All Your Marketing Belongs to Us

ftc_advertising_guidelinesThe new FTC ‘guidelines’ aren’t about consumer protection.

They’re about SELECTIVE discrimination by a government authority, and you DEFINITELY shouldn’t expect anything good to come from it.

Before I get into this, let me say that I 100% whole-heartedly agree with WOMMA’s code of ethics, even though I’m not an official member, and I don’t get paid to write about anything for this blog (not that I think there’s anything wrong with that). All thoughts are purely my own, except where I’ve linked to external sites, and I receive no revenue from adsense or other ads on this blog.  By the way, fruity pebbles is probably the BEST cereal ever. And nothing tastes better on EGGO waffles than JIF peanut butter. Suck on that FTC.

If the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines went into affect today, this is what would happen:

  • affiliate marketing will virtually die.
  • if you sell ads on your website, everything you say about everybody and everything will be analyzed – even if no one reads it.
  • if you blog about or recommend a product, you’d better make damn sure you have NO association with it – or be able to sufficiently document your substantiation for your claim.
  • word of mouth marketing (read:social media) will either be dominated by spam, or suck. probably both.
  • you’ll no longer get away with adding = ‘results not typical’ -type disclaimers anymore. Get used to ‘generally-expected-results”.
  • testimonials will virtually disappear
  • celebrities can be made liable for endorsements, so they’ll simply stop doing them.
  • web copy will SUCK – companies will be forced to sell on ‘features’ not ‘benefits’.
  • Even with a proper disclaimer, advertisers must have documented PROOF of what consumers can generally expect from their product.
  • Advertisers will be required to perform research to KNOW what consumers actually think after reading an ad – regardless of what the ad says.
  • Endorsements from Organizations will require ‘collective judgment of the organization.’
  • Traditional media reviews are somehow exempt from having to make disclosures for sponsored advertising messages. WTF?!!
  • If your company engages in ‘social media participation’ and an employee goes ‘rogue’ – law enforcement action may be considered.
  • Promoting your company’s or client’s products in forums without disclosure will be deemed deceptive and possibly warrant law enforcement action.

After reading the actual FTC guideline, it became pretty apparent to me that they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the problems this causes for the majority of honest, hard-working marketers. Comment after comment from major advertising and marketing associations disputing sections of the guide are summarily rejected throughout the Commission’s guide. (Read pages 22-24 of the guidelines to understand how bad this will be.)

Here’s some particularly BAD guidelines:

Thus, when the ad just features “before” and “after” pictures with the caption “I lost 50
pounds in 6 months with WeightAway,” the ad is likely to convey that her experience is
representative of what consumers will generally achieve.  Therefore, if consumers cannot36
generally expect to achieve such results, the ad should clearly and conspicuously disclose what
they can expect to lose in the depicted circumstances (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
for 6 months lose at least 15 pounds”).  Similarly, if the testimonialist in an ad with those two
pictures simply says, “I lost 50 pounds with WeightAway” without any mention of how long it
took to achieve those results, and WeightAway users generally do not lose 50 pounds, the ad
should disclose what results they do generally achieve (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
lose 15 pounds”).

Pop Question!

Can I also say “most women who only lost 15 pounds using WeightAway didn’t follow our recommended program, which included a diet and exercise plan. Those who did lost an average of 50 pounds during that same time period!!” ?

Answer: Nope – diet and exercise is too vague. geesh.

There are SOME things in the new FTC guidelines that do make sense, though.

Expert endorsements – where some weight loss (or similar product) finds a ‘doctor’ (who’s really a veteranarian or something like that) to endorse their product will be regulated by these endorsements as well. No problem, that’s what the FTC is supposed to do.

Disclosure from individuals engaged in blogging or product marketing who receive free products from advertisers. Again, I have no problem here- openess and honesty is the name of the game. Just because someone receives money or products for review doesn’t mean I won’t value their opinion. That’s what review sites are about – oh wait, I forgot that they’ll be disappearing.

Movie commercials that show film critics review excerpts like – “It’ll knock your socks off!” won’t fly anymore if the original review said “It’ll knock your socks off and you’ll vomit all over yourself because this movie is so bad.”  It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this – guess it’ll just be ‘thumbs up or down’ or ‘4 out of 5 stars’.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, these guidelines are a joke. Endorsements in particular are very confusing – Tiger Woods hitting a Titleist golf ball, but never holds one up or talks about it  – is an endorser. Star Jones picks up a bottle of diet coke and says she drinks it because it has fewer calories than regular coke – is not.  huh?

Companies that come out with a ‘new and improved version’ or a different formula for a product that’s already been endorsed will be required to contact anyone who endorses their product in an advertisement and make sure that they still agree to the claims they made about their product now that it’s changed. – seriously?!

By the way, what is a NET IMPRESSION CONSUMER?


Google Analytics New Pivot Table Feature Rocks!

Love the Pivot.

I flipped on my computer to give a quick glance at my clients’ analytics when I noticed a new option in the view bar:

The new pivot table icon in Google Analytics

The new pivot table icon in Google Analytics

Well, as soon as I saw that – my heart stopped.

