Wouldn’t it be nice if your content was set it and forget it? Technically, I guess it could be, but you’d be remiss not to optimize old content. Why? Because everything changes- SEO rankings and trends, competitors coming in and out and all up in your space, your own products and strategies…
So, here is a step-by-step process on how to optimize existing content. Don’t go about this all willy-nilly. I promise that if you put a little thought and strategy into a plan, your optimization process will go much smoother with better results.
Start with Strategy
Before you begin, think about how (or if) your marketing strategy has changed. Have your personas changed or do you know more about them since you first published? Have you honed in on a specific niche or decided that your niche was actually too small? If you know your objectives well, this step will be easy. You may need to do a little research into your strategy docs, but you won’t otherwise need to do anything concrete here.
Now you need to plan out what content you will be optimizing and how you will be optimizing it. What’s the goal of the content? Conversions? Traffic? Let’s look at CTAs, landing pages, and blogs specifically.
The goal of a CTA is a click. Therefore, look at your all-time click rates for all of your CTAs. According to Niel Patel, a good click-through rate of a CTA is about 3%. You can either optimize all of your CTAs below 3% or you can start with a chunk of the lower performing ones. How to proceed with your optimization plan will depend on the answers to the following questions:
Questions to Ask on CTA Performance:
Location: Where is the CTA located? Do I need to add it to more places? Is it getting exposure on those pages or is it buried in the noise of other content? Is it still relevant to those pages?
Design: How’s the creative? Is it similar to other CTAs? Are those CTAs performing?
Root Cause: Continuing off the previous bullet, do I think it’s the CTA design or is it what I’m offering that’s ineffective? Do I need to rephrase? Ie- Schedule Your Free Consult vs Contact Us & Start for free.
A/B Testing: Do I already have A/B testing setup? If so, consider replacing the lower performing of the two and leaving the other as is. If you don’t have A/B testing set up, decide whether you want to replace the CTA entirely or add an option B. (Hint: we think A/B testing is the bee’s knees!) Know that A/B testing will take longer to get meaningful results for smaller audiences.
Optimizing Existing Landing Page Content
Traffic to your landing pages (LPs) will mostly be addressed in your CTA optimization with the exception of any LPs you have linked in your site’s navigation- like contact us. So, let’s focus on optimizing landing pages for conversion, as that is their main goal. Pull analytics on your landing page views, conversions, and conversion rates. According to WordSteam, the average landing page converts at around 2.35%, but your conversion targets should be 10% or higher.
Optimizing your landing pages is going to focus on your content and the form + CTA.
Questions to Ask When Optimizing Landing Page Content:
Copy: Are you clearly describing your offer? Try rephrasing and/or rewriting your headlines and bullet points. Don’t forget about keywords.
Relevance: Is your offer still relevant? Optimizing won’t fix the problem, but you might be able to get away with reframing the offer until you’re able to replace it.
Image: Do you have an image? Is it generic or does it depict what you’re offering? Check your alt tags while you’re at it.
Questions to Ask When Optimizing a Landing Page Form:
Form Length: Are you asking too much? The amount of requested information should be an equal ask to the value of your offer. A super valuable piece of content will have a higher tolerance for a longer form. Conversely, an overly long form will turn people away if your offer isn’t uber valuable.
Form Button: Does your button match the offer? Consider making buttons like ‘submit’ into something more specific.
Additionally, heat mapping can be a valuable tool for landing page optimization. There are several free tools available on the market. With heat mapping, you can see how actual users are engaging with your landing pages. These can give you direct insights into what’s preventing conversion from occurring. Here are some more tips on building a landing page that converts.
Optimizing Existing Blog Content
For blog optimization, we’re going to look at a few different things in combination: internal links, keywords, traffic, and conversions.
Blog Internal Link Optimization:
Pull out your handy-dandy content audit workbook for this section. The content audit is a document that lists the title, description, type, and URL for each piece of inbound content you have. Having this document will be an easy way to reference all of your blogs and offers in one place. If you don’t have one, pull up your blog listing page and CTA dashboard within your CRM.
Read through your old blogs and add hyperlinks to your new content where relevant. Same with your CTAs.
Questions to Ask on Optimizing Blog Content:
Offers/CTAs: Do I have a new, more relevant offer to add to this blog? Before you replace an existing CTA, check if it’s working first. Is a smart CTA a good option where CTAs are working?
Blog Links: Do I have new, relevant blogs to hyperlink?
Bonus: Are my external links all working?
Blog Traffic and Conversion Optimization:
One of the main goals of blogging is to draw in organic traffic and the other is for your blogs to lead to engagement and conversion. Break out your analytics again to look at those stats.
Pull a list of the top converting blogs and plan to optimize for better traffic.
Take the top trafficked blogs and plan to optimize for conversion.
Questions to Ask When Optimizing Blog Traffic:
Quantity: How much traffic are my blogs getting? Where is it coming from? Has traffic increased over time? This is a sign that it’s starting to pick up steam with SEO. Give it a little push. Has traffic decreased over time? This might be a sign your content is outdated or that your persona’s keywords have shifted to other topics.
Keywords: How was this blog optimized for SEO initially? Could the keywords use a heavier hand? Sprinkle them in. But also consider if your keywords or phrases changed since this was published. If so, make the appropriate updates to match your new strategy. Here are some tips on finding keywords.
