Finding an agency that can act as a true partner is hard.
They all claim they can help you out no matter what their specific focus is. They all have case studies and recommendations. So, how do you choose the right digital marketing agency for your needs?
If you’re thinking about hiring an agency for the first time or about to switch to a new one, here’s what you should look for in a digital marketing agency.
The most important aspect of partnering with an agency is how well you communicate together. They could be the most brilliant marketers on the planet, but if you can’t reach them or they can’t talk to you the way you need, it’s worthless.
You’d think this would be a basic standard for any agency, but I’m floored by how many times I’ll hear a client talk about how another contractor or agency hasn’t responded to phone calls or emails after a few days. If your agency doesn’t get back to you within 24 hours on all emails or calls, it’s time for a new one.
Your agency may never know the ins and outs of your product or service as well as you do, but they should be able to talk about all the aspects of it in great detail. If they can’t answer the value proposition of your product, how can they sell it? If they can’t talk about your customer like it’s their own, how can they market it?
Your agency might get back to you quickly and seem attentive, but often you’re feeling like things are late or information is missing. This is probably because they’re not managing your expectations well. Look, sometimes issues pop up or things don’t go exactly as planned. However, if your agency isn’t getting out in front of it and letting you know why and what that means for the big picture, it means disorganization.
Transparency and Accountability
The biggest things I look for in a colleague are transparency and accountability. This builds trust and is the backbone of any long-term relationship. Why not hold your digital agency to the same standard?
Agencies are made up of humans and humans make mistakes – there’s no way around that. As much as we like to think we know everything, we can’t possibly predict the future or guarantee our work will affect the positive change we plan for.
The key is how your agency responds when a ball is dropped.
Do they try to tiptoe around it and make excuses that don’t quite feel right? Or do they own it, fix this issue, and use it as a learning experience to improve their work moving forward? Hopefully, it’s the latter, and it’s a form of optimization.
If they seem to be hiding something, then you can’t be sure they’re helping your business.
Goals and KPIs
Does your agency collaborate with you to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and goals for your engagement? If not, then they’re not holding themselves accountable. They should document clear KPIs with quantifiable goals that align with your overall business objectives. If they depend on you for all their goals and KPIs, then they’re likely focused solely on tactics and not enough about results.
Business Reviews and Post Mortems
Your agency should push for business reviews on a regular basis. The agenda should look at the performance of the previous quarter and outline a roadmap for the upcoming quarter. This will give everyone a chance to see the big picture and not get bogged down in small tactics and deliverables.
A post-mortem is a bit like a business review but is more about short-term campaigns or entire accounts at large. They are generally less formal and are more about working out the kinks. These are also extremely useful but can happen on an as-needed basis.
We’ve covered all the things that make an agency a solid partner, but what about the substance in what they do? At the end of the day, no matter how well they communicate and how accountable they are, your digital marketing agency needs to master digital strategy.
How do you know if an agency is as good as they say they are?
T-Shaped Skill Set
Although you might be hiring an agency for a specific channel, they need to have a T-shaped skill set. Each expert you work with should be knowledgeable in all digital marketing channels. This is because no single channel operates independently. All digital marketing is part of an ecosystem, and in some way or another, each channel affects the others.
Take our marketing stack, for example. If their content team doesn’t know how to work with analytics, they won’t be able to see advanced user behavior. If their PR team doesn’t understand link building, then they may be wasting valuable effort. They don’t have to be certified masters of each channel, but even a dedicated channel agency should know how their channel works with all the others.
This is extremely important for whoever is managing your account at the agency. They have the bird’s-eye view on overall performance, and if they don’t understand the fundamentals, then it’s a ship without a captain. They should be considered a strategist as well.
Tactics vs. Strategy
Tactics mean nothing without the strategy to back them up. One of the surefire signs that your agency is phoning it in is when they rely on tactics without strategic reasons. Sure, keyword analysis is fine, but why? What will this get you? Don’t be intimidated by your experts, and always feel free to ask why. If they can’t answer this easily and clearly, then they don’t know why either.
As I mentioned before, all business reviews should include a roadmap. This roadmap should be a game plan of tactics, action items, and deliverables that they want to accomplish next. It should be strategy-driven, and every single item should have a purpose.
If your agency isn’t providing you with a roadmap, then they’re leaving you in the dark. They could be doing all the right things and making all the right moves, but if you’re often wondering what they’re up to, this leaves room for all sorts of potential issues. It’s a matter of accountability.
