After just a short time on the web, Thoughts From Thee Cake Scraps is moving along to a forum that will give a greater degree of flexibility to the site. You will find all new posts over at TheCakeScraps.com
Moving Along ThenOctober 6, 2008
Please Keep Searching: What Microsoft Is MissingOctober 4, 2008
Microsoft is trying yet another approach to get you to use Live Search. Previously they have tried everything under the sun, including giving miles for flights such as Midwest Airlines. Sadly the games there are nothing to write home about and it isn’t surprising that Microsoft went back to the drawing board.
This the aptly named SearchPerks is set up to give away tickets that you can the trade in for stuff (the perks). Sounds alright in concept, but it is poorly structured. Right off the get go you notice to win anything worthwhile takes forever (though they say during the promotion they will give away extra). Here is a simple breakdown from Search Engine Land:
- 105 tickets (4 days worth of searches) = 1 ringtone
- 250 tickets (10 days worth of searches) = 100 frequent flyer miles
- 5,500 tickets (7 months worth of searches) = xBox wireless controller
The length of time is determined because you can only get 25 tickets a day. Oh, and the promotion only runs until April sometime.
I wonder if they are taking the wrong approach to this altogether. I really liked Yahoo’s “Search For A Cure” program. The money is going to breast cancer research. I also noticed that on a survey at Banana Republic the reward for filling out the survey was not a percent off or dollar off perk. Rather it was some amount would get donated to a charity of your choice -from a list of 5 or so.
The fundamental question here for me is what are you really trying to do with these programs and who are you targeting? It seems like with a program that rewards the individual user that when the perks end they will just stop using it. When I consider the promotions that donate the money I think that the user gets to feel good about doing it.
Why is this such a big deal? Easy, because when the promotion ends and the user was getting the perks they now have no reason to continue to use the service. But if the perk goes to a charity, the user was not getting anything, but rather giving something, when using the service. When the perk ends they are no longer ‘giving’ anything but also there is nothing that will make the user feel like something is being taken away from them – as is the case in a perk that rewards the user.
Another important point, in my view, is that the perk for charity is more likely to be picked up on a larger news site because the company is giving to a good cause rather than greedy users (from a public perception standpoint). I think that promotions that give stuff away on the web generate a big surge of people trying to play the system and then just fall off. No loyalty. No long term PR to point to for the company. Compare this to a news story about how the company is “doing their part” to help the world. The company can use the promotion as a platform to point out that they helped while also promoting whatever service they were trying to get you to use.
So is this going to work this time? I don’t think so because there is no long term perk for the user and I don’t see any reason to switch other than to “watch out for number one” and the stop after the promotion ends. That is the thought from Thee Cake Scraps.
Types of Swoopo AuctionsOctober 3, 2008
From my previous post on Swoopo I generated a small bit of confusion because Swoopo has several types of auctions. Here they are directly from the Swoopo site (though I rearranged them a bit for my comments):
Fixed Price Auction
If you win a Fixed Price Auction, you only pay the price indicated in the heading of the auction (plus delivery costs), regardless of the level the bidding reaches.
Where an auction is marked “100% off”, the winning bidder does not have to pay the final price. That’s right: the price is zero! You just need to pay the delivery charges.
These are basically the same thing and makes this site seem a bit more sleazy. Here’s why. With a fixed price auction or a 100% off auction you don’t pay the value of the auction, just the fixed price or nothing, respectively. That seems straight forward until you think about it. If they already know what they are selling it for (or that they are giving it away free) the users are basically just giving them money. They are literally proclaiming “Here is something free, what will you pay me for it.” Can you really even call that an auction if the bidders are not actually impacting the price?
In a penny auction, the price rises by just one cent with each bid placed (whereas in a normal auction, it rises by 15 cents).
Well this is nice of them. In case you were able to hold off yourself from bidding when the price went up 15 cents with each bid they have auctions where it only goes up a single penny. Thus, you look at the price and want to jump right in not realizing just how much money Swoopo is going to take you and other fools like you for.
During a NailBiter Auction, BidButlers aren’t allowed. Users may only place single bids by manually clicking or calling. Don’t walk away or you miss the next incredible deal!
This would be interesting except that the time goes up with each bid (see below). So instead of a “NailBiter” you have a sit around all freaking day bidding and waiting for the thing to end. Good times I’m sure. Too bad I’ll miss it.
