Thought Leadership Blog

Site Performance = Page Speed Insights Score

Is your website fast? I mean objectively fast.

There are several tools to measure the performance of your site, and GTMetrix is my personal favorite. However, when it comes to SEO what matters is how fast Google thinks your site is, and the measure of this is the Page Speed Insights score. This is a tool provided by Google for website developers, and is based on something called Lighthouse, Google’s internal performance measurement technology.

So while GTMetrix or might tell you that your site is fast, and maybe subjectively it is for your visitors, when Google is factoring your site’s performance into quality score for search ranking what really matters is Page Speed Insights score.

Is this you?

Enter your website URL to check your site performance in a new tab, go ahead and do it now:

Anything other than a score above 90 means that your ranking in organic search results is impacted negatively. Page speed is a factor in the quality score for paid search too, so you could be paying more for advertising clicks from Google unless your landing pages have a high performance score.

Currently, page speed performance is weighted heaviest for mobile browsers, but Google plans to increase the importance of Core Web Vitals in the coming months across all device types. For better or worse, Google is shaping the future of the web, and the fastest websites (in their opinion) will be the winners.

Improving Page Speed Insights score can be very technical, but it doesn’t need to be a large investment. Typically, there are a handful of surgical improvements that can dramatically increase your score, and for an experienced performance analyst will take only 4 or 5 hours of effort.

Would you like to get your site into the green? Fill out our contact form for a free consultation, or just email us directly at

Consumer Conversion Core Concepts

Online marketing is dominated by anecdotes. This worked in my last job, so let’s do it. Or I read about this technique on LinkedIn from someone I admire.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this; in online marketing and especially consumer marketing, testing, learning, and failing fast is essential. However, for any marketing initiative it’s important to understand context – what needle, specifically, is this initiative trying to move? Conversion Rate is the obvious one, but can be misleading. Not all conversions are “good” and, in fact, you can often improve marketing performance with a reduction in conversion rate. Let’s try to break down consumer conversion to understand what is going on; I’ll be focusing on website conversion for now, not apps. Here are some core concepts:

  • Site Traffic: visitors coming to your website and being exposed to your attempts to convert them into a customer
  • Conversion Rate: of all unique site visitors, the percentage that turn into paying customers.
  • Lifetime Value (LTV): your expected total revenue from a customer; easy to calculate for one-time purchases, but more nuanced for SaaS.
  • Channel: how the customer originally came to your site, e.g. direct, paid or organic search, referral, etc.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Cost: paid marketing where you pay for each click on your ads.
  • Cost-Per-Action (CPA) Cost: paid marketing where you typically pay only for converted customers; common with affiliate marketing.
  • Cost to Acquire a Customer (CAC): often thought of as only paid marketing costs (e.g. Google, Facebook, affiliates), but there is more…
  • Cost to Onboard a Customer (COB): this cost is usually in employee time, often hidden in the Customer Success or Integration departments.
  • Sales Costs: if you have a sales team, their salaries and commissions are indirectly part of your CAC.
Continue reading this article… “Consumer Conversion Core Concepts”

Email As User Identity

Email is your primary identity on the Internet, one that you carry with you for life. It is the first thing you set up on your new phone or computer, and for website owners the most effective way to reconcile 1st party data. What does this mean for publishers? Find out in my article in Publishing Executive:

Why Email is an Easier Way to Establish User Identity

Getting Audiences To Pay

There is a macro-trend in publishing towards Pay Walls, which are a fundamental departure from the advertising business model in that audiences pay directly for the content. This model won’t work for every publisher, and the rule of thumb is that your content must be differentiated and high quality for it to work. So when the quality is mostly behind the paywall, how do you actually get readers to convert? There’s a chicken and egg problem here: users won’t convert without seeing the value, but the value is behind the paywall. I addressed this topic in my first guest post at Martech Series.

