Anne Holland

San Diego Hair Salon Tests Local PPC Ads

February 19th, 2004

This week the New York Times ran a story that began, “Can small businesses be persuaded to pay for online advertising even if they do not sell their products or services on the Web?”

Well, hair salon owner Jet Rhys, told me the answer is, “Heck yes.”

Jet, a self-described “right-brainer” didn’t want anything to do with online at first. “I do hair. I’ve never even owned a computer.” But, her young staffers kept bugging her to put up a site, so when she discovered a client worked for the Red Door Interactive agency, she decided to try it.

Clients loved the site – especially the form where they could request a phone call to book an appointment. But Jet’s client base didn’t grow much … until her agency began testing local PPC search ads.

They tried using local terms such as “San Diego hair salon” in Overture and Google; and since Google started offering localized ad serving (where your ad only appears for searchers in selected zip codes) they’ve tested broader terms such as “hair cut.”

Results? Jet’s business has boomed, especially for expensive new services such as Japanese thermal straightening and hair extensions that consumers tend to research online. 30% of the Salon’s total appointment requests now come from the site, and roughly 50% of these are first-time customers.

Some ads have done as well as 6.25% CTR; and, Jet’s average click rate is a respectable 1.09%, with 1.5% of clicks converting to filling out the appointment form.

“It’s catapulted me into thinking I can never be without these buys. I’m able to take my blinkers off and see how I can grow in new services,” Jet told me.

If you’d like to check out Jet’s site, here you go:

http://www.jetrhys.com

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Anne Holland

Have you tested celebrity-spokesperson audio in ads?

February 12th, 2004

I get incredibly frustrated when I hear about a new marketing idea, but no one has any real-world results data.

This week I called around to a bunch of marketers who’d added a spokesperson headshot plus an audio clip to their site. “How many visitors click to hear the audio?” I asked. “Does it improve conversion rates?”

Nearly everyone said, “Oh, we’re not measuring it, but we figured it’s really cool so why not stick it up? It probably helps.” Arrgh! Finally I got a tidbit of data (see below for the Case Study.)

John O’Dwyer, who helps out his dad the famed Jack O’Dywer with his publication for the PR community, told me he’d been kicking around the idea of having sponsors add audio clips, of Jack briefly discussing their product, to their site ads.

John said, “It’s not too hard to create one of these things. It’s just Flash with audio popped in. People believe in something more when they hear an authority say it.” Plus, most audio clip tech companies allow your spokesperson literally phone in their message.

Which made me think, what about using audio for celebrity
endorsements online? Click here to listen to what so and so says about …. Could be anyone from a big-name tech analyst to a Hollywood star.

Has anyone tested it? Got data? Lemme know.

Article: Adding Audio to Your Business Web Site

http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2595

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Anne Holland

Ads on Foreheads (Literally)

February 5th, 2004

Tuesday afternoon you should have gotten an email from us with the link to the ‘Marketing Wisdom 2004: 99-Best Real-life Stories & Tips’ Report. (http://wisdom.marketingsherpa.com)

I heartily recommend you take a look now, if you didn’t have a chance earlier, because it’s highly entertaining and definitely inspirational.

In my introduction to the Report, I noted that this year it’s all about ‘in person marketing.’ One reader wrote in to share another example. Turns out a group of college students started an agency called called ‘Headvertise.’ They’ve recruited students at a whole bunch of colleges such as UMASS who agree to have your ad stamped on their foreheads.

Then the students walk around for a few days as living forehead billboards for your brand and URL (if it will fit).

So far 69-Gear.com and Roomates.com have tested it. Mike Peters at Roomates.com says, “5 heads brought in over 10% of the school advertised at.” Eric Gerth at 69-Gear says he got some traffic, and items in shopping carts, but no actual conversions… yet.

