Competing with Yourself, Do You Have What It Takes?

Oh the irony. I’m competing with my own SEO strategies from years ago. When I was working at eBay, creating lasting strategies to bring mountains of free SEO traffic to the platform, across multiple categories, I could never imagine I would curse the success I’ve had as I would be competing with my own strategies. At Fanatics, I will make it my mission to de-crown eBay on a number of Pet-Peeve queries I’ve had some success at while I was at eBay. Sometimes, I took it to the extreme, and made it a topic in my presentations at a number of conferences, in the hope any blogger in the audience would pick up the story, and live blog a link to some of the examples on my slides.

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Ernie Banks Baseball Cards

Almost 5 years ago, I got the chance to present in front of the whole eBay executive staff on the SEO opportunity for eBay. At that point, I learned a valuable lesson on enterprise in-house SEO: Know your audience, or even better; know the favorite queries of the top executives in your company.
For John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, it was clear to me I didn’t do my homework. When he asked me: “Why is eBay not ranking for Ernie Banks Baseball Card, while we have +6,000 collectible baseball cards on the site?”, the only response I could give him was a technical SEO explanation. The message was received with mixed emotions, as the limited attention span of CEO’s of a Fortune 100 company are not well suited for something like; Discoverability of a page, Topical relevance vs User Intent, or External- & Internal link distribution.
When we walked out of that meeting, the first thing I did was making a phone call to the team, order a page to be created for Ernie Banks Baseball Cards, and start to include the page into our internal link optimization. Luckily our team had built a flexible platform for long tail keyword targeting, using top of the page relevant content, and an API call to include live items on the site to keep the inventory on the page fresh. With little to no help from the main engineering teams, the platform had been driving massive amounts of ROI for several years, where now the system could be useful to create the perception with the CEO of eBay, his SEO team could actually deliver.

Instant results within a week

And guess what, within a day, the page was up. The following week, the page was ranking on the 1st page for the query Ernie Banks Baseball Cards. After 2-3 weeks, the page was #1. Awesome to be writing an email to your CEO and declare you conquered the topic he is so passionate about. After this, we pulled this trick many times more on executive favorite searches.
Ernie Banks Baseball Cards ranking #4 after 1 week

Lasting results, dominating the top of the SERP's

For years, the page we created was ranking on 1st position, paying back the initial investment many times, like money in the bank! And even the normal search page started to rank, where for the query Ernie Banks Baseball Cards, eBay dominated the first 2 positions for years!
Ernie Banks Baseball Cards page ranking #1 & #2 for eBay

Competing with Yourself

Fast forward ~5 years, and I just ended up starting with Fanatics to work on it’s SEO. Fanatics powers many sites, among the league site for MLB. In the sports collectible arena, we have a good horse in the race with Fanatics Authentic. And YES, we do have Ernie Banks Baseball cards on the site for sale (and Ernie Banks Jerseys, Baseballs, Vintage Trading Cards), which brings me to the moral of this story; I’m currently competing with my own work from years ago.

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Many SEO’s out there are competing with other SEO’s. But have you ever thought about being your own competitor, and look at your strategy from a different angle? How would you try to beat yourself? What tactics would you deploy, and what amount of resources do you need? It’s an interesting question I would love to get more input on from you. If you would like to share some of your thoughts, feel free to add it in the form at the bottom of this post here, and I will make sure I mention you in follow up blogposts.
As I’m battling my own SEO work, I’ve been helped by the large bureaucracy and in-efficiency of a large company like eBay. I normally wouldn’t diss a former employer which has been so good to me, but this is just plain stupid what has happened. Just 2 months ago, I noticed eBay had taken down the platform described earlier. The pages return a 404-error code, not even a 301 redirect. And where eBay used to have double rankings on top on profitable, long-tail keywords, driving a ton of free traffic, these have all been removed from the Google Index due to a block in Robots.txt and the platform been taken down.
Ernie Banks Baseball Card page gives a 404-error
A former colleague called it the greatest ROI project ever! With an initial investment of $250,000, eBay consistently pulled in $20m in GMV per year. As the platform was running for more than 6 years, the payback on the investment must have been 75X the initial investment. How about that for ROI.

Lessons learned

  1.  Always know your audience, know what they might be searching for, and be prepared to rank a page to point out the quality of your work, pro-actively!
  2. When competing with large companies, do not under estimate the stupidity of their actions. You might get ahead, just because the executive team in that company things certain pages need to be taken down. Don’t forget, SEO is a zero sum game, when the #1 ranking page falls out of the index, some other page takes it’s place.
  3. Do you have what it takes to compete with yourself? If your the best in what you do, can you beat your own tactics, strategies and smarts? This opens up a whole new way of thinking how to set up your campaigns, because if you don’t compete with yourself, others might, and they might win!

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  • What would you do to compete with yourself, and win!
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  • I might use your example in a follow up post, and link to your website/post you would like to get featured

Leaving @Airbnb, Joining @Fanatics – Oh My!

goodbye Airbnb - Signing offThe year 2015 begins with a lot of change, something I’m quite familiar with since I’ve done major changes all at once in the past; i.e. in 2006 I met Fiona, moved to the US to take on a new job, got married and had a beautiful daughter. Yes, I like to shake things up sometimes! Moving to the US was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, but in the end it all worked out. Just recently, I was confronted with a similar hard decision I had to make; and it was more a luxurious position I was in that made me uncomfortable what to pick. I had to choose between staying at Airbnb, or take on a new dream job at a different company with a team I worked with in the past. I picked the latter, and in December I joined Fanatics Inc. as the VP of Growth & SEO.

What made it extremely hard, is that I loved working at Airbnb, as you could tell from the many blogposts here, the Facebook posts of all my guests in between the Cereal boxes or all the tweets I’m still sending out when it comes to Airbnb. I mean, who doesn’t want to work with a company which enables Treehouse adventures for kids, story 1 & 2 here. At the moment, Airbnb is one of the hottest startups in the world, growing like a rocket ship, and is able to hire some of the most talented people in every discipline. So why leave..? And how do you come to such a decision? My former boss at Airbnb, Juney Ham,  has a good piece on it was well. I have had similar reactions and feelings.

