My Year In Review, Scratchpad Style

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Here’s what I’ve experienced and learned in the past year. Feel free to skim, but as with my scratchpad first discussing submarine crawling, what you read here today may be industry-changing search news in 6 months…

First, non-cash spending is a slippery beast. My high school economics teacher, Mrs. Guedon, actually taught us this and yet I dismissed her preference for using cash as being silly and old-fashioned when an ATM can easily give you an update on your account balance.

Unfortunately, ATMs are not especially good at keeping your spending in check. Especially when you’re paranoid like me and feel the need to destroy your ATM receipts – your memory of account balances ends up being pretty weak.

In 2009, I’m going to review my monthly cash-flow – in all accounts – much more closely.

Second, StumbleUpon ads have a very variable ROI and pricing. I experimented heavily with StumbleUpon ads over the past year and spent roughly $1400.

From what I’ve seen of other StumbleUpon advertising case studies, this is some of the most extensive advertising anyone will publicly recognize. I’m sure there are bigger spenders, but they don’t want their social media success to look fake.

Personally, I’m in the online marketing business, I know that distribution is key and I’m not embarassed to say I advertise my content. I’m proud of it really, because it shows how much effort and pride I take in my material.

That’s a big digression though. What you need to know about SU Ads is this:

  • The bounce rate is about the same as other SU traffic – often around 95%. For you money, that means that you’re really getting 5 cents on the dollar worth of traffic that is going to pay attention to your content. Though SU prices their traffic at 5 cents a visit, you’re really paying $1/visit.
  • But wait! StumbleUpon traffic is unique: It generates its’ own follow-up traffic when your paid visitors give you thumbs up and reviews! So you’re not really paying $1 visit.
  • It’s hard to quantify precisely how much follow on traffic you get. I tried digging into my analytics to tell you, but it’s reporting fewer visitors than I even paid for. That’s normal, since we’re talking about web analytics that relies on javascript, which many stumblers block. Test SU ads yourself if you must know.
  • Complicating things further, when you’re buying large quantities of StumbleUpon traffic as I was, and “friending” the stumblers who give you thumbs up, this leads to more reviews and traffic. So there’s a latent benefit.
  • The catch is that those relationships, if not kept up, wither and the latent traffic dissapears. Except for my loyal friend and reader, Ann Smarty (internationally famous link building pro, and noted blogger), I rarely get folks stumbling my content any more *sniffle.
  • In fairness, that’s largely my fault since I didn’t know what to do to keep building the relationship, after friending those stumblers. I reviewed some of their blogs when I liked them, but most had no sites…
  • On a related note, I think I rarely if ever added StumbleUpon buttons prominently above the fold and throughout my content – this may improve your results.
  • The StumbleUpon analytics aren’t that insightful – most posts get ~1-2%  of folks thumbing them up or down. You only get more than that with controversial content. No offense to the StumbleUpon team – but there’s just not much you can do based on that info, imho. At best you can promote content on the same topics that do well…
  • StumbleUpon no longer lets you advertise SEO content in their “search” category. Considering SEO industry voices like Search Engine Watch made the category, that’s ass-backwards to say the least. Heck, I stumbled the search category recently and saw a meta search engine displaying an award from SEW!
  • For all the talk of quality content gaining links, exposing my content via StumbleUpon attracted hardly any links except for when I released Internal Link Building. FYI: I spent my StumbleUpon budget on original feature length content like disguising text link ads, measuring distribution to project link building success (ironic, I know), domains not being legally equivalent to real estate, how Google would rank for mortgage calculator terms etc.

By comparison, my search engine traffic bounces much less and I suspect is responsible for gaining me various social media links etc.

Third, you really have to know what you’re doing before messing around with buying Facebook ads on their app traffic. And you need a large budget so you have time to optimize. I got myself smoked for hardly any conversions on ~ $300 of testing. Not a big loss, but the ~$30-$40 I made was a punch to the ego. I didn’t have the thousands nor the patience necessary to test that into profitability.

Fourth, launching Internal Link Building was one of the coolest but also most time-consuming projects I handled this year.

  1. I had to handle a bunch of bugs at the outset that slipped through my beta testing.
  2. I got links.
  3. Two more sphinns and it’ll be my first post to make 100! :D.
  4. It taught me to shutup until things are really ready to launch or you piss people off. I announced it before my download counter was working properly, delaying launch by several days and wasting MEGA traffic.
  5. There is a HUMONGOUS search marketing community in the former Soviet Block. Besides the Russians, you have Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians and many more who are deeply involved in this business.

Fifth, if you’re not in it consistently, the domain name game isn’t for you. You need to put up or shut up. While it saddens me to an extent, I hereby resolve to liquidate my domain name portfolio this year.

Amongst other gems:

  • Motocyclette.ca (Motorcycle.ca in French)
  • MontrealHotelReviews.com
  • UserGeneratedContent.ca
  • PMEs.ca (SMEs.ca in French)
  • Gvn.ca, which gets typeins from people presumably looking for the government.
  • NorthfaceJacket(s).org – check the search volume kiddies :)… can you say ecommerce?
  • WebmasterWelfare.com (aka Adcents)

I’d prefer a buyer who can pick up the whole portfolio, to be honest. Email gab at this domain if you’re interested and have a budget in the low 5 figures. My finance domains are particularly sweet generics.

The same goes for affiliate marketing. I haven’t figured out my approach towards affiliate marketing for 09, but I suspect it will be a merely residual monetization stream as I work to develop Original Monetization.

At the end of the day, you need to focus on what you do best – for me, that means coming up with new ideas, not domaining or affiliate marketing or stumbling. It sucks to look back and realize that – even though I knew it from my first year in online marketing – you can’t focus on more than one or two fields at a time, and you have to limit your projects too.

Sixth, search marketing shows rock. Go SMX! The great folks at Third Door Media and their mods gave me my break at SMX West last year (thanks Vanessa!), and then again at SMX Advanced (thanks Stephen!), and I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted back to the podium this year. Let me know if you’re going and we’ll hang out! Also, fyi, you can use “SMXSpeaker” as a discount code to save $100 off the registration for SMX West.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your SU advertising experience - that's something I never tried. And huge thanks for the link ;)

    Comment by Ann Smarty - January 11, 2009 @ 5:44am
  2. I had some similar thoughts about spreading myself too thinly. I was going down the route of both affiliates (and indirectly affiliates) but really pleased I realised early on that in addition to a writing for various blogs, a full-time role and consulting, it was never going to happen! I've reduced my ambitions there for the time-being and promised the Mrs a little extra quality time too! Ahhh! Thanks for sharing!! :)

    Comment by Ben McKay - January 15, 2009 @ 5:51am
  3. Oh, and pleased to have you back! :)

    Comment by Ben McKay - January 15, 2009 @ 5:53am
  4. I think a whole bunch of us get into affiliate stuff only to realize we hardly have time for it. Glad to hear you liked this!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 15, 2009 @ 1:06pm
  5. Happy to help Ann :)

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - January 15, 2009 @ 1:06pm

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