How Are You Spending Your Marketing Dollars?

As a SEO professional, quite often I am approached by businesses wanting to know which marketing mediums can provide them with the best return on their investment. This is a very good question and in all honesty, there is no simple answer.

There are many reasons why marketing strategies vary in their levels of effectiveness. This can depend on the businesses geographical location, the target market, type of business and so on.

My Journey To Finding Art Classes

Let me give you an example. I like to draw and paint. In actual fact, I think that I am pretty good at it however; I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since I left uni (and without revealing my age, that was quite a number of years ago). A few months ago I decided that perhaps I should find a hobby which would allow me to relax a bit away from the business and the family so I decided to take up art classes.

I was however quite disappointed as I could not find any local art classes in Google, so as many people would do, I put that idea into the back of my head and eventually forgot all about it. Interestingly though, a few weeks later I was throwing out junk mail out of my letterbox when I noticed a small leaflet advertising local art classes.  As this leaflet literally fell into my lap, I thought that it was meant to be and joined up.

The Cost Of A Customer

When I arrived at my first session, the instructor (aka business owner) was telling us proudly about the success of the letterbox drop. In all honesty, I thought that it was purely a coincidence that I had actually picked my up so I started asking him more questions about its effectiveness. It turns out; he paid $3500 for the drop. The interesting thing is that he filled six classes with an average of seven students per class. This worked out to be an average acquisition cost of $73 per student. Considering that most students paid around $300 for the course, this drastically reduced the amount of profit made.

The interesting thing is that the business owner never considered online marketing. If it weren’t for the accidental leaflet, I would have never found his business. Considering how few people read junk mail nowadays, I wonder how many others also missed out.

So this brings me back to the point of the effectiveness of various marketing strategies. As I mentioned above, these can vary depending on the type of business you may have, your geographical location, the target market you are attempting to capture and so on. Although there is no set rule, one simple principle applies and that is, to test and measure whatever method you are using.

Effectiveness of Test and Measuring

Testing the effectiveness of a marketing campaign is something that can be very easily introduced into just about any type of business. All that is required is one simple question ‘How did you hear about us?’ This simple question can be asked at any point of the customer interaction.

Whether it’s over the phone, during a physical face-to-face transaction or during an online purchase.  The type of information gathered can also be extremely beneficial for example; some businesses may want to capture their client’s postcodes. They may have only targeted certain regions with a marketing campaign so capturing postcodes will easily provide them with a snapshot of the campaigns effectiveness.  Other businesses simply ask the question ‘how did you hear about us’. This may help them to understand how much or how little business they are receiving through their phonebook advertising, their website, or any other medium used such as newsletter drops, radio or event TV.

Over the past few months I have recommended capturing this type of data to a few of my clients as I noticed though their website reporting that they were receiving very few hits from a well-known, yet expensive advertising medium. After a couple of months of testing and measuring their marketing dollars, the business owners were extremely surprised with their findings. A few of them realised that the cost of acquisition actually made the strategy unprofitable instead of increasing the businesses bottom line. A number of these businesses dropped this well-known advertising medium and reinvested their funds into more profitable mediums – that predominately being online advertising.

Test And Measure In Everyday Business

So going back to my little experience of art classes… Although using a letterbox drop was overall a profitable experience for the business, highlighting the importance of testing and measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign made the business owner rethink his future marketing.

When the instructor asked the class, the majority initially tried to find local classes online without success.  Although moving forward he will still continue to use letterbox drops (as it did actually work) he is also going to invest the time in making sure that his website is up to date, that it clearly demonstrates what the business is about and to ensure that it can be easily found online.

The Attractiveness Of Online Marketing

Unlike traditional methods of offline marketing, online marketing allows businesses to track the trends of their potential clients. Using tools such as Google Analytics, businesses are easily able to determine where the potential clients are located, how they are finding your site, what time they are accessing it, which pages they are looking at and for how long and other essential buying patterns. This is why, when tailored correctly, online marketing far outperforms any form of offline marketing.

