Manchester United – first time VIP

When I was in my second year at university I worked for a while in the executive lounges at Old Trafford. I remembered wondering why people spent so much money to get fed a meal and watch a Manchester United game, when I though the real atmosphere and excitement of going to a game was going like a regular, true fan – dressed up, drunk, cold, singing and without having to worry about leaving ten minutes before the games finishes just to miss the traffic.

Last night I was fortunate enough to get invited to go to the game, for free, VIP style. I think I now have a better understanding, for the most part, why people fork out over £3,000 per person for a season at the suites instead of the £600 or so needed to get a Stretford End season ticket.

Captain’s Lounge – Old Trafford

The decision is, for most people, purely a business one. Get a table of four for £15,000, and you get:

  • To watch the game, with tasty food, a free programme and gift, entertainment, great seats and a place to chill out afterwards if you are driving and want to wait for the traffic to pass.
  • A place to host potential clients
  • Incentives you can offer to employees who perform well
  • A great way to develop or sustain good relationships with suppliers, key clients or important contacts in your network.
  • The cost is probably tax-deductable while I doubt you can pull that off with standard season tickets.

I think for any mid-sized company with owners that are Manchester United fans, executive tickets for every United game is well-worth the money.

One thing I would do though, no matter what, I will have a system in place to make sure that there is always someone at my table if I can’t make it – too many seats are paid for and empty. Even if its just a little thank you for your business (clients) or hard work (employees), I am sure there are people in your network that would appreciate the gesture – after all, its all already paid for, and for goodness sake, its tickets to a Manchester United game, the greatest team in the world.

30 Day Challenge Experience

I’ll admit it, this year I am yet to the do the 30 Day Challenge (now re-branded to “the Challenge“). I suck, I know. I have however done it for the past three years and although none of the websites I have created through the 30DC are making me millions, I have made money from all of them.

It was interesting for me to observe the evolution of the method used through the SEO of two sites which have similar competition and were created, step-by-step, using the suggestions from the 30DC crew.

The first is: Poker Amateur

  • The site ranking for the search term “poker amateur” is NON-EXISTENT. I have a very strong feeling that some of the suggestions from the 30DC that year were in fact black-hat SEO tactics (or at least ‘not-encouraged’). This may have penalised me because it was ranking quite well for a while.
  • I realise that LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Scribd all rank really well with Google. Although the relevance factor is often missing, I am still convinced it is worth having a profile/articles on all of these – 75% of my traffic comes from these sites.

The second site is: Diamond In Africa

  • Ranking really, really well. In fact I see it as no1. for the search term “diamonds in africa“. Could be slightly different for others.
  • I believe that ‘phrase’ is not commercially attractive and my intuition is that people searching for “diamonds in africa” are most probably not looking to buy. However I have two results on the first page of searches for “buy diamonds from africa”. Score! Probably should set up some conversion tracking to check were people enquiring about prices have come from.
  • As our target market and greatest traffic is from clients in the US, I specified on Google Webmasters that the site should be focused on US searches. The odd things is, as soon as I did this I got to no.1 for but went down the rankings in Odd… Things seem to have returned to normal now though.
  • Getting about 250 clicks per month, 70% of that traffic comes from search engines. SEO Score! Market Size fail!
  • I now rank higher than the site for my SEO phrase – somehow I thought I would never take no1 away from that site, but I now know the big guys can be removed from their throne. Amazon and Wikipedia, make way for Nik and his cheesy SEO tactics. (I wonder if I’ll now rank for “cheesy SEO”)

My question, to anyone willing to answer this is…

“How important is the domain name? If I find a market that can be SEOd (good traffic, little competition) should I pursue it even if I can’t get a good domain name for the keyword? Also, I have been reading something about the new Google algorithm liking brands… does this mean its now easier to build a and optimise it for a different set of keywords?”

Its clear that Diamonds In Africa is a success while Poker Amateur was not. I now know there are many reasons for this but my advice to anyone doing the 30DC is: Think of it as rough guide, not an Internet marketing bible… but as far as rough guides go… the 30DC is pretty damn good.

PPC – The 10 Golden Lists

The second entry to the 10 Golden Lists is on pay-per-click (PPC), on average the most effective and widely used type of advertising on the Internet. I have only recently started using PPC and am definitely a newbie. I will add to this post as I acquaint myself and test out the different platforms.

The most widely used PPC platform is Google’s AdWords but for a holistic approach to the topic, I have divided PPC into three categories:

  1. Search Engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing
  2. Social Networks – Facebook, LinkedIn
  3. Content-related – potentially any website on the Internet

As it remains the most important, lets start with the key things to remember about Adwords:

the listings in the red boxes are the one people pay for

Three things decide how good your AdWords campaign is:

(a) Competition: A far greater number of companies will want to have their advert appear when someone searches for a short-tail keyword like “hotel” – just because its a very popular search term. Because AdWords is based on the principles of an auction, the cost to be number one in Google’s search results for “hotel” will be much higher than “luxury hotel in Manchester”, because competition for short-tail keywords is far greater than for long-tail keywords (like the one above). Google has a keyword research tool which can help you find long-tail keywords.
(b) Quality Score (QS): This is a measure Google uses to decide how good and relevant your advert is for the keyword(s) searches you would like for it to show. The most important factor affecting quality score is the historical click-through-rate (CTR). This makes sense now that I’ve done a bit of PPC marketing. What better indication of an ad’s relevance to the search than how many people click on it. The problem with this is the catch-22 of how to you increase your CTR if your QS is low and you’re low in the results – therefore not being able to get a high CTR?

