Quantcast getting better and better

I’m a huge fan of Quantcast. I’ve blogged before that it may be the best free tool for online marketers.

And now it’s even better.

Two weeks someone showed me that whenever you are looking at a web site, to see how much traffic it has, that there are two arrows that PREVIOUS and NEXT, so if you are looking at the 100th most popular web site, you can click on NEXT and see the 101st most popular.

So I spend a couple hours scrolling through the 200 most popular web sites, looking for those that appeal to an the demographic our company is targeting. So I wanted to find very high traffic sites that we could advertise on, or partner with somehow.

I found a dozen excellent sites that I had not heard of before.

But now, on the Quantcast home page, you can now easily see the top 100 highest traffic web sites, and then the next hundred, the next hundred, and so forth.

I can’t wait till Quantcast allows you to enter in your audience profile and have it show you all the sites that match your audience that you should be advertising on, and then enable you to purchase ads quickly on those sites.

I wish Quantcast would buy the old Top9.com web site, with its thousands of helpful categories, and update it with their current data. Top9.com became one of the very popular web sites for marketers years ago. It was powered by data from PCData.com, then it disappeared. Here is a snapshot of Top9.com from the Way Back Machine.

When I worked at MyFamily.com and our properties were ranked us as one of the top 50 web sites in the world, we had plenty of capital to pay for services like Media Metrix, Netratings, and later Comscore. These services cost tens of thousands of dollars per year, but gave us tremendous insights into media buying and affiliate recruiting possibilities, as well as some competitive intelligence. I especially liked the reports on Netratings that could show us where our competitors were getting their web site traffic from.

A couple years ago I blogged about Five Things Most Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford. This was one of my most popular posts that year. The second item on the list was “third party measurement services” like those I’ve mentioned above.

Amazingly, Quantcast provides most of the value that these super expensive measurement services offer, and it is disrupting the industry at the perfect time–Comscore has filed to go public and Hitwise was just acquired by Experian for $250 million.

Quantcast isn’t going to make money selling their measurement data. Paul Sutter, the cofounder of Quantcast says that audience measurement is a few hundred million dollar market, but media buying is a few hundred billion. Quantcast is planning to help marketers reach their niche target markets through the use of their data. And I’m sure they’ll get a portion of the media buys, as marketers and web site publishers use their tools.

This is going to be very exciting to watch.

With Quantcast raising $5.7 million in venture capital in March, and with thousands of sites signing up for their free “quantified publishers” program, their data gets better and better.

Comscore has filed to raise $86 million in their IPO (see the Comscore S-1 ). I wonder how hard that will be given what Quantcast is now doing to the industry. I suppose Comscore could change its business model, and do the same thing Quantcast is planning to do. But it is always harder to steer a large ship in a different direction. So in the new world, Quantcast would clearly have the advantage since they’ve been designing this business model from the ground up.

Smart entrepreneurs will spend many hours mining the Quantcast data looking for marketing/advertising opportunities among the thousands of high traffic web sites whose demographics and psychographics match their own.

These are good times for entrepreneurs.

(One other fun web site, a mashup called Attention Meter, lets you see data from Quantcast, Alexa, Compete, and Technorati.)

Record Day for World Vital Records

Internet entrepreneurs who study web analytics can find excuses all the time to celebrate small victories and large. Yesterday we had another one.

World Vital Records had its highest page views ever yesterday with 58,398. Our previous high was 43,828. As we add more and more content to our site (and all our new databases are free for 10 days), we will continue to generate buzz (14 mentions in the blogosphere yesterday) and more visitors. Our subscriber count continues to grow as well.

We also had our third highest visitor total ever with more than 3,100 unique visitors. Many of these are not being tracked yet by Quantcast, since we haven’t put their code up yet on all of our international pages. And Alexa usually doesn’t pick up unique visitors from other countries.

We noticed that next to Providence, Rhode Island, that the next city with the highest percentage of visitors was Seattle. Our team is speculating that Microsoft must want to buy us already! :)

We have launched the archive of Everton’s Genealogical Helper, spanning 60 years. And we have posted Everton’s Pedigree and Family Group Sheets database, with more than 150,000 pages. This database is still free for 7 more days.

Our site is still faster than 81% of other web sites, although we used to beat 94% of other web sites.

Maybe we’ve gone overboard on web analytics. We use Omniture Site Catalyst as our internal tracking tool, to manage all our marketing campaigns. But we also use Google Analytics because of the tie-in with Google AdWords (and potentially other services like Google Webmaster Tools). And we use Quantcast pixels so we can have verified audience measurement. I think we also have an Alexa pixel up. (Not sure about that).

