Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, August 26, 2016

Another Summer Slips Into the Past

We had a hot and humid summer with oppressive humidity accompanied by the worst drought in 10 years here in New England. Summer was my favorite season when I was young, but this year I'm glad to see it go. Thanks, Obama. 

Summer business was actually pretty good, led by bird kites, but this August stumbled. Four big sales had made last August the second-best ever, and that lucky streak didn't reproduce this year (at least not yet; there is still a week left for a $1,000+ miracle to appear). I did have two bulk golf ball inquiries and one for bird kites. The 240-ball minimum for imprinting killed one inquiry. The other one went like this:

SHE: "Hi, I'd like to buy $1,100 worth of balls!"
ME: "Great, I can get them to you for $934 with free shipping. That's about 20% off."
SHE: "I only have $600."
(ME, to myself: Then you don't want to buy $1,100 worth of balls, do you?)
ME: "How about some nice loose balls? You can get 216 for $594, also with free shipping."
SHE: (crickets)

The bird kite guy ignored my repeated suggestions that he place his order online, so we played telephone tag wherein he kept repeating the same "I want to buy some kites" voicemail for a week while refusing to actually buy the kites. I did finally connect by phone and land his $175 order. 

To make things more challenging, Jackite ran out of poles shortly after they restocked eagle kites. Poles typically cost as much as, or even more than, the kites themselves, so that cut off a lot of my routine higher-end sales.  


The ongoing AdWords technical saga goes on, as ongoing things do. On Tuesday I reset my complaint to the beginning with a carefully documented email using only one-syllable words and short sentences suitable for a Millennial. It worked. Yesterday the kid told me he's referring it to his "specialist team" -- presumably meaning somebody who knows what they're doing. Progress! 


My first Sunshop upgrade in a couple of years is underway even as I write this. I haven't delved into the change log in detail, but I know it includes a lot of goodies that I want. There might even be a new template in my future. Apart from that, I'm getting my newsletter signup dialog back.

Friday, August 19, 2016

You Know It's All About Those Bucks

I finally decided that I really did break Google's conversion tracking when I tried to improve it. 

If you remember this background from two weeks ago, you can skip this paragraph. My old tracking code tells me when a particular keyword "converts" to a sale, and I can see how much I spend on that keyword per conversion, but I can't see what the conversions are worth. The new script would report that information so that I can allocate my ad budget a little more intelligently. Paying $15 to convert a $20 sale is bad; that same $15 expense for a $100 sale is fine.  

If I'm reading my test results right, the "new" script is capturing the value correctly but not reporting conversions to Google. I reverted to my original files once I was pretty sure that I'd broken that, and the conversions started racking up again. 

I sent Google a detailed question with supporting files and got my first unhelpful answer a week later: " I have checked your account and found that the conversion code that you have added is working fine and tracking conversions." He attached a screenshot showing the Tracking Status as "receiving data." Fine, but that was after I had reverted to the old files (as I had, of course, already told him). I asked him to check the week of 8/1 - 8/7, when I was using the new files. A few days later he replied " I have checked the conversions from Aug 1st to Aug 7th and see that the conversions have been recording." and attached the same screenie. Fine, but his results showed only ONE conversion using the default value of $20 (from the old code, not the new code, in other words).
Fine, I can plod as slowly as the next guy. On Tuesday I uploaded my broken "new" files again and told this fellow to check back in a week. By then he'll see no conversions and the Tracking Status will show no incoming data. Once I prove the problem exists, we can finally begin troubleshooting the code that he should have been looking at two weeks ago. 

His last reply came yesterday, asking to turn it into a telephone consult. Uh, no, not going to do that. This is a technical problem that needs to be solved in writing, and the telephone will only introduce more confusion. I know this is just some kid in India following a script, but maybe it will get passed along to a real technician whose first language is English after I can prove that there's a problem. 

Unless that happens the odds of getting an accurate answer or fixed code are very low. The sensible thing to do would be to simply drop the matter and stick with my old files. But now that my appetite for better data is whetted, I'm going to keep at it, even though that will mean missing a week's worth of conversion data just to prove that it doesn't work. Of course, I need a meaningful number of sales during that week in order to generate data. I can't prove anything if it stays as dead as it's been for the past few days; in fact, there's a small chance that the file is working properly and simply doesn't have any valid conversions to report. 

I should state for any nervous readers that this is all anonymous as far as I'm concerned. Yes, retailers have the ability to track  you all over the internet, and most of the big boys do. I don't. I only want the keyword statistics.


In related news, my developer is getting ready to update Sunshop and make a couple of other minor technical changes for me, including re-implementing the newsletter signup dialog. If I can get all of this smoothed out by the beginning of September I should be able to squeeze an extra percentage or two out of this Christmas.

Friday, August 05, 2016

What's It Worth to You?

Just for the history books...last month finished as the second-best July ever and missed the #1 slot by just $43. That was good enough to cut the month's loss to just $49. I attribute that to forgoing vacation this year. I'm not going to shut down during this month's five-day mini-vacation weekend so I shouldn't lose any business to it. However, last August brought one bulk sale every week (three for kites, one for golf balls) so I'm already running behind.

Thanks, Google! 

Your AdWords account contains enhanced CPC (cost-per-click) campaigns and your account-level conversion bid metric is set to "Converted clicks," an outdated AdWords conversion metric. Starting September 21, 2016, it will no longer be possible to bid on "Converted clicks." Instead, all Target CPA or Enhanced CPC bidding strategies will be automatically updated to use "Conversions," a newer metric that will include Cross-Device Conversions and offers more flexibility and options to help you meet your business goals.

My what now? Several more paragraphs explained why "converted clicks" are becoming "conversions." Some flailing around turned up a one-click button to automatically implement this radical change. For some computery reason, each converted click counted as 1.14 conversions; now it will supposedly become 1:1.

While I was bulldogging through this I found a code snippet that tracks the actual dollar value of conversions. Previously, I had arbitrarily valued each conversion at $20 and hid that useless column. Knowing how much a conversion is really worth will help me spend more intelligently -- for example, a keyword that costs me $15 per conversion is no good if those conversions are only worth $20, but it's great if its sales average $100 or more. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that I broke conversion tracking entirely when I did the surgery. I need more data to be sure, and I'll probably need help from Google if I'm to avoid simply reverting to my original files. 

Contacting a megaconglomerate is as difficult as you would imagine; after 48 hours I'm still waiting for the reply that they promised within 24. If it is true to form, the reply that eventually arrives will be some boilerplate with links to Help pages that I've already read.  And when I finally reach a live person, s/he will speak only rudimentary English.


O joyous day: the American Bald Eagle kite is back in production! I figure I lost about $1,000 in sales while it was out of stock. That's a good chunk of this year's $1,400 deficit relative to LY. August could be okay if there's enough summer left for pent-up demand to recoup some of that money.

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