Testing… testing 1…2…3 is this thing on?

Oh man was that a bad joke. But let me get on track here before this falls into total nonsenseAre you TESTING your site’s advertising performance and conversions.   I can tell you that for YEARS ( I started online marketing in 2007) I did not, and it was a huge mistake. I was always just…guessing if what I was doing was working or not. I remember spending months and months trying different tactics, and strategies, trying to find an effective model, and never really quite getting there.  It was so frustrating, and I could have avoided it all with just a few simple steps.

But what IS testing? Let’s spell it out with a story:

John has a website for his contracting business, and his goal is to generate leads. So John create a site that has a gallery postwith a bunch of pictures of past jobs, some testimonials of happy customers, and a lead generation page (see: your first 100 subscribers to learn how to build a good one) John is super stoked that his page looks so nice, and is proud he built it himself.

John gets about one bad lead a week, and wastes hours and hours trying to either chase down that lead, or to drive more traffic to his site in a desperate attempt to generate more…hopefully better…leads. Why is this the case? Why isn’t John getting results even though he’s created 1.credibility, 2.a decision step, and 3.a call to action? Because John isn’t tracking who is coming to his site and why. John is NOT testing his marketing channels.

John uses his facebook page to share his company’s pictures with people, and will sometimes create a quick DIY video to help promote his business. He enjoys the work, but the leads he gets are usually friends of friends from facebook, who are hoping to get free work out of him. What’s going on?

John needs to be testing the marketing channel he’s using. There are two parts to testing a marketing channel for a website: 1.automated and 2.non-automated. The automated testing channel will be tools and programs you use, such as google analytics, Jetpack, or Crazyegg. The non-automated testing tools are ones that track things that these can’t catch; 1. such as time invested building the marketing channel, 2. return on time investment, and 3. overall result (in this case, whether or not John is able to make his leads into sales…something that happens off of the internet… in this weird place called the “real world”) But how can John track all of this, not drive himself completely insane, and use his website to actually, you know, get good leads that want to pay him money? Let’s start with some simple tools.

Enter: JETPACK: Do you have jetpack installed on your wordpress site yet? Why not? That is not a question. You need to install it. It takes about one millisecond, and will take a huge amount of guesswork out of your website’s traffic. Jetpack tracks total pageviews per day on a nice little graph on your page. When you click on the bars on that graph, it will show you where that traffic came from. For John, he would see that almost all of his traffic is coming from his facebook activity, which is tied to his group of close friends, and sometimes friends of friends. This is not a new, interesting target market that will get him new business. Now we know this.

John clearly needs to look for a new way to market. But before he does that, let’s create a spreadsheet, or a notebook, that will let us track time spent on marketing efforts, and their results. This is hugely, immensely important. Many, many people (myself included) spend months or years working on a marketing channel that just doesn’t work for their business. But they “read this really great blog post!” or they “took this awesome course!” and they’re convinced that if they just keep working on it a little longer, they will finally break through and get a million page hits a day. This rarely, if ever, happens.

So we’re going to track time investment. John’s a simple guy, so he takes out a notebook every time he logs into facebook to promote his business, and writes down what he does, how long it takes, and the desired result. It’ll look something like this:

  1. Logged into facebook…………..time spent…….45 minutes……………………..3 posts created.

and so on for the next day.

Now once a week, for John this is Friday (his slowest day) he will hop into his wordpressaccount, and check his traffic. John sees that he got about 100 pageviews from facebook, and one terrible, freeloading lead. John decides to give facebook posting another week to continue to grow, but wants to look for other venues to market to as well.

John writes down in his notebook the number of hits he got from facebook (100) and the leads he got (1) and that it did not result in a sale (0 sales)

John decides that since he’s spent about 20 hours building his website, and it does in fact push people to a decision step (they become leads) that he should give paid advertising online a try. He has used ads in the newspaper to some success before, and realises that it’s very similar. He decides to try out some Google PPC advertising, using the guides on their page to setup a simple campaign that will focus on People within 100 miles of his location (local online advertising). He offers a free consultation and a $500 off coupon for anyone who signs up as a lead through his site. John also decides to supplement his daily time-spend generating business online as well by answering questions online on a local DIY forum, and using “permission marketing” to generate more traffic to his site. This means that John will answer questions, and the close with “if you’d like to see pictures of jobs I’ve done like this, I’ll send you a link” and will let the question asker ask for the link first. This generates extra credibility, and usually ensures that your links aren’t taken down by angry site moderators.

John sets up a daily ad spend of $50 per day for 5 days ($250) to test how many leads he can generate, and leaves it on autopilot. John also logs into facebook and the local forums, posting just twice daily about his company on each, and records the amount of time spent on each.

One week later, John logs into his wordpress account again, and checks his stats: he sees that google adwords has driven an additional 50 page views each day, and that answering questions on the DIY forum has generated about another 30, and is growing as more people find him credible, and look at his older posts to answer similar questions (this is called “long tail” advertising, where content and posts you’ve ade before continue to drive traffic to your site.)

He noticed that he has gotten one lead from his DIY answers (giving him a 30% conversion rate, three times better than facebook posting) and has gotten 2 more from Google adwords.  The lead from the DIY site asked for help immediately, and John scheduled the job, and one of the ppc leads is looking to secure financing, while the other said to call back in 3 months. John records these results in his notebook, and realises that zero leads came from his facebook escapades this week, and he had gotten 3 at a total cost of $250 in capital, and about 2 hours of his time (billed at $50 an hour) putting his total cost at $350 for 3 leads, or about $120 per lead. Before, John was spending the same 2 hours just on facebook, ($100) per week and was getting one poor lead per week that didn’t close. John has slightly increased his cost per lead, but has also increased his close rate to 66%, instead of zero.

This simple story tells you why testing a marketing channel is the only way you can know if it works. Don’t make assumptions: test them. Many people would stop the online venture after the few bum leads, but a little bit of planning and record keeping can take your online marketing venture from dead in the water to main business source.

What testing methods do you use?  Let us all know.

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