A Tale of 2 AdWords Accounts

Had an unusual opportunity recently to compare two very similar AdWords campaigns. It provided interesting insight into the inner workings of AdWords and how campaigns, that are so alike, can behave VERY differently. Here’s what happened…

One of our clients (we’ll call them “ABC Co”) has an AdWords campaign we’ve been managing for the past 2 years. About a year ago a difference of opinion arose between the founders of ABC Co and, as a result, a few of the original partners left.

And when they did, they founded their own company (we’ll call them “XYZ Co”) that offers the EXACT same service as ABC Co.

During the transition, which took a few months or so to play out and be finalized, the guys from XYZ Co continued to have full access to the AdWords and Analytics accounts from ABC Co. I even noticed during this time that someone from an agency got access to the ABC account so they could see EXACTLY what we had done, and continued to do, in the account.

They knew how the account and campaigns were structured, what keywords generated the most clicks/conversions, what match types we were using, what the bids were, ad copy, landing pages – EVERYTHING!!

Having access to all this gave them a TREMENDOUS advantage when they officially opened for business and set up their own new campaign.

Now there are a few things that are important to know in order for you to understand what I’m about to share with you.

One is that these businesses are in a fairly specialized niche market and there’s a fairly limited universe of keywords to bid on.

We talk about the 80/20 of AdWords where 20{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of your keywords generate 80{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of your results. Well, that’s definitely the case here (though it’s probably closer to 95/5 in this market).

In fact, there are around 20 – 30 keywords that account for a very high percentage of the conversions in this niche. We’d figured out what they were a while back and the guys setting up XYZ’s account definitely know what these keywords are.

The other factor that’s important to understand is that there’s not a lot of differentiation between the two companies (or any of the companies in this niche, for that matter). What they offer, their pricing, how they operate, and even their websites are all quite similar.

And that carries over to the ad copy. There’s only so much to be said about what the companies in this niche are offering so the ads all pretty much say the same things. That means the Clickthrough Rates (CTRs) of the 2 companies’ ads (CTR being the biggest factor in Quality Scores in AdWords) should be fairly similar.

In fact, XYZ Co actually has an advantage when it comes to CTRs because they have star ratings that run next to their ads (which our ABC Co account does not have yet). And those ratings can make a big difference in the CTRs of ads.

Okay, so we have two companies with essentially identical offerings, similar ad copy/keywords/AdWords accounts going head to head against one another.

Now here’s the interesting part… because the separation between ABC and XYZ wasn’t terribly messy, people from the two companies still talk to one another. And during one of those recent conversations the topic of AdWords account performance came up.

And it turns out that XYZ’s click costs are about TWICE what we are paying per click for the same keywords… and their ads are appearing in essentially the same average position that our ads are!

So why would one account have to pay 2x as much for the same keywords?

Well, I don’t have access to that other account so I don’t know exactly what’s going on in there.

It’s possible, while they had access to what we were doing, they changed things around so much in their new account that it was so poorly structured and organized, their Quality Scores are horrible. However, knowing those guys who started XYZ and how sharp they are, I don’t think that’s likely.

It’s possible that a number of changes we’ve made in how we use match types, organize keywords, use negative keywords, etc. has made a big difference over the past year in the performance of our campaign. However, while we’ve been making changes each month in the account, the overall strategy and structure of our campaigns has not shifted dramatically.

My hunch, however, is that campaign history is the biggest difference between the 2 accounts.

Our campaign has a 2+ year history of split testing ad copy, adding negative keywords, segmenting keywords and ad groups and campaigns to optimize for the most important keywords and much more.

And I believe Google has noticed and this is at least part of the reason we’re being rewarded with click costs that are about half of at least this one competitor.

There may very well be other factors at play here (again, without having full access to the other account, I don’t know for sure).

However, what is clear is that all AdWords accounts are not created equal (even ones as similar as these two are). And when you smartly and consistently optimize your campaigns over the long term, you can end up paying MUCH less for clicks than your competitors.

A 2x factor in click prices is a very big deal. It means XYZ has to convert twice as many AdWords visitors to their site into customers OR make 2x as much per customer to generate the same level of revenue (from AdWords) as ABC.

More than ever, it takes a great deal of expertise, hard work and persistence to manage an AdWords account well. But, as this example shows, the payoff can give you a HUGE competitive advantage.

A Lifestyle Business vs. One You Can Sell

This story came out the other day when a friend was interviewing me for his podcast and thought it would be helpful to many of you…

Since I started my business almost 8 years ago, it’s always been about me. No, it’s not branded with my name but, if I were to get hit by a bus, the business is finished.

More importantly (and in a less morbid scenario!), if I ever decided to do something else, Words That Click has very little value to anyone else. Without my involvement I really couldn’t sell it for much.

That last scenario kind of bothered me over the years. If I’m putting in the investment of time, money, blood/sweat/tears into the business, it’d sure be nice to be able to cash out for a nice chunk of change one day if I ever wanted to sell.

This didn’t bother me in the “keeping me up at night” kind of way, but it was just a nagging issue I had in the back of my mind.

A couple of years ago, that changed. I was at a PPC conference and one of the presenters was someone who I’ve respected for a long time and has been involved in building a number of large PPC agencies. One of the things he shared really resonated with me.

He said that when running an agency (and this applies to any business) you have to decide whether you want a lifestyle business or want to build a business you can sell. His take was that you have to choose one or the other because the way you manage things and way you make decisions in each scenario is very different.

That resonated with me because I realized I very much wanted (and had) a lifestyle business. I have two young kids who are growing up faster than I thought possible.  Soon enough they’re not gonna want me around as much and I want to spend as much time as possible with them before that happens.

(I remember hearing a child psychologist once say your relationship with your kids is like a bank account… you need to make as many deposits as possible when they’re young because once they hit the teenage years, you’re gonna be making A LOT of withdrawals!)

So I left that conference with my mind much more at ease than ever about my business. I had a lifestyle business that provided a nice income, I enjoyed what I was doing and got to spend a lot of time with my family. All was right with the world.

