Blog Postings for 2013

Your FB Sociogram

Posted: Wed, 02 Jan 2013 03:35:48

WolframAlpha.com keeps adding things. You can now run an analysis of your FB postings, which shows you all sorts of (mildly) interesting data about your activity.

WolframAlpha Facebook Sociogram for Andreas

It also shows you a sociogram (a map) of your FB relations. Here's my network of some 480 people:

  • Upper left: Friends at Acxiom
  • Upper right: family and relatives
  • Lower left: A pack of Norwegian kids (hej, Ahsan!)
  • Lower center: Friends in Denmark
  • Center: Friends in Silicon Valley
  • Bottom: Small groups of people who know each other
  • Right: Pairs of people who know each other

To do this for yourself, go to WolframAlpha.com and search for Facebook.

What If Apple Ran the Post Office?

Posted: Thu, 10 Jan 2013 17:15:18

At dinner during the holidays, several friends talked about the long lines at the post office. Someone said you'd never see that if McDonalds ran the place. Or Apple. What if Apple ran the post office?

You walk in. There's no counter. But crowds of people, standing around, gazing at ... stamps.

Breeze, a 17-year old, comes up. He's wearing a US Post Office badge around his neck.

"Hi, I need a stamp." "Yes, we have stamps. What size?" he asks.

"Size?" " Yes, two-centimeter square or the new one-centimeter stamp."

"What's the difference? " "One is big and the other is small."

"But they're blank!" "No, they're white."

"White? That's blank." "Sir, that's iWhite. And we patented it."

"Show me something else." "Sure, here's the Steve stamp, but it's sold out."

"Well, I just want to send a letter." "Awesome. That'll be $6."

"$6? I just want one stamp!" "Yes, $6 for one stamp."

"But they were 46 cents last month!" "And the quality wasn't that good, was it now? With us, you get Apple quality."

"And Apple prices! I give up. I'll buy one." "Will there be anything else that I can help you with today?"

"Yes. I'm going on vacation. I need you to hold my mail." "Sure thing. Just go over to the Genius Bar, where an associate will help you. What time was your reservation?"

"Reservation?" "Sure thing. That way, you avoid standing in line for 20 minutes!"

"No, I don't have a reservation. When's the next opening?" "One moment, let me check... how about Thursday next week?"

"Next week! I have to wait a week?" "But you don't have to stand in line!"

"This is ridiculous! I'm going to McDonalds FedEx!"

The Basic Elements of Content Marketing

Posted: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 17:20:40

(From my upcoming book) Content Marketing must have the following functions:

  • Editorial Voice: The editorial director creates a direction and overall style.
  • Editorial Calendar: A list of all content pieces, their roles, who does the work, edit and release dates, art work, tags, tracking codes, etc. A complete editorial calendar can have 60 or more columns.
  • Buying Cycle: The content pieces are placed into the buying cycles so they move the visitor from one phase to the next.
  • Collaboration Editing: The team uses collaboration tools for real-time simultaneous view, edit, and comments of files. Tools include levels of access: administrator, editor, comment, view-only, and so on. At the advance level, the audience also has edit and comment access. This is an essential aspect of Web 2.0.
  • Hub & Spoke: An overall strategy for allocating attention. Some pieces have priority, others have less.
  • Branding: All content fits within a unified branding strategy.
  • Target Audience’s Concerns: The team should research the TA carefully to understand their concerns and issues. Content should address those concerns.
  • Serial Publication: Content piece shouldn't be produced as a one-time event (e.g., monographs). The strategy should support serial publication.
  • Purpose for each Content: Every piece of content has a specific goal and call-to-action (CTA).
  • Metrics: Every piece of content has tracking. Metrics show that the overall content marketing strategy is aligned with the company's business goals. This means metrics for business-level KPIs (top line and bottom line).

Content marketing must have all of these. If it lacks one of these, it's not content marketing.

I'm still researching and writing, so there may be more. If you have ideas about this, email me and let's talk.

See the website for the book: Content Marketing Strategy and Tactics

More about the Metrics

Metrics is not just tracking the hits. Proper metrics has show the content marketing strategy is aligned with the company business goals. This requires metrics that meet the standards of the CFO and investors. For more, see another blog posting: The ROI in Content Marketing

The ROI in Content Marketing

Posted: Sun, 13 Jan 2013 20:03:41

Does content marketing actually work?

So far, I have not found a single case study that shows content marketing is successful. I've searched the web; I've looked at dozens of "leading websites"; I've talked to many people, incl. heads of agencies and published authors. None of them have been able to give me an example of a content marketing campaign that showed it was financially success, i.e., profitable. Not one.

It's very plausible that content marketing works better than PPC. The Kapost Content Marketing ROI document makes sense. Anyone with sufficient experience in web marketing can see it makes sense. But it lacks data. There is no proof that content marketing works.

What would a meaningful content marketing case study include?

  • State the campaign costs. E.g., "We spent $32,000."
  • State the revenues that resulted directly from the campaign. "The campaign produced $240,000 in sales."
  • Describe the tracking process. "We tagged the documents so we could see the traffic, clicks, leads, and conversions in Omniture." (Why describe the tracking process? So we can know that the authors know what they're doing. If they're not using web analytics or similar, well... )
  • State the number of leads and sales. "30,000 leads converted into 10,000 sales, i.e., 33% conversion rate." (Why state the conversion rate? It's pointless to say the campaign got 100,000 leads. What was the sales? A dog can get 100,000 worthless leads and zero sales. Just put a contest on Facebook.)
  • State the maximum profitable cost-per-lead (maxCPL) or cost-per-action (maxCPA). "Leads at or under $120.21 CPL are profitable." (Why a maxCPL? If the maxCPL is $120.21, but leads cost $130, then the campaign is losing money. Furthermore, by stating this, we see if the team can indeed calculate maxCPL. As much as 80% of companies have no idea what their maxCPL is, so they either radically underprice, i.e., $14 CPLs when they can afford $120.21, or they overprice. In both extremes, they lose money. In some cases, companies lose hundreds of millions of dollars because they don't know their CPLs.)
  • Use statistically meaningful numbers. If the data samples are too low, the results are too vague. "We tested 30 volunteer shoppers and 15 bought, so we have a 50% sales rate!" (Why is a low sample bad? With only 30 samples, the margin of error is so large that the results are basically random. When they go to market, that 50% could turn into 1%. For a 3% plus/minus margin of error, you need 1,067 samples.)
  • Describe the control group. "We selected ten US cities of similar size and demographics. We ran the campaign in seven cities. There was no campaign in three cities. This chart shows the difference in response. In seven cities, results increased by X. In the three cities, results increased by Y." (Why use a control group? Because without it, there is no proof that the campaign was responsible for the results. "The campaign produced a 12% increase in sales!" So? Did the company release a new product which increased sales? Did the company introduce a new sales bonus plan? Did the three major competitors have no new products? Worse yet: did the market and competitors grow 18% last year, so the company's 12% is actually a massive failure?

Why do this? If you set up a content marketing process that works, you become a money machine. Your CFO will give you an unlimited budget. Your CEO will shower you with a big bonus. VCs will fund your project. Your cat will come when you call.

This is the beauty of content marketing. All of this is trackable. It can be done.

As you can see, there are basic data requirements for a case study. In all of the content marketing case studies that I've seen so far, most of these elements were missing. The documents wouldn't last a minute in front of a CFO. They're not really case studies.

If you find a case study with solid data, please let me know.

Update: A Case Study

Mark Spanner posted a case study in the Content Marketing Group forum at LinkedIn. He concludes: "Results: 3.2 times more leads rated as "hot" provided to salesforce. Franchise sales increased by a factor of almost 11 (3 to 38)." (I.e., an 11X sales increase.) He includes screen shots and a description of how they did it. See his case study at Spaner.com (at bottom left of his site, click "Conversion Marketing.")

I'm #78,755! :-)

Posted: Thu, 31 Jan 2013 03:58:47

Looking at MajesticSEO's link tracking tool, I see that my website andreas.com is ranked #78,755 in the list of .com websites.

Of all sites (.com, .biz, .whatever), my site is ranked #154,234.

How high is that? There are 620 million websites according to Netcraft (September 2012) with about

15 billion pages. However, of these, only

190 million websites (30.65%) are active. 70% are abandoned.

Using the number of active sites (190m URLs), I'm in the top 0.08%. Not just 1% or 1/10th of 1%. I'm in the 1/100ths%.

Let's take some questions. I see a few hands in the audience.

Q. Who cares?

A. Not me. It amuses me a bit. But that's all.

Q. I don't care about your ranking. What's my ranking?

A. Go to MajesticSEO and find out.

Q. Can you get me into the Top Thousand?

A. Sure. But it won't be cheap. It'll require lots of very good content, advertising, and so on. I'm guessing $100-200,000 per year.

Q. What does this mean, really? So what?

A. I've been telling people this, but they don't really understand it, because the numbers are so large. 99% of the web could disappear, and nobody would ever notice. Really. 99% is 186 million websites. Poof! Gone. And nobody would notice, because nobody goes to those sites. Google blabbers that they index the whole web. So what? Nobody looks at those pages. Never. Those sites get so little traffic that it's probably just stray neutrinos passing through the earth. Here's another way to look at this: My cat 's webpage gets more traffic than 99% of web sites.

Q. What are all those tens of millions of sites?

A. An awful lot of them are spam sites. Spammers use tools to set up 500,000 sites for vitamin ads or similar junk and bombard the search engines. So nobody would miss anything if those sites disappeared.

