Forging Ahead With Multichannel Competitive Intelligence In The Age Of Big Data

This is a guest blog post by Jason Warnock, Vice President Market Intelligence and Measurement of Yesmail Interactive.


Marketing is like a newborn; it demands constant attention, it manages to surprise you just when you think you’ve figured it out, and the way it changes every day is absolutely fascinating. Just think of how different the marketing landscape is today than it was a few years ago.

 

No matter the size, and regardless of the industry, a company without a website is unheard of. In a similar way, a company without a Facebook and Twitter accounts is becoming as rare as a non-invasive airport security check while Youtube and Google+ are turning into a necessity.  Similarly, it is an absolute anomaly for a company not to have an email program: from basic ones like Welcome and Transactional, to more strategic ones like Nurturing and Life-cycle. Meanwhile Search and Display have already earned a permanent place in a savvy marketer’s arsenal since their inherent reliance on data accounts for warmer leads and easier conversions than are achieved by many of the traditional marketing avenues.

 

In just one short paragraph, we have enumerated seven different channels that have become essential for an adequate marketing strategy, not to mention an outstanding one.

 

Needless to say, in the era of “Big Data”, it is imperative that each individual channel strategy is dictated by data-driven insights. That’s not the news here. The news is that it is no longer sufficient to develop those insights in a vacuum, i.e. only using metrics marketers have for their own marketing efforts. Instead, it is far more valuable to include industry, and even more so, competitors’ campaign data to inform marketing plans. 

 

As marketers give more and more attention to monitoring and analyzing industry trends and competitors’ practices, few big data analytics solutions successfully integrate the seven essential digital channels and make it possible for marketers to easily monitor trends, track their KPIs, and put the collected data to work for them. 

 

Yesmail Market Intelligence is the first of its kind to successfully house data from social media networks, email providers, company websites and, now, display advertising made possible by a partnership with MixRank, the leading provider of digital display ad data. The integration between MixRank’s innovative crawler technology and Yesmail’s leading platform for competitive intelligence brings to market a seamlessly integrated multichannel tool that provides digital data across seven channels in one centralized and easy-to-use dashboard. This breakthrough allows marketers to spend fewer resources on researching and testing and, instead, invest in developing profitable and informed marketing campaigns. Yesmail is thrilled to partner with MixRank to deliver a solution that saves marketers both time and money as it allows them to develop profitable and informed marketing campaigns that can outperform the competition. 

 

It’s Big Data, at its finest.

 

About the Author

Jason_warnock

Jason Warnock is a seasoned veteran of email deliverability and digital marketing. After creating successful email applications for Canadian bank CIBC, Jason initiated and managed Deliverability Operations for Digital Connexxions (2006) implementing several key strategies for major publishing clients. After a successful acquisition of Digital Connexxions in 2006 by infoUSA, Jason proceeded to become Director of Deliverability for Yesmail (2007) followed by VP of Deliverability Services for Infogroup (2011). Jason has transformed Infogroup Deliverability into an industry leading solution through enhanced offerings of technology and client services. Jason has designed successful technical and business strategies for several large Fortune 500 companies including: HP, Coke, Kodak, Facebook, eBay, Ancestry.com, and United Airlines. Jason is also a recognized industry leader in digital marketing intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence through his work in co-creating Yesmail’s Market Intelligence platform with Andrew Ferraccioli and Jeff Hulshof.

 

Monitor The Competition With A Real-Time Dashboard

Here at MixRank, we’re excited to announce our recent partnership with Ducksboard, a real-time dashboard that allows online marketers to visualize and monitor data in one single location.  Ducksboard has implemented nine MixRank widgets that can help you monitor the campaign trends from your top competitors.  With the integration, MixRank and Ducksboard users can now:

 

  • Visualize competitor campaign growth or decline down to the banner oir text ad level.  Ducksboard’s MixRank graph widget shows a trend of your competitor’s new ads over time, including the number of new text or banner ads and the total number of text or banner ads.
  • Track the reach of an advertiser’s campaigns that shows the count of active publishers for a specific advertiser.  The active publisher widget gives you an idea of how viral a competitor’s campaigns are, providing precedence for your budget and campaign structure.
  • Identify contextual keyword-targeting strategies with the active keywords widget.   Learn how many active contextual keywords your competitors are bidding on, and benchmark that with your own AdWords account to see if you can scale beyond.

