Archive for the ‘site optimization’ Category

The vast potential of LinkedIn’s Find a Foursome…

Fresh off LinkedIn’s admission of commanding an outrageous $75 CPM on some of their advertising, I was hit with a newsfeed update this morning of someone in my network joining the group “Find a Foursome!”

If ever there was the absolute perfect application/group marketing vehicle for LinkedIn I think we’ve stumbled onto it here.

There is even a notice to “add all all your “contact” email addresses,” personal and professional. Genius, shear genius. Wait, so will my email addresses then be spammed, or will it serve to create a list for golf products and promotions…I don’t know yet, but the noisey-spammy email is worth it for me to see how this will turn out. I don’t even like golf!

Now, since groups are managed by a user or series of users on LinkedIn, the platform is not open, and there is not a whole ton of functionality that can be done, but it will interesting to see how the dynamics of this group grow (or don’t grow for lack of ease of effort) and whether there are attempts to advertise (by LinkedIn or by users).

This is going to be fun to see play out. I don’t even know if this it a test group from LinkedIn itself. Keep your eye on this one.



Mahalo: Yikes…that’s product marketing and data analysis?

Update: CEO Jason Calacanis was nice enough to respond to our post below:

His comments:

fyi: we have a user lab at mahalo at did 75 hours of testing over the last year. All of our site changes are considered deeply with a combination of user testing, user feedback, and metrics testing.

In terms of who’s responding there are normal folk in there, user experience folks, and designers. I would go read the 200+ comments and 50+ notes on the image a day later. Some are very considered, and the feedback while not a perfect roadmap is very helpful.

Talking to users is NEVER a bad idea. Listening to everything they say? well, obviously you don’t want to do taht or you have chaos.

best jason

Jason, thanks kindly for responding to this blog; it is well appreciated. I agree talking to users is never a bad idea; I said as much in my customer service as the new marketing post.

And I agree that if you get user feedback from UI folks and designers, it is priceless. So I will reflect that in the post.

However, two things:

1) I think there is a user fatigue that comes with too much messaging. If everyone twitter’d or flickr’d all their site designs a user would become deluged with noise.

2) You have to ask or beg the question of the feedback: How often do you use Maholo? If not the feedback itself is noise.

My conclusions:

– Talking to users is never a bad idea

– Processing their feedback correctly for the product roadmap is crucial

– Who is the target audience for Mahalo and have you reached out to them effectively through social media circles?

Thanks so much for responding.



I’ve commented before on Mahalo.

Upon a post by their founder on his blog, I am exceedingly worried for their investors.

The title of the post is Social Media Focus Groups as a value for Twitter and other quick-response, signal-frequency services. Most who read this blog know I feel the value of Twitter is in labeling the data with statistics for personal review and reducing the noise.

In terms of the blog post referred here, I couldn’t disagree more on both the use for Twitter and the explanation for the social media focus group.

First, on the social media focus groups, anyone who does online site optimization knows that what users do is very different then what users say. That is nothing new.

Second, on using Twitter and other such services to gain feedback, probably best to use this avenue to comment on large news than rudimentary page designs lest people stop paying attention to your posts. Do I really care if I use a service whether some guide thing is on the left or some links are on the right? Probably not, so I would label that message as spam going forward. If you released a new service that added value, told me about it that way, and I found it immediate value, sure I would be accepting of that message.

Further, as I’ve talked about in past posts, “who” is responding is just as important as what they do. The folks responding to a little usability focus groups on Twitter or even Flickr are probably not the audience that you need to gain and or optimize for to increase growth. Except if these users are UI or design experts that are offering feedback (thank you for the correction).

Glam, Stylefeeder, and A good job

Update from

Siva Kumar from was nice enough to respond to this post. Siva, I just checked your uniques, you guys have come quite a way since the days of FatLens and online ticketing comparison shopping.

Are there similar integrated partnerships in the works for along these lines of layered integration? Thanks for responding.


Those of you that read this blog consistently, know that Glam is often a target for criticism and a frequent member of the “gaming the ratings” vertical.

However, the current deal between Stylefeeder and Glam reeks of, well, value. In fact, there is a third participant of this deal,, that is winner as well. Let’s see if the product takes off, but the concept of it makes a ton of sense.

According to Mashable, it works like this. StyleFeeder introduces content on their site in an interface that is designed more appropriately for the constituency, women. Stylefeeder aggregates the users and reduces production cost with “content,” or product feeds. The addition of Glam is pretty smart as well as the added CPM pricing will allow for higher distribution purchasing power to the entity, while putting purchase minded customers in front of the brand advertiser.

The triumvirate creates maximum pricing power for search keywords and maximum revenue per click on list management or other forms of distribution.

Additionally, none of these companies could have harnessed the traffic themselves in a scalable fashion. A deal like this usually doesn’t get done because of the coordination needed, so kudos to the business leads on this one. You could say the short term winner here is Stylefeeder, who managed to insert themselves in with two stronger “brands” with more funding.

