I have no idea how my Ford Kuga manages to direct me on how to successfully parallel park. I just press the correct button and then follow the prompts on the dashboard screen. Likewise, it’s beyond me how Google Maps can predict to the closest minute the time I will arrive back home. I just look at the right point on the screen and there the data is.
They both hide the all the complexity they have mastered and provide me with the right prompts in the right way so I park safely and follow the correct path on my journey home.
Online marketing carries its own level of complexity too. And for the business owner, controlling outsourced activity can be a challenge when the necessary success prompts are missing. How do you manage a supplier who has a lot more expertise in their specialty than you will ever want to achieve?
Nevertheless, you want to guard against paying for the worst type of online marketing service – repetition without change. Especially when every dollar invested needs to be questioned to ensure that a) each dollar is being well spent; and b) the money spent last month is being built upon this month.
So here are my eight tasks to help you direct your online marketing outsource supplier. After 14 years in the same industry think of them as questions that help classify you as a client who is a few steps ahead of the rest.
Firstly, let’s talk about what overall success looks like when you outsource some of your online marketing. Some see it as a top Google ranking for a search phrase that’s important to them. The more business savvy see it as a consistent but growing stream of sales or sales leads – each at an affordable cost.
Or as golfers say, “you drive for show, but putt for dough”. Achieving good Google rankings is driving, and improving your site’s conversion rate is putting. You need both, but with a duff putter even the best driver will struggle.
With that cleared up, let’s kick off with the boring part. Google Analytics.
I can imagine few business owners bouncing out of bed on Monday morning hyped up about briefing their outsource provider to correctly configure their website analytics account. However, it’s in here that our first two tasks live. And without them completed all the other “sexy stuff”- social media spend, Google AdWords budgets and so on – are challenging, if not impossible, to successfully direct.
Task #1 – Track as much as you can about who does what on your website. Playing videos, downloading PDFs, scrolling down the page, exiting to visit your Facebook page and completing your Quote Request forms – it all needs to be tracked so you can see what is and isn’t working.
Task #2 – Allocate leads or sales to each stream of traffic your website receives. Think of each stream being silver, gold or mud. Once your analytics is correctly configured all should be revealed so you can keep the gold coming and divert the mud to someone else.
Next, Google Advertising, where. I boil all the complexity down to just three results-oriented tasks.
Task #3 – Calculate your advertising cost per lead. I realise you have the cost of your outsourcer to add in but this should still be a useful guide.
Task #4 – Calculate the trend line of leads per month. Seasonality issues aside, you should expect an upward slope. Ads should be being tweaked, landing pages tested and new keywords trialed – all to generate the one outcome: more leads this month than last.
Task #5 – Select search terms now proven to move to SEO. Do you always want to pay Google for clicks? Now that you have proven the conversion viability of selected search terms through advertising and superior analytics, you can move them into your search engine optimisation plan.
Which leads us nicely into search engine optimisation. Here I have just two items to focus on.
Task #6 – Add content to your website. Why? To improve the ranking of the keywords that have delivered conversions in your paid advertising efforts. Think blog posts, FAQ articles, service outlines, product overviews – any of these can be added to help Google crawlers find and index new content and refresh its current ranking result.
Task #7 – Enjoy the new links your site now has from other high quality websites like yours. I’m not talking about 10,000 links all of a sudden from sites you never hope to visit yourself. I’m talking about sites linking to yours because some human has convinced another that the content on your website would help people visiting theirs.
Finally, I distill the complex area of conversion optimisation down into one task for you to monitor.
Task #8 – Review and, where appropriate, change the content on your website to convince more visitors to convert this month than they did last month.
Which brings us neatly back to my opening comment about success looking more like sales conversions than high search rankings. Traffic problems can be solved with your wallet and Google advertising. Then all that’s left is for your content to fix any remaining conversion problems.
There you go; eight tasks that will increase your chances of success and make managing your outsource relationship a bit easier. Admittedly, I’ve simplified things a little to keep the tasks down to eight, but if you follow these guidelines you will avoid paying for the same results repeatedly, and start seeing real progress with your online marketing efforts.
Get 13 super smart business owners with their own Google Analytics accounts in a room for the morning, add in some fresh coffee and over a hundred training slides, and anything is possible.
Each was there because they believe, as we do, that managing a website is a lot easier if you have a basic understanding of Google Analytics and its core metrics. Just as understanding terms like profit, expenses and assets makes managing your financials much easier, understanding terms like bounce rate, page views and users is helpful for managing a website.
For three hours we gradually layered the information down with frequent breaks for quizzes, card games and chocolate. We are a relaxed bunch, so questions and insights were fired at Abby and me from all directions. And, as is frequently the case, it was they showed us that the stuff was slowly being absorbed.
