While our Boston digital marketing agency doesn’t normally build websites for clients, we regularly advise our clients about what content management systems (CMS)/website platforms they should consider when launching a new website. We’ve also project managed the RFP/RFI process for several clients to arrive at the best-fit web developer and platform for a new site build. In addition, we often provide recommendations to clients for expert developers in various CMS with whom we’ve had the good fortunate to collaborate. One such collaborator and true partner is Robin Clapp at Web Design by Robin.
By working closely and collaboratively with Robin on the execution of SEO tactics on numerous mutual clients’ Joomla websites, we’ve gotten to know the many benefits to an organization of building and managing their website on Joomla. We’ve found it easy ourselves to use the tool to add new posts to resource/blog/news/articles sections of sites; plus, enter post title tags that support websites being found on Google for relevant high-volume keywords.
And, thru the results of SEO audits we conduct, we’ve become confident that, like WordPress and other sites built on non-drag-n-drop platforms, Joomla sites tend to rank well in Google when the proper SEO tactics are put in place. But, we’re letting Robin take it from here by sharing her thoughts below about why it’s a mistake not to consider Joomla as a website platform option when launching a new site.
From Guest Blogger, Robin Clapp, Web Design By Robin
While networking lately, I’ve been asked repeatedly, “What platform do you design websites on?” The reaction to my answer is confusion. They had never heard of Joomla. That’s okay! I don’t necessarily expect business owners to know all about website technology. So I put together these highlights to help them understand what Joomla is and why it is an excellent choice for a business website.
What Is Joomla and Why Should I Choose It For My Business Website?
What is Joomla and why should I choose it for my business website?
Joomla is the ideal Content Management System (CMS) platform for businesses and companies with websites with numerous pages and continuous content updates and additions.
At Web Design by Robin we have been designing custom websites in Joomla for 15+ years. Using extensive website development knowledge and years of experience developing websites in Joomla, each design is a custom experience tailored to your specific needs. Joomla provides a secure login and the ability to add, change, and remove content.
Benefits Of Using the Joomla Platform For Your New Website Include:
Joomla is a free, open-source content management system for publishing web content. Joomla is free and open-source because a community, not a company, owns it. The nonprofit organization, Open Source Matters, Inc. and the Joomla community develop the Joomla platform code where skilled Joomla specialists can design top-of-the-line websites.
Website content is template-agnostic. In the Joomla platform, content is created natively as individual elements. The template, in our case, a custom-designed template, is independent of the content, allowing for a design change while keeping the content as is.
Joomla has powerful role management and permissions built-in. This is useful if you have a variety of staff roles and responsibilities or tasks that they need to perform in relation to the website.
Content can be customized using custom fields. Custom fields include content and options such as video, audio, links, and images. Content can be categorized, tagged, searched, and sorted. All this is native to Joomla, making it an excellent solution for resource-heavy websites.
SEO metadata is easy to access and maintain in Joomla. Add your titles, descriptions, and alt tags in the same place you add your content. Joomla makes it easy.
Joomla is the leading platform when it comes to accessibility. If you choose accessibility for your website design, maintaining accessible content is easy going forward using Joomla’s built-in accessibility checker.
As we mentioned in this recent blog post, there’s so much discussion going on right now about whether or not, and how soon, AI (artificial intelligence) will impact how search engines like Google determine what websites, Google My Business Profiles/Google Search & Maps listings, or other digital properties to serve up in search results.
We think, now more than ever, it’s important to return to why the internet, via which individuals are able to access various digital properties, was first launched. Certainly and initially, the internet was created to allow for easier sharing of information. We believe that, regardless of the decade in which we find ourselves living and working, websites and other digital properties should still continue to support the internet’s initial mission, and therefore, focus on the target audiences they serve and what information those target audiences expect to find on the online property in-question. Plus, focus on what information would be most helpful to those audiences.
Two Best Practices For Digital Information Sharing That Also Support SEO
So, what are two practices that are critical to effective information sharing that also support SEO (search engine optimization)/being found on Google?
Provide the best User Experience (UX) by not overthinking, and being real and being honest about who your organization is and the services your offer. While you want external organizations to link to your site, don’t offer compensation for sites to do so. Google recognizes when the connection between organizations is forced vs. real and natural. In addition, don’t just write for SEO. Tell a good story, get people talking about you, be newsworthy, etc. Write about the things that matter most to you and your customers.
BE FRESH. Keep your website and any other digital property’s content fresh by continuing to produce and share new, content relevant to both your organization and your target audiences. Visitors to your online properties aren’t going to return if there’s no new information to be gleaned from your site, and Google and other search engines are way more likely to serve up a competitor site for relevant search terms (keywords) if that competitor site has fresher, newer content. What’s an easy way to keep your content fresh? Create and post a bi-weekly or monthly blog post!
