Author Archives: Rob Drummond
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Author Archives: Rob Drummond
I’ve become more interested in the story surrounding Covid-19 than the disease itself. At the highest level there seem to be two competing narratives.
1. The risks surrounding Covid-19 are basically a scam, and we can now open the economy.
2. Any relaxation of lockdown conditions will lead to death in the streets – a real life zombie apocalypse.
You can see the battle lines etched into social media. You may see more of one narrative than the other – social media tends to be an echo chamber of your own opinions. But these are high stakes narratives, with powerful interests behind them.
Those who control the story write the history books.
In reality there has to be a middle way. But as all ad copywriters know, middle way policies and moderate discussion do not generate great click through rates. When click through rate is your primary objective, you need the most sensationalist headlines imaginable.
Storytelling throughout society is fractal – with one story nested inside another. At the highest level we have broad narratives about society, lifestyle, culture, disease, governance and so on. Higher level stories you can observe but can’t directly influence. Covid sits at this level.
Nested within this is the story of you, your company, your customers. At the same level are other people’s stories – not every story you ever tell has to be about you. Which to most people is a relief.
Nested within this are day to day goings on. The gritty reality of daily life. Things you’ve been up to in lockdown. Challenges you’ve faced. Everything down to what you had for breakfast this morning. (Not all stories are meant to be shared with the world!)
Each level informs the other – and you can draw on stories at any level. Writing about the high level narratives gets people’s attention because it joins a conversation already going on in their head.
More granular stories about day-to-day goings on deepen somebody’s attention, because people see their challenges reflected in yours. We’re all more similar than we are different. It’s counter-intuitive that the most specific, most personal stories have the widest appeal.
The rule of thumb above may be helpful. Comment on high level narratives to people who know you the least. Find a conversation that is already going on in their head. Then share personal stories with the people who know you the most.
Last week we looked at how Facebook ads can often contribute to assisted conversions, rather than last click conversions. (Catch up here if you missed it).
Subscriber Martin replied saying:
This is a clear B2C example. Yet you assert with no evidence that “Even in B2B, a Facebook ad can act as a visual prompt or nudge.”
I assert with an equal amount of evidence that “In B2B, a Facebook ad can act as a turn-off or a deterrent.”
There is a short answer and a long answer.
The short answer is that unless you personally are going to buy all of the services you sell for the next 12 months, your personal vendetta of Facebook ads doesn’t matter very much, so you should test it out and gather some data.
Short answers however don’t win you many friends or close many deals… so there is a longer answer.
To some extent we all frame our advertising platform choices with our own personal media habits and experiences.
I’ve known Martin for a few years – this isn’t our first debate about Facebook ads. He doesn’t like the majority of ads that appear in his feed – something I can relate to. So consequently he doesn’t want to run Facebook ads to promote his B2B business.
My experience as a consultant is that nothing I say will overcome that media bias. It’s better just to accommodate the bias and adjust the strategy, say by incorporating LinkedIn instead of Facebook. You should only run ads in places you’re comfortable with.
So having said that, what are my key learnings from running Facebook ads for B2B clients this year?
If you sell to businesses, pretty much all your customers are on Facebook. But none of them go to Facebook to see your ad or buy anything. Which makes Facebook a difficult nut to crack.
(It’s not easy, and you probably won’t get the offer and messaging right first time. But your customers are all there, so stick with it…)
Facebook is more like Google Display than Google Search. If you’ve never run a successful Google Display campaign (very few people have), then this is why Facebook advertising is also hard. Your campaigns are unlikely to be a runaway success out of the gate.
For B2B, Facebook is usually best used as a remarketing platform, i.e. by showing ads to:
– Existing customers (assuming you have more than 1000)
– Recent offline enquiries (assuming you have more than 1000)
– Recent visitors to key pages on your website (again, more than 1000)
– People who have watched 50% or more of key video content you’ve natively uploaded to Facebook (ideally more than 1000)
Notice the volume constraints. If you sell B2B and have 500 people a month on your website, Facebook is not going to be a big part of your ads strategy. You won’t hit sufficient volume to get traction with the ads.