The bottom line is, whether you chose to use online marketing, offline marketing or a combination of the two, in case you should use every tool available to you to measure its effectiveness.

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Beware of dodgy SEO companies

Each day as I get out of bed I think to myself… today is going to be a great day! Why wouldn’t it be? After all, I work for a great company, I project manage a great group of clients and overall, I love my job. But as with all good things, there are also some challenges that pop up every once in a while. My pet hate is having dodgy SEO companies contacting my clients offering cheaper services – this tends to put a dampener on my day as these sorts of companies create a bad name for other legitimate businesses within our industry.  As one of these companies contacted one of my clients this week, I thought that I would blog about this topic.

So how can you tell if the SEO Company you are approached by is genuine?

Well, there are a number of factors that you should look at. These can vary considerably however in general a few commonalities apply. The main determining factor is to understand whether the company you are intending on working with uses blackhat vs. whitehat SEO techniques.

What is blackhat vs. whitehat SEO?

The term Blackhat applies to SEO techniques that are designed to manipulate the search engines, on the other hand, whitehat applies to techniques that comply with the search engines set of optimisation rules. Whilst blackhat techniques can at times achieve immediate results, more often than less, they tend to have long-term negative effects on websites. In many cases, websites that have been optimised using blackhat techniques can end up banned from Google’s index.  A perfect example of identifying a company that uses blackhat techniques is offering a guarantee to get you to the top spot of Google quickly.

I have to tell you, some of the big guys were affected by Google’s latest algorithm update. JC Penny and and Forbes were all recently affected as a result of inferior SEO techniques.

At the end of the day, it’s important to ensure you are looking out for the signs of a genuine SEO business.

How to Spot the Legit from the Dodgy?

There are a few tell tale signs of a dodgy SEO company.  The top three include:

1.  How many and what keywords will they optimise your site for

When we are working with a client we will generally select between 4-8 highly targeted keywords that actually attract search volume. A dodgy SEO company will tell you they will optimise your site for more than a dozen keywords or may also tell you they will get you to the top spot for an almost impossible keyword.

If you wanted to check up on the suggested keywords, you can look these up using the Google keyword tool. This is a free tool that shares the volumes for keywords. If you search for a keyword and there are more than 20,000 searches a month and you are paying less than $1,200 a month than it’s very unlikely your keywords will ever see the light of day.

2. It’s really cheap

Another dead give away is the price. We had a client that was receiving a very solid level of business through our work together, yet they decided to get a little greedy and left us to work for a company that charged a quarter of the price we charged. Needless to say, we started working with one of their competitors. The business that stopped working with us, totally disappeared from the search engines.

To get a website to the top of the search engines, over the long term you need to invest a good chunk of time and it involves a series of consistent action.  These consistent actions end up earning the top spot in Google for your keywords. In order to gain results, inexpensive SEO service providers revert back to dodgy blackhat techniques. These techniques generally involve outsourcing of inferior services such as poor quality link building, blogging, copying content from other sites and so on.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

3. They offer a Guarantee to get you to the top

It normally works the other way around when it comes to offering guarantees in business, but in the SEO world no one can offer a guarantee when it comes to ranking. Let’s be straight on this. Even as a very experienced SEO I can not offer any guarantee that I will get you on the first page, or in the top 3.  Our track record has proven we can achieve this time and time again, but we still do not offer any guarantee. Just as weatherman can predict the weather, there are so many other factors at play that you simply can’t control (fortunately we have a much better track record than weathermen).

On average, it takes a company 6 months to catch on and to stop paying for these services. By this stage, you would have probably paid something along the line of $3000 plus. Now multiply this by 200 or 300 and you will see why you were contacted in the first place. Did the dodgy SEO shut it’s doors at this stage, I don’t think so… they probably built a new site, and started the process again using different company name.

In summary, when selecting your SEO Company, read up on SEO and make sure that your company of choice is genuine on all levels. Query them on their methods, check out their testimonials and reviews, find out about what techniques they use and most of all, trust your gut feeling. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.