How to optimise a site to ensure business growth
Table of Contents
In this epic 15000 word article we cover all the most important elements we implemented in the Albion site in order to generate leads from our market and to encourage other online marketers to spread the word. First though, let us look at the main ingredients that contribute to increasing profits from any website:
Number of sales = online traffic x lead conversion rate x sales conversion rate
In the above equation, you can see that by doubling the volume of traffic your site receives you can double your sales. That by doubling the number of leads your site attracts from enquiry forms you can double your sales and by doubling your lead to sales conversion rate you can… wait for it, double your sales. So by combining these 3 different approaches, you could potentially generate 8 times more sales revenue than you currently enjoy.
Feel free to skim-read the headings to spot which areas your site lacks, download the pdf checklist or work through each one to ensure your visitors find your site, are impressed by your offering and get in touch to buy your products and services.
What you will learn here…
- How to make your audience love your brand, and how to KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!
- How to give Google all the signals it needs to give your web pages top rankings in the search results
- How to write properly for the web or at least check you are not making obvious mistakes
- How to make your audience think you are the best at what you do, without saying so yourself
- How to define your site’s main goals and optimise it in order to gain maximum lead conversions
- How to use threats and psychological tricks to get more online engagement and sales
- …And why mankind owes more to plumbers than we do to doctors! You may be surprised…
Remember if you only read one post this year, this is the one to take full advantage of. Oh and be sure to share this post, or better, link to it from your own site and social media profiles. Why? Well because we review all incoming links and follow those that help us share our insights. Many thanks, from Martin and the Albion Marketing Agency team in Brighton UK.
Let’s get started…
– Usability and branding
First off, let’s take a look at some of the basic elements and features all websites need.
1 – Simple main menu
This site has a minimal number of menu items in order to give visitors the impression that the entire concept of what Albion offers can be understood in just a few pages of skim reading.
The last thing we want to do with the main menu is to give people so many options that they are unsure where they should click next.
Remember that the vast majority of a typical site’s traffic arrives from clicks from Google search results pages to pages other than its homepage. This means that only a small proportion of visitors start their “brand journey” on your homepage then click through the top nav from left to right, in order to seek out the pages they believe will contain the information they came to read.
Most visitors first meet your brand on a landing page. They suck in as much information about the site layout and content as possible, and even read the article, before venturing on to your top-level pages and then through to the rest of the site.
That’s what you do when visiting a new site right? That’s what we all do.
Most visitors don’t read much of a site – they want to grab the information they need with as little expenditure of time and effort as possible. Who can blame them?
Despite the simple navigation, we do have more than 5 pages though – so that Google robots can get to every page or post within 2 of its precious “clicks”. Oh, didn’t I mention Google hates wasting money on crawling websites inefficiently – which is why it dishes out penalties for duplicate content when it finds little unique content at many different URLs. By following links, Google’s robots (GoogleBot) seeks to find the “hub” pages that lead it to more pages worth crawling and indexing in its results pages.
2 – Big call to action button
The main goal of this site is represented by a big bold call to action button. It is visible on every page in prime position. It enjoys a different colour than the other elements and its job is to send visitors to the contact form right away.
Sure, most people don’t fill out a form on their first visit…
But you need to provide an easy route for those visitors that do.
This site, like most sites, needs to cater to the 2 groups of visitors we intend to attract.
1 – Potential and existing customers
2 – Potential and existing competitors – Yes, that’s our contemporaries and other people coming to learn stuff from the articles. For Albion, this is usually staff from other digital marketing agencies and those in the marketing industry who are reading this article. In general, our potential customers are attracted by a different set of pages, created just for them.
So when writing content for your site, remember that your online traffic consists of both these groups – not just potential customers but your competitors also. Keep that in mind.
What can your competitors and other people in your industry do for you by visiting your site and reading your content? Lots, but we will come to that soon.
3 – Brand name and logo
Ok, so plenty has been said elsewhere about the fact that your brand logo and name really matter.
They, along with your strapline, help to form a picture in your readership’s mind that they can use to attach the information they gathered from experiences they have had with your brand.
Brand logos and business names don’t always need to be clever though. All you really need is a memorable name and logo that allows people to recognise you elsewhere on the web and in the real world. And to help convince them that you are a useful source of information or entertainment.
A brand journey is just a collection of emotions that we have attached as a mental note in our minds. They help (force more like) us to make decisions later on.
4 – Brand messaging
One thing great website homepages and site-wide elements do well is to support their brand values.
Well-thought-out sites reflect or even explicitly spell-out a brand’s mission statement, unique selling point and value proposition. These are often backed up with benefits lists, social proof and call to action graphics splashed all over the homepage. All of these are essential elements you and your marketing team should know about your brand.
This can be a super tricky task for tradesmen – I promised earlier to tell you some profound truth about plumbers… Well, this is not it. But here is an important observation about tradesmen…
Plumbers try to do their own marketing. It’s true, like many service-based businesses that comprise of a single sole trader – handy-men, plumbers, decorators, electricians and the rest are so used to learning how to solve problems themselves, they usually have a go at marketing too. That is a recipe for disaster.
It’s not enough for them to have learned everything they need to fix leaky pipes and the rest, they like a challenge and often create their own sites, their own brands and their own marketing campaigns. And although it may be the case that I could fix a drippy tap, it is less often the case that plumbers have all the tools, knowledge and experience they need in order to grow or even sustain a strong brand by effectively marketing the services they offer.
But what about the all-important products and services sites are created to represent and sell?
It’s got to be said – it’s much harder to market products or services that are crappy. Just saying your offering is great, won’t cut it. You need to provide the reader with evidence in a way that allows they themselves to come to the conclusion that your stuff is great. That subtle difference really matters.
Yes, you might have to polish a turd somewhat, but marketing is not about lying or exaggerating.
And it’s also not true that a good product will sell itself. The volume of the competition your customers have access to via the web is much too big for that now.
5 – Responsive layouts
OK, so since mid-2016 more than half of website visits are done on mobile devices.
Here is our mobile homepage, you can see the logo, strapline and navigation menu clearly, you can also click the ‘click-to-call’ phone number at the top of the page, so your phone dials us up in just a click.
But wait – your team are probably looking at your website all wrong – it’s no wonder they can’t get into the mindset of your online market. Your potential online customers are likely having the shop door slammed in their faces – Waiting for some big image to load up or for some popup or overlay to get the hell out of the way of the navigation menu and content.
Usability is paramount online. We have all had bad experiences when trying to do a simple task on some website or other. This can be infuriating and can make us hate a brand before we have even had a chance to build a relationship with it.
Maybe your designer has a huge monitor nobody else in the team enjoys. Maybe your boss only looks at the site on his work computer. Maybe all of your staff look only at your site in your usual browser – where you have the images cached and it only takes a second to load up.
That is not how everybody else sees your site. Imagine if your real-world shop had a huge stupid huge plank blocking the door that stopped your potential customers coming in, simply because someone said you have to teach them about cookies before they enter. Ridiculous, you would be a laughing stock on the high-street, while you lasted.
Your customers deserve useful information they can access without any grief. Give it to them and they will love you for it.
– Stuff for Google
6 – Crawlable sitemaps
At Albion, we have tried to be as nice as possible to the human guests on our websites by painting our brand all over the homepage – but now it is time to extend a friendly arm to our silent but highly influential mechanical friends.
It’s true to say that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the most lucrative form of digital marketing, simply because Google is the place that most people go when looking for a product or service. Nope, most people don’t go to Facebook or Twitter when looking for a holiday or a new house or car, they go to Google. Try not to forget that when you invest in ads or other incoming marketing efforts on social sites.
I mentioned earlier that a simple navigation menu helps people get the idea that there are only a few pages they need to read in order to understand everything that is on offer.
Well, that was a low-down dirty trick.
Click through to our HTML sitemap (linked to from the bottom of every page), you will see that as well as the 5 or so links you see in the top navigation, the site actually consists of more than 50 pages and a whole bunch of portfolio items and case studies.
Sure, because most of these pages are the first page many visitors land on from a Google search, not many people navigate to them from the sitemap. However, this is exactly the desired route we create for Google’s robots. It allows them to crawl from link to link in order to get to every page of the site within just two of its highly valuable ‘clicks’.
