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Archive for the ‘Internet Marketing’ category

Tracking ‘Email Opens’ with Google Analytics

November 11th, 2013

The common problem faced by online marketers & analysts today is that, data is available in Silos and not integrated.  When you send an email campaign, web related analytics (visits, bounce rates, conversion rates etc) are tracked by your web analytics tool – say Google Analytics. However, your web analytics tool doesn’t tell you how many people opened your email. Oops, now that’s the second level in your sales funnel.

Your email / CRM tool usually has this data on how many people opened the email, provided tracking is enabled.

Now, I’ll explain how to get this metrics within Google Analytics automatically.

(To use this method you need to be using the Universal Analytics version of GA – not the Classic Analytics. If you’re not using the Universal Analytics, you can upgrade easily.)

Step 1:  Create  a Custom Metric. To do this, logon to your GA account, click “Admin” link on top right. Then select your account & property. If your account is already upgraded to Universal Analytics you will see an option “Custom Definitions”. Click it to see the “Custom Metrics” option.

custom metrics

Now click “Create Custom Metric” link. You’ll see the form below – enter details as shown below.

create custom

Once you have created this custom metric, now you have metric which can hold & display the email opens for all the email campaigns. In the next step we’ll create a pixel which will actually capture the data & then store it.


Step 2: Creating a Pixel. This is how your pixel will look like.

<img src=”<UA-XXXXXXX-YY>&cid=<UUID>&t=event&ec=email&ea=open&cs=dealmailer&cm=email&cm1=1″ />

tid – This is your Google Analytics tracking id

cid – This the client id, and usually your email application should be able to automatically fill this field through mail merge.

cm1 – This indicates the slot of custom metric. Since this is our first custom metric, I’m passing 1 here.

Step 3: Add the above pixel to the footer of email HTML before sending the email.

You should be able to track the email open metrics by going to Acquisition >> Events >> Overview in your Google Analytics account.

email opens


How to Opt out of Google’s Ads that Show your Photo & Name

October 12th, 2013

Google is planning to show your face & name in advertisements. Many of you, like me would’ve felt uncomfortable on this very idea. Be it just as Social endorsements, I still don’t like it.

Here ‘s how you can opt out of these ads

  • Visit this Google Endorsement Settings Page
  • Scroll down & Uncheck the setting that says “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”
  • Click Save & you’re done.


Can deal sites survive?

June 17th, 2013

E-Commerce sites around the world, especially in India are driven by deals to some extent. I’m referring to product based deals, rather than Groupon-like service deals. Lower prices compel new users to try out a site, and also help vendors liquidate their excess inventory.

There’s a popular theory in India that deal sites can’t survive. Sites like, are real-life proofs that these sites can be successful. was acquired by few years. Amazon probably has the best resources to try and test various things. If they’ve acquired Woot & they themselves are running daily deals there must be something right about it. In addition, the growth of deal sharing websites like Slickdeals, suggests that there’s a huge market for deals.  Ok, now there’s no doubt that there’s a sizeable market for deals. There’s a segment (and a big segment) of deal-seekers. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to go after them or not. Amazon did.

Price at which customers want to buy the product is fixed – for eg customers want to buy at 10-15% lower than anywhere in the market. No point in selling at market prices and calling it as a “deal” yeah? Deals will not, and never be profitable  or sustainable if the subsidized prices are funded through marketing budgets.  May be yes during initial phases, yes but not in the long run. Products must be sourced at great prices. But, why would the manufacturer give E-commerce site products at cheap prices?

The power of Deal sites lies in the volume. Not by selling 1000 units to a couple of re-sellers but by selling to 1000 unique customers.  Manufacturers are often stuck with excess or unsold inventory, and they might go bankrupt. In any case they need to liquidate whatever they have as quickly as possible. Successful deal sites identify opportunities and work out a way to source products at throw-away prices. The focus is not to on the manufacturer, but to please the customer by offering great prices. The focus is on acquiring & retaining customers on long term basis. Not by being happy to sell all the units of bad quality, to achieve short-term sales targets. This will never work. Just see this screenshot from – they will not sell stuff to re-sellers. It’s B2C, not B2B!


Another mistake sites do is to try and sell products at market prices once they’ve achieved good traffic. I can’t believe how people can miss out the obvious flaw with this approach. The source of traffic itself is price. Jeff Bezos’ famous wheel of growth for your reference.

You can either be an Apple or an Amazon., not both. If you’re selling a commodity you can try to become an Amazon – by improving efficiencies & reducing prices. Else you can try to become an Apple by creating innovative & unique products.