Dennis Goedegebuure in between the Airbnb Cereal boxes, Obama O's & Cap'n McCain's

I never thought I would leave the company so quickly, especially after the success I recently had with the Berlin Wall film - Wall and Chain, and a 2014 year that Rocked! Working with people like Jonathan & Willow made the decision even harder. What incredible smart and talented people! When I wrote the post I joined Airbnb a little over 2 years ago, I was thinking it would be at least 4-5 years I would hang out here, maybe even longer. So why leave?

While working at the Wall and Chain film, I realized I have been standing still for a while. Last year I realized I’ve had been working on SEO for 10 years. That makes 11 this year. And while I love what I do, working on new marketing campaigns which extend beyond SEO, accelerated my thinking in new frameworks. At this moment in my career, I believe I will need to learn as any new things as much as possible! The combination of EPIC content, with data inspired stories and social media amplification, which were are combined in the Wall and Chain campaign, made me change and adapt some of the frameworks I’ve been using for years. On top of my LUMPS framework, I’ve built the Content-Brand Pyramid, which I will describe in a later blogpost.

Back in August I received a Facebook message from my old boss at eBay, who had just recently joined Fanatics together with a bunch of other ex-eBay people. He made it perfectly clear from the start that he was in it to recruit me. Very transparent. The more I was digging into the company, Fanatics, the more I liked the opportunity. As part of the Billion Dollar Startup Club, Fanatics flies most of the time under the radar. When I was asked to put the ideal job description for my role together myself, I knew it was going to be a very difficult decision. At first I didn’t really wanted to leave Airbnb, but how many times in your career will you get the chance to determine what you will be doing, where you will be able to grow, and have a big impact on an already large and further growing company?

The role I described is focussed around the new SEO; Where the worlds of SEO, Content & Social are diverging. The Berlin Wall campaign is an example of the new SEO, where we combine three key elements of content and social amplification:

  1. Disproportionate amount of media attention
  2. Social engagement & amplification
  3. Ultimately; long term SEO impact

I see the new SEO as the outcome of a very well designed product and EPIC content. This includes all the technical aspects of site structure, speed and technology, as well as the relevance of you content, mapping keywords and concepts to user intend, while building the authority of the sites through real smart brand marketing. Airbnb was able to match some of the requirements for what I wanted to do, but not all.

The final straw in the decision making process, was the picture below;

49ers game with the kids

I took Miss J and Mr D to a pre-season game of the 49ers in the new Santa Clara stadium. As some of you might now, D is absolutely crazy about every sport, but especially NFL football. The whole day he is walking around with, and throwing a ball in the air. But don’t think J is not interested. She amazes me with her deep knowledge of player and coaches names, and how the game is played. This picture made me realize an important fact in my life; I want to connect on a deeper level with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the mission of Airbnb, make everybody around the world they can feel they can belong anywhere. It’s an exciting higher objective to work on, and I know Airbnb will succeed! I’m rooting at the sidelines for the team, and as I have a vested interest in the success of Airbnb, I will do anything I can to help them further. Thanks to Brian, Joe & Nate for giving me the opportunity to work at such an amazing company, and thank you Jonathan for the new learnings I received working with you, although it was just for 6 months.

This time I'm choosing to connect with my kids on a topic they are really passionate about; Sports. And with so many people around the world, sports runs deep in their blood. Real passion is hard to fake.

I’m sure I can do something with that passion in sports of all the people to tell wonderful creative stories...

Stay tuned!

About Fanatics Inc.

Fanatics is currently one of only four $1B, profitable, private internet companies globally.
Fanatics is a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise and provides the ultimate shopping experience to sports fans. As a Top 50 Internet Retailer Company, Fanatics comprises the broadest online assortment offering hundreds of thousands of officially licensed items via its Fanatics ( and FansEdge ( brands. In addition, the company powers the e-commerce sites of all major professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA), major media brands (NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports) and e-stores for over 150 collegiate and professional team properties.

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Top 7 Projects for 2014 – Annual Performance Self Review

At the end of every year, normally your company expects you to write up a self review on your work and performance. While re-reading this wonderful post on how to hack your annual self-review by my buddy Jonathon I got inspired to take this self review thing one step further. This time I decided to highlight some of my accomplishments from the last year publicly here on my blog, and will continue to do this in the next years. I hope this will serve me in understanding the progress I want to make in learning new skills. As one of my colleagues, in a conversation about career and development, said to me last year; “You need to make sure you have projects you’ve worked on which you are proud of to add to your resume, at least a couple each year!” So here goes, this is the list of my accomplishments at Airbnb in 2014, with a little explanation around it why I believe it was significant for me to add to this list, and possibly to my resume.

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Airbnb Economic Impact Interactive Infographic.

I've been doing infographics since the first iPad launched back in 2010. These tactics don't always work that well anymore, where a static image is not being picked up broadly to get more links or attention. The Infographic has been used so many times with poor content, hardly anybody still pays attention to again another Infographic. Which is why I wanted to experiment with the technologies the modern web can offer a better way of storytelling while also getting SEO value out of your efforts. Introducing the Interactive Infographic, all coded in html 5, with CSS3 and responsive design.
 Airbnb economic impact infographic. Showing traveler econmic impact on local economies in cities around the world.
Given the economic impact studies Airbnb already had done, I saw an opportunity bringing this content onto the web to a much broader audience.  What better way to showcase the impact Airbnb travelers have on a local economy than through a great interactive page, which looks beautiful and is chock-full of interesting data points! The Infographic page launched in early March at Airbnb Economic Impact.

The results we got were pretty decent, given that we picked up a good amount of external links to the page (649 links from 102 different domains according to Majestic), which was built with the intention to do a 2-step link-building strategy. Far after the IG was published, it keeps picking up nice links and citations. Here are some of the great media outlets the piece was featured in Times Magazine; The Washington PostLocalSEOGuideMashableVirginCNetStartup BootcampContently

Landing Pages for SxSW in Austin

Probably one of the projects I can say I learned the most from. For a large campaign at SxSW in Austin, I jumped in to help a different team to get a landing page up on the Airbnb blog, just 3 days before the campaign would kick off. With a tied schedule, the teams got full on in planning mode for the event to be memorable, some might even call it remarkable since they would meet up with their favorite celebrity. Crazy tight timeline, which forced me to cut some corners. And as SxSW is very important for Airbnb, the cutting corners and the feedback was a good learning! At the same time, the project also was my starting point for new learnings and critical input for my presentation I did later in the year at Authority Intensive in Dallas!

