How to Choose The Right PPC Agency

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The following article was provided by Neil Patel.

In 2017, PPC advertisers invested over $10 billion dollars

If you stacked that many $100 dollar bills on top of each other, you’d have a nearly seven-mile tall tower of money. So, that’s a TON of money. 

But year after year, global ad spend across every major PPC channel is growing even higher. 

Source: Statistica

And this explosive growth isn’t happening for no reason. 

It’s happening because PPC works. It’s the classic “spend money to make money” model. From social media to paid search, PPC is a smart way to see quick results. 

But that’s only true if you know what you’re doing. 

Which… is where an experienced PPC agency comes in. They spend countless hours experimenting and learning everything there is to know so you don’t have to. 

So if you’re looking to hire an agency to create and manage your PPC campaigns but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in the right place. In this article, I cover:

  • What to look for in a PPC agency
  • How to work with them for maximum results
  • Steps to finding the right agency
  • My top five recommendations

Let’s dive in!

Know your goals and desired outcomes

PPC campaigns exist for a wide variety of reasons. And it’s crucial to have a clear picture of what you hope to achieve before you go through the process of finding the right PPC agency. 

Without this essential set of information, you’ll have a hard time making an educated decision. 

So before you get started, sit down with your team and set clear goals and expectations. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but it’s good to understand this from the get-go. 

Your goals may include:

Right now, you need to set an overall goal for your next campaign. Understanding your expectations makes it easier to communicate what you’re after and ensures everyone’s on the same page. 

The idea is to reach a high-level agreement on why you want to hire a PPC agency. 

You should also consider the level of participation you want to have throughout the process. Do you want to be super hands-on, or are you hoping for someone to completely take over? 

Lastly, don’t worry about the finer details just yet. You can work through the specific metrics and KPIs you want to measure later when you actually sit down with your new PPC partner. 

7 characteristics that make a great PPC agency

Now you have a crystal clear picture of your goals, expectations, and level of participation. So it’s time to start talking about what characteristics to look for. 

Not all PPC agencies are equal. Some excel at specific advertising types, while others specialize in creating excellent customer experiences across every platform. 

One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. 

So use these characteristics as a baseline for creating a list of viable options. They’ll help you narrow your choices down to those PPC agencies that are worth every penny. 

From there, you can sit down with them before making a final decision. 

Let’s get started!

1. They value data, analytics, and results

PPC is an exciting form of digital marketing because you can directly tie revenue generated to ad spend. So data and analytics are crucial to the success of future campaigns. 

The best PPC agencies understand how to use numbers to strategize new ideas that improve your overall ROI. They use what they already know and what they learn about your target market to develop high-yield campaigns. 

Furthermore, they also understand the importance of collecting as much information as possible as well as sharing that data with you. 

If it’s not clear on their website, be sure to ask questions to help you gauge this before working together. You can ask things like:

  • What tools do you use to measure essential PPC metrics?
  • Will you actively share data and results with us?
  • Do I have independent access to analytics and reporting?
  • Is a full analytics report included with your offer? 
  • If so, what do you include in those reports?

2. Strategic partnerships and first-party data sources

The longer you’re in business, and the more campaigns you run, the more first-party data you gather about your specific audience and how they behave. 

But the best PPC agencies have an extensive database of their own first-party data as well. 

Furthermore, they know how to use it to predict your audience’s buying behavior based on similar industries and past clients. And they may also connect with first-party data sources to tap into their pool of information as well. 

Aside from data, smart agencies partner with leading search and social media platforms. Partners are the first to know about new changes and updates.

This means they’re ahead of the game when things change. 

Which… seems to happen by the second. So, these strategic partnerships give PPC agencies in-depth insight non-partners don’t have. 

Look for indications of this on their website or ask about it if you’re unsure. 

3. Knowledge of local search

82% of smartphone users turn to search engines to find businesses close to them. They use phrases like “near me” to decide where to eat lunch, go shopping, and find entertainment, among other things as well. 

Furthermore, 76% of those searches lead to an in-store visit on the same day. 

Source: Think With Google

So, local search isn’t something your business can afford to ignore if you want to drive foot traffic to a physical location. 

Whether you use your business to sell products or meet with clients, it’s crucial to show up in search results at the right time. 

Make sure to choose an agency with a strong knowledge of local search (both paid and organic). You may not be able to find this information on their website, so be sure to ask questions. 

During your first call, it may help to ask things like:

  • How do you approach local paid search objectives? 
  • Can you share any local PPC results you’ve produced for similar businesses? 
  • We want to reach our local community. Can you tell me a bit about how that works? 
  • How do you measure the success of location-based keywords?
  • Do you use bid modifiers for location-specific queries?

4. Strong mobile optimization capabilities

Mobile devices account for over half (53%) of clicks on search ads. The era of designing creatives and writing copy for desktop first… is over.

It’s more important than ever before for PPC ads to be easily accessible on devices of all sizes. 

And the world of mobile optimization is tricky, especially when combined with ever-changing search and social algorithms. So it’s crucial to hire a PPC agency that knows how to tackle this transition to on-the-go browsing. 

Some agencies may highlight this as a feature on their website, while others may not. So be sure to ask questions during your initial phone calls to ensure they know their stuff. 

To gauge this, you can ask things like:

  • Can you share any mobile-specific results for previous campaigns? 
  • What’re your thoughts on designing PPC ads for mobile rather than desktop?
  • Do you provide mobile-optimized copy and display ads, or suggestions to improve them?
  • Do you leverage bid modifiers for mobile devices?

5. They focus on the right PPC channels

Whether you’re interested in search, social, programmatic, shopping, or multi-channel PPC campaigns, it’s essential to find a PPC agency specializing in the platforms you want to use. 

There’s no right or wrong marketing channel. But it does depend on your end goal. 

Some agencies may only manage search campaigns while others may consult, design, and manage paid social media campaigns. No two campaigns are alike, nor are two PPC agencies. 

So first, you have to understand what you’re looking for. 

What channels are you considering? Do you need help with design or ad copy as well? Maybe you want a collaborative project, or perhaps you prefer entirely hands-off.

Decide what you need and expect from a PPC agency and use that to guide your decision. 

Be sure to sare your expectations and goals during your first meeting to ensure they’re a good fit. 

6. Impeccable keyword research

The quickest way to see a return on your investment is by targeting commercial-intent (transactional) keywords. People searching for things like “Buy iPhone X” or “best web hosting services” are ready to buy. 

But making more money isn’t the only goal behind PPC advertising. Maybe you want to grow your email list to add more leads into your sales funnel. Or raise brand awareness. Or drive traffic to help increase ad revenue. 

Regardless of the end goal, your PPC agency must understand your campaign’s purpose and help you choose appropriate keywords to target. 

This isn’t something you can usually find on their website. So you’ll have to do some digging. 

Here are some great questions to ask during your first call:

  • How do you decide what keywords to focus on?
  • What keyword research tools do you use?
  • Can you tell us about your keyword strategy for a similar business? 
  • What metrics do you use to decide if a keyword is performing well?

7. Well-versed in all things digital marketing

PPC advertising doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

It’s usually a small piece of a broader digital marketing strategy

And the best PPC agencies know this and work to create effective campaigns and PPC strategies to support your high-level business goals. 

Sure, PPC requires strong keywords that target the right audiences. But it goes much further than that as well. 

Great agencies understand the big picture and oftentimes can help improve other pieces of your digital marketing system because they’re great marketers themselves. 

How to work with a PPC agency

Now you know what to look for in a PPC agency. 

But if you’ve never worked with one before, you may feel unsure of what to expect going into your new partnership. And there are several things you can do as a client to enhance the overall experience. 

Doing these things helps put both your business and your agency in a strong position for success. 

Set clear goals and communicate your expectations

We talked about this briefly at the beginning of this article, but I want to come back to it again because it’s so important. 

Your goals and expectations set the stage for the rest of your partnership. 

It’s critical to understand your goals and communicate them with your PPC agency. The best agencies use your goals and expectations to develop a strategic plan that works well for both of you. 

