Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Agencies, are you set up for ongoing Google Tag Manager success? GTM isn’t the easiest tool in the world to work with, but if you know how to use it, it can make your life much easier. Make your future self happier and more productive by setting up your GTM containers the right way today. Dana DiTomaso shares more tips and hints in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Hi, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I am President and partner at Kick Point, which is a digital marketing agency based in Edmonton, Alberta. Today I’m going to be talking to you about Google Tag Manager and what your default container in Google Tag Manager should contain. I think if you’re in SEO, there are certainly a lot of things Google Tag Manager can do for you.
But if you’ve kind of said to yourself, “You know, Google Tag Manager is not the easiest thing to work with,” which is fair, it is not, and it used to be a lot worse, but the newer versions are pretty good, then you might have been a little intimidated by going in there and doing stuff. But I really recommend that you include these things by default because later you is going to be really happy that current you put this stuff in. So I’m going to go through what’s in Kick Point’s default Google Tag Manager container, and then hopefully you can take some of this and apply it to your own stuff.
Agencies, if you are watching, you are going to want to create a default container and use it again and again, trust me.
So we’re going to start with how this stuff is laid out. So what we have are tags and then triggers. The way that this works is the tag is sort of the thing that’s going to happen when a trigger occurs.
So tags that we have in our default container are the conversion linker, which is used to help conversions with Safari.
If you don’t know a lot about this, I recommend looking up some of the restrictions with Safari tracking and ITP. I think they’re at 2.2 at the time I’m recording this. So I recommend checking that out. But this conversion linker will help you get around that. It’s a default tag in Tag Manager, so you just add the conversion linker. There’s a nice article on Google about what it does and how it all works.
Then we need to track a number of events. You can certainly track these things as custom dimensions or custom metrics if that floats your boat. I mean that’s up to you. If you are familiar with using custom dimensions and custom metrics, then I assume you probably know how to do this. But if you’re just getting started with Tag Manager, just start with events and then you can roll your way up to being an expert after a while.
So under events, we always track external links, so anything that points out to a domain that isn’t yours.
The way that we track this is we’re looking at every single link that’s clicked and if it does not contain our client’s domain name, then we record it as an external link, and that’s an event that we record. Now remember, and I’ve seen accidents with this where someone doesn’t put in your client’s domain and then it tracks every single click to a different page on your client’s website as an external link. That’s bad.
When you transfer from HTTP to HTTPS, if you don’t update Google Tag Manager, it will start recording links incorrectly. Also bad. But what this is really useful for are things like when you link out to other websites, as you should when you’re writing articles, telling people to find out more information. Or you can track clicks out to your different social properties and see if people are actually clicking on that Facebook icon that you stuck in the header of your website.
The next thing to track are PDF downloads.
Now there’s a limitation to this, of course, in that if people google something and your PDF comes out and then they click on it directly from Google, of course that’s not going to show up in your Analytics. That can show up in Search Console, but you’re not going to get it in Analytics. So just keep that in mind. This is if someone clicks to your PDF from a specific page on your website. Again, you’re decorating the link to say if this link contains a PDF, then I want to have this.
Then we also track scroll tracking. Now scroll tracking is when people scroll down the site, you can track and fire an event at say 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the way down the page. Now the thing is with this is that your mileage is going to vary. You will probably pick different percentages. By default, in all of our containers we put 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. Based on the client, we might change this.
An advanced, sort of level up tactic would be to pick specific elements and then when they enter the viewport, then you can fire an event. So let’s say, for example, you have a really important call to action and because different devices are different sizes, it’s going to be a different percentage of the way down the page when it shows up, but you want to see if people got to that main CTA. Then you would want to add an event that would show whether or not that CTA was shown in the viewport.
If you google Google Tag Manager and tracking things in the viewport, there are some great articles out there on how to do it. It’s not that difficult to set up.
Then also form submits. Of course, you’re going to want to customize this. But by default put form submits in your container, because I guarantee that when someone is making your container let’s say for a brand-new website, they will forget about tracking form submits unless you put it in your default container and they look at it and say, “Oh, right, I have to edit that.” So always put form submits in there.
Of course you want to track telephone links and mailto: links. Telephone links should always, always be tappable, and that’s something that I see a lot of mistakes. Particularly in local SEO, when we’re dealing with really small business websites, they don’t make the telephone links tappable. It’s probably because people don’t know how. In case you don’t know how, you just telephone and then a colon and then the telephone number.
<a href="tel:+5555555555">(555) 555-5555</a>
That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Just like a link, except rather than going out to an HTTPS://, you’re going out to a telephone number. That is going to make your visitors’ lives so much easier, particularly on mobile devices. You always want to have those be tappable. So then you can track the number of people who tap on telephone links and people who tap on mailto: links exactly the same way. Now something that I do have to say, though, is that if you are using a call tracking provider, like CallRail for example, which is one that we use, then you’re going to want to shut this off, because then you could end up in double counting.
Particularly if you’re tracking every call made out from your website, then CallRail would have an Analytics integration, and then you would be tracking taps and you might also be tracking telephone clicks. So you can track it if you want to see how many people tap versus picking up the phone and calling the old-fashioned way with landlines. You can also do that, but that’s entirely up to you. But just keep that in mind if you are going to track telephone links.
