Friday Roundup: Unsubs rise up, T-commerce on the way and more

cowboy_clipart_lassoGrab your chaps and grab your hat; it’s time for the digital marketing roundup. This week, Google tries to convince us that unsubs are good for business, Twitter hints at T-commerce and Twitch stirs up trouble when they hit delete.

T-Commerce Hints Pop Up on Mobile

A reporter at The Next Web picked up on talk of a change to the Twitter Android app. A few people noticed that the settings page now has a section for Payments and Shipping. The menu doesn’t expand so it’s just a place holder and that feels weird to me. Why would they even bother? It’s not much of a beta test because there’s nothing to test. Unless they just wanted to see how people would react?

The logical assumption is that it’s a place to put your credit card information and shipping address so you can buy things with a Tweet or a single click on a Twitter ad. We’ll see.

Twitch Deletes Video Content

Twitch, the world’s largest video platform and community for gamers, is about to delete a huge number of videos from the archives saying they need the space for expansion. TubeFilter says the mass deletion is likely related to the rumored buy out by YouTube but neither party has confirmed the sale.

Twitch notified users that they’ll be deleting all of the previously marked “Save forever” videos from non-paying members and it looks like they’re drastically cutting down the storage time on future videos.

In their defense, Twitch says that the majority of viewers watch a video in the first few days and that 80% of their storage is taken up with videos no one watches.

Members are unhappy. The YouTube exporter blew up from over use.

Lesson learned folks: when you depend on a third party server, there’s always a good chance that one day it’s all coming down.
Gmail: The Rise of the Unsub

Google thinks you shouldn’t have to scroll to the bottom of an offending email to unsubscribe, so they moved the button to the top of the page.

Gmail Unsub

This only applies to companies that follow the rules and include an unsubscribe button. If you’re getting email from an unscrupulous spammer then there’s nothing you can do but report it and hope.

Google says the high profile unsub button is good for everyone, even businesses:

Making the unsubscribe option easy to find is a win for everyone. For email senders, their mail is less likely to be marked as spam and for you, you can now say goodbye to sifting through an entire message for that one pesky link.

It’s a good thing Google is looking out for us otherwise I wouldn’t know what to do with all that email I get.

That’s it for me. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

The Benefits of Tracking People with Analytics

Tools like Google Analytics are great, but they have one major weakness.

You get only aggregate data.

The Limits of Aggregate Data

Averages, totals – these methods of measuring are known as aggregate. They provide an overall picture of how an area of a business or a product is performing. It’s frequently used in the web analytics field.

Aggregate data has its usefulness. Page views, bounce rate, time on page, and referral data are generally best displayed in aggregate form. But what if you actually want to dig deeply into the data to uncover insights that can improve your business? It’s difficult to do this when you have only aggregate data.

Build a Better Business by Understanding People

KISSmetrics is software that tracks customers (i.e., real people). With KISSmetrics, every interaction on your website gets tied back to an actual person. Once you get your hands on this data, your mind will run wild with all the opportunities you’ll have to uncover useful insights.

What if you want to view the “power users” of your app? These users can give you great insights about your product and which features they use the most. Ultimately, they can help you build a better product. With aggregate data, you would never know who these people are. With KISSmetrics, you know exactly who to contact to get the feedback you need to improve your product.

What if you want to track the metric login retention and reach out to your least engaged and most engaged users? Aggregate data is useful for getting a “bird’s eye view”; but in order to improve this metric, you’ll need to talk to the people who log in. With KISSmetrics, you can do just that. Simply set up a cohort report for login retention and track the frequency with which people log in. Find the users you would like to talk to by selecting a group.

KISSmetrics Cohort Report

This is a small screenshot of the KISSmetrics cohort report. We see that if we click on one of the boxes, we have the option to view each person who falls into a certain cell (we like to call them buckets, as in “buckets” of people). For instance, we could track login retention over time with the cohort report. After we set up all our data, we would be able to view each person who logged in during a specified time period.

Using Individual Data to Understand What’s Driving Your Aggregate Data

It makes sense to focus your data analysis around people, because after all, it’s people who impact your business. KISSmetrics is a people-tracking web analytics tool. You won’t be getting unique sessions or visitors. Use Google Analytics for that data.

To understand what’s driving your aggregate data, you need to dig deeper and get your hands a little dirty. Looking at daily active users and monthly active users is great in aggregate; but to understand what’s driving those numbers, you need to look at individual data. What’s causing one person to use your service daily while another uses it less often?