Having 4 different analytics programs running simultaneously may seem ridiculous, but each provides us with a different benefit. I’ll have to watch that web site speed, though, because if the customer experience is compromised, we will have to make changes.

We are still a tiny company, with fewer than 10 employees, but we are adding more marketing help and our content pipeline continues to grow.

Knowing what it feels like to get hundreds of thousands of unique daily visitors, our team is super motivated to do it once again. And celebrating victories along the way is the best way I know to keep us all focused on doing it.

Web Analytics Resources

One of the pillars of a successful internet company is access to advanced web analytics and the ability to use them.

I encourage or require all of my portfolio companies to use Omniture SiteCatalyst, which is truly an amazing analytics platform. (I noticed Omniture bought a European analytics company this week; and recently Josh James was listed as one of the youngest CEOs of a publicly traded company in the U.S. by Business Week magazine–very cool. He was one of the very youngest.)

Jimmy Zimmerman has an excellent post about Web Analytics Resources.

WorldVitalRecords.com uses Omniture. We’ve found that we have visitors from 117 countries already. Our unique visitor count is growing rapidly. Our conversion rate looks decent. And we can make changes to the site and add new features and databases to see how these things affect our visitor counts and conversion rates.

As The Game of Work points out, a lot of the fun in business is being able to measure your results, set goals, and achieve higher and higher levels of success.

Thanks, Omniture, for making online business so much fun.

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.

Answer: Yes

I asked the question in my last post, “Will Compete’s toolbar become an essential tool for internet marketers.” After 15 minutes with the tool, and after watching the excellent Flash presentation about what this service aims to do, I answer with a resounding, “Yes!”

My favorite slide in the Flash presentation was this:

Free Image Hosting

I checked out the one year history on several of my companies and several other sites; at first glance, the traffic data seems quite reliable. For example, here is the trend data for three popular genealogy sites.

15 minutes isn’t enough to integrate something into my daily workflow. But it is enough time for me to decide that I’m going to start using it every day so I can see if it sticks.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I am inviting all the internet marketers that I know to try Connect’s Toolbar, look at their traffic data, and post comments about whether you think this will replace Alexa, first, and also, how disruptive this new service will be to Hitwise, Comscore, and Netratings.

Will Compete’s Toolbar become an essential tool for internet marketers?

Bill Gross, one of the world’s most prolific entrepreneurs and an inspiration to me for more than 10 years, officially launched Compete.com today. (See the Alexa Chart for Compete.com.)

I just downloaded the Compete toolbar. The graphics indicates that 2 million people are already sharing their clicks so that we can all know better what sites are popular and what sites we can trust.

The two essential toolbars that I install on every PC I use are Google’s (mainly for the page rank and backward links info, and for convenience of searching) and Alexa’s. Every internet marketer needs both of these toolbars.

Just yesterday I read that some industry experts were complaining about how everyone who can’t afford a high-end reliable web site analytics program like Hitwise or Comscore use Alexa to see how popular web sites are. Alexa’s data is not statistically very reliable, even with 10 million downloads of its toolbar. But Alexa data shows up in almost every VC pitch these days.

So if Compete can provide better data than Alexa, we’ll all be better off.

My favorite industry statistics web site of all time is Top9.com. It used data from PC Data, but it had the best categorizations and the easiest UI of all the web analytics companies. But it hasn’t been updated since 2001.

Note to Bill Gross: please buy Top9.com and start powering it with the data you gather from Compete.com.

Training: Web Site Design, Landing Page Optimization and Conversion Rate

Yesterday we held a Provo Labs Academy training session on landing page optimization. I played about 15 minutes of excerpts from the May 23rd MarketingExperiements.com conference call recording. They described how they increased the conversion rate of a hypnosis product landing page by 40% by improving the layout and design slightly.

They also offer some excellent guidelines for landing page design at the end of their report.

We also reviewed the landing page design guidelines listed in the free 30-page report from Enquiro.com (Inside the Mind of the Searcher) from 2004. (Registration is required.) Here is the list they provide:

What Purchasers looked for on a Landing Page

(in order of importance)

* Query Keywords – In a heading or other prominent location
* Product Picture
* Offers – Value added offers, i.e. free shipping
* Prices – Don’t make them ask for it
* Features — Find out more about the product
* Clean Professional Layout – Is this a trusted site
* Clear Conversion Path – Is it easy to buy or ask for more information
* Selection – Ability to see different products in one place. Should have trusted brands featured
* Comparison – Direct comparison between models
* Clear Navigation – Is it easy to move around and continue researching

It is incredible how many PPC campaigns take you to the home page of a company’s web site or to a page that doesn’t match at all what the person was searching for.

