Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 7: The Best

Based on two months of testing across a half-dozen B2B websites and blogs, these Web 2.0 social bookmarking sites produced the best results, in terms of driving direct traffic and having active, engaged discussion communities.

Overall, Web 2.0 sites didn't drive a large amount of direct traffic (depending on the B2B site, Web 2.0 sites added 1% to 3% to total traffic—but had larger indirect benefits on traffic, such as through blog exposure and SEO). The percentages shown below are the proportion of total Web 2.0 social tagging-driven traffic contributed by each site (e.g. if a site got a total of 200 visits from all the sites in the study, Yahoo! MyWeb would have accounted for about five of those).

This list includes the top 10 general-interest sites as well as three special-purpose Web 2.0 social bookmarking sites.

10) Yahoo! MyWeb 2.4%
A decent tool, but nothing really sets it apart from the pack.

9) Netvouz 3.2%
A surprisingly effective tool for B2B marketers, considering that the site makes a big deal of saying "You must not use the Service for any commercial purpose, to distribute any advertising or solicitation of funds or goods or services without express prior written approval of Netvouz." Maybe they've missed their calling? Or maybe they should at least lighten up.

8) Fark.com 4.1%
Another site that gets surprisingly good results in the B2B space considering the description of its genesis: "Fark was originally a word Drew became known for using online back in the early 1990s. He can't remember why, but his guess is that it was either to replace another F-word or that he was just drunk and mistyped something. He tells everyone it was the former since it's a better story that way."

7) Ma.gnolia 5.3%
A very slick tool—its auto-fill capability for key fields is among the best of any of these sites.

6) StumbleUpon 6.2%
Great browser toolbar, but missing the ability to add keywords. Still, impressively effective.

5) Digg 6.5%
A bit more difficult to use than many of the other sites on this list, but apparently worth the effort.

4) Clipmarks 7.1%
Their clipping tool provides limited control over the area to be clipped—but gets first-rate results anyway.

3) BibSonomy 7.9%
Definitely the dark horse in this list. Plain interface and separating tags with spaces rather than commas is a minor annoyance. But, it's tough to argue with third place.

2) Searchles 8.8%
By far the most actively-engaged community of any of these sites, and the daily email summaries of fresh links set this site apart from the crowd.

1) [Drumroll please...] Zimbio 12.9%
Not a surprise—excellent feature set and very easy to use.

There you have it, the best of the general-interest Web 2.0 social tagging sites. All are WebMarketCentral-recommended. Finally, three special-purpose sites that generated very impressive results:

BeeTooBee 4.7%
An online community focused on web marketing, or as the site puts it: "Benefit from the collective intelligence of your peers to discover the best internet marketing strategies and thought leadership." BeeTooBee is one of the best places to tag content related to online marketing tools, services, strategies, tactics and content.

Technorati 7.9%
Technorati is only for blog promotion, but it is the Google of blog promotion. Nothing else even comes close.

DZone 13.2%
Focused on software developers specifically, and the technology community more generally, DZone is the best place to tag software-related news and thought leadership content. It's the new Slashdot.

Previous articles in this series:
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 1: Alexa Rankings
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 2: The Worst
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 3: Special-Purpose Sites
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 4: B2B Traffic Building
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 5: Tier 3 Sites
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 6: Tier 2 Sites


The site for online marketing business resources: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based PR & marketing agency focused exclusively on B2B lead generation and go-to-market strategy for IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Monday, June 25, 2007

Ziff Davis Sells Off Magazines

MediaPost reported this morning that Ziff Davis has announced plans to sell off the magazine titles in its Enterprise Group to a private equity firm. The sale includes print titles eWeek, CIO and Baseline magazine, as well as web properties eweek.com, webbuyersguide.com, cioinsight.com, baselinemag.com, Microsoft-watch.com, channelinsider.com and deviceforge.com.

I've addressed this phenomenon previously here in bemoaning the demise of CMO magazine. Magazine brands have value. Content has value (though possibly less on the web than in print). Printing has diminishing value, particularly in the technology publication space.

MediaPost noted that Z-D has "cut costs and reformulated itself as a Web-focused publisher" over the past few years. But if the value of magazines is in their brand, and Z-D is selling off the titles, the question is—Z-D is going to be a web-focused publisher of what exactly?


