Musings of Tony Gavin, Esq. | Intelligent Marketing Sensei

Search Engine Marketing for Tradies – Is it Worth the Money?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the science (some say dark art) of driving search engine traffic to your website. When somebody types a particular search into Google that is related to your trade service you ideally want your website to be visible in search results. For example, if you are a plumber in Brisbane, you might want to be visible for a range of keywords that people might type into Google. For example:

  • plumber Brisbane
  • fix blocked drain Brisbane
  • shower leak repairs Brisbane

The most common way to make a tradies website visible for search terms like those are via search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, like Google AdWords. Usually, when somebody calls you about search engine marketing for your tradies website it will be to sell you one of those services.

SEO & PPC – What’s the Difference?

SEO is all about “optimising” your website, social media pages, directory listings and other online profiles so they appear in search results for keyword sets that you target – preferably as high up the list of search results as possible.

PPC is all about competing with and bidding against other local tradies who want to rank as highly as possible on Google for certain keyword sets too. Generally, the more bidders there are in a PPC auction, the more you’ll pay for your ad to appear in search results.

SEO & PPC – Which is Better?

Unless you know how to do these things yourself, you’ll have to pay for both SEO and PPC. You might be best to think of SEO as a longer-term investment in “free” visibility on the search engines, whilst PPC is something that can drive traffic to your website immediately and produce fast results. Which is better? Maybe neither. In an ideal world, you might want a balance of both.

Are SEO and PPC Worth It?

Whenever tradies ask me this question I always say the same thing: Show me the demand. Any marketing consultant who’s not just out to take your money will ask the same question or a variation of the question. If there is no localised demand for what your business does, SEO & PPC will generally be a complete waste of your money. I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s the truth. Unfortunately, there are many people selling SEO & PPC who either don’t appear to be aware of this simple reality or who just don’t like to talk about it. If you’re not being asked about localised demand, chances are you’re dealing with a fool or are just about to be royally scammed. Understanding local demand is the starting point for all good quality search engine marketing when it comes to promoting local trade services.

SEM Cost/Benefit Analysis

The numbers don’t lie. They’ll tell you if it’s worthwhile for you to invest money in SEO or PPC. Doing a cost-benefit analysis doesn’t require fancy spreadsheets or a masters degree in mathematics. Some basic searching on Google will reveal a lot, as will some rudimentary keyword research. A pen, paper and calculator will tell you the rest.

Local Search Volume

Firstly, think about what people might type into Google as a search when looking for a tradie like you. If you’re an electrician in Newcastle, you might choose some terms like this:

  • Newcastle electricians
  • electrical contractors Newcastle
  • cost of electricians in Newcastle

You can check your approximate monthly search volume for individual keywords and keyword sets by using the Google keyword planner, which is a free tool. You’ll need a Google account to access and use the tool. There are also some other freebie tools online, just Google “free keyword planning tools”. Many keyword planners will give you more ideas once you have entered a few basic search terms. They’ll often also tell you local search volumes, keyword competitiveness and estimate the cost per click on Google. You can be sure that if something has a solid search volume and a high cost per click, SOMEBODY is making money from that keyword set. Any competent consultant will know how to research keyword search volumes for your trade and will discuss with you what keywords you should be targeting for SEO and/or PPC purposes.

Check out your competition

Now that you have some basic information it’s time to take a look at the competition. Who is ranking organically on Google? What about with Google AdWords? Are they your local competitors? Are they a struggling business, or somebody who is doing well? What is their website like? Would YOU call them if you landed on their website after clicking an ad or a link? How good is your website, in comparison? Can you compete well or do you need to spend some time and money improving your website before jumping off the block? Be honest with yourself.

What are your expected costs sales?

Next look at how much SEO and PPC will cost you, plus the cost of any ads. How many new inquiries would you need to generate in order to break even? What about to make a profit? Are there any other costs to consider, such as a new website or tweaking your existing website? If SEO is going to cost you $1,500 per month and PPC another $750 per month, plus the cost of ads, will you recover that? How soon? Some VERY basic mathematics will tell you most of what you need to know.

Think before you act

Don’t be dazzled by all the fast talk and “guarantees”. A digital marketing proposal makes sense, or it doesn’t. If the whole thing is going to cost you $4,000 per month, for the next 12 months, how else could you spend that money on advertising and what results might you expect from that? Could you just put that money straight in your pocket instead? Consider the alternatives.

