Thursday, November 03, 2011

Translating Classic Sales Process Thinking into Online Sales

I was trained in classic organizational sales. I have managed international direct sales forces whose bread and butter was modelling and executing on a sales process. I just ran across a beautiful online presentation describing the sales process. This reminded me of where I come from: consultative organizational high value sales

However, I don't operate in that world anymore. I operate in the world of online sales of educational services generally priced so low that there is no profit in a process if it involves any human contact. So I build sales funnels for my sites that somehow tries to translate the process of selling into a few webpages and follower up newsletters.  We still operate with the concept that prospects need to be moved several steps from idea to buying and that an attempt to close too quickly will not work out well.

However, I also have spent time learning about the direct marketing and mail world which preaches compressing the hook and the close into such a tight two-step that I have trouble discerning a real sales process.  Later, I'll show how our sale funnel, models the process of building rapport, learning about the customer, and then moving them to buy-in to our solution, as steps to having them buy.



Friends don't let friends build bad websites

I'm going to plug a service just because I think it deserves a plug. I've used it, it's great.  And they sent me this marketing this morning that just cracked me up:

Friends don't let friends build bad websites -

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Display of Google Paid Results

Is it just my imagination or is the advertisement pink box around the advertisements on the top of Google getting increasingly faint so that now, it's almost impossible to discern?  Additionally, didn't they use to limit it to two results?


Friday, October 28, 2011 - A little more disclosure please?

Compete's Table Explaining Data Differences
Where's the point about school and business-based computers? says "Compete's data comes from a statistically representative cross-section of 2 million consumers across the United States."  They elaborate on how their data differs from log data but in all of this, I think they side step a really big point.  In the case of my site (, the reason that they differ from my logs is that most of my traffic comes everyday not from home computers but from computers inside K12 institution. ie  Schools.  In short, there are three big sectors of our economy:
  • business and government
  • education
  • consumers at home
In the old days,  all the computers were in business, government, and educational institutions.  Today, however, consumers also have computers at home.  But many of these same people leave their homes during the day and go to jobs where usually, they have another computer. These same people do a lot of their shopping and see a lot of ads while they are at work.  Schools in particular, have a very large number of computers which get used in many cases over 50% of the time since they are often on carts going from class to class or in a media center with classes filing in and out. 

I know that in my case, the reason that Compete's numbers are misleading, the reason that they report less than half of hte full traffic for SpellingCity is that they don't measure the traffic from schools. Should they? I do not know.  Should they admit and highlight the fact they are no reporting this data? Absolutely.  This table is misleading and misses the biggest reason that at least in my case, local logs don't match what they report. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Googles kills off its losers

A fall sweep (copied from the

10/14/2011 10:03:00 AM
We aspire to build great products that really change people’s lives, products they use two or three times a day. To succeed you need real focus and thought—thought about what you work on and, just as important, what you don’t work on. It’s why we recently decided to shut down some products, and turn others into features of existing products.

Here’s the latest update on what’s happening:
  • Code Search, which was designed to help people search for open source code all over the web, will be shut down along with the Code Search API on January 15, 2012.
  • In a few weeks we’ll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+. While people obviously won't be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it usingGoogle Takeout.
  • Jaiku, a product we acquired in 2007 that let users send updates to friends, will shut down on January 15, 2012. We’ll be working to enable users to export their data from Jaiku.
  • Several years ago, we gave people the ability to interact socially on iGoogle. With our new focus on Google+, we will remove iGoogle's social features on January 15, 2012. iGoogle itself, and non-social iGoogle applications, will stay as they are.
  • The University Research Program for Google Search, which provides API access to our search results for a small number of approved academic researchers, will close on January 15, 2012.
In addition, later today the Google Labs site will shut down, and as previously announced, and the former websites will be replaced by Google Product Search.