Questions and insights like…
Once I remove all my spam traffic my numbers look great in some areas and a disaster in others.
Every Google Analytics account involved in the training had spam in it – some more than others. Those with low visit counts were especially affected. Their high proportion of rubbish traffic made their total visitor count look great, but engagement data a mess.
Early in the course we showed a quick way to filter out spam data to reveal the real numbers beneath. For some it was a revelation – the site they thought was busy with prospects was 80% spam and very, very quiet when it came to local traffic.
Why am I paying someone to manage my advertising when I don’t have any goals set up to measure its performance?
After we had removed spam data from the accounts we then helped people set up their first Google Analytics Goal. Think of this as configuring an account to track all the things that show the website performing successfully. Typical measures include contact forms being completed, or sales made. About 20% of participants already had goals set up – the rest went along with a simple scenario that we suggested. By the end of the training, about 50% had set up a goal, and all got the importance of setting them up to measure the success of their efforts. If you’re paying hundreds of dollars a month to Google for advertising, this is a critical step.
Now if I could only reduce the bounce rate from my home page, life would be so much better.
This from an attendee who had to leave the room to convince her web developer to give her access to her own Google Analytics account for the first time. From that standing start she picked up that her home page was her top landing page by a long shot, and it bounced 75% of the traffic it received. She left with attending to that at the top of her to-do list for the week.
The stats from our new website are both good and bad. Good because our engagement has improved, but bad because the conversion rate looks to have plummeted.
This insight came from a design company who had rolled out a new website two months earlier. Thankfully, they had kept the same Google Analytics code across both sites. So now it was easy to see that their fancy new, redesigned home page had delivered a lower bounce rate but also was now hiding the next-step conversion choices they wanted prospects to take.
This is just a smattering of the questions and insights we heard – they kept flying right to the end.
The post-event survey results tell us that the format size and style of training works; allowing business owners to get down and dirty in their own Google Analytics account while being trained along the way seems to hit the mark. Contact us today if you would like to join the next group.
The other day I had coffee with a friend who was struggling with her business. Their financial year had just wrapped up and the results proved what she already understood – it had been a tough year. However, deep down we knew the direction she was heading in was right – the principles were sound. It was just the implementation that needed work.
I think of principles as the “why” parts of a business, the overarching reasons the business does what it does. They are the bits that the owner stands for – the parts that force you to take those hard decisions. The middle of the Simon Sinek bullseye for the company.
When I set up Ark Advance in 2002 I had two core principles I wanted to apply. As the years have progressed a few more have been added. There are not dozens – probably fewer than ten. However, there have been times where I would have just loved to ditch each and every one of them to make life easier.
But unfortunately principles are not like that. They are part of you and so long as you remain true to yourself then they just sit there – guiding you forward and calling you to task along the way. Visions of my mother remind me of this fact.
My Mum was a quietly spoken person who believed in the principle of fairness. (It’s something I believe in too.) One situation in particular sticks in my memory.
Our home in England had as neighbours the local Anglican Church. All was going well until a new vicar arrived and decided to put up a two-metre high black fence along our border without talking to Mum. Effectively, it blocked the view out the front of our house across the nice church grounds towards the vicarage.
I still remember to this day the vision of my five foot Mum in her mid 50s trying to push the fence over from our side – while the six foot tall Vicar was on the other side trying, quite unsuccessfully I may add, to keep it up. Principles make you do that – fight and push and generally keep going when things are against you.
So here are four of mine for Ark Advance.
#1 It’s all worth zip if nothing gets sold.
I sold offset business printing on commission for many years, probably one of the more competitive markets to make a living in. My boss used to chase us out of the office at 9am to knock on doors – cold call style – to make our budget. We were allowed back in at 4.30pm to write up our orders. If we had any. Walking down the street going door to door is probably the least efficient way ever to market a business. Unless, that is, you pay people only when they sell – then it makes perfect sense.
The directors knew this and paid you well IF you made the sale. They had the numbers dialed in. Each drove around in the latest Jaguar sports cars and the company invested in high end printing machinery from Japan.
The simplicity of their sales model was a charm.
Compare that to all the marketing and sales options available, now that most offices stop cold calling reps turning up at their door. In online alone you have social media, search with all its different facets, email marketing and even remarketing. More options than most have time to explore.
However, what hasn’t changed is that it’s all worth zip if something isn’t sold to someone. Forget the razzmatazz of this technology over that one. The end goal remains the same.
#2 It’s David against Goliath, and we provide the slingshot.
A few large US tech corporates control an ever-increasing slice of the online space you market within. And yep, the dice are loaded heavily in their favour. They can and do change the game on a frequent basis and you are left to react as quickly as the rest.
Small to medium sized companies are only allowed to interact with these brands through script-driven call centres. Fairness has nothing to do with the situation. It’s market economics on a global scale that means a few can control so much.