Google Cars: It Sounds Like Science Fiction

Posted: Sun, 10 Feb 2013 18:59:18

Chunka Mui has a great series in Forbes on the implications of robot cars (Google cars). It will change so many things. I'm thinking this will have a greater impact on society than the web.

Conference Calls: What Works?

Posted: Thu, 14 Feb 2013 05:40:55

We had a conference call this morning with the team that is reviewing and editing my book. Google+ Hangout: I was on a group call a few weeks ago. It was hosted with Google+ Hangout. The advantage is free conference call with video, recording of the call, and screen share. The disadvantage: it only works 60%. I say 60% because it can host up to ten people, but only six were able to join. For whatever reason, four couldn't get on. Skype: It's easy to make calls with Skype. I do that frequently. I thought a conference call would also be easy. It's a good thing that several of us started 40 minutes early, because it took that long to get it to work. To add more than one person, or to share a screen, you have to sign up for Skype Premium. The signup process isn't clear, and after a few minutes, with others waiting on the line, I signed up for a One-Day Pass (US$5). For some reason, even though Skype knew I was in the US, it asked me if I wanted to pay in Euros and seven other currencies. You have to select US$ and then set the preference. The maximum number of people is ten, which isn't that much.

Some of the callers couldn't figure out the settings, microphone, sound, etc. It took another ten minutes to get everyone settled down. In the end, it worked, but it wasn't a good experience. Too complex. GoToMeeting: I'll try this for the next call. I'll update this posting.

If you know of a better conference calling service, please let me know!

For any conference call,

  • Remind people to mute their microphones if they aren't actively talking.
  • There should be a host (who leads the call) and a moderator, who handles the call process: adding people, re-adding people who get dropped, dealing with text messages, emails, and chat messages, and watching the clock.
  • You need the ability to record the entire event, incl. screen shares and video.
  • If the sound starts to break up, turn off video.
  • Start 30-45 minutes early to get everything set up and working

Requirements for a Valid Case Study

Posted: Mon, 18 Feb 2013 01:08:13

What is necessary in a case study? A few basic elements are necessary for a case study to have objective validity:

  • State the campaign costs. "The test campaign spent $32,000 over 45 days." (Why state the cost and time of the campaign? So other companies can know if the case study is relevant to their situation. You can't compare campaigns where one spent $1,000 over six months and the other spent $2 million in 60 days.)
  • Describe the tests "We used A/B split tests as follows. We used multivariate testing as follows." (Why describe the testing? The case study should use a good set of data. Otherwise, skeptics will say the low results were due to poor ads. For example: "Before we started the campaign, we tested twelve ads and selected the best performer for the case study.")
  • Describe the tracking. "The documents were tagged to show traffic, clicks, leads, and conversions in Omniture web analytics." (Why describe the tracking process? So we can see if the authors know what they're doing. If they aren't tracking, then the data is probably flawed.)
  • State the full results. "30,000 leads converted into 10,000 sales, i.e., 33% conversion rate." (Why state the number of leads, conversions, and the conversion rate? It's useless to say that a campaign got 100,000 leads if it doesn't include the conversions. Anyone can get 100,000 junk leads by just putting a contest on Facebook. What counts are the conversions (registrations, sales, etc.)
  • Use statistically reliable data sets. If the data set is too low, the results are statistically unreliable. For example, "We polled 30 shoppers and 25 liked the product, so we predict a 83% sales rate!" (What's wrong with a low sample? With only 30 samples, the margin of error is so large that results are random. When they go to market, that 83% could turn into 2%. If you rely on their poor data, you'll get bad results. To get a result with a 3% plus/minus range, the case study should test at least 1,067 people. If you increase the survey to 2,401 people, the margin of error reduces to 2% plus/minus. For more, see the Wikipedia article on the margin of error.)
  • Describe the control group. "We selected ten US cities with similar demographics. We ran the campaign in the following seven cities. There was no campaign in the following three cities. This chart shows the difference in response. In seven cities, results changed by X. In the three cities, results changed by Y." (Why use a control group? Because without a control, there is no proof that the campaign had any effect, neither positive nor negative. The study can conclude "The campaign produced a 12% increase in sales!" Did another division release a new product that got attention? Did three major competitors not release new products? Worse yet: did the market and competitors grow 21% last year, so the campaign's impressive 12% success actually a serious failure? See a list of control cities.)

Any case study without these points is just an anecdote. An anecdote can mislead you either to do something ("hey, it worked for them, so we should do it!") or not do something ("well, it didn't work for them, so we shouldn't do it.") An anecdote is useless as evidence because it is not objective, so it can't be used to make decisions.

A case study with these points is useful to others. They can use the results as a guide for their own campaigns.

How to Use this List

When you look at a case study, see if it includes these items. It'll help you in reading the case study critically.

What about Case Studies for Content Marketing?

In nearly all of the content marketing case studies that I've seen so far, most of these elements were missing. Does content marketing actually work? I've talked with a number of agency directors and published authors. None of them have a valid case study. It's plausible that content marketing works better than PPC. The Kapost Content Marketing ROI document makes sense. But without a valid case study, there is no proof that content marketing works.

The critical item is the control group. If that is missing, you can't tell if the campaign had any effect. Control groups are standard in experiments in physics, biology, and medicine. Any test of new medicines in pharmacology must include control groups. If a test lacks a control group, it has no validity. However, very few, if any, marketing case studies use a control group. See Wikipedia, Control Groups

Mark Spanner posted a case study in the Content Marketing Group

forum at LinkedIn. He concludes: "Results: 3.2 times more leads rated as "hot" provided to salesforce. Franchise sales increased by a factor of almost 11 (3 to 38)" (i.e., an 11X sales increase.) He includes screen shots and a description of how they did it. See his case study at Spaner.com

(at bottom left of his site, click " Conversion Marketing

") His case study isn't complete, but it's the best so far. I'm working on writing a proper case study and will release it when it's ready.

Does Link Building Work? Or Is It Fraud?

Posted: Fri, 01 Mar 2013 17:40:25

Q: Should I buy links? XYZ.com tells me they can get 100 links per month for me. Should I do that? -- Ms. Lynx in Lexington

A: Dear Ms. Lynx, The real question is: What's the value of those links? Do the links produce results?

We wrote about this in our book "Search Engine Marketing" (p.167). We used analytics to find that a client had 18,800 links.

  • Of 18,800 links, only 3,200 links (17%) produced visitors.
  • Of those 3,200 links that brought visitors, how many visitors turned into customers (sales and revenue)?
  • Only 54 links produced customers. Yes, of 18,800 links, only 54 links (0.00287%) had value.

15,546 links produced no value. The client paid $3,000 per month for two years for those links. $3K x 24 months = $72,000 would have brought much better return in their other marketing campaigns.

You can do the same analysis on your links, traffic, and results. Use analytics to find the value of your links.

Many "SEO companies" are really just link-spam operations. If you look at the results, that was generally a waste of time and money.

Does link building work in terms of ranking? Do more links results in a higher rank in the search engines, which brings more traffic? Perhaps, but that needs to be proven. However, the company's $72,000 could have been used in other advertising strategies with a known return-on-investment.

Use link building to get customers. See which links work and get more of those. Use analytics to identify those and then look for similar, related websites to get more links. At those links that produce conversions, improve your positioning: contact those sites to get more of your ads to those sites, get more links on those sites, and add paragraphs or pages to those sites.

How to Make a Whiteboard

Posted: Tue, 12 Mar 2013 01:18:23

In three hours, you can make a whiteboard for your office or the kids' playroom. Total cost under $24. Very easy to do.

I had a 4x6 whiteboard. But there was wasted space around it and I wanted more space to write on. I read about this whiteboard paint and it sounded perfect.

A few years ago, two Brits invented this. You paint any wall with a special paint, let it dry, and the wall becomes a giant whiteboard. Totally clever. It only took an evening. The new whiteboard is 7' wide and 44" tall. You can cover up to 7X7 (49 square feet) with one can of paint.

  1. Remove the old whiteboard. Or whatever was there.
  2. Wipe the surface clean.
  3. Patch up any holes with spackle. Let it dry for an hour.
  4. Use the blue painter's tape to mark the area. The tape keeps the paint within the lines.
  5. Mix the whiteboard paint.
  6. Pour about a third of the paint into the pan.
  7. Use the roller brush to paint the wall.
  8. Use the small brush for corners.
  9. Let it dry for 45 minutes. Go eat dinner.
  10. Apply second coat.
  11. Let the second coat dry for 45 minutes. Go watch a movie.
  12. Apply the third coat. You're done. Well, mostly. Clean up the floor.
  13. Wait 48 hours. Slowly pull away the tape.
  14. Wait three full days before you start writing on the white board.
  15. Now you're done.

What you'll need (shopping list):

  • Rustoleum Dry Erase (whiteboard paint). At any store that sells paint. Home Depot, most hardware stores, etc., or Amazon. $14 for a can.
  • Foam roller brush ($1)
  • Paint pan for roller brush ($0.50)
  • Small 1' foam brush (for corners) ($0.50)
  • Blue painter's tape. Tip: Get 4" wide. $5.
  • Old sheet (or a newspaper) to cover the floor
  • Total cost about $24.

eBay Research on PPC

Posted: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 17:59:02

An eBay research study Consumer Heterogenity and Paid Search Effectiveness, by Thomas Blake, Chris Nosko, and Steven Tadelis (2013, bit.ly/10E5mDU) looks at the effect of PPC.