A final word

Just because it’s digital advertising doesn’t mean that it’s good advertising. Like every other business, digital marketing has plenty of cowboys in its ranks. Check out the people you’re dealing with and ask to see some real world results before taking action. That usually sorts the men from the boys. When it comes to deciding if search engine marketing is right for you, as a local tradie, “it depends” really is the answer. Knowing what it depends on puts you streets ahead in deciding if SEO or PPC are right for you.

Mautic | How to Switch to the https:// Protocol (SSL Certificate)

Yesterday, I switched my primary website over to the https:// (secure) protocol. This article is not about how to purchase and install an SSL certificate – it’s about what to do with your installation of Mautic when it ceases to work (and it will cease to work properly) after you’ve installed that certificate.

WARNING: You’re going to need a few geek skills to pull this off. If you don’t have a reasonable understanding of how to edit templates and are not confident inside your cPanel – do not, repeat DO NOT fuck with this – get a geek to assist you. Your hosting provider is not going to be enough to help you to pull this off.

This post is aimed at intermediate to advanced Mautic users.

The Symptoms…

First up, we edited the htaccess file and did the normal redirections that you’d do for a website that has a newly installed SSL certificate, setting up the site to always resolve to the https:// protocol. After we’d done that, we noticed that all of the embedded Mautic forms what we had on our (Joomla!) website had completely disappeared from the pages where they were installed. Clearly, something was wrong.

You’ll also notice that the word SECURE and the padlock which sits beside it on https:// enabled websites may not appear on some pages. Instead, you’ll see a circular icon. If you click this it will alert you that problems exist with the page and it may not be secure. Usually, that will relate to something that has inadvertently been hardcoded on the page, such as an image file. In the case of Mautic, look first at your embedded forms as the source of the problem. I’ll cover how to diagnose and fix this later.

Edit Mautic Configuration

First up, you’ll need to clear your Mautic cache. Mautic does a terrible job of this and you’ll find it easier to simply delete the cache folder, which you’ll find located in the app folder of your installation of Mautic. Don’t worry about deleting the folder. Mautic will generate a new one.

Next, login into your instance of Mautic. Click on the gear icon (top right of admin panel) and navigate to Configuration. In the system settings, you’ll see your website URL. It will be the old http:// URL – not the new https:// URL that you have with you newly installed SSL certificate. Edit the website URL to include the https:// protocol and click save.

When you click save Mautic will resolve to the User/Authentication Settings tab and will display and error warning in red. You need to add the same Email, First name and Last name as you already have entered in your user settings. Click save.

Edit Website Plugins

Chances are you are using a plugin to monitor website visitation if you are using a popular CMS like WordPress or Joomla!. You will need to edit the plugin so that it recognises the new https:// protocol. Navigate to the plugin within your CMS and edit the URL, as required. Click save.

Edit Custom Themes

This next step only applies if you have custom themes installed. Even then it may not apply if relative URL’s have been consistently used in creating those themes. Especially if your custom themes are older, there is a big chance that they may contain hardcoded URL’s. Older versions of Mautic (back in the 1’s) sometimes rejected relative URL’s when creating templates. A quick look at the public pages of your template should tell you if anything requires attention.

Go to your cPanel (or use ftp) and navigate to your installation of Mautic, then navigate to the theme that you wish to edit. You’ll then need to go through html / html.twig files and edit any hardcoded URL’s to reflect the new https:// protocol. Notably, pages and forms appear to be affected. I went through everything – and even cleaned up some messy code!

After I’d done all of that, everything seemed to work fine – except for one thing…

Edit Forms

Earlier I mentioned the problem of pages still being insecure. It only affected pages with embedded Mautic forms on them. The solution is simple. Mautic forms all provide a for a return URL (the URL visitors are directed to upon submission of a form). Navigate to each form and edit the Redirect/URL Message field to include the https:// protocol. That immediately cleared up my issue, with some pages displaying as insecure.

Warning

This was my first run through on this. I fully expect to uncover more issues in the next day or two. I’ll update this post as I identify and resolve those problems.

