What not to do for Online Marketplaces

I am writing this post to share my observations on  how my team won the market in Vietnam when we launched the challenger site, Chotot.vn in early 2012.

Back then, in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi which are the main cities in Vietnam when it came to online/internet penetration, we saw a number of incumbent sites in Vietnam like 5giay , Vatgia and Muaban who are the forerunners.

However, this was what they forgot:

  1. Always watermark the images that is inserted into the ads. There was no watermarking, thus allowing Chotot to get the advantage of spidering ads in the early days to build a competitive database size in a short period of time just by spidering.
  2. Some classifieds site started monetizing too early for ad postings for cars and properties etc without building a sizable user base. The rule of thumb is to be at least 2 to 3 times larger than the closest competitor before monetization takes place as charging for ad insertions generally leads to a fall in seller activity and hence impacting buyer activity. This caused the users to switch out easily to a new challenger site like Chotot.vn.

These were 2 key observations that I have remembered as learning points in the online/mobile classifieds business to closely watch out for.


Francis Goh

SEM Head Coach


User Acquisition tracking tools and User retention tools for a Mobile First Business

This article is to outline the recommended user acquisition tracking and user retention tools that a Mobile First Business like OneKyat in Myanmar , Carousell in SE Asia, Shpock in Europe  needs to use to better track its organic and inorganic growth activities. Tools like this allows the marketing strategist to closely track the performance of each of its marketing channels and ensure bang for the buck.

User Acquisition

First, to track the efficiency of our marketing channels and marketing spend, we need a tool like Appsflyer. It helps to track the app installs conversions and allow us to know how our various marketing channels, like Facebook , Google and Zapya.


User retention

Second, a tool like Braze (former Appboy) or Kahuna is necessary to help send app notification reminders to remind users  to come back to re-visit the app to buy/sell  as a means of user retention in the mobile classifieds space.  If the start-up is short on funds to use a proper tool like Kahuna/Braze , the other tool to use as a stop-gap would be Firebase Analytics for Apps from Google. However, it provides a very basic notification feature but will suit the needs for now as the start-up seizes market share and secures more VC funding.


That’s all for this short article. I will share more on more tools for consideration in my next article.

Francis Goh

Start-up SEM Coach

How SEM is handled by Corporates

This first blog post is to share my experiences managing the growth and scaling online classifieds sites and apps  in the Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam (Chotot.vn), China (Liaomaimai.com , Lumaimai.com) , Philippines (Ayosdito.ph) and in Myanmar (OneKyat.com) into pre-eminent sites in these countries.

First question is to share how SEM is managed within a corporate such as 701Search Pte Ltd (which is a JV between Schibsted Media Group and Singapore Press Holdings).

SEM is primarily managed in-house by an in-house team of digital marketers who are Google Adwords certified and also Facebook Blueprint Certification trained. In that way, we can actively do the analysis of the business results and match it to our digital campaign spend and weed out the poorer non-performing campaigns in double quick time. This is backed by weekly data analysis of conversion which in this business is the ads inserted into our classifieds site as well as items reported to be sold.

The Digital marketing budgets are huge ranging from a spend of SGD$100k per month to  SGD$400K per month if the competition gets aggresive and we need to wrest control of the market share from incumbent competitors such as OLX (backed by Naspers).

Those were exciting times as my teams will work directly with Google & Facebooj Industry Managers and Adwords Specialists to optimize our campaigns. Having a direct line of credit payment with Google and Facebook also helps to ensure that our campaigns are running 24/7 and 7 days a week.

This is the first post just to share that digital corporates actively manage their SEM campaigns in-house to get a better bang for our buck rather than to outsource it to digital agencies who are often slow to get back on the campaign updates when they manage multiple clients with the same team and more often than not the analysts from the agency side have trouble understanding the essence of our business and the conversions that we need.

That’s all for today. Look out for my next post.

Francis Goh

Start-up SEM Coach