 

There are nine new monitoring widgets that allow users to track competitors’ campaign trends. Here’s a look at just a few of the widgets you can build and customize within Ducksboard:

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As you can see, Ducksboard’s simple and customizable design makes it easy for online marketers to stay updated on the company performance in real time.  Without having to wait for weekly or monthly reports, Ducksboard allows marketing and business professionals to conveniently access and share valuable data that impacts decision-making.  Claim your 30-day free trial now.

 

3 Last Minute Holiday Campaign Tips to Reach Those Last Minute Shoppers

With the biggest holiday shopping season almost nearing to an end, we’ve compiled some last minute campaign strategies for you to reach those last minute shoppers.  Before the year ends, secure a spike in revenue over the next several days with these quick and simple last minute tips for your holiday campaigns:

 

1.  Increase sales with the last minute shoppers

Tweak your ad copy to make it more relevant to the holiday shopper. Update your ad copy to have a holiday spin on it and attract the last minute shoppers. “Arrives by 12/24” or “Last Minute Stocking Stuffers” are great examples of how you can spice up your ad copy to entice those last minute shoppers to click and purchase.

 

2.  Increase clicks and engaged viewers from your ads

Your ad design and copy is what compels a user to click or not. Since you’ve already tweaked your ad copy with the above strategy, try varying up the design a little.  Because we’re on the homestretch of the holidays, no need to re-invent the wheel here.  A simple A/B test with the color of the background or the color of the call-to-action button on your banner ads could be the difference between profit and breaking even this holiday season.

 

3.  Outperform your competitors on price for your most popular items

You already know what products account for 80% of your revenue.  Find these same or similar products from competing advertisers on MixRank.com to see their pricing model.  Based on what you discover, consider pricing your products similarly or offering free shipping or another perk with a purchase. 

 

With MixRank’s easy-to-use search bar, you can instantly research the competitive market for your products, without spending hours mining through your competitors’ landing pages for the same data. To get started, gain access to MixRank Professional with your risk-free trial here.

Which Super Hero Would Your Online Marketing Strategy Be? The Display Advertising Edition

Successful online advertising professionals possess extreme optimization knowledge and strategies that we can easily associate with super heroic powers. In this new blog series, we’ll take a look at various online marketing strategies, and how they emulate the extraordinary powers of your favorite super heroes.

 

The Display Advertising Edition

The display advertising strategies edition are just a few to kick off the series.  Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve had the most success with for your display campaigns and how you were able to own them.

 

Professor X: Audience Targeting

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The Super Power: Professor X is an incredibly powerful telepath capable of astral projection, mind control, illusion casting, memory manipulation, and psychic blasts.  If you’re participating in audience targeting, your strategy is comparable to the world’s most powerful telepath.  As Professor X listens to people’s thoughts and impacts their decisions with his powers, audience targeting similarly allows you to serve ad impressions to specific individuals from your target audience, giving your messaging the power of astral projection, psychic blasts and mind control.

 

How To Own It:  If you’re not currently honing Professor X’s powers of audience targeting, you can look into audience measurement tools like Quantcast or Core Audience that can help you understand what type of audience segments you can divide your visitors into.  Once you have full knowledge of these segments, create custom messaging for the various audiences that will be sure to persuade decisions and viewpoints.  This will help your campaigns and give you the optimal edge that salutes you into the same super hero class as Professor X.

 

Cyclops: Retargeting

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The Super Power:  Cyclops projects a concentrated beam of ruby-colored concussive force from his eyes and can project his power onto those he sees.  As it turns out, Cyclops and retargeting are two peas in a pod.  Just like Cyclops can project his forces onto those he can see, retargeting allows you to serve ad impressions to people who have visited your site.  These ad impressions are very pinpointed and focused towards individuals who you “see” on your site.

 

How To Own It:  To spark your inner Cyclops, set up your retargeting campaign with some easy-to-use tools like AdWords remarketing, AdRoll, Bizo, ReTargeter, TellApart or Criteo.  TellApart and Criteo technologies actually create dynamic campaigns generated by the product page the visitor was last browsing (suitable for big retailers or travel sites with multiple products).  Alternatively, I’ve had positive experiences with AdWords and AdRoll, which are pay-as-you-go tools.  So, grab some dark shades like Cyclops and start projecting your own concentrated beam of retargeted ads by adding your choice platform’s tracking code to your site.  This equips you with abilities to track your visitors, conversions, and target those visitors who dropped off in the conversion funnel.