Questions to Ask When Optimizing Blog Conversions:
Opportunities for Conversion: Where are your conversion opportunities placed within your blogs? Make sure you have one within the top ⅓ of the blog and then about every 300 words after.
Relevance: Are the CTAs in your blogs performing on other pages? Use this as an indication of relevance and placement. Switch CTAs out if indicated (reference your content audit workbook again!).
Monitor Your Content Optimization Strategy
After you’ve optimized your existing content, keep an eye on it. With any luck, your updates will pay off. However, it is possible they could have a reserve effect. If you set up A/B testing or smart CTAs anywhere, you’ll want to monitor those and potentially make additional optimizations based on your results.
Key Takeaways on Optimizing Existing Content
Make a plan before you start. Consider your keywords, persona, and goals for each content type.
Add new content into the old: find places in blogs to hyperlink to new content and replace old CTAs with more relevant offers if they exist.
Consider your keyword strategy and search rankings- add key terms into your content to generate more traffic.
Conversion funnel by definition can mean a few different things depending on the source, but here at Lake One, when we talk about conversion funnel as it relates to an inbound marketing program, we’re talking about the call-to-action, landing page, thank you page, and follow-up email that supports our inbound efforts.
Read on to learn more about the key components of a conversion funnel along with some insider tips for implementation.
With content consumption at an all-time high among consumers, Call-to-Actions (CTAs) are uber important.
In Marketing, a call-to-action (CTA) is an instruction to your target buyer designed to provoke an immediate response. Figuratively speaking, CTAs are a hand wave or an arrow saying, “Hey! Look over here. We have something you might like!”
CTAs use action words to direct the user. For example, ‘download this white paper now’, ‘click here’ and ‘watch the video’. There are so many examples of CTAs, but a few elements stay consistent across the board.
Headline: Write a header that makes it clear and easy to see what it is you’re offering.
Sub Header: Explain the value to the user of what you’re offering, but keep it concise. Space is limited.
Image: Include an image that relates to what you’re offering to catch the user’s eye and add additional context.
Action Words: Here’s where you actually say what action you want the user to take (download here) typically called out by a button or highlighted differently in some way.
Below is an example of a Lake One’s CTAs. Go ahead. Click on it
Although the majority of B2B businesses are using landing pages, not all landing pages are created equal.
Landing pages are different than your other website pages for a few reasons and should contain at a minimum, the following elements.
No Page Navigation
Landing pages should be designed to be lean mean converting machines and the full navigation menu can distract users. We want them to submit the form and get down to business.
Above the Fold
Keep the main gist of your offer (body copy, image, form, CTA, etc.) above the fold. If the CTA is below the fold and requires a scroll, conversion rates could suffer. You want to make it as easy as possible for the user to convert.
Landing Page Copy
The copy should have a header, a subheader, a few sentences that explain your offering in more detail, and then roughly 3 – 5 supporting bullets that talk about the user benefits of your offer and what the user can expect by submitting the form.
Include an image on your landing page that depicts the offer. The image should be sized appropriately and placed in close proximity to the copy and the CTA making sure to add value and not distract the user from converting.
Forms are an absolute must. They are the method you’ll use to capture the lead’s information in exchange for whatever your offering. Make sure that your ask matches the value of the offer. For example, if you have a form 10 questions deep for an infographic, you’ll likely scare away your user.
Insider Tip: My favorite form field is ‘Role’. Role is imperative because it essentially identifies the lead by persona. Role identification allows us to better tailor our workflows, and, not to mention, it gives us better insight into who is actually submitting our forms and engaging with our content. Oh and the bonus is, we’ve found that ‘Role’ is a light ask for the user as it doesn’t hold the same trepidation that company name or phone number can.
All landing pages must have a CTA that’s clearly visible and intuitive to the user as to what they’re getting and what step to do next.
Truthfully, the above just scratches the surface on the information available on landing pages and best practices. Here is an awesome infographic by Unbounce describing additional elements of a landing page if you want to learn more.
Thank You Page
Some conversion funnel implementations don’t use a ‘Thank You Page’ (TYP), but we are big fans. In short, a TYP is just that- a page thanking the now lead for submitting their information via the form to obtain whatever it was you were offering. The TYP also hosts an actual link to the file, guide, case study, etc.
If you’re peeking ahead and seeing that we deploy a follow-up email that also contains the asset link and thinking TYPs are pointless, they aren’t! TYPs have an important job and here are a few highlights on what they bring to your conversion funnel:
Trust: For some leads, submitting information via the form in hopes of obtaining an asset can feel a little uncomfortable. They are likely wondering if they’ll actually get the asset, will they start getting spammed and harassed, etc. TYPs are a chance to build trust with your lead by showing them you’ll give them what you promised and you’ll do it fast.
Conversion: TYPs have prime real estate for additional CTAs. Make sure the CTAs are relevant and helpful in aiding in the next step of the buyer’s journey. Also, insider tip: Make sure the CTAs are not interfering with the user clicking on the asset to download it. It can go from helpful to intrusive quickly.
Brand & Site Exploration: Unlike landing pages, TYPs have a full navigation menu and can incorporate links to the company’s social media pages as well. It’s a chance for the lead to explore more on their own.