My summary of the research:

  • PPC does not increase sales to people who already know the company, brand, product, or service. In fact, PPC may produce as as much as -75% ROI, in other words, a loss. In controlled tests, the researchers turned off PPC advertising and found that customers clicked on organic links to reach a site. For established customers, PPC functions in a navigational role, which means they're clicking on the ads as a shortcut to reach the site.
  • PPC increases sales to people who do not yet know the company, brand, product, or service. PPC performs an informative role, which means it informs those not-yet customers about the company, products, or services.

Therefore companies should advertise to infrequent customers or customers and prospects who do not yet know the company, brand, products, or services. But companies should not advertise to established customers.

This has implications for social. Social marketing could work in reaching new customers (it could play an informative role.)

As for content marketing, it will work if it allows prospects to discover a new company, brand, product, or service.

Another Google Product Shuts Down

Posted: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 23:57:10

Google is shutting down their affiliate network. Their what? A few years ago, I was talking with a senior Google AdWords person. I asked if one of our clients could be on the Google Affiliate network. She said "there's no such thing." I asked why not? She said it wouldn't make sense. Google is against affiliates. I said "try this" and sent a link to her. A moment later, she said "OMG!"

Google has a strong stand against affiliates, yet... there really is the Google Affiliate Network. The AdWords team had no idea that it existed.

An affiliate network, if done honestly, can be a good thing. A vendor can tap into a vast network of websites to gain reach to the audience. However... the reality is that many affiliate sites are scams. Too many idiots set up thousands of pages, or even tens of thousands of pages, to bombard the web with all sorts of wild promises. It is impossible for vendors to review several hundred thousand pages. Affiliate networks are basically scam networks and that's why she couldn't believe that Google was doing this.

But now, after many years, Google is shutting it down. I suspect Google finally had it with the scams.

Post-Computer? Post-Google?

Posted: Tue, 23 Apr 2013 16:01:41

I went to a conference in NYC a few weeks ago and someone said "Didn't you bring a laptop?" I replied that I've gone post-computer and I held up my smartphone. I do as much as possible on my phone now.

Did you know that Facebook banned the use of Facebook at Facebook's offices? Yes. Facebook.com is blocked on the computers at Facebook. But not for the reason that you think. Facebook wants their staff to start thinking mobile, so they blocked FB on the computers and laptops. Staff has to use their cell phones to use FB.

And what about Google? Are you ready to go post-Google? For the last ten years, pretty much from 2001 to recently, the web was centered around Google. To find something in the 175m active URLs and billions of webpages, you needed a search engine. But search engines are a poor solution (if you think they're great, you haven't noticed the limitations and problems. The worst problem is the severe limit in results: for any search, there is one page and people click only the first three results on that page. This is great for you if you're searching, but what if you want to bring visitors to your website? Either you're in the top three or you don't exist in a practical sense.

With all the talk about Google, we don't realize that this isn't how we really learn things and share information. If you want to know the capital of Idaho, a search engine is a good solution. It can find facts. But most of your useful information isn't dry facts.

People love to help their friends. They share tips, ideas, and useful information to help each other. It's a rough world and if you know something useful, you'll tell your small group of best friends. Truly useful information flows by itself, passed from person to person.

Another cool thing: the information depends interests. If Laura is an aeronautics engineer at NASA and she finds a great article, app, or software, she'll tell Sidd, who is also an aeronautics engineer. But she won't bother telling her mom (who is a geophysicist and doesn't care about aeronautics). What's valuable to you may not matter to me. But you'll know that and you'll share that with others who are also interested.

And this sharing happens outside of Google. There is a vast underground flow of information, easily hundreds of times larger than all the information in Google.

Go post-Google. If you want to share your information, don't squeeze it into the little red, blue, and green boxes at Google. Look to see how you can notify the people who are relevant and make your information flow to them.

This is a new kind of SEO. SEO without meta-tags and keywords.

Innovation, Disruption, and the Google Car

Posted: Tue, 30 Apr 2013 17:04:37

Chunka Mui wrote a series of articles about the Google Car in his column at Forbes. It's a very good analysis of how disruption happens. His analysis can be applied to nearly any industry.

  1. Fasten Your Seatbelts: Google’s Driverless Car Is Worth Trillions
  2. The Ripple Effects—As Far As The Eye Can See
  3. Why Change Will Come Sooner Than You Think
  4. How Google Wins
  5. How Automakers Still Win
  6. Will Auto Insurers Survive Their Collision with Driverless Cars?
  7. Driverless Cars Are Just One of Many Looming Disruptions

Follow Chunka Mui at Twitter @chunkamui.

5 of Top 10 eBooks Are Self-Published

Posted: Fri, 03 May 2013 15:29:16

At DBW (Digital Book World), five self-pubished books are in the list of top ten ebooks. Major authors are using self-publishing (digital publishing) to bypass the large publishers. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/self-published-titles-dominate-top-of-ebook-best-sellers-list/

How to Set Up a Monthly Newsletter

Posted: Fri, 10 May 2013 19:13:39

I've sent a monthly newsletter since the late-90s. Here's how I do this:

  1. First of all, you can't spam. If you send hundreds of emails via GMail, Yahoo, AOL, or whatever, the ISPs will mark you as a spammer and all of your emails will be blocked. Your domain name will also be blocked. There's a anti-spam coalition of 17 major ISPs where they share information about spammers. If you spam in Yahoo, you can't just jump over to AOL and continue there: they will know about you before you show up. It's impossible to get yourself unblocked.
  2. You must also have "double opt-in"; people subscribe and then confirm they subscribed. Otherwise, again, you may be tagged as a spammer.
  3. I use MailChimp because it lets me start for free. I can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 people per month for free (I plan to send only one email per month). When I go over that, I pay about a penny per email.

The danger is too much success: If you should be so unlucky as to get 500,000 subscribers, it will cost $2,500 to send a newsletter. So keep an eye on the number of subscribers! You don't want lots of subscribers, you want a good list of subscribers who are interested in what you offer.

How to Collect Your Email Addresses

Here is how to download your email addresses from GMail, LinkedIn, and Facebook, plus your business cards:

  • Gmail: Click Gmail (red button, far left). Select Contacts. Click More. Select All Contacts. Save as CSV
  • LinkedIn: Go to LinkedIn | Click My Network | Connections (top, middle). Click the gear icon (far right). Click on Export LinkedIn Connections (right column). In the “Export to:” dropdown menu, select Microsoft CSV.
  • Facebook: Create a Yahoo email account. Go to address.yahoo.com and click the Facebook icon. Sign in with your Facebook ID. This imports your Facebook address book to your Yahoo Mail account. Go to Yahoo | Tools | Import. Export as CSV. Or select ALL, press Control+A to Copy All, and paste in a text file.
  • Business Cards: Use a business card scanner ($200-300) to scan business cards. Save these to a spreadsheet. You can also use smart phone apps to take photos of cards and convert to text.

You should do this as soon as possible. Facebook may get the bright idea to block this so you can't get your list. Wait... in fact, they already did. You can't download your email contacts from Facebook anymore. So I showed you a hack that lets you download these via Yahoo.

Scrub the List

For my list, I had about 5,500 email addresses. These are 1) the old newsletter, 2) my email contact list, 3) scanned business cards, 4) business contacts. However, many of the email addresses are no longer active. If I sent to 5,500 and get many bad deliveries, the email delivery service may block me as a spammer. So I need to remove bad emails.

To do this, I used an email scrubber service. It scrubs the list by testing the emails to see which are active or inactive.

I upload the list (Excel format) to http://synapp.io , click a button, and wait a few hours. They send me an email when it's ready. It costs US$0.07 per email, so US$7.00 for 1,000. It sends me a new Excel file which tells me 1,200 are active, some 600 are "maybe", and 702 are inactive.

Designing the Newsletter

The design and content of your newsletter is important. People form their impression of you on what you present to them. If it's professional, interesting, and useful, they'll see that. If it's sloppy or rambling, they'll see that too.

  1. What's the message of your newsletter? What do you want to say? What should people understand when they see your newsletter? "This newsletter offers ______________________."
  2. The message of your newsletter should be a single concept. If you write about your swimming pool service, then whatever you write has to be about swimming pool services. If you mix concepts (such as swimming pool service and laptops), people will get confused and lose clarity about you.
  3. Once you know your message, the design will follow. Remove anything that doesn't support the message.
  4. It's much better if you hire a professional graphics person (which means they graduated from an accredited art and graphics school).
  5. Each newsletter should be about a single point that fits within your overall message. Don't send a newsletter that covers five or six different things (swimming pool services, laptops, trip to Yellowstone, a new coffee at Starbucks, your puppy). People are overwhelmed with emails, text messages, Facebook updates, tweets, Snapchats, cat videos... if it takes more than a few seconds, they'll just ignore it. Make the point. And do it in five or six lines.
  6. Give them something to do. End the newsletter with a clear button to click.
  7. There's many more things you can do, but these are the important ones.

See followup and results.

How to Track Conversions from Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.

Posted: Mon, 13 May 2013 18:21:06

I wanted to keep the book at a strategic level for directors and CMOs, so I didn't go into technical detail or documentation (otherwise, they won't read it.) The goal is for them to know that it can be done (and assigned to staffers for implementation.)

If you have specific questions about stuff, let me know.

And here's a question now!

> Section 8.5: "Conversions can be tied to these so you know Facebook produced 100 sales and the PDF produced 50..." - How can someone do this?