Even if the two digital information principles/best practices above are all you have time to attend to due to limited staff, time, or $, barring any kind of technical issues with your digital properties, as Boston digital marketing experts offering SEO services, we believe you’ll be well positioned to be found on Google by the people you want most to find you. Plus, you’ll be supporting the internet’s original mission to share beneficial information effectively!
Don’t Have Time To Ensure Your Website Content Is Authentic Or Fresh?
Regardless of the size of your organization, it can be confusing to figure out what type of marketing agency or marketing consultant to hire to help you create awareness, and ultimately cause sales of your products, services, and solutions. The ability to market digitally/electronically — that came with wide-spread adoption of the internet — brought with it the following changes when it came to organizations engaging outside help for their marketing (outsourcing their marketing), whether it be for one-off/one-time work or ongoing work.
How Digital Marketing Leveled The Playing Field For Both Advertisers and Ad Agencies
Organizations who couldn’t afford the high costs associated with producing TV, radio, transit, or outdoors (billboards or other) advertising, found new, more affordable marketing activities were now available to them in the form of social media posting and advertising, tactics that support websites being found on Google and other search engines for desirable search phrases (organic search tactics/SEO tactics), paid search engine ads/marketing (SEM), e-blast and e-mail marketing, and more.
Since many organizations looking for marketing help no longer required the infrastructure and diverse skillsets associated with marketing tactics that involved large production activities and costs, some realized they no longer needed to hire a full-service large advertising agency — think the type of agency featured in the acclaimed TV series, “Mad Men,” or on “BeWitched,” as smaller marketing shops, like ours, could meet their digital marketing needs and/or traditional marketing needs related to activities that don’t require a lot of production, such as Public Relations (PR), or print advertising.
How To Figure Out What Type Of Marketing Firm To Hire And Questions To Ask
Branding and Design Firm. A firm that refers to themselves as a branding/brand and design firm primarily focuses on helping you figure out the look and feel of your brand, including the logo, colors, and graphic elements that will be associated with your brand. They usually offer website design services, but not always. And, some do offer other digital marketing or traditional marketing services thru collaborations or partnerships with digital marketing agencies, advertising agencies, or marketing consultants, or marketing freelancers. So, if you know you will need particular digital and/or traditional marketing services after working with the branding firm to develop or execute a new brand identify for you, ask in advance if they offer those services, so you will know whether you will have the burden of hunting around after for someone to help with traditional and digital marketing services — particularly to drive traffic to any new site you engage them to design for you.
Digital Marketing Agency. Digital marketing agencies tend to offer both higher-level strategic planning services, as well as hands-on/execution services, related to any marketing tactic that is digital or electronic related, including: e-blast/e-mail strategy and execution services, social media strategy and voice (actually writing and scheduling of social media posts), online advertising (social media/display advertising, Google Ads or other search engine advertising), blog strategy and voice work (actually writing and posting of blogs to your website), and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Most will offer content marketing services as well to help you figure out what content your target audiences are most interested in, and an editorial calendar for serving up such content on your website. Website content writing services likely will be available as well.
Marketing Consultant. In the almost nine years since we launched Results C & R, we’ve met a large number of marketing consultants. The degree to which they offer hands-on/execution work vs. developing high-level strategic plans tends to really vary. Some offer a number of hands-on services, in addition to helping you develop a strategic marketing plan, while others don’t do the actual marketing tactic execution work. If your organization has a number of internal marketing people who can actually oversee or execute the marketing plan developed by a consultant, a marketing consultant may be just what and all that you need.
Public Relations Firm/PR Firm. The focus of public relations firms is to get your organization unpaid-for-advertising/marketing. By helping your organization develop a strategy for causing various reporters and media to cover your story, they help your organization get mentions and attention without the cost of an expensive advertising campaign. PR firms also tend to offer event planning services since an event may be the perfect way to create awareness of your organization and/or create good will among your target audiences. Keep in mind that if you only need help with putting on an event vs. getting regular/ongoing press coverage, you could consider hiring an event planning firm. Many event planning firms also have experience getting media/reporter coverage for an event as well.
In general, the biggest overlap between a digital marketing agency and a Public Relations firm is that they both tend to offer social media services, since social media posts — particularly organic vs. paid/boosted social media posts — can help to generate good will and create awareness of an organization’s products, services, and solutions.
Advertising Agency. Nowadays, when people think of, or decide to hire an advertising agency vs. a digital marketing agency, it’s related to the fact that advertising agencies can pull in the right team members or hire the right contractors for a marketing campaign that requires heavy-duty production. As we mentioned above, scripting and executing a radio, TV (network or cable) or streaming advertisement requires the collaboration of a bunch of individuals with diverse skillsets, the renting of studios and/or locations in which to film, the hiring of “talent” for the broadcast spot — whether it be aired on the radio or TV. Activities like the aforementioned are often the reason why, in our current day and age, an organization would look to hire an advertising agency vs. a digital marketing agency. Although, most advertising agencies offer digital marketing services, in addition to traditional ones.