Brian Chesky tweet SxSW Austin Airbnb

The Campaign was centered around 3 main celebrities who decorated Airbnb pop-up listings at the Airbnb Park.

Amidst the chaos and commotion of SXSW this year, Austin visitors and locals alike found respite at our pop-up Airbnb Park in East Austin. Over the course of five days, Airbnb Park offered up games, refreshments, unexpected acts of hospitality, and special events to attendees... We worked with special new hosts Snoop Dogg, Capital Cities, and Allen Stone to create unique Airbnb pop-up homes to feature at the Park. In collaboration with designer Emily Henderson, our musical hosts created three pop-up homes in their own unique design aesthetics. Two weeks prior to opening the Park, we launched an Instagram contest, #AirbnbMusic, prompting people to create a special “welcome” that spoke to the distinct style of each artist. Our Instagram community snapped some amazing photos of their welcomes, and three creative winners received VIP trips to SXSW to meet their artist hosts in person and get the full Airbnb at SXSW experience.

Snoop Dogg Airbnb park SxSW Austin

Snoop.. meeting the contest winners, having a good time..! Well you know what that means, right! The whole event got a lot of attention in the press, Twitter/Facebook. In my old days, this would have meant a homerun...

Although we got the campaign pages live on time for the events in Austin to kick off, there was a major thing I overlooked. The pages were not mobile friendly, where all people at SxSW are mobile and on the move. How in the world can you read the program and timing for events to kick off on a small screen which is such a bas user experience! Ouch!

SxSW Airbnb park campaign website mobile miss

If we would have worked on a story board for SxSW, and considered all people are on the move from point a to point B, we might have been in a better place from there... Would have planned for the prototype and design reviews with the understanding of how our guests would access the information about the event: on a mobile phone...Where the product design and user experience was optimal, AND have SEO success on top of that...

Still, due to working with celebrities, we got great coverage in major news outlets. For SEO I made sure we would redirect the Austin-2014 page to a blog post describing the whole event. You can read it here.

Authority Intensive

Over the years I've learned a lot from Brian Clark, So when I learned his company was organizing a conference, I reached out to share some of my knowledge with him and his audience to give back. I landed my very first 45 minutes keynote, just one speaking slot after one of my all time marketing hero's: Seth Godin. Yikes, I better bring my A-Game! And what an intro Brian gave me, wow, I couldn't ask for a more generous introduction and testimonial.

I first met Dennis at a conference, when he was director of SEO for eBay, pretty serious position, and he was just sitting at a table speaking with his Dutch accent, and just mind blowing stuff. I sat there, slightly drooling, just listening to the stuff he was talking about. Very creative solutions, nothing black hat but very creative. And the best SEO’s out there I've always found to be the most creative thinkers. And that is why a lot of them are having a good time with the transition to content marketing, even if its against their will.

-- Brian Clark

Dennis Goedegebuure keynote authority intensive Airbnb

The topic I picked was inspired by the example of my campaign page for the SxSW event, and the design focused ethos at Airbnb; Snow White.

  • What is the person thinking & feeling in each frame?
  • What motivates these characters to progress in their journeys?
  • What opportunities exist to improve or enhance the experience for them?
  • How does your work influence what the character feels, knows, thinks, decides, or does?

This resulted in a new line of thinking I developed, which has been further refined over the course of 2014!

SEO is the outcome of a great product, designed to maximize the user experience

Really these sum it all up:

  • SEO is the outcome of a great product experience. Not the objective.
  • The key to a strong brand is sweating the details behind the user experience.
  • Critique and review, and storyboarding are critical components of web product design.
  • Context matters if you want to get found — Design and SEO working together.
  • Short-term SEO tactics don’t work very long.
  • Stop focusing on “SEO” and instead focus on people searching. What are they thinking and feeling? What is motivating them to take action?

Superbrand Marketing Offsite

While I was traveling for the Authority Intensive conference, news broke internally at Airbnb we hired a new CMO. Wow, we hired Jonathan Mildenhall from The Coca-Cola Company. Why was I getting excited? Well, here I am, at a content marketing conference hearing the news the God-Motherf***-Father of content marketing is joining Airbnb to lead the marketing efforts. I mean, from the moment Coke published their Content 2020 strategy I felt I could work with the man who inspired the whole revival of Coke as a creative marketing company. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you just need to review the Content 202 video below here on YouTube (17 minutes)

In the first week, I got the privilege to get Jonathan up to speed on Airbnb's Online Marketing initiatives, and he proposes I would organize an offsite for the full team, what is now called Superbrand Marketing. He must have read my LinkedIn profile, as I have some experience in this field in my past jobs.

For 6 weeks I worked on this project. Finding a location, matching the agenda with external speakers, booking catering with the Airbnb chefs and much more. The result; 2 days of inspiration, hard work and a read map to the end of the year with processes, plans and performance metrics.

Airbnb Superbrand Marketing offsite - Dennis Goedegebuure

Behind the Content

While I was visiting Denver for Authority Intensive, I connected with Jason Miller, who was also a speaker. Our paths had crossed before, but we never really connected at the level we did at this conference. So many aspects of Jason's talk resonated with me, I just had to connect with him. At while at an informal speakers dinner I grabbed the chance. And guess what, we totally clicked. We ended up talking about content marketing, social media and online for a long time.

For one of his projects, Behind the Content, Jason asked me if I could provide him with some good Airbnb examples of content marketing campaigns, and the story behind it. Since we just launched the Economic Impact Infographic earlier in the year, I proposed we would use this project, especially as I was already cooking up my next one.

Taking a cue from VH1's Behind the Music, we've teamed up with our pals at LinkedIn to bring you Behind the Content. In this new guide, we expose the true stories behind how (and why) some of the web's most captivating content came into existence. While Behind the Content does not featureMilli Vanilli or M.C. Hammer, it does showcase some of the coolest content creators around from big brands, to agencies, to individual designers and developers.

Behind the Content of the Economic Impact Study from Airbnb

The white paper was distributed through LinkedIn and Hubspot, with a pretty nice teaser to drive downloads;

Where did the inspiration for the campaign come from?