The Hidden Cost of Marketing – Non-Working Spend

I came across an extraordinary report last week. Produced by global marketing platform provider Percolate, the report focuses on the hidden cost of marketing – non-working spend. You can download a copy of the report here.

The average marketing budget allots only 48% to advertising

Percolate mostly deals with large global brands. I know for sure that most small businesses don’t spend anything like 52% of their marketing budget on non-working spend – but maybe they should. Let’s dig a bit deeper on what non-working spend actually is.

Non-working advertising spend

In a nutshell, non-working spend is the money spent on creative – not putting it in front of an audience (i.e. what you spend directly on advertising). Think of the cost of creating and maintaining your website, graphic design and printing of brochures, creating content for blogs posts, agency costs, performance monitoring and measurement expenses and the myriad other items that eat into your marketing budget that are not direct advertising spend.

Working advertising spend

Working advertising spend is what you invest directly on distributing the content you create – be it postage, paid ads on Google and Facebook, print-based ads, radio and TV commercials or the million other advertising options which exist. Working advertising spend is an expenditure that directly delivers your message to your audience.

Why SME’s need to invest more on non-working advertising spend

Put bluntly, the typical small business generally lacks the internal skills (and time) to develop marketing strategies that predictably deliver new customers and a sustainable return on investment from advertising. Even those businesses that have a capacity to develop strong marketing strategies rarely have the internal resources to successfully execute tactics (most notably in the digital realm), monitor, measure and manage their marketing plans to success.

The Percolate report is very focused on reducing non-working advertising costs. For large corporations with internal marketing departments and vast amounts of capital invested in branding and the like, that makes a lot of sense. It makes almost no sense at all for a business where the owner writes boring copy for the company website and the receptionist designs (ugly and ineffective) marketing collateral, using Microsoft Publisher. These businesses need to spend more on their non-working advertising spend – generally a whole lot more.

Non-working advertising spend is a long-term investment

Think of it like this – what’s more likely to elicit a positive response from prospects; a poorly designed website built by your next door neighbours 12-year-old – or a professionally designed website built by people who know how to sell ice to Eskimos?

If you’re going to spend money on bringing people to your website, you might as well make the investment in fully optimised pages and a well-crafted message.

The same principle applies to researching your market, development of your primary value proposition, creation of an ROI-focused marketing strategy, selection of worthwhile marketing tactics, management and monitoring of your marketing and advertising campaigns – and most of all – investing in the people who bring all of that to life.

A final word

Modern marketing is complex. That’s especially the case in the world of digital marketing. One standalone tactic like AdWords, or SEO, or running Facebook ads is unlikely to work for your business anymore. You need a strongly focused and cohesive strategy that drives your decisions on what tactics to implement. You’ll also need a good team around you to advise upon, execute and manage your plan.

For smaller businesses, your non-working advertising spend may prove to be the decisive factor in whether your marketing plan succeeds or fails. Hire skilled people internally, or outsource your marketing to a company that has the expertise and people to make your plan work. Either way, you need to budget for the hidden cost of marketing – your non-working marketing spend.

Fiscal Purgatory – Where Foreign Exchange Becomes Purified

Our company transfers money internationally at least twice per month. Ten minutes after I’ve initiated the transfer that money is no longer in our Australian bank account. More often than not several days will pass before our money miraculously reappears in our Hong Kong or Philippines bank account. So where does our money go during those days when it’s neither in our Australian bank account or anywhere else? Nobody at any of my banks can tell me – but I think I’ve finally figured it out.

Welcome to Fiscal Purgatory

For those familiar with Catholic theology, Purgatory is an intermediate state after physical death, in which those destined for Heaven apparently undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.

Only those who die in a state of grace but who have not yet fulfilled the temporal punishment due to their sin can be in Purgatory. Therefore, no one in Purgatory will remain forever in that state, or go to Hell.

I’ve figured that’s what happens when I internationally transfer money – it goes into a state of limbo called Fiscal Purgatory – destined for another bank account – but not yet purified enough for the joy of entering that account.

The wages of sin

All of my money obviously enters Fiscal Purgatory in a state of grace, but not yet having undergone sufficient purification to enter the joy of the destination bank account. That much is obvious because the money always arrives – eventually.

