Should Your SEO & PPC Reports Be No More Than 3 Numbers?

The case for simplified SEO and PPC reporting.

Does in-depth reporting provide any value in the first place?

I work primarily with professional services firms, the majority of whom are law firms.  These clients are highly intelligent, extremely well-educated, and generally speaking, highly successful in their fields.  If anyone outside of marketing is going to be able to easily understand a typical PPC report, it would be the accountants, lawyers, and adjusters that we work with, but surprisingly, most do not.  Even after the meeting or phone call that explains a CTR or a CPA, I can tell that the majority do not entirely understand what the reports are telling them and that we need a new way to report to our non-marketing clients.

“All kinds of lines and graphs”

I recall a first meeting with a small firm in Philadelphia that was leaving a well-known attorney marketing firm from out of state.  I asked about the results that he had been seeing, what was working and what wasn’t, and he answered that “they send me an email with all kinds of lines and graphs every month, but it is impossible to read.  I’ll send you a copy of some of them and you can tell me.”  The forwarded email was a standard report that clearly outlined the changes in traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and all of the typical metrics that we use to track web traffic.  The client was a 38 year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania that was very comfortable managing most aspects of his website, so it was not an issue of not being “tech-savvy” or uneducated.

He just didn’t get what the numbers meant in terms of his business and the time that his agency put into those reports was wasted.

Pick three numbers and put them front and center.

PPC and SEO reporting must be simplified to the point that a child can understand it.  At 12khz, we have started creating dashboards for clients using Google’s Data Studio. These dashboards prominently feature the numbers that mean the most to that client.  What does your client care about?

  • Number of phone calls?
  • Number of people visiting the website?
  • Time on page?

By focusing on a few numbers that the client clearly understands and that you have mutually agreed impact the business the most, your reporting goes from being “an email with a bunch of lines and graphs” to being a document that communicates the progress and results of the work that they are paying you to do.  In the case of analytics reporting for non-marketers, less is significantly more.  All of the typical detailed reporting should be placed on separate pages as to not overwhelm or distract our clients, but still remain available should they choose to delve more deeply into the work that you’ve done.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any positive experiences with greatly simplifying your client reporting?  Am I totally wrong? Please share below.


When Is Lower Production Value Better For Video Content?

Sometimes, people want to see your brand’s pimples and stretchmarks.

“I don’t want any video to go up on our Facebook page unless it is broadcast quality.”

Our client had a brand image that was highly polished and refined.  We were discussing the business’s content strategy, and the topic had turned to video content; specifically, Facebook Live.  Until that point, the website had no video content other than advertisements and case studies of the work that it had done.  We suggested that the site begin featuring more video content, but it was rebuffed as being cost-prohibitive.  We countered by suggesting that the business could shoot “whiteboard-style” videos and behind-the-scenes content with a smartphone, eliminating the high cost of video production.  The owner did not want any video content that wasn’t broadcast quality, and to this day, the blog and social media pages have no video content whatsoever.

Does video content have to be broadcast quality?

Ten years ago, I would have answered “absolutely.”  Any shop that put out video content that looked in any way amateurish could have done more harm than good to their brand, leaving them worse off than if they had simply left “good enough” alone.  Now that high quality video equipment is available to pretty much any small business, the need for broadcast quality is actually less, and in some cases, could actually even be counterproductive.  For a brand that aims to foster trust and exude authenticity, lower production value can help them achieve it.

Wait, how can lower quality ever be preferable?

Today, people crave authenticity.  We have become so inundated with cleverly edited, touched up content that internet users have become a bit fatigued from it all; we live in a state of feeling like we’re being lied to. Additionally, we have become better than ever at sniffing out inauthenticity in what we find online.

It can be argued that many have come to regard much “high production content” as suspect.  We hear the occasional stories of high-profile Instagram models “outing” their pages as inauthentic.  Rapper Kendrick Lamar expressed the sentiments of fatigue with overpolished content, expressing a distaste for Photoshop and a wish to see “stretchmarks.”