Well that feeling lasted for about 8 months!!

What changed things was listening to an interview Perry Marshall did with Sam Carpenter, the author of the book Work The System.

While I’d certainly heard others talk about the importance of systems before, none of it had resonated with me like this interview did.

There were a few significant takeaways for me from the interview, but the biggest concerned having to choose between a lifestyle business and building a business you can sell (a topic Perry and Sam didn’t directly address during the interview).

What dawned on me after listening to the interview was the idea that you don’t have to choose. That it’s actually possible to have a lifestyle business while ALSO building a business that has value to others.

And the key to doing that is through implementing systems.

When a business has systems in place – documented procedures that detail how it operates – that adds value to the business. A LOT of value.

Why? Because those procedures become the BLUEPRINT for a prospective owner on how to run the business. The procedures show them, step-by-step, exactly what needs to be done to keep the business running smoothly.

See, creating those documented systems makes the business about the SYSTEMS…  not about the owner or any other individual. It’s the systems, not the owner, that are the essential ingredient to making the business run smoothly.

And by creating these documented systems, I’ve managed to keep my lifestyle business while also starting to build something that will have real value to prospective buyers in the future.

I’m about a year into the systemization of Words That Click and it still couldn’t survive for long without me BUT…

It’s much less about me than it was 6 or 12 months ago. And it’s gonna be even less about me in 6 or 12 months than it is today. (Which is a great thing for our clients and for me.)

If you haven’t been able to guess, I’m a HUGE evangelist for using systems in a business.

From delivering better and more consistent service to scaling a business to making the entire business run more efficiently, the benefits of well implemented systems are manifold.

The fact that they can also significantly increase the value of your business is just the icing on the cake!

This Is Why Your Marketing Should Stink

Raw sewage, stale vomit and skunk spray.

That’s just a few of the ways people describe the smell of the durian… a large, yellowish-green, thorny husk covered fruit that’s popular in southeast Asia. Its imposing look and strong odor have earned it the title “King of the Fruits”.

Yet despite its horrific smell (which is so overpowering it’s BANNED from many hotels, airlines and even Singapore’s rapid transit system!), there are legions of devoted durian lovers who can’t get enough. Cuz evidently, if you can get past the smell, it tastes amazing.

British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described it like this…

A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop.”

Durian is one of those things you either love or hate. There’s no in between.

Just read some of these impassioned descriptions…

Novelist Anthony Burgess: “It’s like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavoratory”. (Blancmange is a type of sweet dessert.)

Chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain: “Its taste can only be described as… indescribable, something you will either love or despise… Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.

Travel and food writer Richard Sterling: “Its odor is best described as pig-sh!t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.”

As you can tell, love it or hate it, one thing’s for sure… the durian evokes STRONG emotions in everyone who comes across one.

Which brings us to the curious case of Songpol Somsri, a Thai government scientist.

Somsri had a crazy idea… what if you could make a durian that keeps the amazing taste so many love yet eliminates the odor so many despise?

He worked on this idea for 20 years and finally succeeded. In 2007 he bred a variety of durian with a smell no more offensive than a banana.

A huge success, right?

Well, actually it was kind of a bust. In fact, Somsri’s durian caused an international UPROAR!!

Here was the problem…

The people who avoided durians still didn’t want anything to do with it – smell or no smell.

And the raving durian fans thought it was sacrilege to eliminate the smell that makes a durian a, well, durian.

Horrified durian lovers described the odorless variety as “the beginning of the end” and that “making a non-smelly durian is like a thornless rose… it’s really cutting out the soul.”

Songpol’s smell-less durian reminds me of most small business’ ads and websites… they’ve got no soul.

There’s absolutely nothing special or unique about them to make prospects take notice. It’s all the same old, boring meaningless drivel.

Songpol may have had greater success had he bred a durian that stunk even more than the original! And your ads and website may benefit from creating more of a stink too.


  • Take a controversial stand.
  • Have a unique voice.
  • Get emotional in your copy.

Sure, you may turn some people off but I’ll betcha the ones you do weren’t your ideal customers anyway.

Creating more of a stink in your marketing doesn’t attract customers – it attracts FANS. People who’ll be more loyal, spend more money with you and be more fun to work with.

So next time you sit down to write copy for your business – aim to create a big stink. Doing so may very well bear you more of the sweet fruits of success!

Catastrophic Failure or Groundbreaking Success? You Decide

I’ve got a new favorite phrase… “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly”.

What does it mean and why do I like it so much?

Well, here’s a story about an entrepreneur, exploding rockets and success/failure that explains it all and may very well turn “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” into one of your favorite phrases too…

There are those who see failure as something to be feared, criticized and/or ridiculed.

Then there are those like highly successful serial entrepreneur Elon Musk.

One of Musk’s companies, SpaceX, experienced either a catastrophic failure or groundbreaking success recently. Just depends on who you ask.

SpaceX is working on making reusable unmanned rockets. Being able to launch the same rocket multiple times would drastically reduce costs and give SpaceX a huge competitive advantage in the space business.

Now pulling this off ain’t no easy feat. It requires launching an unmanned rocket into orbit, have it complete its main mission (deploy a satellite, deliver cargo to the International Space Station, etc.) and then land back on Earth… in one piece.

No one (not even NASA) has done this.

But SpaceX is trying.

On their first attempt, the SpaceX rocket successfully launched and delivered its cargo to the International Space Station.

Then came time to land the rocket on a 170ft by 300ft platform in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The good news… the rocket hit the platform.

The not so good news… it exploded in a spectacular fireball upon impact.

Now if you read the media reports about this, they pretty much all described the mission as a failure.

Not Musk.

He Tweeted a picture of the explosion and called it a “Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event”. Adding it was an “exciting day!”.

See, to Musk, since no one had even attempted to do something like this before, just hitting the platform was a big success and reason to celebrate.

