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5 Signs A Client Is About To Break Up With Your Marketing Agency

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Learn more about how to avoid vanity metrics and beef up your presentations in CallRail’s client retention guide.

Sign 3: Your Client Says They Aren’t Getting The Results They Expected

So, you’ve prepared a detailed report and presented it to the client. You’re proud of your team’s work because you’ve made significant progress on a campaign.

But the client isn’t happy.

They don’t see the results they wanted, or they’re not getting results fast enough.

Somewhere, there’s been a miscommunication.

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Properly onboarding and educating your clients is key to a healthy working relationship with them. If they misunderstand something about the process at the beginning, it’s much harder to keep them happy in the long run.

If you identify a misunderstanding within the first weeks of working together, it’s quite easy to address! But later on, more weeks or months down the road, a miscommunication becomes a failure to deliver, in their eyes.

As unpleasant as these conversations can be, you need to understand exactly what went wrong.

The most important question is: Was it a misunderstanding, or is there a real issue with your agency’s performance?

Either way, you may need to adjust your onboarding process.

What To Do: Improve Client Onboarding & Prove Your ROI With Data

If it makes sense, now is the time to defend your work.

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Back it up with data, and ensure that the client understands exactly how your efforts benefit them.

Step 1: Think About & Consider The Following:

  • Are they focusing on the wrong metrics?
  • Have you explained that not all conversions are equal, and that some are worth more than others?
  • Do your clients understand that qualitative data can be just as important (or moreso) than quantitative data?
    (For example, did you deliver fewer overall leads, but more high-quality leads by refining a landing page’s audience targeting?)

Check out CallRail’s guide for some great examples of these concepts, and how to communicate the intricacies of marketing data to clients.

Step 2: Reassess Your Onboarding Process

It might make sense to redo some portions of the onboarding process for unhappy clients if they’re willing to work with you.

This can introduce new stakeholders to your process, and remind existing ones what the overall goals are, as well as your plans to achieve them.

Step 3: Adjust Your Own Marketing Efforts To Target Clients With Priorities That Match 

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If you’re running a long-term campaign for a client who wants quick wins, the miscommunication might be in your marketing.

What promises and metrics are you focusing on in your marketing materials?

Are you setting expectations quickly and clearly with SLAs?

Are you taking time to evaluate leads and how well their goals align with your services?

If you’ve got gaps in your marketing and lead generation processes, you might end up with the next sign:

Sign 4: Your Client Is Always Upset

We’ve all had them. Clients who just can’t be pleased. No matter what you do, it feels like they’re always mad at you, always demanding answers, and despite all your best efforts they eventually leave.

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This isn’t just a problem for the sales team in having to find a new client. Sour relationships can damage your reputation.

In the end, it might be best to let these clients go, as you’ll find out in CallRail’s guide.

Instead, focus your energy on improving your marketing communications and audience targeting.

If when a client leaves, you breathe a sigh of relief – they weren’t right for your agency in the first place. The relationship was doomed from the start.

What To Do: Use Data-Driven Marketing To Find Clients That Align With Your Services & Goals

Step 1: Decide What Your Ideal Clients Look Like

Who are you targeting and why?

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What are their goals?

What are their pain points and how do you plan to solve them?

These are basic questions that you’re familiar with, but if you’ve attracted clients that are difficult to please, then something may have gone wrong with this step.

Step 2: Reassess Your Audiences

It can help to start thinking about the audiences of your audience. Do you specialize in reaching a specific audience? With what cohorts and demographics have previous campaigns seen the most success?

You might want to pivot and focus your marketing based on previous successes. Sometimes, it can take a while to learn what your agency excels at.

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Case studies are a vital part of not only your marketing efforts but your understanding of your own success.

Step 3: Implement Lead Scoring To Get A Clear View Of Qualified Clients

Another key process you should implement is lead scoring.

Download CallRail’s client retention guide to learn about lead scoring and other tactics to ensure your clients are a good match.

Sign 5: Your Client Is Reducing Their Spend Or Says They’re Outgrowing You

Sometimes, you haven’t done anything wrong.

In fact, you’ve done your job so well that the client doesn’t need you anymore.

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If you notice that a successful client is reducing their spend or having you communicate with newly hired internal experts in digital marketing, these could be signs that they’re outgrowing you.

Often, there isn’t much you can do if a client ends your relationship for budget reasons, or because they’re taking things in-house.

But you should still take a last stab at proving the value of your work.

What To Do: Create Success Story Case Studies

A case study is a great opportunity to remind the client just how effective you are.

Step 1: Ask If They’d Be Willing To Be Part Of A Case Study

Reminiscing on your successes together might just convince them to keep their budget allocated to you.

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It’s also an opportunity to talk to them about any new services you’re planning to offer.

If they are going to leave, then a case study is a positive note to end the relationship with. It helps you highlight your successes in future marketing campaigns, and can keep lines of communication open once they leave.

Step 2: Implement An Exit Survey

Make sure to have an exit survey in place.

You can learn what services to offer in the future to keep clients on for longer and give them a final opportunity to talk to you about any pain points.

Step 3: Start A Referral Program

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Of course, don’t forget to ask about setting up a referral program. As they move on and grow, they’re bound to encounter businesses that could use your services, and they know exactly how much you helped them.

Relationship-building is key for any agency’s success, and partnerships with current and former clients can help bring in new business. It can also deepen existing relationships.

Armed with data and communication plans, you can create longer, more fruitful relationships and reduce client churn.

Learn more about all of these data-driven strategies in “The Agency Marketer’s Guide To Client Retention” from CallRail.



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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

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Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

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Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

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How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

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You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

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  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

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Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

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Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

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“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

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“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

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“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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