Getting Audiences to Pay When Everyone’s Behind the Paywall

jQuery Selectors in a Nutshell

What is a jQuery Selector?

jQuery is a query syntax that finds HTML page elements matching specific criteria. It is analogous to the more complex SQL that queries databases, and conceptually similar to using filters in Excel. However, the specific data that jQuery operates over is the webpage Document Object Model (DOM), which is basically just a technical way of saying the structure of the webpage. The DOM is the set of all “nested” elements on the webpage. To understand jQuery selectors, we need a clear understanding of HTML. Don’t worry, it’s much simpler than it appears!

What is an element?

HTML elements have a well defined syntax and consistent, nested structure. The basic structure of an HTML element is like this:

<tagName attributeName=attributeValue(s) …> … elementContents … </tagName> 

</tagName> “closes” the element. An HTML “tag” is just the opening or closing entity. For example: <p> and </p> are called HTML tags

Continue reading this article… “jQuery Selectors in a Nutshell”

Newsletters as a Business

I was quoted in Digiday for an interesting article about Morning Brew, a highly successful standalone newsletter-as-a-business. It’s a mystery to me why more publishers don’t wake up to the potential of high quality newsletter products. If Morning Brew, theSkimm, and theHustle can generate millions of dollars with just a handful of employees and a direct sold ad model, why is this opportunity commonly overlooked by larger publishers with vastly more resources?

Morning Brew claims 1 million subscribers, $3m in revenue — and a profitable business

B2B Marketing Trends

I was quoted extensively in an ANA article (Association of National Advertisers):

“I’ve seen many B2B marketers over-engineer around data and analytics, ending up with their shoelaces tied together,” Sibson says. “The best investment of time and energy for B2B marketers is a strong segmentation strategy, backed by rigorous qualitative research. Aim to have five to 10 clearly defined segments, or personas, for your prospects, and use data and analytics to bucket them as quickly as possible in order to get them into the right messaging stream.”

Read the full article here (registration wall):

5 Trends in B2B Email Marketing

Browser Push for Publishers

Browser Push hasn’t generated much hype recently, but given the now universal support across browsers and devices, it will. Publishers should be highly motivated to diversify their channels away from Google and especially Facebook, and browser push is a great complement to email. Browser Push is an additional direct channel that you own, can reach your audience at a time of your choosing, and literally buzz their pockets.

Browser Push can be highly effective if done right, but is easy to screw up. Read my article in Publishing Executive to learn more.

The Power and Pitfalls of Using Browser Push Notifications


Flowers After a Punch in the Face

MediaPost solicited my opinion along with a panel of industry experts about the recent changes to Facebook’s news feed that prioritizes local news in the content feed.

“While on the surface, this is good news for local news, it feels a bit like flowers after being punched in the face. Let’s not forget that Facebook just cut publisher’s organic reach to zero. Also, this change is more about Facebook trying to show users healthy content than it is about helping publishers. I think we can agree that local news is better than clickbait, but it still causes discomfort that Facebook is the arbiter of what’s good and bad for us.”

Read the full article on Media Post:

As Facebook Prioritizes Local News, Industry Experts Respond

3 Hard Truths

Despite writing this article before the recent announcement of Facebook finally kicking publishers to the curb, it is still just as relevant. My strategic advice to publishers has consistently been to treat Facebook as, at best, a frenemy.

The industry is at a turning point, and publishers need to decide what type of publisher they are going to be:

  • large-scale commodity publisher with low production costs, or
  • high-quality publisher with paid subscription models, or
  • niche-content producers with small audiences sold to advertisers directly

Read the full article on Publishing Executive:

The 3 Hard Truths Publishers Must Face in 2018

Update: this article was one of the top 12 articles on in 2018.

Ad Blocking Game Changer

On February 15th, Google will enable ad blocking from within the Chrome browser, affecting 60% of web users, which is Chrome’s market share. Affected ads include full page, auto-playing sound and video, and flashing or otherwise intrusive ads. Google is using its near-monopoly power with Chrome, to try to improve the “user experience” of the internet, and specifically the web. Without debating what constitutes a good user experience and whether Google is justified in deciding this, the actual business motivation is that Google makes more money when lots of people are spending lots of time on the web. In their view, aggressive ads hurt the web experience, especially on mobile, and drive users into the arms of relatively uncluttered walled gardens like Facebook. Google absolutely has the will and ability to reduce or eliminate (subjectively) aggressive ads. Publishers that currently rely on this type of ads will likely lose 60% of the revenue associated with them.