Terms: print publications dying, print magazines declining, publishing, Ziff Davis, MediaPost, Enterprise Group

The online marketing business portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 6: Tier 2 Sites

Here in the second of three posts on the effectiveness of specific Web 2.0 social bookmarking sites at driving B2B website traffic, based on my two-month test, are the mid-tier sites. These sites drove a meaningful though not large volume of traffic across the half-dozen B2B websites and blogs in the test. In ascending order, the mid-tier sites are:

12) ListerLister
Blandly design and not terribly popular, but easy to use and does produce some results.

11) Listible
A clone of ListerLister with a more appealing color scheme.

10) eSnips
More for file-sharing than link-sharing, but nicely designed and widely used.

9) ButterFly
An elegant and creative Web 2.0 site that should be more popular.

8) WireFan
Slick design, easy to use, modest traffic.

7) Newsvine
Though much more heavily-used than WireFan, results were similar. Categorization of news items is helpful but overly broad.

6) Simpy
Works better with IE than Firefox.

5) MarkaBoo
Clean design, easy to use, respectable results.

4) NowPublic
News-oriented, a great place to expose user-targeted, thought-leadership PR.

3) del.icio.us
Given it's incredible popularity, B2B traffic results were surprisingly second-tier (though near the top of this group).

2) RawSugar
Primarily for blog promotion, but works for B2B thought leadership content as well.

1) Reddit
The best of the second tier, though the delay it imposes between tagging sites is annoying.

Previous articles in this series:
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 1: Alexa Rankings
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 2: The Worst
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 3: Special-Purpose Sites
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 4: B2B Traffic Building
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 5: Tier 3 Sites


The site for Internet marketing business resources: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minnesota-based PR & marketing agency exclusively focused go-to-market strategy and sales process execution for B2B IT companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 5: Tier 3 Sites

After two months of testing across half a dozen B2B websites and blogs, here is the first of three posts on the performance of individual Web 2.0 social bookmarking sites. In my test, the sites below were the least productive at driving traffic directly—though they were nonetheless helpful for SEO efforts. It should also be noted that there were wide variations in the traffic driven per site (e.g. the Web 2.0 sites that performed well for one or two sites didn't perform uniformly well across the group), so your mileage may vary.

Still, a great place to promote press releases.

One of the original bookmarking sites; they were Web 2.0 before it was called that.

Cool, though a bit slow at times.

Slick, easy interface.

Blue Dot
One of the easiest browser plugins.

Unnecessarily difficult to use.

Works well, but nothing really sets it apart.

One of the most flexible social networking sites.

Among the quickest and easiest to use bookmarking sites.

Similar to Backflip, but saves the original page.

Pre-filling of description and tag fields is impressively accurate.

Some nice features, but 16-character limit on tags is annoying.

Another site that's easy to use, but lacks any unique features.

Social Bookmarking
Functional but unimaginative, in name and design.

Fast and easy to use, and works with virtually any browser.

Surprisingly ineffective at driving B2B traffic despite its huge popularity.

This site hasn't really taken off, despite some nice features. And the site copyright still says 2005 (ouch!).

Ditto the comment above for SyncOne, except that the site copyright says 2006 (still ouch).

Previous articles in this series:
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 1: Alexa Rankings
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 2: The Worst
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 3: Special-Purpose Sites
Web 2.0 Social Tagging Sites, Part 4: B2B Traffic Building


The site for Internet marketing and advertising resources: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minnesota-based B2B marketing & PR agency focused exclusively on lead generation and go-to-market strategy for technology companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Friday, June 15, 2007

More on (Moron?) Behavioral Targeting

Shortly after my last piece on behavioral targeting for online advertising came out, the folks at MediaPost published three more enlightening articles on the topic. First was What's Next in Ad Targeting? from Dave Morgan of behavioral targeting advertising network Tacoda. Morgan makes three key points about targeted online advertising: 1) "you have to know something about a lot of different consumers and their actions within digital media and marketing environments. You need to understand the wisdom of the crowds;" 2) "for consumers that you want to target, you have to know a certain amount about their actual actions within media and marketing environments. You need some way to connect them to the crowds if you want to predict what they are likely to do;" and 3) "you need to have an understanding of what types of commercial messaging are likely to create the desired results."

