“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke author 2001 A Space Odyssey
Today’s journey is about Internet marketing magic.
We start magically enough discussing PPC and money. Money isn’t money anymore. Money floats. Money is a VOTE for or against something. How can money be a vote against something? When you don’t make any of it. After a strange daydream driving to the office on a rainy and finally cold day in February I wanted to write about how being an Internet marketer and curator over the last twelve years has changed my thinking.
There is a problem knowing truth. Humans are dynamic systems with billions of social and biological inputs. How do we KNOW such a complex system? In a Black Swan world do we ever know the truth? Wrong question asked in the wrong way for Internet marketers.
The web is magic. One of my favorite tools, Scoop.it, spiders the web based on keywords helping curate across many topics (see Curation Revolution on Sccop.it). Let’s see if we can find or understand Internet marketing magic further.
Internet Marketing and PPC Magic
Several years ago, determined to understand the unknowable, I experimented with Google Pay Per Click (PPC), the most immediate direct feedback system. I manipulated Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) up and down. First I moved standard ROAS from our default $3 to $1 to $6 to $1. Here is what happened:
- Internal P&L for PPC got healthy even fully loaded we made money on PPC ($3 to $1 was close to breakeven)
- Organic search (SEO) fell out of bed crashing and halting progress where we were climbing and sending existing #1’s down the page
- Catalog subscriptions tanked – our “B” conversion point was joining our email list for the “best deals” and we cut new names into the list by half
- YTD (year to date) vs. LYTD (last year to date) Sales Tanked – since PPC ROAS of $3 to $1 was in the history I was comparing against upping the ROAS to $6 to $1 hurt sales by about 30%
- Despite cleaning up our PPC profits and losses net impact of the move up to $6 to $1 was negative costing more than we saved by a large margin
Our next experiment was to move ROAS down to $1 To $1. Here is what happened:
- Internal P&L looked UGLY, fully loaded we lost a lot of money on almost every sale, but we were making it up in volume (little inside joke there since this month of almost $1 to $1 almost cost me a job)
- Organic search got better but wasn’t covering the differences due to SEO’s slow uptick (organic can be behind by as much as 90 days as spiders and links catch up) AND PPC doesn’t really help with link bait – the most important SEO lure
- Catalog subscriptions were up but they didn’t triple (figure our standard ROAS was $3 To $1 so catalogs and sales should triple if there was a one to one relationship between ROAS and either metric – there isn’t a one to one relationship between ROAS and anything so don’t look for it)
- Sales Improved but didn’t triple, sales almost doubled
Point of Diminishing Financial Returns
There is always a point of diminishing returns, the place where putting in or taking out more only hurts. Our standard $3 to $1 ROAS kept internal P&L healthy. $3 to $1 ROAS was as close to a one to one relationship anything on the web ever becomes. We fed PPC at $3 to $1 ROAS and good things happened across multiple dimensions and, even better, we almost paid for the PPC investment on its face (i.e. without any help from other channels), almost.
Feeding other systems such as sales, email list subscriptions, white paper downloads, requests for product demos, traffic, time on site, pages viewed and lowering bounce rate is PPC’s purpose, its raison d’ être. Eventually more diversified competitors win because:
- Customer acquisition costs are lower in aggregate for well diversified Internet marketers so they can afford to drive PPC bids up to a pain threshold forcing other less diversified Internet marketers to retire from the field
- Since PPC is only one of many feeder systems for well diversified Internet marketers if PPC tanks well diversified Internet marketers have other options such as email, social, and mobile while less hedged competitors go out of business (and believe me PPC tanks on occasion for strange and undetermined and undeterminable reasons)
- The forward momentum of PPC is seconds, turning PPC off turns traffic off like a light switch. Organic listings, in contrast, can last years. My Content Marketing Networks presentation on Slideshare was #1 for years, slipped to #2 recently but a nice run for a very long time.
Modeling Dynamic Systems
The terms “weather forecasting” and “weather prediction” tell a lot. Use of “forecasting” and “prediction” speak to a complexity beyond 2 + 2 = 4 linear modeling. Weather is highly dynamic or full of Bursts to use Notre Dame network researcher Albert-Laszlo Barabasi’s term from his book Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do.
Don’t think your website is burst-y? Here is a traffic chart from ScentTrail Marketing my blog:
Here is a graph I used in Content Curation Magic and Contest:
See the similarity.
ScentTrail Marketing creates a wave, a series of bursts. My pattern is a burst followed by quiet. I have a great day job so don’t have as much ScentTrail content creation time as before.