This explains the odd success that people like DJ Khaled have had on media like Snapchat.  His Snapchat story about being lost at sea was viewed 1.8 million times.  He posts videos such as this that people love:

Why do people enjoy this content?  Because it is real.  Here, DJ Khaled is inviting us into his life, starring in his own self-produced reality show—a reality show that differs from the high production “reality” shows that we have become accustomed to because it is real.  People see that it was shot with a smartphone and posted to Snapchat; this is the brand equivalent to the “stretchmarks” that people like Kendrick Lamar want to see.

When your business or brand can benefit from “low production value” video

You want to create trust.  If you operate in an industry that needs to foster trust, low production value video can often gain that trust better than a video that could be aired at the Super Bowl.  An iPhone video will better communicate what it’s like behind the scenes at your business—just be sure to hide your startup’s ping pong table and piñatas before you hit record.  In other words, the fact that you are shooting with the smartphone lends authenticity, but you still don’t want to overshare.  As anyone that ever watched Chappelle’s Show can attest, keeping it real can and does go wrong.

You want to create a large volume of content.  For whatever the reason may be, sheer volume of content could be part of the content strategy that your business has adopted.  Being able to shoot and edit on the fly could facilitate this strategy for your company.

You need agility.  If you are creating content to create thought leadership for your brand, weeks are the equivalent of years.  If you want to create content about the latest Google or Facebook algorithm changes, you don’t have weeks to plan, create, edit, and promote your video. Get some decent lighting, a tripod and clip for your phone, and get it out ASAP.

Ultimately, there are advantages to creating video content with a smartphone.

The agility, authenticity, and cost afforded by smartphone video can create value for you and the audience you wish to reach.  For a brand wishing to outflank its larger competitors, this sort of content could be key in doing so successfully.  What are some brands that you’ve seen do this well?  Are there reasons to embrace low-production value video in addition to the ones that I have listed?  Does your brand have plans to implement a similar strategy?  I look forward to reading your comments.


What Can You Expect to Get From An Adwords Campaign In 2017

Understandably, this is probably the most common question that we get from a client interested in PPC.

Since we’re not in business to break even, it’s important to get an idea of what it should cost you to get a sale or customer lead.  Fortunately, Adwords has its keyword planner, a tool that you can use to get a ballpark idea of what it should cost you to get a sale or lead.  When you log into the tool, you’ll see this screen:

how much does adwords cost

Don’t feel overwhelmed.  Click on “get search volume and trends.”  This will give you a good idea of what you can expect the cost-per-click to be for the keywords that you want to bid on within the market that you wish to target.

What percentage of the clicks that you pay for will turn into a sale?

This is the hard part.  This is the “conversion rate” of your website and/or ads; the rate at which visitors “convert” into paying customers.  You can typically see conversion rates range from 1%-5% depending on the industry that you work in, but many of the campaigns that we run have conversion rates up to 30%.  A good Adwords manager can maximize your conversion rate through a variety of techniques, developing the right ad copy, the right landing page for the ad, and the right placement for your ad.  However, it takes time to do all of that—what can you expect to see in month 1?

Let’s do a test run

I did a quick keyword check for terms related to an appeals lawyer in Pennsylvania.  How much should it cost us to get a case and what kind of profit can we expect?

how much adwords costs in 2017

I have found that the “average monthly searches” tend to be a bit off, and if you’re in a brand new Adwords account, you’ll get a really broad number like “0-100” searches a month.

If you’re just “average”

In the case of this firm, 100 clicks will cost $1,375.  The average conversion rate for the legal field is 4.35%, so this is likely to result in 3-5 client contacts, of which 1 in 3 is likely to be a “good case.”  Ultimately, if we are working with an average conversion rate, we’re looking at spending roughly $1,375 to get a $2,000 client.

If you have a good Adwords manager

A good Adwords manager could optimize this account to get a 5%-8% conversion rate.  In this case, the firm would be likely to get 2-3 cases for the same spend, cutting the cost of a client from $1,375 to $823.

If you have a rockstar Adwords manager

If you’re running a campaign that converts at 15%-25% (as many of our attorney campaigns do), then your $1375 goes a long way.  In this case, of your 100 clicks, 20 would be likely to contact you.  Of these, 6-7 would be good cases, bringing the cost of bringing in a new case to $211.  If a client is worth $2000, that is a nice return.