Changing the world takes focus on the future, and honesty about the past. We learned a lot from products like Buzz, and are putting that learning to work every day in our vision for products like Google+. Our users expect great things from us; today’s announcements let us focus even more on giving them something truly awesome.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SEO Periodic Table of the Elements

I thought this was silly. Actually hysterical. Its the SearchEngine Land's Periodic Table of the SEO Elements. Speaking of ridiculous inside jokes....


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Google Analytics Premium

This past week, Google introduced Google Analytics Premium.  Quoting the little-known industry pundit Brian May,

 ..."the new premium option is targeted at enterprise clients and the messaging is that there will not be any change to the regular Google Analytics as it stands today and that the Premium version offers advanced features and phone call technical support....This is strictly aimed at companies like Webtrends, Coremetrics, and Omniture to offer the kind of support and guarantees that are necessary for some large enterprises to adopt Google analytics....This could be a way to force existing large volume users to adopt the premium version. When the problem occurred a few months ago, it was because of a switch to “Fast Access Mode” which meant that Google Analytics was taking a sampling of your real data to build reports rather than usual all of the actuals. If they roll this out as default on the non-paid version, there may be a need to switch to the paid version to get consistent reporting.
The cost of Google Analytics Premium is in the $150,000 range which makes it very competitive with the other web analytics software providers.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Paypal Reserves of 20% on a Paypal Merchant Account

Does anyone have experience with Paypal reserves and getting them removed from your paypal account?  I just realized that on one of my paypal merchant accounts (I have two), they are withholding 20% of my money for 90 days!!!!!

Let me start by saying that I'm generally thrilled with Paypal as my merchant account vendor. With a total expense rate of 2.7% and a high level of reliability, they are better than the other vendors that I use to process credit cards.  I give them high marks for low cost, high reliability, great technology, and great service.

I've previously had one big frustration with them in that their reporting sucks.  I have several product lines being sold (I'm in the hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenues in a year with the average payment way under $100) and Paypal isn't really able to help us track by product line.  Even when we have the payments come in under different emails, they can't sort them out. It turns out the solution is to open a child account. The process was cumbersome, basically, open a new account, get it approved, get it linked to the old one, drop out all the fees, and the child account can ONLY withdraw money up to the parent account. And it's an automatic process which happens nightly.  Which would be fine except we have some refunds (we do a money-back offer) and about 4% of our customers take the refund.  Paypal does an automatic withdrawal every night but on the days that there are refunds, they try to withdraw too much and it produces all sorts of emergency warnings and failure notes.

Second big problem I just released. My account has reserves. In fact, they hold onto 20% of my funds for 90 days on a rolling basis. 

Paypal's rules say this but they don't seem to apply to my case:

[I]Reserves are funds that belong to you but have been set aside. We hold money in reserve just in case you receive payment reversals or chargebacks and your PayPal balance isn't enough to cover them. Reserves are typically applied to merchants who handle:
·         large sums of money,
·         high dollar items, or
·         items in high-risk categories[/I]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quantcast Marketing Statistics

One of my sites is enjoying a particularly strong back-to-school rush. Take a look at these statistics published by Quantcast (which you can view realtime on their site).   Notice that:
1. (url is is getting over two million people visiting monthly.  If you change the pulldown on the top left (you'd have to be on the Quantcast site to do that), you'll see that Spellingcity site is growing past 5 million visits/monthly and has already passed 60M page views monthly.  This is big.
2. Quantcast ranks VSC  number 692  in the US by number of people visiting. Number one is Google,  two is YouTube, three is Facebook, four is Yahoo, five is Ebay, six is MSN, seven is match....and #692 is  Does that make us the top K12 educational site?  Sadly, Quantcast doesn't rate by industry otherwise, I could give you an answer.
Quantcast demographics, 9/28/2011

3. Quantcast also has some data about the demographics of users of the site.  (See the second image).  Here's my first problem with this data, it misses the point. SpellingCity is mostly used in schools on school computers.  This vital piece of info does not show up anywhere in their analysis. I would think that the basic info on a site would distinguish between sites used in offices, homes, schools, and mobile devices but none of that is evident.  A second problem with the data is that it's wrong. Mostly,SpellingCity is used by elementary school students but Quantcast says that it is used mostly by kids over age 12.