Then, of course, all pages tracking. Make sure you’re tracking all of the pages on your website through Google Analytics. So those are the tags.
Next up are the triggers. So I have a tag of external links. Then I need a trigger for external links. The trigger says when somebody clicks an external link, then I want this event to happen.
So the event is where you structure the category and then the action and the label.
The way that we would structure external links, for example, we would say that the category for it is an external link, the action is click, and then the label is the actual link that was clicked for example. You can see you can go through each of these and see where this is happening.
Then on things like form submit, for example, our label could be the specific form.
On telephone and mailto:, we might track the phone number.
On other things, like PDFs, we might track like the page that this happened on.
For scroll tracking, for example, we would want to track the page that someone scrolled down on. What I recommend when you’re setting up the event tracking for page scroll, the category should be page scroll, the action should be the percentage of which people scroll down, and then the label should be the URL.
Really think of it in terms of events, where you’ve got the category, which is what happened, the action, which is what did the person do, and the label is telling me more information about this. So actions are typically things like scroll, click, and tap if you’re going to be fancy and track mobile versus desktop. It could be things like form submit, for example, or just submit. Just really basic stuff. So really the two things that are going to tell you the difference are things like categories and labels, and the action is just the action that happened.
I’m really pedantic when it comes to setting up events, but I think in the long term, again, future you is going to thank you if you set this stuff up properly from the beginning. So you can really see that the tag goes to this trigger. Tag to trigger, tag to trigger, etc. So really think about making sure that every one of your tags has a corresponding trigger if it makes sense. So now we’re going to leave you with some tips on how to set up your Tag Manager account.
So the first tip is use a Google Analytics ID variable. It’s one of the built-in variables. When you go into Tag Manager and you click on Variables, it’s one of the built-in variables in there. I really recommend using that, because if you hardcode in the GA ID and something happens and you have to change it in the future or you copy that for someone else or whatever it might be, you’re going to forget.
I guarantee you you will forget. So you’re going to want to put that variable in there so you change it once and it’s everywhere. You’re saving yourself so much time and suffering. Just use a Google Analytics ID variable. If you have a really old container, maybe the variable wasn’t a thing when you first set it up. So one of the things I would recommend is go check and make sure you’re using a variable. If you’re not, then make a to-do for yourself to rip out all the hardcoded instances of your GA ID and instead replace it with a variable.
It will save you so much headaches.
So the next thing — agencies, this is for you — create a default container to import. Obviously, if you’re working in-house, you’re probably not making Google Tag Manager containers all that often, unless you work at say a homebuilder and you’re making microsites for every new home development. Then you might want to create a default container for yourself. But agency side for sure, you want have a default container that you make so every cool idea that you think of, you think, oh, we need to track this, just put it all in your default container, and then when you’re grabbing it to make one for a client, you can decide, oh, we don’t need this, or yes, we need this.
It’s going to save you a ton of time when you’re setting up containers, because I find that that’s the most labor-intensive part of working with a new Tag Manager container is thinking about, “What is all the stuff I want to include?” So you want to make sure that your default container has all your little tips and tricks that you’ve accumulated over the years in there and documented of course, and then decide on a client-by-client basis what you’re going to leave and what you’re going to keep.
Also use a naming scheme and folders, again because you may not be working there forever, and somebody in the future is going to want to look at this and think, “Why did they set it up like this? What does this word mean? Why is this variable called foo?” You know, things that have annoyed me about developers for years and years and years, developers I love you, but please stop naming things foo. It makes no sense to anyone other than you. So our naming scheme, and you can totally steal this if you want, is we go product, result, and then what.
So, for example, we would have our tag for Google Analytics page download. So it would say Google Analytics. This is the product that the thing is going to go to. Event is what is the result of this thing existing. Then what is the PDF download. Then it’s really clear, okay, I need to fix this thing with PDF download. Something is wrong.
It’s kind of weird. Now I know exactly where to go. Again, with folders as well, so let’s say you’ve implemented something such as content consumption, which is a Google Tag Manager recipe that you can grab on our website at Kickpoint.ca, and I’ll make sure to link to it in the transcript. Let’s say you grab that. Then you’re going to want to take all the different tags and triggers that come along with content consumption and toss that into its own folder and then separate it out from all of your basic stuff.
Even if you have everything to start in a folder called Basics or Events or Analytics versus Call Tracking versus any of the other billion different tracking pixels that you have on your website, it’s a good idea to just keep it all organized. I know it’s two minutes now. It is saving you a lifetime of suffering in the future, and the future you, whether it’s you working there or somebody who ends up taking your job five years from now, just make it easier on them.
Especially too, when you think back to say Google Analytics has been around for a long time now. When I go back and look at some of my very, very first analytics that I set up, I might look at it and think, “Why was I doing that?” But if you have documentation, at least you’re going to know why you did that really weird thing back in 2008. Or when you’re looking at this in 2029 and you’re thinking, “Why did I do this thing in 2019?” you’re going to have documentation for it. So just really keep that in mind.
Then the last thing is auditing regularly, and that means once every 3, 6, or 12 months. Pick a time period that makes sense for how often you’re going into the container. You go in and you take a look at every single tag, every single trigger, and every single variable. Simo Ahava has a really nice Google Tag Manager sort of auditing tool.
