I’ll start by saying, your website is your most valuable marketing asset! Now I’ll frame the conversation.
Last year I saw a keynote presentation from a guy known as the F1 professor. Mark Jenkins is a business strategist by trade but has a keen eye for all things F1. What he spoke about was the mentality of F1 teams; the culture embedded in them, as well as the pressures that they face as a team to get continuous gains and improvements. The likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull as teams and as commercial businesses are so focused on results, it’s seriously impressive.
One example of such dedication is that throughout a season, each car on average gets 1/10th of a second quicker around the track, for every race of the season. It doesn’t sound like much right? But think about it. This improvement is continuous. So by the end of each season, they are making a car over 2 seconds quicker around the track than they were at the start of the season. Put into context, that is huge. They are constantly looking for gains, from the driver to tyres, to pit stops, to the engine, to suspension etc.
Naturally, this struck a chord with me as a marketer and as the MD of a results-driven organisation. As an agency we too are constantly looking for how to improve ourselves, the work we produce and the results we get for our clients.
Why?? Very simple, because if we don’t, the other cars will catch up very quickly. Marketing and in particular search optimisation is no different.
The search space is more competitive than ever. As owners and managers of websites, we need to be investing budget, time and efforts into improving.
Q – How much time and effort are you actively spending on your website each month?
Q – How much of your marketing budget goes into actively looking after, nurturing, tweaking and testing your website?
If you are like most businesses the answer is probably very little.
Sure, most of us add new content weekly or monthly; the odd case study, a blog post or two. But is this enough to improve your rankings or even to continue to hold your current ranking in search?
The simple answer is no.
It’s almost 2020 folks. Just ‘having’ a website doesn’t cut it anymore. We need to be seeing far more activity and far more emphasis being put into making our websites better.
If I had to guess what percentage of construction based companies have a line listing on their invoicing ledgers for ‘Website CRO’ or ‘Search Optimisation‘, I would hazard a guess at zero.
I think the ‘why’ comes down to a handful of factors…
- In many cases, there is a complete lack of understanding at board level about how much of an impact a website has on an organisations success. This is no fault of their own. It’s simply because the people at the top of most construction companies are not digital pioneers, web visionaries or search advocates. Far from it. They are astute, savvy, grassroots business men and women. Many of who have been in and around the traditional, relationship-led construction sector since they were yay high. And of course, most businesses in the building products world were born out of innovation. Of a great idea in a shed somewhere in the sticks. And then developing that product through research and development, trial and error and hard graft to bring a concept to reality. And then selling that idea through good old handshakes and relationships. So can we blame the people running these organisations if they don’t engage with digital tech??
- Websites are very often not linked to business objectives. They are often seen as ‘important’ yes, but not aligned to the actual goals set out. We’ve seen investment in websites generally become more of a priority over the last few years. But the mindset is still, pay now, and forget it for 5 years.
- Board members don’t understand the level of effort required to maintain and improve a website. All they see is a bill.
- But the biggest reason for me is that internal marketers are not pushing the ‘Search presence and UX’ agenda hard enough. In many organisations, it’s still an afterthought. “We’ve created our campaign and we’re ready to go, and, oh yeah, we should update the website while we are at it.”
And we, as agencies, maybe have to take some responsibility here as well. Perhaps we are not emphasising it enough. But, that’s something we are working on.
So that prompts me to ask a few straightforward questions to you as a reader to put it into context…
- How important is position 1 for you – or position zero snippets?
- What’s the impact on the business of falling 3, 4, 5 places?
- How does the performance of your website impact the success of the business?
- What would a 5% increase in click-throughs do to your sales pipeline?
- What would a 10% increase in enquiries have on your top line?
- What impact does the website have on the bottom line?
The truth is, it’s very difficult to answer some pretty simple questions – to quantify. Especially when leads are lost into the merchant abyss or the specification circus of events.
So how do we change the mentality? Most just ignore the issue or default back to tracking rankings as measure. The challenges are clear and obvious in our industry – it’s not as simple as a ‘click to purchase’ model where ROI is clear and unambiguous.
But this is the challenge we need to overcome collectively as marketers in the building product marketing world, to gain the buy-in, the enthusiasm, the investment from the big wigs.
If you’re reading this as a mid-level marketer or as a marketing director, I would suggest we need to raise our argument and prove the numbers, if we want our online presence to be invested in and for your website to become intrinsically linked to your business’s objectives and growth plans. The guys at the top need to see numbers. What’s the impact of the money invested? Where’s the ROI? I’ll come on this later.
Where do specifiers look for products?
To start to raise the argument and show ROI, we need to look at the context and audiences we are trying to attract – the influencers on our sales pipeline. What we do know is the following. Specifiers primarily look online for products. We see it every day in our client results but our knowledge can be backed up by findings from Specifiedby in a 2019 report;
The report also backs up where specifiers look when starting their research.