Low quality affiliate traffic is good!

May 23rd, 2011

Online businesses essentially the ones that generally leads / conversions through a mix of traffic sources, are particularly harsh towards “low quality” affiliate traffic. Now, let’s define what is considered to be “low quality” for these businesses.

Low quality traffic could be –

1. The traffic that doesn’t convert well
2. The traffic that generates invalid / bad leads

Now, I’d agree that #2 type of traffic should be avoided as it’ll definitely save time in verifying the leads. Sources that generate invalid or bad leads pose a risk : You end-up paying for the invalid leads if those aren’t detected, and even if the invalid leads are detected well, the very process definitely adds an overhead.

The traffic which we should just love is the #1 type of affiliate traffic. Marketing teams generally rush to the affiliate agency as soon as they detect that the traffic from one of the affiliates isn’t converting well. This is because, the low conversion rate of a high traffic affiliate would adversely impact the  overall conversion rate of the site – and hence showing up bad on the reports!

But wait.. Assuming that your site doesn’t get practically slowed down by this traffic, I don’t see anything wrong with the traffic to get rejected! Well, with affiliate traffic – you pay only for the conversions. So, essentially the non-converting traffic you get is all a bonus. Plus, affiliates usually run on 30/45 day cookie. So, if even a small percent of the huge non-converting traffic is converting after the 45 days, you don’t pay for the conversion. More bonus!

Let’s take a use-case. I plan to fly abroad 6 months from now. I come across this ad for a cheap flight booking site through an affiliate ad. I simply bookmark the site. I come back after 3 months and complete my booking with the site. How often do we do this?

Why do marketers forget the product / brand awareness created by the campaign, which could lead to long-term gains? Too much focus on only conversions, isn’t a good thing!

Why will Tumblr dethrone Twitter and Why should you start “Tumbling”

April 24th, 2011

Twitter has become such a powerful force, in a relatively short period. But, how long is it going to be at the helm? The days are numbered, I’d say. Twitter was an excellent idea – however, it was started without monetization plans or future growth ideas. The power of Twitter lies in its simplicity, which really helped in the acceptance of the platform by the masses.

Now, Twitter by definition is a micro-blogging service – which lets you share content limited to 140 characters. This limitation in content size was possibly due to two reasons:

1. Twitter wanted content to be shared via SMS, which was limited to 160 chars
2. Twitter, by very defintion was intended to share bits of content

Social Media is like a 2-sided market place. The platform should be optimal for both the content publishers & the target audience (yet another reason, why Twitter clicked!). Most Twitter publishers publish content, along with a URL (usually shortened) they want the audience to visit. Content publisher’s #1 way would’ve been if the audience could follow their RSS feeds. However, the audience found it easier to follow Twitter, instead. Hence the publishers had to move to Twitter as well!

Now, what’s Tumblr? If Twitter is like a house-hold knife, Tumblr is Swiss Army Knife. Tumblr describes itself as follows:

“Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors, to your theme’s HTML.”

The posts in Tumblr are called as Tumblogs, and they aren’t limited to text. They can be text, audio recordings (sent directly from mobile – and you don’t need internet enabled on your phone!). In addition it comes as a package. With Twitter, one needs to have accounts with URL shortening services & analyse the traffic there. On the other hand, Tumblr allows Google Analytics integration! You can’t make Tumblogs from Twitter – but you can tweet from Tumblr!  Optionally, one can also post Facebook updates from Tumblr.

In short, Tumblr gives you all the tools to publish content. The question is, can Tumblr outscore Twitter’s strength – its simplicity?  Tumblr is currently ranked 54 on Alexa, which is extremely good. However, in a “winner-takes-it-all” market where it is, it needs to reach the masses. When internet was new, no one knew how to send emails. Then, everyone learnt to. Video streaming wasn’t popular with slow internet connections. But, Youtube changed the rule, and got adopted. Twitter achieved excellent adoption as well.

Tumblr is an out-right winner in terms of features. The only barrier I can see is with adoption, which I believe Tumblr will achieve with time. Then, Twitter will be a thing of past!

Why shouldn’t you let an Intern handle Twitter account

March 27th, 2011

Apparently, Marc Jacobs just did that. See what happened.

10 Forces of Online Marketing

January 29th, 2011

In this post, I’ve summarized a list 10 forces that influence the buy/no-buy decision of your consumers, especially in B2C commerce. These forces may be applied through your marketing communications or even the product design. If these forces are applied in right proportions, they can increase your returns many-fold!