I’ll make sure to link to that in the transcript as well. You can use that to just go through your container and see what’s up. Let’s say you tested out some sort of screen recording, like you installed Hotjar six months ago and you ended up deciding on say another product instead, like FullStory, so then you want to make sure you remove the Hotjar. How many times have you found that you look at a new website and you’re like, “Why is this on here?”
No one at the client can tell you. They’re like, “I don’t know where that code came from.” So this is where auditing can be really handy, because remember, over time, each one of those funny little pixels that you tested out some product and then you ended up not going with it is weighing down your page and maybe it’s just a couple of microseconds, but that stuff adds up. So you really do want to go in and audit regularly and remove anything you’re not using anymore. Keep your Google Tag Manager container clean.
A lot of this is focused on obviously making future you very happy. Auditing will also make future you very happy. So hopefully, out of this, you can create a Google Tag Manager default container that’s going to work for you. I’m going to make sure as well, when the transcript is out for this, that I’m going to include some of the links that I talked about as well as a link to some more tips on how to add in things like conversion linker and make sure I’m updating it for when this video is published.
Thanks so much.
It takes thoughtful work to scale an e-commerce store. I’m sure you’ve had a few growing pains of your own getting to the point where you are today. However, you’re reading this because you may not be content with where your conversions are at this precise moment. You may not even know if your conversion rate is good or not!
Today, I will give you 21 tips (yes 21!) on how to double (even triple) your current conversion rates.
But first, let’s determine what counts as a conversion.
These are the usual suspects for e-commerce conversion goals:
The Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly is a great source for regularly updated benchmarks on conversion for large e-commerce brands.
From this data, we know that the average e-commerce conversion rate is between 2 percent and 4 percent; but we don’t want to be average, do we?
Let’s break down some suggestions you can use to improve your site faster.
Analytics that are in tune to the needs of your business will give you real insight into how people are using your site, and show you obvious improvements that need to be made in your CRO strategy.
With most analytics, there’s usually something that isn’t tracking properly to give you full clarity into what your customers are doing. You need to properly track your goals to give you that insight and help you find out what your site visitors are doing. For instance, are you looking at what people who search your site are doing, or people who enter your site through specific categories, product pages, or information pages?
To find out which events are leading to a purchase, tweak your analytics by segmenting traffic that tracks repeat purchasers.
You can make wild guesses based off of “best practices” all day, but you won’t know what your customers are doing unless you see it. By using qualitative data tools such as Hotjar or CrazyEgg, you’ll have real insight into what your customers are looking for.
You can achieve this by creating heat maps, session recordings, conversion funnels, and user polls.
Heatmaps will show you an average of where all visitors are clicking and scrolling in a static image. Session recordings will record the screens of visitors on your site so you can view the video and see exactly what the customer is looking at and what they are clicking on.
By creating a conversion funnel, you will be able to see where people are dropping off. For example, if you create a funnel from the homepage to the shopping cart, to the confirmation page, you may be able to see that about 75 percent of users are dropping off in the cart process.
Then, you can view session recordings of that step in the funnel and see where people are getting confused or frustrated with your shopping cart process. Pretty cool, right?
Lastly, you can leverage polls on Hotjar — they’re effective because they give your customers a chance to voice what they think of your site. Try asking questions like “What is keeping you from getting your [insert product name or offer] today?”
Often times, people respond with answers like “I need more information,” “I don’t need this right now,” “Too expensive,” or “I don’t know if I’ll like this brand.” If the majority of people are saying it’s too expensive, you may want to either reconsider who you are targeting or reevaluate your pricing.
Customer service is essential in online commerce. You want customers to feel that you are readily available for any questions or problems they may run into. Ensure your phone number is clearly visible in the header, footers, and the checkout process of your site at all times.
If nothing else, at least make sure you have a Contact Us page with all methods of contact options listed.
See the phone number in the top right on Selini NY’s website?
I preach this in basically all of my blog pieces. It’s essential to think in the mind of the customer: Why would I buy from you over anyone else? Are you cheaper, faster, do you get better results? Why are you so special?
I suggest placing your UVPs in your headlines as often as possible since that’s going to be the first bit of information a person will read on each of your product pages.
In reality, you have about three seconds to capture your prospective customer’s attention. This goes back to the UVP as you want to make sure your copy is captivating, but you also want to use quality images, GIFs, and videos to back up your claims.
For example, if you sell software, it could be valuable to show a quick and straightforward video of the software in action. Why? This way, people can get a realistic view of what your software does without having to leave your site or contact someone.
First, let’s explain with some statistics from OuterBox on why it’s imperative to optimize your mobile site:
Keep in mind, these are just U.S. statistics! With the world turning away from desktops and utilizing their phones more than ever, your B2B e-commerce business must keep up with the times. Optimize your mobile site by writing concise titles and copy focused on the benefits that solve your customers’ pain points.
Make sure your site’s load time is acceptable by plugging your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Google will give you a score and recommendations on what you need to fix.
Good news: You’ve captured your audience’s attention! Now, it’s time to keep them engaged.
When in doubt, air on the side of too much information. Too often do people bounce from pages because they weren’t able to get their questions answered.
