Arkansas Internet Marketing and Arkansas Inbound Marketing Blog

Wilson Kanaday

Recent Posts

GSI & ClearSaleing - Does Anyone Care about Interactive Attribution?

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 @ 23:01 PM

GSI's acquisition of ClearSaleing provides a good time to revisit the field of Interactive Attribution.

Simple Background

The first time I formally heard of Interactive Attribution was a little over a year ago.  Now everyone in web analytics is familiar with the problem that Interactive Attribution is trying to solve; potential clients/customers have numerous touch points with a business before they commit their cash.  So which point should an analyst attribute the conversion?  

  • Google Analytics does it by "last touch", which is to say that the last way a unique visitor came to the website when they converted gets credit for the conversion.
  • Google Adwords creates confusion by attributing conversion to the "first touch."  If a visitor comes by Adwords and then 30 days later by direct navigation and makes a purchase, then the Adwords ad gets the conversion credit.

Right here - at first glance - separate bodies of Google data do not give an apples-to-apples comparison.  There are ways to reconcile this and even hack Google Analytics to adjust the data sets.  

You can imagine how complicated this becomes when you factor in email marketing, social media, display campaigns, retargeting and offline advertising.  

Who gets credit for the sale?  From our view, it seems like everyone should get a little bit of credit for each touch point.  But how much?  Have fun solving that.

Where Is Interactive Attribution Today?

Dax Hamman from Chango - the Search Retargeting Company - did a piece on his blog back in late November accurately stating that not much happened in the Attribution field in the previous twelve months.  A) He's right.  B) The lack of progress caught people off guard (at least the few people that were interested) because once Forrester publishes a report on something it is supposed to become the next big thing.  

In late 2009 the players Forrester named in Interactive Attribution were (you can download the report here):

  • Atlas
  • Coremetrics
  • Theorem
  • TruEffect
  • Visual IQ
  • [x+1]
  • ClearSaleing

ClearSaleing was placed in the prestigious upper right corner.  They are still the player today, not much has changed.  But the ground is starting to shift a little bit.

Josh Dreller pointed out on iMedia in December that Attribution "adoption is still growing, slowly but surely."  In addition, Dreller listed off challenges to Interactive Attribution adoption.  The one that strikes me as the most true was #3 - It is not a high enough priority.  We speak with Interactive Marketers all of the time.  And in passing, they agree Attribution Modeling is a problem.  But they don't seem to actually care.

My best guess as to why is a bit of a variant to Dreller's #3 point; it is not a high enough priority because there is too much to do that comes way before that.  Dreller mentions budget planning, managing employees, etc....  But I think it is more of a data problem.  


Interactive Marketers have data coming out of their pores - Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Omniture, ad networks, email marketing and search campaigns.  How does a vendor expect to cut through all of that market noise and say, "Hey, look at our really cool data now!"  Marketers, in the aggregate, haven't come close to mastering their current data.  That's actually being generous.  Many marketers don't really have the first clue what their data actually says or what to do because of it.  

The current problem Interactive Marketing practitioners are trying to solve - whether they want to admit it or not - is still "more eyeballs."  Yep.  Super Bowl advertising stuff.  "How can we get more people to our website?"  It is the rare marketer we come across that really drills into converting the same number of "eyeballs" into more cash.  If you aren't focused on conversion, or better yet - Conversion Rate Optimization - how do you get to committing budget to getting the conversion the credit it deserves?

This brings us to the ClearSaleing acquisition.  

I don't take this event as a real positive for the Interactive Attribution "industry."  The concept of Attribution Modeling is ahead of its time and so is/was ClearSaleing.  GSI was likely their largest revenue channel for a year now.  This allows GSI to have a technology "add-on" for their 500 clients and gives ClearSaleing better access to that client pool.  I am sure that add-on will still cost GSI clients a premium.  But this has to hurt ClearSaleing's growth in the long run.  Not exactly the rocket ship the industry wanted to see from Interactive Attribution at this point.

Dax Hamman provided some follow up thoughts for this blog post that fit in with how I see Interactive Attribution following the Clear Saleing deal.  "ClearSaleing did well in terms of getting an offering into market and have benefited with the acquisition, but it will not be the last deal in this space. TagMan has recently announced additional funding too by iNovia, and further investment and consolidation will come.  It is likely that investment will come first to help such firms work out exactly what the offering needs to be, something that is still a grey area, and then in 2012 and 2013 the consolidation will follow."  

Hamman's point lines up well with events we have seen in the past in Interactive Advertising; namely, web analytics.  WebTrends was the first great web analytics company and they were acquired by NetIQ back in 2001.  First movers were into WebTrends, but it couldn't stand on its own at the time.  Several years later web analytics saw WebSideStory, Urchin, Visual Sciences, Omniture, Coremetrics and scores of other vendors taking the market by storm in 2006.  

