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Don’t Use Contact Form 7 (CF7) on Your WordPress Website

I have nothing against the author of this plugin and the tremendous work he has put into it.  It’s widely used and well known, and if you are an advanced user, you will likely have no problem not falling prey to its most common issues.  However, most people are not advanced users.  It is one of the least user friendly form plugins available and typically leaves websites using it in jeopardy of not receiving leads/contact forms and having no way of retrieving those lost messages.  In my experience looking at hundreds of CF7 installs, it is almost always set up incorrectly at the time of the website’s creation or in newer forms added after the original developer moved on.

Over the last 5 years, I have used Contact Form 7 and continue using it on many websites when it is already in place and it is impossible to migrate to another form plugin.  However, in every case I wish we could switch clients over to Gravity Forms.  This isn’t a pitch for Gravity Forms – a premium plugin.  In fact, I won’t even link to it here – you won’t see an affiliate link from me.  I just have an epic amount of experience working with both form plugins and the distance between the two, is wide indeed.

Here are a few of the reasons I recommend not using Contact Form 7.

  • Since setting up a thank you page/goal for Google Analytics is mandatory (but often not done) in my opinion, a good form plugin makes setting up a thank you page easy.  Contact Form 7 requires additional coding that most basic users would never feel comfortable using and this is a major limitation.  It is possible to set up goal tracking/thank you page in Contact Form 7.  Just not nearly as easy as it should be.,
  • Entries to the form are not saved – if the notification email you have doesn’t arrive in your inbox (which can happen for an ENORMOUS number of deliverability reasons), you are out of luck (unless you install another plugin to back these entries up – if you have to use CF7, please do this).  
  • Setting up a form is not user friendly – no drag and drop.  Much more important,  you are required to go to multiple form tabs in order to set up your notifications that will not include the new fields you added to the form in the previous tab.  This means that anytime you add a new field, you better remember to add that field to the notification email.  Since remember, nothing is saved by default as an entry – you’d lose that field you forgot forever.
  • No dev-supported integration with PayPal,, MailChimp, etc.  Again., it sounds like I’m knocking the dev – I’m not.  I’m just warning you against being cheap when it comes to your form plugin software.  Don’t do it!  If you are a company that relies on leads or good customer service (everyone, right?), a single form entry lost is brutal.  

Of course, if your budget doesn’t allow for the $100/year fee for Gravity Forms, you may be stuck with using Contact Form 7 or something similar.  I would recommend always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! checking your settings not only at the time of setup, making sure you do multiple tests to ensure your forms are working correctly, but also install another plugin to make sure that even if the contact form notification email doesn’t land in your inbox when a form is filled, that you don’t lose that lead/contact form fill-in forever.  Contact Form DB is the plugin you would want to use to make sure you have this stuff backed up.  

Author’s note: I want to reiterate my respect for the author of Contact Form 7 and all of the tremendous time and effort he has put into Contact Form 7.  He has done so for free and there should be no expectation that he develop the plugin to the level of a premium/paid plugin like Gravity Forms.  However, since companies often don’t know what to do when it comes to form plugins and they often choose Contact Form 7 without knowing its limitations/issues, I felt I had to write this blog and explain my experience with websites using CF7 without having an advanced level user on staff.  

Pro Tip: In order to set up a thank you page redirect in Contact Form 7, you want to create a regular page within WordPress and call it ‘Thank You’ and make any message you would like to use.  Then load up your Contact Form 7 form and go the Additional Settings tab.  Now use the following information.

on_sent_ok: “location = ‘‘;”

Where the line above says simply use the correct URL for your website’s new thank you page you created.  Now, when someone fills out the form, it will take them to this page (this page can now be tracked as a goal within Google Analytics).  Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! – test the form to make sure this works.  In fact, the number one thing with any form you create is you must test it.  Good luck!

This Website Client is the Worst

Several times over the past year we have started the project of creating a new website for Sharp Guys Web Design. Unfortunately, this client (ourselves) are really a pain in the butt. We keep getting ‘busy with other things’ and are ‘too focused on our core work to keep pushing time into a new website for ourselves’. So if you are a company that struggles with those types of things, never fear. Sharp Guys Web Design has the same issues and we are an Indianapolis web design company!

How can these issues be resolved? It really comes down to figuring out the importance of a website redesign as part of your company’s strategy. For our company, it holds a high priority but at the same time, the existing website is mostly getting the job done (search engine and lead conversion-wise) – it just doesn’t look as good as many of the new websites we are building for our clients. And that is the kind of thing that happens all too quickly on the web. It seems every 2 years you see a noticeable shift in web design methodology. In the past it was often structural (think about the shift to responsive (mobile friendly) design or decades earlier, the move away from pure HTML) but nowadays it isn’t the technology or the backend most often being the reason for the transition, it is aesthetic (think color schemes and showcasing your content using best practices) and user experience that pushes website change.