Anyone can bid on an open auction, even if they have already reached their eight auction limit. Open auctions do not count towards your auction limit. See ‘How many auctions can I win a month?’ for more information.
Wait, I can only win so many auctions in a given time period. Doesn’t this sound a lot like what a casino can do if they think you have a gambling problem?
All auctions start as 20-second auctions. The countdown increases by a maximum of 20 seconds each time that a bid is placed.
You guessed it – with these the countdown increases by a maximum of 15 seconds with each bid placed.
You guessed it – with these the countdown increases by a maximum of 10 seconds with each bid placed.
Wow. What variety. It is like the Jelly Belly of auction sites. Really guys, do we need a different line for each you guessed it – X second auction type.
I hope that clears things up a bit for people. In my original post I did have my math with the winner having to pay for the final price of the auction. While this isn’t always the case, it often times is. I’m not going to waste my time looking around for exact examples, but if you want to Swoopo does feature a list of completed auctions. Please remember what Thomas Tusser said: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
Mythbusters And MarketingOctober 1, 2008
I just had the opportunity to watch Episode 97: “Airplane on a Conveyor Belt” and it was very interesting. The question they were out to answer was “Can an airplane take off if it is on a conveyor belt that is moving the opposite direction from where it is trying to take off?” Without much thought a person would say no. I sure did. My thoughts being that with the conveyor belt moving in the opposite direction the plane would just sit still.
This brings us to 2 questions “why is it wrong?” and “how is that related to marketing?”
The first question takes some getting used to. The Straight Dope has a good explanation and I will attempt to summarize it here. The answer is in short that the speed of the conveyor belt does not matter. A plane forces itself through the air via the engines. The wheels spinning on the conveyor belt merely provide a way for the plane to have less friction with the ground. The plane is not using the wheels to push itself the way a car does. Essentially, the plane will move forward no matter what.
The best visualization I can give you is this: Picture a plane flying in the air. Now imagine that its wheels are down. Now put a conveyor belt in your picture moving in the opposite direction the plane is flying. Does the plane slow down? No, the wheels will just spin like crazy. It has no effect on the plane flying in the air because the wheels are free spinning and are not a means of propulsion. Get it? The dynamics don’t change on the ground.
Here is another way to think of it. If you were on roller skates and moved yourself by only pulling on a rope you would not have to exert any more effort to pull yourself forward on standard ground than on a conveyor belt. The reason is that you are moving because of pulling on the rope and therefore even with a conveyor belt on the ground you will not move backwards, the wheels will just spin and you pull yourself forward as normal. Replace you with a plane and the rope with an engine and you have this one all wrapped up.
So now on to the second question, how this has to do with marketing. It reminded me of a simple fact of marketing: things are not always as they seem. And beyond that even when you have the information it might be difficult to understand.
This all revolves around one thing: what is driving this?
The reason the plane example is hard to understand is because people think a plane moves like a car – which uses the ground to propel itself – when it, as obvious as it may seem, moves like a plane – which is not driven by the ground. Understanding what is driving the plane is fundamental to understanding the answer as a whole.
This is the same as with marketing and web analytics. It is great that people are coming to your site or people love your marketing, but finding out why they love it is the only way you can repeat it. If you sell clothing and a particular ad drives people to the site you have success. But what if the reason isn’t the product but who the product was on or what the setting was of the photo shoot. Trying to turn that into a campaign – which you should be tracking – is going to be impossible if you don’t know what is driving the sales. If you feature the same product but on a different person does it still sell? Or perhaps is was the combination of all 3 that did it and you can’t reproduce the same thing no matter how hard you try. You will be left spinning your wheels.
Whenever you start to read data coming in from your various campaigns, remember that that is all it is – data. Data does not become information until you have context. And context is only actionable if you know what is driving the whole thing. The answers may not come easily, and it may be a ton of work, and even then you yourself and/or others may question the results, but if you have solid reasoning and understand what is driving it you are in a very powerful position; the position of having not data or even information, but knowledge.
Branding: The Coke TheorySeptember 29, 2008
I try and follow Jeremy Schoemaker over at ShoeMoney and was reading the ShoeMoney Biography and loved his “Coke Theory”. Here is the Coke theory from that biography:
Maximum and diverse revenue streams are built on fairly narrow marketing concepts that are then diversified. This is what Jeremy Schoemaker calls, “The Coke Theory. If you are already making Coke then you can make Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, etc and turn a profit on those as well. A company can achieve growth through small degrees of separation between sites, maximizing diversity within a small industry.