Lastly, here's some very popular games and resources on VSC:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Common Craft on SEO

Common Craft makes some of the most simple appealing how-to videos in the world. They're fantastic. 

Topsy just alerted me that they had stepped up to explaining how search engines and SEO work.  Its a showcase of how to use a simple analogy to illustrate a very complicated concept.  Take a look:

BTW, I thought this video was good but not necessarily their best. I first discovered Common Craft was I trying to figure out Social Bookmarking, a few years ago:

And, whenever we do howto videos inhouse, I keep in my the effectiveness of CommonCraft's minimalist approach to explaining things.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Email Marketing - Newsletters & Blasts

I'm trying to upgrade our marketing team by building a broader team with sharp marketing skills. So today we held a session on newsletters and marketing. The basic idea is that there are lots of great videos and articles about newsletter / email marketing. We can watch them as a group and discuss them.

Here's the few that I found this morning.

Here's the Newsletter marketing principles that I'm collecting for us to think about:
  1. Test and measure results. Be clear about what we want in the results.
  2. Have a methodology to quantify. Estimate the value of a signup (or other action) and an unsubscribe.
  3. Be statistically savvy. There's way too much decisions being made by not nearly enough data.
  4. Relationship. When someone gives us their email address, they've responded to something and a relationship is being started. Build the relationship. Think about our personna. Are we are place for sharp deals? For people interested in education?
  5. Segment and personalize the list.  Try to talk to the new members about their issues, the people in Alaska about theres...
  6. Branding. The email is part of our brand. This is sort of like the relationship.
  7. What changes when we are sending out a newsletter which could have a role as part of support and education and an offer/blast trying to clearly sell. How well can these be combined?
  8. Pretty does not mean effective.
  9. The offer and the information should be clear, concise. I often think the main goal is just to maintain some mindshare and show them we care.
Training materials:

Marketing Experiments

Aweber Watch Part One  Watch Part Two

Vertical Response

Subject Line Savvy
Thu, Aug 4, 2011 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM PDT
Blogging For Your Business
Thu, Aug 11, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT
Creating a Successful Email Newsletter
Thu, Aug 18, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT
Create Winning Calls To Action
Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM PDT
Lifecycle Marketing
Thu, Aug 25, 2011 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT
Social Media Tools: Listening and Engaging
Thu, Aug 25, 2011 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM PDT
Advanced Email Creation
Thu, Sep 8, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT
Starting Out With SEO
Thu, Sep 15, 2011 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT
Creating a Successful Email Newsletter
Thu, Sep 15, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT
Quick Tips for Effective Email and Social Media Copywriting
Wed, Sep 21, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT
Social Media Tools: Does Your Facebook Measure Up? 
Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM PDT
Email Delivery and the Inbox
Wed, Sep 28, 2011 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT


Friday, September 09, 2011

Old Email Addresses Remembered by Gmail

This problem has plagued me for years. The problem is that some of my contacts have switched email addresses (or I once typed in their email erroneously) and the old emails keep popping up in my gmail.  I can't seem to remember which is which (old vs new) so I'm constantly having to look it up or risk making mistakes.

This has turned out to be a very sensitive issue in the case of one attorney that I work with who switched firms. But his address at the old firm pops up and I'm worried about sending sensitive stuff to the wrong law firm.  And the actual emails are obscure lawfirms names like:    vs  (ibsen, broderdick, and ostrich law partners).  I have the same problem with our book-keeper.

Solution: Click in Gmail on Contacts.  There are three groupings. "my contacts", "most contacted", and  "other contacts".   I found the problems under other contacts and removed it.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Steve Jobs - I idolize him

I've never met him and he has had an enormous impact on how I work, how I think, and my ambitions. I was at 3DO when he was NeXt, we shared a cafeteria. I stood next to him in the cafeteria line a number of times. He wasn't real friendly or approachable.  I tried not to stare.

