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Web Marketing Insights from Google Ventures (Part 2)
If you want to get more leads and sales from the web, you’d be wise to spend some time thinking about how your website and online marketing presence might look if Google had an ownership interest in your company. In part one of this two part blog series, I examined companies where Google does have a stake in the outcome—companies that are part of Google Ventures.
Through the process, I discovered some things I expected. For example, every site I reviewed was using Google Analytics, but then I’d estimate that 80 percent of all websites use Google Analytics. I was surprised to find a number of companies using competing analytical tools such as ClickTale, Clicky, or KISSmetrics, and I was miffed that none of the GV companies were using HubSpot—especially those in the B2B space (which has historically been HubSpot’s wheelhouse).
In today’s post, I’ll look at some of the common characteristics of Google Venture companies’ sites to predict how Google might tackle a challenge common to every business owner—getting more website visitors.
Google’s Strategy for Maximizing Website Traffic & Leads
If Google owned your business, what would they do to drive more qualified visitors to your website? Would they invest in pay per click advertising via AdWords or focus primarily on search engine optimization (SEO)? Would they do as they say, operating as if the search engines didn’t exist, or would they create web content with the understanding that search engines are users too? Given their tumultuous relationship with Facebook and Twitter, where would social media fall in their online marketing priorities list for your company?
Let’s look at what some of the companies in the Google Ventures portfolio are doing to maximize their web real estate and traffic:
Paid Search Advertising
Somewhat surprisingly, I wasn’t able to trigger traditional PPC ads for any of the companies I investigated with the exception of HubSpot and Optimizely. Now, that doesn’t mean that other GV companies aren’t investing in PPC; it just means that I wasn’t able to get their ads to display using the keywords I was using. Using a few advanced PPC research tools, I was able to confirm that several Google Ventures’ companies are actively investing in PPC advertising. In fact, some of them are spending some serious money on PPC advertising.
Here’s a sampling of what I found:
The URL (in green) represents the company I analyzed. Daily Adwords (PPC) Ad Budget, Avg. Ad Position and # Advertisers are all pretty self explanatory. As you can see in the screenshot above, RocketLawyer, Sidecar, and Yesware are all using PPC advertising to drive qualified visitors to their websites. Looking at these three companies, you get some perspective on how much companies are investing in paid search advertising. With a monthly budget that could be as high as $800,000, RocketLawyer is spending BIG BUCKS on PPC. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Yesware with an approximate monthly budget for PPC in the $2,000 – $6,000 range.
I found it somewhat interesting that only a handful of the companies that I analyzed—Optimizely, RocketLawyer, and Yesware.com, to be precise—had an Avg. Ad Position lower than 4. Most of the companies investing in PPC (Doccusign, SideCar, HubSpot, RetailMeNot, and others) didn’t think it cost-effective to bid high enough to enter this territory.
Maximizing SERP Real Estate
At Blue Corona, one of our core beliefs about online marketing success is that it’s about maximizing your real estate. If you had unlimited time / money and resources, you would put your company everywhere on the web (everywhere your prospective customers might see and engage you). Of course, no company, whether they’re backed by Google or not, has an unlimited marketing budget.
Prioritization becomes the key to success, and when it comes to prioritizing your quest to maximize your web real estate, you want to make the search engine results pages (SERPs) high on the list. Why? Because not everyone on Facebook is a) in need of your service and b) in shopping mode. Contrast your mindset when you’re surfing Facebook vs. doing a search on Google. When people search, they indicate their interest and intent with the keyword phrase they use.
By maximizing your SERP real estate for keywords related to your business—phrases that indicate an interest and intent to buy your product/service—you get more qualified visitors to your website, leads, and sales. Of the companies in the GV portfolio, the two that get this best are Optimizely and HubSpot.
When I searched “easy A/B testing,” these are the search results I got:
Optimizely is dominating the competition for this highly-targeted keyword phrase. With the top organic listing and the top paid ad, Optimizely is getting the vast majority of the clicks for the query above. A lot of small business owners don’t invest in PPC advertising when they’re already ranking well organically. They mistakenly believe that paid ads will cannibalize clicks they might have otherwise gotten for free. I think it’s safe to say that Optimizely would not be investing in PPC advertising if this were true.