That is so true. Really you can substitute almost any major brand in there. I don’t even know how many types of M&Ms there are now but it is the same concept. Skittles even tried it with Chocolate Skittles. Okay, bad example. So it may not work everywhere but it is still a great idea.
Basically the Coke Theory is all about branding. What can we do with the brand or how can we leverage it? That is the question(s) the companies are always asking. But it is also perfect for a brand you may not always think of, yourself.
This can be a difficult thing to grasp. I mean think of how most of us go through college. If you are like me, you just want a job coming out of college and you are not too concerned with where, so long as it is in the general area of where you want to be. I constantly struggle with balancing technical skills with strategic skills. How narrow should I focus my development to become a stand-out in my current position? How do I balance that with not wanting to corner myself because it is the only thing I am good at?
I have found that the Coke Theory helps strike a balance. It is alright to focus on one thing as long as you are not afraid to branch out later on. Take on risk! These things will not always fall onto your plate. You have to request them and find them; ultimately you branch out. That is a great way to grow your skill set because even if you fail at one of these activities you still have your core skill set to fall back on.
You are a brand and a core competency is critical, but taking risks to find new activities and responsibilities is where you will really learn. So when you get back to your job take a second and ask yourself: “What flavor of Coke can I create next?”
Pure Profit: A Look at SwoopSeptember 25, 2008
Pure Profit: A Look at Swoop post has been moved HERE due to high traffic.
(clicking either link will get you there)
Thanks for reading The Cake Scraps
You Are Being Tracked: Internal CampaignsSeptember 22, 2008
So you know that you are tracked by e-mails. You are going to beat the system. You are not even going to use a search term to get to the website because you know Google will track you along with the website. You are going to direct load – typing the URL into the address bar – and avoid being tracked. Almost, but no. Chances are that the site gave you a cookie last time you were there. Oh well, you tried. But that is not what this post is about. Just because you got to the site without tracking, does not mean that you will not be tracked.
Internal campaigns are exactly what they sound like. They are campaigns that are internal to the site. A campaign is anything that the site is doing to try to get you to buy more stuff (or whatever the conversion metric would be, such as filling out a survey or something). E-mails are campaigns. Billboards are campaigns. A site or company runs advertising campaigns. You get the idea.
The banner that you see across whatever site you are on is sure to include an element that says that you clicked it – a tag. Note that I am only talking about a banner that is on the site and for the site, not an advertisement for a different site. The advertisement for a different site would be an external campaign for the company that bought the ad. We are talking about an ad for another item on your site – perhaps for an LCD monitor when you are looking at computers. I call this a real estate campaign or an internal campaign. I call it real estate because the site is tracking based on the tag on the banner and the site knows the location of the banner, the real estate. I call it an internal campaign because it is for another product that will take the visitor somewhere else internal to the site, not push them out the door to an external site.
So you clicked the banner and were tagged. It is in this way that the site can track how often the banner is being used (instances) as a rate of how many people saw the page it was on (page views). This also allows the site to understand where someone is clicking on the site. Each area of the banner could contain a different tag, thus if you clicked the t-shirt you could get tagged with a value of tshirtclick while if you clicked the jeans on the same banner you would get tagged with a value of jeansclick.
Internal campaigns are very useful for a site because they allow for a wide variety of reporting. The site will know how many conversions they got that clicked on the banner and how much revenue is associated with it. This also is a much easier way to track traffic from a page. Perhaps a single page has multiple banners and the site wants to know how many people clicked the banners. With no tagging on the banners, all the site would be able to do is look at what pages visitors went to next and add them up. For instance if there is no way to get to the jeans page from your home page and yet 20 of the 100 visitors took that path you can assume that they must have clicked on the jeans banner. But then to add that up with the page that took them to the t-shrits and the page that took them to the pants, and to…etc. is a huge pain. By the time you get to the number of estimated clicks (because in theory they could have the page bookmarked or something like that) you won’t care any more.
Look for more the post forthcoming about purchase influencer tagging on Thoughts From Thee Cake Scraps.
Should ‘Visit’ Metric Be Updated?September 15, 2008
Interruption is a way of life here in America. I remember reading somewhere that in Japan if a person is working by themselves they are not as likely to be interrupted because it is assumed that they are in thought whereas in America if you are working by yourself it means you are available because it is assumed you are not busy. Not sure if that is true or not, but I know that if I see someone at their desk I will talk to them if I need them. I always ask if they have time, but I still ask because – in famous final words fashion – it will only take a second.
