When special guest Garrett Mehrguth, founder of Directive Consulting, sat down with Site Strategics CEO Erin Sparks during the latest episode of their award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast, he was a true fount of wisdom on ways to do SEO more effectively. Episode 310 was jam-packed with all kinds of juicy hacks. Here’s what we learned:
Shifting from PPC to Share of SERP Real Estate
PPC is a broken way to approach SEO. You hire an agency and pay them a ton of money. The SEO specialist and tells his agency CEO, “I can cut this client’s ad-spend by 30% and not sacrifice volume.” But Mr. CEO’s response is, “Oh, thank you so much! How about I cut your salary by 30%? There’s an immediate disconnect between traditional PPC SEO and what’s in the client’s best interest. The other thing that happens is that when trying to increase the volume of leads and opportunities (that lead to revenue) traditional SEO tries to target more keywords. What the SEOs don’t do is ask themselves how they can grab a bigger share of SERP real estate for the keywords that are generating them the most business. On average, Google Ads has a 2-3% click-through rate. What about the 97% of the rest of the market for that term? That’s where your brand need to be discovered. That’s where third-party sites come in. If you want to start to change your client’s budget and positioning and get them results incredibly quickly, stop thinking in terms of trying to rank their website. You have to rank their brand. When you shift your perspective, you win.
Is Organic Still Important?
Organic is still incredibly important. And keep in mind that if you are doing full attribution modeling, Direct is in a large part organic just being mislabeled. It still outperforms every other channel from a cash modeling basis when it comes to gross profit or net profit because there’s not the inherent initial cost per acquisition with diminishing marginal returns for your business because cost per click rises far more than people are willing to pay. In other words, you experience diminishing marginal returns inherently from advertising in an auction setting like Google Ads. That’s why it’s so important to maintain a focus on organic. But how should SEOs go about focusing on organic? Your top priority should be making the brand discoverable.
Shifting from CPA to CPO with Brand Framework
A focus on brand discoverability requires having the right software tools. Directive built its own using Google Click ID. With the right tools, you’ll quickly see how third-party review sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd and GetApp can outperform Google Ads by almost 300% on the cost per opportunity level, not just the cost per acquisition level. In fact, B2B companies shouldn’t optimize towards CPA. Why? If you’re always trying to lower your cost acquisition, you will start to target cheaper cost-per-click terms and inherently have lower average order values which will decrease your gross profit margin over a long period of time.
But if SEOs as a group were in charge of the discoverability of a brand, they would search something like “top ERP software” instead of thinking how can I rank the website? They ask themselves how can the brand show up? They look at Google Ads to make sure they’re showing up there. If not, they’d contact the PPC team. They would look at third-party review sites and talk to management customer support about how to get reviews. You can see how the game changes when you think about brand discoverability. You can shift the game. On the top three results of the search, when the searcher clicks on that result, will your brand be in there? If so you’re going to greatly increase your close rate. SEOs talk way too much about bounce rate and not nearly enough about close rate. They talk way too much about cost per acquisition and not cost per opportunity. They talk way too much about cost per click and not cost per deal. Shift those metrics and your agency will bring more value to clients, and allow you to raise your retainers!
Increasing Your Share of SERP
Take a B2B software company as an example. The purchasing company has someone in the C-suite who goes to a director and says we need to look at three potential vendors. The director goes to a manager and says get me five quotes and I’ll choose the top three. Now, if the software company is targeting all their content to the C-suite level, they’re starting off all wrong. That’s not the person with the greatest influence on the purchasing process. It’s that manager two levels down who is going to do the actual searching. That’s the person who is your target market.
Then you have to understand how that person will search. The manager wants to get a bunch of quotes at once, which means their search is going to have “top” or “best” either at the front or “reviews” at the end: “top ERP software,” “best ERP software,” “ERP software reviews.” When the B2B software company sees these results, the key question is this: How much a share does the company have of the SERP real estate? You see your company’s Google ad among those top several above-the-fold purchased results. That’s 3% of the market mentioned earlier. If your company is the first result, you’ve now covered 33% of the market with stuff you now generates profit. Click down the second, third and fourth results. Is your brand in each of those? They probably review sites, so focus on getting in those. Then you look at the news sites or other sites that should up for your search term and use Google Adsense to make specific ad placements (make it look like a native display ad) that match your most profitable queries. It works like a charm!
How Much Are You Willing to Lose to Get a Client
With a brand discoverability mindset, you don’t ask yourself how much you can make. Instead, you ask how much are you willing to lose to potentially get a client over the next five years? You have to have the patience to do brand advertising. Most companies stop their brand advertising before it has a chance to get results. Garret is willing to spend $20k/month on brand search ads for three months and get nothing because then there’s going to be that month where he gets $150k that makes it worth the effort. It’s a loss leader that can and will get great results if you let it run its course and avoid pulling the plug too early.
Full Attribution is a MUST
The most critical element of making all of these shifts in mindset and the resulting strategies and tactics work is full attribution. You can’t do this kind of highly effective SEO work on a CPM or CPA model. Full attribution is a must. You have to have full visibility all the way from initial impression to revenue to make this work. You can’t measure intent with a CPA model, but you can with a CPO model. It is only with full attribution that you get to see how your CPA difference between Capterra, Google, and Software Advice might be fairly small, but the CPOs are massively different. That’s what you need to know if you want to optimize your spending toward revenue, which is what matters. And if you do full attribution, you’ll be way ahead of the game. Most companies aren’t doing it. Instead, they end up doing stupid things that don’t work, like retargeting people back to a page which the person didn’t like the first time around, so why would they like it now? Or letting the same people who wrote ineffective initial messaging write the second round messaging. They didn’t get it right the first time, so what makes you think they’ll get it right the second time?
The key takeaway in all of this is simple: Focus on brand discoverability.
Connect with Garrett Mehrguth and Directive Consulting
Twitter: @gmehrguth (https://twitter.com/gmehrguth)
Directive Consulting: https://directiveconsulting.com
Directive Twitter: @DirectiveAgency (https://twitter.com/directiveagency)
Directive Facebook: @directiveconsulting (https://www.facebook.com/directiveconsulting)
Directive Instagram: @directiveconsulting (https://www.instagram.com/directiveconsulting)
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