  1. Create a page for the product e.g., buy-my-book.html
  2. Add a tracking tag, e.g., /?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fb-june

    (where source is FB, medium is email, and campaign is your june posting in Facebook)

  3. Add the tracking tag to your URL, e.g., http://andreas.com/buy-my-book.html/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fb-june
  4. Use Bitly (or any URL shortner) to compress that long link so you get a short link such as http://bit.ly/17Y0Nme
  5. Use that link in your posting to Facebook.
  6. When someone sees the posting, clicks the link, and comes to the site, analytics will track that they came from Facebook. If they convert, it will report that as well.
  7. Do the same for PDFs, email links, Twitter postings, etc. Modify the tracking tag to identify each one.
  8. To see the results (conversions), go to your analytics program and look for conversions with the source "facebook." (If you're using Omniture, Coremetrics, etc., the details will be different, but the concept is the same.

(Note: the code and links are examples.)

Use this process for tracking your links in emails, social postings (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Ploop, etc.), ads in FB or Twitter, links in PDFs, etc.

Tip: To write the tracking tag, use Google Analytics URL Builder (free secret tool at Google).

The Real Story in SEO

Posted: Fri, 17 May 2013 18:02:48

I was on a presentation call by Mike Moran yesterday. He's a Distinguished IBM Engineer and co-author of "Search Engine Marketing, Inc." (2nd. ed, 2008, IBM Press) with Bill Hunt. His 672-page book is simply the best technical book on SEO for large corporations.

Mike talked about the state of SEO. Among other topics, he went into details about "Google Quality Raters" (GQR).

Very few people know that Google has 10,000 contractors who manually review pages and vote them up or down. Yes, they do this by hand. If they don't like your page, they downrank it and it goes to page 54. Nobody looks at that. See? They didn't ban it, they just downranked it.

Google has been manually reviewing and ranking pages for at least six years. I have Google's QR team manuals from different years (it's updated every summer). By comparing these, you can see how they evolve and improve their process. A GQR person gave me access to the online tool and I spent several hours reviewing and ranking pages until I fully understood the process.

GQR is a major secret at Google. They won't talk about it. I've talked with very senior persons at Google and they had no idea that Google was doing this. Most SEO companies, incl. the technical leaders at large SEO companies, don't know about this (I've asked them.) There is practically no public information about this, asides from a few web pages here and there which don't go into details, although this is perhaps the most important process at Google.

How do they evaluate your webpage? GQRs use a list of criteria. NONE of the criteria are "technical SEO", i.e., meta GQR.

GQR looks at the quality of your content. The manuals are technical documents, about a hundred pages, and densely-written, so I can't summarize it in this blog posting (the key points are in my book Search Engine Marketing, published by McGraw-Hill).

Traditional SEO is irrelevant. It won't make any difference in ranking. That's spelled out clearly in Google's manual for their Quality Raters. The only thing that traditional technical SEO can do is to ensure that your webpage will be in the index, but you can easily do that with a tweet that includes a link to your page.

But the SEO industry won't say this because they make lots of money.

What to do? Write really good content. I mean, Really Good Content. Not blah-blah stuff. Not "pretty good stuff." Write The Best Article in the World on that topic. Hire the leading authors. Hire world-class experts. Once you've written it, get it distributed by the top influencers and your advocates. Yes, it's lots of work, it'll be expensive, and that's what makes it the leading article. Google's team of 10,000 Quality Raters will find your article and move it to the top.

There's more details, of course, but that's the main point.

How to distribute your content? That's in my new book: The Big Book of Content Marketing.

Silicon Valley, Politics, and Society

Posted: Fri, 24 May 2013 16:46:30

This week's New Yorker has a long article by George Packer on the politics of Silicon Valley. If you live and work in SV, you should read it (yes, even you in SF.)

Packer writes about the attempts of several SV people to deal with the political system. Regrettably, he interviews pretty much only billionaires, as if their issues have anything to do with reality.

But he asks a few very good questions. For one: If high tech is so productive, liberating, enhancing, optimizing, etc., why has the US gone into long-term economic decline? The rise of Sillicon Valley matches the collapse of the USA. Are the two related? If not, where is the benefit of tech? Has SV done anything to improve the USA? Few of his interviewees even attempted to answer that.

I live in Palo Alto. I have a house here and I've been here for 20 years. In the 90s, SV was high-tech, i.e., engineering and hardware. Every year, there were significant technological and engineering advances.

But in the last ten years, certainly in the last five years, there has been very little development. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are just advertising networks, which is to say they are glorified billboards. There are no technology breakthroughs from Google or Apple (iPads and Glasses aren't technology. They're mass-market consumer products.) SV is the concentration of ever more wealth in the hands of a few (50 or so) billionaires.

Can those 50 or so do anything? Better to ask: do they have a clue? Google has spends $30 billion yearly in R&D and has nothing to show for it. None of their R&D projects are profitable: not one. Google's 7,000 Ivy League engineers come up with Popular Science gimmicks. They simply don't know what to do that matters to people outside of SV. Packer writes that the current dotcoms solve the problems of rich kids (order gourmet food from your smart phone, etc.). That's really funny and it's true.

Apple, Google, and others have hundreds of billions of dollars in the bank. How? Simple: they don't pay taxes. They've offshored their profits and parked the money in the Bahamas and other places. These companies now want to solve social problems? They're not even part of society.

Unique Look for your Twitter page

Posted: Tue, 04 Jun 2013 23:55:58

I'm preparing an outreach to influencers in content marketing. I'l tell them about the book and give them a link to the free Kindle download. Some will post this to their blog or Twitter accts.

For that, I put together a list of 55 influencers in the field of content marketing. I reviewed the blogs and twitter accounts to make sure they are relevant. It's not a final list; I've asked several people if they have lists and to swap lists.

I noticed several people (12 out of 55) have developed unique backgrounds for their Twitter pages.

I've attached the best backgrounds below. I created a new background (wider image) for my Twitter background. See it at twitter.com/andreas_ramos

How to do this? In short, use 1,600 (wide) by 1,200 (tall) pixel canvas. Add a 20-pixel margin at the left. The image's right margin can go out to 230-240 pixels.

(BTW, this is very easy to do. A close friend asked me to make a background for her page. It took me less than ten minutes. I used her website for the design.)

Influencer Marketing: Who to Contact?

Posted: Fri, 14 Jun 2013 17:25:46

There's a problem in influencer marketing. You want to reach the influencers. But who are the influencers? Are they experts or influencers?

Let's use the 90/9/1 Model (about 90% of an audience in any field is passive consumer of that topic; 9% is the commentators in that field; 1% is the creators of that field). (This has been studied by sociologists since the 1930s. There's a chapter about this in my new book.)

  • Creators (the 1%): They are experts on the field. They create the ideas of the field, lead the field, and determine what to discuss (and often, determine what won't be discussed).
  • Commentators (the 9%): They comment on the work of the creators. They are highly-visible, followed by many people, and their postings influence others.

It's easy to find experts. By definition, experts do difficult things:

  • Experts do things that require skill and subtle knowledge. For example, surgeons, Olympic athletes, commercial pilots.
  • Experts have experience. They spend takes 10,000 hours or more in their topic to be proficient (as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out). For example, performance musicians.
  • Experts are recognized by others.

    For example, an artist creates a body of artwork that is held by art collectors and art museums. An author writes books which are printed by important publishers or universities.

  • Experts are connected to other experts. In order to influence their field, they know the other key people in their field. They participate in their field. There is no such thing as a "unknown expert" because by definition, an expert influences his/her field.

The problem is to distinguish creators and commentators.

Experts often ignore self-promotion because they see it as trivial. For example, Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML, but he ranks low in influencer lists.

Commentators present themselves as experts, but their real expertise is often in self-promotion. Roger Ebert's real skill was in being known as a film critic. He never made any movies.

The tools for identifying influencers (e.g., Klout, Kred, Followerwonk, SocialBro, etc.) give preference to commentators, not creators. Why? To appear useful, the tools present metrics and scores to rank people. However, what they measure is number of retweets, percentage of retweets, the number of links, etc. These tools measure activity, not creativity. It's easy to fake these metrics by excessive postings, retweeting, likes, etc., none of which are creative.

For the purpose of publicity and marketing, it doesn't matter if the influencer is not an expert. He can be just a commentator but he has a large audience b) he tends to retweet, so he'll retweet your message. So he is useful for your marketing regardless of his lack of expertise.

How to find experts? Look for signs of achievement.

  • Look for the industry association and find the key people
  • Look at the industry's leading conferences and collect the list of speakers
  • Go to Amazon, search for a keyword, and look at the list of authors
  • Look in the leading books for the list for recommended reading

Google and the NSA: Who's Lying? What's the Truth?

Posted: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 18:23:36

Okay, let's compare the claims:

  • Edward Snowden's Powerpoint slides show the NSA has full access to data at Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Skype, and others. The head of the NSA confirmed the Powerpoint slides are real. The NSA, the White House, Congress, and others are preparing to indict and prosecute Snowden for treason, espionage, etc. where they will press for life in prison or execution.
  • David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, stated Google is not collaborating with the NSA. "...we’re not in cahoots with the NSA and there’s is no government program that Google participates in that allows the kind of access that the media originally reported. (...) There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box." Drummond Q&A at The Guardian (June 19, 2013). (David Drummond graduated from Stanford law school and was formerly at Wilson Sonsini.)