Audience selection (who you run ads to) is perhaps even more important than in B2C. You primarily want to run ads to people who are already in the buying process. You may run a subset of ads to nurture older prospects (perhaps by offering more educational content), but most of your spend should go on recently engaged prospects. If you don’t have too many of those people then Facebook won’t be a key part of your follow-up strategy.
B2B audiences on Facebook generally do not want a free consultation, a free quote, a call back, or similar calls to action you might use on Google Search. They’re on Facebook to avoid consultations, callbacks and quotes!
Lead magnets can work (e.g. free reports and guides). However, if you’re going to offer a report, don’t give it a stuffy corporate title, or call it a ‘whitepaper’. People on Facebook do not want to download whitepapers, although they sometimes will if you wrap it in more appealing packaging.
The download has to be of immediate use and interest, and it has to be enjoyable to read. It also has to be easy to download, without completing a form that has 17 fields.
The most successful B2B Facebook ads I’ve run this year have been remarketing ads (to people recently on the website) offering ‘insider guides’. The ad should explain that the insider guide will stop the reader wasting tremendous amounts of money (you might replace ‘money’ with ‘budget’ in the ad copy) by making the wrong decision.
To get people’s attention, you have to draw attention to a bad decision they’re in the process of making, that will cost their company significant money. And likely make them look bad, and make them miserable for 6-9 months while they repair the damage. You can’t say that directly in the ad, but that’s what you should allude to.
Think: what wrong decisions are your prospects about to make that will cost their company huge amounts of money? That’s what you need to write about in your lead magnet. Or talk about if your lead magnet is a video or webinar – those can also work.
The most successful ads have a combination of timely relevance, unexpectedness and fun. (Fun does not mean using 17 types of emoji – that makes you a child).
You can’t bore people into converting. My experience is that clients who are overly concerned with tone and brand guidelines do not run effective Facebook ads. Give the ads some voice. Preferably your own voice.
If the sales process involves multiple people, it can be worth asking them to tag relevant people in their organisation in a comment. I’ve seen that work. Something like: “work with someone who needs this? Tag them in a comment below.”
People should only really see your lead magnet ads for a few days after visiting your website (which is why the volume restrictions are so critical). After that you might move them to a longer duration audience where you periodically boost new blog posts to them. Of course if they click through to read a blog post, they return to Day 0 and you promote the lead magnet again.
It’s correct to say that Facebook isn’t natively a B2B environment, which is why the audience (who you’re running ads to) and the strategy (what you’re offering in your ads) has to be carefully considered. Get it wrong and you’ll waste a load of money.
If you sell to very large companies, Facebook decreases in importance while LinkedIn increases in importance.
But you CAN use the platform to move people along, remind people who got distracted, and add value. Aim to serve and help in your ads. Don’t try to sell in your Facebook ads – it won’t work.
And do remember to document your campaigns. An undocumented campaign can only help you if it succeeds (which it often won’t).
Any questions, comments, disagreements? Post them below.
We’re at crisis point in the Drummond household. What could have caused said crisis? A coughing fit? A shortage of toilet paper?
We’ve run out of ground coffee.
The shops don’t have any of course, because now everyone else is also at home, drinking coffee. It’s no longer just me having a secret daytime affair with the Nespresso machine.
So on and off all day I’ve been thinking… where can I get coffee?
About 20 minutes ago, inspiration struck. I remembered a Facebook ad I had seen for Pact Coffee, offering me 2 bags of ground coffee for £10. A bit steep for normal circumstances, but these are desperate times. This was the ad:
Why did I see this Facebook ad? I don’t know for certain. It’s not a remarketing ad – I’ve never been on their website before today. I do remember receiving a flyer a few years ago with a Naked Wines delivery, so they could be targeting me because I like Naked Wines.
As is the way with Facebook ads, you can’t find the ad when you actually want it. So instead I did a Google brand search for ‘pact coffee’, clicked on the organic listing and signed up directly.
In Pact Coffee’s Google Analytics statistics, I’ll look like an organic search visitor. Organic search will take the credit for my order. When in fact, I was only using Google search because I couldn’t find the Facebook ad I had seen.