Let’s take the engagement metric login retention, for example. It’s a good engagement metric that is normally viewed in aggregate, but should be analyzed in cohorts. The reason is aggregate data won’t show you important trending changes over time. Here’s how that cohort report would look in KISSmetrics:

kissmetrics login retention cohort

This report tells us the people who signed in during a specified week and then signed in again after a specified time period. For instance, we see that during the week of February 1, 56.5% of the people who logged in that week logged in again within a week. And .3% of the people who logged in during the week of February 1 logged in again 8 weeks later. If we click on this box, we see that we can view those people who logged in 8 weeks later:

kissmetrics view people cohort

If we click on “View the 8 people,” we’ll get a list of those users who logged in:

kissmetrics cohort people search

For the week we viewed, they didn’t appear to be our most engaged users. We also can click on each user to learn more about them and how often they use our product.

The advantages of getting this much detail with people-based analytics is that we can email the people for feedback or test a hypothesis based on their behavior. If we were just looking at aggregate data, we wouldn’t be able to draw any intelligent conclusions or have a good reason to test a hypothesis about our product.

With KISSmetrics, all your data is tied to people. It’s one of the key qualities that separates it from Google Analytics. And when you understand individual people, you’ll understand how to improve your business.

To get started using people data, login or sign up for a KISSmetrics account now.

The KISSmetrics Marketing Blog

Digital coupons ‘close the deal’ for 80 percent of consumers

In a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of RetailMeNot, the majority of consumers said digital coupons were more likely to influence their purchase decision than any other type of promotion.

Retail Me Not Coupon Report 2014 2Note that coupons are way more influential than sales. That’s crazy. Maybe that’s because people view sales as a discount on items the store wants to sell versus items they want to buy. A 40% off one item coupon gets me that pricey item I’ve been longing for. A 40% off summer clothes only gets me a good deal on the leftovers. (Not always true but I’m trying to work through the thought process.)

The State of Digital Coupons” study makes coupons sound like the superheros of the ecommerce world. Let’s all remember that RetailMeNot is a coupon / promo code site. . . and with that in mind we’ll look at a few more facts.

Fact: Digital coupons increase customer loyalty

68% of consumers in the survey said that digital coupons have a postitive impact on a brand and they encourage customer loyalty. I know that’s true for me.  I stopped shopping at Fresh and Easy because they stopped their digital coupon program. They used to get $ 75 minus a $ 5 coupon twice a month. Now, they’ve saved themselves $ 10 but they lost $ 140 in revenue.

Here’s the real irony:

Fact: Consumers are likely to spend more when redeeming digital coupons from smartphones

Retail Me Not Coupon Report 2014 3

I’m sure there are people who do their best not to spend a dime more than they have to in order to redeem a coupon. But the majority of people say they end up spending more than they planned on spending when they have a digital coupon. Not just a few dollars more. 44% say they spent $ 26 to $ 50 more!

Fact: Digital coupons are the key to combating cart abandonment

64% of consumers said that a digital promo code or coupon is often enough to close the deal when they’re undecided about a purchase. I find myself in that spot at least once a week. If I can’t find a code to knock off at least 20% or all of the shipping, I’m likely to walk away. This behavior is going to increase as we move into the holiday season when free shipping becomes an even bigger issue.

Fact: Digital coupons push people to shop now instead of later

Consumers in the study said that they redeemed most coupons within a few days of receiving it. To be fair, most coupons will expire if you don’t use them within a few days so it’s more of a do or don’t situation but that’s still a good thing for retailers.

  • 91% of desktop users redeem a digital coupon within several days
  • More than 90% of smartphone and tablet users redeem their digital coupons within several days
  • Nearly one-third of coupons found on smartphones or tablets are redeemed immediately
  • Nearly 30% of consumers used a digital coupon immediately upon receiving the offer

Bottom line: giving your customers a few dollars off puts more dollars in your pocket.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

Do you want more clicks or more followers? Twitter launches objective-based ads

richard-dawson-family-feud-646x330We asked 100 people, top 3 answers on the board to this question. Name the best website for digital advertising.

Ding! Google!

Ding! Facebook

Ding!. . . . Twitter?

Twitter is working hard to become your number three choice. They’re offering more tools, more analytics and they’re making advertising more accessible to the small business owner. Move over Oreo, Frankie’s French Fried Coconut Cookie Company is coming after you!

To help Frankie (and all of you) reach his goals, Twitter is rolling out an objective-based campaign option. Choose and action and pay only when someone completes that action. It couldn’t be simpler.

When you start a new campaign, you get a list of target objectives:

Twitter Campaing Picker

You can choose to increase your followers, drive traffic to your website, encourage folks to interact with your Tweets, install an app or collect their email address for follow-up. There’s a choice here for every business.