Your digital marketing agency should be a good partner for you. This means they should not only do the work you’ve asked them to do, but they should feel like part of your team. You should never feel like they’re just hired marketing mercenaries.
Does your agency take the time to teach you things? One of the aspects our clients love most about us is that we love to teach them about what we do. If there’s a new Google algorithm update that may not affect them, we still like to let them know about it and what it means. If we’ve read any good articles on something about their industry, we’ll share those with them, too.
One easy way to find out how much teaching an agency will likely do for you is through their thought leadership. Do they have a blog, and how active is it? Are their articles basic, or are they interesting? Is just one person responsible for all the articles, or do all of their strategists contribute?
Your agency shouldn’t be scared of new opportunities. They should vet them out properly but be excited to explore with you. If you’ve ever come to them with a new idea and they dismiss it without a solid reason, then you certainly won’t be able to grow with them. There is a fine line between being cautious and being stubborn.
Do you feel like your agency challenges you? Do they push back on occasion? Another telltale sign that your agency isn’t trying hard enough is that they do whatever you say without any pushback or questions.
Our best clients are the ones that we are able to openly disagree and debate with. We can do this because they trust us and respect what we have to say. As a Client Partner, the worst thing I can do is not vocalize potential pitfalls. Expressing these dangers shows I care. Your agency should care, too.
Provide You With Ownership
Does your agency claim ownership on the work they do for you? Shockingly enough, it happens, and it’s a major red flag.
The only reason that an agency would want to retain ownership of the work they’ve done is that they’re afraid you’ll leave, and they want to maintain leverage. This does not inspire confidence in their abilities. If they’re as good as they say they are, then they’ll have no problem handing everything off to you. If they don’t easily deliver everything to you, then imagine what it would be like if you decide to stop working with them.
(This obviously doesn’t apply to certain situations in which you’re accessing previously produced material or IP from your agency.)
The bottom line is that if you feel like your agency isn’t working with you, then they’re probably not doing a great job of working for you. Hold them to extremely high standards. Challenge them, and let them challenge you back. You’ll end up getting much more bang for your buck and hopefully have a long-term partner to help you get where you want to go.
With podcast advertising, marketers aren’t given the hard and fast metrics to measure success we’ve come to expect.
There is no clear way of knowing which podcasts will yield the best results.
And, we can’t track response. We’re asking listeners to engage with our brand outside of the traditional digital landscape. We have to measure their response to an auditory input. There is no direct way to do that.
Keeping these roadblocks top of mind, we’ve given a lot of thought on how to effectively measure podcast advertising. If you’d like to take a page from our playbook, start by looking at the following:
Downloads per Episode
Direct and Referral Traffic
Exclusive Offer Code
Let’s dig deeper into those metrics.
Downloads per Episode
Downloads are based on the number of unique downloads each episode receives to a computer, tablet, or a mobile device. This information is readily available to podcast hosts, and it is also the metric they use when determining podcast CPM rates.
However, this metric is not stable. As the podcast grows, the number of downloads grow with it. To ensure that sponsors get what they pay for, podcast hosts take their average number of downloads and round that number down. Because of this, their estimate will always be lower than the final download count.
To get the “true” number of downloads, be sure to follow up with the podcast host 30 to 60 days after the sponsored episode airs. You may be surprised by the difference between the actual download count and the original prediction. From our experience, the download count tends to be much higher.
Podcasts with a high download count don’t always result in the best ROI and the number of downloads a podcast receives shouldn’t be the only factor you evaluate when picking a podcast to sponsor. If your product or service fits into a particular niche, you’re better off sponsoring a smaller podcast that is more in line with your offerings.
Direct and Referral Traffic
Most of the traffic will come from podcast listeners who search for your company after hearing the on-air ad read. If you’re tracking your efforts with Google Analytics (GA), you’ll likely see a spike in your direct traffic.
If the podcast includes their sponsors in the show notes, (a roundup of the key episode takeaways published on the podcast website), you may also see an uptick in your referral traffic from inbound links.
To measure the effectiveness of the podcast ad, you’ll need to set up the right tracking. Below is a set of instructions for setting up a segmentation in Google Analytics.
Start by opening any report and selecting + Add Segment
Next, click on + New Segment
Make sure to create a new segment for each podcast that you’re sponsoring.
