Two questions (something for everyone)

Posted by Dave CollinsAnalytics, SEO

Recently, I asked our Google Demystifier subscribers for any Google-related questions you may have that could help your business in 2019.

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect in terms of quantity or quality. No offence intended.

But I’ve been blown away. They sent some great questions my way, and choosing which to use has been bordering on hellish. Bearing in mind that the whole cereal or toast thing in the morning challenges me on a daily basis.

So to try to make sure that everyone gets some value from this idea, I’ve selected two questions. One aimed at the beginner level, and one at the next level up.

We’ll be answering more of your questions in future emails, but I think that these are a good starting point, and contain ideas and strategies that everyone could benefit from.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that these ideas could have a profound effect on how you use your website and how you assess your marketing efforts.

So let’s do it.

“For someone starting out, what things are crucial to getting my website out there?”

This question came from someone who just wanted to be referred to as Tiffany Lloyd. I assume that’s her name then.

This is the sort of beautifully simple question that can lead on to some very interesting ideas.

So I’ll start with some of the things that you should avoid doing at all costs.

  • Nothing
  • Everything
  • Signing up for a system
  • Waiting to be discovered
  • Signing up for an $$$ tool
  • Anything with a steep learning curve
  • Anything so complex that it will realistically take almost a year to begin

In terms of what you should be doing, the answer is a little more involved than you might expect.

The first step is often overlooked and is an extremely useful exercise.

Ask yourself the following two questions:

Who do you want to come to your website?

What do you want them to do when they get there?

And don’t think you can get away with “everyone” and “buy my stuff“.

Think about it a little.

As an example, for our own website, I want to attract businesses willing to invest in getting more traffic from Google.

And once these enlightened people arrive on our website, I’d like them to (1) be impressed by who we are and what we do and (2) be interested in pursuing how we might work together.

Why is this so important?

Some of our competitors have decided that the best way to attract new customers is to write a lot of blog posts. So they focus primarily on creating large quantities of targeted content.

You might also have competition like this. If so, then you should celebrate.

The problem with writing lots of content and relying on organic traffic is that it’s almost impossible to write content that will target your customers with any degree of precision.

For example, one of our most popular blog posts of 2018 was AdWords is too expensive.

Of the thousands of people who landed on that page from a Google search, how many do you think fell into my “who do you want to come” category?

In other words, how many were people who wanted to spend money on getting more traffic from Google?

Almost none. Most were simply looking for ways to reduce their AdWords spend.

And as far as I can tell, none of them were looking for someone to handle their AdWords account for them.

In order to achieve our idea of who we attract and what they do once they discover us, we needed to define a number of avatars for our perfect visitors, and do whatever we could to impress and engage with them.

And this strategy works. But just writing an endless deluge of blog posts and spending days each week optimising them probably wouldn’t.

Another example. I have a friend who’s an electrician.

One of the many things that makes him different from his competition is that his website is a fantastic example of great marketing.

He knows exactly who he’s targeting. And he knows exactly what he wants them to do when they arrive.

So as well as doing the whole empathy thing, he impresses, reassures, talks to and dazzles anyone who comes to his website. Which is why his business is thriving.

So to go back to the question, the first step crucial to getting your website out there is knowing precisely who you want to come to your website.

The second step is knowing precisely what you want them to do when they get there.

The third step is to make it easy and compelling for them to do it. So if you want them to pick up the phone and call you, there should be buttons and numbers urging them to do so all over every single main page.

The fourth step is to identify the best options for getting as many of those visitors to your website as possible.

My electrician friend, Andy, wisely worked out that when somebody needs an electrician because their fuse keeps tripping, they’re not going to start Googling for inspiration on how to diagnose and fix the problem themselves.

(Actually, I probably would, but I’m an idiot, so he’s not targeting me.)

Andy then realised that many or all of us at some point have had an electrician who’s been unreliable, left a mess or left us wondering whether we’ve been misled or even lied to. So he tackled all of these reservations head-on.

Before you start working on how to get your website out there, take a few minutes to decide what exactly you want it to do, and how you’re going to do it.

Once you’ve done that, you’re in a far better position to decide how to attract them. Word of mouth, Google AdWords, SEO, print ad, networking, content and so on.

Time to move on to the next question.

Getting clever with Google Analytics Goals

“One of your suggested questions is something I’ve been wondering about for a while, so thought I’d ask.

We don’t sell directly from our website but keep reading about the importance of Goals in Analytics. What would you recommend?

We sell through Eventbrite. What use are Goals to me if all it can tell me is whether users are arriving at the ‘Register’ page on our website, not whether they’re clicking the link and proceeding to pay for a ticket?”

