New Venture Announcement – Voice of Consumer Data Management System

Hi again, it has been way to long since I updated this blog and has been for good reason. As a few of you know I have been heads down developing a system to data mine keyword and social media data. Yes, I know the subject name sucks – any suggestions? What seemed like and easy thing to do had turned into a total beast and development feat. I am here to day that we have accomplished most of the phase 1 specification and are now ready to realize as a commercial product. We we will add features in 3 phases which I will talk about in more details later.

More information is at http://www.back-azimuth.com – if your interested in it ping me and we can do a demo and maybe make you a beta client.

For now the application does the following:

Aggregates all of your keyword related data into a single repository stored on the cloud. Then allows you to quickly identify critical issues and missed opportunities.

Why did I do this? Over my years in search marketing one of the biggest challenges have been to manage keyword data. At IBM I built a keyword de-duping application just to find and manage duplicates between 30 business units doing paid search.

Only until we had this tool did we know that 21 business units were all bidding on the same keyword phrases. Last year working with a large multinational in Europe I asked them for their keywords and it took 8 days and I received 21 different Excel worksheets from the Search manager that represented their words. In another case, a multinational with thousands of products only had selected 25
keywords for any optimization efforts meaning tens of thousands were going without any efforts. All of these led to my desire to create a tool that would eliminate problems.

Over the past few months I have conducted a few survey’s of companies and from this research I have identified a number of keyword management challenges.

Keyword Management Challenges:

  1. Companies struggle to manage keywords in Excel (99.8% of companies surveyed)
  2. No lens into collaboration of Paid and Organic data (99.87% of companies surveyed)
  3. No way to see where keywords are under-performing against KPI’s (98.75% of companies surveyed)
  4. No way to monitor if the “right” page is ranking (99.25% of companies surveyed)
  5. No way to understand keyword performance by category or buy cycle (99.98% of companies surveyed)
  6. No way to understand performance based on the Searcher’s Intent (99.98% of companies surveyed)
  7. No way to leverage searcher interest data to prioritize content in the organization (100% of companies surveyed)

If you want to add to the survey simply go and add your responses to the Keyword Management Current State Survey.

What can we do today?

1. Aggregate all of your keyword data into a single searchable repository with role-based login access by different roles in the company.
2. Conduct paid and organic co-optimization analysis – are they cannibalizing or complimenting each other.
3. Preferred Landing Page Analysis – is the page you “want to rank” the one that is ranking?
4. Rank Analysis – same as everyone else but we allow you to sort by priority words, line of business and any keyword cluster or classification
5. HitWise Integration – if you have a HitWise account we can pull in the API feed and compare HitWise trends to your actual data
6. Data mine and Report on any of 55 different keyword variables
7. Develop Searcher Intent and Persona Segmentation – using any of 50 performance or segmentation factors cluster keywords into logical segments
8. Store, sort and report on data across business units, lines of business or countries
9. Understand performance by keyword length, position and paid and organic assists
10. ROI Modeling based on multiple variables

What has been the outcome?
In my first generation I used Microsoft Access and Excel Pivot Tables to test the theory then moved into MVP “Minimum Viable Product” mode to quickly develop functions that allowed us to scale data resulting in the following success stories:

Success Story 1: UK travel site matched keywords to top ranking pages found less than optimal pages ranking – fixing just 5 pages resulted in $60k incremental revenue in 25 days.

Success Story 2: PC Maker found significant searches but no traffic for “End of Life” products that they had no web page representation for – They added new content and PPC campaigns generating $400k

Success Story 3: Fortune 50 company realigned keyword ownership and budgets based on segmentation analysis for maximum opportunity resulting in a decrease in PPC spend of 12% but 300% increase in sales

Success Story 4:
Travel site identified 50 keywords in top 5 position with less than 5% share of clicks – optimized snippets increasing click rates from 5% to 15% resulting in 85% increase in revenue

Where are we at today?
This is not a mainstream consumer site product. It is designed for a site with a large base of keywords typically more than 500,000 of them that want to get more out of the product. We are looking to develop a mainstream version of the application but seems those customers want something cheap, that does a lot of automated analysis and does not require them to think.
We are not quite thee yet and when we are we will roll that version out.

What is is not?

While the tool does a lot, it does not or will not do any of the following:

1. A bid management tool – there are plenty of them that will work great for you
2. A SEO Automation tool – there are plenty of them that will work great for you
3. A Search Analytic tool – sort of but does not replace Omniture, Google or Web Trends
4. Keyword Research tool – sort of since we can mine data but we typically are not looking for new words. Great tools like Keyword Discovery, Wordstream exist for this function.

The challenges:
Where do I start with this one – this project has taken every ounce of patience and sanity I could muster to not abort it along the way. Fortunately, I have been working with a great team at OC4 on managing this in the cloud. We have nailed most of the big issues and are just fine tuning.