Name your segment using the name of the podcast, then add filters (e.g., podcast domain, landing page you’re promoting in the on-air mention).
Monitor the segments you created by filtering your traffic down to Source/Medium OR by simply applying the segments to the All Traffic view in GA.
Make sure your data range is set for the time frame when the first podcast sponsorship has aired.
To better account for the increase in your direct traffic, create a dedicated ‘welcome’ landing page and ask the hosts to send their listeners there. For example, if Portent were to sponsor a podcast, we’d create a welcome landing page with a URL that looks something like this: www.portent.com/nameofpodcast.
Exclusive Offer Code
Offer codes, trials, and discount incentives are the most straightforward ways to measure the success of your podcast advertising efforts. Exclusive offer codes can be read on-air by the host, included in the show notes, or shared in the body of the ‘welcome’ landing page. We recommend sharing the offer code on the ‘welcome’ landing page. As mentioned earlier, sending listeners to this landing page will help you gain a better understanding of the uptake in your direct traffic.
However, if you’re not planning to create custom a ‘welcome’ landing page, ask your hosts to read the promo code on-air. When going this route, ask the host to give their listeners instructions on how to use the promo code (e.g., go to domain.com and enter the offer code at checkout).
If you haven’t offered incentives in the past, consider creating a service trial offer, giving 15-20% off a product, or offering free shipping.
Regardless of what you choose, make sure that the offer is customized for each podcast that you sponsor. This way, you don’t have to make any assumptions or set up additional tracking to see what podcasts have driven the most signups.
Create a discount or trial offer unique to the podcast advertising initiative. Don’t use offers that already exists on the site. You want the offer to feel exclusive and unique to podcast listeners.
Let’s say, for instance, during the sponsorship time frame you see an uptick in traffic, but listeners are still not converting. You can interpret this in one of two ways:
There’s a misalignment between the podcast listener and your target customer
Podcast listeners aren’t ready to convert
To help you figure out this situation, we recommend looking at the following user engagement metrics in GA:
Time on site
Average pages per visit
Bounce rate is the rate at which a user leaves the landing page without browsing any further. This metric is given as a percentage, with a higher percentage meaning high bounce rate and a lower percentage indicating a low bounce rate.
Depending on the action you want the user to take on the landing page, a high bounce rate may not be a bad thing. However, if users are bouncing within seconds of arriving on that page, you know that the page is not meeting their expectations.
Time on site
In GA, the time on site is tracked as the Average Session Duration. It’s the amount of time the user spends on your site during the duration of their visit.
Time on site can help you gauge podcast listeners’ interest in your product or service. If time on site appears to be high compared to other channels, then this tells you that the listeners are engaged.
Average pages per visit
The average pages per visit metric is the number of different pages the user looks through during their visit. The more content users consume on your site, the more interested they are in your offerings.
When examining user engagement metrics, remember the Gestalt principle: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, don’t over think the performance of individual metric, focus on the performance of all metrics as a whole.
Tying It All Together
While podcast advertising isn’t a new phenomenon, podcast analytics are currently at an infancy stage. If you want to give this medium a go, do your research, learn about the latest trends, and ask the podcast hosts about the data insights they have available.
On March 12th, Google released what being referred to as the Florida 2 algorithm update. Website owners are already noticing significant shifts across their keyword rankings. While Google’s algorithm updates vary in terms of how often they receive broad notice, the Florida 2 update is one that every marketer needs to be paying close attention to.
Who Was Impacted by the Florida 2 Algorithm Update?
Google makes several broad ranking algorithm updates each year, but only confirms updates that result in widespread impact. Google did confirm Florida 2, and there are SEOs out there already calling it the “biggest update [Google has made] in years.” Unlike last August’s Medic Update, Florida 2 isn’t targeting a specific niche or vertical, which means the entire search community needs to be paying attention as we try to better understand the changes Google is making to its search algorithm.
While it’s still too early for our team to pinpoint what exactly is being impacted by Florida 2, we’re going to keep a very close eye on where things fall out over the next several days (and weeks).
Here’s what we’ve seen so far:
Indiscriminate swings in site traffic & ranking, with some websites reporting zero traffic after the update.
Evidence of traffic increases for site owners who are prioritizing quality content and page speed.
A worldwide impact – this is not a niche specific or region specific update.