I'd expect that we won't see Interactive Attribution gain real traction for years to come; there simply isn't demand for it.  But there is a lot of room to run.  The catalyst I would look for is when companies start to really fall into a pattern on Conversion Rate Optimization.  At that point simple conversion data won't be good enough, marketers will become passionate about more accurate attribution.  

Topics: Internet Marketing Trends & News, Internet Marketing Acquisitions, Web Analytics, Interactive Attribution

Hellman & Friedman buys Internet Brands for $640 million

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 @ 16:09 PM

Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm based out of San Fransisco, announced they acquired Internet Brands for $640 million.  Hellman & Friedman paid roughly 6.4x Internet Brands' 2009 revenue of $99.8 million.  

Interestingly, just last week Accumen Holdings, a start up from Arkansas presented at a Venture Forum in Little Rock.  Certainly, this acquisition in their space can't make them do anything but smile.

I do have one concern about these media companies.  Their processes and algorithms must be awesome.  But, they are playing online business like a pure market.  So what prevents other large (or small) media companies from entering the space.  Are the visitors/clients to/of really that loyal to the brand?  If they aren't they'll be easy to draw to the next thing.  Now maybe that is all accounted for.  But it seems like the downward pressure on margins and the lack of personal touch would make it difficult to sustain these businesses over the long haul; much like the old Adsense arbitrage websites.  

All of that aside, and my concerns might be absolutely unwarranted, I would continue to bet on any business that has developed the processes to make a strong entrance in the online business realm.  

UPDATE: Bob Brisco's comments on the deal can be found here.  

Topics: accumen holdings, ecommerce, private equity

Using Google Search to Monitor the Heisman Candidates

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 @ 14:09 PM

Hiesman Trends 9 6 10 resized 600

This is a little experiment we are going to run this year to see how well search behavior can predict actual outcomes.  We are using Google's Insights for Search tool to watch how people search for the Heisman candidates.  

At this point you can see that Mark Ingram would be the front-runner, but Terrelle Pryor has quite a bit of momentum.

If we wanted to take it a bit deeper we could see which major media markets were searching, since that is where voters are more likely located.  We will dive into that later in the season as the race for the Heisman tightens up.  

Be sure to subscribe to our blog to get weekly updates on monitoring the Heisman race through Google.  

Topics: search engine marketing

Vertical Studio to Present @ Arkansas Venture Forum

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Tue, Sep 7, 2010 @ 15:09 PM

We'll be at the Arkansas Venture Forum on September 15th at the Doubletree Hotel in Little Rock.  

If you'd be interested in learning more about Vertical Studio's solution for growing online businesses with conversion rate optimization or as an investment opportunity we'd be happy to talk to you.  

Topics: Arkansas Business Trends & News

Congrats to ReachLocal - Latest Internet Marketing IPO

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Fri, May 21, 2010 @ 22:05 PM

ReachLocal logo 

Okay, so it didn't fire out of the gate.  Clearly not another Netscape... Did you expect it to be?

But a local ad network did just pull in $54 million.  That is a success story; especially in this "dead" IPO market.   

The 'Local' issue is a very significant problem in the current market and ReachLocal has a good solution.  I've often thought about how stronger Local Internet Marketing could play out here in Little Rock, AR.  Needless to say, I think it would be a strong media option.    

Best of luck to ReachLocal.  I would not be surprised if they are hot acquisition target in the very future as Interactive Marketing continues to grow and there are any signs of a economic recovery.  

Topics: Internet Marketing Trends & News, Internet Marketing Acquisitions

Twitter Acquires Atebis, Maker of Tweetie for the iPhone

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Fri, Apr 9, 2010 @ 21:04 PM

Twitter CEO, Evan Williams, laid out the rationale for the acquisition pretty clearly:

"Careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the iTunes AppStore revealed massive room for improvement. People are looking for an app from Twitter, and they’re not finding one.  So, they get confused and give up. It’s important that we optimize for user benefit and create an awesome experience."

There you have it.  Interestingly, earlier this week Fred Wilson said that he wanted developers to stop building apps that just patched holes in the core offering and start building apps around various vertical industries or striving for that "killer app".  Well, Tweetie is a "fill in the gap" app.  I would say this was Twitter's shot at developers saying they mean business; "Build killer apps or we will continue to marginalize you."

But what is the revenue model for Twitter app developers to develop the "killer app"?  To this point, that isn't clear yet.  New developments between Twitter and the development community will be interesting to watch over the near future.  




Topics: social media, Internet Marketing Acquisitions, Twitter apps

Web Design: How Important Is the Copy on Your Website?

