

"When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web.... Now even my cat has its own page." -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton during the announcement of the Next Generation Internet initiative, 1996
How many websites do you have?

One? 10? 100?

Some marketers think they just have one when in fact they have two. Huh?

Let me explain... if your site is "" did you know that according to the engines you also have this site ""

It's true... although it can be the exact same content it's examined by the engines on it's own merit and is crawled as a separate independent site.

Why is this bad?

Well... instead of one powerful site the engines may see you as two average sites. Or worse, you may lose the true power of the links to your site AND you may run into a problem with duplicate content.

So what to do? Combine them.

It's best to choose one of these sites... and you choose the site with the best opportunity for crawablity. I'll choose the "www" site since it's what most people think of when they'll think of your site. Like those marketers that don't read CVoD, some people won't know that a web site can exist in more than one form. And that's OK.

You NOW know the issue and you'll NOW only use the "www" version on every link you produce. And you NOW know to double check those links as they post.

But don't stop there...

Do an audit of your site, and fix any links that don't use the "www" version. For those of you that use a CMS, you may find that your application will often link internally without the "www".

Oh, and don't forget to check the site map too! We don't want to change a link one place and not the other.

That's easy, right?

The harder part is to continue the audit to the external links. You'll need to review your back links and see where they are pointing. Contact your partners and advertisers if they are linking back to you without the "www".

Not done yet...

The final and most important step is to do a 301 redirect on the "non-www" version of the URL. Thus, if anyone from this day forward uses the non "www" version they'll be automatically redirected to the proper version.

This is a good thing... really.

A 301 redirect is the most efficient and engine friendly method for web page redirection. AND it's not that hard to implement. This minor tech procedure will preserve your site ranking (your history) and if you have to change file names or move pages around on a LIVE site it's the safest option. (As an FYI: The code "301" is interpreted as "moved permanently".)

The engines like this type of redirect and will forward any back links, and additional indexed pages from the non "www" version to the proper version. This will create a new more powerful, but concise, web site... and Google likes that.

So much so that this combining of "sites" actually has been known to increase the search engine rankings for the site. Of course there is no guarantee of that. I can only assume if you do get a bump in rankings that it's because your site was a bit of a mess in the eyes of the engines before this redirect.

"But I'm a marketer... I can't do this."

Is that what you're tell me?

OK... no worries. Call your tech guy, gal or company. Explain what I've just said and let them do their voodoo.

Better yet... show them this... I've listed a couple of methods to implement URL Redirects:


IIS Redirect

* In internet services manager, right click on the file or folder you wish to redirect
* Select the radio titled "a redirection to a URL".
* Enter the redirection page
* Check "The exact url entered above" and the "A permanent redirection for this resource"
* Click on 'Apply'

ColdFusion Redirect
<.cfheader statuscode="301" statustext="Moved permanently">
<.cfheader name="Location" value="">

PHP Redirect
Header( "HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently" );
Header( "Location:" );

ASP Redirect
<%@ Language=VBScript %>
Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently";

ASP .NET Redirect

JSP (Java) Redirect
response.setHeader( "Location", "" );
response.setHeader( "Connection", "close" );

CGI PERL Redirect
$q = new CGI;
print $q->redirect("");

Ruby on Rails Redirect
def old_action
headers["Status"] = "301 Moved Permanently"
redirect_to ""


Did I mention... I am sure I did but this is so important I am going to mention it again... if you are upgrading your web site and as part of the upgrade, you have to move or rename some files... a 301 redirect can also help you keep your traffic and engine page rank. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing visitors to your site who follow a search engine link and end up with the dreaded "Error 404 - File not found".

The conversion rate on that page is awful. I'd suggest you stay away from that. Instead, use the 301 redirect and keep the names coming in.