New category: food and a few notes about why I’m adding it here

Not tonight but soon, I’ll be filling up the food category with some of my adventures in cookery over the last year. There are a few reasons for adding the category and I’ll be editing the others to reflect my new goals for this, my professional blog. The people who work with me (Hi!) know that one thing I’m very interested in is food. Not somebody else’s food but the act of preparing, delighting and inspiring people in your life with delicious, healthy meals that serenade the taste buds and inspire the imagination.

So, by the weekend, I’ll add the videos I have from youtube and a few photos (with the photographer’s permission, b/c their pics are a lot nicer than mine and I don’t have a picture of every recipe I’ve made).

Have a great week :)

What I’ve learned over ten years of A/B testing

File:Animal testing 5.jpgThere are a ton of tools that enable A/B and multivariate testing these days. Optimost, Optimizely, SiteSpect, Monetate, Adobe Digital Experience Manager, Web Trends, Google Experiments (formerly Google Website Optimizer) and more. There are generally speaking two classes of A/B testing software:

  • Client side testing tools
    • Optimizely, Monetate and others fall into this category.
  • Server side testing tools
    • Sitespect is the only purely server side testing tool I’m aware of.
  • Hybrid tools that can be used client and or server side
    • Web Trends, Google Experiments

The first time I heard of A/B testing was working at Quinstreet. Being new to digital marketing in the way they approached things, beyond just SEO, paid search, I learned a ton there back in 2002 – 2003. Being the first internal marketing manager on paid and free search was a blast. However, I ended up designing a lot of the websites I promoted myself, which was no fun (aside from the obvious – I love good design, but it’s not in my skill set to produce it).

So after a while, I wanted the sites to get redone. Traffic was flowing, the leads were pouring in…however, because Quinstreet had a testing oriented culture (very, very rare back in those days) they wanted to validate before pouring design resources against something that might have a negative return. However, that was a roadblock as my sites were all hosted externally and the servers were not capable of running java. They were straight laced apache web server, without an extra application server layer to be found.

What was a novice internet marketer to do, when he knew his conversion rates were lower than they should be due to the design and experience quality on the site? Testing to the rescue. I partnered with the engineering team and learned the basic mechanics of A/B testing. Then after about a week, I had a Perl script (yes, I know – remember, PHP wasn’t so popular back then) running which would, depending on cookie, serve either the, “A,” or, “B,” version of the site. After getting everything up and running, we started the test…guess what the results were?

30% higher conversion rate. Same traffic sources, slightly lower CTR on the primary call to action but a massive win in conversion rate. The call to action was a link to an affiliate, lead capture form so the experience of jumping from one site to the next had a big impact on conversion. See, when you have a high quality experience on a site and then move to another site of similarly quality experience, things make sense. But if you jump from a bad site to a good site, you notice the impact and it’s jarring.

Interestingly, when I arrived at Yahoo in 2004, the “launch, learn and tune,” culture was still being rolled out across the company. They had two testing platforms while I was there (guessing they have one now) and many properties had yet to fully embrace testing to improve conversion rates.

So what did I learn from all this testing? A few highlights:

  • User experience, even without a single word of copy changed, can have a massive impact on conversion
  • Sometimes when things are important, you have to roll up your sleeves to get the job done
  • Test what people notice – ignore things that people won’t pay attention to

Years later, I was involved with testing at another company. We did several distinct tests, each one to validate that footer changes wouldn’t have an impact on conversion. The results? Go nuts, do whatever you want in the footer. A prospect who’s in, “Buying mode,” won’t scroll to the bottom of the page and investigate their options. Only somebody in desperate need of help will do that, a journalist or somebody out shopping the competition.

I have a lot more testing experience from my social network, business consulting and of course, Intuit. Their culture was all about A/B/C and multivariate testing, which was fantastic. Some of the insights the team put together which drove big wins were very clever and had nothing to do with design, only prospect insights. Small changes in verbiage, based on a thorough understanding of the problem, can sometimes pay off in a huge way.

Time is the one thing everybody could use more of

About a week and a half ago, I looked through the, “New app,” list on my iPhone. More than half the apps said, “Faster,” as if that was the only thing that mattered, or that it was enough in isolation to get me to download. Back in 2005, I met the performance guru, Steve Souders. He was a fellow Yahoo and I walked away from the meeting confused. Fast forward a few years, I used his teaching to improve bounce rates by more than 10% on the fastest growing social network in 2009, behind Twitter. Given that they just filed for IPO, it wasn’t a bad place to be.

Time is precious. None of us know how much we have, none of us know how much remains. The one thing that’s certain is that everyone of us has tasks throughout the day. Things we need to do, stuff we must accomplish, potentially work that needs to be done. If each one of those things on our, “Must do,” list took 10% less time, who among us would complain? Nobody I know.