Potential adjustments in how Google is interpreting particular search queries.
Backlink quality possibly being a very important factor.
Short term keyword ranking changes (declines in ranking that then back to “normal” after a few hours).
My Rankings Took a Hit. What Can I Do?
In short? Nothing. But don’t panic.
As with any Google algorithm update, websites will see increases or declines in their rankings. There is no quick fix for sites or web pages that experience negative results from the update; don’t make the mistake of aggressively changing aspects of your site without fully understanding the broader impact those changes will have. If you are being negatively impacted by Florida 2 (or any other algorithm update), your best bet is continuing to focus on offering the best content you can, as that is what Google always seeks to reward.
The holidays are already here or at least they certainly are when it comes to your budget and campaign strategies. The time to plan for holiday season campaigns is giving way to the timeline for implementation and final optimization.
If you’re feeling behind, here’s a list to help with merriment across your marketing team this holiday season. Even if you’re not in the retail sector, it’s worth checking this list twice and heeding some advice from some experts Josh Thompson, Senior Social Media Strategist, and Max Trotter, PPC Strategist.
Refine, Clarify, and Tune Your Budgets
If you have extra budget, define now how much extra you’re willing to invest in campaigns that perform well. It’s also important to identify how much you want to risk on ad copy tests that might not pan out as planned. A few questions to ask:
Brand vs. Non-Brand Spending
Talk with your paid advertising specialist and ask: How much campaign spending should be dedicated to brand vs. competitive non-brand terms on key dates?
“If you’re going to spend on anything, it should be brand keywords. It’s more important than ever to protect your brand name during this season, when there are so many bottom-of-funnel purchases,” says Max Trotter. “If you can afford to bid on brand and non-brand, then do it. Right now, you’ll have the highest conversion rate and chance of engaging long-term customers.”
Budget Increases for High Performers
What percentage are you willing to increase your budget if the return on ad spend (ROAS) is performing well?
“Don’t leave money on the table. Most importantly, be ready to be flexible and be aware of your campaign performance,” says Max Trotter. “If daily spend was set at $2,000, ROI is positive, and the campaign is gaining traction with customers, why would you stop now? And if it’s not performing well, then don’t push it harder. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to spend more.”
Similarly, if you underspend, where do you want the additional budget to go? If you slightly overspend, where could that budget be pulled from?
General Rules for Holiday Budget Changes
Plan to increase your remarketing budget and engage past customers or users who have already have a touch point with your brand. Consider shifting your prospecting and remarketing breakdown from 80% prospecting and 20% remarketing to 65% prospecting and 35% remarketing.
Prioritize Home and Landing Page Changes for Holiday
Dead end homepage takeovers, isolated campaign landing pages, and microsites are about as helpful to your users as an ugly Christmas sweater. Sure, promote product specials, sales, discounts, and events, but make sure everyone has a pathway to get back to your primary content and products too. This is still a time to build brand affinity, and you don’t want to lose an opportunity by directing a user to a disconnected experience. Attract their attention, but tastefully and simply.
If you plan to make any last significant changes to your top landing pages this season, don’t forget to:
Test the promotional experience and watch colleagues test it.
“Watch for friction points,” says Josh Thompson. “Checkout using a promotion should be as seamless as possible. If you can, use links that apply discounts automatically at checkout to keep the user engaged.”
Ensure priority pages are being indexed by Google and Bing by submitting it to Search Console. If your user can’t get to a landing page again by searching for it, they’ll get frustrated.
Plan in time to test and troubleshoot any new functionality.
Closely coordinate campaign launch timing, so there isn’t a disconnect between ad copy or email content and what users find on different sections of your site.
“Use an optimized landing page linked from the homepage to promote a sale. And on products pages add links to specials page,” recommends Max Trotter. “Create a connected experience around the highest potential pages for conversion.”
Ensure your site and especially new pages are as optimized as possible – you have about 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention. Use this developer-facing checklist to triage your site.
Be bright and engaging for the season, but clear. Prioritize content for your site and your paid campaigns that will answer your user’s questions and keep them engaged while they are busy this holiday season.
Write and Evaluate Your Content Now
Bring some holiday cheer to your product messaging: Even if your business doesn’t have a big, competitive promotion, you can still garner attention with holiday-themed ad copy.
“If your generic ad is sandwiched between more relevant, seasonal ads, you might lose that potential customer,” warns Max Trotter.