Web Design/Web Development Firm. Web design and web development firms are exactly what their name indicates — firms who help design and develop websites for clients. Many also offer logo design or other graphic design services because of their web designers’ ability to successfully complete such work. All web design/web development firms DO NOT offer SEO services nor do they always understand SEO, so if you expect or want to receive SEO services as part of your new website launch, be sure to ask any firms you are considering to design and develop your site, what knowledge they have of SEO and/or who they have on their team that has an SEO background. Otherwise, as we explain in this blog post, you’ll end up with a website that is not easily found via search engine searches.
Unfortunately, we regularly interact with prospective clients who had someone develop a beautiful, effective site for them, but the site is not being visited/found by target audiences because SEO tactics weren’t put in place by the web design/web development firm as part of the site development and design engagement.
What Should I Expect To Pay A Marketing Agency Or A Marketing Consultant?
Based, again, on our 9 years of marketing agency and marketing consulting experience at the time of writing this post, we’ve found that, in general, the bigger the agency/marketing shop, the more expensive their hourly rate and marketing project fees are. Why? It mainly comes down to overhead and the costs of maintaining and marketing a larger organization, offering a large number of employees benefits, etc.
We’re A Boston Digital Marketing Agency, Boston SEO Company, Boston Marketing Consultant, and Boston PR Firm All In One!
Due to our Principal’s more than 30 years of corporate marketing and consulting experience, we offer all the services called out in the heading directly above! We regularly meet with both start-ups and long-standing organizations — both for-profit and non-profit — for complimentary discussions about their marketing challenges and opportunities, so feel free to use our calendar app to schedule a FREE initial consultation https://calendly.com/gail-moraski.
Refer to it as you will — and we are seeing a lot of reference variability, such as GA4 and G4 — but Google Analytics’ new property version will soon be here to stay and pushing aside the Universal Analytics (UA) version (a version which all of us digital marketers and data geeks are very familiar with and have grown to love over the years.)
Since as a Boston SEO Company and Boston Digital Marketing agency, we ask each and every one of our clients to provide us with access to their Google Analytics data — so that we can help them determine what marketing activities are and aren’t working for them and what their general “website health” looks like — we are sorry to see the UA version of Google Analytics go. We’ve been using it 20 years, both in corporate and consulting roles, to assess the aforementioned.
Per Google’s own declaration, UA versions of Google Analytics will stop recording hits come July 1, 2023, which means the last day an organization can use Google Analytics to effectively track website visitor behavior with a UA property version is June 30, 2023. That said, our digital marketing agency is already hard at work learning the “ins and outs” of GA4, and working with our clients to make the switch late 2022 or early 2023 to this new Google Analytics property version.
We just completed several online classes offered by Google to learn about the many benefits of GA4 Analytics and how GA4 differrs from UA Analytics. While it’s fresh in our minds, we’re sharing our immediate reactions. We decided not to outline pro’s and con’s because general use, and our own use, of GA4 is too new and what we might consider a “pro” someone might consider a “con,” and vice versa.
G4 simultaneously tracks both mobile app and website data
G4 can often track a user across devices and platforms (UA was only able to track based on device ID) — this means if an individual originally visits your website using their phone, but later visits your site using their desktop, laptop, or other device, your organization will be able to track that individual as one user (currently in UA Analytics that same individual would likely be tracked as several users) and follow their user journey. Important note: You’ll likely see your “unique user” volume drop when you switch from UA to GA4 Analytics for the reasons outlined above and below.
So how does Google accomplish the above? By looking at three distinct identifiers or identity spaces:
User ID (this is an ID that an organization provided to a customer or prospective customer or other website visitor as part of their need or ability to login to the organization’s website)
Google signal (available when people are signed into a Google account, such as a Gmail e-mail account and have consented to sharing that info.)
Device ID (this info. comes from a user’s browser or app instance ID)
Key Differences Between GA4 Analytics and UA Analytics
GA4’s tracking emphasis is on user events vs. sessions (note that session info. is still available in GA4)
Many standard user events (activities that a user completes on a website, such as downloading a document) are automatically tracked in GA4 vs. UA Analytics. This means organizations will be far less dependent on using Google Tag Manager to set up event tracking, something we believe most organizations will welcome. We know we found using the aforementioned tool very cumbersome.
A smaller number of standard/pre-defined reports are available within GA4, but an extensive set of tools known as “Explorations” allow data geeks to slice ‘n dice data to their heart’s content. We’ve always found the best way to learn a new tool is to set it up and start playing around with it. We’ve found if you do some digging around in GA4, you’ll figure out where and how to access info. that you analyzed regularly in UA Analytics.
Interestingly enough, the Google-provided training we took highlighted the same items we highlighted above as benefits or differences in this grid that was shared in the training.