"Over the last two years, Airbnb has been working with an external research and consulting firm to map out its economic impact.

We found that Airbnb’s guests have an impact on the local economies of a city’s neighborhoods. As Airbnb listings are more spread out over a city, the Airbnb guests bring more tourist money into neighborhoods which usually are not often visited by guests of the city who typically stay in a hotel. The data shows that 76% of the Airbnb’s you can rent in these eight cities are actually outside the main hotel districts.

So after conducting eight studies of several large cities around the world, we aggregated the information we found into the Economic Impact content piece."

- Dennis Goedegebuure (Head of Global SEO, Airbnb)

The lesson learned; great content will get you additional exposure through your relationships. Everybody likes to share EPIC content!

Wall and Chain - Berlin Wall story

Inspired by the success of earlier campaigns in the year, and confident enough to propose the idea and opportunity to a brand new CMO, I took some risk to pitch the opportunity to break into a very relevant cultural event happening in one of the top markets in Europe; the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. Airbnb had highlighted the story of two former wall guards who met in an Airbnb listing in former East-Berlin before, but never at a scale as I envisioned. This was a chance to tell this wonderful story as a stand alone, not as as a paragraph of a larger conversation. This was the chance to apply some of the Coca-Cola Content 2020 principles to an Airbnb campaign.

This video sums it up nicely.

I will go deeper into the specifics of this campaign, with the whole strategy behind it from a content marketing perspective, as well as the social content amplification strategy, and the results in a later post, which you can find here; Berlin Wall and Chain. For now, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter to get that post automatically delivered in your inbox through email. The full campaign website is still up and running at

Wall and Chain - A story about belonging by Airbnb. Dennis Goedegebuure

Working on this project was my biggest jump in experience and learnings this year. I've had some great successes so far in my career, but I believe I can call this campaign my best creative work yet! And others agreed that the campaign was some great work...


email Brian on Wall and Chain

As I mentioned, I will devote a full blog post on the whole Wall and Chain campaign.

Berlin Economic Impact Infographic

Next to the animated video of the Wall and Chain story, we combined the whole campaign with an Interactive Infographic of the Airbnb Economic Impact study for Berlin. This time, the design team hired a local designer to get the best local flavor in the full story telling of the infographic. The attention for detail here speaks to what is one of the core values for Airbnb: Every frame matters.

By hiring a local designer, you stimulate the local economy. The designer for this piece is an immigrant in Berlin, originally from Israel.

  • Having an economic impact on local economy; check
  • Cultural relevant; check

Airbnb's impact on local economy in Berlin. Economic Impact study Infographic as content marketingYou can find the full infographic at: Airbnb's Economic Impact on local economies in Berlin.


I'm sure I can call 2014 one successful year when it comes to projects I initiated and was leading. The list of 7 successful projects here does not even include the major brand relaunch Airbnb did, for which I worked on the blog redesign. There is so much more I could mention here, but I will stick to the big rocks that made the year successful.

Obviously I couldn't do this all by myself. I'm so blessed with a great team at home, who make my life enjoyable outside of work. Furthermore, there are teams and specific colleagues at Airbnb who have worked with me. These people make Airbnb a special company. More specific: Willow, AlexD & Jonathan all played a major role in my success in 2014. Thank you for that!

As I only highlighted the successes here, there were a couple of valuable lessons learned as well. Based on these lessons, 2015 might look completely different, where we have started the new year with some major changes. But thats for a next blogpost!

Wall and Chain – Berlin Wall Campaign Best Work in my Career

The story was submitted by Catherine, the daughter of Jorg, a couple of years back. It was emailed directly to the european director for Airbnb, and made its way pretty fast to the executive staff. The story was used multiple times already in speeches or in other interviews. So the story was not new. 

Making the connection between the Berlin wall guard stories and the 25th year anniversary was something I can take credit for. It was in a phone conversation with Marcus Tandler, where we were discussing the potential to do some local outreach for content projects we were planning in Berlin. We were planning 20 long form articles on the Berlin Neighborhood pages, and an interactive infographic of the Airbnb economic impact study. These content pieces would be all interlinked, with the objective to have the infographic catch the attention of main stream press, get coverage, and funnel the traffic, visitors and links equity to the long form articles. 

Obviously, the fact I grew up in Europe, growing up with the Berlin wall, I knew how significant the wall coming down was, and that the event of 25 years anniversary would be big. 

From the moment of the realization, I started to speak about the opportunity to put ourselves into the conversation of the wall anniversary. That was in February. 

Every time I spoke with the exec staff, they were all supportive and interested. But nothing concrete from a budget perspective came out of that. 

It wasn't until the new CMO for Airbnb was hired, I knew I had a chance to get this done. Jonathan Mildenhall, who came from Coke, was the driving force behind their Content2020 strategy. 

When I presented a deep dive on SEO for Jonathan, I tailored the presentation around content, and how it drives the SEO growth. With a specific deep dive into the Niethborhood platform, why it was working and what was missing, some success in an earlier Infographic of economic impact studies, and how we could fold three content projects into one giant push in Berlin to drive three main goals:

  1. Get a disproportional amount of media coverage
  2. Drive brand awareness by being part of the cultural conversation
  3. Through Social & Media engagement, drive a better SEO footprint to drive bookings in Berlin

The language I used explaining these objectives was very much influenced in how the Content2020 strategy was explained in the video here.

At the same time, I brought in a new framework to easily explain how these content projects all fit together, and why these had to be combined to get the biggest impact. I call this the Content-Brand Pyramid, which I'm still working on to develop more.  

ROI was derived from the different objectives.

  1. We got more than 200 press hits in major media publications. What was funny was that the PR team at first didn't want to push the story, as it was "not a new story and we had used it several times". Though my contacts, I was able to get it on Inc and Mashable, where the PR team at that time was high fiving each other... :_D 
  2. We owned 2.2% of the conversation on social around the Berlin Wall anniversary. Our landing page URL was the 8th most shared link in this conversation, where our brand twitter handle was the 9th most mentioned brand
  3. The microsite site & the economic impact IG picked up a lot of external links, which were all interconnected with the long form articles which drive top of funnel search traffic for potential Berlin travelers. Unfortunately I don't have updated numbers here, since I don't have access anymore.