Here’s the rub, all websites NOT led by brilliant, algorithm-creating Internet marketers are burst-y. Now look at the government’s chart for Amazon’s growth in ecommerce from my SEO and The Amazon Paradox post for my friend Bill Ross’s excellent LinchpinSEO site:
I can hear the 2 +2ers out there thinking this chart shows money not content so of course it is smooth. Amazon’s money chart serves as a proxy for all other charts such as traffic, conversion or acquisition. Amazon’s chart is also a perfect example of the first law of content marketing for Internet marketers: More and More, Faster and Faster, Better and Better.
Amazon’s chart is smooth because the most amazing content creation engine the world has ever known isn’t burst-y. Amazon is built to make Google happy generating more and more content, faster and faster, better and better. Amazon’s content creation process is THE key to great Internet marketing. Amazon will reach 1B pages in Google’s index by August, around the same time Facebook crosses the 1B subscriber mark.
More and More
If you aren’t watching Google page spread using a tool or the site:YOURSITE.com command then your marketing team is missing one of the three legs of Internet marketing. All Internet marketing sits on a three-legged-stool of CONTENT, COMMUNITY and CAMPAIGNS leading to CONVERSION. The Internet marketing stool is business model agnostic (B2B or B2C).
Faster and Faster
Google CEO Eric Schmidt supplied one of my favorite stats. We create as much content now in two days as from the cave until 2003. Every two days we create the same amount of as in MILLIONS OF YEARS. Moore’s Law states integrated circuit power will square every two years even as costs go way down. You don’t have to look very far to see Moore’s Law’s impact (Google, Facebook, Amazon). Expect more speed faster. Compare Moore’s Law chart showing the gain in integrated circuit power to Amazon’s smooth rise and the relationship becomes clear:
Better and Better
Google created PageRank, named after founder Larry Page, to index the web. Google’s bot establishes a score from 0 to 10 for every web page. Google does not and will probably NEVER index every web page; Linked: How Everything Is Connected To Everything Else And What It Means also by Barabasi shares that only about 2/3rds of the web will ever be in any search engine index.
Before reading Linked I used to tear hair out over my Google page count. Our site had over 10,000 pages, but our Google page count rarely moved about 5,000. Our “lost pages” were probably Google knocking pages out because they weren’t unique, well linked or both. Other “lost pages” float in a Sargasso Sea moving slowing further out never reaching Google’s shores. Isolated, unlinked and alone these un-indexed pages are NOT what any Internet marketer wants.
“Better and Better” is only partially what you do. Better is mostly about what others think about what you do. “Voting” on “better and better” takes many forms including traffic, LINKS and Facebook LIKES. This means any Internet marketer’s job is creating content capable of springing legs and walking around the world.
Modeling Dynamic Systems – The Cool Psychedelic Part of Internet Marketing
Ken Kessey and the Merry Pranksters (c. 1964) were Internet marketers before there was an Internet to market:
The psychedelically painted bus had its stated destination as being “further.” This was the goal of the Merry Pranksters, a destination that could only be obtained through the expansion of one’s own perceptions of reality. They traveled cross-country giving LSD to anyone who was willing to try it (LSD was legal in the United States until October 1966). Wikipedia
I inject the sixties for more than a smile; the Pranksters idea of “further” as a process rather than destination is prescient. Systems as dynamic, diverse and alive so the Internet require different processes, different ways to understand what those dynamic Internet and web systems are trying to tell us. Weather turns quickly. Here is a quote new friends at CurationSoft helped me recover:
“I’ve seen tornadoes roar up on dusty Texas plains. I’ve run from a black storm’s vengeance, furry and terror. No Texas tornado has anything over the content storm heading at each and every one of us.”
Curation The Next Web Revolution on ScentTrail Marketing
Collapsing Content Network Space/Time
We’ve arrived at our “further” for today. What occurred to me driving to work listening to Jim Stengel, a fellow P&G alum, speak about VALUES in his excellent book GROW: How Values Power Growth and the Good To Greatness of them is the web and the wisdom of crowd system the Internet creates requires a new value system, a paradigm shift. Valuing new metrics and web paradigms is NOT to say core values don’t begin any Internet marketer’s (or content curator’s) journey since establishing values is THE KEY first step. The way we THINK is what we lucky few Internet marketers control. A wise and smart friend, Rich Kurnik, once told me, “If we can’t change something that seems uncontrollable change YOURSELF, change your thinking and feelings about it.”
Rich’s idea perfectly describes the mental paradigm shift necessary to become a GREAT Internet marketer. Here is my attempt to build on Rich’s wisdom:
Hope today’s journey was magical, if not tomorrow is sure to be because Internet marketing is getting more and more magical faster and faster.
Martin Smith (@ScentTrail)