The big problem with content marketing is too much (crappy) content

So because no one else seems to be willing to say it, I will: The boom in content marketing has led to a tidal wave of crappy content. Either that, or Google has changed their algorithm to ensure that every time I search for something substantial I get shallow, pedestrian blog posts and 10-page Slideshare presentations that manage to say nothing.

Either way, it’s getting ridiculous. 

I’m serious people! Recently I’ve been working on experimenting with Facebook and LinkedIn ads for a client. So, when it was time to put together my own reporting on the results, I struggled with some of Facebook’s definitions. Yes, I found a glossary of Facebook ad definitions (here), but I was curious to see what other people had written about how they measure Facebook ad performance.

So I searched for information on many terms related to Facebook ads, and tried to find some posts on how others measured ROI of Facebook ads. The search was fairly useless, at first. Then I kept following bread crumbs to other … useless posts. Then I followed more results to find … shallow crap.

What really intrigued me, though, was that so many of these posts were from people who where obviously in the marketing biz. And they couldn’t muster anything much more obvious than “measure impressions and click throughs!” … Thanks Einstein.

Marketers writing about marketing (what I’m doing at this moment, yes I know the irony) in order to advertise a marketing service is something I call reflexive-marketing. And there is way too much f—ing reflexive marketing content out there people.

And it’s not particularly illuminating. Remember that 10 page Slideshare presentation I found? Honestly, putting a graphic up that tells the reader to remember that “Facebook is social!” kind of assumes the reader is an idiot or possibly has never been exposed to civilization on planet Earth. But maybe that’s who you think your audience is — good luck with that.

I even found a packet of posts from a huge website devoted to social media news on the subject of Facebook ROI.

All. Superficial. Crap.

So … If I’m getting swamped by content by marketers who can’t get beyond the superficial, the obvious and the near-moronic, what, in god’s name, are marketers doing when writing about their clients’ subjects?

OK, I’ve been venting. But you know what, I’d like to see a lot more people talking about what they really experience in the world of content marketing than 100 reflexive marketing blogs trying to blow a lot of smoke up my nether regions. But maybe that’s just me. Now excuse me, I have to cobble together some more reports based on Facebook’s epically shitty ad metrics data.

Oh, and just to show there’s an exception to the rule, here’s a great post on Facebook ROI from Emeric Ernoult on the Duct Tape Marketing blog: The 6 metrics that determine your success on Facebook. Not coincidentally, Ernoult’s company decodes Facebook’s shitty metrics into usable information. And no, I didn’t get paid to say that.

Photo Credit: Ben Brown via Compfight cc

A short primer for media and politicians on metrics

kitty count2The other day I had to roll my eyes again at the TV screen when yet another reporter covering the federal Affordable Care Act website ( did something that drove me crazy.

Many reporters — and politicians — simply don’t know how to use the terminology of website analytics. They make understandable but crucial mistakes that only help to confuse matters. I heard one reporter say that the federal website had reported more than 100,000 “visitors” and then in the next moment a graphic went up showing the 100,000+ “visits” reported by the HHS, which is not the same thing. I’m not sure who got which information wrong — but the point still sticks. There’s a lot of confusion about common website metrics terminology.

This wasn’t t he first time I’d heard, read or seen a mistake like this in reporting on the federal ACA website.

It is perfectly understandable, however, that media and politician are not familiar with web analytics and terminology. It is not always intuitive and it can get very complex. However … when reporting on a national story, it would help if everyone knew the key definitions that matter.

What follows are some key points about website metrics (and definitions) that may help shed some light on the matter.

“Visits” do not equal “Visitors.  This is an easy mistake to make, but getting this wrong will really distort understanding of website performance. A Visit is just another way of saying a session — or the number of times a visitor comes to your site, which expires after inactivity or when leaving the site. Let’s use the convention analogy: the Visit is just the number of times visitors come through the turnstiles to enter the convention center. They may visit and look around, go to lunch, come back, go to their hotel room, and come back on day two of the convention. That’s three visits — three clicks of the turnstile. So yes, one person may do that many times, so “Visit” does not equal “Visitor” in the sense that it is measuring people.

“People” and “Unique Visitors.” So what everyone really wants to know is how many real people visit a site. The closest (though imperfect) way to count this is by counting the number of Unique Visitors. This is the count of unduplicated visitors to a website, over a selected period of time. Google calculates this, for example, by looking at cookies and their match to browsers. You can see the problem there … if the same person erases cookies or switches browsers or devices (like using your smart phone or iPad) you get multiple counts from a single “visitor.”  Some experts estimate “Unique visitor” count is artificially high and can be off by 25% to 39%. Using the convention analogy again, Unique Visitor is the number of badges you give out to approved attendees. They may get their badge scanned many times for entry to the event … but you only made one badge.