This was asked by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.

Goals are a personal irritant of mine. I’ll explain why, and you can decide if this rings any bells for you.

Most of the companies whose accounts I look at haven’t even set up Goals in Analytics.

Setting up goals in Analytics

They either don’t know how to do it or think that goal setting is too technical. This is a big mistake. I’ll show you how easy it can be shortly.

As for the minority of companies, those who have set up goals in Analytics, most unfortunately make a number of common mistakes.

The first is that they track the wrong things. I’ll explain what I mean by that in just a moment, but for now rest assured that this can be a dangerous and costly mistake to make.

The second is that they track incorrect data. Guess what? This too can be dangerous and costly.

And the third is that even if their goals are sound and accurate, they invariably get neglected and ignored. This isn’t necessarily dangerous, but a neglected goal serves no purpose. Even when the information they contain is valuable.

How the wrong goal can be deadly.

A fairly common goal to track might be the number of form-fills.

AnExampleSite.com gets around 100-200 people a day coming to their website. They sell training events.

They’re not so interested in the number of visitors who come to their website, as they understand that targeted visitors is all that really matters.

So they set a goal for anyone who fills in their “how to tell good training from bad – free ebook” form.

After a few months of collecting data, they see that around 60% of their form fills weren’t tracked, 30% came from Google organic searches, and 10% from paid ads.

They decide that the paid ads are costing them too much, and instead, they should invest time and money into some good old-fashioned SEO.

AnExampleSite have made a not-so-beautiful series of big mistakes here.

They’ve assumed that all form fills are equal. That everyone filling in the form might be interested in their training courses.

They haven’t taken into account that they will include businesses, competition, personal trainers, coaches, students, college lecturers, teachers, weirdos who just sign-up for things because they’re free and more.

They’ve also made the classic mistake of assuming that if STRATEGY A works, two times STRATEGY A will produce two times the results.

Whereas in reality, simply getting more organic traffic won’t necessarily produce more organic conversions. Why? Because organic traffic is difficult to target with any degree of precision.

But their biggest mistake is that believing that most of their actual event signups fill out the form at all.

In fact less than a quarter do so. The rest explore their website, discuss it with their colleagues, email AnExampleSite directly or simply pay for one of their training days.

By relying on the wrong goal, they run the risk of focusing on the wrong areas and potentially watching their sales drop to worrying levels.

How incorrect data can commit bloody & violent murder.

Resisting the temptation of further hyperbole, I’ve seen so many companies strangle themselves with this issue.

Here’s a very simple example.

Let’s say that someone in your business goes looking for time tracking software. They look into a few options, one of which involves clicking on your ad. They eventually speak to one of their colleagues about their findings, who then goes and sets up a trial.

She’s so impressed that she immediately tells her finance person to pay for a year’s subscription.

Person 1 could have a cookie on their system to track where they came from. But when he speaks to person 2, there’s nothing to link the two of them together. And when person 3 pays, there’s no hint whatsoever that they came from one of your AdWords clicks.

I wrote a blog post on this, AdWords conversion tracking is broken, to address this issue in more detail, but the simple fact is that basing decisions on flawed tracking can be costly, dangerous and all-out bad.

If I had a dollar for every business I’ve seen shoot themselves in both feet with incorrect data, I would have a lot of dollars. See, I resisted the hyperbole.

So what should you track?

There isn’t a generic one size fits all approach to tracking, but a good rule of thumb is to try and keep the data as clean and accurate as possible, with minimal contamination through speculation.

Analytics gives you an impressive number of options, but some of the more interesting are hidden away.

The standard “I already know about this” options:

Goal tracking in Google Analytics

But if you click on the Custom option near the bottom, this is where it starts to get quite interesting:

Cool & funky goal tracking in Google Analytics!

You can choose a destination, duration, pages/screens per session or an event.

In other words, you can set up a goal for anyone who’s spent more than 3 minutes on your website, or visited more than 5 pages, or watched one of your videos and more.

Time spent can be a great performance indicator.

This is meaningful and actionable information.

Of course, it isn’t 100% watertight. The person who visited eight pages could have been bored at work and looking for a distraction. And the person who spent more than five minutes may have wandered off to the toilet. (Bathroom if you’re from the US or like peeing in the shower.)

But if you think through what would count as a probably engaged visitor, then this should be far more accurate than mere form-fills.

Check the options (what you can track) then work out what makes the most sense for your business (what you should track).

Tracking can be an extremely useful guidance and diagnostic tool, but can also sabotage your marketing if you get it wrong.