So if you’re hesitant or unsure of what you’re after, sit down with your team and revisit this. And make sure you know how to communicate what you want. 

Gather and share data from past campaigns

Any first-party data you have can significantly impact the outcome of future campaigns. 

Think back to previous partnerships or campaigns you’ve run and gather that information into a clean and easy-to-understand report. 

Then, share it with your agency. 

Hard data is the best way for them to learn more about your audience’s attributes and behaviors as well as what worked, what didn’t, and why. 

This way, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start their research from scratch. 

Choose one point of contact

To avoid confusion, choose one central point of contact for communications from your agency. This ensures there are no miscommunications or wasted time from several people managing that relationship. 

You can certainly have a team working on the project but limit communications to one person. 

It also helps simplify things for your agency as well. They always know who to talk to, and they don’t have to worry about waiting too long for your response. 

Be prepared for advice and suggestions

PPC agencies are excellent at what they do, so it’s essential to listen to their advice and suggestions. This could be advice on improving your home page for conversions or redesigning landing pages to increase sales. 

Perhaps it’s a suggestion to improve your ad copy or headline. 

Always remember they’re the experts, and you hired them for a reason — they know their stuff. So take the time to listen and keep an open mind throughout the process. 

Ask all the questions you need to ask

There’s no such thing as a stupid question. And there’s no such thing as too many questions, either. If you’re unsure or confused about anything, the best thing to do is ask. 

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing, but there is something wrong with not asking about it. 

This helps you learn, and it also helps clear up any confusion about the project. You can rest easy every day, understanding the hows and whys of your campaign. 

How to find the right PPC agency for you

There are hundreds (if not more) of PPC agencies to choose from. And choosing the right one is often the hardest part of getting started. 

But the best PPC agencies for you specialize in the types of campaigns you’re interested in. They should also have in-depth knowledge of your specific industry. These characteristics combined help pave the way for the best results. 

It may also help to make a list of your expectations and requirements before starting your search. 

From there, list the companies you’re considering. Be sure to include:

  • Their specialty areas
  • What makes them stand out to you
  • Why they seem like a good fit
  • Pricing if it’s available online
  • Any negatives about their business

Then you can use your requirements and expectations to cross off agencies that don’t match what you need. Lastly, schedule a call with the remaining agencies on your list. 

This is your chance to interview them just as much as it’s their chance to interview you. 

So ask all your questions and take notes throughout the meeting so you can come back to them when making a final decision. 

The 5 top PPC agencies

Now you know what to look for, what to expect, and how to decide. 

Here are my top PPC agency recommendations for different business types and sizes to kick off your search. 

1. Neil Patel Digital — Best multi-channel PPC company

At NPDigital, we leverage our first-party data and search partners to create multi-channel campaigns designed to meet potential customers wherever they hang out online. 

Furthermore, we focus on using data to design an excellent customer experience regardless of how and where they interact with your brand. 

And now more than ever, consumers are researching before they buy. 

We care about giving shoppers the content and information they need to make informed decisions, all while helping you conquer your PPC goals. 

From paid search and social media to Amazon and shopping ads, your PPC campaigns are in good hands. 

2. Loud Mouth Media — Best small agency in the UK

Hiring a partner close to your time zone can have a massive impact on the type of communication you have as well as how long it takes to get a response. 

If you’re in Europe or the UK, Loud Mouth Media is an excellent small PPC agency serving big clients like Volvo and BBC, as well as small businesses around the world. 

And there’s a reason Loud Mouth Media’s won the “Best Small PPC Agency” in the UK two years in a row — they’re phenomenal at what they do. 

With the data and results to back it up. 

Plus, they’re Google, Bing, and Facebook partners, so Loud Mouth Media is an excellent choice if you’re interested in those channels. 

3. Stryde — Best for eCommerce and B2C businesses

If you’re a B2C business or running an eCommerce store, Stryde is a superb choice because they specialize in eCommerce digital marketing for businesses of all sizes.

Furthermore, the B2B and B2C industries couldn’t’ be more different when it comes to PPC. 

And there’s no one better to strategize and manage your product-focused campaigns than an agency that solely works with eCommerce and B2C businesses. 

Plus, they have an extensive portfolio of case studies that prove they’re great at what they do. 

4. KlientBoost — Best for landing page design + management services

PPC ads drive traffic, and landing pages (typically) convert that traffic into revenue or leads.

So it’s no surprise that landing page design and optimization are crucial to successful PPC campaigns regardless of your industry and business type. 

If you don’t have an in-house designer or struggle with creating conversion-focused landing pages, KlientBoost is an excellent PPC partner for your business. 

Aside from PPC and social media management, they also specialize in designing new landing pages and optimizing existing ones to help you reach and exceed your PPC goals. 

Their in-house team of designers and developers is ready to help you craft excellent customer experiences from their first click to their last. 

5. Directive Consulting — Best for SaaS and B2B businesses

B2B businesses and SaaS tools face their own set of unique challenges when it comes to PPC campaigns. After all, you’re targeting other businesses… not individuals. 

So you need a PPC strategist and partner that understands how to overcome those challenges. 

Directive Consulting specializes in helping software companies conquer every marketing channel from paid search and shopping ads to SEO and CRO

Whether you’re looking solely for PPC or interested in an entire digital marketing plan from one of the top agencies around, Directive is a fantastic choice. Plus, they offer digital marketing education, and they have a pool of first-party SaaS data you can tap into. 

You + the right agency = reliable results

Choosing the best PPC agency for your business is just as important as crafting the perfect copy, designing eye-catching creatives, and publishing conversion-focused landing pages. 

There’s no doubt you have a powerful message and life-changing products for the right audience. Plus, you owe it to them to put it in front of them when they need it. 

The right PPC agency helps you do just that while helping you generate more leads, make more money, and get more eyes on your brand. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. 

The good news is that you now know what to look for throughout the process. So next time you’re looking for your dream PPC agency, use the tips, tricks, and characteristics we talked about. 

And remember: an excellent PPC partner and reliable results can make a world of difference for your business. You deserve it and your customers do too. 

What do you look for when hiring a PPC agency?

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Reporting on Ranking Changes with STAT’s Google Data Studio Connectors

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Since Moz released the new Google Data Studio Connectors for STAT, you might be wondering how to best implement them for your reporting strategy. My colleagues at Path Interactive and I absolutely love how granular you can get with your reports in STAT, and finally having the ability to cleanly and effectively pull those reports into Data Studio (the tool we use for our own reporting) is a godsend.

While the Historical Keyword Rankings connector reports on rank over time, it may not be as obvious how to report on rank change over time. In this post, I’ll give you step-by-step guidance on how to report on rank change — as well as a couple other filtering and reporting tips — while using the connectors within Google Data Studio.

If you aren’t a STAT user yet but you want to know how it might fit into your SEO toolkit, you can take a tour of the product. Click on the button below to set one up!

Learn More About STAT

Connecting your data source

Before you begin, you need to identify a few things to set up the connector: your STAT Keyword API Key, the Project ID, and your Site ID. If you don’t already know how to identify these via the STAT API, you can head over to STAT’s documentation here to learn more. After you’ve identified these, it’s time to connect your data source.

We’re going to be doing something a little out of the ordinary here, but stay with me — you’ll see why in just a second!

For this step, we’ll be connecting two instances of the same source. Because our goal is to compare rank change over time, we’ll use the same source twice to identify those deltas.

When setting up your connector, be sure to name the source something that you’ll easily recognize:

In my case, I usually go with something simple such as “[client name] STAT Keyword Connector.” When this is complete, repeat the step above, but name it something different, e.g. “[client name] STAT Keyword Connector 2.”