Tracking: Without getting too technical for the sake of this post, the TYP is a perfect place to fire your conversion pixel for tracking. Why? Because in order for the TYP to render, the form submission must be completed. You get the lead’s info, they get the asset. Bam. Conversion.
Follow-up emails consist of a direct link to the piece of content (or whatever the CTA promised) and then an additional CTA to interact with your brand an additional way like a newsletter sign up or to check out your blog.
The emails are pretty simple, but we send them for a few reasons.
User Experience: For example, if your offer is a download of a white paper, how convenient for the lead is it to have the white paper sent to their inbox vs needing to download it and save it right away?
Conversion: It opens the door of communication with the lead via email and provides them with more ways to convert and interact with your brand right from their inbox.
Lead Nurturing: Simple follow up emails can be a great segway into lead nurturing as the lead will have already received their first email from you. It seems more natural after sending the high-value first email to continue a cadence.
In summary, now that you know about the elements of a conversion funnel, here are a few reminders to take with you if you put the elements above into practice.
SEO. SEO. SEO.
All conversion funnel elements must be optimized for SEO. Think images, landing pages, meta descriptions, URLs, etc. All of it.
Optimize. Rinse. Repeat.
Nothing in marketing is set it and forget it, including conversion funnels. Let the numbers be your optimization compass. They’ll point you to where you need to focus your attention first.
Marketing is for Humans.
When in doubt, always remember you’re content was created for humans and so were your conversion funnels. Where is your eye naturally drawn? Can you understand what you’re offering quickly and easily? A little humanity gut check can go a long way.
When we create a digital marketing strategy for our clients, what we adoringly refer to as a FieldGuide, we pour hours into research and strategy. We heavily consider every piece we present in order to create a cohesive, targeted plan.
So what’s in a Lake One FieldGuide? We clearly lay out the action steps needed to elevate your marketing to target the modern buyer and hone in on your lead gen potential. Here are the elements your Lake One FieldGuide will include.
Step 1. Competitive Analysis
Competitive analysis can be viewed from two angles: qualitative & quantitative. One without the other, like most things in marketing, would paint an incomplete picture. Your Lake One FieldGuide will include analysis on both ends of the spectrum for up to three of your top competitors.
Qualitative Competitive Analysis:
What are your top three competitors up to? How well designed are their websites and are their sites created to move the user into conversions at every stage in the funnel? Additionally, what do their websites convey at first sight? We call this the Blink Test. Do you know what they do and what their differentiator is immediately or do you need to read heavy content and scrounge around the site to find out?
Quantitative Competitive Analysis:
What do the numbers say? Here we look at things like the competition’s traffic + sources, domain ratings, and backlinks. Without spending an inordinate amount of time, these numbers give insight into their marketing activity and authority. It’s also a good way to see, in a numerical fashion, how you stack up.
Before we get to the guts of your campaign, we need to understand who we will be targeting: your buyer persona. A persona is “a profile that represents your ideal customer.” We conduct research- online and offline- to understand who you’re talking to. We zero in on what their challenges are, what makes them change their purchasing behavior, and what barriers they experience. The point of this is to be able to develop a marketing strategy that addresses these elements.
We’ll create two or three personas to being. Later on, we’ll decide where to narrow the focus further once we’ve jointly considered ease of implementation, ability to get quick wins, and budget.
3. Keyword Research
Now that we know who your personas are, we want to know what they’re searching for and what the search volume landscape looks like for your product/service. We’ll use a few different tools to find niche keyword clusters that we’ll target via content. Our goal in this research is to find keywords and phrases with high search volume and low competition. IE- while it’d be fantastic to rank your retail shoe store for “women’s shoes”, you won’t have much luck beating Amazon and Zappos.
A Lake One FieldGuide includes keyword clusters that we can realistically target to get you ranking on relevant SERPs (search engine results pages).
4. Persona-centric Content Calendar
When we created your personas, we thought of their challenges, barriers, and drivers to change. Now, it’s time to pair those elements and questions with a content strategy.
Blog Campaign Topics
Personally, brainstorming blog topics is my favorite part of campaign planning. The number of blog ideas we generate will depend on the scale of your campaign and frequency of posting- whether we’ll be posting on your behalf twice a month or a few times a week.
Additionally, the number of personas will impact how many blogs topics we need. Each persona will have their own content strategy. The topics we select as part of your campaign will seek to answer the questions, pain points, and interests you unearthed in your persona research. In some cases, we’ll actually take their concerns and turn them directly into topics. Here’s an example. If your persona poses the question, “How do I lower healthcare costs for my company?” a great blog topic might be “5 Examples How to Lower your Company Healthcare Costs.” Additionally, blogs will be matched to your persona’s needs at every stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision.
The other things we consider when generating your blog campaign are the keywords and topic clusters we uncovered earlier in our keyword research. We’ll pair your persona’s needs with search data to create a 1-2-punch of stellar topics.
Next up is pairing those blog topics with conversion opportunities in the form of content offers. We’ll propose 1-2 offers at each stage of the buyer’s journey. These offers are intended to boost your lead gen and provide value to your users. We might propose an offer in the format of a…
Guide or eBook
White paper, brochure, or sell sheet
Content “Packet” that includes a mixture of the above in one offer
5. Persona Centered Lead Nurturing Sequences
Your FieldGuide at this point includes persona insights, keywords, and a killer content strategy. We’ll now present a plan to put all of that to work in nurturing sequences. What are those? You might know them as drip campaigns, workflows, or just as email marketing. When a user downloads one of your offers, we ideally want to enroll them into an email campaign that nurtures them along the funnel. A user who starts out by downloading an awareness offer would get a sequence of emails that nudge them into the consideration offer… and then into a decision offer… and then *fingers crossed* into being a customer.
