Porcelain Addiction, Burning Mirrors, and Your Online Business

The AdWords Ball fall 2009 season starts October 7 at a computer and phone near you.

Read all about it:  http://askhowie.com/adwords-ball

Did you miss spring training? Catch a replay of the AdWords Ball web clinic

The Race for Porcelain

In 17th century Europe, Porcelain vases, pots, table settings, sculptures and other chatchkes (Chinese for “knick-knacks” ;) were all the rage.  Monarchs, churchmen and nobles postured for status and power in part by showing off the quality and quantity of bling they could buy, barter, or steal.

And porcelain, a hard, smooth, lustrous, non-staining earthenware product, was near the top of the “Look what I’ve got” heap. Europeans, for all their artistry and technological achievements, had no idea how to make the stuff. Every cup, bowl, and plate had to be imported from the Far East. And Portugal (and later the Dutch East India company) monopolized the trade routes, raising the prices even higher than they otherwise would have been.

Augustus the Strong, ruler of Saxony and a self-proclaimed porcelain addict, once traded 600 mercenary soldiers (“dragoons”) for 151 large vases, known ever after as the Dragoon Vases.

With everyone wanting porcelain and it being so difficult to come by in Saxony, it was only natural that lots of rich and powerful people invested in efforts by artisans, scientists, philosophers, alchemists and spies to discover the secret formula by which it was made.

The first approach, of course, was industrial espionage.  Hundreds of Europeans shlepped to the Far East to try to steal the formula for porcelain.

This failed spectacularly, as no Korean or Chinese potter would reveal their secrets to anyone but a trusted apprentice of 20 years, let alone to pale, greedy foreigners with no sense of personal hygiene.  Heck, it took 600 years for the art to spread from China to Korea – what did they expect?

Hundreds of years of experimentation also failed. It was not even known if the missing piece was an ingredient or a step of the recipe.

The Big Breakthrough – Not What You’d Think

Finally, the big breakthrough came to Saxony, not in the form of a flash of inspiration, but rather a speedier way of testing.

Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus invented a large spherical burning mirror, which, when pointed at the sun, could generate a small area of over 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Suddenly, would-be porcelain makers could try out dozens of experiments per day, instead of just one in the labor- and time-intensive kiln. They would use tongs to position the would-be porcelain piece in the center of the focused sunlight for a few minutes, put it to the side, and try another piece.

Within a few years, Tschirnhaus  and a colleague, Johann Friedrich Böttger, had solved the riddle. The missing ingredients included high heat and addition of a reduction agent. As much as anything else, it was the ability to split test quickly and inexpensively that led Tschirnhaus and Böttger to their discovery.

Which brings us to AdWords…

And that’s what I want to talk about today – your ability to achieve breakthroughs via speedy testing.  Most businesses never test anything.   That’s incredible, given that even modest tests reveal huge potential for improvement.  Take this example, for example:

See how the difference of just one word (powerful vs. effective) led to a cost per lead reduction of 35%?

Without testing, my career as an online marketing educator would never have gotten off the ground.

AdWords: Your Personal Giant Burning Mirror

Google AdWords is the ultimate source of traffic for testing.

You can test ad messages in a week or two. If your traffic stream is robust, you can tweak your landing pages and get more leads and sales in under a month.   You can pay for 200 clicks, knowing in advance how much they’re going to cost you.

And using AdWords conversion tracking, Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer (all zero-cost), you can perform scientifically valid and statistically powerful tests that simply wouldn’t have been possible even 7 years ago.

If you’re using AdWords and not testing for continuous improvement, you’re missing out on the very best feature of the whole program.

Here’s the thing: the money you’re losing by not testing (or not testing correctly) could be the difference between making it or not making it online. And it’s so easy to improve, once you get in the habit of always asking, “Can I do better?”

Increasing profits is often hard work – cutting costs, developing new lead sources, developing new product line and service offerings.

Getting your ads to deliver twice the traffic – or four times, or eight (these numbers are not uncommon) – is relatively easy. Especially if you haven’t tested yet: chances are, a lot of improvements are “low hanging fruit.”

And once you catch the testing bug, via ad testing, your next stop is Website Optimizer, the free Google tool that helps you improve the performance of your web pages.

Talk about highly leveraged activities – if you can double your site conversion rate, you’ve doubled your sales. And more than doubled your profits, since you’re not spending a single additional cent on Google traffic.

AdWords Ball

In AdWords Ball, the course that starts October 7, I show you how to become a testing master.  How to design your online business for inevitable improvement. A never-ending process of giving yourself a raise whenever you feel like it.

If you’re spending more than $700/month on AdWords, then AdWords Ball is a no-brainer, in my humble opinion.

If I’m wrong, you get a refund – that’s how confident I am in the methods of testing and tracking that I’ve developed.

Find out more, and register, here: http://askhowie.com/adwords-ball

No giant burning mirror required…

(Not sure if AdWords Ball is the right course for you – email support AT askhowie DOT com to request a quick conversation with me about the course, your business, and whether it’s a good fit.)

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5 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Steve said on September 9 2009:

    I haven’t considered using adwords as the advertising source when doing split testing but I can see the advantage.

  2. #2 • Dan PPCPROZ said on September 9 2009:

    Looking forward to the Ball.

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I haven’t yet used Website Optimizer. That’ll be my goal for this Fall.

  3. #3 • Dan PPCPROZ said on September 9 2009:

    Looking forward to the Ball.

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I haven’t yet used Website Optimizer. That’ll be my project for this Fall.

  4. #4 • Jerry Suhrstedt said on September 11 2009:

    Good information. I purchased your book Adwords for Dummies… and I’m trying to find a quick outline for adding keywords to my account. I’ve read your section “Choosing the Right Keywords” so now that my brain is scrambled, I need an outline of all the suggested steps.


  5. #5 • Howie Jacobson said on September 14 2009:

    Hi Jerry,

    Start with fewer keywords. Most accounts don’t need hundreds or thousands, just a few good ones that you get to pay lots of attention to.

    Have you watched the Traffic Surge web clinic replay? http://askhowie.com/traffic-surge-video

    That’s got some good information about choosing keywords.

    For the step-by-step course, Traffic Surge will be a big help for you. Starts October 7, 2009. Read more: http://askhowie.com/traffic-surge