Finally, make sure the metrics you plan on comparing have unique names for each connector. To do so, go into your data source. Click on the metric’s name so that you can rename it, and then rename it something unique. For this case we’ll be doing it for “Google Base Rank,” since we’re comparing ranks, but it can also be done for “Google Rank,” if we wanted to compare that. Again, I like to just keep it simple: for the first data source call it “Google Base Rank 1,” and then for the second data source call it “Google Base Rank 2.” When all is said and done, it should look something like this:

Building your table and blending data

Now we’ll start to get a bit more technical. Blending the data of the two connectors lets you compare two instances of rankings against each other. Your final result will produce a table showing the ranks of two given dates, as well as their rank change. The five-step process will look like this:

Blend data of keyword connectors one and twoAdd in your common metrics for the two sources (keyword at the minimum, but you can also add in location, device, market, and search volume)Add in the metric you’d like reported (Google base rank and/or Google rank)Set date rangeApply “No Null” filter

1. Blend data of keyword connectors one and two

The first step here is to blend the two connectors so that you can compare two instances of ranks against each other.

First, you need to create a new report, or go into a report that’s already set up. Next, select your data source. Here you’ll select the first instance of the source that you set up earlier (if you’re starting on a fresh report, it’ll ask you to add a data source immediately). Once selected, click on “Blend Data” underneath the data source on the right hand side of Google Data Studio, seen here:

This will bring you to the Blend Data source tool. From here you select to add another data source, being your second instance of the connector.

2. Add in your common metrics

Once you’ve chosen to blend both connectors, you need to set your metrics. Towards the top, you’ll see “Join keys.” This is in reference to what’s going to be the same for both instances, so here at the minimum, you want to include “keyword.” Feel free to play around here with adding different metrics.

Note: We’ll go over this later, but if you plan on having different graphs filtered by a certain tag or location, make sure to add these in here.

3. Add in the type of rank you want reported

After setting your metrics under “Join keys,” now select the metrics that will be unique for each date. Depending on what you want to compare, under “Metrics” you’ll pick “Google Base Rank,” “Google Rank,” or both. You may also include “Date” here too if you’d like. Once done, click on “SUM” next to the metric name, and change this to “MIN.” You’ll see why in just a moment.

At this point, your blended data should look something like this:

4. Set date range

Now you need to set the two date ranges you’re comparing to each other.

To do this, under the first connection, set your first date: Under “Date Range,” click on “Custom,” then click on the field to select your date. Here you might see that there’s an option for two dates, but for this solution, we’re using the same date for each connector.

In the end, it’ll be something like “Connector 1” selected for the “start date” and “end date” as the first of the month, and for “Connector 2,” the “start date” and “end date” will be the last of the month. This is essentially pulling in the rank for the first instance as well as the second instance, so you can compare the two.

5. Set “No Null” filter

The last step in setting up your blended data is creating a “No Null” filter. When the keyword connector reports on ranks that your site is not ranking for, it will return as “null.” To avoid flooding your data with fluff, you need to create a filter removing instances of “null.”

First, click on “Add A Filter” below where you selected the date range. Next, towards the bottom, click on “Create A Filter.” Set the parameters of the filter as “Exclude” > “Google Base Rank 1 (2)” > “Is Null.” Be sure to name the filter something identifiable such as “No Null.” It should look like this:

Applying rank change to your report

Now you can create a new field that will report on the rank change by making a calculated field to find the difference of the two ranks.

Under dimensions, select “Add Dimension,” and click on “Create Field.” You can name it “Rank Change,” but to create the field, start typing “Google Base Rank,” and you’ll see your instances from each connector come up. To make the calculated field, select your “Google Base Rank 1” and subtract it from “Google Base Rank 2,” so it should look something like this:

Hit apply, and now your rank change should be calculated!

There is also an additional way to get the same result, but with a few drawbacks, such as not being able to name the header, as well as not being able to filter or sort your rank change. The benefit to this approach is that it’s easier to set up initially, as you don’t actually need to blend the data. However, not setting up the blended data will also forfeit having the initial rank visible. When in your edit view, set a custom date range that you’re reporting on under “Default date range.” Here, you can then set a comparison date: if looking back a month, you can set this to the first. If you go with this option, it should look like this:

Head into the “Style” tab, where you can change the comparison to “Show Absolute Change” under “Metrics.” You can also change the colors of your positive and negative arrows to more accurately represent the movement (you can see from above that the “negative” change is a green arrow, this defaults to red).

Using filters

Applying filters to your data set can be extremely beneficial to making sense of your data! Using filters with the connector can help you segment out rankings for a particular location, or create charts that show rankings for a specific keyword group that you’ve set up using keyword tags.

Take a look at this report I set up as an example. Within STAT, I created keyword tags to target locations determined by what zip code they were. Then, I was able to create a filter for each chart targeting that keyword tag:

Setting filters up is extremely simple. First, go into edit mode. Next, scroll down the side until you find “Filter.” Then under Filter > Table Filter, click on “Add a Filter.” This will bring you to the filter picker. Toward the bottom, click on “Create a Filter.” Here you can set the parameters for the filter you’d like to show.

Some of my other favorites include filtering to only show the top few pages (filters out non-relevant and high ranks), using the keyword tag filter like I showed before, and also filtering by location. But you don’t have to stop there! Adding in the additional dimensions available to you in the connector, you can use the filter to show things such as desktop vs. mobile or how your keyword ranking performance does in different markets.

Blending your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and STAT data

One of my favorite uses for the connectors is the ability to blend the data with your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data. By blending this data together, you’re able to directly tie keyword rankings with different metrics, such as clicks or goal completions.

You’re probably a pro at blended data at this point, but just for reference, the data blended should look like this:

A few things to note: it’s important what order you put the connectors in. I’ve found that adding the STAT connector first works best (i.e. if you put Google Analytics first, you’ll get a report with the infamous “not found” keyword). Additionally, to pull in Search Console data in order to match with your other connectors, using “Query” will have the same effect as “Keyword.”

The result would look something like this, but feel free to edit the design how you wish!

Now you can go even further with this and match up URLs, but this will require some RegEx.

You’ll rename the “Google URL” field in STAT and “Landing Page” field in Google Search Console in order to match the URL structure convection within Google Analytics by taking out the domain portion of the URL. To do this, go into your data source for each STAT connector and Google Search Console, and click “Add A Field” in the top right.

Next, enter to following RegEx for the STAT connector:

REGEXP_REPLACE(Google URL, “.*[\.]com”, “”)

And for Google Search console:

REGEXP_REPLACE(Landing Page, “.*[\.]com”, “”)

Remember to name them something to differentiate from the default field. I use “Landing Page (no domain).”

When building a report, use these new fields for consistency across the URL structure so that, when you select them when blending data, they’ll match.

Use this method in the same way as above to get the desired results of pulling in data from across all three connectors to match up with each other! In the end you should be able to find what keyword ranks for what URL, as well as have many sessions or clicks that are brought in as well as goal completions, or any other combination.

Well there you have it! Hope this was helpful to you. If you have any other questions you can comment below or find me on Twitter @ianpfister. Happy reporting!

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Using Website Heat Maps to Understand Customer Behavior

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Whether your goal is reducing cart abandonment on an e-commerce webblog, getting users to respond to a CTA, or simply seeing if blog visitors like your webblog content, including heatmapping as part of your webblog optimization strategy is a simple yet powerful way to analyze user behavior and make data-driven decisions with your web design. Here’s what you need to know about using a heat map on your webblog.

What Is a Heat Map?

A webblog heat map is a data visualization tool that translates user behavior into a graphical representation similar to thermal imaging—the “hottest” areas of your webblog being those receiving the highest engagement and the “coolest” receiving the lowest. Put another way, heat maps can show you which buttons on your webblog users are clicking, which webpages they’re visiting most often, and what parts of those pages they spend the most time looking at, among other things.

What Are the Different Types of Heat Maps?

There are several kinds of webblog heat maps, but the most widely used are click maps, scroll maps, and mouse-tracking heat maps. Each shares the common function of measuring user behavior on a webblog, but they have a few crucial differences.

Click Maps

A click map is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a heat map that shows where users click most frequently on a webblog and its various webpages. This can give you a clear picture of how users engage with your webblog, as well as what prompts and CTAs they find most compelling.

Click maps can also help you identify problem areas with your webblog. If very few users are interacting with a certain CTA, for example, or if their clicks indicate the presence of a bug, broken link, or other blog malfunction, these trends will be recorded on a webblog’s click map.