To review… provides the backend and the service rate (a large selection of products)
Stylefeeder personalizes the content to increase conversion
Glam serves advertising on top of the content, increasing the CPM, while increasing valuable inventory and reach.

Two thoughts in conclusion:

– Do brand marketers understand the competition for their brand eyeballs in the sense of this partnership? Do they care?

– I’m wondering if will come up with a similar campaign with Sugar or other?

Banner Ad is to Advertising Campaign as Twitter is to….

….personal news portal! Personal news portal!

TechCrunch, again trumping others, is carrying a story that Twitter is testing instream advertising.

All I can say to this is, “No! No! No! Look at the opportunity.”

My last and only post on Twitter merely talked about the power in building signals.
(I’ll have another post coming shortly on the signal-receiver relationship online).

Twitter is missing a golden opportunity here to build a destination site.

Much like banner ad campaigns are distributed widely online and lead users back to a Web site is the relationship that Twitter should have between their users and a destination site. In essence a user has opted in for the most powerful advertising perhaps ever: a relevant content message from a trusted voice that gets pushed to a device that is always on them.

This permission-based content push is the core competency and value of Twitter and they should not compromise by introducing noise. This would corrupt the system completely. Suddenly, that desire to view a message would be caveated with, “Wait, maybe it’s an advertisement.”

Twitter should provide a web-based service that then capitalizes on their core competency.

Give me statistics on messages and wrap marketing around this.

Introduce relevant content to twitter categories or my grouping (either automated or with manual editorialship) and wrap advertising around this.

Provide a customized newsletter feed from my twittering and sell sponsorships.

Review point: Google introduced search ad campaigns around their core competency (their natural results) not in them.

More comments inline with this sentiment on Mashable today.

Cluuz: Like it, but not really next gen guys…

I’m more poking fun at Cluuz. I like their “array” display of search engine results that allows the user to select an appropriate result by “promiximity” to what their looking for.

For those that have been around awhile, we rememember Gnod’s Music and their Music Map. Still a very effective recommendation for music which originated in the 1990s.

Are you a Radiohead fan?

Search engine interfaces are a lot like multi variate testing, you never know what comvination of features and visuals will illicit positive feedback and return usage.

I’m also looking forward to the debut of PowerSet this week.

Newspapers: Step IV: Identify silos of initial value

We have the CTO.

We’ve talked to our advertisers (and set some expectations)

We’ve improved our reporting.

Step IV:

Identify silos of initial value

Summary: I’m going to make an assumption here that a newspaper site does not have enough content producers, product managers and developers (even with the new CTO) to solve everything at once. I think this is a fair assumption.

Therefore, we’ve have to focus on one vertical or set of advertisers and solve their needs. The goal is the following: increase all metrics of a set group of advertisers or vertical across all points of the supply chain.

Directive: Solve a vertical.

Let’s use the travel vertical example. We have 7 travel partners that really like our attention to their campaign. Next they tell us what performs best from them (along with the accompanying metrics — brand and direct response). We investigate where they are displayed and we investigate how users are getting to these pages.

We form a task force. One that has carte blanche to: a) not seek approval on all content issues and b) ability to prioritize work for anyone as they see fit.

(Ideally we have a strong product manager that has followed the CTO leading the charge.)

We do an extensive competitive analysis, we identify success metrics, we build or repackage content as necessary and we strike distribution deals as quickly as possible regardless of price. (Price will just slow us down; we can always renegotiate later).

All the while, we inventory the effort level and manhours needed to achieve this. We identify where processes are repeatable for other veriticals or advertiser niches.

What do we have? Well after a few iterative takes, we probably arrive at something of value based upon a valuable advertiser metric (some examples in travel could be: impressions, clicks, bookings, viewthus, email sign-ups or other).

So know we have a success. We also have the manpower assessment it took to complete this (our operating cost). Further, we have process points to improve operations.

Thus we can do this again and again for a series of clients. This isn’t the end game mind you, but it solves some of the following:

– advertiser value

– advertiser expectation and customer service happiness

– content / production costs

– revenue

Once, we have more users, we can make more valid assumptions and try some riskier, highever value endeavors.

While this post may seem obvious to any user, I wonder how many newspaper sites are evaluating their effort level based upon a specific ROI and putting in processes to improve the profitability.

Web site tabs: Myprofile, Myfriends, Search…..Games?

I logged on to Trip Advisor today for the first time in awhile. There was awhile in my career for various competitive reasons I would visit Trip Advisor on weekly if not daily basis.

I have continued to log on, but log on sporadically.

Today, type the url into the browser bar, the page came up, I looked at the nav bar and found:
Home (ok that’s an easy one), Destinations (that means browse) and “Fun and Games?” What in the world?