I have a small library of big Steve Jobs stories that account for the impact he has had on me.  One was shortly after Jobs returned to Apple. It was told to me by a friend name Rick who was one of the supergeeks, independent at the time.  He loved the NeXt interface and for his amusement, ported it onto the Mac (or copied it) and started distributing it. One day the phone rings, it's Steve Jobs who wants to know if he would have time to come over to Cupertino to meet him. Steve shows him around Apple, discusses a number of philosophical and technical issues, gets to know Rick, and even shows him (after Rick agrees verbally not to discuss them), some upcoming products.  Takes him to lunch in the cafeteria. Long lunch. Introduces him to all sorts of people.  Walks him to the car after lunch and asks casually in the parking lot, "Heh, hows that going with your NeXt software clone? Would you stop distributing it, its an awkward situation for us?"

Problem solved. No enemies created. No waste of time with lawyers. Very efficient use of Jobs time overall.  I found the vision and savoir-faire in that one story (which might not be dead-accurate), forever inspiring.

Prior to 3DO, I worked at SGI. At SGI, I worked with a software partner called Pixar that had some software for 3D rendering called RenderMan, some artistic ambitions that were only seeing the light of day in their annual Siggraph animation, and some people who were electric to talk to. They radiated vision, know-how, creativity, and work ethic. And patience.  George Lucas had ditched these people as too dreamy and too expensive for him to continue supporting. A guy named Steve Jobs thought their vision was worth investing in. Year in and year out. 

Steve Job's achievements were no accident, he was a genuine visionary and operator.  Although I've never earned an Apple paycheck, I bleed in rainbow colors, I've drunk the cool-aid, I'm a total believer.  Who else would use a logo of the forbidden fruit with a bite taken out?  Its in front of everyone's face all the time but seems rarely to get much attention. Take a minute to appreciate what a statement and positioning that is! The logo was prophetic of an ongoing revolution.  Forget Mao and his Red Book, Steve's revolution is truly ongoing!  

Thanks Steve. It's been great.  You lit the fire!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unscrambling the Online Marketing Statistics

I like the numbers to work out. So I tried this exercise. Here are some real numbers from one of my websites.  Any ideas on why this stats don't make sense.

Take the term unscramble.

When you type "Unscramble" into Google, my site is 10th. I'm only looking at organic rankings and traffic in this article).
When I look at my analytics traffic over the last 30 days, I see that I have received 2,072 visitors who arrived using some search term containing  the word "unscramble".
When I look at the Google Adwords tool to get a sense of the traffic on this term in the last 30 days, it reports 301,000 searches.  So, it appears that I got around 0.7% of the traffic.  This makes some sense to me. I'm 10th and get less than 1%....could be true.

Sound-alikes.  My site is first or second for this term (Meaning: Same sounding English words but with different meanings and spellings).
Analytics reports 18 visitors whereas Adwords reports 3,600 searches for the past 30 days. So 0.5% came to my site.  This does not make sense to me. I'm the first or second term, how come I'm getting less than 1% of the searches.

I think the first example makes some sense but the second one doesn't. I would think that as the first, second, or third in the rankings, a site should harvest between 4-25% of  the searches.  Unfortunately, I have far more examples where the numbers don't make sense than where they do.  Any ideas? Anybody have any experience trying to reconcile different pieces of Google-based data?

One possibility is that that the adwords tool is showing not just the searches but all the  impressions that would be created if an advertisement was created to be run against the word Unscramble.  

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Communication Skills, Comic Strips

Building a website or a business online is always about communication. I'm often amused how programmers put up wording on sites that makes perfect sense to them but to all the likely users, it's just Greek.

Recent examples that I've seen on my sites are when programmers, thinking they are simplifying but helping people find info, put a link to filters. Can non-technical people make any sense of why there is a link to filters?

The cartoon below in in the same vein. It made me laugh. The site that it is from ( says it's OK to use it so long as its properly referenced.

The xkcd site cracks me up. Even the forum topics were witty and dry.
For instance:
Serious Business
For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed

For the discussion of math. Duh. 