There are many parts of life that are on the clock. In public, I never disclose things that are too personal, that hit too close to home. Time is precious and I want to enjoy as much of it, with friends, with family, with people who inspire me.

As we cruise into the season of shorter days, family gatherings and good food, I know I’m going to enjoy every moment of my family.

Now available: Sick Jokes: Part I on Amazon, a Jay Williams Short

It’s been more than two years since I first wrote a story and published it on Amazon. A lot in my life has changed and for the bulk of this year, I wasn’t writing fiction. Under an alias, under my name…at all. Distracted and wasting time, I finally made a friend who put their well meaning foot where it needed to go.

A little history: Jay Williams is the star of, “The Vampire Hangover,” which probably needs editing and a new title at some point. There are a few authors I have really enjoyed reading and once finished, Sick Jokes, I hope, would gladly find it’s way into the hearts and minds of the fanbase of those guys. Yes, I’m being vague but I’d rather not influence overmuch what you think of my work. If you find it similar to others, I’m curious who. If you find it bad, good or indifferent, I’d like to know.

When I have time, I’m already at work on Sick Jokes, Part II. Over the weekend, I’m going to setup a mailing list so anybody who wants can get the second installment, free, as an early release. It’s my way of saying, “Thanks,” for having faith in me and enjoying the first episode. It is a whole novel I’m writing, I just wanted to release it in chunks, both to entertain people who are impatient and to give myself an easier target to hit than waiting two months before releasing anything.

Perhaps I’m the only impatient reader out there, but, I think buying a short for $2.99, then getting the rest of the novel, as it gets published, for free would be a pretty awesome deal…and there are a list of authors who I’d LOVE to buy from if they tried out this method.

It’s available here, Sick Jokes Part I.

More foundation: my first cooking show on youtube ;)

Beta feedback received (thanks, all) and even though one for two did not like it, she gave me a *fantastic* idea for a scene in the next installment. Spell check tonight and then I’ll let it fly…still need a title though. Today, it’ll be there, in the back of my mind, something I’m mulling over.

There will be more videos, too. As I realized recently, writers never, ever finish up with groupies. Nor paparazzi. If you’re reading this with some kind of political agenda, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely wish you the ending you so richly deserve. Having experienced the, “Dark side,” of celebrity for a while, the social media hate, the colleagues asking, “Did you see this on twitter?”, having to explain to more than a few people why it happens, what it means.

Even before this, from my consulting business, I learned the hard way – you can’t bring a lawsuit across national borders. So, while other people can do what they will, it’s up to me to build, solidify and grow my reputation. If I become known as the ninja vampire hunting writer of epic cheesiness, well, that’s not far off from me in my personal life. Minus the ninjas and vampires of course. Professionally speaking, any given company could use more cheese.

Kick back and enjoy the video if you want some tips on making a solid breakfast (though for me, this was brunch – I can’t pack away that much food first thing in the AM.

How to make a mushroom and sausage scramble video

Next month, as a few people have reminded me, is national novel writing month. My first full length novel will be available by then (knock on wood) because it’s the kind of synergistic, universal alignment kick in the pants I can only ignore at my peril.

Have an awesome Tuesday ;)

Yahoo Mail redesign – well done team

I use Gmail and Yahoo Mail, both. After the latest refresh on Yahoo Mail, I have to say, it’s the best working product I’ve seen from my former team in years. The oddpost acquisition a long time ago put them on the path they’ve been on and now, with the refresh, I have to say it’s far more usable. Fun, too.

Gmail isn’t fun. It’s functional and there’s a massive difference. Sometimes, when you use a product, you want to have fun. Be entertained. At the core of Google is utility (at least, it has always felt that way to me, but I’ve never worked there). Yahoo’s aspiration, I felt before, during and after working there, was to entertain. Sure, Google bought Youtube…but those two brands, despite it being the same corporate entity, aren’t synonymous in most people’s heads. There’s a reason Google did not rebrand it as, “Google Video.”

The silly exclamation mark, the logo experimentation in public…so far in my post Yahoo career, it seems that they finally have a better grasp as a whole team of what to do, where to go and what they need to achieve. It’s impressive. The Carol Bartz days made me cringe, personally. Then the guy who they tossed with the fictional resume…

…I might write vampire stories but I know that those are based on lies, for lack of a better term. Vampires, djinni’s, glowing magical swords and the like are not real. Just trust me on that one.

If they can start to turn the opinion of a “Silicon Valley cynic,” like me…they’re definitely doing something right.