Use Google Analytics to keep an eye on what content is engaging your users, then prioritize edits for those pages.
Make sure landing pages are optimized for topics, not only specific keywords. You’ll show up in the SERP when it matters most for brand visibility and conversions.
Update metadata to align with the new content, sending a signal to Google and searchers about what’s on your landing pages. A helpful, relevant meta description can attract a busy potential customer to your site over a competitor’s.
Employ a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway to avoid any embarrassing typos in your new content or changing ad copy
And Keep your paid campaign content simple and connected to your landing page content.
And on that last point: “Don’t include discount codes in your ad copy. Promote the offer and give customers the right link that applies a discount at checkout.” Josh Thompson reminds us. “You can’t copy and paste from a Facebook ad. Keep thinking about having the least amount of friction as possible in your user experience. People are going to make a purchase during this season. If they don’t have time for you, they will buy from someone else.”
Know What You Want for Christmas
Keep your Goals and KPIs top-of-mind when making decisions about campaign changes. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and say “yes” to too many opportunities, campaigns or last minute changes.
Double check your progress and trends in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Bing Ads, and keyword tracking tools.
Watch for red flags but don’t get too distracted. Focused effort during this influx of traffic and final stretch toward year-end goals and influx of traffic can help you clearly identify new campaign, testing, and budget opportunities for the New Year.
Check in weekly to identify barriers to progress. Stay focused on your primary goals and the steps you and your team need to take to meet them.
“With paid social, it’s OK to push the budget threshold, but don’t make changes too frequently,” says Josh Thompson. “You need to give the Facebook algorithm time to optimize. Make a change once and a maximum of twice during a busy campaign day. Over-optimizing hurts way more than it helps.”
“For PPC, changing bids once a week is ideal, unless the campaign is spending insane amounts of money,” says Max Trotter. “You need to take time for more analysis and informed decisions before bid shifts.”
Celebrate successes along the way. Keeping teams and partners motivated during the holiday season can take extra effort. Over communication and recognition about the impact of their time and energy on progress toward goals is always worth the time.
Keep The Lights On
No matter how much you plan for every scenario, there’s always the potential for technology or human error that could have a dramatic effect on your site or campaign platform.
Find out who’s on call from your team, your agencies and your development and hosting partners? Make sure everyone on your team has the contact list and knows who’s responsible for each channel and solution. The last thing you want on a busy holiday is confusion about who’s in charge and who can make a final decision.
Create a backup plan for when the site or server goes down. This approach should be consistent across site sections and platforms so users don’t get confused by mixed messages or changing landing pages.
Build a checklist of campaigns to be paused if issues arise with site performance. There’s no need to burn budget or frustrate your audience by directing them to a page that’s not functioning properly. Save money and customer service inquiries by taking swift action and communicating clearly through these pauses.
You can survive the holiday season, learn about your customers, and achieve your goals. Clarity and over-communication with your teams about expectations will always make the difference when roadblocks and distractions arise. I hope this checklist is a good starting point for your marketing team and collaboration with an agency this holiday season.
As client partners at Portent, we are constantly looking at the results we drive for our clients. We also talk a lot about fearless accountability for remarkable results. But what happens when the KPIs you’re getting from advertising or analytics platforms don’t tell the full story? Whether it’s attribution bias from on-platform data, or a shortcoming in modeling the fully loaded cost of a sale, it’s a roadblock to measuring what’s actually working for our clients, and it’s a problem that requires critical thinking and constant vigilance.
Similarly, as analytics and ad platforms struggle with how much data they can and should share, we’ll see places where they come up short in explaining acquisition paths, user behavior, etc.
Here are a few recent examples I hope you can apply in your own work, and use to think about where else to bring a critical eye to your raw conversion and cost data.
Questioning Google Search Console’s Reliability? Confirm with a Third-Party Tool
I recently asked some other smart folks at Portent about cases where data or reporting was leading our clients astray. Zac Heinrichs, our SEO Team Lead, shared a situation he encounters quite often in Google Search Console’s data being unreliable.
While Google Search Console (GSC) provides insight into what Google has crawled and seen on your site, their crawl is often not as up to date as the live version of the site. For example, GSC may insist that 500 URLs are broken on your site when you know for a fact that they’ve been fixed.