The top 5 most significant starting points being:
- Google search – 53.1%
- Manufacturer Websites – 18.6%
- Building Product Directories – 10.5%
- Saved Information from Previous Projects – 8.3%
- Internal Database / Library – 5.8%
This says to me, specifiers are very open to what products they use at the start of their research. If plus 50% are heading to search first – this is great start in proving investment in web and optimisation is not just needed, it’s critical!! It’s also a fact all CEO of product manufacturers should know.
How to create tangible measures to get your optimisation budget approved?
Here is a very simple way of starting the process. It’s not one size fits all, but it will start you thinking about the sort of questions you should be asking yourself and your agency to answer.
And it will help to elevate the argument.
Step 1. Start by defining what good looks like. Define some SMART goals that align
e.g. We want to increase the number of projects leads for product X from 400pa to 500pa by end of 2020
Step 2. Next, attribute an average project value based on previous projects the business have done and the size of projects that the business feels are right
e.g. Let’s say £50k
Already we have created some tangibles. 100 extra leads in 2020 will create a potential sales pipeline of £5m. The big wigs ears should prick up a little
Step 3. Next, define a set of non-branded keywords, phrases and long-tail search terms related to the product
e.g. Let’s say we have 10 key terms
Step 4. Identify search volume for these phrases
e.g. Let’s say 1000 per month
Step 5. Benchmark where your site ranks currently for these phrases and what pages attract landing visits
e.g. Let’s suggest we rank in a variety of place between 3-20 with an average position of 6 across those terms
Step 6. Now benchmark how many visitors landed on these pages from search
e.g. Let’s say 150 visitors per month (we are missing out on 850 visitors per month)
Step 7. Identify who else ranks for these phrases and in what position. This isn’t necessary to get your numbers but it will give you 3 things…
– Visibility of what you are up against
– The ammo to show the board where they are missing out on
– Identification of pages to spy on to find out why those competitor pages are ranking better
Step 8. Benchmark how many project enquiries you gained from visitors on these pages.
e.g. Let’s say 3% conversion ratio of 4 to 5 qualified projects enquiries per month
You now have all the tangibles you need to start the ball rolling and set out a plan for improvement.
By applying some industry measures around click-through rate for position zero, 1-3, 4-10, 11-20 you can set out predictions about what ranking in position 1,2 or 3 would have on your business.
If you can move your page position across a keyword volume of 1000 phrases from an average of position 6 to an average of position 3, you would see an uplift of 300 more visitors per month. At 3%, that’s 9 more projects per month. And bingo you’ve hit your 100 uplift target.
Key takeaway – do some analysis on what a few positions difference would make to the business, or ask your agency to do it for you. If they are not doing it already – they should be.
What does good SEO look like in 2020?
So you’ve got the budget, what should you be spending it on in 2020? The priority items should be these:
1) Great content
It remains king but don’t just create new content. Review your existing pages. Make sure they are still relevant. Still technically sound. Add to them if things have evolved. Bolster them with more rich content like images and video.
More important than ever, you need to make sure your site is lightning fast. Aim for under half a second across all pages and for your most visited and most important pages, get it down to 200ms.
3) On-page and technical SEO
Keep on top of your sites housekeeping – fixing errors and issues quickly to avoid any impact on your rankings and avoiding the dreaded annual sew review which highlights a long list of fixes. Be proactive and keep on top of it.
Ensure your citations are up to date and constantly being improved.
Still a huge piece of the puzzle. Dedicate time to reviewing where your backlinks are and what could be done to improve those pages, the links themselves and the pages they are pointing to.
6) Crawl budget
Remove the need for bots to be crawling irrelevant pages. Pages that add no value dilute your good pages. Use Robots to exclude content from crawlers.
7) Search Console
Review your search console stats regularly. It has a ton of good info.
Keep on top of your sitemap. Makes sure it’s still relevant, valid and contains the pages you want to let search engines know about.
Automate your SEO by using Python scripts to perform time-consuming tasks quickly and at scale.
Spend time looking at your CTR from SERP. Identify pages poorly performing and write tailored headings and meta description to encourage better CTR.
11) CRO & UX
Spend time looking at how small changes could have a big effect your on-page success. You’ve spent so much time and effort getting them to your site. Just spend a little more making their experience slicker.
12) Tweak and test
Don’t be afraid to test things. Make small tweaks and see the changes. Track everything. Track your changes. Remember, Google likes update’s so even the smallest change can trigger a SERP uplift.
MOST IMPORTANT: Practice good habits
More than any of the above, get into good habits when you are adding or amending content on your site. If you don’t you’ll create a monster task to clean it up.
1) Raise the argument and demonstrate what impact position 1, 2 has on your project pipeline
2) Commit more of your overall marketing budget to CRO and SEO – it’s highly effective
What are your thoughts? Are you actively putting budget into SEO and CRO?