1. Force of Requital

If someone helps you or gives something, you’ll feel obliged to return the favor. That’s human tendency, that’s how we’re brought up! Let’s use this in business. Give your customers a free lunch. If you were selling T-Shirts, give away some free t-shirts to potential long term customers. Sometimes the cost of such a campaign would be lower than the cost of acquiring customers through regular PPC. In addition you end up building the Requital force.

If you are into Web Hosting business, give free hosting for a reasonable span: say 3 months. If you are into SEO business, offer a free SEO report. The tricks to this sort of approach are :

a. Identifying the right potential customer base. (Else you’ll end up giving away free stuff to those who’ll never pay for your stuff)
b. Don’t explicity market your products / services. Keep it implicit. For eg, don’t send an SEO report and tell the customer that you’ll improve the numbers for $xxx. (You don’t help someone & ask for a return, do you?)

2. Force of Pricing

Pricing is a very potent force. However, right price is the key here rather than low price. Customers perceive the price as a function of product quality.

So, for them a low priced product could translate into a low quality product. However, if there’s little differentiation in terms of the product or service offered (as perceived by the customers) then low price can help you establish a customer base, especially when you’re new to the business.

On a long term, it may be necessary to stay close to competitors in terms of price, but do not use this as your main force to compete. Because, lower price also means lower margins!

3. Force of Urgency

Customers often take days, if not weeks to make a choice. Let’s say that a customer visits your online store, to buy a wireless speaker, finds what he wants

for $100. He then visits Amazon, to see if he gets a better deal. Then he visits a local store to check the product. A friend who called him two days later, bought similar speakers but is not using them now. Hence he might share the speakers. Or, someone might tell him that wireless speakers don’t produce good sound.

Long-story short – The longer the time span you give your customers to make decision the higher the chances that the customer will not end up buying. gives 1-day deals. So does – they have several deals which are time-bound. Often, the force of urgency does well in tandem with pricing (deals). When you introduce force of urgency, the customer pays a cost for delaying his decision : he misses the deal (which he wouldn’t want to).

4. Force of Scarcity

Using this force requires that you either have : product exclusivity or price advantage. That is, you should either have a product no one else has, or should be able to sell for the product for real low price (force of price again)!.

We see this force in action at Ebay auctions & even Amazon deals. Amazon limits the daily deals by number of units of the item sold. Another example is the Gmail launch. The initial registrations were only through invites, and this created scarcity. In fact, Gmail invites were sold on Ebay for several dollars.

Black-Friday mad-rushes at various sites are also examples of this force. However, to use this force the potential customers should believe (and be sure) that there’s value in what you’re offering.

5. Force of Immediacy

Customers tend to perceive the value in a product delivered tomorrow higher than that of the same product delivered the day after! “Sameday Shipping” can convert atleast 25% better than “Shipping in 3-4 days”. How often do we see this : “Make Payment & Download the Ebook Immediately”. This one is a lot different from “Make Payment & the Ebook will be delivered within 24 hours”. If implementing Immediacy doesn’t cost a lot, it is a force to use to your advantage as it can definitely improve your competitive advantage.

6. Force of Expert Opinion

Expert / Authority opinions can be powerful forces, especially in certain verticals: technology, health etc. People do make their buy/no-buy decisions based on Cnet Editor reviews. New book authors often send out free copies of their books to big names to get expert opinion – which can help with the sales. You can give a free copy of your product or service & ask for a honest review from people believed to be experts in the vertical. May be even a blog post by the expert could help!

7. Force of Social Opinion

We all read product reviews by customers on Amazon before buying a product. This could be an extremely powerful force, specifically if the opinions are negative they could spell doom for the business. A customer needs to read atleast 5-6 good reviews to make a “buy” decision, but it takes only 1 bad review to make a “no-buy” decision! To top that, the ones with bad experiences are more likely to write reviews. The extreme potential of this force has given rise to the practice of ORM (Online Reputation Management). I’ve had some interesting experiences with companies handling this social opinion force very carefully. I’ll share them in one of my later posts.

You can proactively ask your customers to write reviews. Often dis-satisfied customers reply to such review requests with their problem. If you fix them, you’ll get some super-good reviews! You can also incentivize your customers to write honest reviews of your product. Without an incentive, two types of customers write reviews by themselves: The dis-satisfied ones, and the over-satisfied ones. It’d take a bit of effort to over-satisfy your customers!