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Tue, Oct 7, 2008 @ 21:10 PM

I first saw this video on the blog of my friends at Future Now.

As I was first watching it, I imagined the beggar as typical online business.  He is set up and occasionally some revenue trickles in.

You can even imagine his business metrics (you have metrics for your online business too).  Possibly, 1 in 100 who passed dropped a coin in his can.  And for the sake of ease, let's say those individual coins were dimes.  So for every 1,000 people who passed by the beggar made $1.00.  Ouch! 

So the new words on his sign made the entire difference!  He went from a conversion rate of 1% to 5% and it looks like he may have also increased his average donation as well.  For the sake of ease, we'll say that patrons began donating two dimes.  Now for every 1,000 who passed by he made $10.00! 

A few simple words made the whole difference. 

How well is your website working for you?  Could an improvement in your copy start to make the difference?

Topics: Internet Marketing Trends & News, Web Analytics

Arkansas Business: Blogger Comments on Small Business Blogs

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Thu, Aug 23, 2007 @ 20:08 PM

Lance Turner, the blogger for, yesterday inked this quip,

Some [small businesses] are actually turning blog traffic into sales, almost [Lance's emphasis] justifying the time and expense it all takes.

Where to start?  Okay, there is a lot of skepticism around blogs.  Not long ago, I was one of the skeptics.  But now you are reading my blog. 

Do blogs take time?  Sort of.  I know my field and I enjoy it.  I think about the stuff in my posts all the time.  The most difficult thing is writing short posts.

Is it expensive?  No.  I even had some blog experts to do all of my back end work on setting this thing up and they still do some consulting around my posting and marketing. 

But can you just blog and hope for the best?  Of course not.  Notice the keywords I use over and over again.  Notice the URL directories displayed.  Very little in this blog is an accident.  And, over time, it will pay off.

And lastly, if your blog is actually getting solid traffic and you can't figure out how to make money with that, is that the blog's fault?

Topics: blogging, Arkansas Business Trends & News, Internet Marketing Trends & News

Internet Traffic Measurement – Response to Arkansas Business

Posted by Wilson Kanaday on Fri, Jul 13, 2007 @ 16:07 PM

The latest issue of Arkansas Business has an article on the cover below the fold entitled, "Quantifying Internet Traffic Remains Elusive". Since I make a living in the Internet Trafficking business, I am glad to see it get some front page news - thanks Nate. But I would like to elaborate on some of the points in the article.

The main point of the article is that it is difficult to obtain precise traffic estimates for sites that display advertising (see the title). Should it matter to marketers that these specific traffic estimates are difficult to pin down? In a word - no.

In traditional advertising, those selling the advertising could only point advertisers towards circulation numbers or television viewers and some demographic data to attract advertisers and set their rates. So naturally, traditional marketers still have this frame of mind when judging the Internet.

On the Internet, however, the marketers' focus needs to shift from circulation numbers to measurable ROI. There are great tools like Google Analytics and Omniture that allow Internet marketers to trace any digital campaign all the way back to a real ROI number. If I spend $10,000 per month advertising on and I can show an ROI of 40%, should I care if the site gets 2.4 million or 7.6 million monthly visitors?

The metrics that really matter are not ‘circulation', ‘viewers', ‘page views' or ‘time on site' but profit and loss.

Nitty Gritty Details

The article speaks to a specific niche of Internet Advertising - buying banner ads directly on another content-driven site. Think of the Metropolitan Bank banner ads that are displayed regularly across the top of has made a good living out of selling space on their website in the same way they sell ads to statewide businesses in their print edition of Arkansas Business.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is sited in the article, display advertising of this kind accounts for 22% of total Internet advertising revenue. The article doesn't speak of the advertising done on search engines like Google, Yahoo or MSN, which accounts for 40% total spending. For search engine marketing, getting the exact number of impressions (times someone was exposed to your ad), clicks-throughs (number of times someone clicked on the ad) and conversions (times someone took the action you wanted them to take for coming to your website) is straight forward and reliable.

Why are Internet traffic measurements elusive?

Measuring traffic, or visitors, on a website that you don't own is tricky. The main reason is because that is the proprietary information of the website's owners. As Nate mentions, there are services that can estimate a website's traffic for you. comScore, Nielsen/Net Ratings and the Audit Bureau of Circulation are sited directly in the article. In my opinion the best service for getting data on another website is Hitwise, which was not mentioned. Before advertisers start citing the wide variance in these traffic estimates, they need to understand how each of those services works so they can make intelligent analytical adjustments to the estimates. Maybe I will touch on the differences in the services another day.

Topics: Arkansas Business Trends & News, Internet Marketing Trends & News, Web Analytics