Now as it turns out the reason for the explosion was the rocket fins guiding the decent ran out of hydraulic fluid and the rocket’s engines weren’t able to compensate. This caused the rocket to hit the deck at a 45 degree angle and combust.

Learning from this, SpaceX is going to try to do it again soon and, according to Musk, for this next attempt they’ll have 50{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} more hydraulic fluid on board.

Tweeted Musk about their next attempt – “At least it should explode for a different reason.”

What an incredible quote and attitude!

Listen, you’re gonna encounter lots of setbacks in your marketing and in your business (and in all aspects of your life, for that matter). So the question becomes…

Are you gonna listen to the critics (whether in the media, your own office/home/network or, worst of all, your head) who dub it a failure and a waste and tell you to throw in the towel?

Or are you going to take away something that highly successful people take away from setbacks like this – FEEDBACK.

Then – and this is the key – learn from that feedback, make the necessary adjustments, and turn any rapid unscheduled disassemblies you may face into future SUCCESSES?

The choice is yours.

PPC, SEO and Bisexuality

The other day I came across yet another sensationalistic article pitting PPC against SEO.

The article, and particularly the comment section, was chock full o’ SEO experts bashing PPC as expensive, complicated and ineffective. And PPC experts bashing SEO as expensive, complicated and ineffective.

It’s garbage – on both sides.

Why? Well, to get to the heart of why I’m gonna use a quote from Woody Allen…

“Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

Listen, I’m certainly not qualified to dispense dating advice here. But I think I’m certainly well qualified to give out marketing advice – especially when it comes to SEO and PPC. So, here goes…

SEO vs PPC is NOT an either / or choice. And, for many businesses, if you’re doing one and then add the other, you immediately increase your chances of getting qualified prospects to your website.

There’s a misconception out there that if you have high organic rankings, you don’t need PPC. Or, conversely, if you’re killing it with PPC, you don’t need SEO.

The issue with this thinking is that the results you get with one doesn’t erode the results you can get with the other.  The reality is you’re reaching DIFFERENT prospects with each.

And studies have found if you have top organic rankings and add PPC to the mix, you’ll get a lot MORE LEADS that you wouldn’t have gotten from just your organic rankings alone.

Now, unlike what Allen says about bisexuality, doing SEO and PPC probably won’t DOUBLE your pool of prospects, but still, doing both will drive more prospects to your site than just doing one or the other.

SEO vs PPC is the WRONG question.

The right question is… can you do both SEO and PPC profitably? Cuz if so, by just sticking with one and ignoring the other, you’re  missing out on revenue that could be yours and you’re giving your competitors a bigger opening to steal prospects away from you.

If you own a local service business and would like to see if your business may be a good fit for our unique ROI-driven PPC and SEO programs, either fill out the Contact form on our site or call us at 314-329-1422.

A Very Simple – Yet Highly Effective – Landing Page Template

It’s a horrible problem. An epidemic really.

Thousands of businesses have websites that are ill-equipped to get site visitors to do the ONE thing their owners should want more than anything  else – take action!

Whether it’s a phone call, Contact Form submission, whitepaper download – most websites are a confusing mess of conflicting pseudo-calls-to-action, irrelevant stock images and wasted space. It’s confusing to site visitors and confusion is paralyzing so most don’t take the action the site owner wants.

ESPECIALLY when you’re paying to send traffic to your site, you simply can’t afford to mess up your landing page.

Certainly how your landing page is designed depends on your business and what specific action you want a visitor to take once they land on that page. The landing page for an e-commerce site promoting a holiday special is gonna look A LOT different than a landing page for a software company looking to get visitors to download a whitepaper.

For our purposes, we’re going to talk about a landing page for a local service business that wants visitors to contact them to set an appointment, get an estimate, sign up for a free consultation, etc. Those are the businesses we have the most experience with, especially when it comes to driving PPC traffic to their sites.

(That said, the landing page template I’m about to share is certainly a good one to follow for a wide range of businesses/situations.)

Before I share the template, there are 2 big disclaimers I feel compelled to make.

First, while this template has proven itself time and time again, you should always TEST your landing pages to see which ones work best for your business. There is no single magic bullet, best of the best landing page template out there.

Second, a landing page is only as good as the copy on the page. If you have a horrible offer, no proof that backs up any claims you make about your company/service, copy that focuses on your company/service and not the VALUE your company/service provides to customers…

no landing page template in the world, no matter how good, is gonna help you!

Okay, with that behind us, let’s take a look at the template. My right hand man, Burt Campbell, put a basic wireframe of this landing page together to give you a general sense of what it looks like and its components. I’ll expand on each section below the image.

(Click image to enlarge)



The header should be narrow – you don’t want it taking up too much of that precious real estate at the top of your website.

On the left of the header should be your logo. Under the logo should be a very short description of what your company does (if that’s not obvious from your company name). This is not the place for a meaningless slogan, no matter how catchy it might be. You want to convey exactly what it is you do to site visitors so they know they’re in the right place.

On the right side of the header should be a call to action of some sort. For a local service business this is probably going to be your phone number (using a local area code is best). However, don’t ONLY put the phone number there. Have a call to action before it along the lines of “Call Today For a Free Estimate/Consultation”.


Under the header on the left side of the page should be your main headline (and, yes, your landing page DOES need a headline!). You’ll generally want your headline to convey the main benefit/value proposition you offer your customers. Its job is to generate enough attention and interest that visitors want to check out more of the page. Though not mandatory, a good sub-headline under the headline is often quite effective too.

(Since this isn’t an article about headline writing, that’s all we’re gonna say about this part of the landing page – there’s no shortage of “how to write a headline” type articles out there.)


Video (done well) is a great addition to many landing pages. It generally engages visitors more than copy does so it’ll keep people on your site longer. If you use video, make sure you end it with a clear call-to-action.

If you use an image in this space instead of a video, use one that’s relevant to your company/service/offer. You’ll generally want to stay away from stock images here. Also, if you use an image, put a caption under it – that text underneath the image will be one of the MOST read bits of copy on your landing page so make the most of it!