To double check that Google can discover, crawl, index and rank every page of this site we use Yoast plugin to generate an XML sitemap that we submit to Google Search Console. This helps ensure Google spots changes in the content and meta data and adjusts each page’s rankings accordingly.
If you are unsure why you are not getting the natural search rankings you think your web pages deserve, be sure to check out our quick hidden SEO error checklist, which uncovers the most common mistakes webmasters and business owners are usually unaware of.
7 – Structured architecture
The ‘service’ pages (such as SEO, PPC, CRO etc) seen at the bottom of the HTML sitemap are nicely arranged into sections – with a bunch of child pages for each service’s parent page.
This is the ideal structure or ‘information architecture’ of a website’s content, as it resembles the structure of a well-organised filing-cabinet. Sections first, with child pages listed under each main page or hub page.
SEOs call this clever categorisation ‘siloing’. Like a farmer that puts all his red beans in one silo and blue beans in another, we are able to help Google organise and better ‘understand’ the content and information we have on offer.
Silos are super valuable for web pages that need to rank for highly competitive keywords – where Google needs more than just one page about a particular subject in order to justify giving it high rankings.
Here is how we use them to manipulate (or help) search engines…
Give your most important target pages children and even grandchildren! That’s right, the more descendants your target pages have, the better. Just be sure the child pages acknowledge their heritage – by including their parent’s page name in their meta data, content and their URL structure.
By linking each page in a silo to the other pages in that same silo or section, and to their parent pages, Google knows you have not just one page, but a full section of information about the subject. And is more often happier to list the parent page high up in the search results.
Why? Because Google’s customers have more chance of finding the information related to the query they searched for – if not in the parent page they saw in the search results, then in one of the sub-pages they will come across in that section on your site. Furthermore, as well as the child pages being able to rank for their own target keywords, they also help the parent page rank for its more competitive target keywords.
Passing ranking power from one page to another within a site is one of the most effective SEO tricks that is unknown to website owners and even overlooked by many SEO professionals that have limited experience of manipulating the search results.
To get the low-down on this and other sneaky ways of giving Google everything it needs to rank your pages higher in their search results pages, simply sign up to email updates to access the rest of our knowledge and insight articles.
8 – Optimised meta data
Urr. You need to add your target keywords to your page’s meta title. Ok, we are stating the obvious here but many automated content management systems (such as WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace) simply use the page name as the meta title. This is the clickable blue text people see in the search results. It is also the single most important on-page element of every webpage.
Worse is that countless web editors are lazy and only do the bare minimum amount of thinking when it comes to publishing content online. After all, many of them are on minimum wage, which of course warrants the minimum effort. But a bit of common sense and extra effort goes a long way in SEO…
For example, if your site lists jobs, then “Shoe Shop Deputy Manager – Clarkes Shoes in Brighton” sucks as a meta title. Why? It doesn’t even mention that it’s a freaking job! Remember to add the word Job, Career or Vacancy in there’s so Google knows what the heck you are waffling on about.
As well as including the name of the page or product name in a page’s meta title, it is wise to spend some time on keyword research, so you can identify and add ‘qualifier’ keywords too.
For example, you can help a page about “SEO Packages” rank for its target keyword phrase “seo packages” and also allow it to qualify to rank for a whole bunch of other long-tail search queries too – simply by adding mention of words like ‘plans’, ‘prices’ and other words Google knows are related to SEO packages.
This use of qualifier words and their synonyms, allows Google RankBrain to send traffic your way if it thinks searchers ‘mean’ “seo agency” when they actually searched for “seo company”. Ie, one page can rank for multiple search queries, and each page of your site ought to attempt to do just that.
Alongside the meta titles in the search results are your meta descriptions. This sentence of text should be written in a way that gives the searcher everything they need in order to decide to click through to your page.
Here, be sure to include the benefits of buying from you, incorporate intrigue, create desire and a call them to action by asking them to do something – such as grab an offer, make a call or buy now pay later etc.
The last thing your page’s meta description should do is be worded to describe what the page is about. Don’t fall for that one if you can help it – it’s really an advert.
Generally, the meta data people see in the search results should confirm that they can get the information they need in order to solve their problem. Later we will talk more about how we set all the meta data out in a campaign spreadsheet, that allows us to quickly see (and adapt) the wording our search market see on Google to better effect.
9 – Optimised content
Even if you don’t have the pro tools needed to do in-depth keyword research in a way that lets you discover exactly which phrases your market is searching for most – you can always pick Google’s brains for free.
Simply use ‘Google suggest’ by typing out a phrase you might want to rank for and make a note of the other words that the search engine suggests in the list that drops down from the search box. Also look in the list of ‘related search terms’ shown at the bottom of the search results pages.
This is Google’s way of telling you which words it closely associates with your search query, and includes important keywords you can add to your page’s content to help it rank for related search terms.
Where exactly should you add these words to your page? Well, subheadings are a great place to stick your target keyword phrases and variations of them (and your qualifier keywords). Also are paragraph content, image file names and alt tags, and importantly… internal link anchor text.
Let’s talk about internal links. After all, links are what the web is based on and are a fundamental feature of Google’s original algorithm and many of the company’s patents.
10 – Internal links
Google is very lenient on spammy anchor text (the clickable words seen in hyperlinks) when it comes to internal links. This provides you with another way to inform the search engine about the structure and content of your site – and pretty much tell Googlebot which search terms you want to rank for.
So it’s advisable to include a page’s target keyword phrase in the clickable text of internal links that point to it.
Please don’t do that for incoming backlinks from other sites though…
It’s not an on-page element, but… the most important ranking factor for any webpage is still the quality and quantity of incoming links pointing to it from other sites.
Sure, you don’t have full control over the links that point to your website’s pages and you may be a victim of black-hat negative SEO techniques that others have used in an attempt to de-rank your site with spammy links.
However, the general rule of thumb is that you don’t want more than 20% of your incoming links to have your target keywords in the anchor text. The rest should contain clickable text that reflects your brand name, the URL the link points to and a splattering of phrases like ‘click here’, ‘read more’ and other phrases Google knows people naturally use when linking to other sites.
Having an internal and incoming link profile that Google considers to be natural keeps you under the radar. However, yet again this is easy to manipulate with the use of power links and buffer links, which we discuss in more detail elsewhere.
– Readable content
11 – Informative content
Although this first article contains a large wordcount, it is not typical of the rest of the articles on this site. This post was designed to be written in a way that introduces lots of concepts and topics that are covered in more detail in other articles.
By producing content that uses the ‘skyscraper technique‘ we hope this post not only provides plenty of insight and actionable advice but also to build a relationship with you, the reader.
Every page on this site is written in a way that provides the important information you want to read – alongside the information we want to plant in your mind while you are here…
Don’t worry, we will get to the benefits of going into ‘full-on parasite mode’ later, and you’ll enjoy it.
But first, answer this…
Would you prefer more money or more time?
By a two-to-one margin, the Americans polled said that they’d take two weeks of extra vacation over two weeks more pay. Scholars of happiness (yes, that discipline exists) have come to the conclusion that time makes people happier than money, and that buying experiences leaves them more satisfied than buying things.
Of course, you can’t create more time for your website visitors, but you can save them some.
As well as helping site visitors find the information they are after, try to help them consume it.
Do whatever you can to reinforce the belief that they are in the right place to find the valuable information they hoped to find – or better, uncover facts and insights they didn’t expect to find.
We do this in a number of ways. One of them is to make sure each page answers 3 questions…
12 – The 3 Ws
- Where am I? Remember most people didn’t click from the homepage to this post. You certainly didn’t. Because there isn’t even a link to it on the homepage. You most likely came here from a Google search or a link in a mailout or from a backlink on another site. For this reason, we use subheadings, captions, graphical elements and other visual clues to help reassure visitors that they are in the right place and they ought to keep on reading.
- What can I do here?
Sometimes it pays to just come out with it as we do on the options page, and simply list the stuff you want your visitors to do (which should reflect the main goals of your site, discussed later). But what are those goals? One of the jobs your web designer really should have done before creating your site is to quiz your most savvy marketing person about the things you want your website to achieve – and map those goals to ‘call to action’ elements on your page. Other times you can be more subtle when suggesting which actions they can or should take – or you can always just have fun. The following info box was pulled from another page on this site and explains in a fun way what is on offer, and what is most likely to happen. Take a look…
What can you do here?
