Marketers Note: Most Traffic to Popular US Web Sites is International

A new Comscore study shows that most traffic to U.S. ad-based web sites comes from outside of the U.S. It reports that 89.1% of Google’s page views come from international visitors. This is actually pretty staggering. All online marketers need to focus more on geographic targeting.

453 total views, 1 views today

Allegiance acquires National Hotline Services, Inc.

My friend Adam sent me this press release about Allegiance this morning. I have watched the last few years while SilentWhistle, which won 2nd place in a Utah Business Plan Competition a couple years ago, acquired Allegiance Technologies and changed its name to Allegiance, and now has acquired another company. They have grow from a few customers to more than 1,500 now are “the strongest ethics reporting company” in the industry.

It is appropriate that this company came out of the BYU Marriott School of Business, which ranks #1 in the country according to Business Week for both accounting and ethics.

This has been a great case study in how to startup a company, get some funding from business plan competitions, develop intellectual property, create a powerful advisory board (the best one I’ve ever seen for a startup company) and a strong management team, focus on sales and marketing, raise capital from angel investors, utilize the internet to generate leads (Allegiance presented this year at the MarketingSherpa B2B Lead Generation Summit), and to also grow through carefully selected acquisitions.

If you ever get a chance to hear Adam tell this story, take advantage of it. He has done so many things right. You will hear a lot more about this company in the future.

No views yet

MyFamily.com in the spotlight; genealogy industry validated

This isn’t new news–it happened on November 1st. Investors Business Daily published a nice article on MyFamily.com, and revealed that according to CEO Tim Sullivan, 2006 revenues will hit $150 million with an EBIDTA of $28 million. After being under the radar for several years, it’s nice to see MyFamily getting some decent media attention recently. I think the CEO is doing a good job at telling the story.

Here’s another impressive excerpt from the article:

Founded in 1997, MyFamily.com has grown organically and through acquisitions. It cornered the market by acquiring Genealogy.com in 2003 and RootsWeb.com in 2000.

Of the top 10 genealogy Web sites, properties owned by MyFamily had 74% of the audience in September. More than 8.4 million people in the U.S. surfed genealogy Web sites that month, according to comScore Networks.

The genealogy industry is in need of a serious #2 player in the space. While I co-founded Ancestry.com/MyFamily.com with Dan Taggart and our small launched the first site back in June 1996, the original founding team hasn’t been involved at MyFamily.com for many years now.

Several of us have gotten back together to work on an international genealogy company called WorldVitalRecords.com (we may eventually change the name to something else, but it’s a domain that works for now). We have partnered with Everton Publishers in Logan, Small Town Papers, and are in discussions with many other partners.

It is fun to be back in the genealogy business. Like Ancestry.com, World Vital Records publishes new databases to our web site every business day. Our email database is approaching 100,000 names and we are going to be launching some significant user generated content features soon.

It may take some time to become the #2 genealogy site on the web; but we think we have the team that can do it. And we think the industry is large enough so that there is room for us, and many others.

Only 5% of the world population is in the United States; so there will likely be dozens of successful genealogy companies around the world. We certainly hope to be one of them.

Contact me if you are interested in getting involved with WorldVitalRecords. We expect to grow next year and we are interested in genealogical expertise as well as international marketing experience.

(Note: MyFamily.com has asked me to mention when I blog about the company that I am no longer involved in the company, as a director, officer or employee. I am a small stakeholder in the company.)

356 total views, 1 views today

Be Objective About Your Web Site Design

Today, I’m teaching a class on web site design at Provo Labs Academy. In preparing for the class I am reminded how often emotions run high when people discuss or debate how a web site should be designed. There are lots of strong opinions out there, and many of them are not informed by marketing experience, but simply by personal design preference.

So I need to remind everyone that Jakob Nielsen is right about the importance of user testing. I have always loved his “Discount Usability Testing” concept. He simply says invite 5 people to use your web site and you will find 85% of the usability problems. The cost of doing this is ridiculously low and yet most companies never watch real people try to use their web site. Therefore, many usability issues go unresolved, costing companies money every day.

If you combine user testing with web analytics (and A/B split testing) you can make your decisions objectively based on real feedback from customers. Then it doesn’t matter who is right. What matter is, which design generates the most revenue?

311 total views, no views today

90 Minute Panel on Internet Marketing

Tomorrow (Thursday, November 15th) I’ve invited 6 excellent internet marketers to do a rapid-fire 90 minute panel discussion on internet marketing tactics that work. I’ll throw out a tactic (I have scores of tactics to choose from) and then ask if they have ever tried this tactic and if so, how successful it was. We’re going to record the program, and, if they give permission, we may create a transcript of it and make it available online.

This will be held in Provo at 4 pm. It will be for Provo Labs Academy members only (and for the students in my BYU internet marketing class.) If you need more information about it, please contact Pat Sheranian at Provo Labs Academy, 373-6565, or email me at paul “at” provolabs.com.

338 total views, no views today

Part time positions at World Vital Records (genealogy company)

World Vital Records is starting to advertise for a BYU accounting student with bookkeeping experience to do payroll, A/R, A/P, and and prepare our monthly financial statements. This will be part time, perhaps 20 hours per week.