So, included with your FieldGuide are examples of the type of sequencing we’d like to do for your key offers.
6. Persona Watering Holes and Digital PR Hitlist
The last part of your campaign will be some research on where your personas hang out- their watering holes if you will. What websites do they like to engage with and who might be their influencers. These insights will lead to the creation of our digital PR hitlist. For example, if your personas spend time on authoritative HR sites, we’ll add a few to our hitlist. When it’s time to execute the FieldGuide, we’ll reach out to these companies to do things like guest blogs in order to get in front of you personas where they already are. Furthermore, this strategy generates backlinks and bolsters SEO.
When it comes to your digital marketing program (or at times, lack thereof) conducting a digital audit can be both eye-opening and exciting. Yes, we said exciting! From your website to your content to your tech stack, audits examine it all. The digital marketing audit is your ticket to finding out the state of the state and where the opportunity is for you to make a quick splash on your modern marketing and sales program.
So, if you think you could be squeezing more results out of your current marketing plan or are feeling a little in the dark about your tech stack, then this one’s for you. Here are the 5 types of digital marketing audits Lake One utilizes, along with some of the top probing questions we ask to kick off the process.
1. Google Analytics Audit
The primary purpose of a Google Analytics Audit is to walk-through your site’s tracking implementation and setup. It goes beyond just paid media although that does play a part. From conversion to clicks to time spent on your site, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started in the direction.
Questions to ask:
What are you currently tracking? Are you tracking everything you need to be?
Is the data you are collecting valid? Can you trust it and make decisions off of it?
What are the holes? What would you like to be tracking that you aren’t?
Does anything need to be fixed? Is tracking broken?
Can reporting and/or tracking be consolidated to make the process cleaner?
The fact that you are reading this blog post is a strong indicator that you realize how important your website is, but in case you don’t, we’ll say it: your company’s website is uber important. A website should attract your potential customers and empower them with information, aide in their buyer’s journey, and most importantly, provide opportunities for conversion. Design is critical as well, but great sites contain more substance beyond aesthetics.
At Lake One, we like to review websites for four main areas.
Performance can mean can quite a few things but in a nutshell, this section means, “Does your website pass the blink test?” Not familiar with the blink test? Simply put, are you able to determine within five seconds the purpose of the site, digest some content, and know what steps to take next as a user.
Questions to ask:
Is the main value proposition clear?
Is the main navigation menu clear and accessible?
Is there a clear conversion path? Do the conversion paths flow through the buyer’s journey from awareness through to decision?
Are there relevant resources for web visitors? Are they accessible?
Do users know what steps to take next?
Content & SEO Audit
Now we start getting into the nitty-gritty, the ‘substance’ that I was referencing earlier.
When reviewing a website for content, it should be two-fold with both online and offline content. Online content encompasses all of the posts, downloadables, etc. that are accessible by web visitors; offline encompasses all of the sales assets, one-pagers, etc. that may be archived internally.
Questions to ask:
Does the site contain relevant keywords that align with a clear content & digital strategy?
Is the content keyword-rich?
Does the content appeal to different buyer personas?
Do the relevant page titles, meta descriptions, URLs, etc use relevant keywords?
Do the above elements follow SEO best practices for character count, structure, etc.?
Are the images optimized for SEO as well?
Websites must provide visitors with an opportunity to convert. A website that’s fully optimized for conversion goes beyond a learn more button and a contact us form. You can have all the website traffic in the world, but if the website isn’t converting, you’ve got a problem.
Questions to ask:
Are there conversion pages at various stages of the funnel?
Are there any CTA opportunities being missed?
Is it clear what steps a user needs to take to get that information they need to convert?
A site audit wouldn’t be complete without reviewing the technical implementation and output of the website. Have you ever sat and waited for images to load or content to render and given up? Sure, it might have been a slow glitch in your wifi, but it might not have been. Here’s what to look for when it comes to tech.
Questions to ask:
What is the site speed?
Is the design responsive?
Does the design render well on mobile?
Are there any crawl issues?
Is there a sitemap?
4. HubSpot Audit
HubSpot offers a full platform of marketing, sales, customer service, and CRM software. It’s a powerful tool that when fully utilized, can propel your sales and marketing results forward. With all that being said, we love to look under the hood and look for ways to get more out of your HubSpot subscription. We look at the following and more:
Thank You Pages
When reviewing, first check if those functionalities are in use and then check performance.
Questions to ask:
How are the above elements performing? (conversion rates, submission rates, etc.)
Are the nurture sequence emails targeted? What’s the enrollment criteria? Is it useful? Is someone checking those emails?
By the way, did we mention we are HubSpot Gold Partner? We just so happen to be experts in utilizing HubSpot and making it go the distance for your digital marketing program. Let’s chat.
