In-Market Audiences is a powerful Google tool that helps you connect with potential customers at the perfect time – when they’re about to make a purchase decision.
Launched in 2013 as In-Market Buyers, it was originally built on people’s queries and browsing history.
These days, that operating principle remains but with much more power and refinement. Now clicks on related ads and subsequent conversions, as well as the content of sites and pages visited, plus recency and frequency of visits are all taken into account.
That means Google can now categorise users into groups of buyers – called Audiences. And right now, you have over 480 In-Market Audiences that you can target.
That’s big news.
Why? Because while other online advertising may help you reach large numbers of people who are either aware of or considering buying the product or service you provide, In-Market Audiences allows you to reach those who are teetering on the edge of making an actual purchase.
As any sales guru will tell you, the further down the sales chute you can reach when targeting potential customers, the more likely you are to make a sale.
For that reason, In-Market Audiences is hard to ignore for anyone wanting to increase conversion rates – which is surely all of us. Used in conjunction with Remarketing it’s a potentially powerful tool for not only driving sales but also lifting the effectiveness of your advertising spend.
As with most of its algorithms, Google hasn’t spelled out the full method it uses to determine in-market consumers. So there’s an element of trust needed to use the service.
If you’re willing to take the leap, getting started is fairly simple. Google puts users into categories based on the products they’re interested in. You can select from those categories when setting up display, search or YouTube campaigns.
Let’s say you own a used car business. By using the Autos & Vehicles category, you could target people who’ve recently clicked on ads for used cars, read reviews of particular models, or browsed other used car businesses in your area.
In-Market Audiences include these major categories, with varying numbers of sub-categories under each:
As with any such service, In-Market Audiences is not a silver bullet. You have to do the work to get clear on the appropriate audience for you, and you still have to target your message (and offer) to appeal to them.
We’ve done a lot of work to understand In-Market Audiences, and we’re learning more every day. To get started, call us and we’ll discuss your best options and help you gauge your results (and tweak your advertising) along the way.
Everyone loves making a sale, right? Well, pretty much everyone reading this blog does.
As for me, I’ve built a business around helping you do that. For all the different things Ark Advance does – help you climb up the search rankings, make it easier for visitors to take action on your website, increase the effectiveness of your AdWords campaigns – it all points in one direction. Sell more.
So what I’m about to say may sound like heresy. But stick with me as I explain myself.
Here goes. Trying to close the sale, whether directly or by generating leads, may be doing you more harm than good. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is back off a little.
I know that flies in the face of some sales philosophies. Power closing, the art of pushing through objections and resistance to a final sale, has its share of successful proponents.
But the best sales people, in my view, recognise that a successful sale is more than someone buying something. It includes the buyer being satisfied with their decision, and feeling happy about the pathway they took to get there.
How does that relate to you? Well, let’s say you have a landing page that’s all sell, sell, sell. Features and benefits are there in big, bold type, and the Buy Now or Submit button is not only a bright, garish colour, but it also flashes on and off like a neon sign outside a cabaret.
And let’s say that landing page really has been working for you. It’s been selling like crazy or generating more leads than you dreamed possible. Why on earth would you mess with a winning formula like that?
To answer that, let me tell you about a client who come to us recently from another agency. They were used to pushing traffic onto the kind of landing page I just described (admittedly, I exaggerated a bit, but you get the drift). We said, “while your landing page is delivering results, we suspect you could do better – and do it without undermining your brand.”
That client boldly allowed us to create an alternative landing page that wasn’t designed to sell directly. Instead, it encouraged visitors to have a wander around the website, a bit like someone browsing in a store, checking out the merchandise. The risk was that once people had finished browsing, they’d simply wander out the door, without having bought anything or even given their contact details.
But that didn’t happen. What did happen was a 50%+ increase in lead conversions and a big reduction in cost per lead.
How come? Simply because people often need more time or information or both before they feel comfortable committing. If they’re a website visitor, that means the opportunity to interact with your website – to “wander around the store” – first. Not always, but sometimes.
It’s worth testing. Worst case scenario, you build engagement, reduce bounce rates and increase time spent on your site – much like a good sales person asking questions and listening to the answers does.
And the best case scenario? Well, who wouldn’t love a 50%+ increase in lead conversions?
If you’re a Go grand master, you may not like Artificial Intelligence right now. Not since the Google-designed AlphaGo trounced the world’s top player, Ki Jie, by 3 games to nil earlier this year. That came after it handed out a 4-1 beating to another top ranked player, Lee Sedol, in 2016.