8. Force of Fitting the Frame

This force is the one that marketing guru Seth Godin, discusses in his book “All Marketers are liars”. Customers see the the world from a certain frame or beliefs. This frame is based on the way they were brought up, and the environment in which they’ve been. So, as marketers you need to tell them what they would believe based on their current beliefs. ie., Extrapolate their current beliefs, such that it helps you sell. The better the fit of your extrapolation, the better it is for your sales!

For example, you would have heard of SEO Hosting. We all are with the frame (belief) that links from different C-Class IP addresses would help with our SEO efforts. Businesses have used this belief to come up with SEO Hosting giving multiple C-Class IP addresses per account. If I start a simple webhosting service, without multiple C-Class IP addresses I shouldn’t be targetting the SEO savvy guys. I should be rather targetting the normal webmasters, because they don’t believe in SEO Hosting (or probably not aware of it).

If you were selling sunglasses & lenses, and if the customers coming to your store probably believe that wearing sunglasses makes them cool. So, tell them how the sunglasses you sell makes them extra cool, rather than trying to sell them colored contact-lenses claiming that sun-glasses aren’t as cool! That would be a very bad idea.

9. Force of Consistency

Customers try to be consistent with what they say. So, the trick is to map your product or service with what the customers would be consistent with. This method is used by sales-people across the globe, and is also widely used in sale copy-writing.  This force should have its place in your site’s sales copy. For eg, ask them “Isn’t your site getting enough traffic?”,

“Are your SEO efforts not giving enough results?”. The customers would say “Yes” for each of those questions, within their minds. A series of these “Yes” creates a positive disposition. Now, finally propose your solution!

10. Force of Safety

Customers are often worried before making the payment – What if this thing doesn’t work? What if this purchase makes me regret? This is probably the last barrier to the “buy” decision. Assure them that they would never have to regret. Businesses offer warranty on electronic goods. We see money-back guarantee on several software packages too.  When you offer your customers safety, ensure that the same isn’t abused.

15 SEO mistakes to avoid

January 23rd, 2011

Linking Strategies

While Google does credit your website for incoming links, it doesn’t hesitate to penalize you for bad link building & SEO practices. Some of these methods might give you a short-term boost in SERPs, however – the chances of getting penalized is pretty high.

1. Strictly avoid Xrumer blasts – spamming on Forums & Blogs. If your spam links do end up appearing as blog comments or forum posts, they should be among the hundreds of viagra / pills related links. So easy to find & as easy to penalize.

2. Link Wheels. Would Google expect proper well connected link wheels for sites like Reuters, MSN etc? When you build link wheels, you are telling Google “I’m trying to fool you”. If your link wheel has a pattern simple enough for us to understand, Google can decode it easily as well.

3. Reciprocal Linking / Three-way linking. These don’t work. Google is smarter!

4. Directory Spammission. Avoid directory submission using services like 1000 directory submission for $9.95, or automated tools.

5. Avoid sitewide / irrelevant links. It sounds good to get links from PR5 pages. However it contributes little to nothing if the links aren’t relevant. For eg., a site-wide link for a travel portal from a health blog makes little sense!

6. Avoid buying links from Made-for-PayU2Blog type blogs. While generating links from guest posts on blogs is a good idea, sites like Payu2Blog have given rise to a new segment of “bloggers”. People buy dropping high PR domains, install WordPress & start making paid blog posts.

7. Don’t generate too many low quality links in one go. Space out & schedule your link-bulding. Specifically, if you’re in a competitive niche your site might get sand-boxed / penalized.

8. Don’t try to generate links / word of mouth through negative reviews (AKA Decormyeyes case)!

On-Page SEO

9. Avoid Keywords Stuffing – Stuffing keywords with text matching background color, small font, within CSS etc. Easy for the big G to catch!

10. Avoid Stuffing Keywords on Title – Stuffing keywords on the title would reduce the CTR, which would eventually bring down your traffic as well as SERP position!

11. Don’t stuff the Meta Description with keywords.

12. Avoid trying to create a page for each keyword you’re targeting (mis-spells, notations etc). Google understands the context of a page for a set of keywords.

General SEO

13. Never try to use keywords you “think” as right, or may be your competitors are using. Always research keywords, before starting your link-building activity.