- Find out how this site is designed as an interface between our brand and your brain – and hopefully impress you enough to read further down the article… while I do my work of convincing you Albion is an authoritative brand…
- Skim read the page and get a general idea of not just what the article is about, but also make a mental note about what type of article it is, how it is written and what type of person wrote it. (Because that’s who you are currently communicating with. The writer is the one running this interaction and the one who is responsible for deciding which words to run through your brain) you don’t even really get to respond…well, after all, if you are reading this you are likely someone doing, learning and refining the same techniques as us at Albion.
- Click through the top navigation menu and confirm to yourself that it is written by somebody (or some brand) talking about websites and digital marketing – because it is a marketing agency’s site. Yep, they have branding, pages about their services and examples of work done for clients. I get the picture.
- Actually, do one of the things we want you to do – shock horror… this site’s main goals are actually listed for your judgement, butt naked – ready reveal a bit too much, in the hope that you will go ahead and complete one of our goals.
- Be impressed by how the rest of this article is written, so that it tells you stuff you already knew (confirmation bias) and sprinkled in a few nuggets you now believe to be true – as well as valuable facts needed for later decision making or just helping form an image of the brand sprouting in your brain. There you go, we have just planted a seed in your head.
- Why should I do it? Doh… it’s easy to forget but you really need to remind people about the benefits of signing up to your newsletter or using your products and services. It’s not good enough to say we sell, say, drills. You need to explain that we sell drills that create great holes. Spell out your product’s features and benefits in a way that allows customers to picture how the result will make their life better or their job easier. This is an essential job of every single web page on your site – even if you say it subliminally.
13 – The 3 Es
Building up enough momentum to have website visitors achieve one of your goals can be done by checking each page ticks a few different boxes. Consider the rule of thumb that declares that each page should:
- Educate people
They may know they want more traffic because they know that generates more sales – but they may not be aware that SEO or PPC or Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing or a whole bunch of other tried and tested methods are the best way to get them the type of traffic they desire. Educate them about the subject, just to be sure.
- Show your Expertise
Show people you know what you are talking about. Reach a bit deeper into the subject than others do in order to show you have lots of pearls of wisdom they could use to improve their site or to benefit their business. Being an experienced expert isn’t enough, you have to show people you know the common errors they should avoid and the opportunities they may be missing and the chances they are best off taking
- Engage with them
Give them lots of different ways to interact with your brand. For potential customers, you may want to encourage them to venture further down the sales funnel. And for those people who work in your industry, you can invite them to get updates or share your stuff, even link to your pages or leave a comment to start a discussion.
14 – Holes not drills
Ok, this is an old, old marketing cliche we mentioned above, but many great salesmen and copywriters rely on a few tried-and-tested tricks when wording their main appeals and propositions. You should too!
One such trick is writing pages about your services in a way that describes what visitors get rather than what they are buying. I mean, when people buy drills, what the really want is the ability to make perfect holes.
Sure they usually need to buy a drill in order to get the holes they want – however by knowing what they really need, you can offer them other solutions. For example, our customers often ask about SEO services, when what they really want is more online sales.
Sure we offer SEO services that will get them more traffic, But it also allows us to solve their needs with other solutions, such as paid search traffic from Google Ads and Conversion Rate Optimisation. This subtle difference can make all the difference. So be sure to understand the difference between selling the result, not the service. Holes, not drills.
15 – AIDA
Another tried and tested copywriting technique we use in our web page copy, in our ads and mailouts as well as in the search results snippets, is AIDA.
This helps to encourage engagement by writing copy that:
- Grabs people’s Attention – to pull them in
- Keeps them Interested – so they keep reading
- Increases their Desire – for our product and knowledge
- Calls them to Action – so they achieve our goals
Again the question of what your website’s main goals actually ARE comes up. Later we will define how we identify these goals for each of the 2 types of visitor our site gets and how we map those goals to call to action elements in our web pages.
Be aware though, that unless you get it right, your readership won’t do anything you ask them to do. Why? they don’t trust you enough, yet…
16 – Campaign results
There are a handful of reasons (excuses) why some marketing agencies don’t publish their results:
- They are so successful that everyone already knows they are great
- They haven’t got round to it yet
- Their dog ate their homework and they just can’t be bothered
Usually, though it is that they don’t get great results, so they lack tangible evidence they can show on their sites – despite this being super-easy using images from sales tracking software or website analytics, tools such as Google analytics.
Important – I quiz Albion’s clients about their previous marketing agencies, and I list flaws that potential clients wished they had spotted and avoided. One thing that bewilders me time and time again is that they picked an agency that had absolutely no evidence that they increased anyone’s traffic, leads or sales.
Many companies do marketing because, “well you have to don’t you, so people know about your products” – others master it because the game is to find the methods and strategies that generate more money than they cost to invest in. Then by scaling each effective method up to see how far it can take them.
Marketing agencies that don’t strive for results they can show off about on their websites most likely don’t see it that way. Be warned crappy marketing agencies can trash your business – many are still just learning the ropes as they go along – so don’t let them practice with your business.
17 – Testimonials
Thank Goodness for testimonials. Sure you can tell the world that you are great – but then you would say that wouldn’t you.
Better is when others tell the world how good you are.
By encouraging existing clients to give us a 5-star review on Google My Business (GMB), it not only helps us rank in the “local pack” of the search results and on Google maps, but it also provides us with a testimonial we can also add to our site.
You can never have too many testimonials. Why?
Because reviews from brands in the same industry as your potential customer have lots more weight and persuasive power than reviews from any Tom, Dick or Harry. That means we can fill our page about marketing for the education sector with testimonials and results from schools and universities rather than recording studios and recruitment agencies.
We even help put words into our reviewer’s mouths by reminding them of some of the services and stats we achieved for them when emailing them to submit a testimonial. Oh, here is another handy quick tip – Request testimonials as soon as you have finished a major part of the work you did for a client and then also a few months later once the results have come in! That way you have 2 reviews to choose from when you add them to your web pages.
18 – Client logos
We have all seen rows of client logos on agency sites. We also see them on Software as a Service (SaaS) websites, and sites that sell products and services in a whole range of industries. These work as valuable trust elements. They are there to show you that organisations bigger than yours (with more informed, better-trained decision makers than you) trust them already.
Ok, so maybe they trusted them with something small in the past or they didn’t actually trust them with their entire brand, but they did have them work on something minor for them, once. Either way, visible customer brand logos are known to encourage potential customers to build trust in your brand.
I mean, if a university, a handful of recruitment brands, successful e-commerce stores, national law firms and even a space company rely on Albion, then so can we… Right?
19 – Case studies
We try to write really compelling captions for our case studies. We don’t exaggerate but we do try to look at the bigger picture and appeal to the reader’s imagination.
For example, Albion helps a Houston based space firm market their wares. So rather than “Helping publicises a Houston firm”… we were actually…”Helping a space company reach out to new worlds…” because, well, that is what we do.
Looking at the bigger picture and from an outsider’s point of view, can help create more compelling page titles and indeed paint a more interesting picture in the minds of those who are considering hiring your firm.
No matter how boring your industry is, you can do that too. (“Plumber to the stars” – how we unblocked Swarchenegger’ back passage and lived to tell the tale…“) ok, take it as far as you like. It works.
Here is a tip that can help when crafting the wording of online case studies – always make the client the hero. It is all too easy to point out all failures and misgivings regarding a client’s experience or professionalism. Instead, accepting that you have to work with whatever you are given in order to get the best results you can, is important.
Best is always to give credit to the client for doing all the background work of creating a brand, a web page and a bunch of copy about a service they provide. Then to explain that your job of optimising or improving it was a straight-forward task. You are there to get the results they couldn’t get alone, you can seem to be the hero just as easily if you come in to put the icing on the cake if that is what causes the traffic and sales to increase.
Oh, another note on those in the plumbing trade – man they have a hard time of it. Problem is careers guidance people forget to tell those guys early enough that their industry is over-subscribed. Photographers have the same problem. The UK produces more of them each year than all of Europe needs.