On the right side of your landing page, above the fold (the part of the page users see without having to scroll), is where your contact/opt-in form goes. Use a benefit-focused lead in before the form fields to let visitors know exactly WHAT they’re signing up for and WHY it’s in their best interest to do so.

Be creative with the “Submit” button at the bottom of the form too. Don’t use “Submit” or “Click Here” as the text on the button. Use action-oriented copy such as “Get Your Free Estimate” or “Claim Your No Obligation Consultation”.

For Google’s sake, you want some sort of privacy statement right under the button about how you’re not gonna turn people’s contact info over to Nigerian princes, Viagra salesmen and/or Communists.

The Rest of the Page

Okay, everything above should be in that above the fold section on this landing page.

That means, without having to scroll… people know WHO you are, WHAT you do, have multiple ways to CONTACT you and have an INCENTIVE to do so.

Get that far and you’re WELL ahead of most business’ websites.

Let’s continue on and see what goes below the fold.

Copy / Bullet Points

This section goes on the left underneath the video/image section. Here, you’re going to expand on the promise/offer/value proposition you laid out in your headline.

It’s important to include some bullet points here that outline 3-4 key benefits you want people to know about. A lot of people don’t read, they skim, so are more likely to scan bullet points instead of copy in paragraph form.

Even though most people will skim, you’ll still want to include a few paragraphs of copy as well. Why?

First, your most interested prospects WILL read so you want to make sure they have enough information so they’re compelled to contact you.

Also, whether you’re using this landing page for PPC and/or SEO purposes, you want to make sure you have enough unique content on the page to keep Google happy. That means at least 400 – 500 words.

The “Proof” Zone

The “Proof” Zone is where you let people know why they should trust you. This section goes below the form on the right side of the page and can include testimonials, logos of well known clients, logos of media outlets you’ve been featured on, etc.

Another Call To Action

At the very bottom of the page, reinforce your call to action. You can include your phone number again, remind people to fill out the form, or whatever it is you want them to do. Just make sure you again convey the benefit they’ll receive for taking action.

The “Keep Google Happy” Footer

When online we live in Google’s world. That means adding some things here to keep them happy. So, in the footer (in a small font), include links to your Home page, Contact page (or just put your contact info at the bottom), About page, Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You don’t need to have every single one of those, but you’ll want at least a few of them.

And that’s all there is to it. A simple, proven landing page template. Feel free to put it to use for your business’ website and see if you can convert more of your site’s visitors into quality leads!

How the SEO Industry Is Failing Its Clients

Have you hired an SEO firm to try to help your website climb the rankings?

How’d that work out for you?

For some of you, it may have worked out pretty well.

If you’re like MOST people, however, you’re probably more than a little frustrated with SEO and those you’ve hired to do it.

Truth is I’ve been frustrated with SEO too. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’ve primarily focused on PPC over the years.

The issues outlined below have been weighing on me for a while and the time has come to get them out in the open.

So sit down and buckle up cuz this IS gonna be a bumpy ride! Okay, here goes…

  • Maybe you’ve been promised page 1 rankings that never materialized.
  • Maybe you’ve tasted the sweetness of TOP rankings on Google only to have them heartlessly ripped away from you due to the Penguin and/or Panda algorithm updates Google’s unleashed on us over the past few years.
  • Or maybe you’ve paid A LOT of money to different SEO firms over the years and never really seen your rankings move all that much one way or the other.

Now, as you may have suspected from the title of this article, I’m about to go on a rant on the SEO industry. And I’m going to expose why much of what SEO firms are selling these days isn’t in the best interest of clients.

(And I’m not even talking about the self-described “reputable” firms whose daily emails tell you how badly your site sucks when it comes to rankings and promise you a spot on Page 1 for $99. Those emails are complete crap and I hope everyone reading this knows that!)

Here’s the thing though… even many of the SEOs around who truly have their clients’ best interests at heart are failing their clients. And I’ll reveal why in a minute.

Before I do, however, I must point out that you, dear SEO consumer, are NOT faultless in this mess. So I’m calling YOU out in this article as well, so be forewarned cuz you may not like what you hear! 😉

Okay, let’s start at the beginning.

First Things First – What The Heck is SEO Anyway?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of trying to get a web page ranked HIGHLY in the organic search engines.

(These are also referred to as the “FREE” listings (compared to PPC where you pay to show up in the rankings). That said, all website owners with high rankings for any sort of competitive term in the organic search results know getting there is ANYTHING but free!)

Where a web page ranks on Google (and other search engines too, but let’s get real here – most people do SEO to get their site ranked on GOOGLE!) is determined by a complex algorithm that gets updated on a regular basis. So things that may have worked well 6 months ago may get your site tanked today.

No one knows exactly how the algorithm works though those who do SEO for a living have a decent idea (or at least should) of what moves the needle when it comes to getting web pages ranked highly.

Why SEO Isn’t For Those Looking For a Sure Thing

But here’s the deal – it’s an inexact science and there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO. And since every web page can’t be on the TOP of Page 1, there are only gonna be a few winners (and A LOT of losers) in the SEO sweepstakes.

That’s just the nature of the beast and you, as an SEO consumer, have to understand this going in and have realistic expectations.

  • If you want a GUARANTEED spot on Page 1 of Google for competitive keywords, SEO isn’t for you.
  • If you want results QUICKLY and don’t have the patience to wait at least 3-4 months for an SEO program to kick in, SEO isn’t for you.
  • You want quick results? You want to pretty much guarantee a spot on Page 1 of Google? GREAT! Try Google AdWords cuz SEO isn’t for you.

Now, that said, SEO can and does work and has the potential (depending on the niche you’re in) to drive a lot more traffic than PPC and do it at a lower cost per lead than PPC.

However, there are some problems with the way the SEO industry operates that stacks the decks against website owners.

4 Reasons Why The SEO Deck Is Stacked Against You

1. Bogus Reporting

What REALLY matters when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of SEO?

