Serving up my thoughts since 2004

Category: Internet Marketing (page 1 of 2)

New Analytics Web Site

Hi All,

After posting ALL of my ramblings on for almost 6 years, I’ve finally created a dedicated blog just for my professional postings about web analytics, split testing, optimization, internet marketing, etc.

You can check it out at:

I’ll still post my non-work related stuff here, but if you’re looking for the web analyst stuff, please check out my other site.


Google Analytics with State Popularity

Have you ever used the map overlay report in Google Analytics?
It’s a fairly straight forward report that provides site metrics broken down by geographic region.

When viewing data for the United States, you get a row of data for each state.
Most of the metrics provide useful information if the visitor’s state has any significance to your business.

For example, visitors from Ohio might have a significantly lower conversion rate than other states, prompting you to adjust you online campaigns accordingly.

There is one metric though that’s alway’s annoyed me.
That metric is Visits.

The Visits metric simply tells you the number of visits to your site, and in our case, the number of visits from a specific state.
The problem is that in it’s raw form, this number doesn’t really provide any value.

Looking at a site that is evenly popular throughout the United States, you’ll usually see these states as the top four:

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida

Guess what? These states are the states with the largest population.

What I really want to see is how popular a site is per state, factoring in the actual state population.

Lets call this metric State Popularity.

In the past I simply downloaded the visits per state data into an excel spreadsheet and divided the number of visits by the state population. Crude, but it works.

I was discussing this with Jeremy Aube who wrote the fantastic Google Analytics Report Enhancer (or G.A.R.E) plugin for FireFox. I asked him if he could add State Popularity functionality to GARE and a few days later he did it!

Here’s what it the report looks like with the new version of the GARE plugin:


The stats above are for a site that provides reviews and cheats for video games.

Looking at California (#2) and Washington (#7) it becomes obvious that although the site has almost three times more visitors from California than from Washington, I would guess that Washington has more gamers per-capita than California.

You can download the latest version of GARE from here:

Download the latest version of GARE

Jeremy should have more details about the technical side of things on his blog shortly.

Jeremy just posted a blog entry with the details of his implementation on the ROI Revolution Blog

Enjoy and big thanks to Jeremy!

– Ophir

Domain Names Are Not Case Sensitive (and why a marketer should care)

Just a quick tip for all you Internet Marketers out there:

Domain names are not case sensitive.

Why should you care?

Which of the following is easier to read (and remember)? or

so … it makes sense to use a mixture of upper and lower case letters when you’re dealing with multi word domain names.

Awesome New Features on Google Analytics

Google just announced some awesome new features on the official Google Analytics blog:

Most of the features are “being added to all accounts in the coming weeks”.
This includes advanced segmentation, custom reports, motion charts, and a new Account Management Dashboard.

They’re also going to eventually be releasing a data API, but if you really wanted to, you can already grab the Google Analytics data manually.

I’m impressed.

Avinash also has a great posting on the advanced segmentation function.

Good Online Marketing Books

Here’s a short list of some of the online marketing books I’ve read over the past few years (in no particular order).

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
You need to read this book. Even if your not in marketing, this is one of the better books I have ever read that explains the why and not just the what of human behaviour, specifically, in terms persuading someone to do something.

Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing
The Eisenberg brothers do a great job explaining why you need to look at your customers in multiple dimensions. Implementing their suggestions isn’t something is easy, but for anyone who’s reached the “lowest common denominator wall”, this is your best way to improve your site.

Continue reading

Google Website Optimizer Review

The past couple of weeks I’ve been using Google’s website optimizer as part of their beta test.

Overall, I’m very impressed. From a business perspective this make so much sense. Anything that can improve a site’s conversion rate is a true win-win for Google and the advertiser. We get more sales, our cost per sale goes down and then we can afford to bid more on words that already work and convert marginal keywords from the loosing money to the making money pile.

Google is already providing excellent tools to help advertisers improve the performance of their AdWords campaigns. As always, they are ahead of the everyone else, by understanding that in order for them to succeed, they needs their customers (AdWords advertisers) to succeed.

I’m impressed with their implementation of the tool itself. I’ve used other split testing tools before, like, but I really, really like Google’s solution. I encountered one of their initial bugs which was very annoying at first, but it’s been fixed. They’ve also recently improved the integration with Google Analytics.