Purification (without exception) involves the removal of some of my money through hefty bank transfer fees. More purification occurs through that great mystery known as currency exchange rates. If my money has sinned very badly, more purification might be extracted in the form of local government taxes and charges.

It’s hard to know in advance what the price of sin will be – but sin must always be paid for – in cash. Our bankers assure us that redemption is worth the price.

The miracle of forgiveness

Once its sins have been purified by hacking away small pieces of our money – and forgiveness has been granted – our money is permitted to experience the joy of being deposited to the destination account. I consider it a miracle if that purification process can be completed within just two business days.

Often, absolution takes longer – and shifts in exchange rates extract yet more purification.

The joy of absolution

So there you have it, people. You now know what happens to your money when it appears to be nowhere. Just be thankful to your bankers for purifying your money before it reaches the destination account. The sins of your money are absolved.

DISCLAIMER:

What you have just read is a true story. Only the facts have been changed. Frankly, it makes as much sense as the complete bullshit that both ANZ (Australia) and BDO (Philippines) have tried to force-feed me today.

Large Mautic Campaigns – Workaround for 100 Decisions/Actions Limit

This post is for people experiencing difficulty with building larger campaigns (more than 100 decisions/actions) with Mautic.

The problem with Mautic Decisions & Actions

By default, it appears that Mautic (as at version 2.2.2) imposes a limitation of 100 decisions/actions when building campaigns. You will be able to save more than 100 decisions and actions, but will notice that Mautic strips the green or red links joining those decisions and actions. That means that your campaign will break down at the point of those breaks. Here is what it looks like:

The Workaround for Mautic Decisions & Actions

This assumes that you already understand the basics of Mautic campaign building, such as the need for Segments and Channels (such as emails). This is a workaround is for email sequences and does not cover the finer points of contacts, forms, point scoring, etc. Here is what I did.

1. Create Multiple Contact Segments

First up, I created multiple Contact Segments, which are really for the same group of Contacts. In my case, I had a Contact Segment which was capturing leads from a Mautic form. I created a second Contact Segments and simply renamed the first, just to tie them together:

Lead Segment 1
Lead Segment 2

Lead Segment 1 continued to capture leads from my Mautic from. I’ll cover what I did with Lead Segment 2 later.

2. Create Multiple Campaigns

I created two Campaigns and named them, again to tie them together for my own review purposes.

Lead Segment Campaign 1
Lead Segment Campaign 2

3. Create Campaign 1

In Lead Segment Campaign 1 I set up a campaign with around 80 decisions/actions (mindful of the 100 decisions/actions limit imposed by Mautic).

My final action in the campaign was to:

Change Campaign
Add Contact to Lead Segment Campaign 2
Remove contact from Lead Segment Campaign 1

4. Create Campaign 2

Create Campaign 2, effectively as a continuation of Campaign 1.

Helpful Hints

To pull this off you’ll need to think the campaign through from start to finish. The first campaign that I did this with was a simple auto-responder sequence. There were a total of eight emails in the campaign with the decision of Open Email set to trigger the next email in the sequence after one day. The decision not to open an email triggered the next email in the sequences after 3 days.

How I worked around this was by setting up Change Campaign to trigger immediately the Contact opened an email, if within one day – and otherwise within two days. I then set up Campaign 2 to trigger after one day – meaning that the one day for opens / three days for non-opens rhythm of Campaign 1 was maintained.

Mautic has more bugs than a tackle and bait shop. This is not perfect and I don’t think for one moment that it will work well for every situation. If you think it through you will find it’s a fairly good workaround for a lot of situations when creating large Mautic Campaigns. Good luck with it!

Mautic – More Full of Bugs Than a Bait & Tackle Shop

Let me start this post by saying that I love Mautic. I hate Mautic too. For those who don’t know, Mautic is an open source marketing automation tool. I really believe that in the long term Mautic will revolutionise digital marketing. I believe it so much that my company has staked its future on Mautic in many ways – but that’s another story.

Get out the bug zapper!

Not much goes smoothly with Mautic. Multiply that by 10,000 if you are running Mautic on your own server, rather than using their hosted solution. I know how to install Mautic. Hell, I even made a video on about it that has proven to be popular on YouTube. That doesn’t mean that everything went smoothly from day one. I have personally put HUNDREDS of hours into coming up the learning curve on Mautic. Much of that has just been ironing out the bugs. You’ll need a thick skin to work with this baby.