As we’ve shared on social media and with our SEO company’s clients, Google announced in September 2022 a key revision to their search algorithm (the algorithm they use to decide which websites to serve up, and in which order, for search terms entered in their search engine) to which each and every website owner should pay close attention. And, that is that they, as the #1 search engine used by individuals (92% or more of individuals use Google as their primary search engine), will be paying greater consideration to whether or not a website’s content is “helpful” or “unhelpful” when making search engine results listing ranking decisions. As you would expect, sites with “helpful content” are more likely to be served up and rank well in search results for relevant terms.
Impact of Google’s September 2022 “Helpful Content” Algorithm Change
We know first-hand how much of a shift in ranking can take place when Google views your site as one that shares “helpful content.” Our site now rank approx. 50 spots higher in Google search results for a high-volume, relevant keyword and that shift happened almost overnight. We believe that the positive shift was due to Google recognizing that our Boston digital marketing agency consistently publishes blog posts that are easily understood by a “lay person,” but also provide enough instruction to implement some of the marketing tactics we describe and recommend in our posts.
Shared below in Google’s “own words” is information from Google’s Search Central blog about how to ensure your website content is “helpful.” We’ve highlighted (via bold italics) what we consider to be the most critical policies to apply when making decisions about what topics to write about — and how to write about them — to make sure your content is beneficial to the various audiences who visit your site. All of their recommendations should improve your website’s “bounce rate,” i.e., the percentage of people who land/start on your site without interacting it in any way, such as clicking on a link or call-out, or visiting another page of your site. When prospective clients or clients are bouncing too quickly from your site, it’s an opportunity for a competitor to win them over on their site, right?
Unhelpful Website Content And How It Impacts SEO
The flip side of the positive practice of regular production and posting of “helpful content” is to eliminate content that Google may deem as “unhelpful (which could negatively impact how your website ranks for “desirable” search terms).” Such “unhelpful” content includes:
Short content that is “stuffed” with keywords and was primarily loaded to your site to support your site being found on Google for those keywords.
Content that is outdated — think events that have already passed or information that is no longer relevant or accurate, particularly pre-pandemic information since the pandemic greatly changed both business and consumer behavior.
Content that is all “about you,”, i.e., too focused on selling your products and singing your praises or sharing your differentiators without explaining how your prospective clients or clients would benefit from your products, services, and solutions, i.e., explaining what pain points of clients they would address.
Our team is here to help you interpret this most recent Google algorithm change, and put the right steps in place to make sure you respond to, and take advantage of, this recent Google algorithm change appropriately, promptly, and effectively. It’s very much in keeping with what we shared years ago in one of our very first SEO blog posts about making sure your website is “authentic.” So, please reach out if we can help you effectively navigation this change in algorithm — one we think makes is warranted, was a long-time-in-coming, and will provide for a far better user experience on all websites.
The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.
How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:
Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.
How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:
Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
Anyone who knows me well, knows I love watching cooking shows on Food Network, particularly ones where competitors have to combine ingredients that are given to them to make a dish that is appealing to both the tongues and the eyes of the particular show’s judges. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m watched pretty much every episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” and countless episodes of “Chopped.”
So, what does food have to do with me, my company, and search engine optimization (SEO)? While my digital marketing agency isn’t just an SEO company, we’ve definitely gotten to be known, particularly in the last five years, for helping organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) in the Greater Boston area and beyond be found better and rank better on Google. Due to more than 10 years of being responsible for how websites rank in Google and other search engines, I’ve learned thru hands-on experience what combination of ingredients, i.e., what SEO tactics/activities, make for a winning SEO recipe!
Keyword Research: Your First and Most Important SEO Ingredient
I’ve given to, or shared with, Massachusetts chambers of commerce and SCORE chapters, as well as existing and prospective clients, a number of SEO presentations about the importance of keyword research. I’ve also written blog posts about it, and have a Word doc I’d be glad to share with you if you reach out to me to ask for it (hey, we don’t want to give out all the secret ingredients in our special SEO sauce too easily!) As we’ve shared in all the aforementioned documents and activities, keyword research ALWAYS needs to be a first step or ingredient in implementing an effective SEO strategy and recipe.
Even if you believe you already know what search terms (known as keywords) your various target audiences are entering into Google’s search engine to identify an organization or individual that offers the products, services, or solutions to problems you do, you should still make the time to confirm your intuitions about target audience’s search behaviors are accurate for these two key reasons:
you may be ranking well or trying to rank well for terms that target audiences are truly searching on, but are you missing out on terms that audiences are searching even more frequently on (high-volume search terms), and therefore, missing out on being found for desirable, relevant search terms because you don’t include those in your website content, page headers, meta tags, or other SEO real estate?
while you believed prior to keyword research completion that individuals were actively/regularly searching to identify an organization that offers the products, services, and solutions you do, your keyword research ends up indicating that the number of people entering relevant terms into Google is very low or negligible. The aforementioned scenario means all the SEO tactics in the world aren’t going to solve an immediate challenge of wanting and needing to generate more sales and leads for your organization since a “push” vs. “pull” strategy is warranted. You’re not going to drive a lot of “organic search” (search engine) traffic to your site, so traffic to your site will need to come from clicks on social media posts, display ads, links/banner ads on other external sites, e-blasts, and other marketing activities that put the idea of your products, services, and solutions in the minds of relevant target audiences who aren’t actively searching to find you.