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Inspired by the success of earlier campaigns in the year, and confident enough to propose the idea and opportunity to a brand new CMO, I took some risk to pitch the opportunity to break into a very relevant cultural event happening in one of the top markets in Europe; the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. Airbnb had highlighted the story of two former wall guards who met in an Airbnb listing in former East-Berlin before, but never at a scale as I envisioned. This was a chance to tell this wonderful story as a stand alone, not as as a paragraph of a larger conversation. This was the chance to apply some of the Coca-Cola Content 2020 principles to an Airbnb campaign. This video sums it up nicely.

Marktplaats data; eBay’s entry into classifieds

Back in 2004, while working for eBay in The Netherlands, I was able to work on an interesting project. The project was code named Manhattan, and resulted in the acquisition of the largest classifieds site in The Netherlands,, and eBay's entry into the classifieds business. Just last week, eBay bought another classifieds site, in Belgium. The classifieds business has become an important source of revenue for eBay Inc. an important school for learnings and a breeding ground for top talent who would migrate to other countries while working for eBay.

The decision to buy Marktplaats for $300 million in 2004 was not a fast and easy decision. The team in The Netherlands conducted a lot of research on the Marktplaats customers, the business model, and the sites ability to grow traffic and monetization to grow revenue. One of the research questions the team tried to answer was the affinity of the Dutch consumers to use the classifieds site over the eBay auction model. It turned out from part of our research, that the Dutch consumer would be willing to drive from one end of the country to the other end just to save a couple of Euro's. And with the country of The Netherlands being rather small, you can drive from the upper Northern part to the most Southern tip in a couple of hours, no seller is to far to quickly pick up your new DVD or piece of clothing.

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That was 2004, now 9 years later, more data has become available through Marktplaats itself in a cbs publication. (CBS is the official state bureau for statistics in The Netherlands. The study is in Dutch) I stumbled on this data through the Facebook postings of some of my old colleagues.
The research shows some interesting maps and how the population of The Netherlands is using to buy and sell stuff.

There is one map which shows exactly more in depth results of the research we did in the run to the acquisition of Marktplaats; how far are buyers prepared to travel to pick up the item for sale, and maybe even hackle over the price to save a little. Check out the map below, which shows the distance between buyer and seller for all ads placed on Marktplaats in 2010.
Distance between buyer and seller in The Netherlands on, the largest classifieds siteThe table below shows the distance between buyer and seller for each of the items in the different categories, where it shows that the distance becomes smaller the more expensive or heavier the item is. Makes sense, as some of the smaller items, which also do not cost that much, might be mailed to the buyer after the successful bargaining.

distance between buyer and seller per category on Marktplaats

Marktplaats turned out to be a very successful acquisition for eBay, not only for the direct revenue growth, but more for the learnings on the business model and its ability to grow into new verticals and grow revenue. The research we as a team conducted proved to be on the mark, where years later the market still shows the winning business model for The Netherlands is classifieds rather than the eBay classic auction model.

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eBay’s Paid Search Study Alternatives Motives for Publishing Ineffectiveness

I couldn't hide from all the chatter around the white paper about eBay's paid search campaigns today. All kinds of people with little knowledge on internal optimization within eBay are jumping on this story to give their perspective. The overall message they are so loudly shouting into the world is how bad eBay really is in PPC advertising, trying to win a little bit more authority on the subject themselves in the hope to win new clients.

I won't go into the details of the article, as I've never worked on eBay's paid search campaigns. Reading the research white paper eBay published is interesting though, and I know that some of it holds up, other parts not so much.

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Skeptical on the eBay Report

I'm somewhat skeptical on the actual outcomes of the research in the eBay report.

First of all, every site is different. So what would work for eBay, might not work for anybody else!

Second, you could use Paid Search campaigns in so many other ways, cross channel objectives, which has not been taken into account in this study.

Third, although the study looks at conversion to sales ratio's of the campaigns, the real ROI is hardly discussed.

Fourth,You should look at the fully loaded ROI to understand the complete impact on eBay's eco-system. This does not only incorporates the eBay fees, but should also include the Paypal fees when an item is being paid through Paypal and advertising revenue. And with Paypal penetration rates at a high double number, and advertising on almost every pageview, the campaigns ROI is highly influenced by multiple revenue streams.

Fifth, if the research holds true, can somebody explain me what happened end of Q3, beginning of Q4 last year, where SEO traffic for eBay tanked, and suddenly Paid grew out of the normal trend:

eBay SEO visibility tanking end of Oct 2012

Where Paid Search Campaigns for eBay are ramping up immediately

These graphs are made with Searchmetrics

Sixth; conducting a test on non-branded keywords, like Cell-Phone might be giving interesting outcomes, if you keep the way Google looks at sites from a SEO perspective into account. Keyword Cell-Phone is a head term for electronics, where eBay is not represented well in SEO. From the human rater documents which leaked from Google, there might be more obvious reasons why eBay is not ranking well:

How to rate eBay landing pages?

Alternative Motives for eBay to Publish Paid Search effectiveness Study

What most people commenting fail to take notice off, what are the real motives of eBay to publish such research? You really think a large, for profit company would make their direct competition smarter just to get some feathers stuck somewhere..? Below here I describe possible motives for eBay to publish this paper. These are all hypothetical, and not based on what really happened as I don;t have the internal information what has happened. Read these more as thin foil hypothesis for my enjoyment, and for you to think further than just the optimization of Paid Search campaigns.

Large Companies F*** each other over

eBay has had a long history of working with Google on a Frenemies status of their relationship. eBay gets a tremendous amount of traffic through SEO, and have worked with Google on several fronts to make the Internet a better place. However, there are well documented instances which shows the underlying relationship, which is one of stiff competition.

  • Google Dark; Back in 007, eBay shut down all Paid Search at Google to run a test. The black out period gave some interesting insights in the effectiveness of Paid Search at Google.
  • eBay sued Google over the launch of Google Wallet and trade secrets

For obvious reasons, I can hardly go into too much detail here, but imagine the drop in eBay spend over 2012, while Google is ramping up their efforts in the payments industry AND making Google Shopping pay-for-play, after killing off the shopping comparison vertical completely!