5. Sales & Marketing Alignment Audit
We have written several pieces on the importance of Sales and Marketing alignment to achieve harmony among client-facing teams. When teams are aligned, it’s dynamite. However, when conducting the audit, think less along the lines of quick wins and more along the lines of building a strong foundation for long-term success.
Questions to ask:
Do teams have a common definition and understanding of key terms? (i.e. marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, etc.)
The best way to move forward and to grow is to gain a complete understanding of where your company is at digitally. Even if you’re not looking to grow (but who isn’t?) no matter where you are at with your marketing, everyone can benefit from a digital marketing audit.
Self-proclaimed SEO Geeks from far and wide gathered in St. Paul at the 2019 MnSearch Summit, including the Lake One Team. A non-profit organization founded for and by search marketing geeks, MnSearch aims to speak directly to the search marketing professional and raise the standards and awareness of search in Minnesota.
Didn’t attend the conference? We’ve got you covered in the best TLDR summary of the summit; our key takeaways.
Rachael’s MnSearch Favs
I’ve attended conferences in the past where keynotes were snoozefests and sessions turned out to be not very relevant to my role. However, as a MnSearch first timer, I’m thrilled to say, that was not the case with the Summit. Here are my top 3 takeaways from the day.
#1. SEO is a Long-game
I attended the Search Presence Intelligence session with Stephan Bajaio and he opened the session with an analogy comparing Paid Media and SEO to day trading and a 401k. It’s relatable and easy to understand which is precisely why it makes my list.
Your odds of retiring off of day trading alone isn’t very high and neither is achieving all of your digital marketing goals with paid media alone.
In our work as digital marketers, our clients’ SEO knowledge ranges from beginner to advanced and this analogy is a great one to add to our toolbox when explaining the law that is Google to clients.
#2. Tie PR Activities to Branded Keywords
Often times when reviewing organic keywords and traffic, we pull out the brand-related terms because we are focused on additional keyword terms and phrases related to the buyer’s journey, product offering, etc. However, Will Scott brought up a great point about using branded keyword traffic patterns to help attribute PR efforts.
Of course, we all know that when it comes to PR, merging offline media mentions, mentions without linkage, and other digital efforts can get a little messy and sometimes difficult to attribute. But Will Scott said something impactful. When using branded keyword traffic (or insert any metric here) if there is a significant enough of a correlation in the data, then you can infer causation. So for example, if you are quoted on the local tv news talking about a brand offering and you see a significant spike in direct traffic for that time frame and on the topic of the mention – you can infer causation. Because likely what’s happening is that a user is hearing your brand/offer and typing it directly into Google.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about UTM parameters, but in the event that a custom link wasn’t placed or it’s not part of the deal, a branded terms breakout is a helpful tip.
#3. Personas Simplified
Personas. You either love them or you hate them. If you don’t buy into the naming, the persona stories, etc. Kevin Indig had a super simple way of explaining personas and getting down to the nitty-gritty in 3 sentences (or less, depending on your phrasing ;))
I am a ……
Who wants to ….
So I can …..
For example: I am an HR Recruiter who wants to attract and retain top talent to my company so I can reduce turnover and fill open positions quickly with quality candidates.
The above is the bare bones. At Lake One, we prefer to go a little deeper with our personas to fully understand their pain and questions, but for those who can get lost in the weeds, start with the easy guide.
Danielle’s MnSearch Favs
#1. Google Your Company and Specific Pages
It’s hard to atribute this takeaway to any one speaker. Almost every single one touched on it in some way or fashion. You should be Googling your company, and not just for the reasons you think like rankings. Run searches on your individual blog posts to look at your meta descriptions and how your post appears in the results.
By doing so, you’ll see what your posts and pages look like in the search results. There might be something awry in how it displays. An abbreviation from “do not” to “do”, for example, can turn an intelligent blog to utter nonsense at first glance in the results.
Also, by searching for your specific pages, you can see if your results appear anywhere else in the results that is not a standard blue weblink. You might have gotten the Snippet position, showed up in the map pack, or potentially even lost your #1 seat to a barrage of other knowledge graphs and Google answers. The best way to find this out is to run the searches yourself.
And don’t forget to do it on mobile too!
#2. Intent Rules the Roost
As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in keyword volume and the opportunity therein. So it was nice to have a refresher on search intent with Jenny Halasz. Search intent is the difference between searching “Cardiology” and “Cardiologist.”
Cardiology = Intent to find answers on the topic: the profession, procedures, or definitions. Results will likely be pages similar to WebMD. Cardiologist = Intent to find a medical professional “near me”. Results will likely be a map pack and clinics/specific doctors.
So, when ideating for your keyword targets, make sure to take intent into consideration. Your results will be more relevant and have a higher possibility of ranking when you’re matched with the answer the user hopes to find.
Furthermore, we also learned about considering Google’s intent. In almost every session I attended, the speakers addressed how Google is shifting from being a search engine to an answer engine. Their intent is to provide an answer to the user as soon as they can without navigating off of the SERP page. For marketers, that means creating content that serves this purpose
#3. Make Conversions Easy
The last breakout session I attended was with Roger Dooley, author of FRICTION. He talked about removing friction from the buyer’s journey at every step. In short, the easier it is to convert, the more likely people are to do it. Furthermore, when something can be done easier than the other options available, loyalty is built. An example of this is 1 click buying through Amazon or having to sign into a lengthy registration page to buy the same thing from another retailer.
