4 Boxes to Check Before You Think About Scaling Your Online Ads
What separates us from other savage beasts is our ability to plan for the future.
(That being said, a staggering number of humans have consumed Tide pods; whether or not you think our species is special is kind of up to you.)
The problem with planning is that we live in a world where gratification is instantly attainable. You scroll through endless feeds until your dopamine receptors light up like a Christmas tree. You enter a search query and any question you could possibly have is answered in seconds.
When you take that same approach towards things in life that require strategy, planning, and purposeful execution—like digital marketing, for instance—$h#t hits the fan.
Without the proper infrastructure behind ANY marketing efforts, including Google AdWords or Facebook ads, scaling will put your wallet and your psyche in jeopardy.
Whether you plan on hiring an agency or managing your paid media personally, make sure your house is in order. In this post I’ll run through the four essential items you must complete prior to scaling your paid advertising efforts.
#1: Have a Functional Website That Encourages Action(s)
For the most novice among us, my first nugget of advice is to actually have a website.
It seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at the number of folks who are so eager to get their brand in front of the masses that they try to do so without having a web domain to begin with. You have to crawl before you can run, friends.
Even if you want to advertise your business page on Facebook, once users realize you don’t have a website they’ll be skeptical of your legitimacy. If you’re brick & mortar or use other third-party platforms to sell your services, you are absolutely going to need to have a website to go anywhere on Facebook or Google (or any other ad platform for that matter).
Luckily, creating a simple and attractive website has never been easier with (relatively) inexpensive services like Squarespace and Wix. For more long-term integration capabilities I would suggest using something like WordPress. The only problem with that route is the more complex your website, the more difficult it will be to create and maintain. You may find yourself needing a web developer; it may in your best interest to invest in these simple options initially and migrate over time.
In the roaring 2010’s having a website is not difficult. Having that website make people want your product or service is another obstacle all together.
Sometimes people know their business to such a technical degree that conveying its value in an aesthetically pleasing and simple manner doesn’t come easy. Others are just reluctant to admit that something isn’t driving results because it’s ugly or confusing. Either way, you’re going to run into trouble running ads and scaling effectively if either of those scenarios is true.
Having the self-awareness to know when your website is ugly can be difficult, especially if you’ve poured a considerable amount of time into it. What do I actually mean by ugly? In a word, “ineffective.”
Here’s what an ineffective website might look like:
No mobile optimization
One of the quickest ways to ensure that your advertising dollars aren’t blown is to make your site mobile-friendly. The good news is that most web hosting services have either fully mobile optimized templates or allow users to have alternative versions based on device.
A way to test this, aesthetically, is to either go on your website on your phone or resize your desktop window. If you are resizing the window and the site does not scale with the reduction, that means your site is only going to look reasonable on a larger screen. After all, users spend on average 69% of their media time on smartphones.
You’ll also want to check load time on mobile devices to ensure that, even if your site scales effectively on smaller screens, it does so fast enough. People lose interest quickly, and a few extra seconds can mean the difference between a sale and losing a prospect forever. Luckily, Google has some free tools that can help you determine whether you’ve got the site speed blues.
Too much text
If your website looks like a chapter from the unabridged versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, you may have trouble keeping guests there. If you’re going to have less than a few seconds to convince someone to click on a paid ad, then they should be able to digest the following information as concisely as possible.
The layout and copy of your site should facilitate the action that you want prospects to take.
A common misstep is to try to say everything on the home page, with subsequent pages being afterthoughts. If your website was a tourist attraction, you would want to direct people to the spots that they came to see in the most concise way possible.
Your site looks like it’s from 1993
If you have any of those 3D spinning gifs or anything that resembles Word Art or Mario Paint I’m going to assume that 16-bit masterpiece isn’t going to be mobile-optimized.
Although I’m a fan of the 90’s, your skip-its will look a lot better on a 21st century device without the reminiscence of dial-up. Unless you’re targeting Nokia burners of course...
My reasoning for being so hard on the website side of things is because when it comes to running paid ads, the page that users land on is arguably the largest factor in whether they leave with your product or services.
#2: Set up Google Analytics and Track Conversion Goals
Traffic and the actions completed because of it matter. Like, kind of a lot.
The best solution for tracking everything from site visits to obscure conversion goals is to integrate your website with Google Analytics.
Whether you have started advertising online or plan to, you’re going to want to be able to tie every dollar back from action to source. To most seasoned marketers this may also seem like a no-brainer, but a vast number of businesses out there are eager to start advertising with the belief that Facebook and Google are going to identify conversions and web traffic down to the individual within each platform. They won’t.
Your life will be a lot easier if you have an infrastructure in place that says people came in through “X” page and converted through “Y” offer. Setting this up can appear to be a daunting task at first but it’s a lot like waking up and going to the gym. You’ll thank yourself later for it.
Setting up Google Analytics
This video gives a brief overview of getting started in Analytics, and is a heck of a lot more helpful than I ever could be in explaining how to do so.
If that wasn’t helpful, this Google support page should do the trick.
Creating conversion goals (that mean something)
The key to measurement is to define what actions are most important to your business. You achieve this in Google Analytics by setting up goals. For the sake of not going too far down the rabbit hole in this post, here is a walkthrough on how to set up goals in Google Analytics, as well as the different goal types and what they mean.