Data Integration – The biggest challenge was integrating and managing the data. Readers, there is some messed up data out there. I found that there are a lot of agencies and people that should be fired for incompetence if not fraud. This was the biggest challenge of integrating the data. There are large volumes of it and we needed to suck them in and align them.

Data Clean Up – people use some crazy words to find your products and there is a lot of bot activity. We has to write a data import and cleaner tool just to parse log traffic data. Omniture does a decent job of sorting these into “Small Elements” but other tools do not. We had to develop a routine to process 286 different types of data contamination before we could import CSV files into the system. We had whole paragraphs coming in, multiple commas, and ton of scrapping strings looking for pricing or other elements that all had t be cleaned out. Not to mention beginning and trailing white space and other issues just to normalize the data. In one case there were 854 different misspellings of the company name which we leave in the tool but don’t necessary want to gather other data for.

Product Naming – Another big challenge is a name for it – My original concept was to call it “VOCDMS” – Voice of the Consumer Data Management System – but clearly that does not roll of the tongue so we are working on a better naming. We have thought to keep it aligned to Back Azimuth since that is still the foundation of what we believe – helping you get back to your consumer.

Development Teams
– I am now on the 3rd iteration of a development team. The current team from Exadel are awesome. They have fixed many of the bugs and problems from the previous India teams. I have tried local developers but they were way to expensive, too distracted or wanted a large share of the company while only offering mediocre skills.

Market Interest – This one has been strange – when I have told people about the tool they are skeptical assuming there is already one like it then realize or ask their teams to find they are like the rest of the companies using Excel or maybe a in-house database to manage it.

Whats next?
We have a few clients and pilots going now and will start to market the product to a wider audience by the end of the year. If you have an wish list items send them my way.

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Ineffeciency or Effeciency of US Postal Service

I mailed my taxes recently and sent them with delivery confirmation. I went online to get the confirmation and found that the one I sent to Hartford which is 2 towns or about 8 miles from my house took nearly twice as long as the same first class envelop going to Oregon.

Note that the Oregon letter actually beat the expectation of the postal service.

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Flight to Africa Rant #2 – Virgin Atlantic Missed Opportunity

In my previous post I mentioned I was researching flights. I had a buddy tell me he had flown Virgin Atlantic to the continent previously and suggested I check them out. So I went to “The Google” and entered “Virgin Atlantic to Nairobi” seemed like as simple and informative enough query. The results are horrific – rant below the image.

1. The paid listing to the right is total crap. I gave you a destination – why can’t you message to it. Maybe I would have free movies on my flight to Nairobi – well at least the London leg. This is why paid search fails so often.

2. The highest organic listing has a horrible snippet – I bet they got a gold star for ranking #1 with that. That is why you need to check the snippet. I click anyways and encounter another of my pet peeves – I am on the Nairobi page, from a Nairobi query – why would I want a flight from London to New York. Just a bit of coding would make life easier.

3. The #2 listing is a 404 error. Hello wasted opportunity.

4. The #3 listing is yet another 404 error – do I need to comment?

5. The #4 listing – wow – a special offer – but damn I am 2.5 years too late – why can’t it roll over to a new offer or a generic page – if anything should 404 it should be that page.

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Flight to Africa via Los Angeles – Possible Milage Run

I have been asked to keynote an event in Kenya in June. Was looking at some flight options and trusty United thought a good route would be for me to do the following:

Fly from JFK in New York to Los Angeles
Fly from Los Angeles back to the east cost to Newark (the other NYC airport)
Wait nearly 12 hours then fly from Newark to Brussels
Brussels to Nairobi Kenya

Would be nearly 3 days to get there and a ton of miles but I think I may just do the Continental Flight and cut out the coast to coast adventure. Can’t be take some of the stupidity out of these applications?

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Conflicting Ad Messages

Was on a blog today and saw the following conflicting ad messages – one warns against being the next JC Penny or Overstock and the other is pushing buying links… interesting.

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Interview – Key Points to Launching Global Web Site

I did the following interview with my good friend Anne Kennedy after the panel discussion with at SES London in London on February 22, 2011 with Andy Adkins Kruger. Anne has a great way of teasing out the relevant nuggets of information that recap the session.

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Interview with Exchange 4 Media – Delhi India

I did the following interview after the panel discussion organized by Exchange 4 Media with some of the top Indian Digital Marketers at ‘Digital 3.0: A Roundtable on Marketing Strategies in a Digital World’ in Delhi India on January 17, 2011. As you would expect, some of my comments were controversial – especially when I suggested many old fashioned agencies deserve to die for not evolving their services.

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Scolded for not writing

This week at at SES London I was scolded by a few people for not writing more frequently.  I will try to do better… I have been insanely busy on a few client products and the forthcoming “Voice of the Consumer Data Management System” brilliantly code named “VOCDMS” – may need to do some crowdsourcing on the name ;-).   Hard to explain to clients when they see me writing on and not delivering their research documents.   I got yelled at for the article last week on India’s Digital Opportunities in Search Engine Land since it came out the same day I was late on a research report on a similar topic.