Internal Politics Kill Real optimization

In a company like eBay, there is a power struggle at the top on a continuous basis. The one with the bigger budgets control their own destiny, and can become very successful empire builders. With a change in C-suit players, the power struggle can become more aggressive, where studies to proof ineffectiveness of campaigns could destroy the power base of the existing rulers.

You've got Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics...

It has happened that one group proofed with analytic proof, that the advertising on eBay was cannibalizing the  conversion rate of items on the site, and had an impact on site speed. 4 months later, the VP of the group moved to the business side, became responsible for the P&L, and with 3 weeks into the quarter and a $20 million hole in the budget, made the executive decision to move the ads back on the site. Just make a check on the eBay site, it's full with ads right now, even on the View Item page which had always been a sacred page for sellers!

This Paid Search campaign effectiveness study could very well be a power play from inside groups to take control of the advertising budgets. Objective: proofing incompetence to replace and take control

False Information for Competitors

What happens to the overall marketplace if the research is adopted by more large advertisers? Right, less demand for the impressions out there will bring CPC's down in the marketplace.

By spreading this information, under the umbrella of statistical research, could very well have an effect on the ROI of existing eBay campaigns.

Be Careful What You Wish For

So when I read an article like this, where the writer is challenging the CEO of eBay to give him a chance to proof what he could do for eBay with Paid Search, I cannot help myself to think: "Be careful what you wish for" as the truth of the matter might not be as cookie cutter clear as you think, and you might find yourself in a situation you are not set up to succeed in the first place, even if you are the best Paid Search consultant in the world, there might be forces out there which want you to fail at it! (furthermore I don't think the writer did himself a service to build his arguments on 6 year old screenshots...)

The people who have managed the eBay paid search campaigns are good friends of mine, which is why I won't go deep into the criticism if the campaigns have been working for eBay or not, just to stay objective here. What I can say, is that the majority of the people commenting on the quality of the creatives, the supposedly fail to optimize these campaigns on a ROI positive manner, might not be so right at all. They probably have never managed a budget of the size of the eBay Paid Search budget, while optimizing for 170 million keywords, while landing the budget within 1% of the amount, each and every quarter and showing incremental ROI improvements time and time again. The teams who manage these campaigns are very smart and creative in doing new tests, which you can hardly judge upon as an outsider!

Disclaimer: I worked for eBay for 9.5 years in different positions, last 6 years of my tenure focused on Global SEO for all eBay sites cross the world. I cannot disclose all information I have, and do not claim to be an expert in Paid Search! These view do not represent the views of my current employer, nor eBay's!

Breakdown of @HackerNews Visitors

Ever wondered who else read HackerNews? You might have made friendships, found new business partners or got great amounts of traffic from HackerNews. I was interested in what the average HackerNews reader runs on their computer, where they are living and how engaged they are when a HackerNews reader clicks on a link. To satisfy my interest, I pulled the numbers for Slashdot and did some analysis... Here it goes:

Since August 1st, in the last 6 months, more than 115,000 people came to visit Slashdot from HackerNews. Several stories featured and discussed on Slashdot made the homepage of HackerNews, of which the top 3 were:
1. Rob ‘Cmdr Taco’ Malda resigns from Slashdot (13,828 pageviews) (HN link)
2. Canonical drops CouchDB from Ubuntu One (5,185 pageviews) (HN link)
3. Sopa creator in tv/film/music industry pocket (4,839 pageviews) (HN link)

With 115,000 visits, I believe I have a big enough sample to analyze the HN users to find some commonalities and to profile the tech set up of their computers. For the analysis I used the Google Analytics data from Slashdot. For simplicity sake, I created an Advanced segment, which will generate all reports in fast-mode. This means the reports are based on Sampled data in GA! Learn more about fast mode in GA at the Google Support pages.

HackerNews visits to Slashdot for the last 6 months in 2011First, let's breakdown the traffic, these 115K visits, a little further.

  • 115,812 Visits
  • 63,956 Unique Visitors
  • 155,569 Pageviews
  • 1.34 page/visit
  • 2.51 Ave time on site
  • 75.22% bounce rate
  • 41.49% New visits
Compared to the average numbers of the Slashdot visits in that same period, HackerNews visitors were spending half the amount of time on the site, there were twice the percentage of new visitors and all these people were just passing through, bouncing back with a much higher rate than the average Slashdotter. I guess we can say that Slashdot has a very loyal, sticky audience, on average!

Where are HN users from?

Off course it would be interesting to see where these 115K HackerNews readers are living. In Google Analytics the location report is a great tool to see where your website visitors are coming from.

Which countries do these HackerNews visitors coming from?

The majority of HN visits to Slashdot came from people located in the USA. There is a large gap between the US and the #2.

World map of HackerNews visits

Which countries do HackerNews visitors come from?The top countries with the visits are:

  1. United States 70,524 visits
  2. Australia 10,099 visits
  3. India 4,839 visits
  4. United Kingdom 4,148 visits
  5. Canada 3,457 visits
  6. France 2,074 visits
  7. Netherlands 2,074 visits
  8. Germany 1,728 visits
  9. Norway 1,037 visits
  10. Argentina 691 visits
I would like to mention here, that the fast-access mode in GA is rounding up the total reported visits in some cases. This is causing a large number of countries to report same amount of visits. Number 10 to number 24 all report 691 visits in the last 6 months. As this number is so small, it's insignificant to the overall analysis. So if you live in Brazil, Italy, Israel or Pakistan, consider yourself lucky to share the #10 spot with Argentina!

Which Cities do these HackerNews readers call home?

The outcome of which city was sending the most visits from HackerNews to /. in the last 6 months was surprising to me. Based on the US sending the most visits from HN to Slashdot; I would have expected a city in the US to have the top spot on this list. Some would say this pends how GA slices the data, where the Bay Area is a good contender for the first spot based on the high concentration of high tech. However, would you have thought the #1 spot would be a shared nomination between an Australian & US city: Brisbane and San Antonio?
City map for HackerNews visits to Slashdot
Not as I expected, but the #1 spot for cities HN came from is shared between two cities. One is Brisbane, the other is San Antonio.
  1. HackerNews visitors city Brisbane 9,679 visits
  2. San Antonio 9,679 visits
  3. San Francisco 8,988 visits
  4. Redwood City 6,222 visits
  5. Oakland 5,531 visits
  6. Bangalore 4,148 visits
  7. New York 2,419 visits
  8. London 2,074 visits
  9. Bellevue 2,074 visits
  10. Paris 1,728 visits
Number 11 & 12 have the same number of visits as Paris. Both Los Angeles and Sydney were reporting 1,728 visits in the last months to Slashdot from HackerNews. If you would add up all the Bay Area cities, San Francisco; Redwood City and Oakland, the Bay Area would have been #1 with 20,741 visits! 