 

Rogue: Competitive Intelligence for Display Ads

 

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The Super Power: Rogue’s competencies make her very strong as she absorbs powers, memories, and personalities through skin-to-skin contact.  Prolonged contact with others can cause her to permanently absorb their traits and potentially kill them.  Many have described her strengths as the ability to steal the enemy’s powers and use these forces against them.  This is exactly what competitive intelligence for display ads can do for your marketing campaigns.

 

How To Own It:  If you’re like Rogue, you’re already using MixRank to spy on your competitors’ display ads, placements, and landing pages.  Now all you need to do is absorb this powerful data to your advantage.  Similar to Rogue’s prolonged contact capabilities, MixRank provides powerful insights that you can use over long periods of time for display advertising, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, and much more.  So whether you want to create more compelling ad copy, scale out on keywords, optimize for winning landing pages or generate new traffic through link building, MixRank’s competitive intelligence data will certainly gear you up to exert Rogue’s wondrous abilities of absorbing your competitors’ skills, powers and traits.

 

Have any online marketing strategies that are related to these super powers? Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve used in the past, and how you were able to own it.

 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post and want to read more posts from this series, follow me on Twitter or add me to your G+ circles for updates.

How to Crush the Competition on the Google Display Network

Ever wonder how your competitors are setting up their ad strategy or where they’re getting their most valuable traffic?  If you don’t keep up with your ads and continually optimize your reach, the competition is going to swoop in and take what’s yours.  That’s why we’ve put together this simple 5-step guide on how to crush the competition on the Google Display Network.

 

  1. Do Your Research: Conduct a competitive analysis of your top competitors.  I’m sure you know about MixRank, since you’re reading our blog.  So, head to mixrank.com, search for your competitor’s domains, and export all of the text ads, banner ads, and traffic sources to understand where you stand in relation to your competitors. 
  2. Drive More Reach:  Based on the ads you exported from your top competitors, cross-reference their campaign strategy against yours.  If they’re running significantly more campaigns than you, you know you’ll have re-visit your ad budget and scale your campaigns on other relevant sites.  On the other hand, of you’re competition isn’t running as many campaigns, that’s a good sign too that you don’t have to increase your budget tremendously to reach more customers. 
  3. Don’t Miss Out On the Traffic: From the traffic sources you exported from MixRank, add any placements that you’re not currently bidding on to your managed placements.  Be strategic about which ad groups you target these placements on, as the relevancy will impact your Quality Score.  To get started, make sure to add every placement on the exported list. If your competitor is running ads on these sites, you definitely don’t want to be left out.
  4. Optimize Your Budget:  As you know, not all placements will perform the same way. So, since you probably have some type of budget for your ad spend, you’ll need to monitor the performance of each placement and adjust your bids accordingly over time.  If you’re considering adding negative placements, it may be worthwhile to check back on MixRank to see if your competitors are still running ads on that traffic source before doing so.  You can delete a placement as well, which would be less drastic. By deleting a placement, your ad may still show up on the site but only when ad group’s topic or keyword targets are relevant to the content on the site.
  5. Leverage Banner Ads: Similar to search ads, contextual ads on the Display Network appear right beside your top competitors’.  To eliminate the chances of a consumer clicking on your competitor’s ad completely, occupy the entire ad unit with a banner ad.  The nice thing about banner ads is that certain sizes will almost guarantee your ad will be above the fold on most sites.  The most popular sizes are 728×90, 160×600 and 300×250, but from my experience, 160×600 ads don’t perform as well as the others.  Here’s a visual of an ad unit, and how banner ads drive out the competition’s ads:

 

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701pages Decreases Time Spent on Creative Testing by 30% with MixRank

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701pages.com is the leading online search directory in Malaysia.  They provide coupons for local goods and services and free unbiased community reviews for over 100,000 merchants.  In 2012, they selected clickTRUE to manage and scale its online advertising campaigns.

 

After running campaigns for several months, 701pages and clickTRUE started seeing a decline in click-through rates.  To ensure their existing campaigns did not suffer further, they decided to refresh these campaigns with a new creative direction.  As they started launching new creatives to test, they encountered a roadblock. The trial and error period required a significant amount of time, preventing them from rapidly scaling their campaigns.

