Category Archives: marketing


adriana iordan.jpgI was flattered to be asked to do an interview by Adriana Iordan of Avangate (pictured left). How could I refuse given that the previous 3 interviewees were Bob Walsh (author of “Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality” [1]), David Boventer (founder of ESWC) and Eric Sink (top software blogger and almost legendary founder of SourceGear)? Adriana, if you could interview Joel Spolsky, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs next, that would be perfect. ;0)

The interview is here.

[1] This is Bob’s affiliate link. If you follow the link are currently offering Bob’s book together with “Eric Sink on the Business of Software” for $36.28. They are both well worth a read for any budding software entrepreneur. The price is nearly double (pounds for dollars) if you buy them from How can Amazon justify that sort of price difference?

Google Adwords ‘placement performance’ report

Google Adwords placement reportYou can now find out what sites your Google content ads are appearing on, using the new ‘placement performance’ report. This will alllow you to spot under-performing sites in a content campaign. To exclude a site from your campaign click the ‘excluded site(s)’ link at the top of the appropriate campaign page.

My placement report for June shows that PerfectTablePlan has had 25,309 impressions and 0 clickthroughs from Does that make it officially the least cool software ever? ;0)

Google playing fast and loose with broad match?

do_no_evil.gifIf you use Google Adwords you will want to read this article by Dave Collins. If correct (and I have no reason to believe otherwise) it is pretty outrageous. Not content to force up the price of bids artificially by invalidating keywords they are now apparently showing your ads for broad matches you didn’t bid on, i.e. extremely broad matches. This could in turn lead to a lower CTR and more invalid keywords.

Better start examining those logs and polishing those negative keywords…

The importance of targeted website traffic

Anyone who has a website can’t help but care how many people visit it. It’s great for our vanity to know that someone else is seeing our creation. Also, if you are running a business, more hits equals more sales doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily.

Take as many hits as you like and multiply it by a 0% chance of purchasing and you still end up with no sales. What matters is not just the number of visitors, but also the quality. Visitors that have a high likelihood of buying your software are said to be ‘targeted’. What you need is targeted traffic (preferably lots of it).

Targeted traffic is particularly important when you are paying per visitor e.g. using pay per click schemes such as Google Adwords. If you are paying $0.40 per click and your software retails at $40 you need more than a 1% conversion rate or you will just be donating to Larry and Sergey’s 767 fund.

I can illustrate the importance of targeted traffic with three examples from my own table plan software website.

1. Earlier this year I agreed for PerfectTablePlan[1] to be used as part of the demonstration of D-Wave’s prototype quantum computer in return for some free publicity. The controversial demonstration got huge publicity in the IT and high-tech communities. Sadly PerfectTablePlan didn’t get a mention in the press release as I was expecting, but it did get a mention in the D-Wave founder’s blog.

  • Click throughs from D-Wave founder’s blog: 566
  • Sales: 0
  • Conversion rate: 0%

2. I hang out on the JoelOnSoftware Business of Software forum quite a bit (especially when there are boring jobs I should really be doing). People often click through to the PerfectTablePlan website from my signature.

  • Click throughs from Business of Software forum: 4,757
  • Sales: 1
  • Conversion rate: 0.02%

3. PerfectTablePlan is built using the Qt framework by Trolltech and gets a mention on their cool apps page.

  • Click throughs from Trolltech coolapps page: 1,922
  • Sales: 2
  • Conversion rate: 0.1%

The data above is based on web stats and using cookies to track the initial referrer of sales. I don’t pretend it is hugely accurate, for example it doesn’t take account of someone clicking through to my site and then emailing the URL to a friend who then buys the software. But it is accurate enough for current purposes.

Adding all 3 examples together the conversion rate averages 0.04%, or about £0.01 revenue per click. So I would have lost a lot of money if I was paying for these clicks through Adwords. What these 3 examples have in common is that they were untargeted. The people clicking through to my site were primarily interested in quantum computing, selling software or creating cross-platform software, not creating table plans.

From better targetted traffic (e.g. people searching for “table plans” on Google) I do much better, with a conversion rate typically in the range 1% to 10%, depending on how well targeted it is. That is 25 to 250 times better than the less targeted traffic.

So, next time you are boasting about the number of hits on your site (or bemoaning the lack) remember that hit counts is a flawed metric. Like LOC (lines of code) it is easy to measure, but not terribly meaningful. You need quality as well as quantity.

[1] Actually an adapted version interfacing with their D-Wave quantum solver, rather than using PerfectTablePlan’s own genetic algorithm.