Keyword research allows you to take a preliminary set of keywords/search terms you believe your audiences are searching on, and generate a much larger list of relevant search terms and the average # of times a month someone is entering that particular term into Google, for a particular geography. By reviewing this research, organizations can identify the keywords for which they most want to be found, and then make sure, as explained above, that those terms are included in SEO tactics/activities such as meta tags and public-facing website content and headers.
SEO Audit: An Ingredient That Adds Depth To Your SEO Recipe and Strategy
My Greater Boston SEO company employs a paid vs. free SEO audit tool to accurately determine for which of the keywords/search terms our clients most want to rank in a particular geography (identified thru the keyword research process above) they already rank well. We used to conduct SEO site audits for clients manually, but as our client list grew and the number of terms for which clients wanted to rank grew, we knew we needed to, and did invest in, a more cost- and time-efficient way to conduct SEO audits.
I consider an organization to rank particularly well for a particular keyword in Google if a listing with a link to its website or its Google My Business Profile/Google Search & Maps listing appears in the first 10 – 12 listings (for a particular geography) that Google serves up for the high-volume keyword in-question, i.e., appears on the first page of Google search results. I consider an organization to rank well, versus particularly well, if a listing with a link to its website or Google My Business Profile/Google Search and Maps appears within the first 25 listings Google serves up for desirable search terms, i.e., on the first two pages of Google Search results.
Identifying the intersection of relevant high-volume search terms and ranking on Google on pages BEYOND the first two (in positions 26 or higher in Google, and depending on the nature of an organization’s products and services, it may be critical to rank in position 1 – 12 in search results) allows us to know where there are areas for SEO improvement — therefore, areas where our client could be experiencing sweeter SEO success and for what terms we need to apply our secret SEO sauce to support ranking better in the future for those important keywords. The aforementioned secret sauce includes, but is not limited to, applying tactics such as employing the high-volume keywords in meta tags, page headers, and page content.
Why You’ll Want and Need To Repeat Your SEO Audit
Once you’ve set up your initial SEO audit, you’ll want to repeat it monthly to see if and how your organization ranks for the high-volume keywords regarding which you’re applying a lot of your SEO energy. Repeating this SEO audit will allow you to continue to tweak your SEO strategy and where you spend your SEO time, so that you continue to rank better and better for the keywords that are most important to the success of your organization and to your target audiences. Read why SEO is not a one and done marketing activity.
Why You Need This Winning SEO Ingredient Combo
Why does combining keyword research with an SEO audit make for a winning SEO recipe? Why spend time trying to rank well in Google for relevant, high-volume terms you’re already ranking well for? Sure, SEO is not a one and done marketing tactic and you should continue to employ appropriate-to-the-page-or-post-in-question content, headers, and page title tags that include those keywords for which you already rank well, but why not put the majority of your SEO energy into trying to rank well for high-volume search terms your organization currently isn’t ranking well for so you’re not missing out on important opportunities to reach your various target audiences?
Here’s an example from my own business. Two high-volume keywords I want my own site to rank well for are “digital marketing agency Boston” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. = 480/month), and “Boston SEO company” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. also = 480/month) since both of the aforementioned keywords have the highest average monthly search volumes among keywords/search terms that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions to problems we offer. Based on an audit we conducted today, we learned that we rank better for the term “digital marketing agency Boston” than we do for “Boston SEO company” — hey, Boston is fortunate to be a place that a very large number of SEO experts call home, so we are always competing with the best of the best SEO experts to rank for relevant terms. Anyhow, given the aforementioned audit information, while we’ll want to continue our efforts at ranking for “digital marketing agency Boston,” we’ll put extra effort into tactics to rank for “Boston SEO company (for the time being anyhow since rankings constantly change and shift depending on your marketplace and competition to be served up for certain keywords.)
Continuing with our food metaphor, we know this was a lot to “digest,” We’d be glad to walk you thru a recent case study we put together about the above winning combo, so please don’t hesitate to use our calendar app to schedule a time to chat https://calendly.com/gail-moraski.
Note: This post was updated on July 15, 2022 to also incorporate favorite marketing podcasts, and also on November 25, 2022 to incorporate key places to obtain information on the new G4 Google Analytics property type (vs. UA/Universal Google Analytics property type).