Technically Facebook may assign some credit to the ad as a view-through conversion, because I viewed the Facebook ad and converted later via a different channel. But in fact, the Facebook ad was much more than an ‘assist’. If I hadn’t have seen the Facebook ad, I’d have never done the brand search for ‘pact coffee’.
This is not an isolated example. Many purchases happen this way. Even in B2B, a Facebook ad can act as a visual prompt or nudge. You won’t see many direct ‘last click’ conversions, but the impact is real.
According to Jonathan, all his ‘big player’ PPC clients are on Google AND Facebook for this reason. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Something to think about.
By: Rob Drummond
I’m back now. It may not be apparent that I ever went away, but I did…
It’s been a while since we created any new Maze Mastery courses. The business has drifted for a while. At the start of February I completely paused our membership programme. The value proposition had become unclear, and I needed some space to think.
Do you ever find you have to take a sabbatical from your work to gain perspective on it? 2020 so far has been one of those times. It’s hard to see the hamster wheel when you’re busy running in it!
So I’ve taken some time out. I’ve taken advice on the business. I’ve spoken to friends and mentors. I’ve done some thinking.
The end result? I’m back on board. Jonathan is on board. But we’re making some small changes. Simplifying things.
This post explains the story to date, the plan going forward, and the benefit to you. It’s scattered with marketing insights and life lessons! If you want to:
I’m what you might call an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. I got into business by accident. I didn’t like my job any more, and the internet makes it possible to start a business with no money whatsoever.
The year was 2012. I had worked in marketing for all of my professional life, initially for a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software company. Those early years were an education. At the CRM company we did almost everything in-house… created direct mail, stuffed the envelopes, tracked the responses, managed the website, ran Google Ads, took a stab at SEO…
Working for a CRM company meant everything we did revolved around the CRM system. Customer data was paramount. Integration – getting customer into the system accurately – was practically an obsession.
I’ve reflected since that the importance of customer data has only grown over time. Media and attention has fragmented. Lead costs have gone up. Click prices have gone up, at a faster rate even than train tickets or childcare fees! But I am getting ahead of myself…
I left the CRM company, and got into business initially as a Google Ads consultant. I went to networking meetings and Google Ads was what people wanted help with. Google was making it exceptionally easy to waste tremendous volumes of cash. You could even phone them up, and a Google rep would make things even worse! (Sound familiar??)
I had followed Perry Marshall’s work for a while. If you’ve not heard of Perry, Google him. And grab a copy of his book – http://robsentme.com/perry.
Though Perry’s work (and many others: Ken McCarthy, David Rothwell, Ben Hunt all come to mind) I discovered there was a difference between what Google wanted you to know, and what you really needed to know.
(Oh, how little things have changed!)
I learnt most of the key lessons the hard way. For instance, I learnt that a ‘conversion’ often doesn’t mean much.
I remember losing a Google Ads client who was generating conversions well within his cost per conversion target. One day he admitted that none of the leads had converted into deals, so he needed to end the project. “I bet he didn’t even bother calling them,” I fumed to myself.
A key fact became apparent: the purpose of running ads on any platform is to increase the size of your email list. It’s nice if you can do that at an up-front profit, because list growth is then essentially free. But email list growth is the goal.
By 2014 I needed to make a change. I needed more control over the full marketing and sales process. I stumbled across a guy called Jermaine Griggs, who explained how he automated his marketing and sales follow-up systems using Infusionsoft. In my head I was like, this is the missing ingredient!
I made an emotional decision that day to ditch my previous email system AWeber, and jump into Infusionsoft with both feet. I took on a couple of Infusionsoft-related projects, and did the certification to become an Infusionsoft Certified Partner.
So suddenly I had a business that involved managing Google Ads, selling Infusionsoft, implementing Infusionsoft campaigns, building out sales funnel automation, writing emails, telling stories, creating and running Facebook ads, creating websites and landing pages, for anyone with a few pennies to spend.
All of which was too much. Too general an offer. Too many strands of expertise. I suffer from the affliction of being quite good at a lot of these things, without being an out-and-out anything.
I’m not an out-an-out ads manager (although that currently is what I’m mostly paid for). I’m not an out-and-out copywriter, although I love to write. I’m not an out-and-out marketing automation person, although I’m good at it. I’m not an out-and-out storyteller.