This doesn't add up. Either the NSA or Google is lying.

  • If Snowden was lying, the NSA would dismiss his claims as fraud.
  • Would Google lie? Would Drummond lie? What's at risk? Google is pushing to build a cloud-based business environment: store your files in the Google cloud, send emails, hold meetings, create and edit documents and spreadsheets, and so on. The audience for this isn't home users. Google wants companies to use this. It could replace Microsoft as the global standard for the corporate office tool. This is not merely billions. Cloud-based enterprise platforms will work for at least the next twenty years. We're looking at perhaps several trillion dollars in revenue and stock value. Would Google and Drummond lie for a trillion dollars?

There's another possibility where both Drummond and the NSA are telling the truth: The NSA hacked Google.

If the NSA hacked Google, they got access to everything. And Google can claim they never collaborated with the NSA.

Is this possible? Yes, because it already happened. In 2009, China hacked Google. Code-named "Project Aurora", this led to Google withdrawing from the China market. Read more about Google, China, and Project Aurora.

So if China can hack Google, the NSA can also hack Google. This makes honest men out of the NSA, Edward Snowden, and David Drummond. Drummond can rightly claim that Google doesn't cooperate with the NSA. Update, July 9, 2013: There's another solution to this puzzle. What if the NSA outsourced the spying to the British government? Thus the NSA doesn't spy on Americans: the British do that. GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is the UK's NSA. See? All is legal. The NSA doesn't spy on Americans. The UK doesn't spy on Brits. They only spy on foreigners, who happen to be the citizens of each others' countries. The NSA doesn't need a warrant to do that. And Google can say it doesn't collaborate with the NSA. But nobody mentioned the UK, did they?

Would Google mislead like this? For five years, Google insisted that it did not use people to evaluate and rank webpages. Google stated the ranking was done by algorithms and software. It turns out there was indeed a team of 10,000 people who ranked websites. But this was done by another company on behalf of Google. So Google was technically correct in saying that it didn't do this. They just didn't say it was done for them by another company. Update, July 11, 2013: Microsoft first denied that the NSA had access via Prism. Today, they admitted it. They gave the NSA full access to Microsoft, Hotmail, and Skype. Who's next? Google? See The Guardian article with +3,500 comments. Update, August 9th, 2013: Lavabit, an email company, chose to shut down instead of complying with the NSA. The NSA tried to use secret court orders to force Lavabit to open its secure encrypted email to the NSA. This explains the situation with Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and literally every communications service in the USA: The NSA orders them to open their networks. This means David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer at Google, either knew or didn't know, but in either case, Google complied with NSA orders and opened their network to the NSA. For details, see Lavabit shutdown. See also the end of secure cloud in the USA. Update, March 18th, 2014: So we finally know: Rajesh De, senior lawyer for the National Security Agency, stated that US technology companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.) were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data. Either David Drummond, chief legal officer for Google, was lying or Google lied to him.

Metrics and... Wine?

Posted: Mon, 24 Jun 2013 02:20:01

I like wine, but I'm suspicious of experts' claims about wine tasting and quality of wine.

In the last few years, study after study has used blind tasting to show that wine experts themselves can't distinguish wine. They can't tell the difference between $3 and $100 wine. They can't even tell if it's red or white.

Here's a collection of studies in a summary of metrics-driven analysis of wine tasting in The Guardian. The bottom line? There isn't a way to distinguish the quality of wine.

I bought one of those wine aerators last year. We compared aerated vs. non-aerated wine. Yes, it really does taste better.

But guess what? You don't need to spent $25 for an aerator. Just pour the wine in slow trickle from about 12 inches high (20 cm). Yes, it's noisy and looks silly, but you'll get the same effect: lots of air in the wine. The taste improves remarkably.

Another trick: put the wine in a blender. It looks horrible, but the wine tastes much better.

An easy trick: put your thumb over the top of the bottle and shake vigorously to add air to the wine. Works like a charm.

Finally, use a decanter. It's just a fancy bottle for pouring your wine. It looks expensive and the studies show perception will improve the taste.

Anyway, read the article.

Cloud Storage... In the Year 1546 AD?

Posted: Thu, 27 Jun 2013 04:12:40

Is this the first example of cloud storage of content marketing? (Click the image to see it in full size. Look closely at what he is writing.)

Portrait of Jean Miélot, secretary, copyist and translator to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. 1546 AD.

A Trillion Passwords? How to Create Two-Step Passwords

Posted: Sun, 30 Jun 2013 19:35:46

As we move to cloud-based services, passwords are becoming a serious problem:

  • A password must be complex
  • A password must be easy for you to use
  • The password has to be different on every account
  • You can't use the same password for two or more accounts
  • A password must never be written in your computer (hackers will scan your computer for password files) or on your desk (people may look through your desk)
  • A password can't be in a hacker's list of 30 million passwords
  • And a password system has to work for many accounts (I have more than 20 accounts)

There are password vaults, which are a service that manages all of your passwords. But that relies on one password. If someone gets your password, they have access to everything. Worst yet, a vault itself can be hacked. Google has been hacked so nothing is secure. It's certain the hackers are trying very hard to hack the vaults.

After much discussion with friends in Silicon Valley, I came up with the following two-part password method. It has two parts: a secret password and a public password.

  1. I use a base password, which is an acronym of a phrase. I never write this down anymore, not digital nor paper. I keep it only in my head. A sample phrase: "six red foxes dance at two pm" becomes "6rfda2p". Don't use proverbs or quotations; hackers have lists of these. Use at least eight characters with a mix of letters and numbers. You can capitalize the nouns ("6rFda2p"). It's easier to remember a phrase that describes a visual action (such as six dancing foxes).
  2. I use that base password for all of my accounts. Every account password starts with that phrase.
  3. I then add two non-alphabetical characters (a number and a symbol) for each account. For example, Google = 6%, Facebook = #3, and so on.
  4. I combine these, so my password for Google is 6rFda2p6% and Facebook is 6rFda2p#3 (You can put the second part at the beginning, middle, or end of your secret phrase.)
  5. I write down a list of those two characters, which I keep on my desk and in my wallet. People can see the second part, but they can't do anything with it.
  6. This lets me easily look up my passwords.
  7. This also lets me create dozens of passwords 1!, 1@, 1#, etc.

Q. How many passwords can this method generate?

A. Let's assume a password with eight characters. Each character can use 26 lower case characters, 26 upper case characters, ten single-digit numbers (zero to nine), and 14 special characters (!, @, #, etc.) That's 76 possible symbols for each character. Calculate 76 to the eighth. Yep, it's a big number. No calculator can do this, so you'll have to do it in your head (remember to carry the one.) It's 1.113 quadrillion, or 1,113 trillion (a thousand trillion).

Tip: Hackers have lists of 30 million passwords (search for "lists of passwords"). Don't use names of cats or dogs, Star Trek characters, girlfriends, or girlfriends' body parts. Don't use the US military's nuclear missile launch password (it's "000000". Yes, six zeros. Yes, that's really true.) (The US military changed it. It's now eight zeros. Very secure.)

Use Word Clouds to Review Social Postings

Posted: Mon, 01 Jul 2013 15:30:56

I'm looking into influencer marketing. I'm trying to figure out if a person is worth following, contacting, and engaging. Is he posting useful content? Or just nonsense about what his dog had for lunch?

I wondered if there was a way to quickly review a person's every posting. So I made word clouds of my own postings at my blog, Twitter, and Facebook (click for a bigger picture).

Compare those word clouds:

  • My blog postings are focused is on business and technical issues.
  • My Twitter word cloud tends to show names of companies (Google, Amazon, etc.) and business concepts (content marketing, startups, etc.)
  • My FB word cloud is mostly personal items, such as Helen, my cat, Palo Alto, people, and so on, plus lots of adjectives.

So if you want to know what I'm doing in my work, follow me at my blog and Twitter. If you want to know about my personal life, connect to me on FB.

How did I do this?

  1. Go to your Twitter account
  2. Scroll down until you have a year of tweets
  3. Copy all
  4. Paste into EditPlus (or any good text editor)
  5. Sort the list
  6. Delete duplicates
  7. Copy the result
  8. Drop the list into Wordle

For FB, I first downloaded my archive of all FB postings (five years). The result required more editing than Twitter because FB includes months, days, people's names, and lots of other stuff. The list had 92,000 lines (you really must use an advanced text editor such as EditPlus and know how to use regEdit).

If you know of tools that can do this, please let me know.

GMail Visualization: See who you're emailing

Posted: Mon, 08 Jul 2013 17:57:00


4.7 years of my email activity (click for larger image)

Daniel Smilkov and Deepak Jagdish of MIT's Media Lab made a data visualization tool to show you your Gmail activity. The larger the dot, the more emails you've exchanged with that person. It also shows links between people.

The large blue dot is Wendy. She and I are building up a startup.

Daniel and Deepak point out that the data social map isn't the same as your real-world social map. Helen is far away the most important person in my life, but we communicate mostly by text message, phone, and in-person, so she doesn't show up as the largest dot. Several other people show up either too much in the graph (because they live far away and we communicate by email) or too small in the graph (because we communicate by other means or in-person.)

This points out a significant limit of data visualization tools: they show only what they track.

To create your map (only if you're using Gmail), go to immersion.media.mit.edu

The Grandmother Pitch: What Do Your Advocates Say about You?

Posted: Sat, 03 Aug 2013 03:38:20

Here's something that I've been discussing with a number of people over the last few weeks. I'm trying to figure out how to identify and engage with influencers and advocates.