Avoid unnecessary bounce by providing as much information about your product as possible. This includes all benefits, how it works, the features, what it can and cannot do, and anything else that is critical for a customer to know.
For example, look below at how descriptive Salesforce is about its B2B e-commerce solution. I’ve included a snippet here of a very long web page covering nearly 20 different benefits of using Salesforce for your online marketplace.
Adding a product video or demo goes hand-in-hand with your product description. Your website isn’t a brick and mortar store where people can walk in, talk to you, pick the product up in their hands and ask all of their questions about the item.
So, ideally, you want to get as close as possible to the real experience digitally. Provide a clear walkthrough or demonstration on how to set up and use your product. Customers may be wary of buying if they don’t know how easy or difficult it is to use.
Make it as plain as day and make it so they can’t say no!
To better assist your customers in finding the exact product or service that fits their needs, add filters to your category pages. For example, how many products do you have? If it’s more than a handful, can you filter them by size, price, color, style?
If you offer a service instead of a product, do you have separate services with different functions that fall under that parent service? You can see how Flexfire LED guides you to the right product with their structured product menu. Could you imagine if this was just one long list of all products with no categories? It would be chaotic.
Offer your champion products up front when new and returning visitors land on your homepage. This helps guide customers to a decision sooner instead of letting them figure out which product may work for them on their own.
Restaurantware.com has several rotating banners showing the top and latest products they have to offer, keeping their customers constantly in the know and wanting to learn more.
Try to access targeted emails through a pop-up, or offer a coupon code where you continuously market to customers in the decision phase.
Zappo’s rewards program does a great job of getting people to sign up for free shipping and returns and exclusive access to 24/7 customer service.
Email marketing is a practice every B2B e-commerce company needs because business executives are constantly checking their email. In fact, those who use email marketing see an average of 40x more ROI from this practice as opposed to any other marketing tactic.
When writing email campaigns, focus on educating and informing your customers, which frames your company in a way that offers solutions to their problems. Let them know what your services are, why they work, and how your brand solves problems.
Reviews are a critical part of determining a purchase. Why? The same reason so many people buy from Amazon — we want to know, from real people, if these products are legit. The social proof of reviews creates trust and helps people move forward confidently as they purchase items. It can be extremely beneficial to include top reviews on your product pages to ease your visitors’ minds into choosing you.
Additionally, you want the review to explain how your team works and what makes your brand different from competitors. So, ask previous clients, how did your brand make a positive impact on their business?
Along with review star ratings, try to have written or recorded (video) testimonials spread throughout your product pages, landing pages, and homepage. Again, your prospects want to know what others are saying about your services/products, so show them!
Notice how each testimonial explains exactly how B-school helped them succeed. Sarah’s testimonial is especially notable because she has some solid numbers in her quote: $50,000 in one week is a great result and could prompt new customers to work with B-School as well!
Customers would rather pay $10 more to get free shipping than pay a $4.99 shipping charge. I’m guilty of this myself. But why is this?
“Most shoppers are still more accustomed to the offline store than the online environment. Because of this, we lack the context for understanding how shipping costs factor into online shopping.”
As a customer, if I’m shopping online for the sake of convenience, but then see “convenience” is going to cost me $10 or $20, you better believe I’m going to start crunching numbers in my head about how that money factors into the time it would have taken to go to the store.
Coupons can be beneficial to gain interest and encourage people to try your product or service out. However, it’s essential to use coupons sparingly, as always being the lowest price point could end up hurting your business.
For example, if you’re offering 50 percent off on too many different services/products, you are cutting your revenue in half. Although you may get some more new customers this way, you won’t have enough money to sustain your business. Plus, a coupon does not guarantee repeat business. How many times have you bought something just once because it was free or discounted?
Instead, focus on providing outstanding service and overall unique brand experience. Here are some appropriate ways to use coupons:
You can’t make money if you can’t sell your inventory, so this is the best time to start utilizing coupons. Either give a percentage discount on individual items, a BOGO type of offer or offer a free item once a certain spending threshold has been hit.
For example: “All orders over $250 get a free wireless phone charger. Use coupon code: CHARGE250”
According to Business.com.: “Acquiring new customers costs 5 to 10 times more than selling to a current customer — and current customers spend 67 percent more on average than those who are new to your business.”
All the more reason to show your current customers some love! Email coupon codes to loyal customers to show thanks for their continued support.
For new customers, automatically apply discounts towards their first purchase with your business, but don’t try to sell this upfront. Surprise is a great tactic to make lifetime customers.
As you can see above, new customers at Check Depot get a discount off their entire first order. Little bonuses like that don’t hurt to try!
Smart Insights reveals that one type of personalization (“visitors who viewed this also viewed”) can generate 68 percent of e-commerce revenue.
You can see how everything is broken by recommendation type and how each one increased revenue. Try these out on your own site to see where you get the most traction. Just remember, according to Shopify, good e-commerce personalization should:
Amazon.com is a shining example of all of this.
Nearly every element on the Amazon page is personalized in some way, including the personal “Olivia’s Amazon.com” link, the personal hello, the link to my account, and my “Wish List”. All suggested items are based on my past searches so nothing is recommended to me outside my realm of interests.
Strive to be on this level for your own customers and you’ll start seeing your profits increase.