I’ve tried over recent years to focus down on particular strands of my work. This had led to a spew of domain names, much to the frustration of my mentors. Rjdrummond.com turned into rear-end-ppc.com (tagline: PPC For Back End Profits!)
Which turned into confusionclinic.com (really a play on ‘Confusionsoft’, which I somehow got past the Infusionsoft brand police). Which turned into truestoryselling.com. Which turned into magneticexpertise.com. Which finally has turned into mazemastery.com!
It’s like a snail-trail of domain-name carnage. I sometimes call it ‘Rob’s Grand Tour of Marketing’.
The motive behind all these changes has always been to gain traction with one particular thing – to be known for something more specific. Every time I try to do that, I rebel against my own decisions. My work is more holistic than that. More multi-disciplinary. I’ve never been able to drop any core aspect of my work, whether that’s Google Ads, copywriting, storytelling or marketing automation.
These things interlock – and tie together. More today than ever before. To run Google Ads profitably you need some insight into storytelling and marketing automation. And vice versa. It isn’t enough to solve one part of the puzzle.
I had known Jonathan Wilson for a few years. Jonathan was active in Perry Marshall’s forum, and also ran a Google Ads agency. He specialised in a lot of the work I didn’t want to do any more. Things like the detailed aspects of campaign planning, conversion tracking, remarketing setup.
(That’s an insight actually – every agency specialises in different things, even if they claim to be ‘full service’. There is a growing space for agency specialisation and collaboration…)
We’re a long way apart geographically, but not in perspective. For a while I had sent Jonathan little messages, saying “pssst… we should create something together… it could be really great!”
Eventually, at the end of 2018, my nagging and nudging paid off. Jonathan is a busy guy, with a large young family. It took a while for the planets to properly align. We initially launched the Maze Marketing Podcast together.
The idea of ‘the maze’ comes from Perry Marshall. It’s the closest framework I’ve ever seen that summarises all of my work. (We actually asked Perry’s permission to name the podcast after his framework).
The key idea behind the maze is to follow up with potential customers across multiple media, where customers with the highest amounts of recency, frequency and money receive more attention.
How recently somebody engaged with your stuff is the biggest indicator of future purchase behaviour. How often is the second biggest. How much they’ve spent (in time or money) is the third.
This principle holds true across all walks of life. The most likely person to call you next is the person who called you last, followed by the person who calls you most often, followed by the person who spends the most time on the phone with you overall.
The most likely person to walk in a pub is the person who just walked out, followed by the person who frequents the most often, followed by the person who spends the most time in the pub overall.
RFM applies to database marketing too. You can organise and prioritise all your marketing efforts by RFM. Remarketing and marketing automation make this possible for even the smallest business.
The Maze Marketing Podcast started as a way to get knowledge out of our heads about this. We both have a lot of experience getting this right and wrong, across a wide range of industries.
Since the early days of the podcast we’ve switched to more of an interview format, inviting on guests from different fields. We’re now building a holistic base of maze-building knowledge. Most of the episodes talk about fundamentals rather than specifics, so won’t go out of date.
(If you haven’t yet dug into the podcast, you really should! www.mazemarketingpodcast.com)
In summer 2019 we took content from the podcast and converted it into the first edition of our Maze Remarketing book. We also ran a 5-week online remarketing training, which now forms the basis of our Remarketing Basecamp course.
When I looked back on what we’ve done, I realised a few things:
Another insight from Perry: a wildly successful 21st Century business strategy is to build tribes of two separate groups who need each other, and connect the two with technology. Think of Uber, bridging the gap between drivers and riders.
Maze Mastery now exists to provide this connection between content people and systems specialists. To provide a foundational understanding of core principles. To provide a shared language and understanding. To build a community where people can collaborate.
This isn’t going to happen overnight, because it’s a big job! But that’s what we’re doing here. That’s the work and the direction.
I’m back on board with delivering and building this. Jonathan is on board. I’m hoping you’ll want to be on board too.
Over time there will be different levels of involvement, at varying price points. But for now we’re simplifying things, and starting with what we can deliver at a valuable but low-level membership.