The inbound way usually has an offer (eBook, checklist, webinar, guide…) gated behind a form. We trade contact information for access to our content. So before you blow up your forms with every little nice-to-have piece of information, think about the UX. Do you really *need* to know company size and revenue and favorite color in that awareness ebook form? Probably not. Scrap it and remove the friction to converting. Read more on that, here.
Ryan’s MnSearch Favs
Sometimes “Advanced SEO” means focus on the essentials
Portent CEO Ian Laurie ran a session on advanced SEO. Rather then a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo he pointed out that being advanced often means focusing on the essentials. He outlined 8 principles of advanced SEO. These were my faves:
#1. Just Fix It
rel= canonical, 301, 302 redirects, url exclusions and so on often are band-aids for seo hot messes. Or, as Ian puts it – abstractions. Essentially they’re an attempt to tell Google:
Instead, Ian argues JUST FIX IT. Novel idea – right?
#2. Find a Source of Truth
We all like to consider ourselves data-driven marketers. We come bearing our tools and data ready to wield insights and put together strategies. Ian points out that when it comes to search, some of the tools don’t quite measure up. When trying to diagnose major problems, you can’t argue against the source of truth. He shared some great methods at reviewing log files. More on that here.
#3. Look at The SERPs
Lastly, you just can’t beat looking at how actual search results are showing up. With how rich the results are now between links and snippets, taking some time to look to see what kind of information Google is actually choosing to share for your query can help inform your overall strategy.
To be honest, throughout several sessions the “Look at the SERPs” was a constant and present reminder.
Hubspot provided a definition to smarketing in 2014, and that hasn’t changed. The gist is a process by which your sales and marketing team get on the same page around goals and communicate regularly. The results can be huge. A 2016 LinkedIn report found nearly 60% of teams that reported sales and marketing alignment saw customer experience improvements, and a 2013 report from Marketo found companies with sales & marketing alignment are 67% better at closing deals and drive 209% more revenue.
For a deep dive into driving sales and marketing alignment, check out our comprehensive guide on the topic. But today we’re going to take a look at smarketing in practice; there’s plenty on the internet that can define smarketing. What we’re going to look at is real-world examples of the impact it can have on your sales and marketing operations.
This review will follow key topics touched on through past posts on sales and marketing alignment.
Over the past year, our work with a client who believed in this from the C-level to the front lines has seen significant benefits from tight sales and marketing alignment.
But how do you measure the benefit of sales and marketing alignment commitment? This isn’t a scientific, double-blind survey, but on average, our client whose leadership team not only buys into smarketing alignment but drives it forward, has seen faster time to marketing traction and ROI. This is especially impactful for inbound which on the short end can take 9 months or even up to 18 months to start showing in the numbers.
If the anecdote above leaves you wanting more sales and marketing alignment proof, keep reading. We share some down and dirty numbers that back up our smarketing claims.
You may have a program that with your first pass at an MQL definition is driving good volume, but when push comes to shove, your marketing contributed revenue isn’t all that great.
The benefit of this is when your best-educated guesses go wrong. We have a favorite saying at Lake One, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – multiple sources
Over the past 12 months, our unified sales and marketing alignment with our client resulted in increasing marketing-sourced revenue while actually flattening the volume of MQLs.
Wait, what? MQLs flatlining? It truly is about quality over quantity. Fewer, better quality MQLs could only be accomplished because of regular communication, and in two quarters of work, we saw a little over two times the marketing sources impact on revenue.
Get Acquainted & Communicate
Just saying we’re going to agree to a few measurables isn’t enough to drive an aligned sales and marketing organization. You need to develop a sales and marketing plan for regular communication and alignment checkpoints.
Two heads are better than one, a whole group of heads – that’s magic. With the client we’ve been mentioning throughout this post, our smarketing alignment is tied into all of our marketing program meetings. Sales is represented in every meeting so we get to hear weekly what’s working, what’s not, and what’s coming up. This kind of immediate connection between two teams that don’t traditionally work together opens up lines of communication. Both teams feel comfortable lobbing ideas over the fence in between those meetings.
Ideas that have lead to optimizations seeing traffic nearly quadruple and leads nearly double in 6 months.
Smarketing Results and You
This is just one example from one client of how smarketing can drive impact throughout the funnel on an organization. Every organization is different, but with so much attention, smarketing or sales and marketing alignment or whatever you want to call it is getting we thought it was worthwhile taking a look at how bringing the two teams responsible for revenue closer together – can actually make a measurable impact.
Digital marketing encompasses all of the different marketing techniques that take place online. It can include any of the following, and more:
Social media marketing (SMM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Affiliate & Influencer marketing
There are all kinds of digital marketing companies and experts, critics and avid fans, so there is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there. Here are 6 common misconceptions about digital marketing.
1) Digital marketing is best suited for large businesses.
A major goal of digital marketing is to increase brand awareness and grow a business. Most small businesses have big aspirations- they’d like to become more well-known with strong desires to find and help their ideal customers. Digital marketing creates opportunities for small businesses that may not be possible with an offline-only presence.
