Mythbusting: Online advertising is not cheap, it's different

We recently had a client voice a common misperception, i.e. that advertising in search or via online content networks is cheap compared to traditional media. The fact is that online advertising is different and the value must be measured in different ways. First let’s consider the cost comparison.
Yes, you can buy a lot of impressions but impressions are not the desired outcome of a spend online, especially in search (Google ads next to results for example)- you want clicks and conversions. To get these you really have to do two things- be a top bidder on the right right search keywords and create an ad that directly addresses the intent of a searcher. These two things work together to get you in a top spot and to ensure that you get a click. If you scrimp on either the bid amount or the creative you’re basically throwing your money away. Let’s assume they do click. Where do you send them? If you don’t send them to a web page that directly addresses their stated need (why they searched?) then you’ll lose them. These customized pages, aka landing pages, require creativity and testing to be effective. Both require time (creative and programming team, media expert to test and monitor performance) which costs money and requires planning.

Now for the really good news, the difference between online and most traditional advertising. Online is extremely measurable and targeted. You know exactly why a prospect clicked you ad so you can make sure he or she gets the answer they need from your site. If you (we) get this right then the ad has performed its primary function: to get your attention. If your landing page is doing its job you’ll get them to take action: make a purchase, contact you, take the next step, etc. A prospect has become a qualified lead or customer and you know exactly how much it cost to make that happen.

At Martino Flynn we work with our clients to understand the actual value of that lead or new customer. If it’s $50, for example, and we can acquire that customer for $25 then we can confidently recommend that you continue to spend to buy as many new customers or leads as the market can provide. We can make that confident recommendation because your media budget is generating a measurable profit. That’s the difference. It’s not cost, it’s ROI.

Should Your Business Blog? Our view of corporate or business blogging

Much has been made of the explosion in personal communication on the web via blogging. With over 70 million blogs in place and tens of thousands more added daily, blogging has moved far beyond a techie trend- it is now a mainstream communications medium.

From a business perspective blogs offer a unique set of attributes, which represent both opportunity and challenge. They include:

  • Blogging is a personal medium. The reader of a blog is there to make a personal connection with the blogger to learn their point of view. The opportunity is one-on-one communication with your market, the challenge is projecting an honest and real persona. Manufactured blogs ghostwritten by voices without personalities are inevitably failures.
  • Blogging is real-time. When you post to a blog and publish your post it appears live on the web and in your readers’ RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, instantly. If you choose, readers can comment publicly on your post, creating an instant dialogue with multiple participants. The opportunity is to build a community around an intelligent, relevant dialogue, the challenge is to control that dialogue without breaking the unique bond of trust a blog can create.
  • Blogging is an effective replacement for print and email newsletters. Email newsletters are often unwelcome in a crowded inbox and may be blocked by spam filters. Print newsletters are very likely to be circular-filed as junk mail. Blogs, with feeds, let you publish your views and news in the context of current events. Your readers can access that content via the web or have it pushed to them via a reader.
  • Blogs are inherently search-friendly with their large amount of text-based, relevant content. They can help drive traffic to your other online initiatives.

Examples37 Signals is a software company that offers productivity and collaboration tools online. Their blog, Signal vs. Noise, is their primary means of communicating with their customers, yet it does not focus exclusively on their products. Instead it encompasses all kinds of subjects related to productivity and communication. How valuable is a corporate or business blog like theirs? They have millions of visitors monthly.

In some cases we are seeing businesses replace their web sites with blogs because they offer a more dynamic medium for communication. An example is the venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. While we don’t recommend this approach in most cases, it works for them because their principals actively participate in blogging. In fact they started out with a standard web site, added a blog and then decided to use the blog as their principal site.

Of course, you’re reading our business blog. Let’s look at how business blogs work…

Continue reading Should Your Business Blog? Our view of corporate or business blogging

What does your company website look like to Google?

If your site isn’t search-friendly, it won’t get indexed and you won’t show up in the search results for your business sector- it’s that simple. So is your site easy for the search engines to index? Does it contain relevant content, good descriptions of what you do and links from other sites that are related to your business? The answers to these questions are the basis for understanding where your site stands from a search engine optimization (SEO) point of view.

