Case Study: The New Madison at Adams Farm SEO & PPC Campaign

Case Study: The New Madison at Adams Farm SEO & PPC Campaign

The New Madison at Adams Farm is an apartment community just 15 minutes from our HQ in Greensboro, North Carolina. After our major creative overhaul of their brand (learn more about that here), our next step was to begin a concerted effort at driving more targeted traffic to their website. And, ultimately, we were looking to drive more leads for their sales team. Below we’ll break down the two key components of those efforts—SEO and PPC—and what kinds of results they’ve yielded. 

SEO

Search engine optimization is a critical part of any website redesign project we tackle. Without the right infrastructure behind it, a website’s beauty only goes skin-deep. Because of the crowded market of apartment complexes in Greensboro, we knew that SEO would play a part in The New Madison at Adams Farm’s long-term game when it comes to redirecting attention away from their local competitors.

By creating a targeted list of a dozen or so mid- to long-tail keywords the complex would like to rank for, we were able to begin the work of slowly but surely increasing the amount of organic traffic to the new website over time. Using the website’s internal CMS system, we deployed the target keywords in a tactical way throughout the site. Those keywords, coupled with a few key internal SEO tweaks (site speed, security, etc.), allowed us to set the new website up with the framework that would eventually start drawing more visitors over time.

Since the SEO project was completed in mid-September 2018, we have seen a marked increase in organic search traffic to the website. In that month, the site saw 505 visitors as a result of organic search results. Contrast that with May 2019, where the site had more than 3,700 organic search visits. That’s an increase of more than 600%. During that same period, we’ve also seen organic search visits account for 51% of all completed site conversions (phone calls & contact form responses), highlighting the importance of SEO to this project’s overall goals.

Organic Search Traffic, September 2018-May 2019

PPC

On the paid side, we knew that Google Ads would be a significant driver of traffic to the site while the organic SEO efforts began to take hold. Our Google Ads campaign implemented a three-part system to guide through the natural buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to decision:

  • Search Network campaign using keyword targeting
  • Display Network campaign retargeting using website traffic
  • Call-Only campaign driving mobile users to call the sales office

With these three elements, we were able to reach our target audience at multiple touch-points. And the use of the Display Network campaign allowed us to take advantage of all the great photography and videography assets created during our first campaign. This Display campaign would primarily be an awareness-driver, helping increase our total ad impressions, while the Search Network and Call-Only campaigns did the conversion-focused heavy lifting.

Without getting too far into the weeds (or revealing our “special sauce”), we can see that the Google Ads campaign has been a very successful traffic and conversion driver for this property. Here are some of the key metrics from the campaign thus far:

agsdi-eye

2,622,423 total ad impressions

agsdi-cursor

24,677 total ad clicks

agsdi-refresh

Search Network CTR: 3.58%

agsdi-ribbon

390 total Conversions

agsdi-refresh

Search Network Conversion Rate: 6.6%

agsdi-mobile

846 total phone calls

What is Native Advertising?

What is Native Advertising?

In today’s digital advertising world, there are a lot of ways to share a message or generate clicks across the web. If you’ve dabbled in any digital advertising efforts in the last few years, you may have heard the term “native advertising” thrown around. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that it’s where over 60% of US digital display ad dollars are being spent. We wanted to take a moment to look at what’s meant by native advertising, what’s involved and what our perspective is on its place in a marketing plan. 

Native ads are essentially an ad placement formatted to fit the format of a publisher in a way that doesn’t scream, “I’m an ad!” A publisher can be any website, really, whether it’s The New York Times or your favorite fashion blog.

The ad’s distinction as paid content is more or less subtle depending on the placement and publisher’s preference. Generally speaking, a small text header saying “Sponsored Content” or “Recommended Content” is how you can tell.

“Hmm,” you might be thinking, “that sounds like a lot of the clickbait ads I see.”

And you’d be right! But not all native ads are clickbait and not all clickbait ads are in “native” ad positions. Any advertisement is an opportunity to trick or scam your audience—it’s up to you to avoid chasing those empty clicks through smart, tactical messaging and creative.

Native advertising opportunities can take many forms. Some can be like advertorials, or paid placement meant to look like editorial content, where you control the message at the cost of that extra credibility you get from the media outlet.