If you have seven competitors, and they all offer their product between $200–$400, but yours is $1200, you may run into some friction from prospects who are shopping around. If you’re going to have a high price point, you must justify it.
The amount a customer is willing to pay boils down to their perception of your brand, and this ties back into your UVP. Let’s say you want a customer to pay three times as much for your product over your competitors. Think to yourself, what makes you three times better than competitors 1 through 7? Is your product of the highest quality?
A smart way to determine what pricing will be acceptable to your buyers is by keeping your buyer personas up to date.
“Create profiles for your customer types that identify their buying concerns, what motivates them to buy your product, their income, and other insights that will help you understand their willingness to pay. With this knowledge, you’ll feel secure in what you are charging for your product and more confident that you will make sales.“
How can a customer buy from you if your button to purchase isn’t accessible? It doesn’t have to be rocket science!
Keep in mind, in western countries, we read left to right, so you’ll notice in the image above that the add to cart button is in the bottom right corner after most of the important information has already been reviewed. This is a wise spot for these Cart and Checkout buttons since most people on Amazon are reading through product and shipping details before adding to the cart.
What works better? Utilizing chatbots will help to avoid the overhead of staffing for a live chat. However, you will probably get a better response from customers through using live chat.
Why? Buyers want a personalized customer experience that fits their needs, just as if they walked into a brick and mortar store.
Today, we’re using all of these digital tools to find out why people are bouncing — Hotjar, Qualaroo, Rejoiner — but what if we just let visitors tell us right away what they need from us as businesses? Think of all the friction that has been removed just by having a quick conversation with your customers as they entered the site.
Look at how SiteGround proves you are talking to a real expert that can help you based on an actual photo, name, ratings and how many customers have been served. On another note, who is that lady on the right? I’m pretty sure her name isn’t Diego like it shows. When using live chat, make it clear to your visitors that they are actually talking to a live person.
If you choose to take the chatbot route, be upfront with customers and don’t try to trick them into thinking that a bot is a real person. See how the Facebook Chatbot Bitcoin Buddy deals with its limitations below:
Cybersecurity is one of the most critical aspects of e-commerce. Without proper protocols in place, online sellers put themselves and their customers at risk for payment fraud. Yikes.
Trust badges, trust seals, logos of your payment providers, the little secure “lock” icon on the browser, and more add that needed security to get your customers to buy. Most importantly, you must set up your store with an SSL certificate (https:// pages). Lastly, require the CVV for debit and credit cards for added security.
81 percent of consumers say that a recommendation from a friend or family member heavily influences their buying decisions. Anyone can get reviews from consumers, but it takes skill to acquire a review from a satisfied business executive. To validate your company, use your networking skills on LinkedIn or Google to encourage previous clients to write positive reviews about your business. It doesn’t hurt to try, just make sure to keep it professional.
Regularly engage with your contented customers through an advocate marketing program. This will nurture your relationship and reward them for supporting your brand. Once your advocates feel connected to and valued by your company, they’ll be ready to submit high-quality referrals.
Take a look at the Google Apps Referral Program. Google gives money rewards for every user who signs up through the advocate’s link.
There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to optimizing your online commerce. B2B marketing is a different animal than B2C so there are various considerations that must be taken into account when targeted to your desired audience.
Business executives are much more discerning than consumers, so networking with these individuals and gaining their trust is imperative to increase your profit. Focus on your unique value propositions, and provide different offerings for new and repeat customers.
If you’re able to get happy customers signing up for your referral program and leaving positive reviews, you will be amazed at the impact that it will have on your ROI.
Did you find any of the tips helpful? What tactics do you use to help increase your B2B e-commerce conversions?
Can your marketing agency make a profit working with low-budget clients in rural areas?
Could you be overlooking a source of referrals, publicity, and professional satisfaction if you’re mainly focused on landing larger clients in urban locales? Clients in least-populated areas need to capture every customer they can get to be viable, including locals, new neighbors, and passers-through. Basic Local SEO can go a long way toward helping with this, and even if package offerings aren’t your agency’s typical approach, a simple product that emphasizes education could be exactly what’s called for.
Today, I’d like to help you explore your opportunities of serving rural and very small town clients. I’ve pulled together a sample spreadsheet and a ton of other resources that I hope will empower you to develop a bare-bones but high-quality local search marketing package that will work for most and could significantly benefit your agency in some remarkable ways.
The linchpin fundamental to the rural client/agency relationship is that the needs of these businesses are so exceedingly moderate. The competitive bar is set so low in a small-town-and-country setting, that, with few exceptions, clients can make a strong local showing with a pared-down marketing plan.
Let’s be honest — many businesses in this scenario can squeak by on a website design package from some giant web hosting agency. A few minutes spent with Google’s non-urban local packs attest to this. But I’m personally dissatisfied by independent businesses ending up being treated like numbers because it’s so antithetical to the way they operate. The local hardware store doesn’t put you on hold for 45 minutes to answer a question. The local farm stand doesn’t route you overseas to buy heirloom tomatoes. Few small town institutions stay in business for 150 years by overpromising and under-delivering.
Let’s assume that many rural clients will have some kind of website. If they don’t, you can recommend some sort of freebie or cheapie solution. It will be enough to get them placed somewhere in Google’s results, but if they never move beyond this, the maximum conversions they need to stay in business could be missed.