Inequality, social justice and my long radio silence

It’s not often I feel like somebody I know, or knew, is a hero. Today, I was browsing LinkedIn while trying to figure out the right last leg of a new story; I saw a link that was powerful, inspirational and exactly what more people need to share. The odd part? It was shared by one of the one percent, who typically aren’t lobbying to improve the inequality of the United States.

I don’t know Jeff well, I’ve chatted with him in person all of once and been in meetings with him perhaps a few times, heard him speak less than that. However, seeing his post today in my LinkedIn feed reminded me of how fortunate I am to have known, at least for a short while, a guy who has the vision to dream a brighter, better future and the courage to take the steps to move society at large towards that vision.

Check out this trailer, see the statistics and try to wrap your head around the problem in the United States as it stands today.

Unfortunately, I grew up relatively poor and the lessons you learn growing up, for the most part, in the socio-economic status that I did are not the same ones you learn growing up in an affluent home. It’s taken years, a lot of studying outside of school and self reflection to figure out the gap between my education and understanding. While I’ve been spending my time learning, studying, connecting…I haven’t been sharing, at least, not as, “Me.” A few friends know of my other blog, which now has as large an audience as this. But…that one is personal, this one, is business.

In a business sense, in terms of how things are run and yes, I’ve done this myself to my chagrin, something is very, very wrong with the way most companies operate. The way compensation gets structured and the way that wealth is shared in our society. It’s heartwarming to see an executive with the influence, the vision and the ability of Jeff to share something so near and dear to the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans.

On the eve of a, “Government shutdown,” when some jackass politician wasted our money by reciting, “Green Eggs and Ham,” it’s gratifying to see, to hear, a billionaire say that something is fundamentally wrong and that we need to fix it, as a society.

 

Fingerprints, digital forensics and the impact we have which lasts far beyond our tenure

More than a decade ago, I posted on an internet forum under the pseudonym, “Han_solo,” my favorite character from Star Wars. Later, when I realized it would help my reputation, I asked Brett Tabke, the founder of WebmasterWorld, to update my handle to become, “jeremy_goodrich,” to ensure that people who looked up my reputation could find it easily. This was before LinkedIn, before social profiles were huge, before…a lot of things. When searching just now for one of the first academic algorithms that detailed issues with search results quality, IP addresses, Class C blocks and host affiliation…you can’t find my post on Webmasterworld. Try a search for, “Hilltop Algorithm,” it doesn’t show up in the top three on Google. However, when I look for, “Hilltop Algorithm Webmasterworld,” I find my post from 2001. This was before I had built a search engine in Perl and MySQL; before I had co-founded a social network that would be listed in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch and others.

When real world fingerprints fade, digital fingerprints last as long as the website stays alive

Having hired dozens of people for my own company, larger companies and during my consulting days, helping startups review talent…I fully appreciate people who put an effort into building out their digital footprint. I love learning and it’s sometimes hard to find people who are always in the mood to update their skills. This became one of my screening criteria which I used heavily in recent years because my goal, as a mentor, is that whoever I work with gets 10x better than I am in that particular task, area or skill.

Getting stuff done is very, very gratifying for me which is why I’m looking at early stage companies right now. A landing page win, where I wrote the control and the test copy, which I instrumented via Optimizely, Google Experiments or similar? YES! A short conversation, then a few days later, a dozen pages of copy with an information architecture practically guaranteed to help long term search (paid and natural) results? Count me in, twice. In a physical sense, I’m not nearly as hands on as my family. But digitally speaking, nothing makes me happier than to pull the trigger, see results, optimize and iterate. Every time I approach a new vertical, I generate hypotheses quickly and then chomp at the bit to start testing, iterating and discarding.

Not all the work I have done in my career is still visible on the open web; some can only be viewed by archive.org. Websites created, sold, modified, re-purposed and more. If somebody has the digital savvy to do a full on forensic look up on a given individual, if you have been working online, it’s impossible to hide any aspect of your experience. Thank goodness for that; I’d prefer my work product to last a near infinite time frame.

Cultural fit and personality are as important, if not more, than technical skill

When hiring and building teams, it’s relatively easy to find people with skills. However, when you need specific skills it gets a bit harder. Then when you start to consider personality, communication style and cultural fit potential it gets harder still. Building a relationship with a new team member can be challenging depending on the operating style of the company. Over time in my last role, I got better and better at the on-boarding process post hire so that the team could ramp faster. Also (Hi, Ben) I learned from one of my hires that I needed to balance selling the opportunity and the current state of things. For nearly six months, I got the kind of questions I am certain I had for my first manager. Setting expectations appropriately would have saved me time and energy.