Obviously some of you actually read some of the crazyness that I write and others actually look forward to and that is very humbling.   So for those who care,  I will work harder to live up to your expectations.

I was given a laundry list in London from some folks and will try to write these posts – if there are others please let me know in comments, via Twitter or email or dare I suggest real human interaction and call me?

  • How to leverage Co-Optimization for your business
  • Deeper recommendations for global domain management
  • How to effectively mange a global SEO team
  • My favorite underwater photography destinations

Also, seems like there are good learnings from some of my rants – one will come today about airline SEO 😉

So I will try and your encouragement helps so keep it coming!

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Continental Airlines Elite Access – Too elite

As usual, the family and I went on our year-end diving trip.  This time we went to the Dominican Republic.  Since United and Continental have merged we took advantage of the direct 4-hour flight from Newark.   In the past 10 years since I swore off Continental I have only flown them twice out of necessity.  The last time back from India where it was a less than pleasant experience.

The problems started when we checked in at the Elite desk in Newark airport.  The first was despite wanting to talk to a human that is typically offered in the Elite Access lane, the woman insisted that I use the kiosk.  This worked ok – for my boarding passes but then had to find my reservation number and enter it to get Motoko’s and then it was not letting me get the kids since they were not elite flyers.   When I asked how to get them they told me to swipe their passports as if I should have known this backdoor trick.

Things went well until I noticed they did not tag my kids bags with “priority” tags to make sure they get unloaded first.  While it does sound a bit elitist it does make the difference when you actually get them and how long it takes to get out of the airport – which is important when you have warm beaches or a car service waiting for you.
When I asked why they were not tagged like Motoko’s and mine they told me they were not elite flyers and not eligible.  They are on the same reservations with two elite flyers – I explained this means that now the two elite flyers would be waiting and her response was – she does not make the rules.  I asked it I could add them to our ticket and was told they were already on theirs and nothing she could do.    As expected, our priority bags were the first ones off and 30 minutes later the kids bags came out resulting in us getting the second bus to the Hard Rock Hotel 45 minutes after the first shuttle left.

On the flight back home Motoko and I checked all the bags under our names and they were all tagged properly – ironically, in Newark they were the last ones off.
I understand the kids are not elite but if you are on an elite ticket and traveling with the elite status traveler you should be able to get at least your bags tagged.  The same is true for boarding rules.  They announced that you should board with your highest status/row in your group.  When the kids tried to board with us (even with telling then they were with us) we were told they were not mind readers and they will let them board this time.
In tough financial times you should take care of the loyal.  Yes, if my kids were flying alone they should be treated like cattle the way all airlines treat the non-loyal occasional traveler.  However, it is often inconveniences like these that will cause a very loyal high mileage flyer to shift to another carrier that actually reciprocates that loyalty.

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Social Rewards and the Awesome Sanyo Dual Camera

Last Thursday following the last day of SES San Francisco I attended a launch party for the brilliant new company Social Rewards started by Joe Morin and Mike Uesugi. I think they have a winner with this company since it effectively connects brands to consumers and leverages Word of Mouth to help spread the word about new products and services faster than you can with traditional media.

The night kicked off with Joe announcing they would be giving away over 50 cameras and assorted other prizes. Everyone likes to win things but the last thing I needed was another  camera. I have 3 on my desk now not to mention thousands of dollars worth in my underwater photography set up.    Another problem – all of my cameras except 1 are Canon. I have been loyal to Canon for over 25 years. I did cheat last year and buy an Olympus waterproof that I use on dive boats and my wife uses in a housing for underwater photography – only because Canon did not offer one.

Honestly, I now know this Canon loyalty kept me from looking at other products. I would have never thought of Sanyo until I saw the impressive display at the event of all of the dual format cameras and people taking pictures with them that evening.  After looking at the dual format concept I got to thinking about the implications for underwater photography.

Well, I was a lucky winner of on of the Sanyo VPC-CA102YL Xacti Dual Video & Digital cameras.  Ok, Sanyo, need to work on your product naming conventions.   It is a very cool camera. I was going to buy a Flip video (simple name) and put it in a waterproof housing to take with me next month to snorkel with the manatees but this camera is perfect. I can video these beautiful animals in addition to just taking pictures with my normal underwater rig.

Upon returning home from San Francisco my son had tickets to the Giants & Patriots football game and saw the camera on the table an he wanted to take it with him since he thought it was a very cool camera. Unfortunately it was not charged so he had to go without it. Need to make sure he does not steal it and take back to school.

After playing with it a few days it is actually a great piece of equipment. It is full HD video with zoom and the sound quality is excellent.  In addition to video it takes 14 megapixel still photos. The beauty is that it is small enough to just throw into your computer bag or glove box to always have with you. On top of that it works well with the Eye-Fi data cards (won one in bingo at the party too) with onscreen collaboration with the functionality.

I will post some pics and a video in the next few days when I have time to process them but I did want to say thank you to Sanyo and the crew from Social Rewards for both a great party and introducing me to this awesome product.

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