Scroll Maps

Scroll maps serve to record user behaviors that would indicate problems with the length and format of a webpage. If a user stops scrolling halfway down the page, for example, you can safely assume that this is the point at which they lost interest or had trouble within something on the page. This could be because the page itself is too long or because it’s too difficult to navigate.

Mouse-Tracking Heat Maps

A mouse-tracking heat map, otherwise known as a hover map, is a combination of a click map and scroll map. While the previous two kinds of heat maps hone in on a particular facet of user activity on a webblog, mouse-tracking heat maps measure the bigger picture of how people behave on a webblog.

Mouse heat maps track scrolling, clicking, and even the movement of the mouse itself. This can be valuable in showing web designers and business owners which aspects of a webpage users find most interesting outside of buttons and links alone. Users drawn to a particular image or graphic, for example, might tend to leave their mouse lingering over it.

Why Should You Use a Webblog Heat Map?

Not only does heatmapping provide your business with great customer insights, but it can also help you address serious issues with your web design that may be hindering your business’ performance online.

Collect Customer Data

If your business webblog has an e-commerce component, having customer data that shows you which of your products are clicked on or looked at most can help you make important decisions regarding inventory, sales pushes, and even overall marketing. For example, if you know that certain products tend to drive more sales during certain seasons, you might use that information to create a timely email marketing or paid search campaign.

Improve User Experience

Webblog analytics like Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Session Duration may be useful in telling you how long someone was on your webblog, but heat maps can better explain why they stayed or why they left. If your heat maps show a quick decrease in activity from the information at the top of the page to the bottom, you might have a user experience issue. Maybe the information you’ve provided isn’t what the user was looking for, or you didn’t give them enough direction to keep them moving down the page. You can use heat map data to then make adjustments to your webpages and watch for improved movement on the page afterward.

Help Identify Navigation Issues

Navigation can make or break your webblog. With good navigation, a heat map should show that users are clicking the right menu items that begin their journey into the sales funnel. You can see that they’re moving from top-level information pages to areas where they can request more information or make a purchase. But with bad navigation, there may be a significant drop-off from the homepage and other top-level pages. This could be an indication that you need to change your navigation to provide better guidance for blog visitors so that they know where they can go to take further action on your webblog.

What Are the Best Heat Map Tools?

Heat maps are an inexpensive tool, with many of them being free or having low-cost monthly subscriptions. There are a variety of heat mapping tools available online, but some of the best options are…

Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is possibly the most popular tool for heat map generation. The various heat map options available are all divided by traffic sources, so you can see how visitors coming from platforms across the web interact differently with your blog. Crazy Egg offers simple plans that don’t limit you to usage on a single webblog, so you can use a single Crazy Egg account for any and all of the webblogs you run.


By packaging multiple webblog analytics and conversion tools into one service, HotJar stands out as one of the most effective heatmapping tools available. On top of offering session recordings, funnels, and polls, HotJar also has an easy-to-use dashboard, making it perfect for anyone new to heatmapping.


Optimized for WordPress users, Mouseflow‘s click mapping, scroll mapping, and mouse mapping services make it simple to see how visitors are interacting with your blog. The service includes form analytics, so you can see when and why visitors close out of forms while browsing your webblog. Mouseflow has a free version limited to one webblog with up to 100 recorded sessions, or a paid version that lets you have up to 1,000 recorded sessions on a single blog.

Lucky Orange

A self-proclaimed “all-in-one optimization blog,” Lucky Orange offers click mapping, scroll mapping, and mouse mapping for a low monthly price. In addition to these services, Lucky Orange also gives users access to features like session recording and traffic segmentation. The service also makes it possible to add polls and chat widgets to your blog to promote further customer engagement.


Purportedly one of the simplest heatmapping tools, Heatmap.Me has an intuitive user interface and uses a small string of Java code to record your blog visitors’ behavior without slowing the blog down. Users can install this code on up to five pages for free or a higher monthly rate for use on unlimited webpages. This higher price is partially due to the fact that, unlike other heatmapping tools, Heatmap.Me offers real-time web analytics. In other words, you can see customers interacting with your webblog live.

Looking to add heat maps to your webblog? Hurrdat can help you improve your user experience, navigation, and overall web design. Learn more about our Web Design services and SEO services today!

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4 ways to automate Gravity Forms with Zapier

SEO and General Business tutorials and tips.

This post was shared by MOZ.

Gravity Forms makes it easy to spin up tailored contact forms for WordPress blogs. In minutes, you can configure the options you need, embed a form on your blog, and start getting form submissions.

But Gravity Forms has its limitations as a lead-cultivation tool. Gravity Forms users want to be able to seamlessly capture leads on their blogs, but the value of those leads will decay over time if they’re stuck in Gravity Forms.

With Zapier and a few of these Gravity Forms integrations, you can automatically send form submissions to spreadsheets to track leads, customer relationship tools to manage leads, and lead cultivation apps to convert leads.

Track Gravity Forms submissions

The primary reason you set up a tool like Gravity Forms is to make data collection easy. Without a form submission tool, you’re stuck using a business email address. That means each prospect is manually emailing you, and each email could range from too little information to far too much. On top of that, sorting through each email is a slow, tedious process.

The hands-off nature of form submissions is one of the greatest benefits of using forms. With forms, you can tell prospects exactly what information you need and then sort it by field. Why, then, does it have to become hands-on once the form submissions start flowing in?

Instead, use Zapier to automatically track your Gravity Forms submissions. With these Zaps, you can automatically upload form submissions to your favorite cloud-based storage tools. This makes it easy to sort through the information you receive and offer your entire team easy access.

To get a big-picture view of your Gravity Forms submissions, Zapier can also automatically send form submissions to a spreadsheet. These Zaps will enable you to keep all of the submissions in one place and reference them all at a glance.

Send leads to your CRM of choice

These form submissions first appear as a data-entry problem. Before you use a form tool, you’re stuck sorting through emails. Even after you implement some automation, you can still feel stuck with a whole bunch of form submissions. All together, this data can seem impenetrable and hard to use.

That’s where Zapier comes in.

These form submissions are ultimately prospects, which means you need to get these leads out of Gravity Forms and into a lead-management tool as soon as possible. The sooner they go from anonymous form submissions into relationships you can manage, the faster you’ll turn prospects into customers.

Use these Zaps to automatically add new leads to HubSpot.

Use these Zaps to automatically add new leads to Salesforce.

If you aren’t using a customer relationship management (CRM) app or aren’t using it at this stage in the lead-cultivation process, Zapier can also integrate Gravity Forms with wherever you keep your contacts. Use these Zaps to automatically update your contact lists with new leads from Gravity Forms.

Seamlessly follow up with leads

Follow-ups are more effective when they’re swift.

One of the best ways to impress your prospects is to get back to them quickly, all the while showing you read their form submission and carefully considered the information they input.

Your prospects are likely shopping around. With Zapier and a handful of Gravity Forms integrations, you can ensure that you’re the first to respond.

Use these Zaps to get emails whenever someone fills out a form, so you can follow up as soon as possible.

If you have a field in your form for setting up a meeting, you can use these Zaps to automatically create new events in your calendar when a prospect wants to meet.

Sometimes, your prospects will show interest but will not be ready to make the purchase. Don’t rush them, but don’t forget about them, either. Instead, use a newsletter or an email marketing drip campaign to gradually feed them information they can read asynchronously.

Zapier makes that asynchronous marketing even easier. Use these Zaps to automatically add interested prospects to your newsletter and email marketing campaigns.

Use forms to kick off your work

All this communication and contact management is setting the stage for the real work: Converting interest into purchases.

Gravity Forms makes it easy to gather information, but without automation, it’s hard to act on it. With Zapier, you can automatically start your work, informed by whatever information your prospects left in their form submissions.

Use these Zaps to automatically add form data to your project management apps.

Keep your team in the loop on these burgeoning projects. Use these Zaps to automatically message your team on Slack and SMS when new prospects submit forms.

Gravity Forms integrations make lead generation easier

You’ve put a lot of effort into your lead-generation campaigns. It’s going to take even more effort to cultivate those leads and take them from curiosity to conversion.