Nevertheless, there are ways to make things work in your favour. It’s not about doing the same thing the big brands do. Their budgets are crazy and you will never get the same access they do. For you, it’s about finding the nooks and crannies in the online marketing space where, at the right price, you can locate the right prospect, win their attention, and convince them to do the right thing. Our job is to show you where these places are and then hand you the tools to achieve your goals.
#3 Process delivers repeatable success
Ever press the “send” button on an email campaign going to a half a million people? Our team do on a regular basis. The only way I can have them do this is by supporting them with a process that works. We would have over a hundred steps an email campaign needs to follow to ensure it is launched to spec – a similar number to setting up a good paid advertising campaign. So when things go awry it’s the process that’s called to task first, not the team member.
#4 The truth is in the data.
It’s less about opinions, feelings, thoughts or hunches. These are the places where seemingly great ideas can still remain alive, sucking your budget and, more importantly, your time. The cold hard data tells the front-footed truth, the bits you don’t want to know. Such as the thousands you spend with an SEO “specialist” each month without any data to show you the extra sales it produces.
Or the 80% bounce rate from the Google advertising campaign that makes you cringe but is managed by a friend of the boss who is nice to chat with each week BUT still hasn’t asked for access to your Google Analytics account so they can see the data themselves.
Ark would be a different business without these principles. For instance, we would have dived into social media from the get-go. Instead, we held back until we could see it driving sales as opposed to “brand exposure”. Also, our focus on Google Analytics would be way less than it is now. We actively look for data to challenge our approach.
Compare this to the accounts we are asked to review where there’s lots being spent because of just one thing – trust. No data – just the business owner trusting their supplier to do the right thing for them. There’s a great Peter Drucker saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, but in these situations it should be “data eats trust for breakfast”.
Struggling to get more value from your online marketing? Time to shape up or ship some tactics out?
If so, let me offer the humble funnel as a tool to steer your turnaround, help you apply the right tactics in the right order, and ensure a steady passage towards your goals.
There’s real power and magic in the funnel. Its basic premise is that more people arrive on your website than decide to convert. So it makes sense that the top is wider than the bottom :).
The segments below the top describe the different levels of engagement as people meander through your pages. There will always be those who bounce in and, before you know it, have bounced out again. Whoa – the funnel just got a bit smaller!
Now we’ve got those who have remained and are enthralled with your content. They’re hanging around to play the videos you’ve so cleverly provided, or download PDFs.
Now you’ve got a funnel that look something like this.
Like all models, it doesn’t capture every situation – and that sharp point may be a bit too sharp. But this little shape with just its four stages can really help you focus on the right things when turning around your online marketing.
Let’s consider two scenarios – one great, one not so great.
The great one first. Here I am, one of your prospects. I hop across to Google to start a search. Bang! and there you go – Google worked. Just what I wanted is staring me squarely in the face.
So I click and arrive on a website that looks just as I hoped. The content is good – it keeps me lingering longer than I planned. Then – not wanting to waste all that invested time – I’ve made contact so someone can follow up with me later.
I’m happy. And, as the website owner, so are you!
Now for the not so great scenario.
Now let’s look at how the four stage funnel can help us debug a poor performing website which delivers very few of these scenarios. First up let’s deal with the top part of our friendly funnel – Acquisition.
I’m the same prospect as before, but this time when I do my Google search, I don’t see your website anywhere. Poor SEO and ineffective AdWords advertising are the problems you need to address first. Until you do, the rest of the funnel is irrelevant. It’s empty.
So now you’ve sorted that issue and I find your site. But I don’t stay long. In that case, the content of your website now needs serious work. Very rarely do we see a website with poor engagement perform well in Interaction and Conversion.
So now you’ve sorted your content and your interaction levels have shot through the roof. But conversions suck. Usually that’s a result of not having the kind of interactive content that the customer needs to make the purchase decision. For instance, complex products or services may require videos to explain them, or PDF documents to provide more detail.
Employing the funnel theory can help you focus your efforts on fixing the right things. For instance, it can help you avoid wasting money on a five minute video of your services (an interaction event) until you’ve increased your engagement values (time on site and pages per session) sufficiently to ensure visitors are spending enough time to even find or play the video.
Or you may decide not to purchase additional advertising from Google until you’ve done something about your 70% bounce rate (again those engagement values need work!).. And yes, improving these stats can be a lot harder and possibly a lot less fun than creating a video or buying more clicks from Google. Sorry … I never said using such a simple shape could make the work simple too.
Nevertheless, when there are more tactics available online than there is time to deliver, the funnel should help you focus on fixing the right parts first. Contact us today to arrange a session with a member of our team on how your online marketing performs against best practice for each of these four stages.