A lot of you probably answered high rankings. And that makes sense, right? If the goal of SEO is to move your website higher up the search results, it’s the RANKINGS that matter.

And that’s exactly what most SEO firms report on. They send their clients pretty charts that show where your website ranks for a bunch of keywords and if rankings are moving up – great! If not, well, let’s see what happens next month.

But here’s the thing – rankings are a RED HERRING.

Because at the end of the day, you don’t do SEO to rank higher on Google. You do it to get MORE TRAFFIC to your site. But even that’s not the ultimate goal here.

You do SEO to get more LEADS and business!


Yes, there are some business owners out there (and you know who you are!) who just want to see their website ranked #1 on Google. (I call this “ego-marketing”.) And there are plenty of SEO firms around who’re happy to charge a lot of money to get their clients ranked #1 for crappy keywords that don’t have a shot at driving quality leads.

But most of you only want high rankings because you think they’ll bring MORE leads and business your way. And while they very well may, you really have no clue whether they do or not.

So really, any reporting that doesn’t clearly show how many leads SEO is producing for your business is garbage!

And to get that kind of reporting means…

  • Having forms on your site for people to fill out
  • It often means using a call tracking service (which should NOT be optional if you get leads by phone!)
  • It means setting up Goals in Google Analytics

Yes, it requires more work but that’s the only way you can accurately measure the results of your SEO campaigns.

However, many SEO firms aren’t willing or able to do that for their clients so clients can’t really judge if SEO is paying for itself or not (and many times this is done VERY much on purpose because they’re charging you an arm and a leg and you’re getting squat in return).

Not to say reports that include ranking information are worthless. But if you’re not ALSO getting information about the number of leads SEO is producing for you, the reports ain’t worth much.

2. The Challenges With Changing a Client’s Website

Back in the good ol’ Wild West days for SEO links made the world go round. Send a bunch of links to a website and, no matter how crummy the site, you could send it shooting up the rankings.

SEOs didn’t have to lay a finger on their clients’ websites to get good results.


The content on your web site is more important now than it’s ever been!

  • That means having content that’s 100{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} unique.
  • That means having “meaty” content on every page of your site you want to get ranked (300 word blog posts ain’t gonna cut it).

And pages with duplicate or thin content don’t just affect those pages… they can bring down your ENTIRE website and keep it from ranking well.

So to do SEO properly these days, being able to make the necessary changes to a client’s website is a MUST. But that’s not always easy to do.

There are any number of reasons why…

  • Some clients just like their website the way it is and aren’t willing to make any changes. (If that’s you, save your money and just avoid SEO completely cuz no SEO professional, no matter how talented, will be able to overcome your stubbornness.)
  • Some clients hired unscrupulous web designers and can’t get access to their site and/or domain name so no one can make changes even if they want to.
  • Some SEO firms require their clients to create all the new content that’s required. And since most clients are busy running their businesses and don’t have the internal capabilities to do that, the content never gets created well (if at all).
  • Plus, you have to be careful about the content changes you make because while they may improve rankings… they may kill conversion rates so you end up with more traffic but fewer leads (which gets back to problem #1 in this article – because if you’re not tracking leads you’ll never know if this is the case or not).

Oh, and then there’s the issue that a website can be penalized by Google for bad SEO that was done years ago. Figuring if past issues continue to plague a website in the rankings can be difficult to do. And, even when detected, the site may be in a hole that’s really difficult to dig out of.

So as you can see, depending on the situation, doing SEO on a client’s existing website may not be practical because ANY or ALL of the above can sabotage SEO efforts before they even get a chance of working.

3. Focusing On Only 1 Website

Okay, stick with me on this one because it’s a biggie that almost NO ONE is talking about!

The firepower of most SEO campaigns are 100{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} focused on the client’s one and ONLY website.

And that seems to make perfect sense… I mean, what else would you do SEO for a client on besides their website, right?!

Well, not so fast. Think about it this way…

It’s kind of like you’re fishing with ONE line in the water. Even if you’ve got multiple hooks on that line, there’s still a limit to how many fish you can catch.

(And if your line gets tangled or cut, you’re done fishing!)

But what if at the same time you:

  • Dropped multiple fishing lines in the water (with different baits on each)
  • Threw a few nets in the water, and…
  • Had a few buddies in the water spear fishing?

Well, you’d significantly IMPROVE your chances of catching A LOT more fish, right?!

And if you had a glitch with any one of those things, you’re not done fishing! You’d still have OTHER lines, nets and spears in the water ready to catch any fish that come by.

See what I’m getting at here?

Why limit yourself to just ONE website?!!!

The MORE web properties (think mini-websites, YouTube videos, Press Releases, Web2.0 sites, etc.) you have out there, the MORE web pages you can rank… the MORE spots you can take up in the search engine rankings… the MORE you can dominate the search results… the MORE leads you’ve got coming into your sales funnel!!!

In fact, this approach to SEO may make ranking easier. Why?

Because it’s often easier to get YouTube videos, mini-websites targeting specific keywords, Web2.0 properties, press releases, etc. to rank than your main website!

So not only can you potentially dominate more of the search engine rankings by trying to rank multiple properties (ie. SQUEEZE out the competition), but the easier it may be to get your properties ranked!

So, again I ask… why limit yourself to just 1 website?

Well, because building more web properties is too much work for most businesses and SEO firms. Yet, as you can see, it’s TOTALLY worth it because of how much it can potentially amplify your results.

Oh, and there’s another big advantage to building and ranking multiple web properties which I’ll share in a just a minute. But first, you have to understand the 4th problem with SEO…

4. What Google Tells SEOs Not To Do Actually Works (And Works Well!)

SEO has largely become a defensive industry these days.

After watching website after website tumble in the rankings due to Google’s algorithm updates, a lot of SEOs are operating under the “DO NO HARM” mentality.

They don’t want to risk doing anything that could potentially tank their client’s websites. And who can blame them?

The problem though is that when you’re operating from this sort of defensive posture, it makes it more difficult to get results.