Use Zapier to make as many of those steps as automated as possible. You don’t need to spend any of your precious time copying and pasting form data into CRMs, newsletter tools, or project management tools. With Zapier, your data is automatically funneled where it should be so you can focus your attention on the tasks that need it most.

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Here’s What You Should Do When Your Search Rankings Drop

Tutorials and tips on How To Rank My Website.

This article was first published by Neil Patel.

rankings drop

If you’ve ever done SEO, you know how good it feels to see your rankings go up.

You put a ton of hard work into moving up in the SERPs and it finally pays off.

But then the unexpected happens. Your rankings drop.

Few things in SEO are more discouraging than a fall in the rankings. It makes you feel like everything you did was useless.

You wonder what went wrong or if you made a mistake. You beat yourself up for not doing it right.

You’re back to square one again, and you have to start all over.

Or do you?

In my experience, that’s not always the case.

My rankings have dropped more times than I can count. At first, I panicked.

As I learned more, I found out that it’s not the end of the world if you go down a position or two. It’s obviously not ideal, but there’s a lot you can do to fix it.

That’s what I’m going to show you today. Even if your rankings are where you want them to be, you need to be aware of how to bring them back up when they drop (because they will).

Analyze the drop

Before you take action to raise your rankings, you need to track your rankings, ideally on a daily basis so you can see if they are increasing or decreasing.

The reason you want to track your rankings on a daily basis is that Google makes 3200 algorithm changes per year, which is a bit more than 8 algorithm changes per day.

Hence you don’t really have a choice but to track your rankings daily.

So how do you do that?

First, you’ll want to head to the Ubersuggest dashboard and click on “Add Your First Project”.

It’s as simple as adding in your URL.

Then select the locations you do business in and want traffic from.

Then add in the keywords you currently rank for or want to go after.

And of course, set up your traffic preferences. Make sure you select “daily” rank tracking and you turn on mobile rank tracking.

And then you’ll be good to go.

Then you will be notified via email when your rankings go down (or up) as there is no way you are going to have the time to manually check every day.

Or when you log into your Ubersuggest dashboard you’ll see an updated view of your site:

And then when you drill down into your rankings you’ll see a report of what is increasing or decreasing.

Now when looking at your rankings it is normal for them to fluctuate a few spots here or there… but if you see all of your rankings all of a sudden drop, then you know you need to do something.

Did you get penalized?

In most cases, your site has not been penalized and you don’t need to worry about this.

If you didn’t do anything fishy like “buying links” you don’t really need to worry about a penalty.

If you are unsure, read through this list and ask yourself if your site is guilty of any of these SEO sins. If so, identify the problems and take steps to fix them.

Even if you haven’t done anything on that list, you could still have gotten a penalty. Google’s algorithms are updated frequently, and they’re incredibly complex.

They take hundreds of factors into account when considering ranking. One day, your site might not deserve a penalty, and the next, it might.

It’s important to understand the types of penalties: manual and algorithmic.


Manual penalties are given out by Google’s webspam team when they get alerted of suspicious activity.

This could be the result of having unnatural links, or someone could have filed a spam report against you.

If you’ve received a manual penalty, you should have gotten a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s an example of a message about unnatural links:

The other type of penalty is an algorithmic penalty.

These penalties are harder to track because there’s no definitive way of knowing you received one.

To determine if you’ve gotten an algorithmic penalty, you have to understand how Google’s algorithms work.

If you find that you’re doing something an algorithm doesn’t like, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a penalty. But you also have to think about new penalties.

If your rankings dropped randomly, check Moz’s handy directory of Google’s algorithm updates to see if there’s a new one at work.

A new algorithm could be the reason why you’re seeing lower rankings. If that happens, research the algorithm and find out what it’s penalizing.

One cool way to keep track of new penalties (and a bunch of other Google-related stuff) is to follow Gary Illyes, John Mueller, and Google Webmasters on Twitter.

Gary and John, in particular, give out a ton of awesome advice, and you can often find them talking with other Twitter users.

You can even ask them a question directly and get it answered… you may not get a response, but it is worth a shot.

Do you have link problems?

This is a big one.

Think of links as the currency of SEO. It’s essentially how you “gain” authority.

So it’s no surprise that a strong link profile is correlated with high rankings.

The flipside is that a weak link profile is correlated with low rankings.

I spend lots of time working with clients on SEO, and I’ve seen lots of sites that have numerous link problems.

Usually, the business isn’t aware.

That’s because weak links are the silent killer of SEO. That’s why you need to make sure your link profile is robust.

First, conduct a link audit of your site. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that.

For the short version, use a backlink analysis tool like SEMrush Backlink Checker to see where your bad links are.

When you find bad links, contact those sites and nicely ask them to remove the link. If that doesn’t work, use Google’s Disavow tool as a last resort.

However, I’ve found that about 90% of the time, conducting a backlink audit will help you find bad links.

But there’s a problem here. Often, the reasons behind link problems aren’t so obvious.

If your link profile looks okay after an audit, there could still be problems. Here are a few of the issues your link profile could be facing.

Losing links

Did you know you can lose links? Both internal and external links?

It could be the cause of your ranking drop as well.

Yep, you can lose internal links even if it’s to content you already own.

Let’s talk about those first.

If you often relaunch, rebrand, or redesign your site, you may lose some links along the way.

Why does this happen?

It has to do with redirects and transitioning your site over smoothly.

Let’s talk about site transitions first. If you deleted an old blog post, then links to that post aren’t going to work. In turn, this will weaken the internal linking structure of your site and compromise your SEO.

You’ll have one less link, which is removing a part of your internal linking network.

This isn’t optimal because it means two things:

  1. You’ll have to fix the link
  2. You’ll have less content on your site to link to. That’s why I recommend not deleting content unless you absolutely have to. You can always update it.

That’s just one example of a lost link.

Another reason you could lose an internal link is a faulty redirect.

This often happens with 301 redirects. I’ve talked about 301s before, but there’s a unique issue you need to be aware of.

Because a 301 is called a permanent redirect, lots of people assume that the redirect will always work.

But it doesn’t.

Here’s precisely how a 301 redirect works:

If you just set up a new site, you can 301 from the old domain to the new one without a hitch. The issue is when you revamp your site more than once.

That’s because redirects from older versions of a site are rarely passed on to newer ones.

On top of that, if you get a new domain and an older domain expires, it could cause a significant loss in traffic because the 301s will no longer work.

It’s messy.

If you discover a bad 301 giving you problems, you need to fix that.

First, you need to find the target links your 301s are trying to go to.

If those links are dead, you’ll most likely need to remove the link.

You could also put the old content back up or create new content to keep the link on your page. This is a good idea if the page in question gets a lot of traffic.

You need to do what’s best for your visitors. If they’ll miss out on great, comprehensive content, you should make sure that content is still on your site.

You should also check for broken links. You can use a tool like to do this:

Ideally, you want to see no errors:

But if you do see errors, you’ll be able to see the URLs that aren’t behaving correctly:

But what about outbound links? If you find an outbound link that no longer works, just remove it and replace it by linking to another authority site.

Finally, let’s talk about backlinks you’ve gotten from other sites.

Go here and type in your URL.

link growth

If you see your link chart going up and to the right, you are fine. If it is going down, then we have to fix it. For example, using Ubersuggest you can see which sites don’t link to your anymore.

And for those sites, you can use a template like this one to get those links back:

Hi [Name of site owner],

I hope you’re doing well!

You linked to my site a while back, and I want to thank you for that. However, it looks like the link is actually gone.

The link appeared in your [piece of content/page here], but it seems that it’s not there anymore.

Here’s the page on my site you linked to: [Link URL here]

If you could put the link back up, I’d really appreciate it. I’m a big fan of your site, and it’d be my pleasure to return the favor if I can.


[Your name]

Most people will ignore you, but a percentage of the people you email will link back.

Polish up your site

If all else fails, you might need to spend some time improving your site.

I’m talking about design, user experience, and speed. Each of these is integral to a site that performs and ranks well.

I’ll go over each category briefly:


Having a mobile-friendly design is important as there are more searches on mobile devices using Google than there are for desktop.