Plumbers suffer badly because of this. There was no plumber volume and competition stats you could glance through when choosing your career. However, the data is there when you choose your website’s target keywords. What this means is that plumbers are in a huge arms-race and price war with each other in Google Ads and in the natural search results.
This can push the cost per sale conversion higher than the value of the actual sale itself in many cases. Only Amazon would pay for clicks like this – in order to force others out of the search market and hopefully kill the competition off altogether.
Yes, Amazon does that. And yes it works. No, they don’t feel bad about it.
– More content for Google
20 – Niche pages
Here is a quick trick you should try to remember…
Rather than write case studies about jobs we did for clients with their names in the article title, we reflected on what the thing really was. For example “PPC for a university” not “PPC for AUIS” (which is the name of a university we did Pay Per Click campaign management for).
That way, rather than rank for client’s names, we get to rank in Google results for a number of keyword phrases that relate to search queries highly targeted potential customers might be using when searching for marketing specialists in their industry.
These case study niche pages not only generate targeted traffic but also encourage potential customers to consider that if it works for our competitors or contemporaries, it might just work well for us too. Maybe this marketing agency that worked for a competitor in our industry knows more about our search market than we do? Often they do.
The more customers and clients you have, the more case studies or customer experiences you can write about. You can do it in a way that gives Google some of the food it has come to scavenge off your site: Information – in the form of content.
If you don’t have resources to publish an ongoing stream of news items or blog posts, you can still publish regular new content by writing about the stuff you know about in the form of case studies. These articles not only pull traffic and links to your website but also work as trust elements for your brand.
List the most recent projects you worked on and consider if you can optimise an article for a keyword phrase other potential customers may search for. Write it up and enjoy the extra free traffic and leads it generates.
21 – Sector pages
Ok ok, so Albion has published over a couple of dozen case studies pages about marketing for different clients. Each page optimised to ranking highly in Google and attract traffic from potential customers who may be searching for a similar service.
But why not use that same content (that we already created) to rank for even more keyword phrases?
Well, that’s why we have a page for each sector or industry listed in our sitemap (as mentioned, linked to at the bottom of every page, for Google’s benefit, not yours 😉
With a couple of sections containing keyword-rich content and corresponding meta title and description, all it takes is an automated list of teaser text from each relevant case study to populate the page with valuable, relevant content. With that, we can stick our call to action button or contact forms at the bottom of each sector page and hey presto, we are soon ranking for the sector’s keywords “marketing for education organisations” as well as “PPC for universities”.
It all helps.
You get the picture. Do it if you want more ongoing traffic from a few hours of extra work.
22 – Virtual landing pages
Those industry sector pages we just mentioned are optimised for “Marketing for education organisations”, “Marketing for educators” etc, and populated with case study content we had already written. But get this…
They are designed as landing pages.
That is, pages that include the essential information and functionality new visitors need in order to convert to a sales lead. These elements include:
- Heading and logo area – you know the usual branding stuff – but sometimes we hide the nav menu
- Intro text and main appeal – explaining who we are, what we do, who for, and explaining the services on offer
- Lists of benefits – or service features, spelling out why they should hire us and reducing friction from pain points
- Sector-specific content – allowing us to insert lots of keyword phrases relevant to that particular industry
- Case studies – that provide evidence of the quality of our services and name-drop client brands
- Images of our results – providing trust elements and building on the authority we hope to project
- Client testimonials – that give evidence of social proof from real people at different levels in a range of industries
- Contact form – the main call to action we want the reader to take, linked to from different areas of the page
Take a look at one of our ‘sector’ landing pages. Only one element of the above 8 sections of these virtual landing pages needed to be created for the page of each sector, as all the other content parts were already built and in use on other pages.
So with just a few paragraphs of content, you can get a heck of a lot more mileage from the work you have already put into your site case studies pages. It could be the easiest way to get more traffic and potential customers with a limited amount of work if you apply the same technique to the sectors you provide services for.
23 – Real landing pages
Each of the 6 services Albion offers has a specific ‘real’ landing page that is designed to do nothing but convince the visitor to fill in the form, right away, no fuss.
An example is our FREE SEO review landing page, in our main SEO ‘silo’.
By moving the appeal area with the proposition and ‘free review request form’ above the fold to the top of the page, we increase the number of leads from potential customers.
How do we know? Well, we split test it.
Landing pages are great for split testing. They are one of the most important parts of our marketing machine. Most people don’t even create specific landing pages, they send visitors to their homepage and hope that will do the trick. Usually, though, it doesn’t.
Good websites are not like static brochures. They are dynamic machines you can tune-up to make yourself more sales and profits. So they need to be designed more like fruit machines or one-armed bandits than passive tv screens or oldy-worldy image ads. That is, they need to be able to respond.
We use Pay Per Click traffic from Google Ads to send traffic to variations of our landing pages (that we split-test using Optimizely). This tells us what wording and design elements work best to get the most people to submit their URL for a free review. Elements we test include wording, placement of the form, appeal wording, benefits points and a whole range of other elements. We even test to see if variations of pages that lack top navigation menus generate more leads, by limiting our test audience’s choices.
By split testing different versions of your web pages, you can, slowly but surely, know for a fact what works best to build up enough momentum needed to encourage more visitors to achieve your website’s goals.
So next we will look at those goals.
– Clearly defined goals
24 – 5 Goals for potential customers
Ok, I admit it, some brands do need a static brochure website that does nothing but says stuff.
Others have those types of websites but it’s the last thing they need – because sites were made to encourage its visitors to DO something.
Forgetting what your site is supposed to do is easy unless you list your main goals.
If your site sells stuff directly, then usually that is your main goal.
If you are a service business or use your site to generate sales leads, then your goals are likely the same as ours… For your information. This is probably what you want your site visitors to do:
- Give us a ring by clicking our phone number – so we can start a conversation about your requirements
- Use the contact form to ask about our services – so we get your email address and can pick up the lead on the phone or by email
- Request a free review – so we get your email or phone number for a swap for free SEO, PPC or CRO advice – sure, we would prefer the lead without having to invest in a review – but by offering to provide an hour of work for free, we enjoy heaps more leads to pick and choose from
- Come to Brighton and meet us – so we get to quiz you about your needs and you get a jolly day out away from work
- Arrange a Skype call – so we get to pick up the sales leads and disguise it as a fact-finding chat
Notice, we don’t expect clients to link to our web pages, share or even read this post. After all, it wasn’t meant for them.
25 – 5 Goals for contemporaries
You people reading this article are not our potential customers. You are our contemporaries and our competition.
Don’t worry though, we are all in the same boat. You are here to learn how to rank web pages, market brands, improve websites or generate more online income.
We keep our customers busy elsewhere on this site – with content that more suits their information hunting needs.
For you chaps reading this, we have a bunch of information about the finer points of digital marketing. Mixed in with a handful of options:
- Link to this article or any other post from your site to ours – which will help our Google rankings improve
- Submit your email to see all our articles – so we can get into your inbox later with more goodies
- Read the full article – so you remember the Albion brand as a good, useful source of information
- Socially share this or any post on the site – so we get a bit of exposure to your network of followers
- Call again – so you click through next time you see us in your inbox, in the search results or elsewhere
Fear not, we won’t be going overboard pestering you to tell the world about us, but signing up to updates (at the bottom of the post) and linking to this page would be much appreciated – we can even see who linked to us and can return the favour.
Who knows where that could lead…
26 – Short contact forms
Starting a conversation with someone you don’t know can be awkward, other times it just happens naturally and you are chatting away in minutes. On a website however, starting a conversation isn’t always that easy.
First, the information not only tells you stuff but also asks for you to respond. If you respond by phone then great, you are interacting with a real human being in the usual way. But if you are communicating through a website, you will need to fill out a contact form to get the response you are after…
Despite having lots of questions and points to raise, which will likely guide further questions, most potential customers start a conversation with a brand by saying just a couple of words – and with reserved (or well mannered) English people, less than that.
Don’t be surprised if your potential customers start the conversation asking a question that has an obvious answer. Questions such as “do you offer SEO services”. Thing is, they know you do, they are just starting a dialogue and they want you to lead the conversation and guide them. That’s ok.
After a bit of practice, you’ll end up knowing how to word the resulting email conversation in a way that lets them ask heaps more detailed questions, tell you about their needs, about their competition and about their current marketing agency or strategy – or lack of a strategy.
Did we study these conversations and formulate optimal responses that get the conversation going? Yes. Did we end up with more sales because the client liked what we were saying? Sure did.
27 – Starts many conversations
Our online contact forms have the least possible number of input fields because the more fields you have in your forms the fewer people will use them. We also vary the wording before the forms for split testing purposes.
As you can see on our main pages there is a form at the bottom of every page and each is worded in a way that either reflects the content on the page or provides a range of offerings. Ie it uses different types of bait on the same hook. Such as:
- Ask any question
- See how we can help
- Tell us your requirements
- Request a free website review
Let me tell you something. People are problem solvers, it’s not their fault, their brains go about creating and solving heaps of new problems to overcome, and learn from, in order to keep itself healthy.
However, it is always good to encourage people to reach out, in order to get that answer they need. This is the main reason we use website copy to start as many different conversations as possible.
Everybody needs a different type of encouragement but unlike a static advert, a dynamic site can provide a more specific nudge to each type of potential customer. You can do it too, it’s just that you need to say more than… “contact us”.
– Conversion optimisation
Ok, so there is a whole load of stuff involved with conversion optimisation, it’s a mix of usability, sales copywriting, marketing copyrighting, sales psychology and well, design. One of the best resources on the web to look at, if you are unsure how well your landing page’s fare is, the late, Page Fights.
Watch the below video and just hold yourself back from swearing at your screen with these foul-mouthed CRO experts, including my personal favourite usability guru Craig Sullivan, Oli Gardner, and cheeky Peep Laja even if your mobile landing page is “totally f*ckin’ shite!”
28 – Conversion tracking
Fill out any of the landing page forms or the contact form at the bottom of most top-level pages and you will be redirected to a specific “thank you” page. All it says is “thanks for getting in touch” as its main function is to serve to confirm your message got through.
More importantly though, the thank you page URL is being tracked in Google Analytics as a ‘goal conversion’. So whenever anyone visits the thank you page, we know a goal was completed.
Did I mention that converting goals from the forms was the most important goal of the site after encouraging phone calls from potential customers?
Well, it is, and the information Google Analytics gathers for us about how we generated those conversions, can be used to achieve the maximum number of leads (that turn into sales) by a simple process of optimisation.
Furthermore, by reviewing goal traffic data in Google Analytics and importing the goal conversions into Google Ads, we can also get specific data about which keywords searches turn into sales, which locations send the most sales leads and how people travel around the site before they complete a goal.
That means we can save wasted PPC spend, remove useless pages, add friction busting information on bottlenecks and make other amends that ensure more visitors make it further down our sales funnel. Again, every site that is tasked with making sales or generating leads should be doing this.
29 – Title split-testing
Believe it or not, you are likely reading this article because you clicked on the title when you read it somewhere.
But did you know I served you a different title than I served other visitors? Have a look…
With tools like the ‘title experiments‘ plugin for WordPress, we get to test which wording of post titles generates more clicks than the others.
That’s right, it’s not just Google, Amazon and Facebook that are using you as a guinea pig. Not only is your private information being exploited to serve you more relevant ads, (and secretly adjusting the version of reality you get to experience), they are also able to know more about your decision-making processes than you do.
Cheekily, this site does that too. And so do many other well-made sites that are created in a way to not only provide information but to gather it in a way that helps make more money. Is nothing sacred? No, it probably isn’t.
A second thing we get to know from running post title split-tests is how to craft the best titles for future articles – without even having to test them first. Because the information we gather gives us a real feel for what wording best encourages people to click through, we can write good clickable titles on the fly. Something you should hope to achieve with your own blog posts or case studies.
30 – Multivariate testing
Another way we do experiments on you, dear reader, without you knowing it is by using tools such as Optimizely to create different versions of some of the pages and elements on our site. Usually the landing pages.
What this does is send a proportion of traffic to each variation, say 25% to four different versions and allow us to see which variation generates the most enquiries. This split testing allows us to refine where to place contact forms and other page elements and also to test which wording works best to reduce friction and encourage visitors to take the actions we desire.
Imagine if you could magically just KNOW if your current homepage is missing some essential section, or if your opening intro and proposition wording could be tweaked to get more sales leads – without having to attract more traffic.
Maybe some of your team think rewording your homepage ‘about us’ wording, your proposition copy or switching images would generate more sales down the line. Well, with split-testing you CAN find out which is best and you really can KNOW what makes you the most money.
We actively encourage our clients to place bets on which variation will win. This not only encourages staff to think hard to come up with a better landing page wording, benefits bullet-points or layouts but also ensures those who back the winner gets a prize. Usually a half day off work. Win-win!
– Psychological tricks
31 – Emotional wording
Ok, so you have stayed the course this far in such a long article. It is now time to come to the nitty gritty relating to some of the more sneaky tricks employed on this and many well-written sites.
Plenty of marketing experts would agree that you have to sell a story in order to sell a product.
One of the things your wording should do is to help your readers imagine how the information you are offering will empower their future decision-making skills, save them money or save them time. It should appeal to their emotions, or at least get them closer to their goals – or even their dreams!
We don’t go overboard with video ads that show off a fancy car or house and tell people they could retire tomorrow – if only the do what we say. Though that has been proven to work in many cases. But we do often mention future scenarios that help potential customers visualise how things would be better if their company achieved more profits.
We try to do this in a number of ways, including using wording that causes an emotional response.
“Imagine if you made £2000 for every £1000 you invested in Google ads.”
This is a fine example, and it is not misleading or over-optimistic – many clients do double their money on search advertising. The trick is getting them used to the idea of being more wealthy or having more spare time BEFORE you kick-in with the hard-sell.
Again, it works. And it’s up to you how much weight you put on the fact that you can help people realise their dreams – if only they allowed themselves to give it a try – by buying your product first, of course.
32 – Threats (sorry)
Yep, forgive us. You are in competition with other brands in your industry. Life is competitive and sometimes you need every weapon in your armoury.
Let me explain, Imagine if the above phrase was amended slightly…
“Imagine if you made £2000 for every £1000 you invested in Google Ads – Join our customers and stop missing out on the profits your competitors are enjoying every day.”
That extra line sets of alarm bells that trigger strong emotional responses in their brains.
Yes, like some evil genius with magical powers, your copy has just created electrical impulses in their brains. Spooky action at a distance indeed. Einstein would be very proud.
To make it worse for your potential customers, exploiting the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) on pages that are targeted to their specific industry works even better. After all, they see you have helped 3 other, say, recruitment agencies get to the top of Google. What’s to say you don’t know more about winning in their own sector than they know themselves?
For those in the know “Don’t miss out”, is just a meaner way of saying “join in”, so, use both.
33 – The awareness ladder
Once you have read this next bit you likely won’t ever forget it.
Guess what… There are only 6 types of people your website needs to communicate with.
Really! I don’t just mean you can safely ignore everyone else. There really are only is 6 kinds of people you websites needs to communicate with. That is everyone that exists!
Let me explain. All you need to do is split everyone in the world into 6 groups defined by how aware they are of your products or services.
I am going to tell you about all 6 of them now:
- No Problem – people who are not even aware that a problem exists. For example, folk who don’t even know they could quit their job, start a company, make lots of money and retire early
- Problem Exists – people who know they want to retire early but don’t know that creating a company and making lots of money is the solution
- Solution Exists – people who know the solution to retire early can be achieved by creating a company that makes lots of money
- Your Solution Exists – people who know your product or service can help them make a company that lets them retire early
- Your Benefits Exist – people who know about the specific benefits your brand’s products or services provide and that these benefits can help them retire early
- Your Customers – people who do know about the benefits of your offering and have already bought your product and are on their way to retiring early because they hired you
Everyone on Earth is in just one of these 6 groups. And each of the above groups represents people at a different step on the “awareness ladder“.
That is, they have different levels of awareness about your brand and your solutions. You can easily imagine how it feels to be in each group.
We discuss the awareness ladder in more detail in another article but as you will have already likely guessed…
Your job is to simply push each group one step further up the awareness ladder until they are at the top – a repeat customer who loves you.
How you do this is straight-forward. Provide each group with the precise information they need in order to help them take a single step up to the next level. You can do this with clever messaging to specific groups in Pay Per Click ads, in mailouts, in the text seen in search engine results for particular search terms and of course in web pages and articles created for each particular group.
Next time someone gets in touch with your brand, make a mental note of guessing which step they are currently on and offer them information that helps them take a step up. This beats giving them general information when it comes to helping them up the ladder until they are a repeat customer.
I told you that this one is worth remembering – you likely won’t forget it. It really, really works. One step at a time.
34 – Cognitive biases
You don’t really have to threaten your site visitors and potential customers into doing what you want.
You can be even more devious than that by tricking both their conscious and unconscious minds into following your plan – using simple persuasion techniques all good salesmen swear by.
Cognitive biases tap into a whole minefield of flaws in our decision making processes that have actually evolved to, urr, help us. They were beneficial to our survival so we have ended up sticking with them.
Oops, did I forget to mention earlier that you are not the rational human being you think you are?
That is, your rationality only extends so far and that psychologically-aware persuaders have been using these exploits since they convinced the rest of us to come down from the trees.
From the ‘missing out bias’ which you, for some reason, wisely chose to read about above, to the confirmation bias that, I am sure you would agree, backs up lots of what has been said with stuff you already know. Biases are a great way to bring others on-board with what we are saying.
These psychological tricks can be used as a set of tools copywriters exploit in order to help influence their market’s decisions. We have covered them in a more detailed post about cognitive biases marketers can exploit which is worth a read – unless you are happy to miss out on more stuff your competitors likely already know.
Reading that will allow you to identify some fo the cognitive biases that allowed us to trick you in this article and elsewhere on the Albion site 😉
– Plans of action
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35 – Blog post articles
I am sure you would agree that this article is of epic proportions when compared to the blog posts usually found on marketing agency websites. Some of the subjects covered provide enough detail to allow you to go ahead and implement the same tactics on your own site.
And details are the key. It’s no good me just telling you that you should, say, write good copy on your website. What you are here for are actual details of what makes good copy and real examples. Information you can actually use to make better sites and decisions in the future.
For this reason, it is always worth creating a section or set of posts on your site that goes into detail. Sure it can be difficult to reach down and pull out the snippets of experience you yourself turned into rules of thumb and personal best practices, but these nuggets of wisdom are often the best thing you can offer your readers.
As you know, I don’t expect potential clients to read these articles. For them, there are heaps of pages that describe the benefits and results of the services their brands can benefit from.
But for you, and others who are in the business of building better websites, marketing services and growing businesses, this series of articles provides a good basis for learning what we have already discovered works well for us.
Remember, it isn’t potential clients who will be out there sharing posts socially, or linking to your articles and therefore improving your rankings and sending visitors your way. They are far too busy looking for solutions to their own problems for that.
Doing the honourable task of promoting your brand is more likely to be done by your competitors, your contemporaries and those who are in the same boat as you – learning the ropes of sales and digital marketing as they go along. That’s usually who will be reading your blog posts.
That’s why your competitors are one of your most valuable assets. They know your world and by sharing your posts, they do the heavy lifting of helping your site rank – which pulls you more traffic (from their) potential customers.
Funny old world, huh?
36 – Email subscriptions
Rather than beat your readership with a stick, offering carrots is a more effective way to encourage people to sign up to mailouts, newsletters, email updates or whatever you want to call them.
Getting in your reader’s inboxes each week or month is a great way to have them come back to your site and share or link to your content. Indeed if you have a big readership and lots of affiliate links in your articles, each mailout brings in revenue you can kind of get addicted too.
There are a few ways to go about this. One is to create automated RSS feed mailout campaigns, that send the most recent blog post to your list of subscribers whenever you publish a post on your site. Everything is automated so it takes no further work to send mailouts to your list of subscribers.
MailChimp is a good tool for this, as it is easy to set up a list, generate the code you stick on your site that shows a sign-up form. Publish a post and it goes out to your readership the next day – job done.
Unless you configure your posts and RSS feed correctly, this method will send the entire post as an email. Which isn’t ideal, so best to write a post excerpt that reads well as ‘teaser text’ in their inbox. The other problem with the automated way of doing mailouts is that you can’t split test the email subject title to generate the most views and clicks.
The other way is to publish your latest post and then go to your mailout software (such as AWeber, Campaign Monitor, InfusionSoft etc) and manually write a few words for the mailout that will encourage your subscribers to click through to the post.
We have had varying results when it comes to attaining high click-through rates, though best practices seem to be to write short emails that encourage visitors to read your post on your site. Indeed, adding links to more than one post in your mailout seems to work well. As does including a list of other popular posts in the email footer.
Anyways, people who are already aware of your brand are more likely to take the actions you desire, so email marketing is another way to help people up the awareness ladder or down the sales funnel in a way that allows you to give them the information they want – while you learn from them what works best.
37 – Free downloads
Another way to get email signups is to offer free downloads or resources. But wait up…
At Albion, we use popups sparingly. Although we don’t like rude people coming up to us in the street shouting in our faces while we are busy going about our day, we do like the benefits of using popups. Why? Well, because popups work really well to get email subscribers.
A more subtle way to encourage readers to this, and probably any blog, is to offer them free downloads that act as a simple summary of tips and tricks they can keep on their computer. The benefits to them are that they don’t have to read the full blog post, they can digest the information later or they can send it on to others in their team.
That last point is an important one. You can word the offer of free downloads in a way that encourages company owners to take action – simply tell them that they should forward this checklist on to their web designer or marketing staff to check they are doing stuff in the most effective way.
The content in the downloads is often the same content visitors can read in the blog posts themselves, so it’s not as if you have to create heaps of new content with creative input. Just repurpose other content in a new format and use it as a carrot to acquire your reader’s email addresses.
Creating all the different landing pages and thank you pages can be a real faff, so we just rack up all the free downloads on the same page, which is where subscribers are redirected to after subscribing. This saves heaps of time and allows subscribers to get to all the ‘hidden’ downloads in one place – even though they aren’t really hidden. You can see our free downloads in the resources page that is linked to from the html sitemap but most people will only get to this page by signing up to updates and being redirected.
You can see on our sitemap and the sitemap’s of many other sites that stuff that demands your email address, is usually accessible via links elsewhere in the site, but hey, who is going to go looking for something when all it costs to be directed to it can be done quickly by submitting an email address – pretty much nobody.
38 – Autoresponder emails
By having a series of autoresponder emails that go out, say 1, 3 and 5 days after people sign up to your email subscribers list, you get to drip feed them your branding and insights in a way that guides them through to the content you want them to consume.
That’s right, rather than have them sign up then wait till your next post goes live, you can automatically send them on a journey that gives them the best of your brand while they are hot for it.
It is true to say that many people get bored of newsletters and mailouts after a while. I mean, sometimes you realise that you don’t actually read any emails from a certain subscription, so it’s best to unsubscribe, so you experience less clutter in your inbox.
The first few emails from a new information source are different from that though. They have a chance of pulling more views to your site while they are interested in your offering, and therefore are most likely to take the actions you desire or just enjoy your content and learn from it.
Autoresponders are yet another element of the Albion site that we are able to split test. So far we have yet to find anything that generates better click-through rates other than our current formula. Which is to send:
- Email 1 – welcome message linking to the intro of this post (the most important thing we want them/you to see)
- Email 2 – personalised intro linking to a post about spotting the worst marketing agencies
- Email 3 – personalised intro linking to a post about 5 things marketers should know about a brand
- Email 4 – personalised intro asking how can we help? along with another link to this article for those that missed it
- Email 5 – personalised intro linking to a post about cognitive biases marketers can use – and link to this article
- Email 6 – personalised intro linking to a post about 5 most common seo errors holding you back – a simple checklist
- Email 7, 8, 9 and 10 etc takes us to about 2.5 weeks after the initial sign-up, so by then our subscribers start to receive the most recent posts as they go live on the site. However, you could just as easily create 52 autoresponders that ensures your readers are exposed to the most important articles each week for a full year after they sign up
You get the idea. It all depends on how much valuable content you have on your site and how often you publish new content. One thing is for sure, if you have spent the time writing good stuff your readers will value, best to make sure they are informed that it exists. You know, market and promote it.
We are often amending our autoresponder email sequence because some new posts are popular and we want them to be included early on. But in the final automated responder, we mention that the next mailout they get from us will be the most recent post.
We have tried different stuff like including one of the fun cartoon images from the post in the emails though we saw no difference in click-through rates – so sometimes we keep the images in, sometimes we don’t. Thing is, if we are unsure if our subscribers have images enabled in their email clients, we can’t quite tell if the image helps or not.
If you sign up for Albion’s email updates you might notice our autoresponders take a different format to the above. Why is that? Well, we must have found a format that works better since then. Always be split testing, in order to squeeze more value out of the work you have already put in.
Go on then, to get not-to-be-missed insights that will increase your traffic and sales direct to your inbox, he says again, sign up for updates…
39 – Free reviews
The previous items listed in this section: articles, email subscriptions, downloads and autoresponder emails, are all stuff we are able to offer to people interested in marketing products and services using websites.
Remember we want you guys to get the info you are after, subscribe, come back again, share stuff, link to our content (to help us rank highly) and tell others about our brand.
All pretty minor compared to the real goal of the site… Generating sales leads enquiries from potential clients.
The main way we do that is to offer them free website or marketing campaign reviews.
The landing pages and footer contact forms throughout this site all offer something for free. That is important. Not only does it give potential customers a reason to get in touch, but it also does these things:
- Allows us to start an email or phone conversation to find out what they want, or what they think they want. (For us phone works best for sales conversions. It’s more personal and you can adjust your response depending on what they say)
- Allows us to request ‘view access’ to their Google Analytics and Search Console accounts, so we can see how much traffic they are already getting and see a basic summary of their site’s health
- Allows us to send a request to view their Google Ads campaign, so we can see how much they spend on PPC advertising and if their previous/current/in-house advertising consultant is any good
- Allows us to ask a few questions about their goals, their target keywords and their cost per sales acquisition, so we can size-up if they even know much about their own market and business
- Allows us to answer any questions they have, which is a great way to illustrate to them that we know a whole lot of stuff they should be doing or would benefit from – that they are currently missing out of
- Allows us to actually do a site SEO review using SEMRush, a PPC review done manually, or a CRO review done manually and send them our recommendations
Now, the thing about the review is this. Third party audit tools like SEMrush are great because they make reports quick to produce and they vindicate the claims we make regarding the number of hidden errors on their site.
Why does this matter? Well anybody can say you have 200+ errors on your site, but that can sound as if you are just trying to drum-up lots of unrequired work. Having a third party confirm that these issues could be holding their site back can really help.
Better is that we can tell them which errors are more important than others – which is something tools don’t really do well. I mean, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz and the rest are flawed in that they flag lots of stuff that is not even an issue. Their developers realised they can detect x, y and z so they think it is good to put it in their reports. Prioritising these issues for the potential client helps them get a better understanding of what matters most.
Along with an automated pdf export of a site audit, we include a handwritten email listing about 5 to 10 bullet points of stuff we know should be resolved first in order to improve their rankings (for SEO), paid search and display advertising cost per acquisition (for PPC) or their site conversion rates (for CRO).
A handful of common issues are usually present in most sites or Google Ads campaigns, so we have a template that lists the 10 or so most common issues and we just adapt it to suit each potential customer’s situation. No it’s not using a one size fits all method, it just saves us time explaining what say, duplicate content is, and why Google hates it, each time we do an SEO review.
Free reviews are the best way we have found of signing up new customers. Sure, we still have to do a full paid-for audit once we sign them up to a campaign package anyways, so the information we gather in a quick free review often comes in handy later anyways.
We make a note of saying “here is a list of things that we or any good SEO/PPC/CRO can do to help xyz” So they don’t feel bad if they have their internal team implement the actual work. We don’t mind if this happens, because many of them will come back to us later once they realise their web designer hasn’t got a clue what he is doing with meta data and they hire us to do it anyways.
But what actually happens when someone requests a review?
- For those who sound like they are not suitable to our services (ie they are after something we don’t offer, they have trouble stringing a few words together in an email reply, they are a smart-arse know-all, of if they are rude) we simply ask them a few questions before offering a free review. If they fail to list their main goals, or they try to prove early they know more about it than us, then great! We don’t have to invest time doing them a free review and they don’t benefit from our experience.
- For those who sound like their brand is not really developed and they lack funds to do marketing properly (ie they have a hobby site or are a sole trader trying to market their firm for free) we make sure we list our prices in the reply emails – again, in the hope that they disqualify themselves and save us the time of doing the review.
- For those who we think would benefit from the review we go ahead, invest at least an hour of our time and give them the value they should expect from our brand. Most of these potential clients are overwhelmed with the effort we put into pointing out their missed opportunities and we don’t mention our packages or prices at this stage.
- Usually, they ask a few questions about the specific issues we flagged, in order to see how we respond and to see how well we know our stuff. They usually ask about what it would cost and what the results would be if they were to have them fixed. At this stage we mention that “resolving all of the above issues would be included in an initial package that costs xyz” We link to the page about the package schedule and prices on our site and mention that often the campaigns we do will pay for themselves within a few months – which is true, although the time-scale depends on how much each incremental sale is worth to them.
- And for those who loved the review and indicate that they just can’t afford to invest £1000 or more in increasing traffic, paid clicks or sales conversions on their site, we ensure they don’t feel bad for having us invest time in their project. We simply ask them to give us a quick 5-star review on Google My Business.
The thing is, after receiving a quick review, most of these guys feel, due to reciprocation bias, that they owe us a favour, and to be honest they do. So we are able to make something from the time invested in their free review by learning about our market, receiving testimonials or moving potential clients up the awareness ladder towards a sale.
Either way, we get to feel good that we helped someone out. Even if they don’t become clients, they benefited from our freebies and enjoyed a good first experience with our brand.
Many times the same staff call back when they have a more realistic budget or work for another firm and request services now they are on a ‘real’ project with a real budget and real goals. Of course, we know this is often the case, so it’s always good to give people a great experience of our brand even if we know they are not quite ready to invest in our paid services just yet.
So hey, that is how we get most of our clients. The same is likely to work for you too. Give them a taste of what is to come. After all, when you buy some shoes, you have a good idea of what you are getting. Selling services is much more complex. You can’t blame the customer for wanting to know what it is they will get for their money, and for testing out to see if you know what you are doing.
It is likely you need to do this too.
Pull lots of traffic, show off our skills and results, encourage potential customers to get in touch, give them a free review, answer their questions and then sign them up to a package.
– And finally…
40 – Tools and plugins
Before man’s best friend were dogs, it was tools. We would use tools to kill and eat the dogs.
Ok, so tools and dogs have recently evolved into more weird and wonderful forms than perhaps mankind has, but we all still like tools. And let’s remember that even those funny tiny dogs you see nowadays spend a share of their time watching funny cat videos on youtube. They use YouTube, the best tool for watching cats.
Most of the time, tools rock…
From rocks to rockets we use tools to make our work easier. We use our brains to invent tools, we use tools to invent other tools and we even watch those tools create new artificial intelligences, ie digital brains that design even more efficient tools.
This includes Google’s Rankbrain, the man-made artificial intelligence ‘tool’ that is most likely responsible for bringing you to this article. Yes, all of the decisions you made in your life led you to these words. You can thank AI for that already.
To keep Albion’s primary lead generation and information gathering machine well-oiled and to ensure we get as little grief as possible using it every day, this WordPress based site uses a fair amount of free and paid-for plugins and tools:
- WordPress – to create and update this website
- Uptime robot – to warn us if the site goes down
- Wordfence – to warn us about attacks and malware
- ReCaptcha – to reduce spam from our contact forms
- Flamingo – to keep a record of all the leads we receive
- Google Search Console – to warn us about site health issues
- Google Analytics – to provide traffic and conversion statistics
- Wordstream – to spot untapped PPC advertising opportunities
- Optimizely – (and title experiments) so we can do a/b split tests
- Title Experiments – to let us see which post titles get most clicks
- Archive.Org – to see the historic content published on web pages
- SEO Auto Linker – to automatically turn some text words into links
- WP Popular Posts – to add a list of related posts with the most views
- Yoast – to noindex URLs, manage meta data and create an xml sitemap
- Google Chrome Browser – to view web pages and use its many plugins
- Built With Plugin – to get an idea of the tools used on to create other sites
- Chrome Inspector – to see and amend website page coding and styling
- Redirect Path – to see which old URLs redirect to new URLs on sites
- Goodlayers theme – to use its simple drag-and-drop ‘page builder’
- Duplicate Post – to let us quickly copy and amend existing pages
- File Manager – to access any file on the server via wp dashboard
- Simple 301 redirects – to redirect link juice to target pages
- Table of Contents – to show a list of contents in each post
- Really simple SSL to implement our https certification
- Social Media Builder – to create social share buttons
- Pricing tables Pro – to create styled service pricelists
- GT Metrics – to monitor any site loading speed issues
- External URLs – to add an icon to all outgoing links
- WP Total Cache – to speed up page load times
- Grammarly – to check spellings and grammar
- SEMrush – to track our keyword rankings
- Contact Form 7 – to create online forms
- Screaming Frog – to crawl all our URLs
- Majestic – to monitor incoming links
- Dropbox – to share all project files
Oh and ahem, one more: Google Adwords Remarketing tag – to cookie you and all of our site visitors.
The last one sounds a bit ominous but really all it does is adds a cookie to the site visitor’s (your) browser, so we can follow you around the web with image ads later if we so wish.
Yep, even when you are not on this website, Google Ads allow us to simply flick a switch and get in your face with image advertisements on countless other websites, in apps or on videos – reminding you to click through to our page and take the desired action.
We are always testing new tools, you should do the same. It’s not just that the next tool you discover might save you some time, it’s more to do with the fact that our brains are defaulted to using tools – and keeping your brain happy can help everyone around you be happy if you use it properly.
41 – Campaign spreadsheet
Ok, so it isn’t on this site but this site is on it. The campaign spreadsheet is where Albion keeps most of the data about this site, its rankings, traffic data and marketing campaign status. We create a “campaign spreadsheet” for each client project.
Amongst other things, the spreadsheet hosts a full crawl of all of our site’s URLs and their meta data as well as listing the keyword phrases we want to target with each page. It also contains a section to hold data on current rankings for each target keyword phrase and the organic traffic each page generates each month.
We also keep monthly PPC stats in there, along with conversion rate data, experiment results and notes on what we did, and when we did it. So all the data we, or the client, could need is pretty much in one place.
The campaign spreadsheet works alongside the site to generate sales lead enquiries – and that is all the two are designed to do.
The structure of our campaign spreadsheet, the different tabs and the sections on each sheet have evolved over time. After years of adapting it to accommodate different datasets and information, the template has ended up kind of explaining itself, but we do keep a brief guide to using the sheet in the top left corner – so clients and our new staff members can quickly grasp the information they see within.
Our clients love the fact that they can see details on all the work done, the results and the future opportunities all in one place. We update their monthly stats around the 1st of each month then paste that information into a monthly summary email. That way they can see quickly the progress made in the email or open their campaign spreadsheet to get the low-down on all the details and recent results.
If you do client work this is the most important file in the project. It’s easy to overwhelm clients with too much information when sometimes all they want is to know if their digital marketing campaigns and strategies are working and when they want to know what is next on the agenda.
You can grab a free copy of our SEO Campaign Spreadsheet in the recourses section – just sign up to email updates to gain access.
We place our client’s campaign spreadsheets into shared Dropbox folders – but we don’t want to overwhelm them with reading material. We limit their dropbox root folder to only contain 4 files and let them know that they only really need to understand the contents of these 4 files alone.
These files are:
1 – the weekly rankings report from SEMrush, or whichever tool we use to monitor their errors and rankings
2 – a document listing future opportunities (that allows us to answer when clients ask “what else can we do?” )
3 – an always-changing work list text file that lists the schedule, work to be done and work already completed
4 – the main campaign spreadsheet – containing a full crawl of their site URLs and all their monthly statistics
42 – Automated news feeds
You may not be aware that this part of the Albion site exists, or even that it is possible to ‘burn’ content from other people’s sites directly onto your own web pages, in a way that keeps the information always up-to-date – but you can, and it’s a really handy tool for our internal team.
It’s the most efficient way we have found of discovering what works in digital marketing.
Sure Albion’s news page (take a look) is hidden from the main navigation, but you, our team or our clients, can all get to the page via the sitemap link in the footer of any page.
Our news feed page is a collection of automated RSS feeds from other sites in the digital marketing industry. Again it is a tool that helps us gather information from competitors and experts in the fields of SEO, PPC, CRO, digital marketing and branding – by allowing us to see what new knowledge is being dished around the web in just one page.
Long gone are the days when we had cluttered up email inboxes full of updates from countless sites. Blimey, that way of keeping updated is just so intrusive and just ended up wasting lots of work-hours in the office.
Instead, we can visit the news page on Albion and quickly scan the lists to see which articles are worth investing time in reading each week. As far as we know, there is no better place on the web to hear the latest from others in our industry, and to find out what is working for them.
I am surprised other agencies haven’t sussed out how to do this. Many of them are aware of how much time is spent each morning by staff skim reading articles on other sites when they should be working on client projects.
How does our syndicated news page help us convert more sales? Well, we learn from it, test then implement the latest techniques others say have worked well for their clients. Simple.
And last (on in this epic listicle), but not least… this site has…
43 – Room for improvement
This site took a while to create and populate. About 36 man-days spread over 52 weeks (3 days per month). We did it as a secondary project whilst focusing on our main job of marketing our client’s products. So it totals just over one months worth of effort.
Sure that month worth of work is likely to generate years worth of clients and income in the long-run. But it is an ongoing process. (your site should be too) so we will invest more days of work to create more case studies over the coming years.
Our wishlist, of stuff we hope to implement, improve or refine in the future is huge, but we can prioritise that in a way that allows us to get to the important ones implemented as and when needed. Thing is, because plenty of clients are sat on our waiting list, we don’t get to do much work on our own site. If the number of leads starts to reduce, we get more time to work on the site.
It’s like a natural balance that self-corrects and sends resources in the right direction whenever there is a change.
One of the biggest niggles that can be seen on Albion’s site wish list is the lack of images of our staff and our office environment. Again, if the business the site generates slows down, we will find time to do a photo shoot in order to resolve this – but as more and more customers are coming our way due to our previous efforts, for now, that can wait.
Ok, that is the wrong attitude, really we should force ourselves to beautify the site as soon as possible. This is among the bad habits and mental blocks that we still need to overcome.
Those are my bad habits. I invite staff and clients, even you the reader to suggest improvements, identify missed opportunities and correct mistakes wherever you see them.
With more time for reflection and improvement, we hope the site and brand evolves into a whole new creature, which is ideally suited to its environment rather than reflect the great creator who built it 😉
Summing it up…
Most business websites need to:
- Host content that attracts free traffic from Google search
- Pull paid traffic via PPC advertising whenever it is required
- Allow visitors to access the information they have come to read
- Influence potential customer’s opinion about the Albion brand
- Create a desire for the services they think will resolve their needs
- Encourage them to respond – to phone or fill out a contact form
- Encourage contemporaries to subscribe, share or link to us
- And allow us to refine the site to generate more business
…and that’s it.
Hopefully, some of the above list indicates areas you can improve on your own website.
Writing this post sure has helped me get a grasp of the many features many websites enjoy or still need. It also provided me with a handy list of other strategies and ideas to try out in the future. And provides new staff joining Albion a good overview of how the site works to generate traffic and sales leads.
And of course, it nourished our minds whilst also feeding that artificially intelligent beast that is called Google RankBrain. On its lonely but never-ending quest to outlive its creators in order to seek out and ‘organise’ the world’s information.
Actually, to beg, borrow and steal our information (content) and replicate it into a format that generates maximum profits for its current stakeholders.
But hey, better the devil you know.
Finally, I did mention that I would let you know why mankind owes a heck of a lot more to our old friends the plumbers than we do to doctors! Well, the answer is simple – they have saved more of our lives with their cunning use of sanitation. Bless the lot of them.
In the next article, you’ll find out how to identify if your digital agency has fobbed you off with a marketing pillock – based solely on his fashion sense! So be sure not to miss it by signing up to email updates.
Best of luck in improving your site, marketing your brand and growing your business.
Please share a link to this article on your site or social media profiles if it was of use 😉
Martin Wilson – Albion Founder.