For example, we place native ads on behalf of one client within an industry magazine that begin as a link in their monthly digest e-Newsletter to subscribers. The links look like any other link to an article they’re featuring. When they click the link, though, they land on a page with an article featuring industry expertise written by our client. On the page itself, display ads are featured with only their brand, and a CTA at the bottom directs readers to visit their website or contact them for more info.

Native ad example, courtesy of our partners at StackAdapt.

The primary example of native advertising you’re likely to see could also be referred to as “in-read” advertising. When you’re scrolling through an article, an ad may appear—static, video or somewhere in-between—that feels like part of the website you’re visiting.

Native advertising isn’t about tricking anyone—it’s about tailoring the ad experience to make it less intrusive, more appealing and more targeted.

Sometimes advertisers get a little aggressive, sidestepping that native experience with automatic ad takeover, sound or other intrusive programming features. To keep it truly “native” and get the full benefit of this type of placement, we recommend you trust your targeting and keep your creative relevant. Don’t fall into the trap of digital ads that scream, “I’m an ad, please click me!” You may not get as many clicks, but the ones you do get will be more qualified and targeted. Also, your overall brand image will remain more positive if you don’t frustrate your potential audience. That way, they’ll be more likely to look you up later or be more receptive to the next ad of yours that they see.

If you take one thing away from this post it should be this: Native advertising isn’t about tricking anyone. It’s about tailoring the ad experience to make it less intrusive, more appealing and more targeted.

If you’d like to learn more, give our native ad above a click. 

5 Key Elements of a Well-Built Website

5 Key Elements of a Well-Built Website

A brand’s website is ground zero for all its digital activity. It’s where the brand can sell products, convey key marketing messages and collect contact information from interested customers. It also provides a platform to inform and educate customers with blog posts, white papers and more.

A good website serves as the central hub from which all your digital activity radiates, offering an “owned and operated” space where you control the messaging and experience for your audience. In fact, without a properly designed, mobile-friendly site, we would argue that there is little justification for investment in other digital tactics (email, social media, etc.).

But what does a complete website need?

For starters, you don’t have to break the bank creating a deep, robust website out of the gate. Many effective, conversion-attracting websites are quite simple. Over time, you can build out your website into a robust forum for sales and education (which will help with your SEO efforts, too).

But for now, let’s explore the 5 key elements of any well-built website, no matter how large or small they might be.

1. A Mobile-Friendly Framework:

Here’s the harsh truth: Google no longer indexes non-responsive websites in their mobile search results. This means that people searching for your brand or services will simply be unable to find your site if you don’t provide a user experience tailored to mobile customers.

The fact that more than 50% of all web traffic in 2018 came from mobile devices means this is a reality you cannot ignore. And that number is up from only .7% just 10 years ago, so don’t expect that trend to reverse any time soon.

Source: Statista.com

And “mobile friendly” doesn’t just mean that you reverse-engineer a responsive design after you’ve built your desktop site. Today’s best websites are actually built for the mobile experience first, and we encourage you to take that approach whenever possible.

2. Easy-to-Use Navigation:

Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a new website and being unable to locate the information you’re looking for. And while Google is your friend when it comes to being discovered, it can also penalize you harshly for providing a confusing, unintuitive user experience.

We recommend checking out one of our earlier posts about improving website navigation, but in short, here are a few quick tips:

  1. Show your website to someone who doesn’t know your brand: How easily can they find what you want them to find?
  2. What does your site look like on a mobile phone? Is it hard to navigate buttons or can you bounce between pages with ease?
  3. Keep on top of industry trends, but don’t feel like you have to redesign your site every 6 months.

3. Lead Collection

Growing your database of leads is one of the most impactful aspects of any website. Whether you’re simply trying to build your mailing list or collect more detailed leads from prospective customers, you’ll need a mechanism to capture data.

One important element to keep in mind here is that the amount of information you’re asking for should correlate to what you’re offering your customers in return. If you’re looking for a sign-up for your mailing list, you might consider asking for only 2-3 fields of information (e.g. Name, Email Address). However, if you’ve got a lengthy, detailed eBook full of useful insights, you can likely get away with asking for more information from your lead (e.g. Company Name, Phone Number, etc.).