Ultimately, the skill of the person running your account is the deciding factor

But you can use some rules of thumb in calculating the results you can expect.
  1. What conversion rate does your Adwords manager normally get for clients like you?  Run the numbers based on your cost-per-click and see how profitable it would be.  Rule of thumb: don’t spend more than 33% of a customer value to acquire that customer.  Anything over $475 for this client should be suspect.
  2. What percentage of the leads that you receive are “good leads?”  If you’re like us, a good 4/5 of the web leads that we get are “good leads” that we can help.  If you’re like our attorney clients, that number is only 1/3.  Try to figure out what your rule of thumb is.
[Case Study] How Our Client Is Getting 15 “Good Cases” a Month on a $1500 Spend (And How You Can Too)

We’re turning on the lights and opening up the playbook.

By 12khz SEO | Web Design | PPC

Did the firm receive a contact from a new client?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what we did, here are some relevant details.  Our agency considers a conversion nothing less than a client email, phone call, or chat; we don’t care if they visited for 20 minutes, or if they watched a video, or anything else like that.  Did they contact the firm?

This client claims—along with the overwhelming majority of our clients—that 1 in 3 of the cases that our phone calls they receive are “good cases.”  This rule of thumb is what most of them go by when determining the ROI of the campaigns that we are running.


“I Just Signed a $75k Referral Fee Check To Another Firm. Can You Come In Tomorrow at 2?”

We met one evening in January after I left a meeting with another firm in the same building.  It was late and everyone had left the office, but I saw that the door was open and a light was on.  I walked in and caught one of the partners as he was closing up.  I asked him a few questions about the practice, told him a little about what we do, and left it that we would talk in a few weeks.

About a month and a half later, I received a phone call. “Hi Frank, I just signed a $75k referral fee check to another firm.  Can you come in tomorrow at 2?”  Our meeting lasted about 2o minutes and we determined the following:

  • The client needed a responsive website
  • We needed to start collecting data from the website (no analytics installed)
  • We would do a $500 trial on Adwords


How the new website helped our efforts

There were a number of reasons why we needed a new site:

  • The existing website was unusable on mobile phones
  • Several of the links in the menu were broken
  • There was no legal disclaimer or privacy policy on the site
  • It looked cheap and was not reflective of the quality of the services offered by the firm

The new website addressed all of these issues and had the following bonuses:

  • Every page of the site now had a tap-to-dial in the header, which made it very easy for clients to call on mobile phones
  • Each page was now optimized for search, with appropriate title and header tags throughout the site
  • We optimized the speed of the site so that it loaded quickly on mobile devices
  • It allowed for quick changes that could be performed by the firm’s staff


How we began getting new clients on the phone with the firm

We started with a $500 Adwords budget and created separate ad groups targeting searches for the firm’s areas of practice.  Each ad group had two different ads to split test over several months, the details of which I am not going to get into in this post.  Feel free to ask in the comments if you’re interested.

Adwords Case Study, Mo. 1

Results at the end of month one. The “Cherry Hill” ad group was added later in the campaign.

As the campaign began, my first question was “why aren’t these phone calls converting?”  I talked to the client, and it turned out that when they received this calls, they were simply taking the person’s contact info and calling back.  We had set the conversion threshold way too high at 60 seconds.  The client also did not want to use Google Forwarding Numbers on the site, so we were not tracking any manual dials from desktop visits.  The client told us that it would make more sense to set the conversion threshold at any call over 15 seconds, the time to get a name and phone number.

call details law firm ppc

With the more accurate threshold, it looks more like we got 5 conversions for the first month.

Overall, the first month ended with 5 conversion out of 49 clicks, a conversion rate around 18%.


“We’ve worked with other agencies in the past, but you’re the first one to get the phone ringing”

The numbers from the first month were acceptable, but not astronomical—our clients disagreed.  They were thrilled, telling us “we’ve worked with other agencies in the past, but you’re the first one to get the phone ringing” and asking us to double the monthly budget.

We pushed the budget up to $1k/mo, but with only 49 clicks, the sample still wasn’t big enough to start making any decisions.  We let the campaign run for a few months and resolved to start cutting.