The official info on Quality Score can be found on Wikipedia.

Both ‘competition’ and ‘QS’ establish your cost-per-click (CPC), which is the average amount it costs you every time someone clicks on an advert to your site. Obviously you want to get your CPC to be as low as possible and to do this you need to find keywords that DECREASE the competition. To INCREASE your quality score you need to create well-written ads which point to a landing page that is relevant and uses the ad’s keywords. Here’s a bit more about how to do the latter:

  • 10 ways to increase your AdWords quality score (thanks to RedFlyMarketing):
  1. Split keywords into smaller, more targeted ad groups. Used the in-built keyword grouper tool in the AdWords editor to group keywords into 15 groups of 20 related keywords.
  2. Create relevant ad copy for each group. Create an ad creative for each keyword group using the common grouping keywords.
  3. Optimize Creatives. Keep changing the ad copy, be creative in use of verbs, adjectives and structure; then test to see which ones work best to increase the CTR
  4. Experiment With Matching Options. Check to see if you get a higher QS and lower CPC by using the the ‘broad’, ‘exact’ or ‘phrase’ match for your keyword.
  5. Link Building And SEO. Deep linking on your site using the highest performing keywords (Volume & Conversion Rate). This also helps with the organic SEO campaign. Submit a Google sitemap, make the site semantically coded and correct any navigational issues.
  6. Implement Keywords. For each page implement most of the keywords into the copy.
  7. Split Test Landing Page. I think this refers to A-B testing where you send different adverts to different pages to see where the highest conversion was achieved and then eliminating poor performing pages/ads.
  8. Meta Tags. Add the best performing keywords to the meta tags on each page. Also use the exact ad copy from the best performing ads in the meta description. Use the best performing and most descriptive keyword as the title tag.
  9. Essential Site Pages. Link the site’s privacy policy in the navigation (header or footer). Also add an informative “about us” page, a “terms and conditions” page and a newsletter page if you do not already have them.
  10. Make Sure Google Thinks You’re Relevant. Use the Site-Related Keywords tool to make sure that Google thinks the landing page is related to the keywords being targeted.

However, after doing all this, the only number or metric you really care about is Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA). This is how much it costs you, on average, to make a sale using AdWords. Even if you have a 10/10 QS, using keywords which have little or no competition, if people are not buying enough on your site to cover the cost of using AdWords, then PPC is not a viable option (and perhaps think about whether your business is viable as well)

To decrease the CPA you need to test, a lot. Change things on your site, sometimes being subtle, other times with major changes, and observe if they affect your CPA.

E.g. Heat tests to see where people move the mouse on your site, A-B testing and so on. 

(c) CONVERSION: this is another topic for the 10 Golden Lists altogether as it applies not only to adverts coming from AdWords or any other PPC channel; increasing your site’s conversion is key to success regardless of where the traffic to your site is coming from.

Bing and Yahoo, I have yet to use, but I am sure the subtleties between each one in terms of how they work, are small. Will update this section once I use them or learn more.

In recent times Facebook and LinkedIn have also developed an interesting and unique PPC advertising platform. Interesting because unlike search engines, where relevant ads show based on the phrase searched for, Facebook allows you to target people (500 million or so) based on demographic data. This data includes, A LOT:

  • age
  • gender
  • relationship status
  • place of work
  • interests
  • location
  • place of study
  • …and several others


I have used Facebook (although not LinkedIn) and would recommend the following strategy:

  1. Decide on your target market – or even better several different ones so you can test each one.
  2. Create a Facebook page for your brand – unfortunately studies have shown that conversions on your site for clicks coming from Facebook ads is low, so your CPA might be too large to justify Facebook PPC. However, clicks to an internal Facebook page are cheaper and help you to build a community to which you can hope to sell in the long term.
  3. Change your ads often, especially your images. Research has shown that because with Facebook PPC you target a specific group of people, they tend to subconsciously (and consciously) see your advert quite often. People then start to resent or just ignore your ad.
  4. Be creative, you know a lot about the people you are targeting, giving you a unique opportunity to surprise them.
  5. Test, test and a little more testing. Facebook ads are new and the platform is still widely regarded to be inferior to Google for measures such as CTR and CPA. However, Facebook is hiring loads of awesome engineers and it wont be long before they improve the service offering, so being an early adopter could mean that you get to use it while CPCs are still low (like the good old days at Google).

The final place where PPC ads can be show is on any website that has used a service like Google’s AdSense to display ads. These adverts are only shown where there is content relevant to the ad, but I do not know that much about this just yet to suggest a strategy.

PPC is easy to set up, measurable, works well for short promotions or to steal traffic from competitors who rank well for certain searches. So it should definitely be a part of your digital marketing arsenal.

As a final thought, while Google is clearly the market-leader in PPC, if you are targetting an emerging economy or countries such as Russia or China, you might want to consider each country’s own search giant (Baidu in China and Yandex for Russia)