Here’s where I cringe a little. Twitter suggest “Followers” as a good choice for new users but my feeling is this – if you run a small ecommerce store, what you need are customers. Yes, it’s fun to see the follower number climb but what you really need are buyers not windowshoppers.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any benefit in having 1,000 or 10,000 followers. If those followers share your message with their followers, that’s how you expand your business. And just because a follower isn’t a customer today, doesn’t mean they won’t be a customer some day. . . maybe. I suppose I have followed online stores that intrigue me long before I’ve bought something from them. Follower than customer is probably more of an exception than the rule.

Back to business.

Once you choose your campaign objective, Twitter gives you a fill-in-the-blank template:

Twitter Ad Creative ToolThe hardest thing about creating an ad is saying everything you want to say in Tweet form! You can target the ad based on keywords or interests, then it’s time to fill in the money blanks: what’s your total budget, daily limits and bid per action.

Once you’ve released your new, objective-based campaign into the wild you’ll be able to monitor its progress using Twitter’s nifty new analytics dashboard. (Even if you don’t buy ads, you can use this tool and you should. It’s terrific.) The tool will track and report on whatever metric you chose for your campaign so you can clearly see your ROI.

Right now, Twitter is testing this new tool with a few invited guests and managed partners. We can assume that if all goes well they’ll eventually open it up to everyone.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

Tips for blocking SEMalt and botnet attacks

Bot attacksSUMMARY: Botnets are degrading Website performance and preventing real people from visiting your Websites.  Here is a brief update on the problem and some measures you can take to block one specific botnet operated by SEMalt.

You may know by now that the SEMalt “service” has been probing Websites with fake traffic generated by botnets.  The problem with fighting botnets is that they come from everywhere.  Many of the compromised nodes are Web hosting servers hiding in the cloud or in far eastern and European data centers.  We see them coming out of Africa, South America, and even New Zealand.  US military networks are compromised and rolled into the swarm every few months.


There is no simple defense against botnets, not even hiding behind a Content Delivery Network (CDN) because the botnets are eating up resources.  They whittle away at the available connections on your server(s), they waste CPU cycles, they eat up disk space with thousands of entries in security and Web traffic logs (on a daily basis), and they sometimes beat away at your user accounts and try every password they can generate.

Botnets and cloud services also power the link research tools that you diligent search marketers love so much.  These tools expose your Websites to link placement banditos who send you requests for guest posting, dead link replacement, and other bad practices.  But the SEO tools are nothing compared to what SEMalt is allegedly doing.  According to the latest research, if you download their tools and use them you’ll be installing malware on your computer.

You have few options for blocking botnets.  You can add IP addresses to a firewall but the list adds up quickly.  A few months back I came across a forum discussion where one Webmaster asked other admins if his 25,000 blocked IP addresses were too many (the consensus in replies was that if the server wasn’t choking then it wasn’t – your mileage may vary).


I don’t like blocking individual IP addresses because I have tracked some bots (not botnets, but individual loan agents) cycling through pools of IP addresses but coming from the same server.  Now that all the root IPv4 address blocks have been assigned scarcity is driving up the cost of acquiring extra IP addresses; still, some bot-operators pay for up to 10, 20, 30 IP addresses so that they can pretend to be multiple visitors coming to your site from their servers.

Normal Web traffic rarely comes in from another Web server unless that server is operating a proxy service.  But most Web hosting companies forbid their clients to run proxy services and the most well-known proxy services are being blocked by a growing number of Websites.  The botnets offer the most reliable pools of proxy IP addresses because they are endlessly creeping across the Internet.

WordPress administrators see botnets constantly attempting to leave comments, register accounts, crack passwords, and compromise “xmlrpc.php”.  Botnets will probe your site for vulnerabilities today and return two weeks later with a Brute Force Dictionary Attack (BFDA) that prevents people from seeing your Website.  Botnets significantly degrade the performance of low-cost shared hosting accounts.  Just by blocking compromised IP address ranges in .htaccess I have been able to speed up performance on hundreds of Websites significantly.

And botnets aren’t about to run out of IP addresses.  An Amazon employee once told me they have 4,000,000 IP addresses.   Blocking that many addresses in your firewall or .htaccess file simply isn’t practical unless you block the CIDR (also called ASN) records.  These are the records that describe the RANGE of IP addresses that any particular address is part of (e.g.,  ISPs buy/lease these ranges of IP addresses and dole them out to their customers.  Blocking by CIDR rather than by individual IP address is more efficient and takes up less space on your server.