I’ve come to believe that the small-to-medium local marketing agency is the best fit for the small-to-medium rural brand because of shared work ethics and a similar way of doing business. But both entities need to survive monetarily and that means playing a very smart game with a budget on both sides.
It’s a question of organizing an agency offering that delivers maximum value with a modest investment of your time and the client’s money.
When you take on a substantial client in a large town or city, you pull out all the stops. You dive deeply into auditing the business, its market, its assets. You look at everything from technical errors to creative strengths before beginning to build a strategy or implement campaigns, and there may be many months or years of work ahead for you with these clients. This is all entirely appropriate for big, lucrative contracts.
For your rural roster, prepare to scale way back. Here is your working plan:
Avoid the whole issue of having to lollygag around waiting for a busy small business owner to fill out a form. Schedule an appointment and have the client be at their place of business in front of a computer at the time of the call. Confirm the following, ultra-basic data about the client.
And that’s it. If you pay yourself $100/hr, this quick session yields a charge of $25.
Spend less than one working day putting together a .pdf file or Google doc written in the least-technical language containing the following:
If you pay yourself $100 an hour, investing in creating this guide will cost you less than $1000.00. That’s a modest amount that you can quickly earn back from clients. Hopefully, the inspirational links I’ve included will give you a big head start. Avoid covering anything trendy (like some brand new Google feature) so that the only time you should have to update the guide in the near future will be if Google makes some major changes to their guidelines or dashboard.
Deliver this asset to every rural client as their basic training in the bare essentials of local marketing.
What you want here is something that lets you swiftly fill in the blanks.
For the competitive audit, you’ll be stacking up your client’s metrics against the metrics of the business they told you was ranking at the top of the local pack when they searched from their location. You can come up with your own metrics, or you can make a copy of this template I’ve created for you and add to it/subtract from it as you like.
Make a copy of the ultra-basic competitive local audit template — you can do so right here.
You’ll notice that my sample sheet does not delve deeply into some of the more technical or creative areas you might explore for clients in tougher markets. With few exceptions, rural clients just don’t need that level of insight to compete.
Give yourself 45 focused minutes filling in the data in the spreadsheet. You’ve now invested 1 hour of time with the client. So let’s give that a value of $100.
Here’s another one-time investment. Spend no more than one workday creating a .pdf or Google Docs template that takes the fields of your audit and presents them in a readable format for the client. I’m going to leave exact formatting up to you, but here are the sections I would recommend structuring the report around:
For example, your section on reputation might look like this:
The beauty of this is that, once you have the template, all you have to do is fill it out and then spend an hour making intelligent observations based on your findings.
Constructing the template should take you less than one workday; so, a one-time investment of less than $1,000 if you are paying yourself $100/hr.
Transferring the findings of your audit from the spreadsheet to the report for each client should take about 1 hour. So, we’re now up to two total hours of effort for a unique client.
So, you’ve now had a 15-minute conversation with a client, given them an introductory guide to the basics of local search marketing, and delivered a customized report filled with your observations and their to-dos. Many agencies might call it a day and leave the client to interpret the report on their own.
But you won’t do that, because you don’t want to waste an incredible opportunity to build a firm relationship with a business. Instead, spend one more hour on the phone with the owner, going over the report with them page by page and allowing a few minutes for any of their questions. This is where you have the chance to deliver exceptional value to the client, telling them exactly what you think will be most helpful for them to know in a true teaching moment.
At the end of this, you will have become a memorable ally, someone they trust, and someone to whom they will have confidence in referring their colleagues, family members, and neighbors.
You’ve made an overall investment of less than $2,000 to create your rural/small town marketing program.
Packaging up the guide, the report and the 1:1 phone consulting, you have a base price of $300 for the product if you pay yourself $100/hour.
However, I’m going to suggest that, based on the level of local SEO expertise you bring to the scenario, you create a price point somewhere between $300–$500 for the package. If you are still relatively green at local SEO, $300 could be a fair price for three hours of consulting. If you’re an industry adept, scale it up a bit because, because you bring a rare level of insight to every client interaction, even if you’re sticking to the absolute basics. Begin selling several of these packages in a week, and it will start totaling up to a good monthly revenue stream.
As a marketer, I’ve generally shied away from packages because whenever you dig deeply into a client’s scenario, nuances end up requiring so much custom research and communication. But, for the very smallest clients in this least competitive markets, packages can hit the spot.
The client is going to walk away from the relationship with a good deal … and likely a lot to do. If they follow your recommendations, it will typically be just what they needed to establish themselves on the web to the extent that neighbors and travelers can easily find them and choose them for transactions. Good job!
But you’re going to walk away with some amazing benefits, too, some of which you might not have considered before. To wit:
A client you’ve treated very well on the phone is a client who is likely to remember you for future needs and recommend you. I’ve had businesses send me lovely gifts on top of my consulting fee because I’ve taken the time to really listen and answer questions. SEO agencies are always looking for ways to build authentic relationships. Don’t overlook the small client as a centroid of referrals throughout a tight-knit community and beyond it to their urban colleagues, friends, and family.