Bouvier Kelly Landing Page

One of our own Landing Pages, which keeps key info and the primary CTA “above the fold.”

Whatever way you set this up, make sure you’ve got a system in place—like UTM tracking—to spring into action whenever a new lead is captured, as well as trace where they came from (e.g. Google Ads, organic search, Facebook, etc.). That way, you can tell what your most effective marketing channels are.

4. A Relevant, Insightful Blog

One of the key elements of modern “inbound” marketing theory is that you can’t just sell to your customer—you need to educate them, too. You can use a blog to offer insights and helpful advice that doesn’t have a sales angle (like this one 😉), helping to create a trusting relationship with prospective customers while also improving your own SEO efforts.

Your blog can reflect a number of different topics, and it does not always have to be a deep dive into a technical subject matter. You can also use it to update your customers about relevant internal news or observations about breaking industry news.

The key to a good blog is presenting digestible, interesting information in a friendly, knowledgeable voice. Your blog posts should not read like white papers, and they should never be written just for the sake of posting new content to your website—intentionality matters! 

5. Well-Crafted Landing Pages

If you plan on running any kind of digital ads, you’ll want to have the ability to build landing pages specific to those campaigns. For example, if you’re looking to promote your latest eBook, you’ll need a landing page that only educates the visitor about that eBook only. No one likes clicking on an ad for one topic only to have to navigate through the site looking for what they were interested in.

Landing pages can quickly become an afterthought for a campaign, slapped together hastily (or not at all) and thrown into the world. However, it’s our experience that the one of the biggest detriments to a digital campaign is the lack of a succinct, mobile-friendly landing page that encourages conversion.

To learn more about landing page best practices, check out this post.

Want to learn more about improving your overall digital marketing efforts? Download our free Digital Marketing eBook today.

Choosing the Right Presentation Platform

Choosing the Right Presentation Platform

Regardless of topic or size, presentations can be stressful. From planning and creating content to perfecting your delivery, a lot of time and effort goes in to developing and executing a successful presentation. But how much effort do you put into deciding which presentation program is best to use? Not all platforms are created equal, so we analyzed four popular options so you can see what makes each of them unique (and which one may best fit your needs).

Microsoft PowerPoint

If you’ve given or sat through a presentation in your life, odds are you are familiar with the most popular presentation program, PowerPoint (PPT). A staple in both classrooms and offices, PPT’s straightforward, easy-to-use platform makes it a tried-and-true method of presenting. Its customizable interface provides a lot of creative freedom: you can customize your presentation down to the slide to better meet your topic or audience’s needs.

But perhaps the biggest reason that PPT is so popular is because it is compatible with both PCs and Macs, a feature that certainly comes in handy if you are presenting in a space other than your own office and are unsure of what technology will be available.

Good for: Content-heavy presentations or traditional audiences.
Avoid if: Your presentation needs to be shared with others. Larger PPT files often cannot be emailed, and if your recipient does not have the same version of PPT as you, everything from how the design appears to the ability to view images or videos can be affected.

Keynote

Keynote is likely every Apple product user’s dream. Its variety of built-in templates gives presentations a modern look in a very easy-to-use platform, and projects built here can easily be transferred between devices via iCloud (a feature that makes it easy to present on-the-go, or on another Apple product such as an iPhone or iPad). One of its strongest features is the ability to turn your presentation into anything from a YouTube video to a QuickTime slideshow with minimal hassle.

Good for: Crafting persuasive presentations. Keynote’s sleek and dynamic format makes content more digestible.
Avoid if: You’re not presenting on an Apple product. While you can export your slides into PPT or other PC-friendly software, there’s no guarantee everything will transfer over in its intended format.

Prezi

Prezi probably has the most “WOW” factors of all the presentation platforms on this list. It offers more unique design and distribution capabilities than PPT and Keynote, and its non-linear presentation is great for more creative, interactive demonstrations. Users can seamlessly integrate multimedia, PNGs and vector images constructed outside the web-based application. Prezi also makes it easy for multiple team members to access and contribute to the creation of the project. If you’re looking for a platform to create a story-driven presentation, this is a great option.