Google Adwords Editor

google adwords editorGoogle has a free desktop tool for managing Adwords accounts. Obviously downloading all your data on to your desktop offers the potential to remove some of the latency inevitable in managing large amounts of data online. However the Google Adwords web app was sufficiently good and the desktop app sufficiently bad that it wasn’t really an improvement. It was buggy (if you tried to add a phrase as broadmatch when you already had it as exact match you got a blank wizard window), lacking in basic GUI etiquette (simple things like Ctrl+click and Shift+click selection didn’t work) and slow. I can’t have been the only developer to delight in that fact that the gods of Mountain View had feet of clay when it came to desktop apps.

Anyway they seem to have fixed some of the issues and the latest version (3.5.0) is reasonably useable. Some of the things that I prefer it for over the web interface include:

  • adding new keywords to multiple campaigns
  • looking for inactive keywords across multiple campaigns
  • looking for keywords with low CTR or high conversion costs across multiple campaigns

I just wish they would add lifetime stats, as well as stats for the last 30 days, 7 days and yesterday.

Microsoft AdCenter vs Google AdWords

microsoft adcenter.gifI have been using Google Adwords since I launched PerfectTablePlan over 2 years ago. I started using Yahoo Overture (as it was then called) at about the same time, but gave up on it due to the lousy user interface and the poor return on investment. Always on the lookout for new ways to promote my product I recently decided to investigate the new-kid-on-the-block: Microsoft AdCenter.

My first impression is that Microsoft have copied Google Adwords. Badly. All the standard Adwords stuff is there: campaigns, adgroups, exact/phrase/broad match, negative keywords etc, they haven’t even bothered to change the terminology in most cases, but it feels clunky compared to Adwords. Wherever they have made a departure from the Adwords model it appears to be a change for the worse.

  • Negative keywords appear to be associated with phrases, not adgroups or campaigns. I might have 100 negative keywords and I don’t want to record them separately for every phrase!
  • You have to choose a single language for a campaign and you can’t change it. English-UK and English-US are counted as separate languages, so I have set up a UK+English-UK language campaign and a USA+English-US language campaign. Presumably people in the UK with their computer set to English-US won’t see my ads at all, but I can’t be bothered to set up another whole campaign just for them.
  • It confusingly mixes together campaign and adgroup properties in the interface.
  • The user interface is quite monochrome and poorly laid out compared to Adwords.
  • Everything has to be approved before it goes live. It took over 12 hours in my case (with Adwords it would be live in minutes).
  • It is set up so that you can’t store the password in the browser (in FireFox anyway) and times out quickly. Continually re-typing the password gets old quickly.
  • I tried opening AdCenter in 2 browsers so I could compare campaigns. It didn’t handle this well.
  • The minimum bid is £0.05. This automatically makes a whole swathe of keywords uneconomic for me.

But it gets worse. They rejected some of my phrases due to ‘Landing page content not relevant‘. One of the phrases was “seating plan” with a landing page The easiest way to create seating plans. How much more relevant can I make it? This sort of arbitrary interference was one of the things that made Overture so frustrating.

The number of impressions are much lower than Google, but there are also fewer advertisers, so my ads rank higher. Overall AdCenter clicks are currently running at about 10% of what I get through AdWords[1]. It is too early to say how conversion rates compare. But if the profit is only 10% of what I get through Adwords it might not be worth the effort to maintain.

It would be great to have a real contender to Adwords to keep Google on their toes. I’m not a Microsoft-hater and I really wanted to like AdCenter, but my first experiences are not favourable. To be fair, it is early days for AdCenter and I am still learning the ropes. I’ll let it run for a while before I make any decision about pulling the plug.

Microsoft have a reputation for bringing out a lousy version 1.0 and then continually improving it until it crushes all opposition, so it would be unwise to write them off this early in the game. But I think they have got a long way to go before they catch up with where Adwords is now.

[1] I have a lot less phrases in AdCentre than Adwords, but I do have all the most important phrases.

Effects of the GoogleCheckout badge on clickthroughs

Google Adwords adJust over a month ago I added GoogleCheckout as a payment processor on my site. This resulted in the much vaunted GoogleCheckout badge being displayed next to my Adwords Ads. I expected an increase in clickthough ratio (% of people who see the ad who click on it) due to greater visibility and a consequent decrease in conversion ratio (% of clickers who go on to buy) due to the greater visibility attracting more ‘tyre kickers’.

I have now looked through 2 months of data (a month before and a month after) and the exact opposite has happened. My Adwords clickthrough ratio has dropped by 10%, but the conversion ratio has increased by 20%. Perhaps the badge is actually putting off the tyre kickers by making it clear that the product isn’t free? It is hard to know how much of this is due to the badge and how much is due to other factors and I will be checking the stats again in another month. I would be interested to know whether other people have had similar results.

The moral of the story is: don’t assume, measure.