On 26th March 2020, we’re relaunching our Maze Insider membership group. Each month we’ll deliver a member’s only webinar, where Jonathan and I riff on a pay per click or copywriting topic (alternating each month between technical and content topics).
Unlike previous trainings we’ve done, each webinar will be informal and held on Zoom. We’ll be offering hot seat time, where we’ll trouble shoot specific issues you’re struggling with. You can apply for a hot seat in advance, or raise your hand on the call if demand is low. We’ll answer questions that have come up in the Maze Insider community. We’ll riff on trends and things we see happening in the marketplace.
Each month in the print newsletter I’ll write up my notes and summary from the last monthly webinar. If you’re too busy for an hour-long webinar, you can skim the notes and get 80% of the value.
So put the date in your diary: 26th March. If you can’t join us live on the webinar, you’ll get a recording. And a print newsletter two weeks afterwards.
If you’re an existing annual customer, you’ll get access by default. If you’re a paused customer, we’ll be sending out a special invite in the next few days. If you’re neither of these, we’ll be making an special offer to join us in this initial enrolment – details to follow shortly.
If you’re a marketing professional, you’re finding that:
If you’re a business owner:
I’ve noticed over the years that our best customers share certain core values…
Still reading? Good. Details to follow.
I am forever losing my wallet. Not seriously losing it, like leaving it on a train, but losing it around the house. We’ll regularly be attempting to go out as a family while I frantically scramble around.
“You’ve got the bank app,” Linzi would say, exasperated. “Why don’t you just pay on your phone…”
‘Pay on your phone?? What witchery is this?’ I replied in my head.
Anyway this week I did pay for something on my phone. Somewhat tentatively, in a Pret A Manger sandwich store. I didn’t have my wallet, so there was no other option.
I held my phone to the card reader, which beeped and went green…
You don’t even have to open the app. What an ingenious way to spend money even easier and faster!
“Okay Grandpa…” was Linzi’s sarcastic reply when I enthused about it later.
When you’re constructing a customer follow-up system, your first consideration is the nature of the communications problem you’re trying to solve.
For the phone banking app, the main problem was simply getting me to setup and use the thing. Once used, the product sells itself. It’s simpler and faster than finding my wallet. If you were constructing a remarketing system, you might say things like ‘dare to go shopping… without your purse?’
Other products require more education, which changes the nature of the ads you might run. The common thread is that the product must be excellent, or else no amount of advertising can help.
The real question is: what steps in your sales process convert cold prospects into raving fans?
Answer that first. Then build the maze around your answers. There is no ‘one size fits all’ remarketing strategy.
I was telling you last time about some of my early Google Ads clients, and the challenges I faced.
Let me tell you about one particular nightmare client…
Nightmare clients are rarely bad people, otherwise they would never become clients in the first place. But they come with little warning bells that jingle away, just audible if you know what you’re listening for. Those warning bells are desperately easy to ignore, especially when you need the money. Sometimes you only hear them in retrospect.
This particular client had sat on my email list for a while. Which is a good sign – not a warning bell! One day he contacted me, and asked how my services worked. We’ll call him ‘George’ (not his real name, obviously).
George’s company was using AdWords to generate leads for an offline sales process. The company was spending £25,000 a month on AdWords (about $30,000). Which for me was a large account.
George mentioned on the phone they had ‘been through’ quite a few AdWords agencies. But he’d like to ‘see what I could do’.
(Ding ding ding! Can you hear the warning bells jangling?)
On the eve of the project George sent me an email in badly-formatted English. (Clients who can’t spell is another warning bell.) ‘I’d like a daily report please Rob’, the email said. ‘The report should show yesterday’s spend by campaign, click through rate, conversions and cost per conversion.’
I never send daily reports to clients because daily fluctuations are misleading, and clients who obsess about them often fly too close to the sun financially. Weekly numbers are more meaningful. And monthly numbers hardly ever lie. Still, I ignored the screaming messages from my gut, and agreed.
I would always know if conversions were down for the day, because at 3PM George would email me. ‘URGENT Leads down Rob. Please action ASAP.’