Could it be the new pivot table feature I’ve been waiting on? Only one way to find out….

It keeps getting better.

I want to show you everything, but I also don’t want to be up all night writing this so I’m going to rip through some screenshots and then hopefully you can run along and experiment for yourself (assuming you’ve got access to this as well….)

There's a LOT of information for you to explore.

There's a LOT of information for you to explore.

Have you looked at the map location view by city and wondered ” I wish I could see which source brought the most visitors from that city…” only to realize that you’d have to create some advanced segment report to get that info?  Not anymore you don’t.

Or how about this –

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Which referring source sends the most engaged visitors from your top cities? This is a job for the pivot feature!

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And it works on the goal conversions tabs as well….

Maybe I’m just way more geeky than most people, but I get giddy with this stuff.

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So this is how it works from what I’ve messed with so far:

  • The 2 gray drop-down boxes above the table are the Metrics you can choose from (don’t shoot me if I’m wrong. my brain is a little fuzzy right now…) – both boxes contain the same selections, but it doesn’t really matter too much because…
  • The real attraction here is the pivot box (in blue – above the left column). It populates a row above the metrics you’re displaying – this brings the awesomeness.
  • yes – you can export as well, but it may take a little more tweaking on my side to figure that out properly. Selecting a pivot dropdown for keywords for example, creates a long list of columns- but it appeared that on export I only got the columns visible on the screen. Maybe it’s best to use the API for those type of queries..

…and that’s all I know so far. OH – except that it appears that you have some really cool grouping features in your advanced segments as well. Advanced segments with pivot table features – all without leaving the browser. How could you NOT think this is awesome?

How Many Visitors CAN Your Website Convert?

You’re on top of your game, providing compelling content – researching trending keywords – even running test PPC campaigns before optimizing organically. But chances are that no matter what you do, you’re only converting a small percentage of your visitors. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself…why?

First off, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. No one converts 100% of their website traffic. No one.

With that out of the way, the next logical question to ask would be: How much of my traffic CAN I convert?

50% – 30% -10% – 5%…..?

The question is rhetorical, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t TRY and find out the answer. In Tim Ash’s excellent book, Landing Page Optimization, he discusses the “Myth of Perfect Conversion” based on previous client data.  The basic premise is this: roughly HALF of your visitors will NEVER say yes, regardless of what you do. Even if you are hyper-targeting your audience, it’s very doubtful you’re converting upwards of 50% of your traffic. (unless you only get 10 visits a month, and even then….)

He breaks it down even further, by integrating the no-maybe’s and yes-maybe’s into the mix, as shown in the image below. (click image for larger view.)

visit_to_conversion_ratioMost sites that are converting 0.1 – 2.0% of their visitors are probably only getting those conversions from visitors that would buy their product or service no matter what changes they make on their site. They’re either convinced that you’re the only one that has what they need, don’t have time to go somewhere else, or are strong-willed and feel compelled to do whatever it takes to complete their task – no matter how hard you make it for them. Thank goodness there are people like this out there. Unfortunately, there just aren’t ENOUGH of them.

The no’s on the other hand – well, they’re just like the yes’s, but opposite. NOTHING you do is going to get them to convert. Maybe they just happened to click on your site by accident, maybe they’re from out of town and they’re looking for someone local, or maybe they’re looking for your competitor instead. Segmenting out this portion of your audience is crucial to increasing your conversions for the remaining group.

This leaves the maybes: yes-maybes, maybe-maybes, and no-maybes.  How do you change their minds? There are three things you need to do, and I bet you already know them:

1. Track everything – banner ads, on-site call to actions, transactions, etc.

2. Analyze – where are they coming from, what pages are they landing on, what paths are they taking, which keywords brought them to your site, which keywords convert, etc…

3. Test variations and Optimize – Start simple. change one thing, and analyze results. If you test too many things at once, you make it much more difficult on yourself to try and figure out WHICH of the things you changed made the difference. You can also wreck your current conversion rate in the process, which you DON’T want to happen.

We get push-back sometimes from our clients when we tell them we need to run some test variations – mostly because of the time it takes. So we often start very small and simple, changing an image or a heading font or some text, etc. Once we show them how the small changes can create significant actions with their visitors, they tend to sign on and get more involved – which is the best thing that can happen. Experimentation is key, because the fact is – none of us know for sure which change is going to have the biggest impact.

Anne Holland’s landing page testing site is a great place to test your intuition – I highly recommend it.

Ranking Factors for Local Search – All You Need to Know

Talk about choice paralysis.

Talk about choice paralysis.

Local Search Is Hot.

…which may suck for you, depending on where your or your client’s business is located. We all know by know that Google is returning search results for many queries based on the searchers IP address, regardless of whether or not that search includes a geographic modifier – e.g. spicy pizza, brooklyn.