FeedTheBot is a site that step by step explains how to make your site rank higher on Google. There’s no mumbo jumbo or secret sauce- great, relevant text content is the primary requirement.

FeedTheBot also supplies a great tool for analyzing your site, the Spider Simulator (spider is the term for the search engine bots that crawl the web indexing pages). You simply paste the URL of any page on your site into the simulator and it shows you exactly what Google sees when it visits your page. If the keyword list it generates doesn’t contain terms your customers might use to find you, your site won’t show up in their search.

Got a question about search and your business? Email me at medic at martinoflynn dot com and I’ll try and point you to an answer.

The Revolution will not be Televised

We are in the midst of a period of extreme change which is directly affecting everyone in the advertising business. Faced with advertisers moving their budgets from traditional brand advertising into online the response from many in the ad business has been categorical denial. The reality is that things are changing and changing extremely quickly- so quickly in fact that even those of us working in smaller agencies in vertical markets have to wake up and change the way we look at everything.

This extremely compelling opinion piece in Ad Age is, in my opinion, the most important thing I’ve come across in the last few years- though it is long I think it is very important to take the time to read it and digest the ideas and facts he recites.

One example:

“Agencies make money making spots and ads and buying the media for them. Barring a wholesale acquisition and divestiture, much of the nitty-gritty of digital marketing would have to be outsourced. And, with that, control of roughly half of what once was the ad budget. For instance, listen carefully to Jan Leth, executive creative director of OgilvyInteractive North America, as he tells a funny little story about an agency assignment for Six Flags.

“They had a promotion for their 45th anniversary. They wanted to give away 45,000 tickets for opening day to drive traffic. So we got a brief to do whatever: ads, microsite, whatever. But our interactive creative director just went off and posted it on Craigslist. Five hours later, 45,000 tickets were spoken for.

“No photo shoot. No after-shoot drinks at Shutters,” he adds, with faux regret. Then, with somewhat less irony: “Now, the trick is, how do you get paid?” “

We’re moving into a world of transactional marketing in which we will be measured by performance at every step. Traditional media is doing very poorly and there will be a wave of newspaper and local broadcast failures in the near future. This will result in a gap in our ability to reach audiences as online media is temporarily incapable of providing enough impressions to match the available dollars. This, in turn, will increase the costs, accelerating the growth of the Googles and online media companies across the board.

My takeaway? We will be running the agency assuming the distinct probability that print and broadcast, both local and national, will become almost irrelevant to our clients in the very near future.
Draconian? Maybe, but I don’t think so because this represents a huge opportunity for those who understand the change and go for it.

Technorati's State of the Blog World

Technorati, the blog search engine has published its annual state of the blog world which includes multiple graphs and a lot of both textual and visual information.

Here’s some facts:

“In summary:

70 million weblogs
About 120,000 new weblogs each day, or…
1.4 new blogs every second
3000-7000 new splogs (fake, or spam blogs) created every day
Peak of 11,000 splogs per day last December
1.5 million posts per day, or…
17 posts per second
Growing from 35 to 75 million blogs took 320 days
22 blogs among the top 100 blogs among the top 100 sources linked to in Q4 2006 – up from 12 in the prior quarter
Japanese the #1 blogging language at 37%
English second at 33%
Chinese third at 8%
Italian fourth at 3%
Farsi a newcomer in the top 10 at 1%
English the most even in postings around-the-clock
Tracking 230 million posts with tags or categories
35% of all February 2007 posts used tags
2.5 million blogs posted at least one tagged post in February”

If anyone still thinks this is a fad or only something that techies do, they might want to reconsider…

We’re seeing more and more requests from clients for ways to improve their business communications with blogs. One primary recurring theme is the replacement of email newsletters with blogs and feeds, meaning they can post and their customers can subscribe to those subjects they are interested in- in real time. This helps create a dialogue that is extremely relevant, unlike newsletters which are often outdated by the time they are delivered. Blogs are also very easy to set up and manage.

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