14. Don’t build links before having decent content. Content & Site Structure is the king. Many webmasters focus on link-building before having good content. The order is : Keyword Research – Content & Site Structure – Link Building

15. Don’t waste money on : “Submission to 150 Search Engines for $3.95” kind of services.

DecorMyEyes, Google & Reverse SEO

December 30th, 2010

Bad BusinessThis post is with reference to the DecorMyEyes case where the business owner deliberately generated negative publicity and hence achieved better search engine rankings for his website. In the next few days, Google announced on its blog, that it had revised its algorithms so that such practices aren’t fruitful. However, Google has also mentioned that the tweaks to the algorithm have been kept as a secret as they don’t want people to start exploiting them.
On paper it sounds like a fine story. But, do you think that Google didn’t expect such things to happen? Google has, in the past identified harmful sites, sites that spread virus / malware and have either blocked those sites (or at least warned users). Well, identifying such sites is simple. Google simply needs to scan the sites for malware, and then tag them red.

Now, identifying and penalizing the sites/businesses with bad business practices or customer ratings could be tricky. Well, I don’t question Google’s ability to do a “sentiment”-analysis looking reviews & feedback of a certain portal. The question is – how easy it to fake such sentiments: AKA Reverse SEO. And I’d certainly doubt Google’s ability to sort out “fake” sentiments.

For starters, Reverse SEO is the practice of bringing down the ranking of competitor websites (and hence improving ours), by building links from bad neighborhoods, negative reviews on portals etc. From my own experience and what I’ve heard from people, Reverse SEO has been working to some extent – well before Google announced changes to its algorithm claiming to penalize “bad” sites. So, Google was already penalizing the bad boys. However, the problem is identifying the bad boys with confidence and penalizing them appropriately.

Let us the compare this situation with that of social bookmarking sites, which have been doing well through community efforts. Social Bookmarking sites like Digg, etc have survived despite the onslaught of SEO guys because they have the reputation system. These sites have regular users who follow other users, comment & digg good links. One cannot digg random links with no quality content, and still be a reputed member. It is not easy (though not impossible) to replicate such a system by individual SEO guys. However, in case of negative reviews – which happens through review / complaint portals it is difficult to maintain such a reputation system. You don’t regularly follow negative reviews & complaints. And you don’t keep posting reviews every week!  You tend to buy different products (read it as “random”), and hence can post reviews on random products / services – Something that can be easily emulated by SEO guys.

Hence as Google subtly mentioned in their blogpost, their system isn’t still accurate to weed out the bad boys based on negative reviews. But if Google is increasing its focus on using negative reviews to weed out junk, it gives enough license for the “Reverse SEO” guys to go out and start attacking their competitors with negative links. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to encourage reverse SEO, but to show how Reverse SEO can harm your business. The negative reviews needn’t necessarily be posted by your customers – but by your competitors, for they now have more reasons to do the same. This is something Google wants to avoid – battle of negative reviews!

IRCTC & Marketing Strategies

August 22nd, 2010

IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) is a subsidiary of Indian Railways that manages catering, tourism – and importantly online booking for trains running under Indian Railways.

Some of the schemes, promotions and marketing activities sound pretty weird to me. Now – how does online reservation work in India? You can’t travel in most Indian trains without booking in advance, as the unreserved coaches are a few and often over-crowded. Well, IRCTC lets you book in advance online. Plus, there are various sites (agents) who can sell tickets too: like Cleartrip, Makemytrip, Yatra etc. Now, in order to prevent abuse of Tatkal tickets (tickets that can be booked just 2 days before the date of travel) IRCTC opens the booking of these tickets at 8 AM at its own site, while agents have access to these tickets only at 9 AM. Mostly, the tatkal tickets are gone before 9 AM. Fine.

No problems with all that. But look at this rule: You can book only max 10 bookings per month on IRCTC! Apparently this is an “effort” to crop agent bookings! Ridiculous. What do people do? They book normal tickets on agent sites, and visit IRCTC just for Tatkal bookings. Is IRCTC indirectly encouraging middle-men this way?

Second.. Frequent Traveller program. You get upto 10% cash back in the form on points, on 2-Tier AC/ FC AC or AC Executive CC tickets. The points can be redeemed against future bookings. Well, this sounds like a ploy to capture people who would otherwise travel by flight. However, is this segment so price-sensitive? Flight fares are usually twice the First Class AC fares – and would this segment really bother about the 10% cash backs? Also, in this case the actual target segment would be inter-city travellers: essentially nearby cities like Chennai-Bangalore, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Ahmedabad etc. In these routes its hard to get tickets on the mentioned classes in the first place! Those coaches fill-out even before the other classes do, as the trains have very few coaches belonging to these classes. On top of this, IRCTC allows only 10 bookings per month! And why a “frequent” traveller program with such a limitation?

Well I do not have any idea on the exact strategies behind these schemes, and whether they’re working as intended. But these are just my views, as an outside from whatever information is available to me!