Or maybe you will. The matches, while not good for the human ego, demonstrated something far more interesting and useful than that a powerful computer can out-think a puny human brain. I mean, that’s no longer news for anyone, right?
What they also demonstrated was that well-designed computing can also find whole new ways of seeing and thinking about problems. During the matches, AlphaGo played a number of moves that, to an expert, were obviously weak, or even bad. Except they turned out to be really strong moves.
And they were moves that a strong player wouldn’t even consider.
Now think about that. Mostly in business – mostly in life, in fact – we look for solutions in the same places we have in the past. While we may not know what the best solution to a problem is, at least we know where to look for it.
But AI is teaching us that that assumption could be totally wrong. And that has serious implications for Google Adwords.
See, most of the work you and we do in Adwords is based on refining what we already know. It’s a good approach: start with what seems sensible based on fundamental principles, test it, refine it based on results, test that, refine some more, and so on. If nothing else, it pretty much guarantees incremental gains over time.
But what if what we already know is only a fraction of what’s possible? “There are huge variations in a Go game,” said one expert after the Sedol/AlphaGo match. “We can’t even read 1% of them.”
Google is taking this result very seriously. It’s now seeing itself as an Artificial Intelligence company and transforming the way it delivers the right advertising to the right device for the right prospect. Its systems are learning (and it’s time to stop using quotation marks when we talk about machines learning) what approaches are likely to deliver the best results.
What are the implications for you (and for Ark Advance, for that matter!).
One important implication is that to take advantage of AI, you need to allow for a period of learning. This will take as long as the amount of lessons your data can provide. For example a website using AI to optimise its advertising to deliver phone calls will learn faster if the site delivers 1000 a week compared to 10.
The old adage “garbage in/garbage out” can now be updated to “insufficient data prevents meaningful results” (with apologies to Isaac Asimov). Many Kiwi companies fall down in this area, and if you’re among them, you’ll want to chat with us about how we can help you build volume where currently none exists.
A second implication is that we humans – Ark Advance included – will have to get used to not being the smartest “machines” on the block. But that doesn’t mean we’re not needed. AI can and does outperform us on many fronts, but humans are still needed to manage the technology and to ask the right questions in the first place.
The lesson here? The future belongs to those who embrace AI without fear, and with a willingness to learn what it does and doesn’t offer. That applies to website optimisation companies and their clients as much as anyone else. Yes, it’s confronting, but it’s exciting too.
It takes guts to be in business. That applies regardless of whether you own the business or are responsible for some aspect of it.
I see clients display that courage often. It typically happens when we’ve conducted a review of Google rankings for a business that hasn’t been active in this area. In those cases, the results can easily come as a shock.
Your first reaction to bad news like that might be an urge to run and hide. Somehow, it evokes memories of being graded at school – and learning that you’ve bombed a really important exam. You might experience disbelief. You might decide the news is so bad that doing anything about it is futile. I have seen both those reactions.
Here’s what I say to clients in those moments: “What if your competitors are also performing as you are, and what if they also react as you just did when they learn the reality?”
Here’s the fact of the matter. Most businesses in any given sector are performing badly in Google search rankings. What’s worse, their owners either have no idea this is happening, or show no interest in finding out. What’s worse still, when they do find out, a good number of them will decide the situation is beyond saving and then do precisely nothing.
So back to you. You’ve discovered your Google search rankings are crap. I say that’s great news! You had the guts to look, and you can now do something about it!
And here’s what you do.
First, start from wherever you are. Instead of focussing on whether you want to be in that place or not, you begin measuring your performance against that benchmark, rather than some ideal you think you should already have achieved. While you’re at it, stop beating yourself up about being where you are. You have the guts to be in business and have your performance measured objectively. Hats off to you.
Second, adopt a long term view. Life, business and high Google search rankings are all long games. Small gains add up to massive gains over time. And small gains aren’t hard work; they just take a little persistence. Given you’re in business, I think it’s safe to say persistence is one of your strong points.
Third, have an expert (hint, hint) support you in mapping out a way forward. If they promise the earth in seven days, they’re not an expert – just someone with a god complex. Choose someone who not only knows their stuff, but is willing to be transparent and straight with you.
Then roll up your sleeves and crack into it.