I have often wondered why I don't hire some comic strip writers to jazz up my social media. Anyone know any social media-aware cartoonists who want to make killer cartoons for me for not all that much money?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Google Analytics, Derivatives of my Name, Useless Data!

Here's my pet peeve about analytics which I wish they would fix. I'm ranting again because I just read that Google has extended Analytics into social media tracking (generally, a great idea!) but have not fixed this basic but important item.  Grrrrr.

I like to look at the percent of my traffic that comes from natural search vs say direct.   Natural search suggests that they use some keyphrase but then up on my site (bless them).

But over half of the "natural seach" that Google reports is people entering some derivative of my domain name into the search bar as a lazy-mans way of getting to my site.  So the data becomes meaningless until I manually massage it.

 I'd like Google to help me out here but dedicating a little programming resources to having an automated way that I can select variations of my name and henceforth see them in the direct data, not the natural search area.

While this is not so intellectually exciting as analytics for social media, it would be useful!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Love Hate Google Plus

I've heard that Google plus is starting off huge so I went thru my emails, found a google plus invite, and joined. I', ten minutes into it and I already love and hate Google Plus. Henceforth known a Gplus.

What do I love? Its about time somebody gave me some control over my information so that I can have one set of messages for my work colleagues, another for my soccer buddies, and a third for my family.  This seems so obvious to me but Facebook somehow seems stuck in an everyone-sees-or-nobody-sees mode.  Yea Google. Thanks Google.

What do I hate?  Its not really that I hate it but the question of how to organize my friends and contacts is non-trival.  I started with "current colleagues" and "old colleagues". Then I divide it into "colleagues that I trust" and "work contacts."  Now I'm sitting here staring at the possibilities and trying to figure out what to do. So many possibilities, so little experience on whats going to be useful and streamlined...

And now I've found a blog post with some useful suggestions:


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Learning Online Marketing

Two people in one day have asked me for info to get them started on online marketing. One is a training partner at my dojo, the other is one of my engineers who is trying to learn about SEO.

So I thought I'd write up a general response to the question of how someone learns about online marketing so they can get started.

My first reaction is that its a great career move for people to learn about (actually, maybe not for engineers who might do better as programmers than marketers). But for most people, it's a good career area so learning about is seems worthwhile. The flip side is that learning it can take make years and is never fully finished. There's a lot to learn and things keep changing.  And there are rapidly emerging courses and even degrees in this area. But they still tend to lag state of the art.

Where does one start?  First, you should think about how broad the concept of online marketing is.   What are the areas within online marketing?

Social media - Learn how Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, endless forums, Ning Groups, Yahoo groups, blogs, even YouTube, and so one can be marketing tools.
Email/Newsletter Writing and Management
SEO - Search engine optimization. The art of trying to get your website to appear in a good position in natural (ie non paid) search results.
PPC - Paid advertising in which you pay for each person who clicks on your advertisement. Google's adsense is the biggest program.
Affiliate Marketing or PPA - Advertising in which you pay per action (usually signup) of the visitors. People offer their programs and the publishers pick which ones to put on their site. Big ones are CJ, Ebay, Amazon, AffiliateFuel, etc.
Sales funnel - A part of a website designed to convert interested visitors into paid customers.
Network marketing - A type of online advertising.
Google Analytics
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Optimizer
Web design

One thing that I should mention is that trying to "learn online marketing" is a Heruclean task. I have taken it on since I felt it was key to my career and future but most people prefer to think of their business as soemthing else and just to pay others to do the online marketing.  I instead think of marketing as everything I do. Like as they say in the film: "everything is kung fu!"  This one of my types of analogies.

One you can read through this blog, take a course, or otherwise go reading about the web.  You can also just start giving it all a try. Locally, you can join groups and go to their meetings listening to the speakers. I did a lot of this for years. There are meetup groups on SEO and online marketing and social media.  Locally, there is SFIMA and the Interactive Direct Marketing Group and other local groups.