Anyway, it’s a fun idea, and yes, the students involved are looking for either outside investors and/or jobs in advertising when they graduate shortly. http://www.headvertise.com

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Anne Holland

Nifty Paid Search Test for You to Try Out

January 29th, 2004

When I was interviewing Forrester Research’s Claire Powell for our new Case Study (link below), she mentioned they have tested a way of coming up with keywords for Google AdWords:

Instead of just putting ads under obvious terms that describe Forrester’s services, Powell’s team is trying newsy phrases – such as bits of quotes and headlines that are top of mind for their prospects.

For example, when the Harvard Business Review published a high-profile story entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter”, Forrester’s team tested paid ads using that exact phrase, as well as its opposite, “IT Does Matter”.

Claire told me, “For these very specific phrases, the impressions we get are extremely low, but the clickthroughs got up to 10-15%.”

Every search expert I know says that often the best keywords are the niche ones. So this is definitely a tip worth testing. Let me know how it goes for you.

http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2582

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Anne Holland

Which Converts Better: Slick vs. Boring eretail Site Design

January 22nd, 2004

“It was shocking,” Philip Krim, Marketer for The Sleep Better Store told me. “We really, really loved our site redesign. We were impressed with it. I was hoping for an immediate 20-30% sales jump. But, it was flat, if not declining.”

Krim had based his site revamp on what his vastly bigger competitors were doing online. He figured since they had more experience and gargantuan advertising budgets, they must know what they were doing. So he tried to steal smart.

Luckily he watched his Web metrics like crazy. His average sales cycle is 60-90-days, and 80% of site-generated sales come in via the phone. But, within just a few days Krim knew by watching visitor click paths and site abandonment rates that the new design was a failure.

With help from Michael Behrens at WebMetro, Krim whipped up a new site in just two weeks. The funny thing is, he doesn’t like the new site as much at all. It’s far simpler and even less professional-looking. Beautiful images and a heavily detailed navigation bar have been replaced by non-descript text-links.

But potential customers — boomers looking to spend over $2000 on a new bed — love it. Total monthly sales doubled, and search-driven clicks converted 500% better than before.

The moral of the story: don’t assume your competitor’s Web site is better designed than yours, even if it looks prettier. And watch your metrics like a hawk.

By the way, Krim also asked me to tell you he’s discovered for high-price items such as beds, that consumers tend to research heavily online prior to buying, your paid search position doesn’t matter. A #1 position won’t really outpull #3 because folks in research mode often work their way carefully down the results list, clicking on absolutely everything.

Again, it’s your site that counts — it’s all about conversions.

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Anne Holland

Why our email newsletters have ceased carrying outside paid advertisers

January 15th, 2004

Thanks to your support, as of Jan 1st 2004, our newsletters ceased carrying paid ads from external sponsors.

I’d like to stress that our ad sales guy, Dan Zebroski was doing a great job (in fact he was about to sell out most slots for first quarter.)

The fact is, when I founded MarketingSherpa four years ago, it was from a gut-level need to serve marketers with useful, non-biased information to make their jobs easier. I had just been a marketer in corporate America for 14 years, so I guess I secretly wanted to help out my former self.

While all our sponsors were great folks offering services I felt we could recommend — and none ever pressured us to alter editorial — I felt slightly uncomfortable relying on vendor support to serve you.

Maybe it’s because I’m at heart a marketer instead of a salesperson. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to serve one type of customer really well, instead of two. Maybe it’s because we publish Buyer’s Guides which require no taint of bias.

Plus, if I didn’t have to carry outside ads, then I could slenderize issue layout and design.

So, thanks to your support, we’ve been able to make the changeover. You’ll still get our content free for at least 10 days (from date of original posting on our site.) You just won’t have to look at outside sponsors’ ads anymore.

Instead, the ads will only be for best-of marketing handbooks and resources published by both us and many others which are available at reasonable prices at SherpaStore.com. We’ll also sometimes promote trade shows we think are great in exchange for promotional consideration.

We may not make as much money as we would have otherwise, but this change feels “right” to me. And hey, I’m the Publisher!