As I said, I’ve seen many clients do just that, once the initial disappointment has worn off. Some of them are now killing it in Google search rankings, and their businesses are screaming along.
All because, one day in the past, they heard some bad news. Which turned out, thanks to their courage, to be great news indeed.
In my last blog, I talked about the importance and value of visitors who return to your website having not engaged with you on their previous visit.
Having those people return is generally a good thing, since they’re more likely to buy or engage with you than even existing customers. And that means you want to know, as far as possible, the journey they took that led to them returning to you and which interactions played how significant a role in their decision to return and even buy. This takes us into the complex world of attribution modelling. Basically this is correctly identifying the traffic source responsible for every conversion your website receives.
Now you might be thinking that the ad that was most effective was the last one a visitor clicked on to return to your site. But that ignores the important role of all the other clicks this person made before that. For instance their journey could start with a paid click (from a product based campaign), followed by an organic search click, a social media remarketing click, with this torrent of clicking ending with another paid click (now from a brand name campaign) before they visit and buy.
The default attribution model Google AdWords applies places the conversion in the bucket of traffic responsible for the last click. That being the brand name AdWords click in the last example.
Obviously this causes inaccuracies when people are bouncing in and out of your website through various streams of traffic before they convert. By analysing conversions through the lens of Last Click those responsible for kicking off the buying behaviour are naturally de-optimised over and above those which close the sale. And you can’t close what you don’t start so revenue slides – downwards.
Thankfully Google AdWords offers several more attribution models to pick from. To compare to Last Click there’s First Click attribution. Here there’s total emphasis on what starts the journey. It’s another extreme weighting but now at the other end of the journey. Which is why the next four are where the money is.
Linear attribution shares the credit for the conversion equally across all clicks. Whereas Time Decay gives more credit the closer a clicks occurred to the moment of conversion. Then Position-based gives 40% of credit to the first- and last-clicked ads and corresponding keyword, with the remaining 20% spread out across the other clicks, while Data-Driven (the geek option) distributes credit based on past data for this conversion action (assuming enough data is available).
Remember this discussion is a non-discussion if your traffic behaves and arrives and converts all within the same session. In that case, you can use Last Click Attribution and feel comfortable living in the land of the default setting. For the rest of us it pays to pick a model away from the two extremes to see how it alters your conversion reporting. Google AdWords allows you to compare a couple of models at a time. More often than not, the most suitable attribution model for those with bouncing /cross channel traffic will be Position Based.
So to recap. Let’s say a customer finds your site by clicking one of your AdWords ads. She returns a week later by clicking over from a social network. That same day, she comes back a third time via one of your email campaigns, and a few hours later, she returns again directly and makes a purchase. The Position Based attribution model may assign 40% credit to each of the Paid Search and Direct channels, and 10% to each of Social Network and Email channels.
Two last points. First, with greater insight comes greater precision. So if you do make the switch out of the extreme choices then get used to measuring conversions to at least one decimal place (24.8 vs 24 or 25).
Second, this can be as mind bending as it sounds. While the effort’s well worth it, you should definitely call us for a reliable guide through this difficult, yet highly rewarding, jungle to find the attribution path best suited for you and your website.
Everyone loves regular customers, and rightly so.
And if someone comes to your website but doesn’t do business with you, you at least want them to engage with you in some way, surely? By giving you their email address, for example, or requesting a free ebook. All of that’s true, but it can obscure one other critical aspect of effective online marketing. You see, people who return to your website a second time, after initially leaving without engaging with you, are far more valuable on a per-head basis than even your existing customers.
Here’s one example: Returning website visitor transactions made up 48% of all US e-commerce sessions in the fourth quarter of 2015. The likelihood of a returning visitor actually buying was 15%, vs 7.6% for existing shoppers.
That’s right. Non-customers were twice as likely to buy as existing ones!
So here’s a question. What’s your strategy for converting unconverted website visitors into repeat visitors? And what’s your strategy for then converting those returning visitors into buyers or leads (that is, someone who gives you their contact details)? If you have a strategy, congratulations! You’re among a select minority.
If you don’t yet have a strategy, here’s a place to start. Ask yourself:
There are no obvious answers to these questions, and they’ll probably vary depending on your industry, your website, the services you offer, and a lot of other variables. That’s where we come in. We can help you track and understand visitor behaviour, even when those people are not on your website. Then we can work with you to develop strategies for increasing return and conversion rates over time.