What browser is the favorite for HN users?

It has become clear from the visitor numbers I've analyzed, HackerNews readers use Internet Explorer very limited. The browser of choice for the HN visitor is Chrome. It's impressive how Chrome is seeing high growth in market share in the browser wars, especially in tech savvy communities. For Slashdot's HackerNews visits, the browser shares were dominated by Chrome to an extend I didn't expected.Browser of the HackerNews visitors to Slashdot

  1. Chrome 67,104 visits
  2. Firefox 21,434 visits
  3. Safari 21,088 visits
  4. Internet Explorer 2,765 visits
  5. Android Browser 1,728 visits
  6. Mozilla Compatible Agent 345 visits
  7. Opera 345 visits
You could say, based on these numbers, the role of Internet Explorer in the browser market is finished!

What Operating System is the choice for HN users?

The operating system of choice for the HackerNews visitor is not a landslide victory for Apple Mac OS, but there is a large gap before Windows appears on the #2. Linux takes a respectable third place, after which the mobile OS' are coming in on #4,5 and 6. Operating system of the HackerNews visitor

  1. Macintosh
  2. Windows
  3. Linux
  4. iPad
  5. iPhone
  6. Android

It would be interesting to see how the mobile operating systems take a larger share over time.

Of the Window users 84% is on Windows 7, while only 2% of HackerNews visitors rocking it on Windows Vista. Thirteen percent is still on Windows XP. Just 1% of Windows users are on Server 2003.

Screen resolution of the HN user?

And last, I wanted to see what kind of large screens HackerNews readers are using. The larger the screen resolution might indicate a very large screen!

  1. Screen resolution of the HackerNews visitors1440x900 20,051
  2. 1280x800 14,865
  3. 1366x768 14,174
  4. 1920x1080 13,828
  5. 1920x1200 13,136
  6. 1280x1024 8,297
  7. 1680x1050 7,951
  8. 1024x600 4,494
  9. 768x1024 4,494
  10. 1024x768 3,457


Engagement of the HackerNews visitors

As the image at the top shows, the Average HackerNews visitor to Slashdot was not very engaged. With a bounce rate of ~75%, and 1.4 pages per visit and an average of 2.4 minutes on the site. These engagement numbers are considerable lower than the average Slashdot visitor.


On my Chrome browser, I have HackerNews set as the homepage. Every time I start my browser I can read instantly what is happening in the technology industry. HackerNews can bring any website a large amount of traffic, but you should always pay attention to what kind of traffic you need to be successful. If you are running a media company, and get paid based on CPM's, HackerNews can be a great source of traffic.

Let me know if you would like to see these kind of analysis more often on different referrals.

Data: The data showcased in this post has been derived from the Slashdot Google Analytics for the period of August 1st - December 20th.

Disclaimer: The data presented in this analysis has been derived from Google Analytics on Slashdot. It represents a small subset of the total. The comments included herein are my own and don’t necessarily represent Geeknet’s opinions

Christmas Sweaters Hit The Big Times

For two years, I've been following the Ugly Christmas Sweater craze, as it was growing in popularity to throw an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. I just got a message on Twitter that News cable shows are now "discovering" the Ugly Christmas Sweater craze as an item for their morning show: see that NW Cable News sweater event? When a "style" makes it to the pacific NW, it's hit the big time.

Christmas Sweater Tweet I responded that my traffic on this blog for Ugly Christmas Sweaters is going through the roof. The season for the Tacky Christmas Jumper has never been this big! See the daily traffic for the last year on this site for posts with Christmas in the title (which are only a few, majority around the Ugly Christmas Sweater parties).

Sweater traffic

Here is the item on the NWCN News website:

It Proofs that there is business in buying these Sweaters in the second hand stores, and selling these on eBay for a profit! Or make these yourself off course!

No items matching your keywords were found.

All my other posts about the Christmas Sweater crazy:

Couch Commerce – Why eBay Should Have Bought IntoNow

Back in April, Yahoo made one great move. Yahoo bought IntoNow for around $30 million. The start-up was just 12 weeks old! Last week Yahoo/IntoNow launched the iPad application that makes use of the IntoNow technology.  eBay should have bought it back in April for several reasons. Now they should request access to an API from Yahoo to make use of its technology. I will explain below.

IntoNow, The Shazam for TV

Intonow logo by YahooOne of my favorite applications on my iPhone is Shazam. Where Shazam lets you discover new music if you hear a tune somewhere by just letting the application listen for 30 second to the music, Intonow can recognize which TV program you are watching.

From the Crunchbase description of IntoNow:

IntoNow is a consumer tech company that aims to enhance the way people engage with each other around the shows they love. … Based on the SoundPrint platform, IntoNow gives users the ability to almost instantly recognize TV content and then helps them share and discuss those shows with friends, both within the product and through other social streams such as Facebook and Twitter.

Background; The start-up that never will see the Light

Twitter conversation Eight months ago, while I was in Sydney Australia for SMX Sydney (great overview of this conference here), I was catching up with the MD of She and I have known each other since eBay marketing college back in November 2004. She always said I should talk to her husband, as we are alike in our love for new technology, always on the edge of the next big thing, and really understands how the Internet works (at least, we think for ourselves).

Joshua (fertile) gave some great pointers on the ideas I presented to him, and we ranted on for a good half hour about start-up ideas, technology and other concepts.

Ever since I read the article on Techcrunch about Yahoo buying IntoNow, I couldn’t help thinking about creative ways to use the technology from IntoNow for a shopping related iPad application. Let’s face it; the two screen TV watching is becoming reality very fast. Checking Facebook, chatting on Twitter or shopping while you watch your favorite series is taking over. This is what eBay calls Couch Commerce.