 

To increase efficiency, 701pages and clickTRUE turned to MixRank’s search engine for ads to gain insight into successful ads from similar industry advertisers.  MixRank’s data showed the contextual and banner ads from leading brands, the number of times the ads were shown, and the length of time the campaign ran for.  Ads with a higher frequency over a longer period of time indicated the ad performed well for the advertiser.

 

With these insights, 701pages and clickTRUE modeled their ad creatives based on what worked for other advertisers in the same industry, cutting their time to launch a campaign by 30%.  As a result, MixRank’s intelligent data allowed 701pages to scale their display campaigns more profitably at a rapid pace.

 

“When launching new campaigns, a quick glance at the banner ads indexed on MixRank offered my team remarkable perspectives.  We saved a substantial amount of time spent on testing new creative ads.”

 

— Jereme Wong, COO of clickTRUE Pte Ltd

 

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clickTRUE Pte Ltd was founded in 2008 and has quickly become one of Southeast Asia’s leading online marketing agencies for SEO, SEM, integrated PPC management, social media marketing, web development, web analytics, and conversion rate optimization.  clickTRUE manages over $10 million in online ad spend annually across a client list that includes leading brands such as Clinique, DKNY, HSBC Bank, Men’s Health and Panasonic. clickTRUE has since streamlined its creative testing process using MixRank as its strategic data source for successful ad creatives across a variety of verticals.

 

 

How to Outmarket, Outmaneuver, and Dominate Your Better Funded Competitors and Leverage Their Greatest Strengths Against Them

This is part 2 of a series of indeterminate length about succeeding in a crowded market. You can read the first part here.Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage. -Niccolo MachiavelliIf you’re in any decently-sized marketplace, you’re going to come up against at least a few significant competitors. Let’s face it, at this point, pretty much all demand in any market is being met by…something at least. Some of your competitors, even if you think they have an inferior product, are probably better-funded, have stronger brand value, or have well-developed inbound marketing campaigns (or all three). They’re probably running numerous successful, established campaigns across multiple channels. If you go up against them directly, on their turf, they will destroy you.But, if you take a tactical, tightly focused, agile approach, you can defeat even the most entrenched behemoths. Here’s how you can run circles around your biggest competitors, no matter how much money they throw at stopping you:

Watch as Stability Turns into Stagnation

Like it or not, in the fast-moving Internet marketing world, being an established player that has been around for a while confers tremendous advantages. These benefits can manifest directly in the significant organic ranking and quality score boost Google gives to aged domains (those that have been registered for more than a few years without a change in Whois). This is presumably because, unlike, say, keyword density, domain age is much harder to game.But the effects of age can also manifest themselves in other, subtler ways. An affiliate who has been running an offer for a while has demonstrated that he is capable of consistently delivering high quality traffic. As a result, he is probably getting a higher payout than you and can afford to outbid everyone else.And of course, any performance advertisers running traffic for some time have had time to collect lots of data, optimize their campaigns, and remove low-performing ads and keywords.But consistent stability also breeds complacency. And as any affiliate who has watched his earnings from a previously stable campaign dwindle into nothingness over time, in this business, complacency is death.Leverage your competitors’ complacency and turn it against them. Where are they getting weak, fat, and lazy?Look at the highest converting keywords you covet most. Do you see your competitors rotating different headlines and landing pages or are they using the same ones? Is their ad position changing a lot (implying that they are actively managing their bids) or is it holding steady?If you’re seeing a lot of stagnation in your competitors’ campaigns, that’s when you know it’s time to strike. Start bidding aggressively, using a variety of diverse headlines and landing pages. The more completely diverse appeals you try, the higher the chances you will stumble on a combination of medium and message that produces significant lift in conversions or CTR, thus negating their established history and higher bids. Most advertisers lack the ability to monitor changes in their ad position and performance for every keyword. Once something is profitable, more often than not, they will fall asleep at the wheel and let the campaign run on autopilot as they move on to optimizing different market segments or traffic sources.This is especially true with contextual (cost per view) and display campaigns, and of course SEO. Most advertisers will optimize a campaign to the point of profitability and then leave it alone, opting to move on to completely different channels. For you, this means that when you go up against big advertisers, on keywords and placements they are not actively optimizing, you’ll be able to capture some traffic and market share without engaging in a bidding war with them. A big ad budget isn’t worth much if you aren’t actively using it. This method can be hugely profitable, especially on the long tail and at the fringes. There’s no need to fight a losing battle with a big advertiser over traffic they’re actively seeking. Instead, slowly but steadily sap the traffic they don’t even remember they have.