Server configuration issues unlimited

Every time I turn around Mautic appears to have developed another server configuration issue. I’d estimate that about 97% of all problems I’ve ever encountered with Mautic are server configuration related. When Mautic fucks up (as it will) go looking for server permissions problems first.

You’ll need the help of your hosting support unless you are very server savvy yourself. The team at Liquid Web have been outstanding with us. I’d conservatively estimate that they have poured maybe 100 hours plus into support chats and tickets with regard to Mautic. It took several months (literally) to get things just right. In case you’re wondering, the Liquid Web claim of “Heroic Support” is the real deal. They rock!

Mautic server requirements – a dark mystery…

Mautic provides basic server requirements on their website. Those basic requirements are tested by Mautic upon installation and it will throw an error message if your server fails to meet them. That is FAR from what is required to get Mautic running correctly. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive guide to Mautic server configuration. It’s trial and error. I’ve tried to raise some interest in the Mautic Github Community to create a comprehensive server configuration guide but none of the devs seems interested. I’m sure that thousands of people walk away from Mautic each week out of the sheer frustration of being unable to get their server configuration right.

Froala Editor: The editor from Hell!

Mautic utilises Froala Editor. Froala Editor is an abomination. There. I said it! I totally get that the Mautic dev team wants to make Mautic user-friendly for Mums and Dads without technical skills. That is a worthy objective. Unfortunately, Froala frustrates the shit out of people who do possess technical and creative skills. This horrid tool cannot be easily disabled in Mautic and strips code when users attempt to save using the code editor. Truly horrible behaviour.

I’ve been vocal within the Mautic community to get rid of Froala Editor. Thanks to one of the dev team explaining the realities of how many interdependencies there are with Froala, I completely get why ditching this tool is so difficult. It is due for deletion in a future edition of Mautic, so watch this space for updates.

Social integrations

These seem to be difficult at best – and just don’t work at worst. I’m completely lost with what’s supposed to work and what isn’t. What I do know is that when this stuff is finally sorted out, Mautic will become an indispensable tool in monitoring the social activity of your leads – all from within the Mautic CRM.

Email Hell

Mautic boasts a variety of email integrations. Some work better than others. Some don’t work at all. Part of that is related to the SMTP service providers, like SparkPost. Part of that is Mautic. Again, this is a feature that improves with each update. Same deal with the horribly buggy Campaign Builder.

Some Mautic Love

I haven’t written this post to be critical of Mautic. I love the product. I love open source. This post is a warning. As much as Mautic likes to position itself as something that anyone can use – that’s bullshit. That may change as the product evolves. Right now, you’re going to need some geek skills just to make Mautic work. You’re going to need intermediate to advanced geeks skills to make it work well, or you’re going to need somebody who has those skills helping you.

Mautic promises a lot. It delivers on most of those promises – if you have the technical skills to take advantage of it. If you don’t you’ll end up confused and frustrated. Right now, Mautic is a tool for web marketing professionals. If you accept that and get the help you need, you might also find that it can completely change the way that you do your marketing.

Keep up the awesome work team Mautic!

Social Media Bubbles: Why The World Is Not Like What You Think

I only began using social media actively in December, 2012. Prior to that, I’d been a knuckle dragger and resisted the urge to use Facebook as anything more than a business tool for building social signals. Something I did purely for SEO purposes. I saw it strictly as a necessary evil for somebody like me, who depended upon organic search engine rankings on Google.

My, how things can change!

These days, I’m a prolific user of social media. I live in Asia. My family lives mostly in Australia. I have friends, associates and clients dotted around the globe. For the most part, I keep up with everyone via Facebook. That’s just where people seem to gather. In some respects, it seems to serve the modern-day equivalent of church socials and town hall meetings. It’s a place where people with ties and connections, shared beliefs and common interests gather. Check it out, and Facebook (or LinkedIn, or some other platform) will have a group that meets your interests and needs. Most often, you’ll be invited by friends who know that you have the interest to join these groups – much as might happen in the physical world. That’s great, but I have observed something interesting going on. Something that I’m not too sure I like.

The truth about “friends” revealed!