I've been going to lots of startup events, investor meetings, and so on. Often, there are events with ten startups and 30-40 angels and investors; the startups have five minutes for their elevator pitch and the dog-and-pony. You can tell when the founders do the elevator pitch; their eyes lose focus and they turn into robots as they state their mission in a flat voice, e.g., "Plooky enables emerging technologies to monetize by leveraging verticals with dynamic cloud-based solutions".

Like, whatever. Add a few acronyms (CRM, ERP, DBMS) and they get funding.

All of you know your elevator pitch. Well, most of you know it. You write it. You memorize it. And eventually, you can deliver it with plausible enthusiasm.

But you will never get your influencers and advocates to repeat it. They're not going to memorize your elevator pitch.

Why it is important what your influencers and advocates say about you? Because they'll move others to buy your products and services. Referrals from them have a very high chance of becoming clients and customers. I co-founded a marketing agency in 2005. We tracked our leads and sales and found that cold calls converted at 5-10%, whereas warm leads (people referred to us by our advocates) converted at 75% or more.

So what will your advocate tell a good friend about your startup? Your advocate generally won't be in your industry. Your advocate probably won't know your technical concepts.

  • She's going to shorten it (just a few words)
  • She's going to personalize it ("Andreas does __________")
  • She's going to focus on the benefit for the listener ("He can help YOU with __________")
  • She'll use words everyone understands
  • And worst of all, she's going to ignore what you say and she'll use entirely other concepts

The Grandmother Pitch

Thinking about this and talking with friends about this, I came up with the idea of the "The Grandmother Pitch". What would your grandmother tell another grandmother about you or your project?

Two grandmothers talking together don't know about technical stuff. They'll just say it straight.

What did Steve Jobs' grandmother say about him?

  • (Grandmother Betty): "What's little Stevie doing now?"
  • (Grandmother Wilma): "Stevie is selling phones."

So, what about me?

First, here is what I think I do (my elevator pitch). "Global expert in content marketing."

Why do I say that? My book is an Amazon Best Seller. It's published in Europe, North America, and South America (China coming in a few months). No other author in content marketing is published in even one other country. So that's my UVP (Unique Value Proposition) and POD (Point of Differentiation).

That's great, no? Nobody else can say that.

But... is anyone saying that about me?

I found two ways to see what others think I do. First, there are LinkedIn's endorsements. Every time you visit LinkedIn, it asks you to endorse your friends for various skills. Does Karen know about branding? Endorse her!

I realized a few weeks ago this was a voting system. What do my professional contacts think I do? I have 691 votes (there's a "See 23+" button, which shows many more items). SEO has 114 votes (16%) and Digital Marketing has 104 votes (15%).

You can see my surprise: what I think I do (content marketing) has only seven votes (1%).

This means if I go to market with my elevator pitch (content marketing), 99% of my contacts won't present me as a content marketer. Even though I'm the author of an Amazon Best Seller on content marketing, they don't think of me that way. My LinkedIn friends see me as someone in SEO and Digital Marketing.

(Time for a Tip: I suspect LinkedIn uses these votes when determining which profiles to show. My LinkedIn profile had 47 categories for endorsement. Most of these have very few votes. Go to your profile. You can edit your list of endorsement categories. By deleting minor and duplicate categories, you can focus votes on your top categories.)

I wondered if there was another way to find what my friends think I do. So I set up a survey on a webpage at my website. I sent a short email to 100 people in my professional and business contacts. I asked them to write a short sentence in plain English if they were to tell someone else about me. Basically, "Andreas does _______________ (fill in the blank)."

Here are the results:

  • SEO and other digital marketing for large and small companies.
  • Web traffic development support services.
  • He is an author.
  • Andreas identifies new marketing approaches.
  • Digital visionary.
  • Content and digital marketing expert.
  • Marketing, Author, Advisor, Entrepreneur.
  • Explain difficult topics in everyday language.
  • Write books.
  • He writes books and tries to figure out and share how to survive the search engines---particularly Google.
  • He is a content marketing expert... his Linkedin tagline says so :-) he used to be an SEO expert and may be an influence marketing expert very soon :-)
  • Andreas helps companies "talk to the market place" based on measurable input. Andreas also helps companies use social media as a platform to create traction and create social media strategies. Again... in a measurable way. Andreas know the dirty secrets about available data and how to utilize it.
  • Andreas helps companies accelerate sales.
  • Teaches others what he learns.
  • Online marketing / advertising.
  • Business and marketing consulting.
  • Helps clients market online effectively.
  • Digital marketing and analytics.
  • Andreas is an expert at getting web traffic.
  • SEO strategist, Author.
  • Creates researches measures strategizes.
  • SEO, creates marketing solutions via technology, writes.
  • Andreas reinvents the world one business at a time.
  • Andreas is search engine marketing evangelist.
  • Consulting on SEO and content strategy.
  • Andreas teaches companies how to increase their revenues/profits by optimizing their online marketing strategies.
  • Advises about online marketing.
  • Advise business about marketing.
  • Translate leading edge digital marketing technology into useful marketing media capabilities.
  • Author. Expert on SEO.
  • Andreas shares marketing insight.
  • Consulting, writing books, entrepreneurship.
  • Manage online marketing by creating content.
  • Author speaker SEO.
  • Digital Customer Centricity Expert.
  • Writer, visionary, practical tipster

I went through the list (36 entries), highlighted the key concepts, and counted them:

  • 19 Digital marketing (53%)
  • 9 SEO (25%)
  • 9 Author (25%)
  • 4 Content marketing (11%)
  • 3 Visionary (8%)
  • 2 Entrepreneur (5%)

Notice how this list matches the LinkedIn list? Digital marketing and SEO are at the top. (LinkedIn didn't have a category for "Published Author", so I added that.) (There's overlap because several people used multiple categories.)

Oscar Wilde said "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about".

Here's my version: "It's not what you say about you, it's what others say about you."

How to Use This: Make It Easy for Others to Talk about You

Okay, how to use all of this? The goal is how to craft effective brand messaging for your startup or yourself. If you write a wonderful brand message but others won't use it, it's a waste of time.

You have to write brand messaging that others understand and they will repeat to their close friends.

  • Three or four words
  • In plain language that your grandmother would use
  • Focus on the benefit to others (what it does for them, not you)
  • Make it personal (e.g., "He helps you get more traffic with SEO.")

Align your message with what people say about you or your brand.

I'll think about this over the weekend and rewrite my messaging. It'll include SEO and Digital Marketing.

Next Steps for You

You can do these ideas, whether it's for your personal branding or your startup's branding:

  • Go to LinkedIn and edit your endorsement categories. Add or delete categories.
  • Use a survey tool and ask your friends what they would say about you. I used QuestionPro.com (free). There are dozens of these tools.
  • Rewrite your brand messaging. Make it easy for your advocates to tell others what you do.
  • Add your brand messaging to your website and your profiles at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook,etc.

The End of Corporate Email?

Posted: Sun, 04 Aug 2013 18:36:55

A few days ago, I sent an email to 94 friends who work at various Silicon Valley companies. It was a research project and I had to check off their replies, so I printed out the list of names and email addresses.

I noticed that most of them had Gmail or Yahoo email addresses. Few of them use their corporate email accounts.

This morning, I counted. Of the 94, only five use their corporate accounts. The rest use either gmail, yahoo, or their personal URLs (such as the way I use andreas.com for my email).

There are several reasons for this:

  • Continuity. People move around. Hardly anyone stays at a company for more than two years anymore. It's better to have a personal address that you can keep. The same with phone numbers; hardly anyone uses their office desk phone. Everyone uses their personal cell phones.
  • Privacy. Most of the mid-size and large companies scan email for trigger words ("my resume", "my boss is an idiot", "copy of the company financials" and so on.) If you use words like these, your email pops up on your boss's screen for review. So people use their corporate accounts only for business and their personal email for all other communication.
  • Personal Connection. If you only have Stephen J. Pinkerfish's email address at Google (spinkfish@google.com), then he's only a business contact to you. But if he gives you his personal email address (huggybear24@yahoo.com), then he's your friend. And if he replies at 11:34 pm on a Saturday night, then he's really your friend.

So, if you're at a company, set up your own personal email account. Use that for your "real communication". But don't use huggybear :-)

Did Silicon Valley Move to San Francisco?

Posted: Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:42:04

For decades, SV was centered around Palo Alto because it was primarily a manufacturing and engineering center: they built things: chips, hard disks, storage devices, electronics, satellites, etc.

But the web isn't manufacturing. It's not really much engineering either (any competent engineer can build a social website, which is why it's now done in India, Pakistan, and the Ukraine for less than $4,000). So why put a company in a manufacturing center? Why not be in a charming city with lots of bars, nightclubs, and tens of thousands of young people who will work for very little?

The graph shows where the money has gone, which means the center of SV has shifted.

It's not all good news for SF. These web startups are low-cost operations with poor (or no) sustainable business models and low wages.

Read the article at The Atlantic Cities

Twitter: Better Cheaper Faster

Posted: Mon, 19 Aug 2013 16:04:50

I'll speak on Tuesday on an Act-On webinar. To get more attendees, I set up my own Twitter campaign for the event.

I started last Friday morning. I wrote three tweets; added several keywords; budgeted $25.