The objective of all of this is to be able to get visibility into how many users are visiting each page of your site and of that percentage how many are completing goals. The more effective your website and targeting, the higher volume of goal completes you will receive. When someone converts from AdWords or Facebook, you should be able to see those conversions as goals within Google Analytics. This will make clear any reporting issues between the platforms in addition to allowing you to create remarketing audiences which is a key component to scale.
The most important relationship between the paid advertising platforms and your Google Analytics structure pertains to your ability to tie costs back to results (or lack thereof). Additionally, setting up Google Analytics allows you to get into the habit of placing pixel codes throughout your site, which will come in handy once you start advertising on multiple platforms that require their own code to be placed.
#3: Ensure that Your “Back-End” Makes Sense for Your Business
“Everyone has a back-end, Brett.”
To reduce any confusion about what I’m talking about here, we’ll refer to anything happening in Facebook, Google, etc. as the “Front-end” and any processes that involve your website and sales cycle as the “Back-end.”
Another common issue that businesses have is that they begin to drive leads and sales through their paid advertising activities but don’t have the back-end to support that volume or lack systems and processes to effectively organize and clean leads (eliminate spam without pushing it to your sales team). Google Analytics is the first step to building an internal foundation but the road between tracking results and actually having a system to process them is a long one.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may accept anyone who visits a page and converts as long as their credit card works (i.e. ecommerce). However, if you are a business that needs to groom the leads you drive for sales, the need for a system to help you do so becomes exponentially greater. There are a variety of SAAS companies to assist you in this and they all have variations in quality, complexity, and cost (not mutually exclusive). Some of the most popular include:
With a robust offering of marketing products HubSpot has become well-known for being the prototype for SAAS success and phenomenal showering facilities. The disparity between popularity and quality should be noted, however, as well as HubSpot’s “jack of all trades; master of none” approach to their product line.
With HubSpot you get a CRM that works, and landing page templates that work (kind of) but none of which will blow you away regarding usability, aesthetics, or customization. I will say, however, it has the shortest learning curve.
Marketo / Eloqua
I grouped these together because they are similar in nature, with some arguing that Marketo is more focused on the mid-sized business with Eloqua being more enterprise level.
Whichever you choose, they both have a fairly steep learning curve and certainly aren’t cheap. If your operation becomes increasingly complex with multiple lead flows and customer acquisition paths, hiring someone to be your CRM architect within one of these platforms is your best bet to continued scalability.
Most popular CRM, and for good reason.
Salesforce integrates with almost everything and allows you to coordinate marketing and sales efforts.
Drift created the category of conversational marketing, an approach to lead generation and nurturing that’s taking many marketing and sales orgs by storm.
The fact of the matter is they have an effective product. Having chatbots on your site can allow you to easily convert visitors in real-time and depending on the nature of your business you may have to build your sales systems around them.
Just make sure that you know how to track them in Analytics.
#4: Build a Consistent Brand
When a business first embarks on its marketing journey, its brand identity may not be fully developed. It may take some time for an adolescent company to grow into the manifestation that achieves success at scale.
The problem occurs when businesses spend so much time being marketing chameleons that their brand identity becomes muddied and ambiguous by the time they are in fact ready to scale operations. I could write an entire post separately on branding in the digital realm, but for now I’ll list out the basic necessities for the consistency and strength you’ll need behind your ads.
Have a consistent tone & visual identity
You not only need one, you should work hard at getting the best one possible. Whether you have artistic skills or need to hire a designer, there’s no way you’re going to build a strong brand without a great logo, bold colors, and legible typefaces.
Your brand is going to be broadcasted everywhere. Make sure your logo isn’t low resolution and doesn't seem dated. The idea is to limit the discrepancy between the brand perception and the brand reality (or ideal). Books will always be judged by their covers, especially ones that haven’t been read.
I have seen several cases where businesses have multiple tones based on their specific promotion. This is a short-sighted tactic and will only serve to dilute and weaken your brand over time. Pick a specific messaging tone and stick to it, unless you have tried one and it doesn’t work. Then it’s time to re-brand.
The idea is that your brand can be thought of as a part of your infrastructure. The stronger that infrastructure, the easier it will be to grow efficiently, across paid channels and otherwise.
Have a clearly defined value proposition
Your web copy, tangential promotions, and sales collateral should all share the common ancestor that is the value proposition of your business.
Understandably, some businesses are complex and can have multiple products with multiple selling points. The point is to consolidate all of those into a unified concept that is the brand, the umbrella from which your products live under both physically and within the minds of your target audience. The more synonymous the brand becomes with the value it delivers, the easier it will become to scale within paid advertising. Like a snowball rolling down a hill.
There are a number of failing businesses out there who believe that running paid ads will save them (most of which have screwed up on points 2-4 above). I hate to break hearts, but they won’t. There are also very successful businesses who believe they are too good for paid advertising or have distorted beliefs for what AdWords, Facebook, and other paid channels can deliver.
Both attitudes are incorrect and of course they manifest for opposite reasons. If you’re somewhere in the middle then it’s important to understand that paid advertising isn’t going to help you scale by default; you need to take time and be strategic. You also need to take responsibility when the results aren’t what you hoped for and understand that “scale” is only achievable upon the foundation of success.