How does this relate to web analytics? It relates because of the definition of a visit. If you are new to web analytics, you may wonder “What is a visit?”. Web Trends Live has an excellent glossary of terms which is where I pulled this definition from:
Visit: A visit is an interaction a unique visitor has with a website over a specified period of time or activity. In most cases, if a visitor has left a site or has not executed a click within 30 minutes, the visit session will terminate.
My question is, is this the correct length of time? Should it be longer than 30 min because of how many distractions/interruptions we have in a day? I read a great interview at FastCompany.com about how often people get interrupted at work. The average time between switching tasks was 3 minutes and 5 seconds. That is a lot of moving around. It took an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to something they switched from.
This would give credence to the 30 minute rule that is laid out for us, but I still have to wonder if it is correct. I think that with tab browsing people are more likely to have a longer lag time between looking at one page and looking at another. I think that since the onset of ‘restore session’ – when you open up a browser that you previously exited with multiple tabs active – lag times between activity have increased. ‘Fires’ come up at work and need to be handled, e-mails come in, the phones ring, etc. The reality is that while a person may be idle for 30 min they would say that it was one visit. This begs the question of who defines a visit, the web site or the viewer?
My main concern is that this time frame may skew some data that looks at visits by a visitor for a given period of time. Perhaps you will get data that says people visit your site multiple times in one day – probably considered a good thing – when really you just can’t keep a visitors attention and they keep having a 30 min or more delay in between their activity. This would actually then be a bad thing because you are not keeping the viewer involved which may discourage them from coming back.
Clearly an industry needs standards and, honestly, web analysts are lucky to have any standards at all in a field that changes so quickly while being so young. That said, hanging on to old standards just for the sake of standards isn’t such a great policy either. It doesn’t need to change today, but it is something to keep thinking about as browsing habits evolve.
Google Search History UpdateSeptember 9, 2008
In my post You Are Being Tracked: E-mail Style there was some discussion/confusion about when I said:
Hopefully you know that Google keeps track of everything you have searched for. Ever.
Well this it true and false depending on how you read it. GHamilton noted that Google does not keep everything you searched for. Rather they keep it for 18 months. The key word here is “YOU”. In a recent post on the Google Blog Google announced:
Today, we’re announcing a new logs retention policy: we’ll anonymize IP addresses on our server logs after 9 months. We’re significantly shortening our previous 18-month retention policy to address regulatory concerns and to take another step to improve privacy for our users.
Hopefully that helps clear things up a bit for people. Let me know your thoughts. Do you care that Google keeps your data for 9-months? Should it be longer/shorter? Should they keep anonymous search history forever?
You Are Being Tracked: E-Mail StyleSeptember 6, 2008
Hopefully you know that Google keeps track of everything you have searched for. Ever. Anyway, the part that people probably don’t know as much about is how individual sites track you. One way a site can track you is by tagging you when you click through on an e-mail they send you – the focus of this post. Think of tags as dated stamps in your passport book. Interestingly enough, some of this tagging can be easily found in the address bar of your browser.
When you see something in the address bar that looks like emid=584783 that is telling the website that your internal – meaning site specific- e-mail address ID is 584783. This value is unique to a single e-mail address. Each e-mail sent to that e-mail address will have their unique emid attached to all links in the e-mail. This also allows a site to build a history of that e-mail address – not only for activity, but for response rate as well. Now every time you click through an e-mail for that site they have more history. Note that larger sites rarely look at individual behavior but instead classify a behavior and then analyze that group. Still, the information is there.
In addition to an e-mail ID, there is usually a campaign variable such as cid=Sep08FreeShipping. This allows the site to report on everything with Sep08FreeShipping stored in the cid variable. All of this information is contained within the link that you click from the e-mail. If you get the e-mail and directly load their site, not through the e-mail, the activity will not be tracked because in a direct load no value would have been assigned to cid.
These variables do not have to remain in the web address the entire time. They are stored in the background after the initial click. So when you no longer see emid or cid in the address bar, but originally arrived at the site through the e-mail, you and your activity is still being tracked.
Look for at least one more installment of how you are tracked. There I will focus more on how a site tracks internal campaigns. Hope this helped give some people a better understanding of how websites track you.