Unfortunately, some ISPs assign IP addresses to Web hosting and access customers from the same ranges.  When you block botnets there is a chance you are also blocking real visitors, but the rule of thumb is that if a botnet comes in from a Web server that whole CIDR block is probably just being assigned to Web servers.

Botnets are also now using wireless phone networks.  North American businesses may be able to safely block whole Asian mobile networks.  But what should people who serve the Asian Internet markets do when the botnets hammer their sites from Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh?  You think mobile is the future for North America and Western Europe?  I have news for you: the mobile Internet saturated Asia and Africa more than a decade ago.

The SEMalt botnet drives traffic toward a handful of Websites through hundreds, probably thousands of compromised computers.  Blocking those computers’ CIDR ranges is only practical if you don’t want to do business with people around the world.  It is better to block the fake traffic by referrer user-agent although you cannot do that in a firewall (IP tables on Linux systems); you have to do it in your .htaccess or IIS configuration file.

Furthermore, public attempts to document the SEMalt problem to date have only served to confuse people because the shared notes available on the Web do not distinguish between which domains are used for fake referral traffic and which domains are being used to supply malware to the general (unsuspecting) public.  We are currently blocking four domains in .htaccess but at any time SEMalt can add another domain to their fake traffic referral scheme and we’ll have to go back in and update the .htaccess files.

We’re prepared to do that but unfortunately being prepared doesn’t quite cut the mustard.  Fighting botnets is an ongoing site administration task.  It never ends.  And the most frightening prospect for the future is that eventually the botnets will use only IPv6 addresses.  Most anti-spam/botnet tools cannot yet handle IPv6 addressing.

Apache 2.x installations allow you to use CIDR notation for IPv6 addresses in .htaccess files.  Most other software that I have reviewed to date makes no provision for managing remote connections via IPv6.


If you are tired of all the rogue traffic coming out of the Amazon AWS network you can stop it all with the following code in .htaccess:

Deny from

However, a lot of the tools we use to send our RSS feeds to social media services run on the Amazon AWS network.  If you can identify their IP addresses you can “allow” them before the “deny”; otherwise you’ll have to block by CIDR.  Amazon, unfortunately, is just too easily exploited by rogue crawlers (some of which don’t pay for the service).

If you’re struggling to block the SEMALT network, we have tested several methods in .htaccess files on more than 100 Websites.  We have had mixed results, probably because of different server configurations.  The following code is our latest universal block:

# Block fake traffic

RewriteEngine on
Options +FollowSymlinks
# Block all http and https referrals from "" and all subdomains of ""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)*savetubevideo\.com\ [NC,OR]
# Block all http and https referrals from "" and all subdomains of ""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)*srecorder\.com\ [NC,OR]
# Block all http and https referrals from" and all subdomains of ""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)*semalt\.com\ [NC,OR]
# Block all http and https referrals from "" and all subdomains of ""
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)*kambasoft\.com\ [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

We have been able to block most but not 100% of the SEMalt traffic using this and a few other variations.  I still see a few instances getting through in referral data.  We’re defending over 100 sites across 6 Web hosting providers and using 3-4 analytics packages, so it’s really hard to ensure that anything works everywhere, all the time.  I was hoping to have this pinned down by today but I see at least one straggling referral on one site today.  I have to wait 24 hours to test any specific fix.

The objective is to block ANY occurrence of <any subdomain>.<any subdomain>.<domain name> as they have been rotating through new subdomains to get past the htaccess rules.

If you use low-budget Web hosting and you cannot browse your server logs, but must instead download them in .GZ format, you can download a proper tool for free at GZIP.ORG.  When you use the GZIP program in Windows the syntax is: gzip –d filename.  You can read the uncompressed file in Wordpad.

Some Web hosting companies won’t allow you to edit your .htaccess file.  It’s there; you just don’t have access to it.  You can install WordPress plugins to allow you to do that but if you make a mistake your entire site goes offline immediately and then you have to reinstall WordPress from scratch.  Make a full backup of your UPLOADS directory and SQL database before editing .htaccess through a plugin.

Some people are using plugins to maintain firewalls on their blogs.  These plugins may or may not be able to block SEMalt and similar rogue services.  You may be able to maintain the block list yourself.

Search for “CIDR record lookup” or “ASN record lookup” to find a tool where you type in a full IP address and see the CIDR range to which it is assigned.

About Michael Martinez

Michael Martinez has been developing and promoting Websites since 1996 and began practicing search engine optimization in 1998.  He is the principal author of the SEO Theory blog. 

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion