Nonprofit organizations have tough jobs. They’re busy saving the world one creative idea at a time and often have few resources to devote to developing or managing a digital strategy.
Through all the work we do – consulting, training, and blogging – we want to help demystify digital marketing and empower teams to do make efficient strategy decisions so they can spend time promoting good in the world. Our community outreach efforts range from give-back days, fundraising, and perhaps our favorite – sharing information with local organizations and nonprofits about our specialty areas. Learn how a few quick-hitting digital marketing wins could set up your organization for similar success.
Four Hours of Learning, Questions and Discussion
A few weeks ago, we invited 412FoodRescue to our offices for a half-day digital training session. We shared information about SEO, Paid Search and Google Analytics. Our goal was to equip the nonprofit team with best practices and provide quick wins to support their ever-expanding mission.
Having an in-person training allowed for a day that was about collaboration and team brainstorming instead of a one-sided lecture. As Becca from 412FoodRescue noted, “It was great to have an open learning environment where we could jump in and ask any question we needed.”
How 412FoodRescue Helps Pittsburghers
412FoodRescue is a 3-year old start-up that began–as the name suggests–in the “412”: Pittsburgh, PA.
Their business model is simple, yet so effective.
They partner with local businesses like grocery stores and restaurants to “rescue” surplus food that’s about to go to waste. When they identify an over-abundance of food, they leverage their network of 1,300+ local volunteers to complete same-day deliveries. This is coordinated through their app where volunteers receive real-time notifications when there’s a local delivery in their area.
Think of it as Uber for browning bananas!
Since 2015, 412FoodRescue’s volunteers have rescued 3.3 million pounds of food, generating 2.8 million meals. Their app is gaining national attention and they’re looking to roll out their business model to other cities. Some of our employees are food rescue-ers, so it became a cause we wanted to contribute to digitally. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, you can sign up for their volunteer opportunities, too.
Optimizing Your Site to Find Volunteers
We began the day with SEO, sharing tips for writing unique, tightly focused title tags, meta descriptions and H1s. The goal of these fields is to reflect a page’s theme. With a little keyword research, we work-shopped writing title tags and meta descriptions for a few of their key pages.
Their site scored a 70/100 on our 13 question, “Mini SEO Checklist”, which is a great score, so we spent time improving their on-page tags instead of delving into advanced technical items.
After using Google’s Keyword Planner, The “Volunteer” page changed to “Volunteer Opportunities” and the meta description was refreshed to include a stronger call to action. When we took a look at Google Search Console, we saw their CSA program–lovingly dubbed, “Ugly CSA”–actually had search demand. We added “in Pittsburgh” to help the title be more locally relevant.
It’s these small changes that can make a huge difference to a nonprofit site. Especially when there’s a critical need to be focused locally.
As a next step, the team plans to update metadata for their top 15 pages and think of future content opportunities as they conduct keyword research.
Does your business have a few key pages that could benefit from a little keyword research and some data analysis? Start small by taking cues from Google Search Console and optimizing pages by incorporating the keywords that users are already typing in to get to your pages.
Reaching a Larger Audience with Google Grants
Next up was paid search.
The team was curious to learn about creating better campaigns. Their agency had set up a Google AdWords Express account a few months ago, but we encouraged them to change their account to a “typical” Google Ads account and to sign up for a Google Grants account for additional bidding options, better management tools, and more detailed insights.
With a monthly Grants budget of $10,000, we found they could amplify their coverage by expanding their campaigns, defining important goals, choosing audience targeting and experimenting with ad formats. Having this capability will significantly change the way 412FoodRescue communicates with Pittsburghers via advertising.
Get Free Advertising For Your Nonprofit with Google Grants
Together, we outlined a search campaign designed to encourage people in the Pittsburgh area to volunteer. We chose keywords, wrote ad copy and decided on the best targeting to get their ads in front of the right people.
The team was also excited to learn about remarketing opportunities that would allow them to communicate a different message to people who had already been to their site and had shown interest in their app. This option will be a quick win, especially in the volunteering space.
To complete the paid search portion of the training, we provided a template report in Data Studio to help 412 Food Rescue quickly analyze their Google Ads data to facilitate future marketing and advertising decisions.
Take a minute to think about what relevant ad copy might look like for your users. Are you trying to rally an army of volunteers or drum up additional donations? Crafting ad copy to speak to each group of users and applying the targeting options in Google Ads can ensure you’re delivering appropriate advertising.
Seeing the Big Picture with Google Analytics
We closed the day with an overview of Google Analytics. We saved the most complicated, most detailed project for last.
The goal here was to really empower the team on where to begin with their overall analytics strategy and what resources are available to learn more about GA. We provided them with a customized list of “homework” items to help plan out their overall analytics solution and links to great resources to learn how to accomplish those tasks. We started with a discussion of 412FoodRescue’s business objectives and how to define them. Their goals revolve around engagement, user interactions, and downloading the app to become a Food Rescuer. To plan out your own strategy, check out Sam’s amazing post A Simple Start to a Powerful Analytics Strategy.
From there we went into the importance of a solid foundation and taking advantage of everything there is to offer out of the box within GA. We provided some recommendation of things to enable and update before starting to implement more customized features. For example, filtering out extra query parameter and setting up site search.
The true power of analytics comes from customization, your needs are different from the needs of the person next door; it’s impossible for Google to make an all-encompassing solution. Events and custom dimensions are the easiest tools to unlock more in-depth insights for your site or app. We walked through the site and talked about important event to start tracking now, such as clicks on download the app.
Finally, we ran through the Google Analytics interface together – answering reporting questions, showing the team our go-to reports, and making quick easy updates to their settings. One quick change we made was setting up a test view or making updates to filters.
Applying These Tactics to Your Nonprofit
Digital marketing can be overwhelming, but it can be approachable! The first step, like learning any new skill, is making it a priority.
As 412FoodRescue’s CEO and co-founder Leah Lizarondo noted, “We learned so much from our session and also learned that there is so much more to sink our teeth into. “
“We learned so much from our session and also learned that there is so much more to sink our teeth into. “
Leah Lizarondo CEO & Co-Founder, 412FoodRescue
Setting aside time for keyword research and analyzing your existing site data can help you focus your marketing efforts and make sure you’re maximizing your limited resources.
Even a few hours can make a big impact. This is especially true for smaller organizations like nonprofits where time is valuable and resources are scarce. Our advice is to start small and scale what works.
Below are a few quick wins that you can apply to up your digital marketing:
Conduct keyword research for each page to determine a priority term. Write an optimized title tag and meta description centered around that term. Ensure you’re using your full character limit and include a descriptive, compelling call-to-action. Think about how your audiences might search, from volunteers to donors for those researching about your mission. Learn how to write effective title tags.
Write compelling ad copy for target audiences. Use compelling call-to-action verbs to active your audience. Terms like “Volunteer,” “Donate,” “Learn,” or “Help” can speak to the specific audiences you’re targeting. For ideas, view our call-to-action cheat sheet.
Define and implement event tracking. The standard metrics that come with an analytics install are great, but to get in-depth knowledge of your users implement customizations like events. Check out our event naming post to understand best practices for event tracking.
Apply for a Google Ad Grant. If you are an eligible nonprofit, a Google Grant can go a long way in helping create awareness for your cause.
Our team here at Lunametrics–Kristina, Megan and Jayna–so enjoyed our morning with 412FoodRescue. Our one regret is that the day ended too soon! We could have brainstormed for another couple hours.
Leah, Sara and Becca are a team of tenacious learners with a passion to end food insecurity in Pittsburgh and we’re happy that we could be a small part of 412FoodRescue’s digital journey. We can’t wait to see what they’ll dream up next!
Migrating or redesigning a site is a chance for new beginnings. New pages! New functionality! New systems!
But with new things comes new responsibilities. One of the first items to consider is your new URL structure. Taking time to discover the best URL structure for your site–and for SEO–will set you up for future success.
As an SEO overseeing a migration, your role will shift from an in-the-weeds analyst to a consultant and educator. You’ll be asked best practices and tasked with guiding teams through this unfamiliar world full of potential and new HTML tags. You’ll work with IT teams and developers you previously never knew existed.
Suddenly, you’ll be fielding questions about:
Which New Pages to Create/Delete
How to Organize the Site
And the list goes on. If you’ve done your job up to this point, you’ll have advocates on other teams asking, “But what about the SEO implications.” They may not understand just how SEO works, but you’ve scared them with mentions of algorithm updates and ranking drops that any project – no matter how small – must be signed off by the SEO team.
Congrats! You’ve made yourself invaluable and involved in every decision. Before you think this is a bad thing, you’re actually #blessed.
While these pre-migration discussions may dominate your schedule, it’s better to be involved upfront and tell the UI team that Google views a blue vs. orange button equally than to be brought in at the 11th hour and learn *gasp* that no one’s thought of canonical tags.
If your site is upgrading its platform, 99% of the time that means your URLs will change, too. Hopefully, for the better. Gone are the days of CatID=12345 and hello keyword rich URLs!
This is your chance to establish ground rules. You’ll be able to create folders and character limits that will dictate URL structures for the foreseeable future.
While it’s tempting, those URLs have been accruing authority for years, may be linked to from other sites, and you introduce risk and volatility when using redirects. Plus, it’s one extra thing you’ll have to manage.
Sometimes, though, you might not have a choice.
If you’re doing a full redesign and the new back-end systems necessitate a URL change, do it wisely. If the company is rebranding and the new brand comes with a fresh URL, make it count.
Strategically approach this time and infuse SEO best practices into your shiny new URLs.
Use Normal Naming Conventions
While keywords in URLs inform visitors what a page is about, they don’t provide the same ranking boost they once did.
In a 2016 Google Webmaster Hangout, Mueller shared that keywords in URLs are “a very small ranking factor. It’s not something I’d really try to force.”
This means you should encourage teams naming URLs to name them something intuitive, but don’t stress about finding the exact right phrase. If you’re between /car-repair/ or /auto-repair/ – use either! Google gets it.
Shorter URLs are Better Than Longer Ones
To quote Occam’s Razor, “The simplest solution is always the best.” The same is true when creating URLs.
If you’re considering if /new-homes-for-sale/ or /new-homes/ is best, save yourself nine characters and opt for /new-homes/.
Other pages on your site will provide context and you’ll save character limits by removing implied phrases. Shorter URLs are also easier to display on smaller screens for mobile searches.
What About Mobile?
After reading my first draft, my colleague asked that question. It’s what we all should be asking these days.
URL structure is less important to mobile visitors from a visual standpoint. It’s an element of your site that few phone visitors may even see. On my 5.7 inch, XL phone, I see 28 characters in my Chrome browser.
With the common use of schema.org markup and Google getting better at understanding a site’s folder structure, mobile URLs also rarely show up in SERPs. All a user will see on their small screen is a list of folders.
If you have separate m. or www. URLs, apply the same best practices to both. Keep the URL structure the same between your domains to help with cross-device consistency. Since site users will rarely see your URLs and because Google doesn’t surface them anymore, don’t overthink mobile URL structure.
Subfolders Should be Used in Moderation
The number of subfolders to include can vary greatly; there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. That’s because considering URL folders and the right number to expose gets tricky.
Our recommendation is to consider your specific implementation and the size of your site.
Let’s run through options.
For small sites, displaying 2-3 folders in a URL can provide users with additional context before even viewing the page. Your site is small and it’ll be easy to manage.
Perhaps you’re a restaurant with multiple locations and unique menus. You’d want to expose each of those locations within the URL to help customers know which location they’re viewing: /east-end/menu and /north-shore/menu. See how those URLs are better than /menu-1 or /menu-2?
Think of URLs as a way to tip-off visitors about what they’ll see before then get to your site.
For large sites – especially eCommerce ones – you’ll have more things to consider. You may have to decide whether to display parent categories (and how many) or perhaps you’ll want to name URLs according to their page template.
If you’re leaning towards a multi-folder URL path, you’ll want to consider what’s intuitive without being overkill. It’s very much a “trust-your-gut” situation.
Let’s imagine you’re a jeweler who sells gold solitaire engagement rings. You have a few options of the child-parent relationships for that landing page:
/rings/engagement/solitaire/gold (4 folders)
/solitaire/gold (2 folders)
/rings/gold-solitaire-rings (2 folders)
/gold-solitaire-rings (1 folder)
All are viable options, but which one provides context and is most intuitive? That’s up to you.
You also may want to use a naming convention based on page templates.
If, for example, you have a page template that shows products, you may want to name all those pages… wait for it… /products/. This would apply to your necklaces, rings and earrings pages.
So which option is best? I wish we could give you an answer, but this one will depend on your site. To help you decide, sketch out one section of your navigation and what the URLs might look like. Does it feel like overkill if you have 6 folders when 2 will do? Are your users going to get lost by seeing a page that’s 5 folders deep? Does each folder provide value to your customers by being exposed?
It’s Okay to Be A Little Selfish
Once you’ve considered what’s best for your visitors, it’s time to be a bit self-serving. Is the solution you’ve developed also best for YOU? How will your internal teams use those URLs in their reporting, monitoring and general navigation around the site?
If you’re an internal team or an agency working with one client, you will see these URLs every. single. day. of. your. life.
Would it help to filter your data to product detail pages if every page lived within a /p/ folder? (Probably, yes.)
Do you want to view only earring pages so having a parent directory of /earrings/ would help you easily sort the data? (Probably, yes here, too.) Those with a decent subdirectory structure will be easily able to roll up behavior metrics by subdirectory in Google Analytics with an underused feature called the Content Drilldown report.
When sharing the Store Locator URL with your Social team, is it easier for you to share /stores/store-locations/view-all or more simply, /stores/? The more characters in a URL, the easier it is to mess it up.
Create New URLs with Purpose
A migration or site redesign is your chance to reset naming conventions for URLs. While keywords in URLs no longer have an impact on how a page ranks, creating simple, intuitive URLs are a win-win-win all around.
Help customers orient themselves on your site
Provide context for users when clicked on from an external link
Make life infinitely easier for reporting or daily SEO tasks
If your URLs need to change, embrace the opportunity and create a foundation that will benefit IT, Marketing and SEO teams for years to come.
Fourteen years ago – unemployed, and in the midst of the Internet Winter – I founded LunaMetrics. I started it out of my home and wrote the business plan on a napkin at a suburban Pittsburgh coffee shop. On Thursday, this journey ends for me.
On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security,” and 10 is “left entirely on her own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is an eleven. Here are three reasons:
I’m not just leaving — I sold the company. ICYMI, I worked on this sale for years. The deal was unique and the outcome exceptional. Six months later, and I still can’t believe how well we “fit” with HS2 Solutions.
I’m leaving LunaMetrics in the hands of HS2, as well as our senior team members here in Pittsburgh. Together, they are some of the most wonderful people I have ever known. I have no doubt they will face the future boldly; they will work hard to serve customers well; they will grow and grow the company.
I’m ready for this! Maybe a little nervous, but still … I’m looking forward to some of the exciting things coming up in my life (starting with my daughter’s wedding in June).
So what’s not to love?
I rated my departure an eleven, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. I have learned so much here. It was LunaMetrics (and specifically, our first office manager) who taught me how to let go and not try to control. It was LunaMetrics (and specifically, our executive coach) who taught me how to do employee development and also how gratifying that work can be. It was LunaMetrics that made me a rarity among my cohort – my kids call *me* and ask technical questions. (“Mom, the wedding website is broken. Did we lose all the items in the registry?”)
I will miss so many things. The wonderful team I helped create. Our awesome culture. Slack. Milkshake Happy Hours. LunaLympics. Lunchalytics. LunaVersity. Working with Google (and especially, our awesome channel rep, Izzy). Murals on all the walls. Meeting-while-walking. An accounting department where everyone counts. Scavenger hunts. Exceeding budgeted revenue yet again. A sales department where everyone breaks arms and legs as often as I do.
For years I have said, “Create a workplace that people will love”. It’s no surprise that I, too, love LunaMetrics, and am going to miss it terribly. I can’t wait to watch the next season of The LunaMetrics Story.
To our team, to our customers, to Google, and even to our competitors: thank you. May your data be unbroken, and your charts forever be up and to the right.
Editor’s note: This is Robbin’s final blog post on the LunaMetrics blog during her tenure at LunaMetrics, which has included roles as founder, owner, CEO, and president. Since she founded the company in 2004, Robbin has written over 375 blog posts between 2005-2018. Read more about her time at LunaMetrics, the acquisition, and more in her recent interview.
We know that great keywords are a vital part of a successful AdWords campaign, but how do we find them? Conducting research to find those relevant keywords may seem daunting, but it’s not impossible with some dedication.
Make your keyword research as painless and productive as possible with the recommendations and resources below.
Define Your Keyword Strategy & Goal
Before we begin keyword research, the first step is to define our goal for our ad campaign and then the keyword strategy. To get ourselves heading in the right direction, we can ask questions like:
Why are we creating an ad campaign?
What product are we selling?
Who is our audience?
How would our audience think about this product?
What do we want to accomplish with this campaign? What is our end goal?
Defining the strategy straight away keeps us on task as we go through our research, providing a guide as we explore all the possibilities our research might reveal.
Think from Your Audience’s Point of View
Once we know who our audience is and how our product relates, then we need to think from their point of view when conducting keyword research. This allows us to understand how they search for our products so we can formulate specific keyword lists and ad groups that are relevant to their searches.
While we decide on our keywords, we need to ask these questions about our audience:
What is our audience searching for?
What would we expect them to search for?
What is their intent? What are they looking to find?
What keywords will best help them find our ads and our website?
Once we can answer these questions, then we can begin our PPC keyword research.
Look at Your Website Content
Some of the best keywords for our campaign can be found by looking at our website content and landing pages. Which words on our site stand out and represent our product? Are there any possible variations or synonyms of these terms?
Example: If we are a coffee distributor, variations of “coffee” that we sell may include “dark roast,” “espresso,” “house blend” and “Sumatra.”
These terms are more specific than just “coffee” and will yield better search results.
Who Are Our Competitors?
Often, we should include competitors’ branded keywords in our campaigns. This allows our ads to compete, so if someone searches for a competitor’s name, then our ad will show alongside theirs.
The advantage to this is it gives us an edge over our competition, but a disadvantage is that bidding on branded keywords can be expensive. If we are going to bid on these terms, let’s organize those in a separate competitor campaign. This lets us know how many impressions are generated by searches for competitor terms and better measure effectiveness of these campaigns.
Since building a competitor branded campaign can be time-consuming and costly, keep in mind your budget, bid strategy, and campaign goals before you do so.
While they might receive fewer searches than broader terms, using long-tail keywords in your PPC campaign drives specific traffic to your site. For our coffee distributor example, long-tail keywords we could use include “dark roast coffee for sale” and “12oz package house blend.”
Users searching these terms know exactly what they are looking for, so having these keywords in our campaign will lead users directly to our site. Because of the lower search volume compared to broader, generic terms, ads that show from these long-tail keywords have a better chance of ranking higher and above competitors’ ads.
Since long-tail keywords are specific terms, they have less competition from similar websites, so the chance our ads will show and rank high for long-tail search queries is increased. Using long-tail keywords also raises our quality score, which leads to higher CTR and conversions.
Use Keyword Research Tools
In addition to looking at you and your competitors’ content to formulate keywords, research for unique keyword ideas can be conducted through external sources. Here are some resources we love to use at LunaMetrics:
1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner in the AdWords interface
If you already have an ad account set up, then you have access to the AdWords Keyword Planner. Access this feature in the Settings section – the wrench icon in the new interface.
By entering in popular keywords for your site, the Keyword Planner generates possible results related to your keywords and content. You are able to enter in three keywords or keyword phrases at a time to the Keyword Planner, so choose those which are relevant to your product and you should see a good amount of results.
Bid information such as CPC, average monthly searches, ad impression share, and competition will populate, which helps plan your budgets. You can download this information to a spreadsheet to save for later or present to clients. You can directly add keywords in the Keyword Planner to your ad groups, specifying match type.
The Kombat feature in SpyFu. Starbucks.com vs. DunkinDonuts.com
SpyFu is extremely helpful for competitor keyword research! Enter your keywords into the “Keyword Research” tab and SpyFu will return data on monthly searches, CTR, CPC, AdWords buy recommendations and competitors who recently bought each keyword.
In the “Kombat” tool, enter in one or multiple competitor websites to see what keywords they are bidding on. This will generate unique ideas and gives your ads and content a good stance among the competition. A downside to using SpyFu is that the keywords only include those which are added to SpyFu’s database by competitors, so Kombat may not return a full or updated list of keywords.
3. MOZ Keyword Explorer
Keyword Explorer feature in Moz
Enter any keywords or search queries into MOZ’s Keyword Explorer, and you will get keyword suggestions with monthly search volume. After keyword suggestions populate, they can be displayed to:
include keywords with all query terms
exclude terms to get broader ideas
include keywords based on closely or broadly related topics and synonyms
include those which are related to keywords with similar results pages
include those which are questions-only
You can also enter a domain into Keyword Explorer and MOZ will pull top ranking keywords for that domain. Compare this domain with competitors to get a list of keywords for which you could also be ranking.
Ranking Keywords for www.starbucks.com
The Keyword Explorer is mostly used for organic keywords but is still helpful for conducting PPC research. From these results, you’ll have to determine which keywords or keyword phrases may work for your PPC campaigns, and their expected bid cost.
UberSuggest Keyword Suggestions for “coffee for sale”.
UberSuggest.io returns keyword suggestions related to your content, with search volume, CPC, and competition for each keyword result directly pulled from AdWords. When searching “coffee beans,” we receive long-tail suggestions that will work for PPC campaigns.
Data in UberSuggest comes from the Google Keyword Planner and Google Suggest, populating a healthy mix of useful keywords for your campaigns and making UberSuggest a very useful tool.
5. Google Search Queries
Google Search Queries in Action to Retrieve Keyword Ideas
Another effective keyword research method is conducted by entering search queries into Google! Google automatically suggests popular searches, making this a great method to find keyword ideas and what users search for the most.
Enter a keyword or phrase, and continue through your keyboard with each letter to see popular searches. For “coffee beans,” some search queries I found through Google include “coffee beans wholesale,” “coffee beans espresso,” and “coffee beans shop.” For a business that sells coffee beans, all of these might be perfect to use.
Tip: The search volume, CPC, and competition next to each query in the above screenshot is populated from a Chrome and Firefox extension called Keywords Everywhere. It’s beneficial for looking at keyword data on the go and I use it all the time. I recommend you check out Megan’s blog post on Chrome extensions for more ideas as well.
Identify Negative Keywords
Creating your keyword list is important, and identifying negative keywords for your campaigns is important as well. A negative keyword is anything that does not relate to your site’s content or ad content, therefore you would not want it to trigger your ad in a related search. If your business is a coffee shop, and you use the keyword “java,” you should add any keywords that have to do with Java programming to your negative keyword list. We don’t want ads for a coffee shop triggering for Java data structures.
Search Term Reporting
Search Term Reporting Function in the New AdWords Interface
After your campaigns are running, an easy way to identify possible negative keywords is to use the Search Term reporting function in AdWords. In this report, you can see what terms users are searching for that trigger your ads, and you can identify any possible keywords to exclude.
We recommend pulling the Search Term report once a month to see how your keywords are optimized for each campaign and to make adjustments as necessary.
Read more about identifying negative keywords and creating your list in Zach’s post:
Negative Keyword Ideas from AdWords Search Term Report
When your keyword research is complete and you have relevant keywords and negative keywords for campaigns, organize them into ad groups. Each ad group should follow a specific theme or revolve around a certain product or service that your organization offers.
Organizing similar keywords into ad groups allows you to create effective ads and target them to the proper audience and their searches. Conducting keyword research is important for building out effective PPC campaigns that lead to conversions and increase ROI.
By following our recommendations and research tips, and using keyword planning tools reviewed in this post, you will be well on your way to creating AdWords campaigns that will achieve desired results!
Many of our readers have heard that our founder, Robbin Steif, sold LunaMetrics in December 2017 to a great company, HS2 Solutions. As a relatively new employee to LunaMetrics, now an HS2 Solutions company, I’ve had a fascinating view of the entire process. I originally applied to LunaMetrics in December 2017, before news of the acquisition was announced, and I started at our combined organization in January 2018.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working at LunaMetrics is learning more about Robbin, the fascinating LunaMetrics origin story and years of success that have followed. (To be honest, the Friday team lunches are pretty great too!)
Over the past five months, Robbin has been helping our two companies work together more seamlessly, expanding our shared capabilities, and basically doing way more work than anyone would expect from someone who just sold her company!
As a follower of the LunaMetrics blog for some time, I’m so excited to be working here. One of my reasons for applying to LunaMetrics was because I looked up to Robbin as a woman business owner and a woman succeeding in the tech industry. With her impending departure from LunaMetrics, I felt it important to learn more about her and the company she founded as well as collect any advice she may have for me and for others in our industry.
I sat down with Robbin a few weeks ago and our interview is below. Robbin’s stories are fascinating and her advice expands well beyond the boundaries of digital marketing and web analytics. I’m honored to share her remarks here and hope that others will find inspiration, especially those who, like Robbin, are not afraid to live life.
Robbin Steif, LunaMetrics
Our founder, Robbin, started LunaMetrics 14 years ago. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a recent Diamond Award for business leadership.
Veranika Haurylovich, LunaMetrics
Veranika, is a Consultant in Analytics & Insight Department. Coming from a business background, Veranika understands the importance and effectiveness (!) of data-driven, customer-centric marketing. Born in Belarus and moved to the US a couple years ago, Veranika considers herself a cosmopolitan and simply enjoys life and world exploring.
Q: Why is LunaMetrics called LunaMetrics?
I user tested it. I originally had the name “Steif Enterprises,” but wanted to switch to a “real” company name. I user tested with friends around the world. There were two names that kept rising to the top – LunaMetrics and Luminetrics. I like LunaMetrics better.
Q: Why did you choose to work in Analytics and Digital Marketing?
My first job out of business school was in direct mail marketing at IBM. I was always fascinated by data and by attribution. (To be fair, we didn’t call it “attribution” back then.) Really, we were doing A/B testing. For example, we tested which envelope pulls better – the one with the snipe or one without. (A “snipe is something written on the outside of the envelope, such as “do not bend” or “open immediately.”)
I loved it. LunaMetrics is the digital equivalent of my work way back then.
Q: What made you decide to sell LunaMetrics?
I sold the company because I know you can’t always keep doing more of what you’re currently doing. I knew I wanted to expand into other areas, and I needed to grow in different ways. Personally, I’m excited to spend more time with my daughter and (hopefully, eventually) grandchildren.
Q: You founded LunaMetrics in 2004. In 2006, you hired your first employee. What motivated you during the two years that you were building the company by yourself?
Immediately before I founded Luna, I was unemployed. It was so much more exciting to do something every day and build a company than just to look for a job. This was the most welcome thing that happened at that time. I spent so much time looking for a job and not finding it. And it was easy for me to stay motivated because now I had a job, finally, I created it myself.
Q: While you were having difficult moments, especially during those first years, who did you turn to for advice?
Throughout the life of the company, I’ve turned to a variety of people for advice. But in the beginning, there were two people – a professor and a guy who worked with start-ups. I officially brought them on board as my board advisors. And every once in a while, I would have coffee with them and talk just to get some ideas. That was very useful. And over time, there were other people and other advisors who had great advice to give me.
Q: At the beginning of your business journey, did you ever think that you wouldn’t make it?