Also misleading is GSC’s inclusion of any external link to the site, whether it is an actual page or not. For instance, if someone types the wrong spelling of their blog’s URL, Search Console will include that in their output of links to your site. Zac laments that Search Console provides “all the things they found wrong with your site across all of space and time.” This creates a problem, especially for larger sites, in filtering the erroneous, non-broken pages.
However, Zac explains that “the onus isn’t on Google Search Console” to update their data and make our lives easier. Instead, he insists on balancing this free service with insights from other tools that have fresher data. Using a combination of SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz will give you more accurate data, as well as different angles from which you can assess and cross-check your site.
Often, our clients come to us unable to understand why their website isn’t being indexed. While search engine spiders eventually reach their crawl budget and move on, it will happen even quicker if your site structure looks like this:
Your first inclination may be to open Google Analytics to diagnose the issue. But remember it’s Google’s crawler that has figuratively thrown its hands in the air and accepted defeat. In this scenario, Google Analytics isn’t going to provide a lot of useful information, since you’re working with partial data by virtue of the original crawlability problem.
Log Files To The Rescue
Instead consider accessing your website’s log files. Thorough, if not obsessive, log files record everything that happens on your site. When Google has long given up on your website, log files are there. First time reading log files? Read Ian Lurie’s guide to decoding log files.
During my first log file analysis with our SEO team I wondered: why don’t we use these more often? Why are they so underutilized? I realized that in an industry that values speed of execution, accuracy sometimes comes in a not so close second. I like to think of log files as the tortoise in The Tortoise and The Hare, where slow and steady wins the race.
Facebook Lead Costs and Quality – Consider a Manual or Offline Cost Reconciliation
Enough harping on Google, let’s pick on Facebook.
A caveat: this is really a parable about taking stock of lead quality. And a caution that as marketers we need to consider how much time and money it takes to convert leads into customers, rather than simply following the scoreboard of converted leads on any platform.
Alex DeLeon, Director of Search & Social at Portent shared a recent example where our team was initially misled by eCPA data on a Facebook lead gen campaign, in a way that could’ve led to a lot of waste if left unchecked.
The Scenario: Alex and his team built a lead-generation funnel for a client, advertising primarily through social media. The team identified three basic levels of lead readiness or quality, that mapped roughly to where they were in the customer journey and how much information the lead provided during an initial conversion:
Lead (a user who simply clicked on the ad through to our client’s website)
Qualified Lead (a user who provided their name and e-mail address)
Phone-Qualified Lead (a user who overtly requested to be contacted by a representative)
Using Facebook data to assess the costs for leads at each level allowed the team to play with optimizing their spend to drive the highest number of leads and converted customers at the lowest cost.
Initial Lead Cost / Conversion Rate to Paying Customer = Effective Cost Per Acquisition
Intuitively this seems sound and should look familiar to any marketer that’s evaluated the trade-off of adding more or less required fields to a form for conversion rate optimization, for instance.
What the team and the client nearly failed to build into the model in this case was that while Facebook was providing the true cost per acquisition of each type of lead, the landed lead cost was inflated by inside sales team fees and the cost to actually speak with a representative. It wasn’t simply that a smaller percentage of lower-intent users were going on to purchase. It actually cost the company significantly more to convert each one.
The solution was to work more closely with the client to manually pull and report the landed lead cost, rather than relying on technically accurate but misleading platform data. Ultimately this story did have a happy ending and the client’s running lead generation on social to this day. However, Alex admits they were so confident in Facebook’s abilities that they didn’t question the data at first glance.
Looking back personally, I realize that beyond building my digital marketing foundation, the training I went through for platforms like Google and Facebook built a strong sense of loyalty to these companies. (Turns out content marketing might really work!) When I needed guidance on industry changes, I looked to Google’s most recent update. When I needed performance insights, I went to Google Analytics without hesitation. While these and other platforms provide valuable training and line of sight, they aren’t the infallible source of truth that they’re often taken for.
To be clear, I’m not telling you to stop using these platforms or their analytics altogether. I’m simply recommending you put down the Kool-Aid, explore some other options, and sanity-check your lead gen cost models to make sure they tell the whole story of customer acquisition cost.
Hello fine friend. I can tell from the cut of your jib that you are a digital marketer to be reckoned with. In fact, I’m sure you already know what I’m about to tell you but it bears repeating: Start tracking your phone calls.