Anyone who provides digital marketing services, like our digital marketing agency, or has a role at a organization where they are responsible for the planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting on of digital marketing tactics, knows that the landscape keeps changing. New social media platforms get introduced. The interfaces or management tools you use to execute activities or monitor results change regularly. It can all have your head spinning.
To help you “keep calm and carry on,” we thought we’d share a list of some of the organizations whose websites we go to when we are in need of answers and help or whose e-newsletters we read to stay on top of all things digital marketing and e-commerce. Since Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two of our Greater-Boston-Area digital marketing agency’s specialties — we love any digital marketing work that is technical or analytical — you’ll see a number of websites that focus on those topics below. Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.
We hope the below makes your life as a digital marketer easier and welcome ideas for organizations we should add. We expect to continue to update this list as we discover more digital marketing experts to learn from. We’re all in this together as the digisphere continues to evolve! Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.
Knowing that I and my Boston-area digital marketing agency team help clients obtain, maintain, and optimize Google Nonprofit Ad Grants, a few weeks ago a fellow digital marketing consultant asked me if I ever had a client utilize the entire $120,000 in free Google Ads search advertising available thru the Grant. While I knew generally that a few of our nonprofit (NPO) clients who offered products and services across all of the U.S. (vs. in a smaller city/town or state geography) were able to really capitalize on the free advertising $/media buy available annually via their Grant, it prompted me to both dig deeper on what % of their Grant dollars were being used, and to detail in this blog post, the various ways our marketing agency’s Google Ad Grant clients have used their search-advertising funds.
I hope that, by documenting here the types of nonprofits we’ve worked with who have obtained a Grant and successfully employed Google Nonprofit Grant monies, I might inspire other NPOs to either apply for a Google Grant, or use their Google Ads Grant differently or better to maximize it.
What Types Of Nonprofits Qualify For A Google Nonprofit Ad Grant
Let’s start with the types of nonprofit organizations we’ve helped obtain and/or capitalize on their Google Nonprofit Ad Grant:
organizations that offer training programs/coaching to at-risk women/women in-transition
organizations serving those with special needs and/or disability
organizations that serve financially challenged/at-risk teens in both the U.S. and abroad
Most non-profits who apply for a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant will qualify for one unless they are a government agency/entity, a healthcare provider like a hospital, or an education institution (philanthropic arms of colleges and universities may qualify for a grant). We’d be glad to coach you thru the Google Nonprofit Ad Grant application process. The initial part is pretty simple, and starts with applying for a Google Nonprofit Account and joining Tech Soup if you haven’t done so already. But, you do need to know how to set up a campaign that effectively meets certain Google Nonprofit Ad Grant search advertising requirements, including using certain available advertising features.
Does Anyone Ever Use Their Entire Annual Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Funds?
The answer to the above is likely “yes,” or close to it. As alluded to above, the broader the geographic area in which a nonprofit offers support, services, and products, the more likely they are going to be able to employ much of the available monthly $10,000 in free paid search advertising, particularly if the volume of individuals searching on terms relevant to what the nonprofit offers is significant.
We just conducted an audit of several of our Google Nonprofit Ad Grant clients who are able to offer all or some of their products and services across the whole U.S. All three of them sell products and services that are available for purchase by anyone in the U.S. For example, one sells mass cards to fund the great work they do; another sells curriculum and online training programs; a couple have online gift stores whose sales allow them to provide the services they do to constituents. One client will likely use 70% of their annual Google Ad Grant dollars ($120,000) by year’s end; another about one-third; and another, about one-third. It’s not easy to properly and effectively employ those large search advertising budgets, but it shows it is possible! And, of course, we’d be glad to brainstorm with you to come up with creative ideas for optimizing Grant dollars.
How Can I Use My Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Dollars?
Many of our Google Nonprofit Ad Grant clients are using their Google Grant in a number of simultaneous ways, including the following:
Drive sales of products, therefore, tangible goods, such as those available in an online store/shop that fund their good work in our communities
Cause use of the organization’s on-site services or online/virtual services
Recruit volunteers for their organization
Through general/branding messaging, create awareness of their organization among appropriate audiences in an attempt to secure donations (keep in mind that ads specifically asking for donations aren’t effective; but letting individuals and orgs. that are interested in your cause know about you can be effective with development efforts)
Support attendance at paid or free events, including webinars, seminars, workshops, courses, and classes
Cause target audiences to visit/read/use resources/information on their site, or download information
Cause appropriate individuals to fundraise on the organization’s behalf/participate in the organization’s fundraiser
Cause target audiences to be an advocate for the organization’s cause or the general/broader cause with which the organization is associated
Cause other desired “conversions,” i.e., desired behaviors, such as:
visits to organization’s physical site for a variety of reasons
We think Google Nonprofit Ad Grants are a well-kept secret and are often under-utilized by nonprofits — either because they don’t apply for and employ one to see if it will work for them, or they obtain one and don’t use it for the many purposes they could or should.