Here's a hint. Try doing things.  For instance, if you are reading this post, write a comment.  Summarize the one thing that you learned, or would have liked to learn, from this post. It'll help you retain and process what you've learned. And you will have started to be active online!

Here's a  free ebooks on online marketing. It's a Hubspot marketing piece but as agencies and services go, they are topnotch.  (no, they did not pay me to say that although I'd appreciate a little link-love from them).

There are some good newsletters (websites) to read current and back issues such as:

Note to self. It would be fun to build a online marketing term game on VSC.

Another interesting point about marketing is the advantage of being a little controversial. I fear that this is one of the problems with the Common Core, too many people just like to talk about it to foster controversy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Best Use of Idle Domains?

What do you think is the best use of idle domains. Lets say for instance that I had a site called TimeForLearning. Does it make sense to get sites like ,, and  and save them for future diversifications? I would think so. But what should I do with them?
- Park them for cash?
- 301 redirect them?
- Fill them up with blogs and content?
-Leave them idle?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flash on an iPad: isifter

I showed everyone in my office a magic trick. I showed them the flash games of spellingcity running on an iPad!

My wife, not the CTO or other geniuses that I work with, figured it out. First, you download isifter from the app store. Then, you load isifter and enter and you're off and running.

It's a browser with some flash-like player built-in. It only works on the iPad (not the iPhone) and only in landscape mode. While it worked for 14 games, it didn't work on one (LetterFall).

Pretty cool & confusing!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Google Plus One - What do we think?

I got this email from Google this week:

Hi John,

Thanks for getting back to me. To give you some context, my call was
regarding Google +1, a product which Google launched yesterday. Adding +1
buttons to your pages is a great way to help your content stand out in
Google search. By giving your visitors more chances to +1 your pages, your
search results and search ads could show up with +1 annotations more
often, helping users see when your pages are most likely to be useful.
Here are a few important links which can help you:

Start Up Guide:
Example Website:
Technical Background:
More Information:

All the best with trying out this great feature which will help your
content stand out on Google Search and let me know if you need any help!


(name removed)

Google Partner Development

1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy
Mountain View, CA 94040

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Webmaster tools - is it accurate?

I have been puzzling over the data in webmaster tools and I'm now wondering if the data makes any sense. Here's the case that has me doubting its basic accuracy.

There are a lot of searches on my site's name which is a term that I created. There are dozens of searches on variations of the site name. Here are a few for example from the top ten terms for my site listed in Webmaster tools.

The site is There are searches for:

spelling city
etc etc etc

Here's an actual piece of data from Google Webmaster Tools with monthly data regarding the key phrase search query: """"

Impressions 140,000
Visits 22,000
Click thru rate. 16%
Average position. 3.2


1. As far as I can tell, my site is always first on google when you search on "". I'm also 2nd -5th (with different pages from the website). Why would they think that on average I'm around 3rd?  Are they averaging all the different pages on my website or just averaging the first time that my website appears for this search?

If people typed my actual URL into the search box, aren't they looking for my site? I mean if someone actually searched on "", I would assume that they are trying to get to my site but are using the search bar instead of the address bar. I assume that they use the searchbox instead of address box is a sort of lazyman's way to not having to typed it accurately or completely.

Here's the questions: Where are the other 84% clicking through to?  Did they change their mind and not come to my site?  Why? Google has pages from my site as the first five results so I would just assume people would come to my site. Are they saying that 84% didn't go to the first instance of my site?

 There is of course the paid search possibility.There are some people placing paid ads next to this search.  For instance:

Spelling City Games - Get Spelling City Games |

Search for Spelling City Games

Spelling City Games 

Search for Spelling City Games
Find out more on Yahoo!

My conclusion: the data is just way wrong or I'm totally misinterpreting it. Or maybe ASK and Yahoo have unlimited budgets to snatch my users on the way into my site.  

Any ideas?

John, aka the Confused Mayor of

Are they really getting 84% of the clicks of people who put my site's URL into the search box?  THAT's ANNOYING.  But frankly, I just don't believe it.   It just makes no sense to me.