Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lesson #15 - Getting the snowball rolling

Let's say that you have looked through Lessons 1 through 14. You have chosen an idea and you have created a site. You have called in every favor you have to get some friends to link to your site. Now what?

Now it is time to find out if your site resonates or not. You need to know this BEFORE you start trying to get links on large sites like Digg, Slashdot, Fark, etc.

The reason why you need to check the resonance BEFORE seeking the links is simple. These sites deliver a massive amount of traffic (tens of thousands of people) over a day or two, and you may only get one shot. You want to know that your site resonates before you seek the links.

How do you test the resonance? I would recommend that you buy traffic during the testing phase. Create Google AdWords ads (or create similar ads on Yahoo, etc.) that you can run for a nickel or a dime per click. Bring 50 to 100 people into your site with these ads per day, and watch what these people do on your site.

You want to check several things:
  1. Do these people click into your site? In other words, do they arrive at your site and leave immediately (bad), or do they click around and read 5 or 6 pages (good).

  2. If advertising or sales revenue is important to your plan, do your visitors click on ads or buy things? If not, you need to figure out what is going wrong and correct the problem.

  3. Do you see any evidence of resonance? The way you test this is to look at several weeks of baseline traffic before you start the AdWords campaign. Then turn on your AdWords ad for a couple of days. Then pause the ad for a couple of days. Do you see any increase in your baseline traffic after running the ad? If not, then chances are that your site is not yet resonant.
You are bringing in 100 people per day to your site, you are seeing exactly how they respond to your site, and then you are tweaking things to increase resonance and revenue.

The reason why AdWords ads are handy for this purpose is because you can turn the ads on and off at will. You can turn the ads on for just an hour or two if you want -- Google doesn't care. There's also a side benefit: If you can't create an ad that drives people to your site, it probably tells you something. Chances are that creating a successful AdWords ad is not as easy as you think, and you will learn something about your site through that process.

Once you have the resonance and revenue where you want it, the snowball is rolling. You know that when you bring new visitors into your site, they will tell their friends. Now you are ready to seek some big links. You are ready to make the most of the traffic when it arrives.

What if you don't have the money (or desire) to pay for traffic using AdWords? Then I would use the people who arrive randomly and see if the number is increasing or not on a weekly basis. Remember the concept of the osmotic pressure of the web? Remember how we created a a completely random page on the web to see what kind of traffic it would get? Sure enough, that page has been getting about 7 clicks a day over the course of 3 months. That page is not resonant at all, but it still gets traffic every day. You want to see the number of osmotic clicks per day increasing over time. If not, your site is not resonating and it is not yet time to seek links.


At 12:33 AM, Blogger Mohit Pawar said...

Hello Marshall,

Thank you for all your guidance through webKEW. I have query though not related to this post. This is about the authneticity of ALEXA.

One user has writtten this review on Alexa, about alexa. Please throw some light on this.
Alexa... what a joke, you're a bunch of clowns,
I am really disappointed and horrified by he thought that, there are people out there who consider Alexa as a "tool", "place to find information", "kewl search engine" and such crap.

Reality check, kids, alexa is only a promotional game and nothing else beyond this. The dangerous thing is that there are morons who believe whatever they are told.

The truth is that it has nothing to do with a site's real ranking or real hits. And of course, it has nothing to do with a site's content, it is already a proven fact that Alexa has no idea what a lot of sites are about. I've seen sites that have legitimate content shown under "adult sites", I've seen sites that were shut down for MORE THAN A YEAR AGO and climb up, receiving "thousands of hits" (while they dont even exist) and I've seen one of my own sites on rank 3,000,000 (while it had actually a sum of 20 hits within a month - it was and still is under construction) while other sites that I KNOW they have more than 3,000 hits/day do not get listed at all.

You wonder why? It is pretty simple: very few people have their "toolbar" (because it is a spyware program) and they are the only ones who collect info for Alexa. And these are the idiots who say "wow! what a cool tool". Therefore, only idiots "rank" websites on Alexa. Not even close to the truth.

Start THINKING kids.

At 12:38 AM, Blogger Mohit Pawar said...

Hi Marshall,

I've recently started blogging. I'll deeply appreciate if you can just have a look at my blog and offer your feedback and suggestions.


At 9:14 AM, Anonymous William said...

Before you jump to side with the 'reviewer' I'd take a look at his/her tone. It's very negative and abrasive. If I had to make a call I'd say they got burned by Alexa and are pretty disgruntled. They *do* have some good points though. As for site categories, they get that from The Open Directory Project. It's easy enough to go change your site category there and Alexa will respider it.

No one is suggesting Alexa is the be-all-end-all, but it *is* a good metric.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Adam said...

I have compared Alexa's relative traffic rankings (how it changes over time) to sites whose traffic I have access... and it's pretty good.

Add to that the little I know about statistics, it doesn't much of a sample size to get good numbers. I would guess if your site is directed at highly techy people who would be less likely to install the toolbar, you might not give as much credence to the Alexa numbers.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't place too much creedence in Alexa numbers/reports. They're only sampling a small totally un random set of data.

The fact that they only really measure MSIE users really distorts the data — especially for technical sites where such users will be a majority of visitors.

Also, more important, Mac users + non-IE users are more hardcore web surfers and represent potential growth of your site — that is, they represent the leading edge, what they're doing now, a lot others will be doing in a few years. Now, it's by no means a universal dictum, but again, it's another phenomenom of "resonance" that Alexa just isn't going to measure.


At 8:36 PM, Blogger Mind Valley said...

Hi Marshall, this is an excellent post and so timely! Our team has created a site ( and we are currently wondering if it resonates.

This is easier said that done. After all, what does the inflection point look like? Is there even an inflection point? How do you know when you have arrived?

These are fabulous questions and I would completely agree with you that you need to monitor carefully what your users do on a daily basis. Only by watching at your metrics will you know if your site is getting any traction.

However, finding out exactly where that point is, is a bit more challenging.

Regarding Alexa, I have found them to be very useful. However, only directionally and only for trendlines over time. In my prior live I worked at eBay and we could correlate the Alexa data with NetRatings and MediaMetrix data, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. They actually correlate extremely well. So, I trust the trends on Alexa but not the scale / sizing.

Hope that is helpful. We are brand spanking new. If you checked out our site we would love to hear your thoughts on whether you think it resonates or not.


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