There’s little downside that we can think of to being responsive. When not used in a digital marketing context, being responsive means to “react quickly and positively.” Responsiveness, and therefore, the ability to be flexible and adapt, is usually a much-envied attribute or characteristic, whether it pertains to a person, product, or service.
While we encourage our readers to be responsive on all fronts, given the nature of our business and our blog’s following, this particular post’s intent is to address responsiveness as pertains to the world of online marketing & presence. To be responsive in the digital marketing world means to present the digital content in-question in a fashion that makes it presentable (from an appearance standpoint), logical, legible and appropriate, regardless of the device on which the information is served up or viewed.
It used to be, as recently as 15 years or so ago, that when new websites were launched, the developer and/or the owner of the site did not give as much attention to the “responsiveness” of the website, i.e., how website page content would appear when viewed on a SMART device (devices that can access the internet) such as a mobile phone or tablet. Today, any web developer worth his or her salt would never launch a website that isn’t responsive to the various devices that might access it. And, most content management systems like WIX, Weebly, WordPress, Square Space, and Joomla, are designed to ensure that sites built and launched in them are mobile-friendly.
How and Why Google Ads Supports Search Ads That Are Responsive
Another digital marketing tactic/activity that rewards and supports responsiveness is Google search advertising, and it’s this digital marketing tactic’s responsiveness that’s the focus of this blog post.
I’ve been involved with Google Ads advertising — either in corporate roles or in my role at Results Communications & Research — for an estimated 12 years or more now. During the last 12 years, Google has continuously made revisions to its advertising platform, known as Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), and I expect that to continue.
In the days when I first was involved with Google Ads search advertising, the amount of information you could include in a search ad — an ad that is presented at the top or bottom of search results when an individual in an advertiser’s target geography enters relevant search terms (keywords) into Google’s search engine — was very limited. If I recall correctly, there were only three lines of text and a website URL that appeared in the ad. These short ads were “static” and advertisers knew exactly what lines of text would be presented to their target audiences, and in what order the lines would appear. While Google has enhanced this advertising opportunity to include a couple of additional lines of text via two description lines, plus various ad extensions (such as what’s known as site links that appear below ads and allow for self-triaging), even these “expanded text ads” still require advertisers to set up a large # of “static” text ads within the Google Ads Manager tool in order to test various combinations of ad headlines to see which combinations are most effective as far as generating clicks or “conversions (desired visitor website behaviors or phone calls)” goes.
In 2018, Google rolled out Responsive Search Ads or RSAs. My experience managing paid search campaigns that include RSAs is that Google rewards you from an optimization, and ultimately a cost-per-click, and even possibly an impressions (frequency of serving up ads to relevant searchers) standpoint. Due to the aforementioned, you’ll see it literally does pay to be responsive.
I’m a big fan of responsive search ads and tend to employ them in all Google search ad campaigns for the above-mentioned performance and budget optimization reasons, but also because it ultimately saves my agency and my client set-up time. And, as they say, “time is money.” Why go thru the cumbersome, long process of setting up a number of static text ads to address various combinations of ad headlines, when Google will create and test the effectiveness of ad headline combinations for you? And, should you choose to test a variety of description line combinations as well, Google can do that for you too.
In addition to allowing for an organization to test various ad headline and description line combinations, RSAs are referred to as “responsive,” because they respond to the real estate that’s available on the device on which the ads are being shown. Sometimes, only two headlines will be served up; sometimes three.
Another reason it pays to start employing responsive ads in your Google Search campaigns now? Google announced on 8/31/21 that, as of 6/30/22, responsive search ads will be the only type of “new” search ad that advertisers can create. And, any static/expanded text ads that were created prior to this June date will not be able to be edited. So, that’s an additional incentive to start creating and using responsive ads now. Why set yourself up now, or prior to 6/22, to not be able to edit static ads you create in the future? Plus, why not get accustomed to creating responsive ads now?
Key Inputs For Responsive Search Ads
Google will serve up two, and possibly three, of the headlines you provide, along with two of your provided description lines, each time it presents a responsive ad to an appropriate searcher.
In addition to basic campaign and ad group targeting and budget inputs like geography, demographics, daily budget, and keywords, at a minimum, advertisers need to provide Google Ads with the following responsive search ad components:
Up to 15 headlines (30 characters or less per headline)
Final URL that ad clickers will land on (landing page address)
Display path – this differs from the above as it does not need to be a live/active URL, but rather should display the nature of the page that an ad clicker will land on, i.e., what content they can expect to find there
Google automatically fills in your organization’s domain; you must fill in 15 characters or less for each of the two display path fields. A display path example based on our own site: https://allintheresults.com/services/ongoing SEO. Both “services” and “ongoing SEO” are display path fields we would provide if we were running Google Search Ads and taking ad clickers to a page about our ongoing SEO services.
Up to 4 description lines (90 characters or less per description line) – think of this as boilerplate language that you might include in a press release, on an “About Us” website page, or in an elevator pitch.