If you’re not considering mobile users first, you need to start doing that.

Having a mobile-optimized site isn’t as simple as making sure your site is responsive. That’s definitely important, and you should do that, but it’s not enough by itself.

Think about making all of your content mobile-friendly.

There’s one big reason you should focus on this. Google has a mobile-first index. That alone should be more than enough to persuade you to focus on mobile-first design.

You might want to read my article on mobile usability for more information on this.

User experience (UX)

This is another reason why a responsive design is so important.

Your mobile users should have a great experience that’s designed for mobile devices. Similarly, your desktop users should have a great experience that’s designed for desktops.

If your UX is bad either way, you will lose visitors.

If you take a look at the most popular sites in your niche, you’ll notice that 9 times out of 10, they’ll have great UX.

Say you’re in SaaS. Without a doubt, Salesforce is one of the biggest SaaS players in the niche.

And sure enough, their desktop and mobile UX is fantastic.



This is what you should strive for when polishing your own site.


Search engines (and people) love fast-loading pages. In fact, 47% of customers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.

So if your site speed is longer than 2 seconds, you could lose traffic.


Making your site faster is a long-term strategy. You have to monitor your site and make sure nothing’s dragging it down.

Start by adding compression.

Next, make sure your server has adequate speed. It should be no longer than 200 milliseconds.

You can test your site speed by using Ubersuggest’s “Site Audit” feature. Type in your URL and click “Search.”

From there, click “Site Audit” in the left sidebar and scroll down to “Site Speed.” Here’s what you’ll see:

There are tons of factors that can cause slow site speed, so the best way to prevent slowness is to keep your site as lightweight as possible. And Ubersuggest will break down how to do that and what to fix.

As a rule of thumb, if you have anything unnecessary on your site, remove it so your speed is the best it can be.

Don’t forget about content

Through Ubersuggest we track millions of popular sites around the world to get better data insights on algorithm changes.

We know for certain that 641 sites we track are updating old content on a daily basis.

Can you guess how many of them saw a search traffic dip of 10% or more from the last algorithm update?

Only 38! That’s 5.92%, which is extremely low.

What’s crazy, though, is that 187 sites saw an increase in their search traffic of 10% or more.

So make sure you are keeping your old content up to date. Because why would Google want to rank old, stale content, when they can rank something fresh and useful for people?

Another strategy I love to deploy is to expand my content that is already ranking well.

For example, lets say you rank for the term “digital marketing”.

You’ll want to head to Ubersuggest and type in the phrase “digital marketing”. You’ll see a report that looks like this:

From there in the left navigation bar, click on “keyword ideas”.

You should now see a report that looks like:

This will give you a list of keywords that are similar, longer tail terms that also are searched frequently.

If you rank for the main term, it is easy to also rank for the longer tail terms. So make sure you add the relevant ones to your content.

It may seem tedious, but go through 100s if not 1000s of keywords in the keyword ideas report as it will allow you to get quick traffic gains.

When adding in the new keywords into your content, don’t just stuff them in there. It has to flow naturally and make sense for your website visitor.

And if you can’t make it make sense for a particular keyword, don’t do it… put the user first. Remember you are writing for humans, not Google.

Now the strategy I broke down here may seem simple and silly, but it’s one of the big reasons on why I am getting roughly 9 million visitors a month.


Going down a position or two in the rankings happens to the best of us.

It’s even happened to me.

If this happens, don’t panic.

Almost every client I’ve had who’s experienced a loss of rankings got really scared when it happened.

You probably felt this way too. But you don’t need to worry.

You can easily bounce back from a ranking drop.

Don’t believe me? Give these strategies a try. These aren’t just little tips. They’re tried-and-true methods that will help you reclaim your spot on Google.

No one deserves to lose ranking when they have an amazing site that users love. What’s more, it’s easy to fix.

Don’t let the initial shock stop you from getting your ranking back.

So, when was the last time your rankings dropped?

The post Here’s What You Should Do When Your Search Rankings Drop appeared first on Neil Patel.

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Get On Forbes, HuffPost & NYTimes For Free – Module 4 – Lesson 2 – Content Marketing Unlocked

Tutorials and tips on how to rank my site.

This video was provided by Neil Patel.

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How to create a poll in Slack

SEO and General Business tutorials and tips.

This post was shared by MOZ.

There’s no built-in tool for making a Slack poll, but if you want to ask your team a question, there are options.

  1. You can use emoji reactions as a sort of improvised poll.
  2. You can use a third-party tool if you want something more precise.
  3. If you’re going to run detailed surveys with multiple questions, it’s probably best to use an app that runs outside Slack entirely.

Let’s go over all three choices.

If you’re looking to make a poll in Slack, you probably spend a lot of time in there. Check out the best automations for Slack users to take your Slack workflows—polls included—to the next level.

How to do a poll in Slack using emoji reactions

Slack’s built-in reaction feature is perfect for quick polls. Just draft a normal Slack message, then list all of your options alongside emoji. Like this:

A Slack message asking people what time they want to meet. Then emoji with times on them, next to the times written out in words.

Team members can use Slack’s Add reaction feature to vote, or just click on any reactions that are already there.

Click the Add reaction button if your choice isn't there yet

Everyone can vote quickly, plus the conversation can continue below the poll or in a thread.

Poll responses in context, with extra comments below the poll

Slack offers plenty of emoji that work for this out of the box, including the clock ones I used in the screenshots above. You can also create custom emoji in Slack if you want more options—it’s a straightforward process.

Never thought of using emoji for voting? You might be curious to see other ways we use emoji at Zapier. No joke: we depend on emoji to get things done.

How to create a poll in Slack using Polly

Emoji reactions are great for quick questions, but it’s not perfect for all situations. There’s no way to vote anonymously, for example, or to quickly see what percent of team members voted for what.

Happily, there are third-party tools for Slack that offer all of this and more. Here at Zapier, we use Polly, which is free to set up. With it installed, you can quickly make polls inside Slack by typing /polly, followed by your question, in any channel. Do that, and you’ll see some more options:

Getting started with Polly in Slack. You'll have the option to change the question type, who will receive the poll, and more.

You can ask multiple choice questions, as with the emoji method, but you also have options like agree/disagree, numbered responses, and even open-ended responses.

The kinds of questions Polly supports: 1-5, 1-10, Agree/Disagree, Multiple Choice, NPS, Open Ended

You can also make the polls anonymous, if need be. And once you’ve selected your settings, the poll will show up right in your Slack channel.

A poll in Slack using Polly

Everyone can vote by clicking an option—it’s that simple.

The free version of Polly is great for single questions, and there are paid plans if you need to ask more than one thing at a time.

Once you dig in to polls, see what other workflows you can create using Slackbots. Here’s how to build your own Slackbot in five minutes.

For more depth, link to external polls

Emoji are quick, and Polly gives you a little more power, but ultimately any poll that lives inside Slack is going to be just a bit limited. If you really want to create highly customizable polls, you should probably look into something that runs outside of Slack entirely. Check out our list of the best poll apps to learn more about your options; or, if you want to ask multiple questions, try one of the best survey apps. You can always link to your external poll or survey in Slack.

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Let’s Make Money: 4 Tactics for Agencies Looking to Succeed – Best of Whiteboard Friday

Online Marketing tips and tutorials.

The article was 1st posted here:

We spend a lot of time discussing SEO tactics, but in a constantly changing industry and especially in times of uncertainty, the strategies agencies should employ in order to see success deserve more attention. In this popular (and still relevant) Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones discusses four essential success tactics that’ll ultimately increase your bottom line.

Russ also delved into the topic of profitability in his MozCon Virtual presentation this year. To watch his and our other amazing speaker presentations, you can purchase access to the 2020 video bundle here.

Agency tactics

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I am Russ Jones, and I can’t tell you how excited I am for my first Whiteboard Friday. I am Principal Search Scientist here at Moz. But before coming to Moz, for the 10 years prior to that, I was the Chief Technology Officer of a small SEO agency back in North Carolina. So I have a strong passion for agencies and consultants who are on the ground doing the work, helping websites rank better and helping build businesses.