Can you block the blocker? At the risk of sounding defeatist, it is a bad idea to try to subvert or block Google’s ad blocking. This was fine when defending against the myriad of ad blocker plugins, none of which have overwhelming market share – a fair fight. But Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. They have all the power, and can seriously hurt your site. When publishers have tried to subvert Google algorithms in the past it has usually ended badly for them, up to and including being delisted in search results.

Publishers using low key advertising techniques like banners and native ads have nothing to worry about, but those using more aggressive techniques better have a plan to replace the revenue. A better strategy is to produce quality content that people want to read, advertise alongside it non-aggressively, and even better: charge a subscription fee to access it. Long term, work to grow a direct relationship with your audience, and email is a great channel for this.


Personalize Your Business Model

My byline in MarTech advisor on personalization of content (pay) walls. This is effectively personalization of the business model to your audience segments. You think that first time visitor from Facebook is going to convert on your paywall? Nope, but you can expect much higher conversion rates by offering them something lower hurdle, like a 7 day guest pass in exchange for their email address.

How Publishers Can Use Personalization to Increase Subscriptions


Apple is blocking/deleting 3rd party cookies for Safari users in some situations. This hurts advertisers since their targeted (and especially retargeted) ads are less effective. But in particular, it hurts the ad tech providers that act as the middle men between advertisers and publishers – their entire value proposition is based on the ability to track and target consumers across the Internet.

I was quoted in this article on Axios:

Advertisers slam Apple for “sabotage”

This could be a good thing for publishers if it motivates advertisers to buy ad inventory directly, which is far more lucrative to publishers than programmatic. It could also force ad tech providers to pass through more of the revenue to publishers, since they are providing less of the value realized by advertisers.

Subscribers vs. Subscriptions

My byline on iMediaConnection about the revenue benefits of increasing the number of subscriptions, on top of getting new subscribers. Or said another way, drive your engaged audience to subscribe to more than one newsletters. The more subscriptions you have (per subscriber) the more revenue you generate at all levels of the monetization funnel. Give your subscribers multiple, category-based newsletters to choose from, and cross promote. A corollary to this is that having one (personalized) newsletter to “rule them all” is bad for business. It may sound glib, but the more email you send, the more revenue you generate.

Forget Subscribers: It’s All About Subscriptions

Personalization Doesn’t Solve the Real Problem

1-to-1 personalization was nearing the end of the marketing hype cycle, when it suddenly morphed into something-something Artificial Intelligence. Regardless of how it is actually implemented, personalization is not the solution to publishing industry’s main problems: how to counter decreasing advertising CPMs and how to take back control of their audience from the platforms. At best, personalization can increase engagement of already engaged subscribers. As a solution, it’s got more in common with the “show more ads on the page” strategy for increasing revenue than it does with something that can actually change the course of publisher business models.

I expand on this in my contributor post at the Association of National Advertisers: The Truth Behind Personalization: Why It Doesn’t Solve Publishers’ Biggest Problem

They Giveth, Then They Puncheth You in the Face

I was interviewed by Erik Sass at MediaPost about publisher strategy in the sometimes adversarial relationship between publishers and platforms. I love his opening line: “The platforms giveth, then they puncheth you in the face.”

Facebook, Google Squeezing Publishers Again

Publishers casting about for alternative ways to reach (and take possession) of their audiences are giving another look to older channels like email, according to Keith Sibson, vice-president of product and marketing at email platform PostUp. He noted publishers can also benefit from growing concern among advertisers about brand safety on the platforms.

“It’s a good opportunity for publishers to try to rekindle the direct relationship with advertisers and audiences.  Publishers themselves have become reliant on those very same platforms as traffic sources … One good way to hedge the risk centers around building a direct relationship with your audience is through channels like email. We’re not telling anyone to quit Facebook, Google, but don’t let it become their primary business,” said Sibson.