I would rage internally at this. Please action what, exactly? I’m not a magician. Most of the time I would ignore it and rely on a natural upturn in leads the following day.
I’ve also since learnt that clients who routinely send emails with URGENT in the subject line, signed off with ‘ASAP’ are not great clients to work with. It’s a small clue that they see you as a vendor to be used, not an expert to be consulted.
Not long after the project had started I made a bunch of changes to the website, and George blew his lid. “We make changes on a month by month basis,” he informed me. “That way we compare apples to apples.”
Apples to apples – yeah right. You can’t have it all ways up. You can’t scream and shout about your AdWords results, but also refuse to make any changes to the website.
The project fizzled out after a few months. I was glad, too. The hassle wasn’t worth the management fee they paid me. Or so I thought.
One year later George got back in touch. His last business had tanked, and now he had a new business in another highly competitive market.
George asked if I would consider managing the account again, since I had ‘done such a good job last time’. I wavered for a moment. The warning jangles were all there. I knew George was a well-meaning but troublesome client. But I also needed the revenue.
So we went again. This time George wasn’t my main point of contact; he had a marketing manager, Jane*. Jane was nice enough, but clearly under huge pressure to perform. Once again I failed to set the boundaries on when I could and could not be contacted.
At 9.50 every morning my phone would go (Jane started work at 10). Despite my repeated warnings about daily statistics, she would want to discuss yesterday’s numbers and know ‘what I was doing for them today’.
“Nothing,” was the response I should have given, “because I’m not on payroll.”
I didn’t have the gall to say that at the time.
One week we had a spat about ad creation. I had created some new ads in the account, and some hadn’t performed as well as the control ads. “No more duds please Rob,” was the message I got.
No more duds. If you never write an ad that fails, you’re not really writing any ads. The longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realised how hopeless it is to predict a winner.
A few weeks later Linzi and I went to Italy for a week. I tried to reassure Jane that her AdWords results were unlikely to tank for a few days without my daily hand-holding. I had no phone signal in Italy, and no computer.
Two days into our holiday I logged on to Wi-Fi in my hotel, and my phone buzzed to life. WhatsApp. It was Jane. “URGENT: NO conversions yesterday. George won’t stand for it. Please look at this ASAP.”
Really Jane? You’re going to harass me on holiday… by WhatsApp?
After three months of conflict our second project came to an end. George finally discovered that I had been ruining his monthly ‘apples to apples’ comparison by sending traffic to pages other than the homepage.
The big problem however wasn’t with George. The big problem was with me, because I hadn’t been clear enough about exactly who I was trying to work with. I hadn’t set the boundaries. I had heard the warning bells – twice – and I had ignored them.
There are numerous lessons here. George wasn’t getting the results he wanted because he was agency hopping and trying to dictate the solution. He was also deeply reliant on Google Search for leads. If leads dropped off one day – for whatever reason – everyone got it in the neck.
I truly believe that Google Ads is an unbelievable system, but there has to be some room to fail. Fail small and fail often, but improve overall.
*Also not Jane’s real name, for obvious reasons.
Some of the early Google Ads projects I took on were a real bump to earth. Hard lessons in tough Google reality…
Not because I was working with ‘bad’ clients – quite the opposite. (The really bad clients will come later, in a future email!)
I had good clients with good businesses, but tough search markets.
For instance, I managed the Google Ads accounts for a local office supplies company, and a local company that sold walkie-talkies. The success of these businesses lay in offline connections and a personal touch. On Google, they were competing with big national brands. They were simply being outgunned on many of their most desirable search phrases.
I went into those jobs believing I had the midas touch, and could take on the national advertisers single-handedly simply by writing better ads.
Perhaps the toughest job I took on was a client with a start-up cloud hosting business. This client had developed a highly secure, robust cloud hosting service. Much more secure than Amazon or Dropbox. (Especially Dropbox!)
The word ‘cloud’ is one of those magic words that automatically ads a zero to the cost of a click. (Similar to keywords that include ‘insurance’, ‘loans’ or ‘mortgage’).
Clicks for the keyword ‘cloud hosting’ cost at least £10 per click, and this was in 2013. We quickly found out that people searching for ‘cloud hosting’ were mostly ambivalent about buying, especially from a provider that had never heard of.
