Data storage - old and new

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I promised this week that I'd stop beating the dead horse of how many keywords to target per page, and I will keep that promise. But the divergence of opinion and the deeply-held beliefs that some of us have on this issue made me realize that I violated one of my own rules with this whole discussion. I gave you my opinion about something and then argued with people when their opinions differed. I didn't take the advice that I so routinely dispense: "Data beats opinions in any decision." Yes, that includes my opinion, too.

I like to say, "Opinions are like necks. Everybody has one." Unfortunately, we know from experience that opinions are not always equal. And, it's normal in business to gather the opinions of the smart people and then make a decision, so this feels normal to us.

But with Internet marketing, we can do better. Of course, there are lots of smart people with opinions that are often worth listening to, but in Internet marketing, we can usually test our theories. We can see what the data tells us and act accordingly.

So, to briefly revisit the keyword per page argument, maybe it's true that different situations require different approaches and everyone's opinion is right under the right circumstances. Or maybe it truly is better to take one of the approaches or the other. But none of that is as important as you knowing what the right approach is to take on your Web site.

And the only way to be really sure is to experiment. Why not try several different approaches in different parts of your Web site and see what happens. In this case, you'd want to see what rankings you get, yes, but also what sales you get. And you'd want to see what happens if you mix it up and do it another way. Over time, the data will inform you as to the best approach, and you can apply that in other parts of your site. Perhaps from time to time you'd want to rerun the experiment to make sure that your original results were still valid.

That's the real secret of these born-on-the-Web companies, such as Amazon and eBay. It's not that they had smarter opinions. It's that they tested every opinion with an experiment and they never stop, even to this day.

So remember that opinions are like necks. And every time you rely on an opinion instead of data, you are sticking your neck out.

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June 9, 2009

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Just as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” I guess it holds true for opinions as well, although some opinions seem to be more equal than the others :) - informed opinions are good, pooling opinions is great, but, all the same, being open for opinions is still best.

In a perfect world, data does rule. However, perfect data is not always available. And even if perfect data is available, it might only be available for an imperfect set of goals or situations. As examples, there often are not enough data points for statistically relevant analyses. Likewise, rankings might increase but not traffic, or maybe traffic but not sales, or maybe sales but only in the short run. There are so many variation in the real world that opinion and "gut feel" will always play some role.

I do strategic consulting work for Domus, Inc., a Philadelphia based full-service marketing communications agency. I also have some musings on the Domus blog site.

Very good article, data definitely is proof, however how that data is collected and analyzed may well be as a result of someones opinion!

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Data beats opinions in any decision