He closes by writing ""What could slow this down? Certainly issues like privacy and over-hype could hurt, but ultimately, if predictive targeting of online advertising can improve consumers' experiences and give them ads that they want and need, it will happen, and sooner rather than later." But that was the point I made in my post: accurate prediction is possible with relatively limited personal information—and collecting additional information beyond that point is not only an unwarranted invasion of privacy, but a complete waste of time.

Next came Privacy Groups Warn: Google’s Watching Us From Every Angle from Wendy Davis. Davis points out that with "Google Maps, Toolbar, Blogger, Okrut, Gmail, and Checkout, among other services...there's no question that Google has the raw data it needs to construct more detailed profiles of individual users than has ever been done before" to contend "Google needs to cough up a more detailed plan for protecting users' privacy."

While I completely agree, I'm not a fan of lawyers or more regulation of the Internet, so I hope Google yields to market pressure. I am a fan of technology solutions to technology problems; I'm confident that there's someone out there smart and creative enough to produce an easy plug-in utility users could install to block the sending of personal information to Google (or anyone else trying to unreasonably invade user privacy).

Finally, there was Democratizing BT from Steve Smith. In this interview, Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy states that "I grew increasingly alarmed about the rapid growth of interactive advertising’s capabilities, in particular BT where increasing numbers of data sets about users were being incorporated. And then in the last year and a half [there’s] the emergence of retargeting, which now permits marketers to literally shadow individual users from site to site...We filed a complaint saying in essence that the entire field of online advertising as it related to data collection, principally BT, was unfair and deceptive. The good news is that as a result of our complaint, the FTC opened up the investigation so they looked at online profiling...They (BT and other online tracking services) can’t just track people and get [them] to engage in a variety of behaviors without fully informing them that this is going on—and getting complete permission in advance to do so...I do think the companies are being disingenuous here, because they aren't being candid [with users] about what they are really doing. The public is not aware—and once informed, I think sufficient numbers are suitably horrified."

Is that what online advertisers really want to be doing—"horrifying" potential customers? The answer has to be "no," particularly when collecting such information isn't even helpful. Advertisers should focus on using only the information they really need for effective prediction. And as for the likes of Google and BT, they'd be best served by telling users precisely what personal information they are collecting, and collecting no more information than is reasonably justified.


The Internet marketing strategy portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based marketing & PR agency focused exclusively on
B2B technology clients: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What Works in B2B Technology Marketing

Marketing Sherpa has just published a free whitepaper titled Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2007-08: Practical Data for B2B Software, Hardware & Services Marketers. While experienced B2B IT marketers won't find any shocking revelations here, there are some minor surprises, and even the confirmatory data make it well worth the quick read.

Here are the key takeways from my reading of it:

Low conversion rates are (unfortunately) the norm…

“Fewer than 10% of visitors who click to your offer page for a white paper, webinar or online “education” (case studies, tech specs, etc.) actually wind up registering to use these resources. The other 90% leave without a trace.” 10% sounds optimistic.

…but there are tactics that can be employed to improve conversion:
  • Repeat important words throughout the copy. “Don’t assume that prospects carefully read everything on the page from start to finish…Make sure relevant keywords are present no matter where the eye flickers.” (Repeating keywords also helps with SEO of course.)

  • “Landing pages with fewer click options, fewer path decisions, nearly always get far higher response rates.”

  • “Bullet points work. Bullet points often blow paragraph-style copy (with nearly the exact same words) out of the water.”

  • “Add immediate calls to action, such as a large “Sign up Today!” and a bold “Register Now” even when you might think the action is self evident. Being politely pushy can pay off.”
The most significant challenge identified by B2B technology marketers is now the ever-growing committee – the increasing number of contacts within each prospect company that must be communicated with.

For 5-figure purchases, the average buying committee size in 100-500 employee companies is six people; in large companies, it’s 21. “Given the shift to mega-committees, marketing will have to expand their prospecting databases and outreach activities on a per-account basis.”

Buyers find vendors – not the other way around.

75% of influencers and 80% of decision-makers said that they found vendors (through research) rather than responding to a campaign. “The key increasingly lies not in blasting out your message via a marketing megaphone but rather in placing yourself where you can and will be found when prospects are looking. It’s the hunter concept turned sideways. Instead of hunting down new prospects, you are the prey they are hunting. That means the following marketing tactics become more critical to your mix:”
  • White paper syndication (e.g. TechTarget, KnowledgeStorm, FindWhitePapers, etc.)
  • SEO
  • Paid search advertising
  • PR (including speeches, blogs, awards and technical articles)
  • Consistent brand awareness advertising
  • Existing customer referrals
Cold-calling can still be effective – if done right.