I do have a couple of “gripes”.

First and foremost, they should have named it something other than “Google Website Optimizer”. The name is too generic. When I did a search for Google Website Optimizer (no quotes) most of the results I got deal with optimizing your website for Google. A search with quotes got me better results, but ultimately, I think they should have gone with a name that’s unique enough so searches will return relevant results. For example, AdWords, AdSense and Gmail are all unique names.

I can’t think of anything really good for a new name, but here are some ideas:

  • Googimizer
  • OptiGoogle (scratch that, sounds to much like OptiMost, a different split testing service)
  • Gwoptimizer
  • GWO (scratch that to, sounds to much like GWB (George W Bush).
  • Gsplit

I have some inside secrets that I’d like to share but I need to confirm with our Google rep. before I can talk about it 😉

If you have any questions about Google Website Optimizer, please feel free to ask.

Are you promoting someone else’s site without even knowing it?

Are you promoting someone else’s site without even knowing it?
My tale of being victim to a below-the-belt SEO tactic.

Recently, we added user forums to our company web site, in order to give our customers and potential customers a place to voice their questions and opinions. We settled on using Invision Power Board (IPB) which runs using PHP and MySQL.

A couple of weeks ago I installed a modification to our forums which makes the URL of the pages appear to be static html pages and it also inserts the topic title into the URL. The modification package (also called a “mod”) is called FURL, which is short for “Friendly URL”.
Friendly meaning the URLs are more search engine friendly.

After installing the FURL modification, instead of using this URL:
it uses this URL:

Both of the above URLs take you to the same page, but the second one both looks nicer, and is supposed to improve search engine placement.

Last night, I wanted to check if Google was picking up the URLs with the static or dynamic URLs, so I searched for a pretty unique phrase from one of the pages: “It sounds like RESPeRATE is working well for you” and surely enough, the page had been picked up, but the URL it was showing was the dynamic one, not the static one.

I was curious to see how Google was seeing the page so I clicked on the cached button:

google result

That’s when my jaw dropped

There was some additional stuff I had never seen before at the top of the page which looked like this:

with furl header

Instead of the normal forum section header which looks like this:

header without furl

The modification I installed didn’t just modify the URLs. It also added, unknowingly to me, some extra text at the top of the page as well as some links to other pages – but the added text was only being shown to the Google spider, and was not visible to a normal human viewing the site. This alone can get you banned from Google.

The fact that FURL adds this content is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation or installation instructions.

It really saddens me that the author of FURL added a very underhanded tactic improve their search engine rankings.
If they would have added a small footer to the bottom the page that was shown to everyone, I would have been perfectly OK with that and would have left it.

It seems that quite a few sites have FURL installed and are affected by this SEO hack. If you do a search for “SEO Powered by FURL” in Google, it says over 2 million results.

* sigh *

I looked at the source code of the mod itself which does have this “”disclaimer”:


// Tracking Code / Copyright String - DO NOT REMOVE
// -----------------------------------------------=
// !!Please leave this code in, if you dont then please remove the mod from your site!!
// !!You are only free to use this mod while the following line is in!!
// I went to alot of time making this mod and would like a little
// in return so i can continue to spend time upgrading it,
// instead of charging for this mod ive put some link code in
// this just links back to my site using my keywords to improve
// my rating on Search Engines, the links only appears to search
// bots though so its not on every page.
// Its also because i like seeing my mods in use on other peoples sites!

also – I got a writeup from john andrews at

ipb seo friendly urls with iis

So we’ve been running the user forums at for a few weeks and we’re getting some good user entries. We’re using invision power board 2.1 on a windows 2003 box running IIS6 and php 4.3.

Of course I want the URLs to be search engine friendly, but I was not able to find anyone claiming to have a solution for IIS. they all want mod_rewrite under apache.

So after a bit of googling, this looks like what I want:

but of course it also wants mod_rewrite. no biggie – I say to myself. I’ll just google mod_rewrite and IIS.
after of searching, this seems to be what I want – isapirewrite:

At this point I actually started reading about their linkfreeze product, which seemed like a plug and play solution for what I wanted (albeit not as good as FURL) so I downloaded it and tried it out. To make a long story short, linkfreeze doesn’t work with Invision Power Board 2.1 out of the box.Update: I just got a reply from them saying that linkfreeze doesn’t work with http compression turned on (makes sense).