Digital marketing allows you to reach potential customers both far and wide. Many successful small businesses have used digital marketing to grow and scale on a global level even without having a physical location. Moreover, social media provides a means to highlight important information and allows you to have one-on-one or one-to-many conversations, often without any money spent. It’s one of the more cost-effective ways to spread the word about the good work your company is doing. In many ways, it provides an equal opportunity to businesses of all shapes and sizes. You can start small and as you start seeing results, increase the time and money you put into it to increase your returns.
2) Digital marketing doesn’t need to play a part in company-wide goals.
Whatever your larger sales and company goals are, digital marketing should be a part of it. That is to say, it should be included in your overarching company strategy, aligned with your goals, brand, and vision from top to bottom. Sometimes marketing as a whole (not just digital) is put into a corner left to fend for itself. However, we know from experience that the most successful programs are aligned with the rest of the company and aimed at the same goals. Learn more about how you can align sales and marketing here.
3) Digital marketing is basically just creating a website.
If you spend time creating a stunning, interactive website and don’t do anything to promote it, how will people possibly find it? There are thousands of new websites popping up every single day; digital marketing is how you drive traffic to your website.
SEM/SEO paired with a solid content strategy, if done right, allow your information to be found when people are searching for what you offer. Once people actually reach your website, digital marketing efforts will continue to motivate people into a purchase or bottom of funnel action such as submitting a contact form.
4) It’s too difficult to measure and track digital marketing’s ROI.
There are hundreds of affordable and easy to use tools and methods to track and measure your digital marketing efforts. Many of these platforms are essentially plug-and-play and can be implemented without tech expertise. Even if you need to pull in IT, tracking clicks, conversion rates, site traffic, etc. is far easier than tracking the effectiveness of a radio ad, for instance.
No matter the method or tool utilized, one of the most important things is to be organized in the beginning and set definitive goals for your different digital marketing efforts. If you start with a SMART goal in mind including specific factors that point to success, along with a timeframe for when to evaluate, that starts you off on the right foot to track how things have gone since the beginning.
5) Once digital marketing is set, you can forget it.
One of the most exciting and potentially difficult things about digital marketing is the fact that it is constantly evolving and shifting. What was once converting yesterday may not work tomorrow. For instance, short video content (15-45 seconds) was all the rage, but now 1:30-3 minute videos seem to be consumer preference.
The constant change in the field means that you will need to keep your information and methods up to date or risk falling behind and getting lost in the shuffle. Another example is how Google updates its search algorithms continually. They won’t disclose what is actually included in the algorithm, but we do know that their algorithm values fresh, new information including info on your blogs and websites.
If you don’t have the time or desire to keep up with digital marketing methods or maintain fresh, new information, there are many effective digital marketing companies dedicated to doing that work for you.
6) Digital Marketing needs to be perfect before launching.
One of the greatest things about digital marketing is it’s different for every company and even every initiative. Your company and offerings are as unique as your customers, and the best way to find what works for how to reach them is through trial and error.
Here at Lake One, we believe in progress over perfection. So, don’t be afraid to try new things, keep track of what you’ve tried, and the results of those efforts. Put more effort into utilizing the methods that work well and simply let go of the things that don’t.
B2B Smarketing Question #1: Are Teams Speaking the Same Language?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the first areas for assessment is verbiage and definitions. Communication is key but can be extremely difficult if teams aren’t speaking the same language or starting from some place of commonality.
Questions to ask:
Do your teams have a common definition and understanding for the following terms?
Marketing Qualified Lead
Sales Qualified Lead
Contact Lifecycle Stages
Traffic Sources (direct, referral, search, etc..)
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the sales and marketing alignment terms, but it’s a start. At a minimum, it should get you analyzing the common ground (or lack thereof) between the two teams when it comes to defining the sales and marketing process.
B2B Smarketing Question #2: Are Teams Targeting the Same Buyers?
We have stressed time and time again the importance of buyer personas. Buyer personas (in conjunction with research) should drive your strategy and be another common denominator among your sales and marketing teams and really, the company as a whole.
Questions to ask:
Are buyer personas defined?
Did both teams have influence in their creation?
Are the personas still relevant or do they need to be updated?
B2B Smarketing Question #3: Are Teams Working Towards the Same Goals?
Sales and marketing can be impactful independently, but joined together and working towards the same goal? Teams will achieve much more.
Nothing sets you on the fast-track to success like SMART goals.
Questions to ask:
Do the teams separately have SMART goals?
Are the goals well-known among the two teams and agreed upon?
Not all products and services are created equal. Through defining your buyer personas or crafting your smart goals, you likely surfaced key areas of focus whether it be new product offerings, key industries, revenue generation, etc.
For example, if demos have been unsuccessful but consults are effective, marketing likely shouldn’t be pushing demos as their bottom of the funnel offer in the nurture sequences.
Questions to ask:
Is sales aware of the products/services that marketing is promoting and vice versa?
Are both teams in agreement on the best direction?
B2B Smarketing Question #5: Are Teams Creating Content Together?
Although content creation doesn’t necessarily fall under the job descriptions of the sales team, sales should have an influence in content topic selection. Why? Because they are the front lines and literally the voice of the customer inside the company. Pairing sales’ insight with marketing’s keyword research skills is a great start to creating valuable content for your buyers.
Insider tip: We like to take it one step further and create what we call a content audit. It’s a living document that houses links to all of the content created and breaks it down by buyer persona and stage of the buyer’s journey. There’s also a tab for content requests that’s a direct line into marketing’s content topic queue. Here are some additional smarketing best practices to help.