Only 17% of influencers and 9% of decision-makers viewed cold-calling as “unacceptable.” Most said calls were acceptable as long as the caller was respectful of their time and had relevant information. That means:
  • Starting with a good list
  • Doing some research up front—know something about the person, the company and the industry before making the call
  • Having telemarketers trained well enough to use their script as launching pad to a more valuable conversation
  • Having compelling news or an offer to share – not just “did you get our mailing”
  • Using calls to extend the list of decision-makers / influencers within each prospect organization
Podcasting can be productive, but only if done on a regular basis.

78% of buyers said they had listened to a technology-related podcast more than once. (I suspect this number may be a little high; there were likely people who answered "yes" to this only to avoid seeming out-of-touch. Still, it's a significant number.) But “a routine podcast that is broadcast on a regular basis will have far more measurable impact than a one-off. Simply put – a one-off podcast is like a one-off email newsletter. You can’t get the job done with a single issue, nor should you expect to measure success from it alone.”

In short, make your company easy to find when prospects are looking—and have valuable knowledge, as well as a compelling story to tell for your product or service, when they raise their hands.


The Internet marketing advertising portal: WebMarketCentral.com

A marketing and PR agency focused exclusively on
B2B technology companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Friday, June 08, 2007

WMC Interviews: Janine Popick

I recently caught up with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse. Like many other hosted email services, VerticalResponse gives you easy-to-use tools for creating and executing email campaigns—pre-built HTML templates, list management and segmentation, click-through reporting, etc. Unlike many other services however, VerticalReponse prices its service on a pay-as-you-go model rather than a monthly or annual fee. This is great for organizations that send out email blasts on an irregular or ad hoc basis.

Here's our conversation.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before VerticalResponse?

Janine Popick (JP): I've been in Direct Marketing for about 17 years in one fashion or another. In the late 90's after a merger with XOOM.com, NBC.com and Snap.com to form NBCi, I formed NBCi Direct, the direct marketing division of NBC Internet. Before that I served as VP of Direct Marketing and Ecommerce at XOOM.com the 12th most trafficked website and was an officer of the public company.

In the early to mid 90's I managed Direct Marketing at Claris Corp. a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple Inc. as well as Insignia Solutions and Symantec Corporation. I've mostly been around high technology companies.

WMC: How, when and why did you get started in this business?

JP: After just a year and the beginning of the dot.com bust, it was time for a break. My husband John and I headed to Paris, but not just for relaxation. We had invested in a Parisian email marketing company and went to apply experiences to help them. I worked there almost daily for 4 months.

While in Paris, I developed the idea for VerticalResponse, the successful online marketing solution enabling anyone – regardless of technical expertise – to get up and running fast with email marketing campaigns – the perfect solution for small businesses. I've not strayed from what I set out to do 6+ years ago. Small businesses need tools to grow and we feel we built a pretty darn good one for them.

WMC: Who is your ideal or typical client?

JP: We focus on smaller companies but because we've got a great solution, we often find ourselves with customers from smaller divisions of very large companies. Our typical customers mails weekly or every two weeks and needs a wizard-based solution enabling them to build their own graphical email.

WMC: What sets you apart from your competition?

JP: I think our customer service and attentiveness is probably the biggest thing. We care about them, we talk to people and help them with any issues. Once, one of our engineers couldn't replicate a problem a customer was having, and he happened to be a 15 minute drive, so he drove over to the customers business. Now that's customer service.

We also have a pay-as-you-go model which small business seem to like. They don't want to have to pay for something they don't necessarily need on a given month.

One more differentiator: As easy as it is to create and launch an email marketing campaign using VerticalResponse (in minutes really), you can also design and launch a direct mail postcard campaign to your postal addresses. It's a nice one stop shop for direct marketing for small businesses.

WMC: How do you market and promote your business?

JP: You name it! We have an award-winning blog, email marketing campaigns (of course!), an easy-to-navigate website, tons of marketing resources, PR, tradeshows (we're going to eBay Live in June!) outbound newsletter sponsorships, online advertising buys, radio, we even have an outdoor advertising campaign! However, the most special promotion we can get is word of mouth. Watching our customers tell others about our services is just the best.