If your package becomes popular, a ton of data is going to start passing through your hands. The more of these audits you do, the more time you’re spending actively observing Google’s handling of the localized SERPs. Imagine the blog posts your agency can begin publishing by anonymizing and aggregating this data, pulling insights of value to our industry. There is no end to the potential for you to grow your knowledge.
Apart from case studies, think of the way this package can both build up your proud client roster and serve as a source of client reviews. The friendly relationship you’ve built with that 1:1 time can now become a font of very positive portfolio content and testimonials for you to publish on your website.
Have you noticed the recent spate of hit TV shows that hinge on rebuilding dilapidated American towns? Industry consolidation is most often cited as the root of rural collapse, with small farmers and independent businesses no longer able to create a tax base to support basic community needs like hospitals, fire departments, and schools. Few of us rejoice at the idea of Main Streets — long-cherished hallmarks not just of Americana but of shared American identity — becoming ghost towns.
But if you look for it, you can see signs of brilliant small entrepreneurs uniting to buck this trend. Check out initiatives like Locavesting and Localstake. There’s a reason to hope in small farming co-ops, the Main Street movement, and individuals like these who can re-envision a crumbling building as an independent country store, a B&B, or a job training center with Internet access.
It can be a source of professional satisfaction for your marketing agency if you offer these brave and hard-working business owners a good deal and the necessary education they need to present themselves sufficiently on the web. I live in a rural area, and I know just how much a little, solid advice can help. I feel extra good if I know I’m contributing to America’s rural comeback story.
Once you’ve got your guide and templates created, what next? Here are some simple tips:
The truth is that your agency may not be able to live by rural clients, alone. You may still be targeting the bulk of your campaigns towards urban enterprises because just a few highly competitive clients can bring welcome security to your bank account.
But maybe this is a good day to start looking beyond the fast food franchise, the NY attorney and the LA dermatology group. The more one reads about rural entrepreneurs, the more one tends to empathize with them, and empathy is the best foundation I know of for building rewarding business relationships.
One of the many bits of news from Google I/O 2019 was that Google would soon start displaying podcasts in search results. “Soon” turned out to be very soon, as we’re already seeing these results surface. Here’s one from a search for our own podcast, MozPod:
While the feature itself is interesting, and the fact that the main result goes to Apple while the episodes go to Google is entertaining, the talk out of I/O suggested something much more intriguing – that Google would soon be indexing podcast content and returning audio clips in search results.
Is this currently possible? In a word: yes. We know that Google has offered a speech-to-text service as part of Google Cloud Platform since 2017, which has already undergone a few iterations and upgrades. Earlier this year, Android Police spotted source code changes which suggested that Google was proactively transcribing some podcasts on the Google Podcasts platform.
We see evidence of this capability in the broader Google ecosystem. For example, here’s an automatic transcript on my Google Pixel phone for a recent call …
We even see evidence of this capability in search results, but in a different medium. As early as April 2017, Google was testing suggested clips in YouTube videos. Here’s a current example from a search for “how to swim butterfly”:
Note the “Suggested clip” highlighted in the blue box, and starting at the 2:30 mark. What’s interesting is that variations on this search not only produce different videos in some cases, but different clips within the same video. Here’s the result I got back for “how to swim the butterfly” (adding only the definite article “the”):
Now, the suggested clip is 101 seconds long and starts at the 1:54 mark. It’s clear from some suggested clips that the feature is still in its infancy, but it’s difficult to imagine Google being able to implement this feature dynamically without create a transcript of the audio portion of these videos.
Why start with video? For Google, it just makes bottom-line sense. YouTube is a planetary system to the pleasant suburb of Google Podcasts and has an immensely powerful infrastructure backing it. If Google can return results based on the audio portion of a video, it’s only natural they can do the same for audio files.
The obvious starting points will be extensions of the podcast engine, including automatic transcription and full-text (full-audio) search – both of which already seem to be in the works. Once you can search within Google Podcasts, though, expect that search capability to broaden to general Google searches.
One big question is whether Google will return audio content directly or will use transcribed text. In some cases, returning audio clips may be a better match to searcher intent. If you’re searching for a movie clip or something you heard in a podcast, returning the original is a richer experience than returning plain text. The big advantage, though, will be to voice devices, such as Google Home. Returning audio would fill a content gap for voice devices and provide a direct bridge into full podcasts and other non-text content.
We do seem to be in the midst of a minor podcast revival, and audio search may spark that revival. As always, though, expect Google to release changes gradually and test them for weeks or months. If you’re already producing a podcast and want to make it accessible to search, make sure you’re part of the Google Podcasts ecosystem and are entering and updating the currently available meta data.
Other than having clean audio in a format Google can process, there’s probably nothing specific you’ll have to do down the road to get that content transcribed. It may be worth thinking about how your audio content is structured. Completely free-form content, while it certainly has a place, may be harder for Google to evaluate. Is the theme of your podcast and each episode evident? Is there a structure where a machine could potentially parse questions and answers. Are there concise takeaways – maybe a summary at the end of each episode?
Ultimately, audio SEO will mean treating our audio content in a more structured and deliberate way. The broader evolution of Google across many devices also means that we need to be more aware of what type of content best fits our audience’s needs. Is the searcher looking for text, video, or audio? Each modality fits a different need and a different device (or set of devices) in the broader search ecosystem.