In my interview yesterday, the cultural fit wasn’t there. The awesome thing is that the recruiter followed up quickly and the team did not waste their time, or mine, in the process. Ultimately, as I learned from watching the first season of, “The Apprentice,” on NBC is that technical skills are good but the ability to learn and improve is better. The other thing which came across about the show was how each person usually had trouble spotting their own gaps and improving. It was as much personality challenge as it was about the business challenge.

The whole area of personality assessment and the Meyers-Briggs type questionaires never made a ton of sense to me until my last role. For the startups I’ve had, even when we ramped the staff, the management was hands on and very much scripted. Hiring was putting people through a list driven process and seeing if they had the internet savvy to check each box. Other than that, as we were a virtual team, personality and cultural fit weren’t a part of the assessment.

Looking back on my Yahoo experience, the underpinnings of the company back then were still very, “Hacker friendly,” in a good way. Want a developer account? Done; you’re good to code. Want to setup an email list? Done in five clicks. Want to get all sorts of data six ways from Sunday on usage patterns across any given property, whether or not you’re working on said property? Done. The, “Hacker friendly,” part of Yahoo’s culture was very appealing to me, despite my few years of programming, it’s not my forte. Still, things were raw enough and the ingredients were all there if you wanted to do something in your free time that made work easier, you had implicit and explicit permission.

In my Intuit experience, I learned a ton about communication and building consensus across disparate stakeholders. Leading through influence, rather than position authority. I learned other things as well, which I cherish and that having had the experience enables me to be even more excited about the next chapter.

Oddly enough, growing up I was the least inclined of the Goodrich’s to roll up my sleeves and do serious physical work; I never worked in construction and have only re-roofed one house and painted two. Digitally speaking when it comes to work, I’m thrilled whenever I can get stuff done. Checkout via Git and edit some copy? Sure. Draft a blog post, press release or script for a webinar? Awesome. Strategize on a testing roadmap to ensure optimal price, conversion rates and LTV? Definitely.Instrument via Google Experiments, Optimizely or similar the test code and HTML? No problem.

Meta-work about the work that needs to happen before it can get then prioritized in an upcoming sprint to have an impact which can’t be measured end to end? Not so much. I like data, I like measurement and I love marketing platforms that can change the category. Knowing my own cultural and personality type ensures that I’ll land in the right place, doing the right kind of work.

Writing the long awaited SEO book based on my 13 year history in search

This is something no few people have suggested to me over the years. While I might not ever finish up a book, I’m a huge believer in the, “Information wants to be free,” theory on digital publishing. So what I thought I would do today in consideration of this idea is to start a reference, tutorial area on the site. I also need to fix up the nav and do other things but to start with, here’s my general outline for what I think such a book would cover:

  1. Performance & Load Speed Optimization as well as notes and pointers to resources on why this matters. My cliff notes for this is that, “Nobody will ever ask to wait for your site to load.” Secondarily is that speed is a competitive advantage. Know it, make the trade offs and you can achieve the kind of conversion rates and referrals that the largest sites achieve.
    1. Case study from back in the day with my first experience optimizing a site to load faster on FunAdvice, where we dropped bounce rates by 13% through perfromance alone. This also increased pages per visitor and gross sign up rates.
  2. Tell a great story, or to use the oft used phrase, “Content is king.” This means the overall experience of your site, not just the speed but the visuals, the creative, the copy, the voice and every single piece of text. What makes a great story isn’t keyword repetition and redundancy, it’s about convincing your prospects that your story makes a visceral connection with them by providing real value, free of charge, that’s directly adjacent to your core audience’s search term. In other words, provide real world value before engaging in commerce. When you consider browsing behavior and time spent online, a stat I heard at a Google event was that 95% of time online is outside of search engine results pages.
    1. Case study from my experience with emotion and targeted verbiage from my work at Quinstreet more than a decade ago. By making the style, tone and information very location centric rather than generic, keyword stuff verbiage, the conversion rates on the same type of traffic on every other site were 25% lower.
  3. Off site value has to be baked into the business model to ensure that third party websites drive traffic and build inbound links. The business potential of having tens of thousands of sites linking to you and sending consistent, steady traffic cannot be understated.
    1. Case study in one of the fastest growing sites we ever worked with and their link velocity. In fact, with every client I have data on, the growth of the business overall was always positively correlated with the number of third party sites linking to their site.

I will write up more case studies as well as I have data to support the various sections. The goal will be to have a mix of experience, history, technical terminology, how-to, suggested detailed strategies and references for more detail.

Get in touch via LinkedIn if you have any specific requests on media types, posts, subjects or case studies to be included in the book. Also, free quote, attribution and mention here as well as the book for anybody who gives me a shoutout.