Keep in mind that when someone returns, you must have done something right in the first place (otherwise they wouldn’t have returned!). So you’re not trying to fix something that’s broken; you’re out to increase its effectiveness. As always, if you’d like to learn more about this opportunity, call us and we’ll be delighted to explore it with you.
One last thing. According to RJ Metrics, the top quartile of worldwide e-commerce companies receive most of their revenue from repeat customers at the two-year mark. At three years, repeat customers account for more than 60% of revenue. So whatever you do, keep loving your existing customers!
Energy companies know that one of the best times to acquire new customers is when they’re moving home. The problem is, every energy company knows that, so every energy company targets people at this time.
But what if you could target people a few weeks or months before they move home?
Google, who know a thing or two about how to mine data to gain a marketing edge, recently introduced a tool that allows exactly that. In essence, Life Events interprets people’s search activity to anticipate what they’re likely to do in the near future. For example, someone who’s likely to move house in the next 12 months, say, will investigate mortgage rates or houses for sale. Someone likely to move much sooner than that might investigate moving companies.
This is a serious addition to a marketer’s arsenal. The vast majority of people who use Google search results to drive business take a literal approach. That is, an energy company looking for new customers may devote a lot of its search spend to keywords like “energy company”, “power pricing”, and so on.
With Life Events, that approach will now come too late in many people’s decision making process. Marketers using only literal keywords will be gazumped by those using keywords that identify people earlier in the famous “pathway to purchase”. Those using Life Events will be able to use this targeting option in their YouTube and Gmail Ads.
Does that mean a literal keyword approach is about to become redundant? Not yet. Life Events has limitations, not least of which is that it only tracks data for people who are logged into their Google account when they’re conducting a Google search. That’s far from everyone – for now, anyway. I think Life Events is a potentially powerful tool well worth exploring, particularly if your product or service tends to be connected to particular life events. Travel agents and weddings, for example. Car companies and people about to graduate. Appliance retailers and people approaching retirement.
As always, talk to us for more information or if you’d like to test whether this is something you should take on. In the meantime, check out this two-minute video for a quick rundown from Google on Life Events, and this case study about how one Australian energy company achieved dramatic results by using Life Events intelligently.
Google has rolled out two important updates to your Google My Business Account. When I say important, I mean potentially life changing. But before I get into that, a quick word for anyone unsure of what Google My Business is.
Google My Business is a free Google (what else?) tool that lets you manage your online presence across Google. For example, you know those sidebars with maps that you often see on the search result page when you google a business? That’s Google My Business at work.
Google doesn’t make that information up out of the blue. You can verify and edit your business information, which means you have some control over what appears in those results.
Right now, Google’s trialling an extended version of this tool. Called Google Home Services, it allows certain types of businesses to:
So what’s the big deal? If Google rolls this programme out globally, every aspect of your online marketing will be affected. Based on the trial, PPC ads will be replaced with Google Home Services ads, and local business will not feature in organic search results. It goes deeper. Once you click on one of the listings in the Google Home Services section, you are taken to a new page where you can select three different suppliers to send a request quote to. If you’re not on that list, you don’t get to submit a quote.
If you’re thinking Google is moving toward a “pay to play” model, you’re right! And while you may not like that, you’ll probably need to play the game if your business provides home-based services such as plumbing, building, electrical services and so on.
If you haven’t already, chat with us about the implications for your business. We can help you claim your Google My Business space if you haven’t already, and have you prepared for the rollout of Google Home Business, if and when it happens. Or check this link for how you can post content to your Google My Business account.
In related news, You can now send SMS/text messages to customers from your Google My Business Account. Check out details here.
Apply the strategies of the America’s Cup Winning ETNZ to your online marketing through the use of a well known but underutilised feature in Google Analytics here.
Are there days of the week and times of the day when people are more likely to look for what you provide? Just think how you could focus your advertising to make the most of the “highs” and avoid costly expenditure during the “lows”. This video blog reveals :-
Find the video here 8 mins
Many years ago I sold printing to businesses. This was before the internet, mobile phones, reality TV and, yes, even the Spice Girls. My job was to drum up new customers by walking around the streets of South Auckland, knocking on doors trying to locate someone who was close to running out of printing. I was a Chris, trying to be a Johnny-on-the-Spot salesperson.