We prefer to only provide 2 description lines to Google. That way we know what two description lines are appearing with each and every ad (since Google only serves up two at a time). That means the description portion of our advertising remains constant, allowing us to test the effectiveness of various headlines/headline messaging.
As you can currently do with expanded text ads, you can also set up a number of ad extensions to provide additional information about your organization. That’s a topic for another blog post, but a capability that does exist with responsive ads.
Need help preparing for next year’s June deadline related to expanded text ads? Want to brainstorm with us about how you’d benefit from running responsive search ads. Reach out today! We always welcome a good Google search advertising discussion.
A JOINT BLOG POST BY GAIL SNOW MORASKI AND RYAN BRUDER
Our first blog post in this two-part series focused on capitalizing on “spring cleaning” inclinations to tune-up your website and your social media presence. The purpose of this second post is to remind readers who run any kind of online ads — whether they be Google Ads (also known as search ads/search marketing), social media ads, or banner ads purchased directly from another external website — to revisit them and give them a thorough look-over if you haven’t done so in a while.
Since SEM (search engine marketing) is one of our digital marketing agency’s specialties, the focus of this piece will be on Google Ads, but many of reminders can be applied to other forms of online advertising.
Optimizing Your Google Ads (Paid SEO/SEM) To Improve Performance And Maximize Budget
Often clients will engage our SEO company to analyze either current or past Google Ads campaigns to see what they could or should be doing differently or better. Or, to assume management of existing Google Ads campaigns. Because we are data geeks, we love getting under the hood of a Google Ads account — whether it be a paid account used by a for-profit organization, or a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant account that provides qualifiying non-profit organizations with $120,000 in free annual Google search advertising.
Elements of campaigns and associated ad groups within a Google Ads account that we review related to the above engagements that you should too, as part of spring cleaning your Google Ads, include:
KEYWORDS — what terms have you indicated to Google are ones for which you want your ads shown and are these all still appropriate? Are there keywords you should remove? Are there keywords you should add?
SEARCH TERMS — related to the above keyword element, what search terms (actual phrases that ad clickers put into Google’s search engine) have your ads actually been presented to searchers for, and are they the right ones? The “search terms report,” accessed via the keywords section of a Google Ads ad group, allows you to see the exact terms for which your ads are being shown. Are the terms appropriate? Should some of these terms be made “negative” keywords, i.e., terms for which you don’t want your ads to be shown?
RECOMMENDATIONS — as shown in the printscreen at the bottom of this elements list, Google makes regular recommendations — via a recommendations report — regarding steps you can take to “optimize” your campaign, and therefore, improve click-thru rate, and reduce your cost-per-click. Types of recommendations we see Google regularly make include: removing redundant keywords (keywords that are very similar in nature) from ad groups, adding certain types of ad extensions (such as structured snippets or call-outs), adding conversion-tracking, and using responsive search ads, along with standard text ads you already have in place. Not just as part of your spring cleaning, but each and every type you log into your Google Ads account to check on campaign performance, you should review the various recommendations, and apply the ones that you think make sense for your account.
SETTINGS — settings are assigned at the campaign level and allow for you to target specific geographies and set daily budgets, as well as other specifics about your campaign. At a minimum, as part of your sprng review, you should revisit your daily budget and the geography to see if they are still appropriate to the products, services, or solutions you are promoting via your ads.
AD CONTENT AND LANDING PAGES — if you haven’t checked your Google Ads campaigns in a while, you may even be running ads that land ad clickers on pages that promote either events that have already passed, such as a fundaising one, or products and services that are seasonal in nature and no longer apppropriate ones to be promoting due to the time of year. As you conduct your spring review, be sure that the products, services, and solutions are still the right ones for your organization to be promoting, regardless of whether you are paying for ad clicks, or getting them free via your Google Nonprofit Ad Grant. Also, revisit what makes for an effective landing page, and consider making any appropriate tweaks to current ad landing pages.
COST-PER-CLICK — as part of your review, give great thought to the cost-per-click associated with each of your active vs. paused ad groups. Does the profit you’d make from an actual sale to an ad clicker warrant the cost-per-click — therefore, what is the acquisition cost (this may be include other factors beyond the ad cost-per-click) associated with obtaining a new customer and does it make good sense from a profitability standpoint?
CLICKS — this is likely stating the obvious, but if your ads aren’t generating a decent volume of clicks, therefore, visits to your website, does it make sense to continue to run certain campaigns, or certain ad groups within campaigns?
Google Ads Manager Dashboard
We know that Google Ads advertising, and other forms of online advertising, can be complex and confusing. If you are concerned that your campaigns aren’t set up right to maximize clicks, conversions (ad clickers taking desired actions on your website), and your advertising budget, reach out to us for a complimentary discussion or for us to undertake online advertising spring cleaning on your behalf.