I drew on all the marketing lessons I had picked up over the years. We developed a free report about cloud hosting security, and offered that as the first thing people saw in the ad. It turned out that people searching for ‘cloud computing’ weren’t interested in that, either. Eventually I had to tell the client I simply couldn’t help.
I knew a lot about Google Ads, copywriting and direct marketing. But we were advertising alongside companies like Amazon, Dropbox and Viking (a major UK office supplies firm).
The most common question I’m asked about Google Ads is: does it work?
Google always ‘works’ insofar as they’ll take your money and run your ad. But does it ‘work’ in a profitable sense?
Often that comes down to your business, and who else is advertising. Advertising locally is easier than advertising nationally, because you can leverage local knowledge. But if your competitors on Google Search include Amazon, or big national players, you’ll have to find a niche and chisel your way in.
You really have to pick your battles!
Often this chiselling involves sensible use of remarketing, but I am getting ahead of myself. More on this to follow.
I’ve managed Google Ads accounts in just about every industry you can imagine. Some have been successful, some have not.
One of my earliest clients provided marquee hire for weddings and parties. When we first spoke he had attempted to set up his own ads, and had phoned Google for help. Unsurprisingly Google had added a bunch of broad match keywords to his account. He was getting clicks, but not much business as a result.
In fact, he didn’t know exactly what business his ad spend was generating, because conversion tracking had never been set up. But as far as he could tell, his ads were a black hole for time and money.
I got access to his website and setup the necessary conversion tracking. As part of the project I created a new set of landing pages for my ads. These pages had clear headlines, testimonials and a risk-free call to action. If the content of my pages was similar to an established page, I added the ‘no index’ and ‘no follow’ meta tags to prevent Google indexing my new landing pages in the organic listings.
(For organic Google-ranking purposes you don’t ever want two pages with very similar content. These meta tags tell Google to ignore one of them.)
Which is where all the trouble began…
See, I wasn’t the only person working on the website. The web design firm who had designed the site were still employed for ‘site maintenance and SEO’. According to the client, they submitted a highly detailed invoice each month. But he wasn’t sure exactly what work they did for that.
I knew exactly how much work they were doing: nothing. It seemed to me they were mostly engaged to make my life more difficult. Plus they weren’t exactly ecstatic about having me involved, snooping around their cushy retainer arrangement.
To begin with, they told me they couldn’t provide me with FTP access to the website. (Outright lies.)
Shortly after that, we exchanged angry emails after I had updated one of the WordPress plugins I had installed. Apparently ‘testing’ plugin updates was one of the extraordinarily expensive services they provided each month. Even though all they did was click the ‘update’ button, and check the site still worked. (Absolute pirates.)
Later on, they claimed I was damaging their precious SEO efforts with my new pages (even though I had added noindex and nofollow meta tags).
Eventually I said to the client, “look, you need to choose between me and them. I’ll manage your website and SEO if you like.”
For reasons that are utterly beyond me, the client chose them.
Too bad – their loss!
To run a successful paid search campaign, or build any kind of remarketing maze, you must have control of your website. There are simple too many pages to create. You can’t be held to ransom by an old-school web designer desperate to protect their diminishing turf.
Did you know the maze exists offline, as well as on?
Last time I was telling you about my first paying web design gig. While this was happening I desperately needed more clients. Preferably clients with real, non-imaginary businesses.
A friend recommended I try local networking. After a little research online, I came across the High Wycombe Business Network. I sent an enquiry to see if they needed a web designer.
The message back was that the group already had an incumbent web designer, but if I wanted to come along in another capacity I would be more than welcome. I asked what they might like to hear about.
“Getting ranked on Google,” was the reply.
(In the years since, ‘getting ranked on Google’ is still the most common answer to that question!)
I hurriedly designed and ordered new business cards from Vistaprint, and booked to go along as ‘Rob Drummond: PPC Consultant’. I had no pay per click clients of course, but my experience with AD had proven this didn’t really matter.
The Network was a two-hour breakfast meeting, running from 7-9 AM every Thursday. I went along and spoke tentatively about my budding but non-existent Google AdWords services.