When I started using Facebook, I became friends with people that I had known throughout (or at some point during) my life. I quickly found my feed filled with pictures of their kids, pets, homes, workplaces, favourite restaurants, and a million other scenes from their everyday lives. I saw posts from news stories that they had commented on, stating their views. I saw posts appearing about those things which were passions within their lives. I saw personal triumph and awful tragedy. I saw humour. I saw great insights, I saw outright stupidity. Truthfully, I didn’t like everything that I saw.

Targeting your worldview

Facebook, Google and increasingly, every online platform try hard to cater to your every interest and need. In doing so, they also try (often successfully) to filter out those things which might displease you. Looking at my own experience, Facebook and I have systematically filtered out the things that I don’t like seeing on my feed. Annoying relative posts too many pictures of their fat, ugly cat – no problem – that’s what the unfollow (not to be confused with unfriend) button is for. Abracadabra – no more fat, ugly cat pics. Some church group feeds you too many annoying pictures of Jesus – no problem – that’s what the report post button is for. Do it enough times and like magic, Jesus just disappears from your feed for eternity (pardon the pun). So, where’s the downside you ask?

Social Media Bubbles

Do enough unfollowing and post reporting, and you’ll soon have a clean, trouble-free feed. The question is, how diverse will that feed be? Will it just become a place where everyone shares your views and beliefs? Has it become a place which blinkers your view of the world? I think that for many (me included), that’s exactly what it does. Do anti-vaxxer views annoy me? You better believe it! Should I really be completely obscuring those views from my world? Damn, that makes me about as ignorant as religious cult nutters, locked in a walled compound! As nutty as I might consider anti-vaxxers to be, I need to know that they’re out there. Right now, I’m hating the protective little bubble that I’ve created.

Time to burst the bubble

Right now, just as soon as I’ve finished posting this blog, I’m going to re-follow the hundreds of people I’ve unfollowed on Facebook. I’ll undoubtedly see the demented ranting’s of Jesus freaks, some horrid snot-nosed children, plenty of fat ugly cats, and the frenzied comments of some virtual imbeciles. I’m going to embrace every bit of it. Facebook, I no longer want you to edit what I see. Just feed it to me baby – and I’ll decide when to just scroll by.

UPDATE: Turns out that I didn’t love snot-nosed kids, fat cats or Jesus nearly as much as I’d hoped I might. The Unfollow and Snooze buttons are my friends!

Be Nice To Customers, or Social Media Might Bite You!

Just a few days ago the image below popped up on my Facebook feed. It was posted by a good friend of mine with the following comment; This was my dealings today with the owner of [DELETED] meat shop in [DELETED].

I clicked on the feed and was amazed at the 50 plus comments which followed – many of which were from people that I know or know of. Here are just some of the comments;

>>> That dude is a complete tool

>>> [DELETED] [DELETED] [DELETED] [DELETED] and other restaurant owners please check

>>> I stop going there mostly because like [DELETED] he is a tool to say it nicely

>>> [DELETED] he is done as a serious meat seller. Just wait until the Manila boys join this. They know how much I love my food

>>> Thanks. [DELETED]. I will save this post in case he comes back here again trying to sell me his meat.

>>> I just can’t believe his response The guy is a fool. Might be a good butcher but terrible at customer relations.

>>> The response “good luck to you” tell me he is a dip stick

In addition to those comments, dozens of restaurant and bar owners in his local area were tagged.

Just another customer

The guy who owns this meat shop probably thought he was just blowing somebody off. In the case of my friend, he was a customer who lived four hours drive away from where the meat shop is located and is probably not a frequent customer at the shop. What he probably didn’t realize is that my friend is very plugged into the expatriate community immediately surrounding where his meat shop is located, and which he relies upon to make a living.

Tell a friend about your bad experience

That expat community is small, but the combined reach of my friend, plus all of his contacts is a lot for such a small community. By now, that image has been broadcast all over the world. I’ll personally syndicate this post out to my 12,000 or so social media followers too. Fortunately for the owner, I’ve blacked out his identity and location. Not everyone did that!

Word of mouth on steroids

I’ve described social media many times before as word of mouth advertising on steroids. Unfortunately for business owners live the guy in the meat shop, social media is a two-edged sword. When you treat customers badly, social media can become a business destroyer on steroids too. Just think of that next time you’re tempted to send that frustrated text or email.