Your landing page should contain the keywords your visitor was searching for and if they are searching for a product, it should have a picture of the product. Otherwise, in the few seconds that they spend scanning your page, they won’t immediately see what they were looking for and they will leave. Your bounce-off rate will be extremely high.

We also discussed the MarketingSherpa Landing Page Design Handbook, which sells for $247.

The editor of this handbook Stefan Tornquist shared 5 ways to increase landing page conversion rates with TechWeb last year.

Some powerful tools for optimizing landing page conversion rates include Optimost and Offermatica. The new Google website optimizer tool is in beta and we don’t know anyone who has been accepted into the beta yet.

One of our Academy members has 20 years experience in direct marketing. He said long format direct mail pieces traditionally pulled better than short format, but in today’s world of information overload, he has been finding more instances where short format pulls better.

In 2004 MarketingExperiments showed that most of the time long copy still pulls better than short copy, but a recent example (see test #2 on this page) had different results.

Profile of a $3,000 TV advertising campaign

Interesting Inc. article about doing low budget TV advertising and buying remnant inventory from TV stations to generate new business for your company. The $3,000 brings in 100 calls (that’s $30 per call) and generated web site traffic as well.

All internet marketers may want to become familiar with all traditional forms of advertising and marketing, since Google is moving into all of them: print, radio, television. I’m sure they’ll do outdoor eventually too, and who knows about direct mail. Google is going into the $74 billion TV advertising market (read what CEO Eric Schmidt says about Google and television) and the $20 billion radio advertising market (they already spent $1.1 billion to buy its way into radio.

I wonder if Google Analytics will eventually try to integrate with all of these other advertising channels to provide ROI tracking for marketers on every campaign in every medium.

Domino Rally Business Models

Josh Kopelman has a great post about Domino Rally business models that are so complicated and involve so many “ifs” that the chance for success is extremely low. It’s much better to have a Two Domino business model, where you know that if you do two things really well, you will be profitable.

I think WorldVitalRecords and 10Speed Media are Two Domino business models. WorldVitalRecords needs to acquire more content every day and bring more visitors to its web site every day. (That’s the same emphasis we had at Ancestry.com in the early years: content + internet marketing = subscription revenue.) So the focus for our team is clear.

10Speed Media is also focused on two things: getting more video inventory (more merchants) and getting more traffic to those videos (more affiliates). It is clear that video converts better than most other online advertising. We are generating sales and leads for our customers. So now it’s about doing more of what is working.

So how do you keep focused on execution, day after day?

For me, goals and daily metrics are the key to keeping me focused. If I don’t have access to the right stats, every day, it is so easy for me to move on mentally to the next thing. But if I have quick access to key metrics every day, my creativity stays within certain bounds–my ideas all center on how to achieve our goals.

I like to have my teams use Google spreadsheets and update their own key metrics every day so that the entire team can know exactly what happened the day before, and at a glance, they can see important trends.

I actually get some of my best ideas while looking at statistics. Especially when I know deep down that the stats should be better than they are. I sit and stare at them, while my mind digs deep to find in its memory bank past efforts that generated better results than our current efforts are generating. Sometimes I review lists of dozens of internet marketing tactics, or I comb through my gmail contacts or LinkedIn.com to think about companies, partners, friends who might be able to help us increase our results.

When I think we can do better, and concentrate my attention on things we could be doing that we aren’t, I can always come up with new things to try. When I don’t have stats that are telling me we need to do better, it is easy for me to get distracted by the “new, new thing” and not work on the present problems.

My favorite book about keeping track of key metrics is “The Game of Work” by Charles Coonradt. It is a very quick read and is full of great ideas that will help everyone keep score everyday of their results. When a team embraces this concept, work becomes more fun, and the chances of success increase greatly.

Landing Page Tools

As important as it is to increase clickthroughs from your Google/Yahoo/MSN keyword campaigns by using Dynamic Keyword Insertion, it is even more important to match each one of those ads with a customized landing page that will maximize your conversion rate.

Here’s a good article that lists 11 things you can do to improve your landing pages.

My BYU internet marketing students are going to run some lead generation campaigns starting in November. Each team will be given a budget of $100 and will be able to choose their external marketing tactics. (We’ll discuss dozens in class so that can be familiar with a wide variety of traffic building tactics.)

Then, each will be given a landing page which they can use, which will include their lead capture form.

If they want, they can customize this landing page. Perhaps they can test dozens of variations until they have found the page that works best (or the page that works best for each keyword).

So I’m trying to find some landing page testing/optimization tools that the teams might want to try out.

There are high end tools like Offermatica.com that start at $125,000; but I’m not sure our student teams can’t afford that one.

So do you know of any freeware or open source landing page building tools that we might want to look at?