WMC: What's the biggest or most important marketing lesson you've learned since you started VerticalResponse?

JP: Being a direct marketer I really discounted PR in the beginning. There was very little in the way of tracking anything. That's what direct marketing is all about. Now with social networks, blogs, reviews, you've got to put a ton of effort into PR since your PR is really in the hands of anyone who can publish to the web. If you do but effort behind it, and you do it right, it really works all the way to your sales goals.

WMC: Anything else you'd like to add?

JP: It's more important than ever to track what people are saying about you. Now more than ever you've got user feedback that's instantaneous. Talk about being able to make changes to a product or service you have by "listening" to your users...what a concept!


The affiliate Internet marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

The only Minneapolis-based agency focused exclusively on
marketing and PR for B2B technology companies: KC Associates

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Right Kind of Behavioral Targeting

The recent acquisitions of DoubleClick by Google and RightMedia by Yahoo are rightfully raising privacy concerns about behavioral advertising. E-Commerce Times has reported that the FTC is investigating these deals because "Privacy issues and antitrust concerns go hand-in-hand, since the mergers mean combining overlapping databases about consumers' online behavior, from search terms and e-mails to digital photo collections and advertising clicks." And EU regulators are concerned as well, particularly due to the length of time Google stores behavioral information on users.

Concern centers around cookies. While each cookie placed on your computer is fairly limited in what it can reveal about you, the entire collection reveals quite a bit. And with just a few companies now having access to the information in all of those cookies, your privacy is significantly diminished. Consumer privacy groups worry that "
Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world." Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

The notion is that if an advertiser knows the last 100 things you've done online, he or she can place targeted ads in front of you that you have a high likelihood of clicking. But what if that theory is just plain wrong?

Jack Jia, founder of Baynote, has a different idea—a concept he believes will work better than behavioral targeting and be far less invasive to individual privacy. Baynote uses group behavior to improve site search and advertising. According to Mr. Jia, "Past behavior (i.e. tracking someone's every online movement) is a very poor predictor, because humans have way too many profiles. I am a father, a son, a brother, I like travel, I like a lot of things. You can track all my past behaviors all you want, but in any given moment when I go onto a site it is very hard for you to predict what I want...We are raised with the notion that I am unique and don't have needs quite like other people. But the scientists proved we are not unique at all. We are pack animals. Pretty much 95% of people will need the same thing. We only need to find out under what context what things are useful, and then present that product or content given the context. Then the prediction is very accurate."

Baynote's approach has also been covered on The Next Net blog and Software Abstractions, and according to MarketingRev, "Baynote stood out (at the recent Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco) because they do something different and highly compelling. They continuously analyze traffic patterns on a Web site’s pages in order to dynamically optimize search engine results, navigation and content. In essence, they leverage the actual behavior of the crowd to dynamically shape what gets served up to subsequent visitors."

This notion also fits well with a couple of observations made by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (reviewed here). First, that the ultimate success of particular movies, actors, books and other "products" are driven by their initial success due to the imitation factor: "Such contagions (e.g. the viral effects of a big opening weekend for a movie) do not just apply to movies: they seem to affect a wide range of...products. It is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love with works of art only for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they belong to a community. By imitating, we get closer to others—that is, other imitators. It fights solitude."

Second, that group membership is a good predictor of behavior—as long as one looks at the right groups. The groups that we choose to be a part of (e.g. profession, hobbies, club and association memberships, etc.) are strong predictors of behavior; the groups that we are naturally a part of (e.g. skin color, height/weight, ethnic origin, etc.) are poor predictors (with the general exception of gender). For example, an upper middle class Irish-American medical doctor will have far more in common with an upper middle class Italian-American medical doctor than he will with a middle class Irish-American plumber.

What all of this means is that if you something about the voluntary group associations of a specific person, and you know how a particular group tends to act online, then you can predict behavior (and target ads) with a fairly high degree of accuracy. Collecting any invasive individual information beyond that is not only an assault on privacy, it's counterproductive—it won't make predictions any more accurate, and may very well make them less so.

All of which means the future of online advertising doesn't have to resemble the world of Damon Knight. It would actually be much better for both individual privacy and marketing effectiveness if it didn't.


Minneapolis marketing and PR agency exclusively focused on B2B technology companies: KC Associates

The Internet marketing promotion portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com


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