“Let’s hop on a call to go over this report.”
Did you hear that?
That was the collective sigh of SEOs everywhere.
If we’re being honest, most of us probably view reporting the same way we view taking out the trash or folding the laundry. It’s a chore that robs us of time we could have spent on more important or enjoyable things.
Adding to the frustration is the reality that many clients don’t even read their reports. That’s right. All that time you put into pulling together your data and the report might be forever resigned to the dusty corner of your client’s inbox.
In the words of Mama Boucher, reporting is the devil.
Hear me out though… have you ever thought of reporting as a client retention tool? While reporting is something that takes your time away from SEO work that moves the needle, reporting is also critical if you want to have a campaign to work on at all.
In other words, no reporting = no value communicated = no more client.
The good news is that the reverse is also true. When we do SEO reporting well, we communicate our value and keep more clients, which is something that every agency and consultant can agree is important.
That all sounds nice, but how can we do that? Throughout my six years at an SEO agency, I picked up some reporting tips that I hope you’ll be able to benefit from as well.
P.S. If you haven’t seen it already, Moz’s own Meghan Pahinui wrote an amazing post for the Moz blog on creating relevant and engaging SEO reports using Moz Pro Campaigns. Definitely check it out!
I’ve seen my share of reports that highlighted metrics that just didn’t reflect any of the client’s main objectives. Your clients are busy — the first sight of something irrelevant and they’ll lose interest, so make your reports count!
My process for determining what I should report on is fairly simple:
In other words, choose appropriate KPIs to match their business objectives and your strategy, and stick to those for your reporting.
You: “Good news! We got 4,000 organic visits last month.”
Client: “Why wasn’t it 5,000?”
If that’s ever happened to you before, you’re not alone.
This simple step is so easy to forget, but make sure your goals are specific and mutually agreed upon before you start! At the beginning of the month, tell your client what your goal is (ex: “We hope to be able to get 4,000 organic visits”). That way, when you review your report, you’ll be able to objectively say whether you missed/hit/exceeded your targets.
Your clients are professionals in their own fields, not yours, so make sure to leave the shop-talking to Twitter. Before sending out a report, ask yourself:
Simply put, use clear language and layman’s terms in your client’s SEO reports. You won’t serve anyone by confusing them.
I once heard a client describe a report as “pretty, but useless.”
They had a point though. Their report was full of pie charts and line graphs that, while important-looking, conveyed no meaning to them.
Part of that “meaning” comes down to reporting on the metrics your client cares about (see #1), but the other half of that is choosing how you’ll display that information.
There are some great resources on Moz about data visualization such as Demystifying Data Visualization for Marketers, a video of Annie Cushing’s talk at MozCon 2014, and A Visualization Prescription for Impactful Data Storytelling, a Whiteboard Friday video by Lea Pica.
Resources like that will help you transform your data from metrics into a story that conveys meaning to your clients, so don’t skimp on this step!
I remember the first time someone explained to me the difference between metrics and insights. I was blown away.
It seems so simple now, but in my earliest days in digital marketing, I basically viewed “reporting” as synonymous with “data.” Raw, numeric, mind-numbing data.
The key to making your reports more meaningful to your clients is understanding that pure metrics don’t have intrinsic data. You have to unify the data in meaningful ways and pull out insights that help your client understand not just what the numbers are but why they matter.
I find it helpful to ask “so what?” when going through a report. Client’s ranking on page 1 for this list of keywords? That’s cool, but why should my client care about this? How is it contributing to their goals? Work on answering that question before you communicate your reports.
I’m going to be honest, this one is tricky.
First of all, SEO is a few layers removed from conversions. When it comes to “the big three” (as I like to refer to rankings, traffic, and conversions), SEOs can:
Second, it can be difficult to connect SEO to revenue especially on websites where the ultimate conversion happens offline (ex: lead gen). In order to tie organic traffic to revenue, you’ll want to set up goal conversions and add a value to those conversions in your analytics, but here’s where that gets difficult:
Everyone has a different reporting methodology, but I personally tend to advocate for at least trying to connect SEO to revenue. I’ve been in enough situations where our client dropped us because they saw us as a cost-center rather than a profit-center to know that communicating your value in monetary terms can mean the difference between keeping your client or not.
Even though you can’t directly influence conversions and even if your client can only give you a rough ballpark figure for LCV and close rate, it’s better than nothing.
Not everything can be explained in a report. Even if you’re able to add text commentary to elaborate on your data, there’s still the risk that a key point will be lost on your client completely. Expect this!
I’ve seen plenty of client reporting calls go well over an hour. While no two situations are alike, I think starting with a report that contains clear insights on the KPIs your client cares about will do wonders for shortening that conversation.
Your clients will be able to understand those insights on their own, which frees you up to add context and answer any questions without getting bogged down with back-and-forth over “red herring” metrics that distract from the main point.
What about you? Every SEO has their own reporting best practices, wins, and horror stories — I want to hear yours!
We’re in this together — so let’s learn from each other!
And if you want more where this came from, please consider downloading our free whitepaper: High-Impact SEO Reporting for Agencies! It’s full of advice and helpful tips for using reports to communicate value to your clients.
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