Exploit Their Testing Budget by Scaling Horizontally Into New Channels

By running a large campaign, your competitors are releasing lots of data into the wild. Thousands of headlines, keywords, banner ads, etc are all publically available for you to study and learn from. Remember, Internet marketing isn’t magic. It’s simply scientific testing and the application of a few fundamental principles.When you see large, well-funded competitors extend their tendrils into thousands of sites and keywords(you know, when you get the sense that you’re seeing their ads everywhere), it’s easy to feel frightened and overwhelmed.”How could I ever compete with them?” you think. “Their brand is so…established”.But they’re not doing anything special. They just have a bigger testing budget than you. And a bigger testing budget simply means they can afford to make more mistakes.So let them make mistakes and spend their money testing. Then, once they’ve figured out what works, and started scaling it, when you’ve seen many ad variations replaced by one or two they are running consistently, it’s fairly easy to figure out what the most effective way to reach that particular target market is.You probably shouldn’t copy their ads exactly. But there’s nothing wrong with taking the fundamentals of their campaign, like their main appeal(is it a price appeal? a particular benefit appeal?), main keywords, the types of images they use in their banners, and scaling them horizontally to other, very related traffic sources and demographics.Do you think every single Google advertiser is also on Yahoo/Bing? Is every Pulse360 advertiser also running the same ads on AdSonar? Is every single PPV advertiser distributing campaigns evenly between TrafficVance, LeadImpact, and MediaTraffic?One of the most effective ways to easily generate new revenue is taking an existing campaign and porting it over to a related traffic source. Why not do the same with your competitors’ campaigns? There are plenty of keyword research tools out there that will show you competitors’ exact ads and keywords. (I recommend SEMRush). Learn from those campaigns, and scale them up.Wait for your large competitors to optimize their campaigns, learn the fundamentals that make them effective, and port them over to related traffic sources.Remember when I posted some of the most effective Facebook ad images? Thousands of people downloaded those images. Most simply put them, unchanged, into new Facebook campaigns. Those campaigns faltered, because Facebook users had already developed banner blindness for those images. But a few clever people looked at those images, which were the result of many different advertisers spending millions of dollars testing, and figured out which specific patterns, like a picture of a crying baby, were most effective.Then, they used those tried and tested patterns to build out campaigns on alternative, less saturated, yet technically similar traffic sources like Plenty of Fish, and got profitable very quickly.Let your competitors spend money testing and optimizing. The bigger they are, the easier it will be for you to quickly learn what works best.Then learn what works, adapt it to your own campaigns, and scale.tl;dr Summary: Having strong, well-funded direct competitors with large paid traffic campaigns gives you two advantages you probably weren’t aware of:

  1. Their campaigns are so large that they are not actively optimizing/managing bidding on all of their keywords and media buys, especially towards the long tail, leaving an opportunity for you to come in and take over.
  2. The wide reach of their ads makes it easy to collect lots of data on what works best. You can effectively hijack their massive m
    arketing budget for your own benefit. Large marketing spend means you can collect lots of accurate data from keyword tools, demographic research tools like Quantcast, as well as old-fashioned manual competitor research.

As you may have guessed, the upcoming release of insight.io will automate and scale many of these data collection and optimization tasks for you…but that’s some time away. It won’t hurt to put your email on the beta list though 🙂

How to Succeed in a Crowded Market (part 1)