The only time I had that concern was in 2008. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. The whole economy fell apart in 2008. Potential customers were mostly thinking how they were going to make it themselves in this new environment. I remember sitting down and talking to our team. I said: “Usually when this happens, the leader says, don’t worry, everything will be fine. But, I really don’t know whether we all will be warming our hands over a stove in two years.” I pointed out that it was an issue for our entire economic system, and I really didn’t know how it would play out.
Jonathan and Jim who are, fortunately, still at LunaMetrics were here in 2008. Jim remembers being a little bit worried because of how serious Robbin was taking it. Jonathan and Jim agree that it felt like businesses all took a big breath and held it for a few months at that time, figuring out what to do. Everyone was very uncertain about the future and what would happen. And then, suddenly, everyone let out the breath all at once, and fortunately, many companies realized they needed to be smarter with their marketing budgets and decided analytics was something they really had to invest in to optimize their marketing spend.
Q: Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I would learn earlier how to be a better manager because in those first years I went through whole teams of people who didn’t really want to work with me. After all, I wasn’t a very good manager back then, and their only option was to say, “I’m out of here.”
Q: How did you become a better manager?
First, I learned to tell myself the truth. I think that personal honesty is so important. Once I was able to admit my weaknesses, I was ready to confront them.
I do every personality test (the Predictive Index, Myers-Briggs, you name it.) One of my first employees, at my request, did a review on me, and I still have it. I do them all, in an effort to learn more about myself. Then you have to accept the problem or work on it.
Q: Describe LunaMetrics in two words.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
Q: What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to understand the difference between what people say and what they mean.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment is that I started this company on the back of a napkin and I sold it. I took it all the way to the end and sold it to a wonderful company and now I’m moving on to do something else.
Q: What was your biggest failure?
I didn’t have one – and that in itself is my biggest failure. It means that I didn’t take enough risks. If I could have a do-over, that’s the one area I’d change!
Q: What’s the top truth in life?
Be here now. It is about my personality and one of the things that I’ve worked on.
Q: What are you really into outside of LunaMetrics?
I’d like to focus on women, and girls, and money. I’m interested in how women can negotiate for themselves. Women make 70% of what men earn because they don’t negotiate their salaries. Second, I’m interested in teaching women entrepreneurs to charge higher prices. Finally, I’m interested in financial literacy for our daughters.
Q: Why do you think girls need it?
They say that when boys are playing with their trading cards or the electronic equivalent of that, they are really evaluating their portfolios. Girls often don’t do the same.
I ensured that both my daughters were financially literate. I put them on budgets, got them prepaid credit cards, taught them how to balance their checkbooks. They were around 11 and 13 at that time. I remember when my younger daughter turned around and said, “Oh I see. I spend most of my money going to the movies and on coffee.” It was an actionable insight!
Q: What is the future of the industry?
Companies are getting more and more sophisticated with their analytics. At the same time,
there are still companies that are just starting to understand that analytics matter. We’ll need to manage the many different customer sophistication levels, which means we’re going to need to have more arrows in our quiver.
Q: How do you do that?
The best way is to have more employees so you can specialize. For example, if a customer really wants to talk about Firebase, I will go to our Firebase expert. DoubleClick? You got it. You need to have the depth to answer the tough questions.
Another idea is work on automating certain pieces. However, no matter how much you automate and audit your processes in the beginning, you still need to sit with it and say, do I believe it?
Q: How can executives lead their company in regards to analytics and get more value out of their data?
I think companies overall can do a better job of leveraging their data by understanding their goals better. Large corporations, in particular, often have trouble articulating or even identifying their goals, so they can’t measure against them and come up with actual insights. But if they really understood their goals and if their goals are quantifiable, as opposed to soft goals, they would be able to configure their analytics in a way that matched their goals for measurement strategies.
They then can measure, evaluate, and create insights and make those changes. Then measure those changes to see if they are achieving goals better, and finally, iterate. But the first part, understanding your goals, is the hardest part.
Q: What final advice do you have for the LunaMetrics team?
You are lucky to be growing with HS2 and there are many more exciting challenges ahead for you now that you’ve got a bigger team! I won’t say “final advice” because I still get one more at-bat on the blog rotation. I will say: you only go around once, so find what you love and do it often.