So what I wanted to do today was spend a little bit of time talking about the lessons that I learned at an agency that admittedly I only learned through trial and error. But before we even go further, I just wanted to thank the folks at Hive Digital who I learned so much from, Jeff and Jake and Malcolm and Ryan, because the team effort over time is what ended up building an agency. Any agency that succeeds knows that that’s part of it. So we’ll start with that thank-you.

But what I really want to get into is that we spend a lot of time talking about SEO tactics, but not really about how to succeed in an industry that changes rapidly, in which there’s almost no certification, and where it can be difficult to explain to customers exactly how they’re going to be successful with what you offer. So what I’m going to do is break down four really important rules that I learned over the course of that 10 years. We’re going to go through each one of them as quickly as possible, but at the same time, hopefully you’ll walk away with some good ideas. Some of these are ones that it might at first feel a little bit awkward, but just follow me.

1. Raise prices

The first rule, number one in Let’s Make Money is raise your prices. Now, I remember quite clearly two years in to my job at Hive Digital — it was called Virante then — and we were talking about raising prices. We were just looking at our customers, saying to ourselves, “There’s no way they can afford it.” But then luckily we had the foresight that there was more to raising prices than just charging your customers more.

How it benefits old customers

The first thing that just hit us automatically was… “Well, with our old customers, we can just discount them. It’s not that bad. We’re in the same place as we always were.” But then it occurred to us, “Wait, wait, wait. If we discount our customers, then we’re actually increasing our perceived value.” Our existing customers now think, “Hey, they’re actually selling something better that’s more expensive, but I’m getting a deal,” and by offering them that deal because of their loyalty, you engender more loyalty. So it can actually be good for old customers.

How it benefits new customers

Now, for new customers, once again, same sort of situation. You’ve increased the perceived value. So your customers who come to you think, “Oh, this company is professional. This company is willing to invest. This company is interested in providing the highest quality of services.” In reality, because you’ve raised prices, you can. You can spend more time and money on each customer and actually do a better job. The third part is, “What’s the worst that could happen?” If they say no, you offer them the discount. You’re back where you started. You’re in the same position that you were before.

How it benefits your workers

Now, here’s where it really matters — your employees, your workers. If you are offering bottom line prices, you can’t offer them raises, you can’t offer them training, you can’t hire them help, or you can’t get better workers. But if you do, if you raise prices, the whole ecosystem that is your agency will do better.

How it improves your resources

Finally, and most importantly, which we’ll talk a little bit more later, is that you can finally tool up. You can get the resources and capital that you need to actually succeed. I drew this kind of out.

If we have a graph of quality of services that you offer and the price that you sell at, most agencies think that they’re offering great quality at a little price, but the reality is you’re probably down here. You’re probably under-selling your services and, because of that, you can’t offer the best that you can.

You should be up here. You should be offering higher quality, your experts who spend time all day studying this, and raising prices allows you to do that.

2. Schedule

Now, raising prices is only part one. The second thing is discipline, and I am really horrible about this. The reality is that I’m the kind of guy who looks for the latest and greatest and just jumps into it, but schedule matters. As hard as it is to admit it, I learned this from the CPC folks because they know that they have to stay on top of it every day of the week.

Well, here’s something that we kind of came up with as I was leaving the company, and that was to set all of our customers as much as possible into a schedule.

Annually: we would handle keywords and competitors doing complete analysis.Semi-annually: Twice a year, we would do content analysis. What should you be writing about? What’s changed in your industry? What are different keywords that you might be able to target now given additional resources?Quarterly: You need to be looking at links. It’s just a big enough issue that you’ve got to look at it every couple of months, a complete link analysis.Monthly: You should be looking at your crawls. Moz will do that every week for you, but you should give your customers an idea, over the course of a month, what’s changed.Weekly: You should be doing rankings

But there are three things that, when you do all of these types of analysis, you need to keep in mind. Each one of them is a…

ReportHours for consultingPhone call

This might seem like a little bit of overkill. But of course, if one of these comes back and nothing changed, you don’t need to do the phone call, but each one of these represents additional money in your pocket and importantly better service for your customers.

It might seem hard to believe that when you go to a customer and you tell them, “Look, nothing’s changed,” that you’re actually giving them value, but the truth is that if you go to the dentist and he tells you, you don’t have a cavity, that’s good news. You shouldn’t say to yourself at the end of the day, “Why’d I go to the dentist in the first place?” You should say, “I’m so glad I went to the dentist.” By that same positive outlook, you should be selling to your customers over and over and over again, hoping to give them the clarity they need to succeed.

3. Tool up!

So number three, you’re going to see this a lot in my videos because I just love SEO tools, but you’ve got to tool up. Once you’ve raised prices and you’re making more money with your customers, you actually can. Tools are superpowers. Tools allow you to do things that humans just can’t do. Like I can’t figure out the link graph on my own. I need tools to do it. But tools can do so much more than just auditing existing clients. For example, they can give you…

Better leads:

You can use tools to find opportunities.Take for example the tools within Moz and you want to find other car dealerships in the area that are really good and have an opportunity to rank, but aren’t doing as well as they should be in SERPs. You want to do this because you’ve already serviced successfully a different car dealership. Well, tools like Moz can do that. You don’t just have to use Moz to help your clients. You can use them to help yourself.

Better pre-audits:

Nobody walks into a sales call blind. You know who the website is. So you just start with a great pre-audit.

Faster workflows:

Which means you make more money quicker. If you can do your keyword analysis annually in half the time because you have the right tool for it, then you’re going to make far more money and be able to serve more customers.

Bulk pricing:

This one is just mind-blowingly simple. It’s bulk pricing. Every tool out there, the more you buy from them, the lower the price is. I remember at my old company sitting down at one point and recognizing that every customer that came in the door would need to spend about $1,000 on individual accounts to match what they were getting through us by being able to take advantage of the bulk discounts that we were getting as an agency by buying these seats on behalf of all of our customers.

So tell your clients when you’re talking to them on the phone, in the pitch be like, “Look, we use Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, SEMrush,” list off all of the competitors. “We do Screaming Frog.” Just name them all and say, “If you wanted to go out and just get the data yourself from these tools, it would cost you more than we’re actually charging you.” The tools can sell themselves. You are saving them money.

4. Just say NO

Now, the last section, real quickly, are the things you’ve just got to learn to say no to. One of them has a little nuance to it. There’s going to be some bite back in the comments, I’m pretty sure, but I want to be careful with it.

No month-to-month contracts

The first thing to say no to is month-to-month contracts.

If a customer comes to you and they say, “Look, we want to do SEO, but we want to be able to cancel every 30 days.” the reality is this. They’re not interested in investing in SEO. They’re interested in dabbling in SEO. They’re interested in experimenting with SEO. Well, that’s not going to succeed. It’s only going to take one competitor or two who actually invest in it to beat them out, and when they beat them out, you’re going to look bad and they’re going to cancel their account with you. So sit down with them and explain to them that it is a long-term strategy and it’s just not worth it to your company to bring on customers who aren’t interested in investing in SEO. Say it politely, but just turn it away.

Don’t turn anything away

Now, notice that my next thing is don’t turn anything away. So here’s something careful. Here’s the nuance. It’s really important to learn to fire clients who are bad for your business, where you’re losing money on them or they’re just impolite, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn them away. You just need to turn them in the right direction. That right direction might be tools themselves. You can say, “Look, you don’t really need our consulting hours. You should go use these tools.” Or you can turn them to other fledgling businesses, friends you have in the industry who might be struggling at this time.

I’ll tell you a quick example. We don’t have much time, but many, many years ago, we had a client that came to us. At our old company, we had a couple of rules about who we would work with. We chose not to work in the adult industry. But at the time, I had a friend in the industry. He lived outside of the United States, and he had fallen on hard times. He literally had his business taken away from him via a series of just really unscrupulous events. I picked up the phone and gave him a call. I didn’t turn away the customer. I turned them over to this individual.