The strategy was tiring but back then it worked. It was purely a numbers game. The more streets you covered, the greater your chances of finding someone in need. But even when I found someone with a smidgen of need, rarely did they order then and there. I had to leave a card with address details on it. They then posted through a copy of the printing they wanted. I hand delivered a printed quote. They thought about it, chatted with their office pals, forgot about it, remembered it again and if I was lucky the office fax made a beep and a quickly fading order form was put on my desk. Bingo.
Now enter the internet.
Prospects now browse and find what they want. Then they enter the period of pondering. Decision made, they get back online and place that order. The bit at the start and end have radically changed. Nevertheless, that middle part – the thinking bit – still remains. It’s just that they use a group of channels to find the answers they want.
The key to online marketing is predicting what happens during the thinking stage. Thankfully, there’s a part of your Google Analytics account that can help you uncover some of this. More on where to find this in your account later – but first let’s look at the image below. It shows some serious thinking going on BEFORE the conversion occurred.
Both boxes reveal two groups of people and their pondering journey before they chose to invest in some high end business services. The first looked at the website 32 times, the second 38. Each visit was defined by the prospect typing in the URL of the business into their browser (which we call Direct Traffic) and heading back for one more look. The good thing is that both groups ended up purchasing and neither used any paid traffic sources to bring them back for their 30-plus visits.
The next image tells a very different story.
Again, thankfully the person converted, but this time they mixed up their journey with 10 visits as direct traffic, one from the middle (organic) part of Google, another 15 as direct traffic, one via a link click on an email message they received, and, finally, one link in direct traffic before (phew!) after which they converted and purchased. Now for a colourful series of pictures that plot a journey across different platforms. Below is an example that begins with Paid Search (Google), crosses platforms into Facebook, bounces back into Direct Traffic (twice), then doubles back into Organic Google and then Direct Traffic six times before the decision to buy.
If your website has Google Analytics goal tracking enabled then you can find your own shapes, colours and hints of thinking stories deep within the Conversions part of your account. Within there, look in the “Multi-Channel Funnel” and pick the option called “Top Conversion Paths”.
All should be revealed. But what does it mean?
Some readers may be surprised how many different channels people use on their journey to conversion. On closer inspection, one channel may be very good at “kickstarting” the process while another could be the “closer” that always ends up as the last channel before the sale converts. How the sale is allocated to a channel within Google Analytics could mean that the closer has been getting all the glory while the kickstarter goes relatively unnoticed. Or you could begin to view your channels as not working in isolation but working collectively to generate a powerful force that moves people from browsing to buying. From our experience, tuning each channel to play its part can result in a serious lift in conversion rates.
Let me know if this interests you. And this month head over to the shapes and colours part of your Google Analytics report and try to debug some of the thinking going on.
Can one thing really transform your website marketing? Yes it can.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as writing better ads, buying more clicks or changing the colour of your website.
But it helps if you redefine your opinion of the “job” that Google does for your prospect.
To do that, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes for a moment. Now think of the last time you made a decision without having any alternatives to choose from. It was probably a long time ago, if at all. It is a challenge to know you are making the right choice when there are no wrong choices available.
That’s how it is for your prospects who arrive via Google. When they have only one option, Google doesn’t feature. They go to Google looking for options, plural, not an option.
But they don’t want dozens of options – research has shown that too many options can make forming a decision nearly impossible. I’m going to guess (ie, I have no scientific proof – the number just “feels” right) that they look for around five.
Their task, then, is to whittle this list down to a small group they think are worth their most precious of resources – time. And the focus is on whittling down, rather than keeping on.
And this, my friend, is where the “one thing” lives that ensures your business remains on your prospect’s list.
Is it your many years of experience fixing their kind of problems? Or the speed at which your vans arrive. Or the cost of your solution? Or the technology you provide that your competitors can’t?
Remember Marketing 101 and your Unique Selling Proposition? I know it’s basic stuff, and we are all a lot smarter than that now, but in the rush to establish a successful business did you perhaps overlook this when creating your website’s content?
I believe all successful business are that way because they have a USP – whether the business owners understand what it is or not. So the conversation may go like this.
“Ok Jane, I can see that your business has grown like topsy over the last 10 years and has an impressive list of clients. So tell me, what makes your Accountancy Practice so different from others in the Auckland region?”
Jane then goes on to list five significant areas that make her stand out from her competitors in a way that is relevant to her prospects.
I then get out my laptop and load up her website’s home page in my browser. This is the page over 80% of her visitors see first. And we start looking for each of the five points she mentioned being highlighted on the home page. And they’re not. (Or not much.)