By the way, the nav bar is a really easy way to see products that a web company are unveiling and promoting. Usually a product will get a nav bar location, once it’s proven and a promotion strategy is created for it.

Back to the title of this post, “Fun & Games?” How? Why?

It’s actually easy for a number of reasons given the convergence of a number of factors around online web development and publishing.

– Games are a great way to keep the user on a site and/or coming back to it. Do they have anything to do with the content? Well not always, but it serves as a branding and retention play for the site

– Games are relatively cheap to make; scratch that, game are very easy to copy. The production cost of a game is extremely cheap (probably as low as $5000 – $10K for a decent casual game with decent graphical treatment)

– Games increase time on the site: This is an important factor for brand advertising

– Games increase page views. Bonus that brand advertiser 1M page views per month and it really doesn’t cost you anything at this point.

Of course, this is nothing new. Back in 2003 or so, Orbitz (another travel site) introduced games as a component of a banner ad to increase brand awareness and drive better clickthrough rates.

However it seems that the breadth of sites doing this, in my unscientific review, is certainly increasing.

Some sites that I have noticed incorporating games into their content catalog:


iLike (which also profiles users based upon their games)

Windows Live (and it’s corresponding Live Club) (By the way, it much talked about how this club suffered poor industry PR as Comscore and others wrapped a users time in the club into search usage).

Seems like there is an opportunity for sites like iWin and Big Fish to develop an enterprise product. Or maybe this is a direction for some of the Facebook app game companies?

Newspapers: Step III: It’s all about events and reporting

Okay, I now have a CTO, or I’m in the process of getting one, and I have feedback from my advertisers. I have momentum.

I have goodwill with my advertisers becuase I listened to their concerns and I showed them how serious I was by getting a CTO and vowing to ramp up my technical capabilities.

What next?

Step III

Evaluate what reporting I have and what I need

Summary: Many online publishing companies incorporate a webtrends or an ominture and there done with it. Essentially these publishers are letting reporting software companies determine their metrics. It’s a travesty, it happens all the time, it’s incorrect and there it really no excuse for doing it.

I’m not saying get rid of your Ominture or Webtrends service by any means. I am suggesting that if you have the desire to be a big publication that you need to manage your reporting interface so that you can define new “things” that mean value.

For example, maybe the “weather” page is the largest entry page on my publication site, well maybe I make it a defined goal to improve the content and navigation around weather.

Regardless of “what” it is you need to measure it.

And rigid reporting structures don’t allow you to do this.

You need a flexible event model that allows you to identify metrics as they happen.

Do you have this?

As an additional note, a reporting web display that makes sense for your business drives sound business decisions. I can’t tell you how important that is.

Directive: Easy one here.

– Understand what you have (internal, external, what’s the support level). Have you mastered Omniture, can you dynamically change reports and interfaces.

– Evaluate what you need. You have this already from you advertisers, we don’t have it from content (but that’s okay they don’t know what they are doing anyway). And now your CTO will help you understand what’s supported and what’s not.

Reporting is a “product” in an of itself for any major online publisher or advertiser. It is living and breathing and it needs constant product development and support. It is part and parcel to your content.

Create the roadmap for it and start executing now.

OMMA: What’s next, a story on the X10 camera? Ridiculous

In Twitter-like fashion here:

– Get mail yesterday

– Flip through to magazines

– See OMMA with a story on performance marketing. Omma, okay, cool.

– Flip to the lead story: “Click me baby one more time”

– Third sentence: “For almost a decade, performance marketers have placed so much importance on initial click-through rates that they’ve forgotten nearly everything else.”

– Close magazine, start crying, curl-up in a fetal position

– Get up go to my computer, log onto Prodigy and dial up Preview Travel for some airline tickets and then it’s over to Infoseek for my financial news…wait I can go to RagingBull, great!

Did anyone else feel that OMMA made a mistake and reprinted a turn-back-the-clock issue from 2002?

Hey Netflix, are you just looking at the click. Is that how you scaled your business? What about you MyCokeRewards? Omniture has about $143M reasons to tell you why it’s not just about the click. Oh yeah, and they’ve been in business for awhile.

Anyone using Google Analytics? Or even a BuzzLogic?

It’s a sad day when an online publication so widely followed and accepted by the luminaries in the media space puts out such a patently late piece and calls it news.

Maybe that’s why there are blogs…..thankfully.

Analytics companies: Hold your breath on the “R” word

If you are building an analytics or optimization company right now, you are holding your breath at every Bernanke interview. Especially if you are in the b-to-b-c marketplace.


If you are a top tier solely online company, you typically build a customized solution in house.

If you are anyone else, you probably will want to have a high confidence level in what that product will do for you if you are going to spend money on it, engineers on integration, and business resource time in training. As in, tell me how much money I am going to make.

If I have to watch my costs more closely (read: recession), I better know what to expect from that product right now, not after its integrated.