Good for: Presentations that require collaborative construction, storytelling and/or audience interaction.
Avoid if: You won’t have a reliable internet connection. Prezi is a web-based format and presentations can lose design quality and functionality with any disruption to internet connectivity.

Adobe InDesign

For the more design-driven presenters out there, Adobe InDesign is a great option for creating an engaging, visually stunning presentation. This platform allows users to easily manipulate presentation layouts because of the level of flexibility with components such as type, images, graphs and color. Users also can add interactive features such as movies, sound clips and cross references. For presenters looking to share design concepts or branding ideas, this platform likely aligns most with their goals.

Good for: Design-oriented presentations, larger or shareable projects or projects containing sensitive information (since it will be in PDF form you can password protect the documents).
Avoid if: You are unfamiliar with the platform and need to put something together fairly quickly—InDesign has a steep learning curve. Additionally, the need to present videos or sounds using Adobe PDF Interactive may cause issues if the device you are presenting on does not have that software installed.

At the end of the day, the success of your presentation won’t solely be determined by the platform you choose to use. But by taking the time to explore all your options, you can become better equipped to create something that will fit you and your audience’s needs.

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Improving User Experience (UX) Through Accessibility

Note: We’re marketers — not lawyers. If you have specific questions concerning ADA compliance and how to avoid legal issues therein, please consult a licensed legal expert.

When it comes to user experience (UX), we tend to think of the things that are immediately noticeable upon visiting a site.

Can I easily find what I’m looking for? How long does the site take to load? Can I navigate through pages on my phone?

But a crucial aspect of UX design involves things that many visitors won’t ever see: accessibility features.

For people living with disabilities that might affect how they navigate the web, these accessibility features are critical to their own user experience, and websites must take into account ways to accommodate their time on site.

And it’s not just best practices to do so — you could end up in legal trouble if you don’t. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed in the early days of the internet, but the courts have set a clear precedent in the last decade that shows just how liable website owners can be if they fail to make their site accessible.

So how can you make sure your site remains a good experience for everyone who visits it? We’ve put together a beginner’s list to website accessibility, which should help you get started towards improving access for every visitor.

1. Unplug Your Mouse

A truly accessible website should be navigable without the use of your mouse. Try unplugging or disabling yours to see if you can get around using the “tab” keys on your keyboard. Not only does this give you a good idea of how well laid out your site flow is, but it also allows you to experience the site from a device-independent mindset.

Cutting a computer mouse cord website accessibility

You could just, like, un-plug it, dude.

Use your “Tab” key to bounce from link to link (use Shift + Tab to navigate backwards) and see how easily you can access the main portions of your site. If you find yourself getting stuck at a particular point or unable to click on a specific portion of the site, make a note to fix that. 

2. Disable “Styles”

We know you’ve probably put a lot of work into making your site look pretty, but when it comes to accessibility, the more important concern is how navigable your site is. To figure that out, you’ll need to disable the CSS stylings that turn your black-and-white code into vivid colors and images. 

If you’re using Google Chrome, here’s how to do that:

  1. Download a web developer Chrome extension
  2. Open the extension, open the CSS options and disable “All Styles”

Now you’ll see your site laid out in all its glorious basic-ness. From here, you can investigate whether there’s a coherent flow to your sitemap and pages. If you’re able to logically follow from one section to another without the aid of images or animations, that means it will be more accessible and navigable overall.

3. Use a Screen Reader

This is another chance to walk a mile in someone else’s proverbial shoes, navigating the web the way someone with limited or no sight might. Your computer should come stocked with a screen reading option under your Accessibility settings, but a quick Google search should help you find alternatives if not.

Much like with disabling styles, a screen reader provides a very basic understanding of what your sitemap feels like without the benefit of visuals. If you find yourself having difficulty finding what you need without the use of visual explainers, you might consider finding ways to bolster the copy on your site. 

For instance, if you’re not already using alt-text on images (which you should be doing from an SEO perspective), a screen reader will highlight the gaps in your site where descriptive text can be given to images.

4. Evaluate Your Color & Font Choices

If your website was designed by a professional web developer, there is less chance that you’ll run into issues with color contrast and font sizes. But if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and put together your site internally, you’ll want to take a closer look at the decisions you made 

For example, certain color choices that might look great when paired on furniture or home stylings simply make it more difficult to read text on a screen. Though not all your color choices have to pass this contrast litmus test, anything you’re using for fonts should. If anyone with average vision has difficulty in parsing some words, imagine how it might look to the more visually-impaired.