Notice that Optimizely’s PPC ad has an ad extension that begs you to “Test it out.” I’ve never seen an ad extension exactly like this, but it’s very cool. It’s also a great illustration of the power of micro-conversions.
Note: When I clicked Optimizely’s ad (don’t get upset Optimizely, I’m actually considering signing up!), I was sent to a landing page where Optimizely asks me to create an account (for free) to get started.
Another thing that’s somewhat interesting about the screenshot above is that there is also an ad for Google Analytics. I did another search for “landing page optimization software,” and found Optimizely in the top paid spot, Google Analytics in the #5 paid ad position, and HubSpot in paid ad spot #10. What makes this interesting is that Google has a policy against the “double serving” of ads.
According to Google’s Advertising Policies page:
To protect the value and diversity of the ads people see on Google, we generally discourage advertisers from running ads for the same or similar businesses across multiple accounts triggered by the same or similar keywords. This policy, known as “double serving,” prevents multiple ads from the same or commonly-owned company from appearing on the same search results page.
One of the ways double serving can occur is when multiple websites share Common Ownership, which Google defines as:
Common ownership occurs when the same entity, whether an individual or a business, owns or controls one or more of the sites in question at the time of multiple ad serving. Google has a policy about not having two PPC ads from the same company.
I don’t know how much of an investment Google has in Optimizely—perhaps it doesn’t cross the threshold of ownership. The fact that ads show for both Optimizely and Google Analytics doesn’t bother me—from what I can tell, they are sufficiently different product offers—but, I wonder how other companies that sell landing page optimization software feel about this.
Other Forms of Paid Advertising
While many business owners understand and are aware of traditional PPC advertising, a much smaller percentage are testing and investing in some of the new forms of paid search advertising. For example, re-targeted ads and video ad units. RocketLawyer has produced a number of video ads that appear to also be part of a retargeted campaign (I had never seen them until after I visited RocketLawyer’s website and then YouTube).
Here’s one of the video ad units I was served:
Here’s a re-targeted ad from 23 and me that was served to me via Adroll while I was
wasting time on Facebook:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Google has a long history of recommending to webmasters and business owners that, when it comes to the content, design, and coding of their website(s), they should act as if search engines don’t exist. In other words, you should build your website for humans not searchbots. If you’re creating a web page specifically to rank well on Google, a page you would not create if Google didn’t exist, you’re probably headed in the wrong direction.
Of course, it’s easy for Google to give this advice—last time I checked, they make their money from the PPC ads that surround the organic search listings. In a way, they almost benefit from the organic search results not being that great (because lower quality organic results make the PPC ads more attractive). Google’s advice is more difficult for small businesses to follow. At present, in most industries, the vast majority of search traffic appears to go to the top organic results.
A local plumber listed #1 in the organic listings will get far more leads and sales than the plumbing company with the top PPC ad.
Of the GV companies, HubSpot is the clear leader when it comes to SEO (see chart below). HubSpot’s strategy is simple: create a TON of content that answers the questions and addresses the concerns of their target audience(s) and then promote the hell out of it. They went “all in” with content marketing from the day they first opened their doors for business and it’s paying off—in a major way.
Here are some other interesting SEO-related stats:
- Pages Found
- Total Hosts Linking
- Avg. Word Count
- Unique Title Tags
- XML Sitemap
- Organic KW Rankings
- Est. Organic Traffic
- Not Found
- Not Found
- Not Found
A couple insights from the data above:
At the highest level, it takes two things to rank well organically: relevant content and authority. PageRank and Total Hosts Linking can be used as an estimate of a website’s authority. Generally speaking, the more authoritative websites that link to yours, the higher your authority. HubSpot has the highest authority with a PageRank of 7 and the most Total Hosts Linking with 7,114. HubSpot also has the most Pages Found, Unique Title Tags, second highest Avg. Word Count, and as a result, the second most Organic KW Rankings
Note: Given the attributes listed in the table above, I expected HubSpot to be #1 for Est. Organic Traffic. I suspect that they are and that the estimate is wrong and/or RocketLawyer’s target KWs generate a lot more traffic than HubSpots—which are more niche in the grand scheme of things.