If there’s one thing affiliate marketing teaches you, it’s how to survive in the face of fierce compatition. As an affiliate marketer, I frequently found myself competing against hundreds if not thousands of affiliates, all of them promoting the same product to the same customers on the same traffic sources.All of the fundamental principles of traditional marketing, like differentiation, a USP, price testing, etc mean nothing, because everyone is running the same ads for the same exact product, linking to that same landing page.There is no fluff like branding or engagement. This is raw, pure performance marketing, where the only things that matter are clicks and conversions. Even the most successful affiliate campaigns are fleeting- blink, and someone with a slightly more optimized campaign will destroy you.Affiliate marketing in a competitive niche is something of a trial by fire. Words like “traction” or “angel funding” are unknown. You either convert enough of your traffic into sales to turn a profit immediately, or you die and a hundred marketers who are hungrier than you vie to take your place.If you can build a profitable business in that space, you can do it anywhere.This is the business environment I cut my teeth on marketing in, so you could say I know a thing or two about succeeding in the face of stiff competition.It may seem impossible to succeed in a space that already has established, better funded competitors. But, as a newcomer, you have several incredibly powerful advantages over your competition. Utilize them, and you will be able to outmaneuver the most determined competitors every single time.Here’s exactly how I was able to enter the most saturated verticals out there- dating, insurance, fitness- and build $1000-a-day campaigns despite the presence of sophisticated, entrenched competitors.

Don’t Educate The Market: Capture Traffic at a Later Stage of the Buying Process

You probably know that customers go through several distinct phases when researching a product and committing to buy. Remember Glengarry Glen Ross:[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-AXTx4PcKI&w=480&h=385]The stages of the buying process are:

  1. Attention
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

If you’re in a competitive market, you will have competitors advertising to customers at every stage of the buying process. Many of your competitors, particularly big brands, are spending a lot of money to educate the market – to show potential customers that they have a problem their product or service can solve. Before committing to a purchase they will research all the alternatives, especially if they are B2B customers. While these people are doing research, they’re costing your competitors serious money in ad clicks and impressions, but are not converting into sales, because they’re still in the research phase of the sales cycle.Don’t bother trying to educate the market- let your competitors spend money convince customers they need a product or service in your industry. Then, when they’re finally ready to buy, when they’re finally at that ACTION stage, swoop in and get the sale. Here’s exactly how you can do this:

  • Consider buyer intent Bid on keywords that demonstrate strong intent to buy- “buy voip service” vs “voip service provider comparison”. Generally, the later you get into the sales cycle, the more expensive keywords become, but the jump in conversion rate usually makes up for this.
  • Don’t bid for top position There are many reasons why you shouldn’t bid for the #1 position in a group of ads, and this is one of them. Frequently, consumers will click on the top 2-3 ads for a search result as part of their research process, just to understand the marketplace. Then they will click on another, lower position, ad and actually make the purchase. For this reason, many more sophisticated advertisers test how bids and ad position affect conversion rates. Many find that position 3-4 is the “sweet spot” that actually converts better than being in position #1.

Next week, I discuss how to convert your rivals’ greatest strengths into unbeatable competitive advantages you can use to dominate the market.

Startup Marketing Lessons Learned Part 2: AdWords is Only the Beginning

I recently had the pleasure of assisting over 150 Hacker News members with marketing their startups. I was surprised to learn that I was giving the same advice over and over again. I’m collecting the most specific, actionable and useful marketing advice for startups in a 3 part series. This is part 2.Last time, we discussed marketing fundamentals you needed to get right before beginning to drive traffic to your project. I hope you’ve implemented some of those suggestions into your product marketing.I don’t want this blog to consist solely of vague textbook marketing advice. This week, we’re going deeper and diving right into specific methods you can use right now to generate a stream of interested customers for your startup. Let’s get started.

Test and Track Everything

…advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness. One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one percent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best.

Can you guess which AdWords guru wrote the words above?That quote is from the seminal work Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, written in the 1920s. You would think that, 80 years later, people would realize the importance of tracking, especially with how easy modern analytics software makes it.And yet, startup after startup is creating ads that link to their homepage, without any tracking variables appended. They can only guess if their ads are effective, and they’re collecting exactly zero data.Any ad campaign, even if it’s set up by an expert, will probably start out losing money. When you launch an ad campaign, you’re not just paying for customers, you’re paying for data about what works and what doesn’t, tested in the marketplace.As you collect data and optimize, the campaign will eventually pull into the black. But if you’re not collecting click and conversion data, you’ll never know what you need to optimize, and you’ll continue bleeding money forever.Don’t just track based on which campaign gets the highest CTR. You need to drill down to the individual ad and keyword level, and track both CTR and conversion rate for each ad. This is done by appending a unique id to the URL of each ad variation. If you can’t tell me exactly which headline is bringing you the most loyal customers, you’re doing it wrong. If you track everything down to the ad level, you’ll be able to know exactly where your most profitable customers are coming from. This is especially critical for recurring billing/subscription services, which many startups are. Again, optimize for CLV.Setting up tracking is super easy. Google Analytics has a simple URL Builder you can use to append tracking variables to any link. You’ll want to focus on the utm_term and utm_campaign variables.If you want even better, more customizable, real-time data, my friends at MixPanel are happy to help.If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this:Track Everything Now. Every second you’re not tracking, you’re losing money.