World Vital Records is also looking for BYU students or others with family history experience who are native speakers of any foreign language. Call the office (377-0588) and ask for Yvette if you are interested in learning more.

We will be adding to our call center staff soon, so if you have recently worked at Ancestry.com’s call center but no longer have work there, and if you speak a foreign language very well, please apply. Again, ask for Yvette or David.

No views yet

Internet Marketing Training Opportunity: Large Companies May Apply

Every Friday at noon, our Provo Labs Academy members get together to discuss all the latest internet marketing news. I have promised to read MarketingVOX every day and to visit all the new web sites and try the new tools that affect internet marketing. Then I’ll lead a discussion about each one, we’ll talk about who is going to test the various new channels and report back on them in a subsequent meeting.

Today we discussed Turn.com‘s new CPA network, Marchex’s new PPC network that operates on 200,000 domains that they own (they claim a higher conversion rate from direct navigation traffic than from keyword searches on search engines), Amazon’s ClickRiver PPC network (in beta), Like.com‘s amazing visual search engine, which hopefully will someday accept data feeds like Froogle does (we also discussed Froogle), and finally, we turned some attention to Google’s foray into radio advertising vs. what Bid4Spots.com is already doing with a reverse auction than 2,200 stations already participate in.

It was an incredibly fun session. Every week, we’ll have a similar discussion about all the latest news. We should start podcasting it in a week or two also. This podcast will likely be a key part of the Academy for Entrepreneurs that we hope to roll out nationally, probably next year.

We signed up two new members to the Academy today, including one who has sold two very successful internet companies and is working on a very cool new idea. Having some veterans around in addition to the first time entrepreneurs provides an excellent diversity and variety of opinions. We probably still have room for about 15 more members, although there are 4 more that appear ready to sign up.

In addition to the Friday “what’s new in internet marketing” discussion, we’ll have meetings at noon on Monday (search engine training), Tuesday (email marketing), Wednesday (web site design and conversion rate). We may also have a 4 pm brainstorm session once a week and a 9 pm session occasionally.

I’ve decided that in addition to the $200-500 memberships that most of our Academy members have been signing up for, that we are going to start a new program, a Corporate Membership, that will provide one seat at all of our training and brainstorm events that can be shared by different individuals within a single company. This will cost $1,000 per month, with a 12-month commitment.

So any company that has several employees that it wants to learn internet marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, subscription marketing, web design usability and conversion rate marketing, analytics, Web 2.0 technology, and mobile application development (we are sending two key employees to a major mobile app development conference this month) can rotate its staff through our weekly meetings, so that over time many employees will be exposed to powerful internet marketing tactics and a new way of thinking and looking for new opportunities.

We will probably limit this to about 10 companies, since our major emphasis at the Academy is on helping startup companies.

If you are interested email me or call Pat at 801-373-6565 on Monday to inquire.

404 total views, no views today

Start with very simple analytics

For years I’ve been setting up daily metrics spreadsheets for companies that I own or consult for. I have learned how critical it is to 1) set goals, 2) track results every day, 3) look for new channels continually, 4) and test new creative regularly.

When a startup company looks at a mature internet company’s analytics and daily spreadsheets, it can be overwhelming.

I want to advise all internet startups to start simple. Track spending and new customers. Don’t get overwhelmed at first with all the complex details of a mature analytics program. Start at a high level and drill down later.

But first, just track simple things like daily spending, new customers, and cost to acquire a new customer.

If you focus on acquiring new customers through internet marketing and make sure that the campaigns you are running are acquiring new customers at a reasonable level, then you can increase the volume and optimize the campaigns with time.

But if you don’t even know your cost to acquire a new customer there is no way you can make good decisions about internet marketing.

I think this is the first key metric that internet marketers should track.

I think it is the key metric that good direct marketers have been focused on for almost 100 years.

In the late 90s it seems that internet entrepreneurs had a sort of arrogance. We classified people as getting it or not getting it. All you had to say about someone is “he doesn’t get it” and that communicated volumes.

We thought we were the first advertisers/marketers in history who understood how to track the results of our spending and make sure that all of our advertising was actually profitable. We knew that web analytics made this possible, whether we used home grown systems or third party systems. Unlike most advertisers who knew that half of their advertising worked, they just didn’t know which half, we could track our spending on a daily basis at the campaign level. We knew what worked and what didn’t. Or at least we thought we did. (Even when spending millions a year on online advertising and analytics, we were always plagued at MyFamily.com with a very large “other” bucket.)

When I discovered the book “Scientific Advertising” by Charles Hopkins, published in the 1920s, and learned that he had pioneered couponing and all kinds of direct response tracking, I was humbled by how brilliant some of the pre-internet marketers really were. Even now, direct mail and direct response gurus exist who generate millions of dollars of trackable spending. They really are scientific about their work. Unfortunately, there are still many “brand marketers” who are creative but really don’t know how to generate revenue. They hide behind the fact that much of their advertising spending can’t directly connect to revenue.