One other interesting SEO-related insight before I change gears to social:
Remember the advice, to create web pages for users—to operate as if search engines didn’t exist?What One Medical Group is doing here is a variation of what you find on many local company websites that rank well organically. Each of the pages linked in the footer of One Medical Group’s homepage goes to the page on their website most targeted to the keyword in the link. Because they have not created a unique page, hyper-targeted to each of the linked phrases (they’ve simply linked to the pages that best fit the target keyword phrases at the bottom of each page of their site), they don’t rank on the first page for any of the phrases I tested. Perhaps this is their attempt to ‘take the high road?’
We’re in the process of doing a comprehensive SEO analysis of every Google Ventures company, but it’s not ready yet. If you’d like to see that, contact us and we’ll share it when it’s finished.
Google’s Social Media Strategy for Your Business
At SES Chicago in 2012, one of the speakers joked, “Where do you hide a dead body? On Google+.” The audience got a pretty big chuckle from that one. Suffice it to say, Google has gotten a late start with social media. For those of you that prefer to spend your time in the real world vs. on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter, Google+ is Google’s attempt at creating a social network.
So, what would Google’s social media strategy look like for your business?
What importance would they place on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.?
From a quick analysis, virtually all of the GV companies I explored are actively using social media to market their businesses.
Take a look at this breakdown:
- FB Likes / Talking
- Twitter Followers
- Not Found
- 621 /60
- One Medical Grp
- 33,310 / 942
- 14,213 / 794
- 2.5MM / 92K
- Blue Bottle Coffee
- Not Found
- 21,541 / 1,015
Not only did every GV company I reviewed had a custom Facebook and Twitter page / profile and a considerable number of likes / followers, most of them were also active in engaging fans and followers.
Here are a few examples:
Another example from ZenPayroll:
It’s worth noting that a significant percentage of RetailMeNot’s Facebook updates include photos and more than 50 percent of them are of cats and dogs—furthering the idea that people using social media love pictures of pets.
Clearly, if they have any say in the marketing of the companies within their portfolio, Google thinks that social media is an important component of the digital marketing mix.
Final Thoughts & Takeaways
I’m hardly the first one that has asked the question, “what would Google do?” In 2009, blogger and journalist, Jeff Jarvis wrote a book titled What Would Google Do? Jarvis’ opening volley gets straight to the point, “It seems as if no company, executive, or institution truly understands how to survive and prosper in the internet age.” While Jarvis’ statement was undoubtedly true when he authored the book, today the landscape has changed. What you have now is an ever widening digital divide.
On one side, you have companies that have followed the example set by Google (and many others). These companies are growing like never before—despite the shaky economy. While they come in all sizes and from every industry imaginable, the local hvac / plumbing company to the regional payroll provider, it’s not hard to identify them. You just have to look for a couple tell-tale characteristics.
The companies thriving in the digital age are investing in analytics, data, and tracking—they use a variety of tools to track and improve their website(s). The companies that are thriving view the web as a real estate game. They appear on the first page of Google—in the organic AND paid results—for seemingly every term you search related to their business. They’re the ones producing content in the form of articles, blogs, case studies, infographics, videos, etc. at a rate that makes the local Gazette do a double take. They’re putting the content they produce on their website(s), but they’re also hyperactive on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
You can learn a great deal by closely examining the attributes of other successful companies. Few companies have been as successful on the web as Google. Google Ventures provides some insight as to what your online presence might look like if Google had an ownership interest in your company.
If you’d like help creating a comprehensive digital strategy for your business, drop us a line. If you own a business and live in the MD, DC, VA, NC area, you might want to check out one of our upcoming SEO seminars.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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