Here are the results: 14,500 views (i.e., the three tweets showed up 14,500 times in people's Twitter accounts if they used the keywords (e.g., "digital marketing", "content marketing", "influence marketing", etc.) What matters is the response: 153 clicks, which means 153 people went to the webinar signup page. $23 divided by 153 = $0.15 per click (CPC, or cost-per-click).

If I had set up the same campaign in Google, it would take a day or two to become active (Google reviews ads, etc.) I've been managing Google AdWords for over ten years on hundreds of accounts (I manage MIT's Google account); on average, CPCs are $0.75. If I had done this campaign in Google, it would have gotten 33 clicks. Twitter brought me 153 clicks (4.6x as many).

Twitter is far away the easiest and fastest way to set up digital advertising. It's much cheaper than Google. And it works very well.

Microphone for Webinars

Posted: Mon, 19 Aug 2013 20:51:06

I did a webinar last week for The Experts Bench (TEBWW.com). They kindly sent me a Snowflake USB Microphone (made by Blue Microphones, $45, #BlueMicrophones).

Wow. The sound quality is radically better. Crystal clear. Just plug it in and it works.

If you're doing webinars, podcasts, or presentations, get a better microphone.

I also use a $90 Logitech webcam. Very good image for the viewer.

Tip: clean your lens.

Tip: When you're not using it, cover it. Hackers can look through your webcam. Just use some black tape.

Whither Twitter? What's the Future of Twitter?

Posted: Fri, 06 Sep 2013 19:21:12

There are two questions about Twitter:

  • Why do people post to Twitter (and other social sites)?
  • What happens when they get many followers?

There are answers to these questions in a research paper by Prof. Olivier Toubia, Columbia Business School, and Prof. Andrew Stephen, University of Pittsburgh. They used test groups and statistics to show how people behave on Twitter.

They picked 2,500 random users and looked at their tweets. They selected some of those users and added 100 fake followers to each to see if people changed their postings.

  • There are two reasons for using social: Intrinsic and Image, by which the researchers mean "for its own sake" and "to enhance status". To put it bluntly: people either post for fun ("Woohoo! Party!") or to show off their status ("Dinner at the Paris Four Seasons!").
  • When people have few followers, postings are generally personal.
  • As followers increased, people post more often.
  • When people get more followers, they tend to become less personal. They begin to broadcast. See p. 33 and Table 7.
  • But at a certain point, people actually began to post less.
  • Companies want to get people to post more about the company, but if companies start following people and this increases the numbers too high, people will reduce the number of postings. Companies may actually decrease the number of mentions of the company. See p. 20.

Here's my summary: When people first start on Twitter, they're posting updates about themselves. When they see an increase in followers, they begin to post more. But postings become broadcasts to show off their status. As the number of followers reaches a certain point, people post less.

The researchers predict Twitter will evolve from a production of content to a consumption of content, i.e., from a social townsquare into traditional broadcast media, dominated by celebrities. My Comments: This mirrors the evolution of the web. Starting in the mid-80s and into the early 90s, many people used Usenet and IRC to chat. The dotcom boom and commercialization brought companies onto the web (they saw the web as an opportunity to reach consumers, i.e., broadcast at them for marketing). The web evolved into a broadcast platform as websites became technically complex (database-driven sites with transaction capability, such as Amazon), which pushed the personal sites to the bottom. The collapse of the dotcom boom and the crash in April 2000 forced a retreat of commercialization of the web (some 5,000 dotcoms collapsed). In 2003-2005, developers used the ideas of AJAX to build interactive sites. This launched another attempt to build a social web. If the same happens to social, it will evolve from a townsquare conversation into broadcast. However, people will begin to look for another form of tools that allow townsquare conversation (UseNet, IRC, personal websites, blogs, Twitter, etc.).

See the discussion at p. 35.

See the summary at p. 36 plus Table 1 and Table 2 at p. 45.

An interesting note about Table 1: The study sample of 2,400 users have anywhere from zero followers to 18,940 followers. The median number is 704 (that's the median, not the average). Very often, people use 1,000 followers as the cut-off point as a person with large number of followers, but it's actually 704.

Get a copy of the research at Intrinsic versus Image-Related Motivations in Social Media (PDF)

Google's Bad News for Content Marketing

Posted: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 01:42:38

A friend saw my blog postings about content farms. She had read my content marketing book. She asked me what this all meant. The following is based on my email reply to her.

Google and and Bing's strategy over the last five years is clear in their actions. Google and Bing want quality at the top of search results. To determine quality, they manually review webpages and assign a score. Based on hundreds of millions of reviews, they carried out two major algorithm changes (at Google, these are known at Panda and Penguin) and a major rewrite of the algorithm (codename Hummingbird) which wiped out millions of low-quality pages and elevated the ranking of high-quality sites.

Google and Bing give preference to pages that are written by verified authors with real credentials. That's why Google+ requires a real name and why Youtube has moved to requiring a G+ login. Google and Bing are slowly getting rid of fake names, anonymous accounts, spammers, and, yes, and marketers who use fake accounts to pump up traffic or fake positive comments.

For Google and Bing, content farms are sites that display low-quality content, written by unqualified (and often, unknown) persons. See my recent blog posting about content farms: it has a list of 113 content sites (incl. eHow and Yahoo Answers) that are blocked by Bing and likely, Google. If marketers or companies use these to either buy 500-word articles or post their articles, they are wasting their time. If they churn out hundreds of low-quality articles, those will be flagged as junk and the entire site will lose ranking.

A webpage must have high-quality content, written by credentialed or licensed professionals who are at authoritative organizations. That's CLEARLY stated in Google's internal manuals.

All of the major search engines (Google, Yandex, Baidu, and Bing) use tens of thousands of humans to manually evaluate and rank webpages. They mark pages based on quality: high, good, okay, or low quality.

Want to learn more? Read my SEO eBook. Free PDF. Go to andreas.com/search-engine-marketing

The Consumerization of Media

Posted: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 05:50:27

The Consumerization of Enterprise

A major recent trend in corporate business has been the “consumerization of enterprise”. This means consumers are affecting the technology and methods at the enterprise level. Enterprise normally means large corporate structures (generally defined as companies with more than 5,000 employees), but it also includes any large organization. The Catholic Church, the government, or a large charity are also enterprise-level organizations.

Up until now, for better or worse, the tools and procedures of these organizations were determined at the top by experts who decided what would be done and how it would be done. This standardized the enterprise. Those decisions were broadcast downwards to staffers, who had to use the approved tools. For example, there are hundreds of spreadsheets, but when the head of accounting decides on Microsoft Excel, that becomes the standard spreadsheet within an organization.

A good example was the Blackberry phone. Nearly all cell phones are easy to hack, but the Blackberry has strong encryption. Company security teams want to keep the company’s communications and files secure, so they chose the Blackberry as the official corporate phone and banned the use of other phones. The Blackberry became the standard phone of upper-level staff at large corporations and governments.

However, the consumerization came along. This means employees prefer consumer-level products, despite the orders of upper management. Eventually, these low-level consumer-quality products replace corporate products. The Blackberry was a great phone (I had one), but the iPhone was new, had other features (bigger screen, better images, and so on), and was more popular. People began to switch to iPhones, even though it lacked Blackberry's security. After several years, enterprise IT security gave up on banning non-Blackberry phones. iPhone and Samsung phones took over.

The same is happening with all sorts of corporate tools. Organizations decided that staff would use an internal communications platform, but employees know Facebook, Twitter, or SMS and they prefer that. This is especially true if the person is under 25 years old; they often don’t even use their company’s email address (or even use email at all. Only 1% of teens use email today).

In Silicon Valley, I’ve noticed that most of my communication with other people is outside their official accounts. They use Gmail, Yahoo mail, Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, LinkedIn, or chat tools to communicate. Nearly all of them use their personal cellphones, not their office desk phones. There are two reasons for using personal cell phones: although they move from company to company, they keep their personal cell phone numbers so they stay in touch. Secondly, it’s never quite clear if desk phones are monitored or taped.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

The same for computers. For years, companies chose and bought the computers. For more than a decade, these were Windows computers with Microsoft Office. But in recent years, people are using their own laptops, and now, increasingly, their own tablets. Enterprise hurt itself by first refusing to pay for tablets (I remember how these were seen as frivolous consumer toys) and second, not supporting the switch to mobile devices. Users quickly began using Dropbox and other tools to move and store corporate files, which undermined file security. Another horror for IT was the sudden loss of control over the corporate network. IT owned the network. They assigned logins to staffers. They monitored and turned off a staffer’s access. But cell phone companies added WIFI hotspots (which means the cell phone can connect to the web and devices could then connect to the cell phone to reach the web). You can be in a corporate office and bypass the company’s network altogether. At some companies, IT teams actually walked around with handheld devices to detect unauthorized WIFI hotspots to shut them down. They were quite right to do this: it’s a major security hole, but in reality, it became impossible to stop this because workers were using these WIFI hotspots at home, in restaurant, the airport, and hotels. (If a hotel charges for WIFI, I simply turn on my hotspot and connect to the web. Why pay for WIFI?) Workers learned from each other (or their kids) how to do this and they don’t need to bother IT anymore for permission to connect a device.

When companies and IT give up and let the workers choose, it's called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which means the workers choose the device. At many Silicon Valley startups, the companies don't provide laptops or desk phones. They simple assume the workers have their own devices.

So, the consumerization of enterprise means corporate processes and tools are undermined by staff making personal decisions to use their consumer products instead of the corporate products. It means the organization loses control over the tools and processes. If the organization doesn’t adapt, it will wake up one day and find everyone is using unknown tools. A further problem: the organization will also fall behind in technology and innovation.