I remember how incredibly disappointing the $10 million MyFamily.com TV advertising campaign was back in 1999-2000. Deutsch did the creative and millions were spent with almost no impact. But in a pre-IPO situation that we were in, venture backed companies were encouraged to spend money like crazy to build a brand. (I personally preferred Mary Meeker’s advice on branding–forget branding and spend money to acquire new customers–that is really how to build a brand.)

As I introduce analytics to my students and Academy members, I worry about overwhelming them. After all, Omniture can generate hundreds of thousands of reports.

So I’ve been thinking back to my first months in online marketing and the simplest and most important daily reports that I required.

It comes from asking two simple questions: “How much did we spend today online” and “how many new customers did we get.”

With those two numbers, you can calculate the cost per acquisition number. Track that over time. See if it is going up or down. Set a target and have a flexible budget that says as long as we are acquiring customers for this target amount or less, we can keep spending more money.

Once you have this simple number and track it over time, then the web analytics can help you divide all your marketing efforts into different channels, which you can start tracking separately. Again, you should do it on a daily basis.

So your overall numbers might be:

Costs New Customers Cost Per Customer
11/5 $250 10 $25.00
11/6 $275 15 $18.33
11/7 $300 12 $25.00

Then, you want to start tracking individual marketing channels (Google vs Yahoo vs MSN, each email campaign that you run) to see what the CPA is for each one.

If your CPA is good, then run more and more campaigns. If your CPA is not good enough, test new ads and landing pages until you can get a good enough CPA.

The holy grail for internet marketers is to have a low enough CPA and a high enough gross margin that each new customer you acquire actually generates profits to the bottom line.

If that happens, then follow what I call the “blank check approach to internet marketing.” Spend as much money as you can on any marketing program that brings you new customers that generate a profit on the first order.

If you lose a little money on your initial order (most ecommerce companies do), then you have to hope for repeat orders in order to generate a long-term profit on your marketing campaigns. You can start developing a “life-time value” model that tries to predict how much you can spend to get a customer, knowing that over time the repeat orders will help you turn a profit.

I’m hoping to set up a public Google shared spreadsheet that internet marketers can use as a model for their own daily CPA tracking.

I have several, but I’m afraid they are too complex. I’m looking for a simple one that I can share as a template.

If you know of one and are willing to share, please let me know.

280 total views, no views today

Internet Marketing Update

I’m in Hawaii on business, and don’t have time for any thoughtful posts, but here are a few items that I will be exploring more in depth later:

  • Amazon is introducing a pay-per-click network called ClickRiver. Internet marketers need to try this, but it’s in beta right now.
  • Turn.com, a venture funded CPA network is launching today at an O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference, along with 12 other companies. I will definitely ask my portfolio companies to sign up as advertisers and see how well this CPA network works. CPA stands for “cost per action”, so unlike Google where you pay per click, with Turn you pay per lead or pay per sale. Turn, in effect, will be a powerful affiliate for any ecommerce company or other web site. Turn has raised about $18 million, I think, from VCs.
  • Last week MarketingSherpa was acquired by MEC Labs which publishes MarketingExperiments.com. I’ve been telling my Provo Labs Academy members that these are the two most important newsletters for them to read. And now they are under one roof.
  • Comscore has released its first analysis of mobile phone internet access in the U.S. and Europe.
  • The Utah Jazz are 4-0, one of only 3 undefeated teams in the NBA. BYU’s football team broke into the Top 25 for the first time in years. I think they are going to run the table. The sports gods are smiling on Utah. This is turning out to be a very good year for us.

486 total views, 1 views today

Business Students Launching Companies

I am in Rexburg, Idaho today at BYU-Idaho (formerly Ricks College). Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Kim B. Clark, the president of the University, who until last year was the Dean of the Harvard Business School. The slogan at the university is “Rethinking Education.”

I also met with Fenton Broadhead, Dean of the Business School, and met many students here. Something very special is happening at this university. President Clark works with two other former Harvard Business School professors, Clark Gilbert and Steven Wheelwright, as he seeks to reinvent education at this school.

As I spoke with students and faculty members, the excitement here is tangible. Traditional textbook study with its emphasis on recall is is being replaced with a new approaching that focuses more on understanding and experience. For example, business students take a full semester integrated core of finance, marketing, supply chain, and operations classes, which gives teams of 20 students a chance during the semester to launch an actual business.

Many of these business turn a profit before they are shut down or sold/turned over to the bookstore.

There is a vision here about what kind of students a 21st century university should turn out. They should not be spectators, they should be proactive participants in solving problems.

BYU-Idaho has no intercollegiate sports program; but they do have a football stadium, uniforms, and cheerleaders. The difference is that any student that wants to participate in football can do so for fun or competitively in the large activities/intramural program here. And that goes for all kinds of other sports and extra curricular activities as well.

The students I met are all involved in so many things, getting hands on experience, and real world experience. The business schools internship program is incredible, placing students at big 4 accounting firms and other major corporations.

So keep your eye on BYU-Idaho. For years we (in the Utah community) have heard talk about BYU striving to become the “Harvard of the West.”

For the first time, I’m thinking, maybe that will happen in Rexburg, not in Provo.

439 total views, no views today