I’m sorry, this post was due a week ago but I have been a combination of sick and busy.

Regular readers of this blog might remember that, around September, I started using Conversion Optimizer on my Content Network campaign and had a lot of successwith it.  My success came to the attention of the project manager for marketing Conversion Optimizer, and after a bit of discussion we agreed to cooperate in the production of a case study.  Google published that case study fairly recently — it doesn’t include much that you didn’t already read in the above posts and the followup, but it might be interesting to see how their take on it is subtly different than my take on it.  You’ll note, for one thing, that they don’t mention that the prevailing view of the the Content Network is that it is a “hive of scum and villainy”.  I can’t imagine why.

I don’t have definitive knowledge as to why Google chose to select me for the case study.  I have theories, though.  The first was that I took an early lead in staking out the topic area when it was released, and it made excellent sense for Google to talk to someone who was already ranking high for their own product name.  It couldn’t have hurt that I was largely positive and transparently willing to share the exact statistics, which is great for someone who doesn’t want to waste their time going through 15 levels of corporate officers and ultimately failing to get the go-ahead to release the numbers.

I also think that authenticity mattered.  On an Internet which is chock-full of scam artists and folks wanting to make a fast buck at others’ expense, you can stand out pretty easily just by bucking the trend.  If you have 15 competitors and you’re the only one who is radically transparent about your business, then for many opportunities you have no competitors.  You’re sailing in a Blue Ocean, and you’re the only ship there is, from one side of the horizon to the other. 

I think uISVs should make use of this, not necessarily by being radically transparent, but by running businesses which stick out because they are meant to stick out.  The software can be cloned, the keyword lists duplicated, the advertising imitated, but no one has come up with a copy machine which can Xerox the soul of an organization that has one.  If your differentiating factor is a sense of humor, fanatical devotion to customer support, personal expertise in your domain, an emotional connection to your niche, or just the bare fact of being the little guy, that helps you stand out in a sea of mediocrity. 

OK, that is enough of the theorizing.  So, further thoughts on Conversion Optimizer: it still rocks.  I pay about 24 cents for trial downloads from the Content Network these days and, after someone corrected my mistaken impression that you couldn’t use it for search, my search campaign has had a solid three months below 30 cents (which was my gold-standard for execution back when I was hand optimizing).  This has also freed up well in excess of four hours a month, which I have been using to convalesce (boo!) and plot my next improvements to my website (yay!).  I really can’t recommend it enough.

Full disclosure: Google gave me a laptop bag as a thank-you gift for participating in this case study.  Some folks might think that compromises my objectivity.  I don’t think it compromises it nearly as much as helping me make a few thousand bucks, because that buys me an awful lot of laptop bags.  (Although those wouldn’t get me stopped at customs — “Oh, you work for Google!?  ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?!  Sorry, sorry, I tried to make a joke.  Was it funny?”  Frankly, we need more good bad jokes to pass the time at airport security.)