Anne

Anne Holland – Publisher
MarketingSherpa

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Anne Holland

The Big 3 Market Positioning Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

January 8th, 2004

Poor Gord Hotchkiss.

He’s the CEO of an optimization firm called Enquiro. We were
chatting on the phone the other night about 2004′s challenges for
the search optimization (the fact that nobody really understands
Google’s latest “Florida” update yet; Yahoo deciding to bail on
Google and create their own natural listings algorithms that
everyone will have to re-optimize for; and the fact that there
are still bozos giving a bad name to the search field by doing a
cruddy job for clients.)

Then Gord innocently asked, “How do you think the search firm
industry could better market itself?” … and I exploded into this
huge rant.

I had no idea I felt so strongly. But the fact is, the search
industry has an identical marketing weakness to most industries
where there are tons of competitors (software firms, marketing
consultants, etc.): zero obvious differentiation.

Most competitors’ Web sites make same-sounding claims, describe
same-sounding services, and make same-sounding lead generation
offers. (And too often use clip-art.)

Some try to break from the pack by making either of the three big
marketing mistakes:

Mistake 1: Boasting about leadership. “We’re the leader in…”
Even if it’s true, unless you’re a household name it sounds fake,
and no one cares except your CEO. It’s not a key differentiation
point.

Mistake 2: Making up terminology to describe yourself. “We use
the unique A.B.C. process to…” If prospects never heard of it,
they don’t care. They are not here to learn about you – they
just want to know if you can solve their particular problem.

Mistake 3: Broad customer description. “Everyone from the
Fortune 500 to small businesses use our services.” Prospects
don’t think of themselves as generic (even if they are), so they
don’t want to buy generic services (even if it would suit them.)

My advice? Focus your positioning on the customer – not
yourself.

Do you have a group of clients in a particular niche? Then
create marketing campaigns (and a site section) dedicated to how
you serve that niche specifically (yes, even if you also serve
others.) A niche can be:

- the tech platform they use
- the size of their company
- geographic location
- their business model
- their budget
- their job title
- demographics

And, yes if you serve many niches, then create many of these
vertical marketing campaigns starting with the niches that are
currently most profitable for you. Then stick a big honking link
on your home page and your site navigation bar calling out to
each niche by name (the name they themselves use, not something
you made up).

This is *not* rocket science. It’s 101 marketing.

Ok, rant over. Thanks to you and Gord for putting up with it.

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Anne Holland

Whirlwind of Attacks Against Spammers

December 18th, 2003

At 5:45pm last Thursday I was in the midst of wrestling with the
next day’s editorial, when Andy Sernovitz of GasPedal Ventures
called me up out of the blue.

“They’ve caught Gaven Stubberfield!” he cried joyfully.

Notorious junk emailer Gaven Stubberfield used stolen lists to
send some of his slimy offers. I know this because two of these
lists were MarketingSherpa’s reader file and GasPedal’s list,
stolen along with at least 10 other publisher’s lists in the
summer of 2002.

(At the time Andy, I, and Ralph Wilson were the only publishers
to come clean and publicly reveal our lists had been stolen, in
hopes that other list owners would be educated about the problem
and prevention measures. You can learn more at:
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2139 )

Although I’d contacted the FBI and other law enforcement
officials back then, no one was very interested in hearing my
story – besides the NY Times, WSJ, and DM News that is.

However, the wind has definitely changed. Everyone from the
President, to state attorney generals, to local police are
gunning for junk emailers this month.

Here are some links to related stories in the press you might
find useful:

-> Gaven Stubberfield is First Computer Crimes Arrest in VA:

http://www.wtop.com/?sid=150989&nid=25

-> New York Attorney General to File Suit Against Junk Mailers
(Note: this is important for anyone mailing promotions on behalf
of third parties to read, and for anyone who runs an affiliate
program. Registration required.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/18/technology/18spam.html

-> Final, complete text of the CAN-SPAM Law, and a link to a
quick summary (Note – we’ll publish a special issue on this next
Tuesday for all our EmailSherpa readers, so look for it)

http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html

By the way – this is our last issue of Best-of Weekly for 2003.
I hope you enjoy the holidays, and thanks for your support.

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Anne Holland

Whirlwind of Attacks Against Spammers

December 18th, 2003

, Managing Editor

At 5:45pm last Thursday I was in the midst of wrestling with the
next day’s editorial, when Andy Sernovitz of GasPedal Ventures
called me up out of the blue.

“They’ve caught Gaven Stubberfield!” he cried joyfully.

Notorious junk emailer Gaven Stubberfield used stolen lists to
send some of his slimy offers. I know this because two of these
lists were MarketingSherpa’s reader file and GasPedal’s list,
stolen along with at least 10 other publisher’s lists in the
summer of 2002.

(At the time Andy, I, and Ralph Wilson were the only publishers
to come clean and publicly reveal our lists had been stolen, in
hopes that other list owners would be educated about the problem
and prevention measures. You can learn more at:
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2139 )

Although I’d contacted the FBI and other law enforcement
officials back then, no one was very interested in hearing my
story – besides the NY Times, WSJ, and DM News that is.

However, the wind has definitely changed. Everyone from the
President, to state attorney generals, to local police are
gunning for junk emailers this month.

Here are some links to related stories in the press you might
find useful:

-> Gaven Stubberfield is First Computer Crimes Arrest in VA:

http://www.wtop.com/?sid=150989&nid=25

-> New York Attorney General to File Suit Against Junk Mailers
(Note: this is important for anyone mailing promotions on behalf
of third parties to read, and for anyone who runs an affiliate
program. Registration required.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/18/technology/18spam.html

-> Final, complete text of the CAN-SPAM Law, and a link to a
quick summary (Note – we’ll publish a special issue on this next
Tuesday for all our MarketingSherpa readers, so look for it)

http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html

By the way – this is our last issue of Best-of Weekly for 2003.
I hope you enjoy the holidays, and thanks for your support.

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Anne Holland

The Ugly Side of Search Optimization

December 11th, 2003

A MarketingSherpa reader (who asked to be anonymous) called me up
last Friday afternoon to say, “I’m sorry – I just hired the bad
guys to do my search engine optimization.”

He explained he was apologizing because the firm he hired was
using a pretty slimy practice, that our Buyer’s Guide had
recommended against, to get his Web site lots more rankings.

They were putting hidden (aka invisible) links on all their
unrelated client’s sites that pointed to other clients’ sites.
The theory is that Google and other search engine robots would be
fooled into thinking each site had fabulous link popularity, and
they’d rank the sites higher.

The thing is – it was working. He was getting great rankings.

He asked me, “I know it’s wrong, but I need the traffic for my
business. I’m only showing up in search engines for terms that
my company should have been in all along. So why is this so bad
really?”

I’ve interviewed loads of search experts for our Buyer’s Guide on
this topic, and many have told me that there’s an ugly
underbelly to the search business. It’s a bit like the junk
email industry — people know they are spamming, but for many
it’s profitable enough that they keep doing it.

And, like junk email, search engine deceit is rampant in some
parts of the affiliate world. Which is infuriating for merchants
who practice honest search optimization, only to see their
rankings beat by their own affiliates.

So, what should you do?

I urge you to keep to the straight and narrow with your
optimization. It’s not about morality – it’s about business
risks.

If you get caught doing something that’s against Google’s
preferences, they may cut you off from being listed entirely.
(They don’t *have* to list you, you know. There’s no law forcing
them to list anyone in the organic non-paid results if they don’t
want to.)

How can you be caught? Well, a competitor may report you. Or
somebody may report your optimization firm and hence all their
clients. Or Google’s frequently updated programs may spot the
problem automatically.

Once you’ve been cut off, it can be very difficult to convince
Google to let you back again. Ever. I know one company which
has been trying to be re-listed for more than a year now.

Is quick and easy traffic now worth the risk of losing all your
listings in the future? It’s your call to make. It’s your
business at stake.

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