The first time I went I remember everyone seeming so assured. The financial advisors huddled in a corner to speak in their own special finance language. I distinctly remember a nice lady (who was the incumbent web designer), asking me how my service worked. What was included? How much did I charge? I can’t remember what answer I gave, but I managed to not get thrown out of the meeting.
On the inside I was in turmoil. “WHAT IF THEY FIND OUT I’M A FRAUD?” a voice screamed in my head.
As the weeks slipped by, I became more assured. Speaking to people every week forced me to think about how I structured my projects. One week a guy with an office supplies business approached me after the meeting.
“I’m spending money with Google,” he said, “and I’ve tried calling them. And I think it made things worse. Can you help?”
I stretched nonchalantly to hide my inner nerves, and said ‘sure…’
Pay per click client No.1 was on board! Courtesy of offline, real world, face-to-face meetings.
Your website is an important part of the marketing maze. If you’re going to pay for clicks, you need to have somewhere to send people.
Early on in my self-employment career I decided I wanted to be a web designer. Which was a terrible decision, given that I hate web design, and hate web designers. But I had studied Ben Hunt’s Pro Web Design Course, which at the time was probably the best web design course on the internet. And so I knew more about it than was probably good for me.
(Incidentally, Ben’s course is no longer available, but we interviewed him on the Maze Marketing Podcast here)
So, I had a ‘web design business’. With no portfolio, and no clients, except a couple of freebie websites I had done. I created a Google AdWords campaign bidding on local ‘web designer’ keywords. And thought little more of it, until one day my phone rang.
“Hello, I’m AD” said the caller. “Do you do websites?”
Yes, yes I did do websites.
“Could you add a membership site?”
Yes, I probably could.
“Would you come over for a meeting to discuss it?”
Yes, yes I would!
I was relieved to get off the phone without AD asking whether he could see any of the websites I had created. Which in a roundabout way, was zero. We arranged to meet the following evening at his house.
AD shared his house with his wife, parents, and about thirteen small children. We perched on office chairs in his attic, surrounded by piles of strewn paper.
AD did most of the talking. He talked excitedly through his ideas for each page. I did most of the listening – trying to suppress the occasional yawn. We mapped out roughly what his new website was going to look like. Eventually, the subject of payment came up.
“How much is this going to cost?” AD asked.
I was careful not to let it show, but I badly needed the cash.
“Four hundred pounds. Two hundred up front, two hundred on completion.”
“That sounds fair enough.” AD said, without blinking.
‘Damn, I should have asked for more!’ I thought darkly.
Still, a part of me was relieved. It was good to have someone who wanted to engage my services and pay me money. He paid me the £200 outside his house in cash, on his doorstep.
I sent AD an invoice later as a receipt for the £200. I had no invoice template, and at the time had no accounting system. My first ever invoice was set out crudely in Microsoft Word, with ‘RJD Consulting’ at the top as my business name. I copied the layout from an invoice I had received from a supplier, and set the invoice number at random. I didn’t want AD to know it was my first ever invoice!
There were a number of problems with AD’s website. Firstly, AD had no idea what he was actually trying to achieve. The scope of the project was changed abruptly a number of times.
Secondly, the website took me WAY longer to build than I anticipated. The more intricate membership elements of the site didn’t fully work, but AD eventually signed the site off.
That was in 2012. I can’t show you it, because it’s no longer online. It seemed nobody except AD wanted the website after all.
Your website first and foremost solves a communication problem. A poorly designed website that says the right thing to the right person will still convert. A well designed site with the wrong content won’t. And likely won’t exist, seven years down the line.
In most cases, there is no need to pay a designer to custom-build your website, like AD did. And actually, I didn’t custom-design his website, because it was built from an existing WordPress theme.
Some of the professional themes you can buy for WordPress are excellent. I use Thrive Themes, and can create a new website in a day or two. The theme takes care of the design, leaving me to focus on the content.
Content changes always outperform design changes. Remember that next time you feel ‘bored’ of your website.
P.S. For further reading on web design, read ‘Save The Pixel’ and ‘Web Design is Dead’, by Ben Hunt. Both free at http://benhunt.com/books/.