As diligent marketers or small business owners, we make sure to list our sites in the local business centers for Google, Yahoo and MSN, but is that ALL we need to do, or is there something we’re overlooking? No need to wonder anymore, as we know have an excellent resource to reference – Local Search Ranking Factors for 2009 – courtesy of David Mihm, and the 20 search marketing experts that participated in the report. Besides being beatiful, and very similar in presentation to Rand Fishkin’s Search Ranking Factors Report, it makes a strong case for – or against – all those rumors you constantly hear from different camps.

Without giving away much at all, some factors that most experts agree have positive affects on the “10-pack” of search results include:

  • making sure you only have ONE business listing per address or phone number.
  • associating local business listing with the proper categories
  • getting customer reviews!
  • citations from major data providers and Internet Yellow page-type sites
  • including your city, state in the title tags of your site

On the flip side, some possibly negative factors that won’t help, and may just hurt:

  • using an 800 number for your PRIMARY phone number
  • using a P.O. box for your business without a physical address
  • assuming local search doesn’t matter

This barely scratches the surface – I strongly encourage you to check the full list out, and bookmark it as a resource to reference whenever you start a new SEO/SEM campaign. Nice work guys!

Google Now Shows LINKS, Adwords Ads in Search Suggestion Dropdown!

Just stumbled on this today –

Apparently Google is including actual hyperlinks for SOME websites – directly in the search suggestion box on Google’s homepage. I’ve included some screenshots to show how it appears, in case you’re not seeing it when you search.

I started looking for a cosmetic dentist, when lo and behold....

I started looking for a cosmetic dentist, when lo and behold....

I wonder how much this is costing these advertisers…

Of course CNN should have a link. Not like Google doesn't already love them.

Of course CNN should have a link. Not like Google doesn't already love them.

I wonder if they’ll give a link to Fox as well  –

guess that answers that. Maybe they're not paying enough, or anything at all.

guess that answers that. Maybe they're not paying enough, or anything at all.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there- they’re even shoving in adwords ads.

Because there's just not enough places to cram a text ad already.

Because there's just not enough places to cram a text ad already.

For now, it looks like it’s only happening with big budget advertisers, and only on their brand names, but I didn’t really spend a lot of time researching – so I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.  If you know anything about this rolling out for everyone, please let me know too!

New free SEO Tools – Including One Just for Internet Explorer!

SEO giant Bruce Clay is helping out the search engine optimization and SEM crowd by offering 2 new SEO tools – for Free, baby!

What are they, you ask? Well, first on the list is a competitive research tool for keyword terms that compiles search data from the big 3 (Google, Yahoo, Live) as well as a snippet of PPC data (CTR, CPC).

Bruce Clay's keyword competition tool

Bruce Clay's keyword competition tool

I gave it a couple of tries, but you may want to wait a day as their server seems to be taking a big hit right now…

ack...can't handle traffic...

ack...can't handle traffic...

The other tool is a SEM Toolbar for IE only. Think of it as a watered down version of SEO for Firefox, as it focuses more on link, PR, and age data. You won’t find all the stellar social media info that Aaron Wall’s killer tool provides, but it’s certainly worth trying out, especially if you don’t necessarily NEED all that data. A must have if you’re stuck working with ONLY IE. (ugh- how bad would that suck).

Internet Explorer Search Engine Marketing Toolbar - yes, I said IE.

Internet Explorer Search Engine Marketing Toolbar - yes, I said IE.

Thanks Bruce!

How to Lose All Your Internet Marketing Clients (using Google Calendar)

It happened so innocently and without any ill-intent. That’s what makes this all the scarier.

At our office, we’ve been working on better ways to manage our project status, tasks, etc.. between employees and management. One of the things we discussed was which calendar sharing program we should all use – some of us were using Outlook, others were used to using some type of desktop calendar time-management program, and myself – Google calendar.

Now I have used Google’s docs, various widgets (toolbar, igoogle, notebook, reader, maps, etc….)for quite a while now, and am quite aware of what to keep private and what to make public.

I realized when getting ready to share my google calendar with my co-workers that once I made it public, anyone could see it, so I nitched that idea pretty quick.  After discovering this though, I thought “well, it might be interesting to see if anyone DID post some public calendars up”… So I shuffled through the calendars under the search term “internet marketing”. Like I originally thought, most of the visible posts were either promotion dates for a company, such as company outings or training seminars – a few boring task dates such as, “perform campaign recap”, or “check PPC activity”, etc… and then there was this, which I made sure was cleaned up a little –

Maybe NOT the best place to store Credit Card Info for your Clients

Maybe NOT the best place to store Credit Card Info for your Clients

Holy Crap.
That’s great. Your client provides you with their Credit Card #, the little 3 digit code on the back, expiration date, Full Name AND address and what do you do with that, brilliant marketing company? Wait ….I know this one….. oh yeah – post it in a PUBLIC CALENDAR!!?

I actually debated for a few moments on how to handle this one. Was this just a case of a rookie employee not understanding the privacy status of the calendar, or was this blatent negligence by a company that warrented us notifying the victim personally?

I won’t tell you what we did, but I will say that ignorance and stupidity don’t get you too far in court, so if you are in a position where you deal with or have access to client information, or anyone’s personal information – think before you stick that info up on the internet. Even if you THINK it’s secure.