So, back to my original plan, I decide to go with isapirewrite. This is a commercial product, but for some strange reason, I figured that it’s of better quality than the free mod_rewrite for IIS solutions out there.

I install it, but it’s not doing anything. Zilch.

A bit more reading the docs (if all else fails, read the docs) it seems that there are some special notes on using isapirewrite under IIS 6. as per the instructions I add iis_wpg group access to the files and viola – it’s working!
of course the syntax for isapirewrite is not exactly the same as mod_rewrite so I had to make a few changes to the .htaccess file the comes with FURL.

Here is the correct syntax to get FURL to work with IIS and isapirewrite:

# mod_rewrite in use
#RewriteEngine On
# Uncomment following line if your webserver's URL
# is not directly related to physival file paths.
# This is usually not needed.
# RewriteBase /YourForumDirectory
# Rules
# Gallery
RewriteRule /gallery.html(.*) /index.php?act=module&module=gallery$1
RewriteRule /(.*)-t([0-9][0-9]*)-s([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showtopic=$2&st=$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-t([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showtopic=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-new-topic-f([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Post&CODE=00&f=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-new-poll-f([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Post&CODE=10&f=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-f([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showforum=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-a-private-message-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=4&MID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-an-email-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Mail&CODE=00&MID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showuser=$2$3
# Login/Logout
RewriteRule /logout.html(.*) /index.php?act=Login&CODE=03$1
RewriteRule /login.html(.*) /index.php?act=Login&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /register.html(.*) /index.php?act=Reg&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /the-moderating-team.html(.*) /index.php?act=Stats&CODE=leaders$1
RewriteRule /todays-top-10-posters.html(.*) /index.php?act=Stats$1
RewriteRule /member-list.html(.*) /index.php?act=Members$1
RewriteRule /online-list.html(.*) /index.php?act=Online$1
RewriteRule /(.*)-h([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=help&CODE=01&HID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)help.html(.*) /index.php?act=Help$2
RewriteRule /my-controls.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /compose-new-message.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=04$1
RewriteRule /inbox.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01&VID=in$1
RewriteRule /sent-items.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01&VID=sent$1
RewriteRule /saved-pms.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=20$1
RewriteRule /empty-pm-folders.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=delete$1
RewriteRule /edit-storage-folders.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=07$1
RewriteRule /pm-buddies.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=02$1
RewriteRule /archive-messages.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=14$1
RewriteRule /message-tracker.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=30$1
RewriteRule /new-messages.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01$1
RewriteRule /view-topic-subscriptions.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=26$1
RewriteRule /view-forum-subscriptions.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=50$1
RewriteRule /edit-profile-info.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=01$1
RewriteRule /edit-signature.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=22$1
RewriteRule /edit-avatar-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=24$1
RewriteRule /change-personal-photo.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=photo$1
RewriteRule /manage-your-attachments.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=attach$1
RewriteRule /manage-ignored-users.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=ignore$1
RewriteRule /email-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=02$1
RewriteRule /board-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=04$1
RewriteRule /change-email-address.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=08$1
RewriteRule /change-password.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=28$1
RewriteRule /ip-tool.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=iptool$1
RewriteRule /member-tool.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=memtool$1
RewriteRule /manage-anoucements.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=announce_start$1
RewriteRule /get-new-posts.html(.*) /index.php?act=Search&CODE=getnew$1
RewriteRule /forums.html(.*) /index.php?act=idx$3

deceptive wording

This is one of the sneakiest uses I’ve seen in a while for deceptive wording:

Seen Advertised via Google on:

seen on

You can see it at:

In other words, you might see their advertisements on the above sites, which are served via google.

* sigh *

Amazon links to external reviews

I just noticed a new feature on amazon. Links to external reviews. The new section is called “News and Reviews About This Product “.

For example, I was looking at the page for the canon sd500
Sure enough, there were three links to reviews from some of the top digital camera sites. Albeit, the links did open up new windows, but why chance sending away visitors?

My first theory was that these sites are probably amazon affiliates, so in essence any purchases would be sending buyers back to amazon. This was not the case. The sites obviously use non amazon online stores, some of which are cheaper than amazon.

I’m guessing this is more of a test at the moment than something which is a sure win for the site.

What do you think?

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