When it comes to audience-building strategies, Sibson said PostUp clients have had success converting traffic referred by the platforms into subscribers: “Of course, they do programmatic like everyone else, they get traffic from Google and Facebook like everyone else, but they view them as an opportunity to convert temporary short-term traffic into a long-term relationship.”

How Programmatic has Hurt Publishers

This is a byline I wrote for PerformanceIN. While PerformanceIn is an advertiser focused publication, publishers are a critical part of the ecosystem so their woes should be of concern to advertisers.

The gold rush to programmatic created a digital “tragedy of the commons,” with too many publishers providing too much inventory supply, and CPMs began to plummet. This might sound like a good thing for advertisers – after all publisher revenues are advertiser costs. But publishers are supplementing their falling revenue simply by placing more ads. This hurts the reader experience, erodes trust, and reduces ad performance due to systemic “ad blindness.”

How Programmatic Has Hurt Publishers and Why Advertisers Should Care

Marketing Strategy Interview

I was interviewed by Martech Advisor in what started as a bio piece for me and PostUp, and turned into a discussion of marketing strategy.

Interview with Keith Sibson, VP Product and Marketing at PostUp

Could you share for our readers, an infographic or description depicting your marketing stack (various marketing software products or platforms your team uses or subscribes to)?

The technology is interesting, but not as interesting as the clear business model it enables and is built around. As an email marketer, if a given initiative does not clearly map to one or more of the levels in the email revenue funnel, then you are wasting your time. Also, initiatives closer to the top of the funnel are more impactful, because they “cascade” down the funnel. It’s easier to achieve a 10 percent increase in list size than a 10 percent increase in the click-through-rate.

Politics and Email

Email has always been a (maybe the) lucrative way for political organizations to raise funds come election time. I was interviewed by USA Today on this topic … I really wanted to say more, but I have several political advocacy clients at PostUp that send exactly this kind of email and wanted to respect their privacy.

Campaigns see dollar signs in AOL email addresses

This article ran in the paper edition also. At least I can check “quoted on the front page of USA Today” off my bucket list.

Facebook Engagement … or not

In reaction to the latest of Facebook’s publisher harming algorithm and product changes, I was asked by State of Digital to suggest ways to boost engagement on Facebook. In fact, the best way to use Facebook to drive engagement is to use Facebook to establish a direct relationship with your audience (the Facebook one publisher’s don’t actually own), so that you depend less on Facebook as a channel.

10 Ways to Boost Facebook Engagement Without Ads

10. Encourage Fans to Interact via Other Channels

Brands can also use social media to encourage interaction via other more direct avenues like email.

“This newsfeed change is cause for publishers to stop building their greatest asset on borrowed land,” said Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing at email marketing firm PostUp. “Publishers and brands must figure out how to stop being reliant on social platforms for developing their audience. There is great reward in organically nurturing and growing audience relationships.”

Google to Punish “Popups” on Mobile

When Google changes their algorithm publicly, everyone should take notice. In this case, Google is penalizing “intrusive interstitials” in mobile search results. Fair enough, these interstitials are often annoying and spammy, but there’s a real risk to legitimate publishers just trying to engage their audience. I wrote an article on Martech Advisor about how to avoid these problems. (Note that I did not choose the title, I’m not encouraging anyone to circumvent Google’s crackdown, only to stay within Google guidelines as to what constitutes a good mobile user experience.)

How to Circumvent Google’s Crackdown on Mobile Pop-ups

Cautious Optimism for Publishers

Leading product and marketing for an email technology company, I suppose I could be accused of bias when saying that email is part of the solution for many of the publishing industry’s current problems. However, the fact that publishers need to establish a direct relationship with their audience is something that I truly believe, and email just happens to be the best way of doing this. Getting an invitation to the inbox is extremely powerful.

Here’s my section from Columbia Journalism Review’s article, Publishers’ New Year’s resolution: more experimentation, cautious optimism.