We found that:

  • the clicks converted at a significantly lower rate outside the hours of 10am-6pm, so we stopped running them outside those hours
  • the same was true during the weekends, so no more Sat. & Sun. ads
  • clients within the town where the firm was located, as well as one adjacent town converted at a much higher rate than all of the other towns
  • mobile device visits converted at a much higher rate than desktop.  This could have been because of we were not tracking manually dialed phone calls, but the data spoke and we couldn’t ignore what it was saying.

We used this information to run ads that focused on mobile searches from 10am-6pm, Mon-Fri, in just two towns in NJ.


Final Results

The Adwords campaign became a lead generation monster for this firm.  By the end of the month, its cost-per-click dropped to only $6, its conversion rate was almost 25%, and with an estimated 1 in 3 calls being “good cases” worth $3k to $5k, the firm was bringing in roughly 15 of them a month on an $1,200 ad spend.


My Conflict When Asked About Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

“How did get to #1 on Google?  I want you to do whatever they did!” – Every Law Firm I’ve Ever Spoken With

I feel conflicted whenever I get this question, which I get on a weekly, if not daily basis.  Inevitably, I take a look at said competitor’s backlink profile and it’s a sea of spam.  75,000 backlinks from nonsense websites (which are almost always private blog networks, or PBNs), comments spammed across sites in Russia and Southeast Asia, and enough Web 2.0 crap to fill a floor of servers.  I then realize that once again, I’m going to have the “well, they haven’t been penalized yet, but it’s just a matter of time” conversation.  From the client’s perspective, the competing firm is driving tens of thousands of dollars of billable hours while he is pumping out blog pieces and still paying referral fees to other firms.  Additionally, I have clients with whom I had the “it’s a matter of time” discussion three years ago and the competitor is still #1.

What do you tell them?

I have resolved to view my white hat vs. black hat conundrum through the lens of risk management.  I do not think that it is my job to tell a client that they should or should not take one approach vs. another; my duty is to clearly communicate the opportunities, risks, and costs of each approach and allow the client to make his or her own decisions.  I would prefer that our clients use white hat, best practices to rank their sites, but that does not always align with their risk tolerance and desire for fast results.  If a firm stands to drive tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in business over x amount of time, only to be penalized and move their site to a new domain and start over, they should be allowed to make that decision.

We do not do any blackhat SEO in-house.  It is more profitable for us to provide white hat solutions, but ultimately, our suggestions must fit the client.  My favorite analogy is to compare both practices to driving on a highway: if you do the speed limit, you’re less likely to be pulled over, have a fatal accident, or get a blowout.  If you decide to do 80 mph, you suddenly run all of these risks, but you will almost certainly get there more quickly (as long as none of those risks turn into actual problems).

In the end, it all depends on your appetite for risk.

Our Local Citations Checklist With TF and CF Listed

Our Local Citations Checklist With TF and CF Listed

DIY Your Local SEO

What is this list for?

So, you have a local business and you want to get into the local “three-pack” that gets so much traffic for local search.  You don’t necessarily need to hire someone; wou can do much of your own “local SEO” yourself.

Google determines the most relevant results for local businesses through a number of ways, but one of the ranking factors is the quantity and quality of local citations.  In a nutshell, the algorithm does consider the number of local directories that have your business with its address, phone number, and opening hours, as well as the quality of the directories that have your business listed.  You do not want to indiscriminately list your business on every single directory that you find.  This could just as well result in a penalty to your site as it could result in a boost.

How to tell the quality of the directories you submit to

There are a few tools that SEOs use to tell the quality or trustworthiness of a website.  The one that we used for this post was Majestic SEO.  We’re actually going to save you the headache of putting each address into Majestic and just give you the list with each website’s citation flow and trust flow.

What is Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF)?