That very next year, he had ended up landing a new job at the top of one of the largest gambling organizations in the world. Well, frankly, they weren’t on our list of people we couldn’t work with. We landed the largest contract in the history of our company at that time, and it set our company straight for an entire year. It was just because instead of turning away the client, we turned them to a different direction. So you’ve got to say no to turning away everybody. They are opportunities. They might not be your opportunity, but they’re someone’s.

No service creep

The last one is service creep. Oh, man, this one is hard. A customer comes up to you and they list off three things that you offer that they want, and then they say, “Oh, yeah, we need social media management.” Somebody else comes up to you, three things you want to offer, and they say, “Oh yeah, we need you to write content,” and that’s not something you do. You’ve just got to not do that. You’ve got to learn to shave off services that you can’t offer. Instead, turn them over to people who can do them and do them very well.

What you’re going to end up doing in your conversation, your sales pitch is, “Look, I’m going to be honest with you. We are great at some things, but this isn’t our cup of tea. We know someone who’s really great at it.” That honesty, that candidness is just going to give them such a better relationship with you, and it’s going to build a stronger relationship with those other specialty companies who are going to send business your way. So it’s really important to learn to say no to say no service creep.

Well, anyway, there’s a lot that we went over there. I hope it wasn’t too much too fast, but hopefully we can talk more about it in the comments. I look forward to seeing you there. Thanks.

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Creative Diversification — More Hooks and Less Risk for Link Building

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As digital PRs we can often get stuck with our “campaign goggles” on, especially in the ideation and production stage of a creative campaign.

By this I mean, you have a preconceived idea of where you’d like your campaign to be featured, what kind of headlines you want it to achieve, and how people should read your data and story.

As we all know, we can’t control the outcomes of a campaign, but we can certainly push them in the right direction.

To give your link building campaigns the best chance in the outreach stage, you need to make sure there is enough creative diversification during the production process, especially for data-led pieces and surveys. This opens up your “journalist pool” and gives you a ton more people to outreach to with a potential interest in your piece.

What is creative diversification?

Creative diversification is how you minimize the amount of risk in your link building campaign by ensuring your idea has enough breadth during the production process. It doesn’t matter what format you’re using for each campaign — you always need to confirm it’s diverse enough to stand up in a changing news landscape. You want to develop an idea that can naturally explore multiple angles and sectors in the outreach phase. This flexibility needs to be set up before production, by exploring the potential outcomes and headlines you’re going after before you have them.

Find related topics

In the production stage, we obviously need to focus on our fundamental topic. This is often the domain’s main reason for being. It could be finance, travel, fashion — you get the picture.

Then you want to start branching out and overlaying topics: finance + students, travel + safety, fashion + Elon Musk, and so on. You’re attempting to grab subtopics of interest.

Every link builder will have a different approach to discovering these topics, but the simplest way to get started is to grab a piece of paper and start scribbling ideas by word association. Just write as much as you can and you’ll find there’s lots of closely-related topic areas your content could delve into. (Tools like BuzzSumo would be invaluable here, but if you’re after a free alternative, I have been enjoying playing with lately for related topic inspiration. Nothing is going to beat existing news content, though.)

It’s also crucial to think about topic relevance, because if you question a tenuous link between your domain and topic matter, you can be certain journalists will, too. Link relevance is a whole other conversation to be had, but as long as it aligns with your client’s goals and you’re happy with showing them the link/coverage in full, you can’t go far wrong.

As a team at Root, we scrutinize our data points and approaches a lot in the production phase of each campaign and we find that championing personal expertise and curiosity often leads to some interesting statistics. My own passion for veganism gave us a unique angle which proved fruitful when we went out with a third round of outreach for our recent COVID-19 spending campaign.

Take off your campaign goggles

If the idea for your new campaign was born from your mind, you’re emotionally and personally invested whether you like it or not. You’ll need to put these feelings aside to engage with as many potential angles as possible from the start.

When I say you need to take off your campaign goggles, you need to (preferably with a colleague) tear apart the campaign and think about where you can add further value. It’s best to approach this objectively, so if you can tackle a colleague’s campaign and vice-versa, even better.

Some link builders will look at their angles and opportunities only once the content has been created and consider it an outreach decision. Success is definitely possible this way, but you’re stopping yourself from being as successful as you might have been had you thoroughly drilled into your content before and during the production process.

Highlight the key areas and approaches you’d like to tackle beforehand and you can feed this into your outreach strategy later on.

Make sector-specific data for journalists

When creating media lists and discovering relevant journalists, link builders can often be encouraged to rush through and ignore the content itself. If you know what they’re writing about, both on Twitter and in publications, you can begin to think about what data you could craft specifically for them.

In the campaign I mention in this blog, we focused on side-hustle data related to the fundamental topic of how people are earning their money during the pandemic, which was directly influenced by journalists.

The journalist who covered this specific topic in USA Today fortunately tweeted a lot about the stories he was working on, so it made it incredibly easy for us to tailor some content toward his interest and later offer him the type of unique data he wanted.

Aside from keeping tabs on Twitter, you can also find out what they’re interested in through Google Discover and Reddit to understand what’s being talked about and what is topical.

I know many digital PRs review key publications directly on a regular basis and have big Feedly feeds or watch insight roundups on YouTube instead. Either way, thinking about what a journalist will need in the next few weeks is imperative to early planning and ensuring your campaign is diverse enough from the get-go.

Diversify outreach with hash URLs

Another way you can make certain your content is diversified and prepared for a breadth of outreach is through the use of URL fragments or “hash URLs”. In the case of our coronavirus spending research campaign, we used article hooks on the page to provide anchor links from the table of contents at the top which then allowed us to offer another layer of personalization.

The key findings or headlines section in a table of contents is an essential piece to any long-form data campaign and makes it incredibly easy for journalists and readers to find the most relevant statistics to them in literally seconds.

If you’ve never implemented this yourself, there’s a simpler way than hooks — you just need to know your HTML basics. (Please excuse me if I butcher this description as a non-dev!) Place id=”#subject” within the heading tag, so it would look like: <h2>.

In the example below, a BBC journalist used the URL with “#vegetarian” when referencing our statistics about plant-based food usage. This came from the ID tag and meant the journalist could link directly to the bits of research that was relevant to their article.

On top of that, we could send journalists semi-personalized links in our outreach, too. It’s a win-win and is best practice for users and search engine crawlers to navigate your long-form content anyway.

This is a literal manifestation of your creative diversification process early on, as it’s now been produced and each hash URL is an extra asset pointing journalists to the most relevant data for them.

Creative diversification in action

The campaign I’ve mentioned in this piece was a lengthy, yet simple, survey campaign for a fin-tech client asking Americans about their spending habits during the pandemic. We secured a range of coverage, but the three biggest placements we landed (BBC, CNBC, and USA Today) all covered different angles and data points from each other, but from this one survey, and that wasn’t an accident.

In the production stage, we knew we needed to focus on the campaign fundamentals: spending during the pandemic. Our related topics led us to grocery store spending and another leap encouraged us to look at food choices (were American’s eating more veg during lockdown? Hmm). These topics were still closely related to our core focus (finances) and therefore useful for our outreach in terms of securing relevant and high quality links.

When it came to the outreach strategy, we prioritized landing placements tied directly to the campaign fundamentals, then the related topics fed into the consecutive rounds which we chose depending on the strength of the data we received from the survey.

If you’re thinking in the production process that there’s too much going on with too many angles, you may have just created multiple mini content campaigns for yourself.

We’ve found time and time again that the simpler stories and slimmer, more targeted outreach emails will land placements way more often than bloated emails trying to offer up far too much content at once.

That’s not to say that you should automatically split up larger pieces of content, but your outreach should be the final step in diversifying your piece. A data analysis research piece that taps into multiple sectors should simply highlight the most relevant information to the journalist in bite-size sections. We gave grocery spend data to retail business journalists, vegan food consumption data to food writers, and side-hustle data to those writing on the latest employment trends.

The next time you’re creating a content campaign, have your team (even if that’s just you) ruthlessly find new sectors, journalists, and angles to target, to ensure your next piece is as diverse as possible. Creative diversification = more hooks and less risk.

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