Strengthen relationships with readers through email

With the death of the homepage, readers spend less time engaging with the full slate of any publisher’s content. To circumvent the algorithms Facebook and Google use to determine who sees what, connecting directly with consumers often requires getting to their inboxes.

“Email is the direct relationship with the audience,” says Keith Sibson, vice president of product and marketing of PostUp, which provides email marketing platforms to clients including NBC, Disney, and The Golf Channel. “Whereas a lot of the things going on in the digital publishing world are about people coming up against an intermediary in that relationship, Facebook being a really big part of that.”

For many publishers (including CJR), email newsletters are a way to share content they want to highlight with consumers who have signaled their willingness to engage. “When someone signs up on a publisher website, and provides their email address, what they’re essentially giving is an invitation,” Sibson said.

Getting that invitation is the first step towards deepening a relationship with consumers that exists outside the walled garden of social platforms. Once readers have engaged enough to sign on for a newsletter, publishers have the ability to tailor content for that user’s interests, from politics to cooking. Many outlets have already embraced this strategy; The Washington Post offers 65 separate newsletters that readers can choose from and The New York Times sends out 53, including seven that focus on ‘special offers’ that provide deals on products offered by premium advertisers.

Whether by partnering with advertisers to bring consumers specific products or simply drawing readers directly to an outlet’s website, email provides an end run around the dominance of Facebook and Google, and while they’re no silver bullet, the prevalence of newsletters shows that many publishers have already realized this. “Email is not going to change publishing businesses overnight,” Sibson says. “But it can become a very big part of their revenue streams.”

DMN “Contrarian Week”

Digital Marketing News featured my thoughts on 1-1 personalization as part of their contrarian week. I don’t always go against popular opinion, but being a marketer, product manager, and computer scientist I do tend to see through the hype associated with marketing technology and trends.

Marketers Have to Stop Chasing One-to-one Personalization.

Marketers have to be relevant in order for their efforts to be worth anything. But chasing the elusive (and difficult to achieve) goal of 1:1 personalization may actually be hampering revenue potential. There is a way to remain targeted and relevant and provide a great user experience while increasing the LTV of each individual user in your database, and a category-based program might just help you strike that balance.

Interviewed in MediaPost

I was interviewed by Tobi Elkin from MediaPost, discussing the setbacks for the business model and why the publishing industry overall should take notice.

Forget Programmatic: Could Email Be A More Effective Channel For Publishers Struggling To Monetize?

RTBlog: What lessons can be learned from Medium’s situation?

Sibson: Programmatic ad revenue is in large part the cause of publisher woes. It started off well. For advertisers, programmatic aggregates and provides enormous reach, as well as powerful targeting capabilities that deliver click performance.

For publishers, it’s turnkey: put a small piece of code on your site, and the money starts to flow. However, now publishers don’t need an ad sales team, and the barrier to entry for new publishing businesses has dropped dramatically. There’s now an oversupply of ad inventory, and CPMs are compressed as a result.

For many, the solution to preserve revenue was to show more ads, which in turn, helped precipitate the rise of ad blockers, which further compressed CPMs (per page view). I like to say that BuzzFeed took $10 billion of publishing industry revenue, and converted it into $1 billion in revenue for BuzzFeed.

My byline in Publishing Executive

Programmatic advertising is, paradoxically, the creator and the (potential) destroyer of the modern digital publishing industry. This article is about how the industry got there.

How the Ad-Driven Business Model Derailed Medium & Why Publishers Need to Think Beyond Programmatic.

Programmatic & The Tragedy of the Commons

A notable exception is BuzzFeed, which built a successful business based on programmatic. But most traditional publishers couldn’t afford to pay the rent, let alone journalists’ salaries and the electric bill with the money that programmatic generates today. BuzzFeed took the low cost model to an extreme, capturing a huge share of audience attention, but with none of the costs associated with actual journalism or content production. Essentially, BuzzFeed took $10 billion of revenue from the publishing industry, and turned it into $1 billion of revenue for BuzzFeed.