Back in 2007 I
was talking to a solicitor who was quizzing me about Internet marketing
and SEO in general. In response to a general enquiry I had mentioned
that I had over two hundred websites in many diverse sectors, and
he was sceptical that I could have knowledge of so many different
has always stuck with me as a perfectly valid question to ask (even
if it isn’t asked out loud): how on earth does one person know
about lots of different things to the extent that they can presume
to have websites about them which are apparently ‘expert’?
To the layman, this assumption seems certainly arrogant at the very
let me explain the position in relation to another industry which
I worked in for over 20 years, the market research industry.
was working at National Opinion Polls and later MORI and Research
International, as well as other companies which were less ‘blue
chip’, in the process of data collection and analysis, from
the early 1980s and onwards.
worked very much on a job-by-job basis. At any one time I was running
several research projects concurrently, and these could all be very
dissimilar to each other (there was no reason why they should not
be). The only similarities between the surveys running was what differentiated
them as being business-to-business surveys (which we ran during the
working day 9 to 5) and consumer surveys (which were run in the weekday
evenings and at the weekends). Sometimes it was possible for even
these to overlap.
any one day I would be responsible for a team of people running a
research project on employee relations, another on component delivery
efficiency, another on trade magazine readability, another on group
opinions among City analysts and yet another on the quality control
procedures of semiconductors.
for the consumer sector I would run simultaneous research projects
on ground coffee beans, washing powder, disposable nappies (diapers),
deliverability of Yellow Pages directories and the awareness (market
penetration) of adverts for a certain brand of beer.
most extreme case of this diversity was the omnibus survey, run over
the weekend, in which a whole cluster of different questions on very
different sectors were strung together in one questionnaire and fired
off to respondents a thousand at a time, the results collected, tabulated
and presented to our highly satisfied clients on Monday morning.
this mean that I was an expert on employee relations, City stocks,
semiconductor quality and ground coffee beans? No, of course not.
But I was able to conduct research on these subjects and produce good
data which could be relied on and then in some cases acted upon if
even though our clients were involved in very different fields, the
procedures we used were more or less exactly the same. What was good
for researching coffee beans could also be relied upon to provide
excellent data on deliverability of Yellow Pages directories. The
processes involved in researching employee relations were the same
as those involved in finding out what chaps in the City thought. And
finding out how efficiently those components were being delivered
to their customers used the same stage-by-stage system as assessing
the market penetration of ads for Holsten Export.
being said, I was always keen to learn at least a little bit about
the things I was researching. Oh, the happy hours teaching myself
about how semiconductors worked and the vagaries of the Gini coefficient!
Apart from anything else it brought home to me the fact that most
people don’t know how other industries actually work, and that
the appearance is usually very different from the reality. (Did you
know, for example, that banks do not lend
money at all, but rather they create it,
using what is called the Fractional Reserve system?)
the market research industry the research process can be roughly split
into several stages:
Writing the questionnaire
Defining the sample
Coding of verbatim responses into numerics
Presentation of results
Recommendation for action (where appropriate)
the fuzzier and less certain world of Internet marketing a similar
set of stages may be defined:
on a target consumer profile
Drawing up a list of keywords
Creating a website
Building authority for the website
Optimising conversion rates to desired objectives
Locating micro-market strengths and building on them
Constantly refining and improving the above
still like to learn a little bit on the background to the industry
I am promoting digitally, but the procedures of digitally promoting
them are all more or less exactly the same.