That’s why Jane’s home page bounce rate is so high and her conversion rates so low. It’s also why her existing online marketing support hasn’t been able to solve the problem over the last six months.
Owning a strong USP can be a magical thing in transforming your online marketing.
I have found myself willing to struggle through more than one poorly designed website with atrocious graphics that load at a snail’s pace all because the website told me this business delivered EXACTLY what I was looking for.
But present a website that tells me you offer the same as everyone else on my list and I don’t care how appealing your site looks – I’ll find a reason to bumped you off. And it won’t have to be a big reason. It might be how fast your website loads, or images I don’t love, or difficulty in reading your content on a mobile device. Dumb things that cause you to lose business because there is nothing else to engage prospects’ attention.
Now I realise that competitive markets are competitive because the USP’s that survive in them are subtle and transient. So creating this “one thing” will be more challenging for some than others. Nevertheless, time spent here will be well rewarded in your online marketing efforts.
For instance, your USP-driven ad copy will push your PPC click through rates up – improving your quality score, which will lower your per-click cost. Landing pages written with your USP in mind can raise your conversion rates, lower your cost per lead. Benefits can also flow into your email marketing and social media.
So why not take some time this week to get back to Marketing 101 and list the points that define your USP, then see how good a job your landing pages are doing at explaining them?
Let’s think of your website as a sales person. Let’s also assume they are not a high performing soul delivering you a mass of leads and sales every month, but the opposite – someone struggling to make a dent in their monthly quota.
But there is hope. Just like salespeople, websites can be turned around. The first step is to pinpoint the exact areas of struggle then quickly coach the person or fix the website – to direct things back on track.
I have first hand experience in this turnaround process for both people and websites: fourteen years running Ark Advance and, before that, five years managing a sales team for an outsource mail processing company. I can assure you, the attributes of troubled salespeople and troubled websites are very similar. Here are the top six that come to mind.
1. Not seeing enough people
These were the sales people everyone in the office liked, mainly because they spent so much time in our office instead of in the offices of our prospects presenting great solutions. Just like your salespeople, your website needs visits to make it work. Now we may not require thousands per week, but there needs to enough to make it work. And if you are struggling to rank naturally within Google then it could be time to whip out your wallet and invest in some paid advertising to get the wheels turning.
2. Seeing the wrong people
Some salespeople making enough visits, but with the wrong people. For instance, they chew up hours presenting to people without the authority to make the purchase. In website marketing, this is similar to buying Google Advertising clicks on keywords that your target audience will probably never use. For instance clicks on the search phrase “business profit” for a business coaching service when most prospects arrive behind the keywords “business coach” or “business mentor”.
3. Failing to get the message across
These salespeople make it into the right office to pitch the right product to the right person – and still it turns to custard. There are a few things that can go off the rails here.
In direct sales, the first place I’d look would be the questions the salesperson is asking. But websites struggle to ask questions, so all you have is your content. Perhaps it’s the format that is failing. Perhaps it’s all a mass of text when your prospects will respond better with a mix of text, video and audio. Maybe you’ve got content written for all your prospects instead of content in different sections, each talking to the needs of specific audiences?
4. Failing to ask for the sale
And then you have the person who is great until the end when – BAM! – they don’t ask for the sale. This is similar to a website which hides its Contact Us page or fails to offer any juicy conversion choices that allows prospects to ‘raise their hand”.
5. Not following up on those who are “thinking about it”
Nearly there – we now have those who present well, ask for the sale and get the common response “let me think about it – come back to me later”. And guess what – they don’t. Nobody is followed up and prospects go cold and sales go begging. In website marketing this is about failing to deploy all the clever electronic reminder tactics available to you. Email marketing and Google’s remarketing product are great examples of tactics that neatly fit this need. Which leads me to the final hurdle.
6. Not selling to those who have bought before
Our salespeople began with a territory with customers to manage. The smart ones – wanting the easy way in life – began by selling more services to existing clients. The strugglers avoided those customers like the plague and went out to make a name for themselves quickly with new work from new clients. Very rarely did it turn out well. Think of this like avoiding your sizable email marketing list of current and ex-customers to instead embark on some Google Advertising.
There you go – six attributes that will ensure marketing failure. Do the opposite, and you will be well on the way to turning your struggling website into something that sells for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All without the hassles that come with managing their human equivalent. Contact us today if you would like to introduce us to your online marketing experience.
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”.