And that leads us to a dark secret about SEO… a lot of the things that Google tells you NOT to do when it comes to SEO actually work.

In fact, some of them work REALLY well!

They can get your site ranked higher and quicker than just sticking to the strategies Google tells you to.

However, they come at a risk because if Google notices you’re doing them, they could penalize your site and send you skidding back down the rankings.

Now here’s where things get interesting.

Remember that OTHER advantage of building and ranking multiple web properties I mentioned a minute ago?

Well, if you successfully build and rank multiple web properties, then having one site crash and burn in the rankings from time to time ain’t no big thing!

Which means you can take advantage of those riskier strategies to get sites ranked higher AND quicker!

The Bottom Line

So here’s where we are…

  • We have companies paying SEO firms big money to battle over precious few spots at the top of the search engine results… using a strategy that’s not guaranteed to work.
  • Most of these companies are putting all their eggs in one basket (and likely a badly damaged basket at that) and don’t have the right tools to fix things.
  • AND because they’re not measuring the things that really matter (ie. LEADS), no one really knows the most important piece of information… are they making or losing money on the whole deal?!

If all that sounds ridiculous to you, it’s cuz it is!

Now, I’ve never liked people who complain all the time but never have a solution.

So, I’m actually going to put forward a solution here…

A Proposed Alternative

This solution won’t work for everyone. It works BEST for businesses to which a new client is worth 4 or 5 figures or more. (So, if you’re selling magazines or T-shirts, sorry… this isn’t really for you.)

But if a new client is worth 4 or 5 figures to your business and – especially if you own a local service business (ie. attorneys, chiropractors, kitchen/bath remodelers, roofers, etc.) – LISTEN UP!

We’ve started implementing a new business model for SEO that works like this…

We start with a clean slate and set up a series of web properties that we own. All the sites have form and call tracking so EVERY lead each property generates is tracked.

Now what I just described is short and sweet but DON’T underestimate it’s importance. Because setting things up this way allows us to get around the 4 problems we just covered…

  1. We avoid any and all issues associated with working on a client’s existing website.
  2. ALL leads from all the properties are tracked so reporting is based on what matters most – leads!
  3. We have MULTIPLE web properties which increases our chances of taking up a bigger percentage of the search results with multiple Page 1 rankings.
  4. And, because we have multiple properties ranking, we can be more aggressive with our ranking strategy because if one property falls in the search results, we’ve got others that are still producing leads.

Not only that but, because the properties are ours, we assume a lot of the risk associated with SEO – it’s not all on your shoulders.

And, perhaps most important, is the pricing structure we use. It’s not based on rankings but on the actual LEADS our web properties generate.

Even more than that, we build protections into our contracts with clients so you’re protected against any drop off in lead flow. So essentially you’re pretty much guaranteed an ROI!

(Oh, and no battling it out with your competitors for these leads… we only work with a single, exclusive partner in each niche we’re in.)

After largely being out of the SEO business for a number of years, discovering this model has us back in the game because we feel this model is just a better, fairer way of doing SEO.

This Is NOT For Everyone

So if you’re fed up with SEO and are ready to try something different, a few things first…

  1. We’re not looking to work with just any business on this. Because we assume a lot of risk here, we’re VERY careful about the niches we enter and companies we partner with.
  1. We want to work with businesses that have a strong front-end sales and support system in place so that prospects are getting phone calls & emails returned right away. That’s essential to getting the best ROI from our services… and we sincerely want our clients to get as strong an ROI as possible. (Trust me – everyone’s SO much happier that way!)
  1. We want to partner with businesses that have the ability (and DESIRE!) to grow their operations. Because when we find businesses that are a good fit, we can really scale things up!

So, with all that said, if you think this may be a good fit for your business, we’d be happy to talk to see if it makes sense for us to partner together or not.

The first step in that process is to fill out a short questionnaire. Once you do, we’ll get back to you within 2 business days to let you know whether partnering together makes sense. If so, we’ll schedule a call to discuss the details.

SEO is a dog fight these days. And the strategy most SEO firms are using doesn’t do their clients any favors.

If you’re looking to get a fresh start and try another strategy to get search engine LEADS (not rankings) – fill out this form and we’ll see if we can help!

The #1 Conversion Killer For Service Businesses

It’s painful to watch. Well, technically to hear.

A company invests a lot of time and money in building a strong and steady flow of traffic to their website. Maybe they’re even on the ball when it comes to on-site Conversion Optimization and do a bang up job of converting that traffic into quality leads.

A service business like that should be sitting pretty, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Gotta few stories to share with you…

In St. Louis a few weeks ago we had an afternoon of torrential rain. We easily got a few inches in an hour or two that flooded the meadow near my house and the main road next to it.

I thought we stayed high and dry… but then I looked up. The ceiling by the bay window in our living room was sporting a series of brand new water spots courtesy of Mother Nature (and some bad flashing).

Now when given the opportunity I like to reach out to current or former clients to support their businesses so I called a local roofing company we did some work for a few years ago. I sent my contact, their Director of Business Development, an email explaining the situation and told him I’d like to have them fix it.

I got a short email reply around lunchtime that he’d have one of their guys call me later that afternoon. Well, that was over a week ago and I still haven’t heard from them. So instead of giving the business to my former client, I went with a roofing company one of my neighbors works for.

Which brings me to the epidemic that I think kills more conversions than anything for local service businesses: the horrendous handling of inbound leads… especially phone calls.

And not returning phone calls or following up with leads is just part of it.

Umm, Let Me Check On That

Got another story for you from my friend Talor Zamir. He works with a number of attorneys and uses a call tracking product that records the calls of his clients.

One of his clients, a personal injury attorney, was complaining about the lack of business his marketing campaign was generating. Talor knew the campaigns were generating trackable leads so he wasn’t sure what the problem was. Well, after listening to a few call recordings the reason this attorney wasn’t gettin’ the business was quite clear.