Our Local Citations List Complete With the TF and CF of Each

Item CitationFlow TrustFlow 25 21 55 31 56 69 28 25 25 15 34 21 29 14 31 23 31 14 19 13 40 35 37 29 29 23 36 32 33 26 28 19 37 26 29 15 38 31 29 24 44 39 28 27 80 80 53 48 29 32 28 12 48 32 40 33 48 11 35 27 25 13 27 12 46 14 35 12 11 11 27 26 25 15 47 17 29 15 45 18 31 19 32 24 37 26 31 12 26 10 22 12 34 29 21 13 26 22 26 30 43 36 26 10 57 33 29 17 34 10 31 20 21 10 26 22 25 22 45 39 24 15 44 37 41 24 38 29 57 54 43 56 25 12 29 16 26 10 42 28 28 17 32 28 73 73 45 35 38 28 26 12 23 10 23 23 38 15 21 13 37 28 42 36 38 34 41 26 18 13 47 53 22 25 35 27 31 29 35 32 29 26 45 22 32 28 23 13 28 27 35 33 31 26 42 38 80 80 40 12 24 16 32 23 25 11 30 10 37 31 31 25 31 32 28 13 26 17 30 18 45 35 25 10 29 29 26 27 31 12 26 30 40 31 53 48 31 26 42 26 35 15 27 25 20 25 34 37 15 11 10 10 39 29 28 26 36 41 40 12 40 35 27 29 26 13 28 19 35 33 27 23 36 17 40 42 21 32 28 22 38 30 33 16 27 10 48 21 45 50 34 29 42 50 28 14 42 41 29 25 48 53 31 24 27 10 28 18 37 32 36 15 20 28 33 26 24 16 35 16 32 21 21 12 29 15 36 28 25 13 25 16 39 34 36 31 40 31 23 27 34 38 32 16 23 10 44 33 35 29 32 20 22 15 31 16 59 25 38 21 23 23 29 15 20 30 29 30 37 31 46 45 41 33 28 30 37 26 22 12 27 16 50 43 24 14 39 26 75 69 38 31 46 31 39 35 30 15 25 14 23 21 23 12 47 40 36 27 32 22 48 28 28 10 37 11 38 26 18 12 29 24 27 10 26 11 24 25 39 28 40 25 51 11 14 10 66 62 40 32 31 12
Is Your Organization Ready To Operate Without Computers?

Cyberattacks are only going to grow in intensity and frequency—are you ready?

“I fear for the day where every hospital system is down, for instance, because an IoT attack brings down the entire healthcare system.” – Kevin Fu, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Virta Labs

Cyber-warfare is not coming—it’s here.  Russia, China, and a number of other states are recruiting and training hackers to attack digital infrastructures the way pilots are trained to bomb factories and power plants.  There is little to keep a terrorist organization or hostile foreign state from attacking these necessary infrastructures and completely disrupting our businesses.  Is your business prepared to go pen and paper if necessary?

We’ve become reliant on technology

Many hospital systems are so dependent on digital infrastructure that some physicians have become entirely reliant on them to determine dosing of drugs.  Many airports are unable to operate without their computer systems.  Work at some banks would come to a grinding halt if its computers went down.

Unless we achieve everlasting world peace, there will be another massive war, and cyberattacks will be part of it.  Instead of bombing power plants, hackers will take down their computer networks.  Instead of blowing up factories, banking systems will be targeted.  Rather than blowing up highways and bridges, they will cut fiber optics cables.  Unlike wars in the past, businesses far from the front lines will be impacted, and those that prepare will be ready.

Plan and train your staff

A foreign state launches a massive attack.  Hackers target your cloud provider.  A storm interrupts your internet service for days.  A backhoe  severs a vital fiber optics cable.  What does your staff do?

Your company needs to have a contingency plan for a computer-free workplace.  Management must have a plan to continue work without a digital infrastructure and staff must be prepared “to go old school” to get their jobs done.  Planning and training your staff will be critical to ensuring that your organization can continue to operate.  How will we communicate with each other and our customers?  How will mission-critical functions be carried out?  Who will be responsible for the tasks that are normally completed by computers?  These questions and many more must be answered before the computers go out, not after.


Necessary services such as power plants, police and fire departments, and hospitals should run drills to practice computer-free operations the way schools run fire drills.  Such services are too critical to run the risk of having members not know what to do should their digital information systems go down, and far less of them are prepared to do so than one would ever imagine.

Your workplace would be well-served to do the same.  Could your business continue to operate if it lost internet access for a week?  If you operate in an industry that existed before “the information superhighway” showed up in the 90s, it should be easier for you to train your staff to continue work.  If you operate in a digital-reliant business—such as a digital marketing agency named 12khz—you should have a contingency plan to keep from going out of business.