So my start-up idea was born

Building an iPad shopping application using IntoNow technology, either through an open API or through a licensing deal with Yahoo, which would allow you to get direct shopping deals for products making an appearance in the TV-show you are watching.

To be able to make this concept reality, I started to do research. A couple of uncertainties and time constraints made me delay the project, which probably today will be canceled after all. These include:

  • Uncertain if IntoNow allows you to license the technology, or will launch an API
  • How large is the market for product placements? Would I be in a position to get a list of product placements in all TV shows, movies, quiz-shows etc.?
  • How would you handle older TV shows in rerun? Their product placements might be out of date, and worse even; out of stock!
  • Would the networks hand over this list of product placements without sharing any of the revenue the company would be able to make? These Networks do not seem very favorable towards web start-ups eating their lunch!

Back in the US after my travels to Australia, I posted two questions on Quora:

  1. Where can you find a list of product placements in past & upcoming TV shows? Large brands are sponsoring or placing their products more and more in TV shows. Is there a list somewhere you can see which products are actively placed within TV shows? (Question on Quora link)
  2. How large is the market for product Placements in TV & Film? This report from 2005 talks a $1B market for Product Placements. Fast froward to 2011, how large is this market today...? (Question on Quora link)

Having too much on my plate, not being able to break free for some coding tutorials and a short holiday in The Netherlands, brought me to the end of the summer starting a new job at Geeknet Inc. The start-up idea was still in the back of my head, however, I chose to pursue other, more promising ideas for concepts. The ones that made it pass the drawing board, but not launched yet! There is much more good stuff where this idea came from :)

eBay should have bought IntoNow

Today eBay launched a new iPad shopping application that lets you shop while you watch TV. Double screening is taking over the living room, a term which is called couch commerce by eBay and PayPal.

From the Techcrunch article (markings mine):

A new “Watch with eBay” tab has been added to the e-commerce giant’s iPad app that allows users to shop a selection of items on the marketplace related to what they are currently watching on TV.

Users tap “Watch with eBay” and type in their zip code, cable provider, channel and the program they are currently watching; and using show and event-specific key word searches, the app will surface relevant merchandise from the more than 200 million listings available on the eBay marketplace.

eBay says this is just the beginning. The company plans to partner with networks, stations, cable providers and studio to identify products featured in each scene of a movie or show.

In my opinion, the tab with the Watch With eBay is a brilliant innovation in the eBay App. However, the solution for matching TV show you are watching with merchandise on eBay, could have been much simpler. Instead of a costumer needing to type in all the information about location, channels etc, the IntoNow application SoundPrint platform can be used. The application could just listen which program you are watching, and serve relevant merchandising up based on the products featured in those TV shows. You can even sell advertising on the side which matches the Advertisement blocks on TV. This way the consumer will get roadblocked!

And with regards to the large TV networks, eBay would have the cloud to make such deals happen. Much more chance to make that happen than a little start-up from some crazy Dutch!


Since I’m still long in eBay stock, I will send this post to my buddies who work in the eBay mobile team. This team is amazing, and is cranking out new innovations very fast.

I got a lesson in start-up ideas again! A good idea is not good without execution!

So will you excuse me for a moment, I’m going to read through 4 chapters of Python coding…


PS> Full disclosure, I've worked at eBay for 9.5 years (see my bio page), until the end of July 2011. I have never been exposed to the mobile strategy of eBay. The idea I've described above here has never been shared with the eBay mobile team by me. I guess the saying "Great Minds Think Alike" can be applied here.

PSS> If you try to claim couch commerce as a verb to be used with your brand, at least claim the URL..

Buy It New Buy It Now Hijacking

Now that we have Halloween just behind us, the shopping season is just around the next corner. eBay has just launched their new branding campaign, which includes TV-commercials. This is the first brand campaign since 2-3 years, which is showing the team feels confident they are ready for a big shopping season this year. And I hope so, full disclosure: I'm still long in eBay stock!

Here is one of the TV-spots airing at the moment:

Buy It New Buy It Now!

The tagline of the new campaign is: Buy it new, Buy it Now!

eBay brand campaign 2011 Buy it New, Buy it Now!
The new eBay brand campaign was highlighted 3 times in the last earnings call, and several questions from analysts were geared towards the brand campaign: Buy it New, Buy it Now.

Tagline Hijacking

For a couple of years I've been testing out a technique to gain extra traffic to my Dutch blog: When I spotted a flashy brand campaign on Dutch websites, where the banner was linking to a website in all flash, I would try to hijack the brand traffic. Most of these flash sites would not have decent ability to rank, where SEO and flash don't go well together. By writing a simple post with the tagline in the title, I would be able to rank my page and hijack the traffic for all the brand searches.

Doing a simple search on Buy it New, Buy it Now, you can see potential here as well... But I'm not the only one who thought of that!

Google SERP Buy it New, Buy it Now!

The marketing team of Aliexpress, a site run by is marketing with the very same tagline as the large brand ad campaign of eBay. And as you can see in the above screenshot, only a couple of eBay help pages are ranking for it. I feel all my work in training teams on integrated marketing campaigns with SEO from the last couple of years have not fully paid off

In the mean time, AliExpress is making sure the message is clear; you can Buy it New, Buy it Now on AliExpress.

AliExpress trying to Hijack eBay Brand tagline

To Be Copied a True Form of Flattery?

A pretty low way of marketing your own brand if you ask me, but it seems to be working for AliExpress. At least eBay is able to take down the Halloween decorations on the site in time, where AliExpress is still showing ghosts and Jack O'Lanterns. For me, AliExpress will always be remembered as the brand that could not do it on their own, but needed to lean on the marketing campaign and hijack the traffic.

In China they say that getting copied is the truest form of flattery.

Lesson learned:

Always make sure you own the search results for your own branding message.Use the tagline as the page title for your homepage, Set up a mini-site, where you feature the video's, claim the twitter account, or build a Facebook page. There are multiple cheap ways to dominate the first page for your message.

Although the eBay branding for this year is pretty generic, the least thing you should make sure of is rank for your own marketing tagline. That whenever people type in the message into a search engine you put into your TV commercials, you get the traffic, not your competitor.