The attorney had his niece answering the phones. On one of the recorded calls a potential client asked her if they handle auto accident cases (one of the MAIN types of cases the firm handles). Her response was that she wasn’t sure and told the caller that she was going to put him on hold to go find out. After 5 minutes of being on hold, the caller hung up. The firm lost that lead forever.

A Business Killing Voicemail

Here’s another story from my friend Richard Jacobs from Speakeasy Marketing about a pizza restaurant near his house.

He called the restaurant – during business hours – and got a voice mail (mistake #1 – if you’re in a service business, make sure you answer your phone!). The recording basically said this…

Thanks for calling ABC Pizza. We don’t accept takeout orders over the phone. If you want to place a takeout order you have to download our app for Android or iPhones and place your order that way.”

In essence what they were saying was “Don’t bother us. We don’t want to talk to you. If you want to do business with us, here are the hoops you have to jump through.

With a voicemail like that, they lost out on Rich’s business… and I’m sure he ain’t the only one.

These stories would be funny if they weren’t so sad.

Tips For Handling InBound Leads

Service businesses live and die not just by how many leads their marketing efforts generate, but how well they handle these leads. I truly think the botched handling of inbound leads (of which the stories above are just the tip of the iceberg) prevents more conversions from turning into business than anything else for local service providers.

So how can you make sure your service business does a great job handling inbound calls so you can close a higher percentage of them?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Hire an answering service. They’re not that expensive and making sure a live person is around to answer your phone 24/7 can make a significant difference in the number of calls you convert into paying customers. Just make sure you give the answering service a script to use so they answer the phone the way you want which brings us to the next tip…

2. Use systems. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a big believer in systems. And if handling inbound phone calls is a big part of your business, then you should have procedures in place so calls are consistently handled the way you want them to be handled.

Richard Jacobs has some really great tips on procedures for handling phone calls.

First, use a script. Don’t let your employees or answering service wing it or, worse, when someone calls tell them you’re not available and then leave it at that.

Instead, he suggests using a script along the lines of:

Oh, Mr. Jacobs isn’t at the phone right now but he wants to make sure he talks to you so let me get his calendar. I see he’s available this Thursday at 11AM or 2:30PM and Friday between 9AM and 10:30AM. If you get your calendar out right now, let’s schedule a time to talk when it’s good for you.

This script does a few important things:

It makes the person calling feel important and valued which gives them a good feeling about your company and doing business with you.

Even more than that, it sets an appointment right then and there the first time they call. No going back and forth. No leaving things up in the air.

If you run a service business, your business’ success in highly dependent on setting appointments so why not have a system that makes sure that happens on the first call?!

The other suggestion Richard has is to train those answering your phone to screen people and gather information. Many times, especially in the legal field, the person answering the phone can be stand-offish – “Hello, law firm” – and then nothing. That doesn’t make a good first impression on a potential client.

Train those answering the phone to be more pleasant – “Hello, Johnson Law Firm. This is Kathy, how may I help you?”  Then have them start asking questions to screen out solicitors and other unwanted calls. And when someone who sounds like a good fit for your business calls, have the secretary gather information that can help you with your follow up.

The question Rich says is the most powerful to ask is “What’s the single most important thing about your case you want resolved above all others?” (obviously this is geared toward lawyers, but can be easily adapted to other niches).

This question provides really important information you can use when you follow up with the person.

For example, if you’re a divorce attorney and someone answers that question by saying the most important thing to them is keeping custody of their kids, then you can use that when you call them back – “My secretary mentioned that the most important thing for you is to keep custody of your kids. Let’s talk about that first. I’ve done some research and found…”

Think about the kind of impression that makes on a potential client.

3. Even with systems in place, it’s still a good idea to get sales training for your office staff. Seriously. If your assistant answers the phone and is handling inbound leads, he/she is a sales person. Getting them some sales training may be one of the best investments you can make.

4. If you’re not the one answering the phone, record the phone calls. There are a number of affordable services that allow you to record inbound calls (many call tracking companies have this built it to their service).

It can be incredibly illuminating (and in some cases, downright terrifying) to listen to how your employees answer the phones and interact with clients and prospects. Being able to listen to recordings of these calls to identify issues that may be costing your business is invaluable.

A 6 Figure a Year Problem

The efficiency in which your company can turn online leads into offline sales directly impacts the effectiveness of your marketing – and, ultimately, the success of your local service business.

The math involved here is striking.

A new client for a law firm, kitchen remodeling company, cosmetic dentist, etc. is worth a good 4 or 5 figures to the business. So just closing an extra 1 or 2 clients a month can boost revenues by 5 to 6 figures a year.

How’d that impact your business and life if your company did that?!

Don’t let the leads you generate online slip through your fingers. Use the strategies mentioned above to convert as many of those leads into paying customers as possible.

Do that well and you may just plug the biggest leak in your conversion funnel.

My Revealing Vacation Photos…

It was a sultry August morning on Florida’s Space Coast.

My daughter and I, neither one of us morning people, dragged ourselves out of bed to take sunrise photos on the beach.

The sunrise was a stunner. As the bright orange globe slowly emerged from the ocean on the horizon, pelicans and gulls glided through the air, dolphins played in the surf and tarpon leaped out of the water through schools of bait fish so large they turned the water black.

With so much activity and so much beauty around, it’s hard to know where to focus.

And then I looked down.

As soon as I did, I stopped in my tracks.

The beach was covered with a pattern I immediately recognized (yet, even with a degree a marine biology, had never noticed on the beach before!).

It’s a pattern so common in nature, most of us don’t even think about it, let alone understand its true power and significance.

And it’s a pattern that, once understood, also holds important clues about what an effective marketing campaign looks like. (In fact, seeing this pattern on the beach led to a breakthrough in my thinking about a new project/business plan I’ve been working on.)

Here’s what I saw that morning (you can click to enlarge)…

branching beach 2

(Photo courtesy of my daughter!)


Do you recognize this branching pattern?

Miniscule branches leading to tiny branches leading to slightly bigger branches leading to bigger and bigger branches.