The Consumerization of Media

Okay, so what was the idea that I introduced? It’s related. By working on the idea of content marketing, I began to realize the same process was happening to media. So I call it the consumerization of media. This means the production and distribution of media, which was once controlled by large companies, is now determined by consumers, not the companies. The purchasers of media (the consumers) are deciding how they want to read or watch content, and the producers (publishers, the music industry, movie makers, etc.) are forced to adapt.

Up to recently, each media industry controlled the production and distribution of its media. The music industry decided the size and length of records and CD, the pricing, and how these were distributed. The movie industry released movies through chains of movie theaters in complex distribution deals. Books were standardized by size, pages, and pricing and then distributed through bookstores. The only choice for consumers was which item to buy, but they had practically no choice on how they would consume the product. (That’s a horrible concept, but we don’t have a better way to say it. You read a book, watch a movie, or listen to music, but we say you consume media. Someone, please come up with a better phrase!)

Books as an Example of the Consumerization of Media

Let’s talk about books (you can apply the same discussion to video and music). In 1450, some 560 years ago, Guttenberg began printing books in Europe (the Chinese were doing this a thousand years ago, but whatever). Guttenberg was not an author. He never wrote or published original work. He was a businessman and saw printing as a way to make money. At the time, a bible was copied by hand and cost a small fortune (a village collected money to buy a bible). So Gutenberg printed bibles. This set the basics of publishing for the next four years: publishers owned the printing press; they chose what to print (and they also rejected books); they set the price; they controlled the distribution. All of this was done by business people, not writers. The readers were passive recipients whose only choice was which book to read, but not much else. This model survived for an astonishing 550 years and resulted in large publishing companies based on text (publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers).

Digital collapsed the production costs of books. Once a digital file has been created, it can be duplicated perfectly and unlimited. There are no production costs. In a deeper sense, the copy isn’t a copy; it’s identical to the original file. Digital wipes out the costs of investment in Heidelberg Press (a printing machine the size of a train locomotive) and the salaries for skilled technicians to operate it. They’re not needed anymore.

The distribution system began to break down in the late 80s as the internet arose. People found they could post and release texts on the Internet. Other people could find these texts, read them, and distribute them further. Because the texts were in digital format, it was essentially free to distribute them. Texts could be distributed worldwide (for a number of historical and political reasons, there’s no such thing as international book publishing. Books are published by publishers in each country.) The web made it possible to distribute a book worldwide.

If reproduction and distribution is free, then many texts became free, which broke the pricing model. Most paperback books were generally (in the 90s) US$10-15. That was seen as a fair price to cover the costs of running a publishing company (editors, staff, etc.), printing, distribution trucks, bookstores, clerks, and so on. But what’s a fair price for digital books when production and distribution costs are zero? At Amazon, hundreds of thousands of books are free. This spelled the end for bookstores. Borders, a mega bookstore chain with nearly 700 stores, went out of business. Barnes & Noble, its major competitor, is in trouble. Over a thousand small bookstores closed in the last ten years in the USA.

The other big change in books was the switch from print to tablets and smartphones. The first iPad appeared in 2010. Tablets are cheaper than laptops, easy to carry around to cafes or on airplanes, and can be used by the pool, on the sofa, or in bed. Sales of desktop and laptop computers are falling as people switch to tablets. I love to read; I’ve read more than 30,000 books; I have some 5,000 books in my house. I thought digital devices would not replace books. But I got one of the first iPads (I have two now) and I have a Samsung Note 3 (a large cellphone). There’s no doubt: it’s easier to read on a digital device. I can read anywhere. I have several hundred books on my devices. The devices are synchronized, so I can set down the Samsung Note, pick up the iPad, and continue reading at the same page. I can click a word to look it up in the internal dictionary. I can click Amazon, buy two or three books (which download in a few seconds), and have more to read. I can read two online newspapers and three sites for essays and ideas (3QuarksDaily, Aeon, CounterPunch), none of which I can get offline.

The switch to mobile devices is forcing text publishers (publishers of books, magazines, newspapers) to adapt their text to be readable on those devices. At first, they came out with apps, but that didn’t last, because readers didn’t want apps. They wanted the website. So publishers created mobile versions of websites, such as m.time.com, m.nyt.com, and so on (the “m” marked the mobile version). But again, people wanted the main site, and publishers didn’t want the headache of maintaining two sites. Furthermore, every month brought yet more smart phones and tablets in different sizes. The current best solution is the concept of “responsive design”, which means the publisher builds one site and the site is able to detect the size of screen and then resize itself accordingly. The cost is absurdly low; a responsive design template is US$25 and there are thousands of them. That’s right: a publisher’s web that once could cost $100,000 or more can now be set up for $25 and it works better.

As for writers, the changes in publishing are astonishing. Book printing was developed over a period of 550 years so a modern book is a complex process. Traditional book production could involve 20-30 people; now it can be done by one person. I’ve written more than nine books. The first eight were published by publishers, so I know quite well the tremendous amount of detail work to convert a text into a printed book. Very little of this is obvious to the reader. For my 2013 book, I decided to use digital publishing at Amazon. The production workload was easily cut by 80%, and now, after several digital books, I could cut it by 95% from traditional book production. This makes it easier for me to write, so I released a major book in May 2013 and two 50-page ebooks in October and November. This speed would not be likely under traditional publishing.

Finally, people ask me about production quality. I’ve also printed my digital books and the print quality (if you know what you’re doing) is just as good as a book printed by a major publisher.

So you see the impact of digital on book publishing. It affects the production, distribution, pricing, and sales, including the costs and speed for all of these.

The Impact of Digital on All Media

The fundamentals of media production were established by Gutenberg 550 years ago. Over four centuries, publishers controlled production and distribution.

But digital is radically changing every media: music, sound, video, photography, and so on. A single person can create music; some music artists earn US$300,000 per night, and they do this night after night. Movies are being created with inexpensive handheld cameras and released via the web that earn millions.

My key point: it’s not the industry that led the change. It’s the consumerization of media, carried out by the consumers and authors, the outsiders, the ones at the bottom, that led the change simply by choosing cheap, flexible alternatives. The media industry’s only choice was to either adapt or die. Who controls publishing, production, and distribution at the New York Times? It’s no longer the publisher. The readers are in control.

Beyond Books

This has serious implications. Gutenberg set up a nice little business project by printing bibles. But the results were beyond anything he could imagine. Before, only highly-trained priests could read and declare the purpose of a sentence in the bible. But soon, everyone began reading the bible for themselves. Different opinions arose. That led to movements. Which led to the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Inquisition, and religious wars (which are still going on today in Northern Ireland). Over 100 million people died in these conflicts. The Catholic Church was dealt a severe blow and never recovered. The royal kingdoms of Europe were wiped out in flames and blood. Medieval Europe was overthrown. The widespread distribution of ideas and books brought about the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason and Science.

What will be the result of the democratization of media? What will happen to established religions, governments, and companies when anyone can publish and distribute their ideas as books or videos? There is no doubt nations will fight to preserve their authority, wealth, and power. Digital media is a deep threat to them. Just like knights and priests, they will not survive.

The First Newspaper Ads

Posted: Thu, 03 Jan 2013 04:58:55

I found the first newspaper ads in La Presse, a French newspaper in Paris, for Sept. 15, 1836, at the Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique (digital archives of French newspapers). Here's the image. The ads are for insurance, pharmaceuticals, job agencies, stock, travel, mustard, and various medical treatments. Yes, 176 years ago. Who thinks advertising is a modern idea? (Go to La Press at the Gallica Bibliotheque Numerique).

Newspaper Advertisement in La Presse (Paris, 1836)

I went to archives of British newspapers and found The Spectator, Nov. 1711 had advertisements.

In the Spectator, see page one, left column, where the publisher talks about advertisements, and then lists a series of these on the right side. By these, he seems to mean reviews.

These however aren't yet modern advertising: no logo, etc., and it's not clear that people paid to have these placed in the Spectator. La Presse may be the first newspaper that was based on advertising revenue.

(Note: I edited both of these images to fit the page. To see the originals,, go to the links.)

Which US Cities as Test Markets?

Posted: Wed, 16 Jan 2013 02:16:53

Q: Andreas, you say we should carry out marketing tests where we market in some cities but not others, so we have control groups. This lets us see if the marketing was responsible for the change in results. But what cities should we use? - Perplexed in Peoria

A. The US Census collects income, age, education, gender, and household makeup. Look for cities with the same percentages as the US demographics. If the Hispanic population is 16.7% of the total US population, look for cities that have 16.7% Hispanics.

Acxiom found US cities which have demographics that match the general US population. They use this for marketing tests for their clients. Here's an alphabetical copy for you: Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY; Birmingham, AL; Cedar Rapids, IA; Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC/SC; Columbus, OH; Eau Claire, WI; Eugene-Springfield, OR; Grand Junction, CO; Greensboro--Winston-Salem--High Point, NC; Nashville, TN; Odessa-Midland, TX; Pittsfield, MA; Richmond-Petersburg, VA; Rochester, NY; Syracuse, NY; Wichita Falls, TX; Wichita, KS.

How to use this list? Build your marketing campaign. Pick (say) ten of these cities as your market (it doesn't matter which; they're demographically identical). The remaining cities are the control group, i.e., no marketing. Launch your campaign, collect data, and compare. If you find your product sells in Rochester, you've got a winner: it'll sell to the US population as a whole.

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