No, not in the creepy, NSA, guy-hiding-in-the-bushes way. In the “I care about which parts of my marketing are actually paying off” way.
You’re driving amazing traffic to your site, right? Average time on site going up steadily? Good! Visitors are navigating to five additional pages? Killer. The bounce rate is super low? Nailed it.
And you’re tracking the heck out of everything on both your site and your digital advertising? Perfect.
Heck, you might even have click-to-call conversions tracked via AdWords’ free tools already. Maybe you shouldn’t even bother reading on… But I’ll warn you that I was in a similar position with a very large client recently, and there’s another important layer of call tracking that you need to consider.
If you’re not tracking phone calls from desktop searches, or any other situation where a user can’t or simply won’t click to call you directly, there’s a potentially massive gap in your online to offline visibility and attribution.
Sure, most websites have more mobile than desktop visitors these days but tracking only direct click-to-call (i.e. mobile sessions that end in a phone number click) could still leave you without clear attribution for a huge chunk of your visitors who go on to convert by phone.
CallRail and Desktop Call Tracking
Whether you’re a lean operation with a couple of cellphones and a mobile workforce, or a much bigger outfit, CallRail can help.
Disclaimer before we go on: I’m not a CallRail employee. Nor a guest-author. Nor a brainwashing victim. And CallRail’s contributed “nothing” to this post, other than giving us killer visibility for several great clients.
IVR and More
To start, CallRail is extremely robust in its ability to take over your old telephony system, and it features some pretty robust IVR functionality. I’ll spare you the full details and share a few highlights.
Depending on your situation and needs, it could literally replace your entire legacy phone system. You can also send SMS messages from within the platform, if that’s a way that your customers and prospects like to be contacted. Ring groups and round-robin distribution is here as well.
These are just the start though and the foundation for greater things. You might not even need these functions, but trust me, you will want the call tracking.
Dynamic number insertion is where things really start to get interesting.
Depending on your setup and needs, you can simply keep track of the last channel by which a client hit your site. Direct vs Organic vs Paid vs Social, are table stakes, and they’re all there. But if you’re tracking longer paths through your online presence to figure out what’s really working hard for you and what’s not, channel contribution is just the start.
Are desktop users who come in via certain paid ads more likely to convert if they see certain content and then pick up the phone? Is a certain path through the site causing people to get confused and call for clarification?
Wouldn’t it be great to actually know that?
So how does call-tracking actually work?
To start, your standard phone number will be replaced with one generated by CallRail that’s is either tied to a unique user or to a campaign. As an example, when a visitor makes it to your site via a paid ad, they’ll see a totally custom phone number to call, instead of your main business number.
When a user calls this number, the call-tracking provider captures and saves the user’s caller ID along with basics like the acquisition channel. Within the CallRail system, you’ll see things like call duration, channel, etc. You can enter notes about the chat or ultimately just mark the call disposition, not unlike a more complete CRM system.
If a company did nothing but use CallRail to track calls, originating digital channel, and outcome they’d have a lot of information at their fingertips. However, for more sophisticated marketers, there are a number of complementary systems and integrations that make CallRail or call-tracking a must-have.
One of the beautiful things about CallRail and call-tracking is the slew of integrations for digital marketers.
At the risk of being preachy: AdWords and Analytics are the very first things you should integrate. Do not wait. It’s too easy and too valuable to spend a second without this done. These integrations allow us to get beyond simple channel contribution into things like which exact keywords drove successful sales calls from AdWords or actions on your site.
Here’s a quick overview on how you might set up tracking to identify high-value keywords that lead to the conversion. Page level insight is a little tougher to do withoout an analytics team, but it’s absolutely worth looking into depending on your resources and priority.
You also can integrate call-tracking with just about any major marketing platform or CRM out there. Salesforce, HubSpot, and Marketo are just a few of the bigger names that offer native integrations. Rather than making this post a novel, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the linked documentation on what each of these integrations offer for putting together a better view of your customer, within your “single source of truth” platform, and kicking off the right kind of follow-up activities.
I can tell you from direct and repeated experience that if you’re stopping your call tracking with just the free tools within AdWords (i.e. mobile click-to-call), you’re leaving insight and probably a decent amount of money in missed optimization on the table.
Very simply: complete call-tracking leads to a better, more intelligent view of your customer. It leads to measuring the efficacy of your campaigns more completely. It allows you to make better-informed decisions.