On this section of the beach, it’s the pattern the water on the shore takes as it fights its way back to reunite with the ocean.

It’s the same pattern you’ll see in the root system of plants, in river systems and in our pulmonary/circulatory/nervous systems.

It’s a pattern you’ll see in manmade systems as well. Think of our systems of roads where small side streets feed into local roads which feed into main thoroughfares which feed into the major highways.

Why is this pattern so pervasive in both natural and manmade systems?

Well, because it’s so damn efficient and effective!

If a tree just had one big root, it would quickly deplete the nutrients and water in the soil immediately surrounding it. But by branching out, the roots and tiny root hairs reach a much wider area and have more surface area available to extract nutrients and water from the soil and funnel them to feed the plant.

But this article ain’t a lesson in botany. It’s a lesson in marketing.

Hopefully you already see the implications this branching pattern has for marketing.

I talk a lot about diversification and how important it is to not rely on just one marketing channel and/or source of traffic. Because if that one source gets cut off, it’s gonna starve your business.

PPC, SEO, email marketing, social media, direct mail, newsletters, print advertising and more are all branches reaching out from your business with the purpose of feeding leads into your sales funnel. Yes, some will be more effective and carry more of the load than others (there’s a whole 80/20 aspect to all of this by the way, but we’re gonna leave that aside for now) but all play a role in feeding the funnel.

And you can (and should) go deeper with the branching in each of those marketing channels.

Let’s examine PPC. Under the PPC umbrella you have the branches of the different PPC platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

Under AdWords, you have branches for the different types of campaigns you can run… Search, Display, and Video.

Then you dig deeper into Search and you have branches for all the keywords in your campaign that are out there to attract your ideal prospects and feed them back up into your funnel.

Even within keywords you can branch out further. You’ll have your “core” keywords – individual keywords that, by themselves, get a decent volume of traffic. Think of a keyword like “Chicago plumber”.

But then you have the long tail keywords like “best plumbing company in the Chicago Loop” or “need a plumber to fix a leaky faucet”. These keywords are like the root hairs. Individually they don’t get much action. But when you add the effect of thousands or millions of keywords/root hairs together they have a major impact on feeding your business/a plant.

Let’s go back to that pattern I saw on the beach for a minute.

branching beach

I’ve been testing a new business model that involves SEO. The importance of the long tail keywords when it comes to SEO is a big deal (even bigger than it is in AdWords). It’s much easier to rank your website for long tail keywords than it is to rank for the main, core keywords all your competitors are also gunning for. So a lot of SEO these days rightly focuses on driving traffic through the long tail.

But that strategy doesn’t work as well for this new business model (which I’m not ready to talk much about yet… but will in the months to come). When I saw those patterns on the beach, however, I had an epiphany.

The epiphany was that the branching pattern for SEO is not just about keywords. It’s also about developing multiple web properties.

See, most SEO revolves around getting one website to rank. Yes, you can have lots of pages on your website – each (at least should be) focused on different keywords – but it’s still just one website.

But you can also have that branching pattern work to feed your lead flow by developing multiple web properties. Think mini sites, Web2.0 properties, videos and more.

Then, not only do you have multiple keywords feeding prospects into your business, but you have multiple web properties targeting multiple keywords feeding them in.

And that, my friends, is MUCH more powerful than focusing all your SEO efforts on just one website. With this strategy the multiple branches (ie. web properties) give you the opportunity to dominate the search results and win the lion’s share of the organic search leads.

As I said before, this branching pattern is so common cuz it’s so damn effective and efficient.

So take some time to think about the additional branches you can stick out there to feed more prospects into your marketing funnel. You could do worse than to follow Mother Nature’s lead in building your business!

Oh, and if you read this article with the hope of seeing some revealing beach photos, sorry to disappoint you. Hopefully you’ll settle for some of the sunrise pics I captured instead…

Canoe Sunrise

phone sunrise_edited-1


These Numbers Don’t Lie

It’s summer and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the freedom being an entrepreneur affords me by spending a lot of time with my kids. And since we’re having so much fun, they’re growing up so fast and summer is quickly coming to a close, this month I’m gonna cut to the chase and share a relatively short, but very important lesson with you.

Over the last year or two I’ve been trying to impress upon you the importance of conversions and conversion optimization.

Yes, having a great AdWords campaign, getting lots of organic traffic, etc. is wonderful, but if you’re not converting that traffic, all the traffic in the world ain’t gonna help you. It’s one thing to tell you that, it’s another thing to show you the difference a modest bump in conversions can make for a business.

I’m going to share some real world numbers with you from an AdWords campaign we’re managing for a client. There are two sets of numbers here. One is from May 2014, the other from June of 2014. Take a look at them here and then we’ll dig into them in some more detail (click the image to see a larger version)…

conversion stats

So what are we looking at here? First, look at the first few columns: Clicks – Impressions – Clickthrough Rate (CTR). Notice that these numbers are virtually identical month over month. Clicks and CTR were actually a little lower in June, though not by much.

conversion stats1

Then look at the 4th column, Cost Per Click (CPC). That actually rose quite a bit from May to June, with CPCs going up $0.12 (CPCs are generally on the rise in AdWords by the way so this isn’t uncommon to see).

Okay, now turn your attention to the last 3 columns starting with the very last one which is the Conversion Rate. We were able to improve the Conversion Rate from 9.75{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} to 12.60{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} (through a combination of onsite changes and optimizing the AdWords campaign itself).


Let’s look at the impact that change had… This business’ cost per conversion plummeted from over $40 to about $32.

And the campaign generated 14 more conversions in June than in May.

So basically, despite fewer clicks and higher CPCs, their cost per conversion dropped 20{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} and they increased their total conversion over 25{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e}.

The bottom line here is this… for just about the same amount of ad spend, this client stands to bring in an extra $5K to $10K in revenue due to this boost in conversions!

If you still don’t get the importance of working on boosting the conversion rate on your site after this, I don’t really know what to tell you.