Questions to ask:
What processes currently drive content topic selection?
Does sales approve?
Is there a way for sales to communicate content requests to marketing?
Does marketing have an audit document or something like it?
B2B Smarketing Question #6: What is Marketing’s Lead Handoff Procedure?
Marketing curates leads through inbound or paid media and then at some agreed upon point, the leads need to be passed to sales to be contacted and qualified. There are a few ways to accomplish the handoff. Our favorite is using marketing automation software (HubSpot) to do the heavy lifting. However, software aside, aligned smarketing teams should be able to answer the questions below.
Questions to ask:
At what point in the process does marketing handoff a lead to sales? What triggers it?
How is sales notified of the lead?
What is the follow-up expectation from sales? (i.e. how many days do they have before they make contact, how are they contacting the lead, etc.)
B2B Smarketing Question #7: How Does Sales Provide Feedback on Lead Quality?
In order for marketing to continue to deliver the sales team quality leads, there needs to be a feedback loop. Sales needs to communicate through lead status- the quality of the lead. This ties back all the way up to the first question about definitions.
Questions to ask:
How does sales communicate a rejected lead? (marketing automation software or otherwise?)
Does sales have a way to communicate why leads were rejected? (Poor timing, bad contact information, no budget, etc.)
What does marketing do with the rejected leads? Where are the leads at now?
B2B Smarketing Question #8: Do Teams Have Regular Meetings?
Actually meeting in person, having conversations, and building rapport are critical to sales and marketing alignment success. It’s so much easier to work as a team when you have a strong foundation to work from.
So how do you build rapport? Meetings. But let’s be clear, quality of meetings should be prioritized over quantity. Nothing disengages teams like pointless meetings.
Questions to ask:
Do teams have monthly and/or quarterly meetings?
Do teams have a way to easily communicate outside of meetings? (Like Slack or Skype)
Start with communication. If there is one commonality that leads to the improvement of sales and marketing alignment, it’s communication. It fuels defining the terminology, the buyer personas, content creation, and the entire smarketing process. Whether facilitated through technology or happening in regular scheduled meetings, it’s critical.
Need a little help with your sales and marketing alignment? You’re in luck because that’s our specialty. Contact us here.
You probably already get the gist of inbound marketing if you’re reading this (here’s a refresher if you don’t). But how do you know if it’s right for your business? Here are five telltale signs that inbound marketing is right for you.
1) Your (Potential) Customers are Online
Let’s be honest, your customers are online. Even the majority of B2B purchase decisions are made online now. The expectation of all users is that you have a website that is not only easy on the eyes and simple to navigate but also answers their questions and provides value. Inbound marketing is a way to meet your consumers where they already are (online) rather than trying to find them via hit and miss traditional methods like radio or print.
The biggest complaint from salespeople is usually that they aren’t getting enough leads. Understandable. No leads, no sales. Inbound can be a great solution to that problem.
The inbound method aims to move buyers through the funnel at three different stages: awareness (top), consideration (middle), and decision (bottom). You can read more about those stages in this post. While there are many different ways you can help buyers along this journey, they usually involve collecting information from a user in exchange for whatever you’re offering. This is called lead generation. Once you have the contact info of a user, you can market to them personally via things like workflows to help nudge them along into becoming a customer.
3) You’re Not Getting Enough Website Traffic
Perhaps you’re getting leads through things like cold-calling, word of mouth, or repeat business, and the problem is that your website is a wasteland. This is a big sign inbound might be right for your organization. I’ll try to stay at a high-level here, but the way that inbound moves people along the funnel as mentioned above is by offering useful, informative content that your potential buyers want. This information should be targeted to answer your buyer’s questions, make them feel empowered, and show how your product can solve their problems. So how does this help traffic?
Well, people are actively looking for their answers online. In theory, the content created through an inbound strategy (blogs, webinars, ebooks, etc.) will be filled with the keywords and phrases your users are putting into Google to find your type of solution. By creating content that matches these search queries, your content/website will start ranking higher and higher in the search results.
A bonus to inbound is that search engines favor sites that post fresh content regularly. Therefore, posting new blog content frequently in and of itself can help your search rankings.
4) Your Competitors are Beating You
How can they beat you? Let me count the ways. It could be that your competitor’s website is a work of user-experience art, smartly crafted to guide users into a purchase while yours is… not. Or maybe it’s that they rank higher on every search term than you do, getting all the clicks you wish you had. OR maybe it’s that your competition is encroaching on revenue that used to be yours after they started buying up ad space you didn’t know was even available.
Inbound? Yeah… it can help with all of those things.
5) You Want to Generate Thought Leadership and Authority
Another sign that inbound marketing might be right for your company is that you want to generate thought leadership or be known as an authority in your field. Thought leaders are, “the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise.” Inbound inherently generates thought leadership (assuming you do in fact know your industry and are able to produce high-quality content) by the sheer volume of content you produce. Your content naturally gives you a platform to show off your industry knowledge and expertise.
Key Takeaways that Inbound Marketing Might be Right for You
Your would-be customers are online (but you’re missing them).
You’re not generating enough leads to make sales happy.
Your website traffic isn’t good enough.
The competition is smoking you.
You want to be a thought leader and authority in your industry.