Pageviews  When trying to determine overall popularity of any website or portion of a website, you’ll want to know the Pageviews. This metric is fairly intuitive — it is literally how many web pages are served to a browser, and the count is added up over time. If you visit the home page and go to another page, then back to the home page, then to another page, then back to the home page, that’s three pageviews of the homepage. Pageview metrics are great for their overall count, but where they really count is in determining interest among all the sections and pages of content of a website. An example: Let’s say a site gets one million pageviews. “Great!” you say. Then you find out that of those one million pageviews, 600,000 were in the “Help” section and the “I don’t know where to start” page … then it’s not so good news, is it?

The convention center analogy doesn’t work so great for this metric, but you can think of every page of your site as a booth at a convention, and this counts the number of times people looked at a booth (see, I told you the analogy wasn’t that good).

Bounce Rate Maybe I missed it, but I have yet to hear or read anyone asking about the ACA website’s bounce rate — which is important. It’s important to all sites as a broad metric, and it is especially important as a “red flag” indicator. Understanding Bounce Rate is also important as a “reality check” on all metrics.

So what is Bounce Rate? It’s a single visit without any interaction. In other words “We came, we saw one page, we left.” Most people would be shocked to find out just how high bounce rates are for any website. I’ve seen sites that get extremely healthy traffic — and have seen Bounce Rates of around or close to 50% … yes, meaning half of all visits are one-page-and-gone. If a website is having bad technical problems, it should have a Bounce Rate far higher than 50%. When those problems get solved, it should go down. Again, this is a metric best observed over time. As a stand alone number, it’s not so important. The question is — what’s influencing the Bounce Rate (up or down)?

For the question of form completions: Any website can use multiple forms — form completion can go by many names, but “form completion” is the best, IMHO. I saw in the most recent data released by Health and Human Services that they referred to forms completed. That is a sterile but accurate and appropriate way to judge a website’s performance as well. What media and lawmakers should be asking is how many of those forms completed have led to actual coverage — that’s what everyone is wondering.

But from what I understand how the site work, insurance companies will ultimately be granting the coverage — so that is technically not a standard metric to be gathered from live data — it can only be compiled after input from insurance companies. Forms NOT completed is an interesting question too — which may give everyone an idea of the abandonment of effort. Just my two cents.

Are there other metrics that the media and politicians should be watching?

* Original image credit: By David Corby Edited by: Arad (Image:Kittyplya03042006.JPG) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons



Marketers turn to instructing how to disable Gmail tabs

Blackboard with writing

Photo Credit: Lee Nachtigal via Compfight cc

As I mentioned in my last post, Gmail’s new default tabs for inboxes pose a significant new hurdle for marketers. By putting “Promotion” in its own default tab to the right, it immediately segregates some emails from the “Primary.”

That’s already a headache — but the bigger problem is that the distinction between “Primary” and “Promotion” seems pretty damn arbitrary.

For marketers in the business-to-consumer realm, who might have many Gmail addresses in their email mailing lists, this can be a real problem.

Marketers turn to direct appeal

Marketers are already trying to spread the word to users on how to get their emails to display in the “Primary” tab. I subscribe to uber-marketing guy Chris Brogan’s email and yesterday I got one of his emails, with this subject line: “If you’re a GMAIL user, you might be missing our letters”.

The email links to this video by Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner, How to disable Gmail tabs.” The short video shows how to move emails over to the Primary tab from the Promotion tab.

Stelzner’s video is good – but he also missed a simple fix. Simply go into the tab settings (by clicking the plus sign on the far right of the tabs) and simply uncheck/unselect “Promotions” — this puts everything in the Primary tab.

Google bites the hand

And to harp on my main point: Google’s new tabs are making life hard for marketers — and marketers are the ones shoveling huge dump trucks of cash into Google.

It’s hard to keep this in mind, but to people outside the marketing biz, Google is just this big “free” service with all these great goodies they dispense for free to everyone. Most people are only vaguely aware of how much money Google brings in from advertisers. (Last quarter, ended June 30th, Google took in $14 BILLION in revenue — up nearly 20 percent from the same quarter last year).

Maybe Google is doing the right thing — by focusing on the what the end user wants, it’s really doing a service for marketers.

This would be true … IF Gmail’s algorithm or whatever made a proper distinction between “Primary” and “Promotion” — which in my experience was way, way off — not even close. So now marketers like Brogan and Stelzner (and anyone else in the B-to-C realm) are in the unenviable position of asking Gmail users to “unhide” their emails.