Some examples of how color choice affects readability.

Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to fonts no smaller than 14pt. That way, no one has to squint or increase their browser size to read your handy work. That has become increasingly important for mobile responsiveness, as well, where fonts will naturally look smaller on a phone than when viewed on a desktop.

While these are just a few recommendations to get you started, it’s important for any brand to undergo a serious evaluation of Accessibility on your site. Not only will it ensure a smooth, enjoyable user experience no matter who is visiting, it can help keep you ahead of costly legal troubles, too.

The 5 Pillars of a Successful Digital Ecosystem

The 5 Pillars of a Successful Digital Ecosystem

The breakneck growth of digital technology over the past two decades has forever changed the marketing and advertising world. And while many traditional tactics like out-of-home advertising and print publications still have a viable place for many clients, there’s no denying that very few brands can get away without having a stable digital presence.

So let’s take a look at the 4 key pillars of what we’re calling your “digital ecosystem.” These individual elements are often treated as related yet separate tactics, occasionally overlapping but often being thought of as distinct from one another. We believe that they must be taken holistically to be truly successful, and we’ll tell you why.

1. Your Website

This is ground zero for all your digital activity. Without a robust website, there is almost no justification for investment in other digital tactics (email, social media, etc.). That’s because you need to have an owned-and-operated platform from which to do things like sell products, convey key brand messages and collect information from interested customers. You can do many of those things on social media platforms or third party e-Commerce websites, but you will always be “renting” those distribution channels from other companies.

2. Content

Outside of the baseline information that makes up your website, you’ll want to invest in an ongoing content strategy as part of any digital efforts. This is particularly important for any B2B efforts, as without a physical consumer product to sell, content will be one of the ways you “sell” your brand and position yourself as a trustworthy, instructive partner for your customer. Content can run the gamut from as simple as a weekly blog post on industry news to in-depth instructional videos and tutorials. Some pieces of content will be easier and more affordable to produce regularly, while others you’ll want to plan for as part of a bigger strategy. Content will also help improve your SEO rankings, by populating your website with content that features your target keywords.

3. Email Campaigns

One of the oldest forms of digital communication has had a love-hate relationship with marketers over the years. With the rise of spam and less sophisticated marketing campaigns, it fell out of favor, but as social media is now being scrutinized more closely than ever, marketers are falling in love with email again. For starters, email campaigns still allow for direct, personalized communication with your audience. And unlike social media — which can also allow for those kinds of relationships — you will always “own” your email list.

4. Social Media

To use the parlance of the largest social media platform on the planet, our relationship status with this marketing tactic is “Complicated.” What was once dismissed as a passing fad has grown into a cultural phenomenon. It went from widely derided to widely adopted — and we’re starting to come full circle again. But that doesn’t mean social media shouldn’t still be a part of your digital ecosystem. In fact, the platforms themselves remain as powerful as ever, you just have to reorient how you’re thinking about them.

5. PPC: Pay-Per-Click Advertising

The final puzzle piece in your digital ecosystem is PPC advertising. As the paid complement to SEO, this tactic primarily revolves around Google Ads. Here’s how you’ll work to be the first result when someone searches for keywords or phrases related to your brand. Depending on how specific or broad your services or products are, this will be a very obtainable goal or one you’ll have to work very hard at.

So How Does This All Work?

Think of these five pillars as a kind of virtuous cycle. Each tactic feeds the other, working in harmony to help you meet your goals. For example, you can have a Facebook campaign that drives new visitors to your website, where you then offer them a free eBook download, who you later target on Google Ads with a more hands-on piece of content. Or, you can use an email campaign to drive webinar signups, and then send reminder Facebook ads to everyone who converted on your website. Whatever you do, make sure you take your campaign into consideration holistically, not just tactically.

In the process of writing this blog post, we realized we had a lot more to say about building a successful “digital ecosystem.” Stay tuned for a forthcoming Quick Look white paper that features more details, tips and insights. If you want to learn more in the meantime, simply give us a shout below.

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