Search Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

Here’s an example of what the typical startup founder told me about their marketing campaign:

Out startup sells time tracking software for dog walkers. We’re already advertising online. We’re bidding on “dog walker time tracking” on Google Search and getting 3 clicks and 0 conversions a day. How do we get more traffic?

It’s not surprising that you’re not getting lots of traffic, because you’re stuck in a search-only mindset. You can thank Google’s excellent branding for that, because they would love to have you believe that the only way to get customers online is through buying search keywords.Here’s the truth about advertising online: most of your traffic and customers will not come from search. They will come from social networks(more on that soon) and other sites- and I don’t mean just the Google Content Network. Want to know a cheap, high volume traffic source your competitors aren’t using? Two words: media buys. Yes, I’m talking about banner ads and yes, they still work.You don’t have to have a big budget to start buying banner ad space. Start approaching smaller blogs in your niche, and offer to pay them a fixed amount to paste your ad code into their site for a month. Again, track everything.When you do a simple media buy, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a high CTR or relevance between ads and landing pages, you just need to get enough clicks and conversions to stay profitable.I’ll have a post exclusively about media buying coming soon, but for now, start looking around and negotiating. You’ll be amazed at the great deals and cheap traffic you can find.

Competitor Bidding Works, Take it To The Next Level

Bidding on the names of competitors on search is an effective tactic. You’re reaching customers who are at a later stage of the buying cycle. They already know they need your product or service, and now they’re just comparing the alternatives and reading reviews before committing to a purchase. Let your competitors spend money educating the market and finding qualified prospects, then snatch the customer from their grasp when he’s about to buy.[pullshow]Competitor bidding is a good start, but it’s only a start. Here’s how you can easily and inexpensively outfox your competitors on most traffic sources:[pullthis]Don’t stop at search. Follow competitors’ ads around the web.[/pullthis] Search for competitor names, features, products, etc, or get their keywords from a keyword research tool. Look at the search results for their name and main keywords. Are there any sites there that have AdSense? Any blogs that have written reviews of a competitor’s product? Those are all prime advertising opportunities.Approach them directly and offer to buy banner space, either on the whole blog or just on that specific post. Prospective customers searching for information about competitors will instead come across ads for your product, and some will inevitably convert. If you see a competitor’s ads on an AdSense block on a page, you’ve found a fantastic traffic source. Approach the webmaster and offer to buy a banner ad to replace the AdSense. You’ll be able to pay the webmaster more for the space because Google isn’t taking their 30% cut, so it should be a no brainer for them to accept your offer. Now not only have you cut off a competitor from a lucrative traffic source, but you’ve also uncovered a proven source of converting traffic. Repeat this enough, and you’ll be able to completely dominate your competitors outside of search while spending less than them.

Start Retargeting Right Away

Retargeting is the practice of showing ads to people who have already visited your site(but probably didn’t convert). Retargeting is very cost effective, and delivers incredibly high-converting traffic, because you’re only paying for impressions shown to people who have expressed an interest in your product. When building a retargeting campaign, create banners that prominently feature your name, logo, and color scheme. People who have seen that design before will notice and click. There are two easy ways you can use retargeting right away:AdWords has a retargeting option you can turn on for a campaign. Or, for greater reach, AdRoll has an easy self-serve retargeting system that ties into major ad networks. You just add their pixel to your site, they leave a cookie, and show banner ads that follow your visitors around the web, g
ently yet firmly reminding them to sign up for your site.There is so much involved in getting traffic online. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. If nothing else, I hope this post has inspired you to explore other traffic sources with tracked, tested, creative campaigns. Next week: I show you how to easily increase your current traffic tenfold, discuss advanced optimization tactics to squeeze more out of your current campaigns, and finish with a little-known traffic tip I’ve never told anyone before.