We’ve played around with the idea of client’s paying a moderate monthly fee that basically will provide a client with a brand new, modern and updated design every couple of years. That way there is no huge outlay of cost associated with updating your website to new contemporary standards. Instead, every few years you would have a professional come in and make sure the foundation of your website is still solid and we would update your design based on the standards of the day, and continue to ensure your branding aligns with the messaging on the website. In short, we would make your company’s website future proof. Would you be interested in a service like that? Let us know.

How to Set Up Google Analytics to Track Facebook Instant Traffic

Over the last month or two I have been fighting Facebook Instant.  At first it was due to their slow, manual review process for approving new websites trying to utilize Facebook Instant.  My client’s theme and usage of embeds caused numerous problems for Facebook’s parsing code and the WordPress plugin made to make this integration ‘easy’ did no such thing.  Instead it shipped from Automattic with multiple bugs and was widely panned by users resulting in an average review of 2.6 out of 5 stars.

However, I was persistent, as was my client that we needed to get up and going with Facebook Instant so I kept pushing.  I finally was able to fix the issue of embeds being incorrectly parsed by Facebook and joy of all joys, have my client’s website approved for Facebook Instant.  Right away, the benefits of Facebook Instant were pretty obvious – the fast load times were fantastic and we used Facebook’s native advertising system to generate revenue and since they are a fairly large website, they did quite well.  However, one thing gnawed at me – distinguishing the traffic from regular Facebook traffic within Google Analytics.

While Automattic’s Facebook plugin had a spot to include Google Analytics code and Facebook also provided a best practice document to utilize Analytics, I simply couldn’t figure out how to make it play nice with the plugin and the existing Analytics code we used.  Finally one day I hit upon the right combination.  In an effort to help you if you are in a similar place, below you will see the code I used and a screenshot of how it looks within the Facebook Instant plugin for WordPress.  My hope is that by following the steps below, you are able to save time and start tracking your website starting today.

Step 1: Install Automattic’s much improved (they released an update 2 weeks ago that fixed many issues) Instant Articles for WP plugin and make sure your website is approved for Facebook Instant and set up correctly (I know, easier said than done).

Step 2: Go find your existing Google Analytics code within the admin section of Google Analytics.

It will look something like this –

(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),

ga(‘create’, ‘SITETRACKINGID‘, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);


The part that says SITETRACKINGID will be your specific site tracking ID and you will want to fill it in.

Step 3: Add the necessary additional information as shown below in the bold print.

(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
ga(‘create’, ‘SITETRACKINGID‘, ‘auto’);
ga(‘require’, ‘displayfeatures’);
ga(‘set’, ‘campaignSource’, ‘Facebook’);
ga(‘set’, ‘campaignMedium’, ‘Social Instant Article’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, {title: ‘POST TITLE’});

Step 4: Remember to change the SITETRACKINGID to your correct Google Analytics ID.  You don’t need to modify any of the other code.

Step 5: Copy the code you created in step 3 and 4 and paste it into this box within the Instant Article for WP plugin.


Step 6: Check the box from the screenshot that says ‘Enable custom embed code’.

Step 7: Save the plugin screen.

You are done!  Remember that historical Facebook Instant articles won’t be updated unless you delete them and republish them.  However going forward, you should be able to see traffic within Google Analytics.  You can find it anywhere you can use the Source/Medium field.  This screenshot gives an example of how it will show up.



What Are Google Certifications and Are They Worthwhile?

google certificationsIf this is the first time you are hearing of Google certifications, let me write a quick introduction.  Google has essentially created a platform for learning more about all of their products that they offer and a way to be certified that you know what you are doing .  And while not everyone thinks this process is worthwhile, I do.  Before I go  through the main two reasons it holds value, let me introduce the certifications that are available.  

AdWords Fundamentals:

  • How online advertising and AdWords can help your clients meet their advertising goals.
  • Google Search Network and Google Display Network campaign creation and management.
  • How to measure ad performance and optimize campaigns.
  • Industry best practices and strategies.

Search Advertising

  • Search Fundamentals Review
  • Ad Formats
  • Ad & Site Quality
  • AdWords Tools
  • Performance Monitoring and Reporting
  • Optimizing Performance
  • Performance, Profitability, and Growth
  • AdWords API
Display Advertising

  • How ads on the Display Network can help your clients meet performance and branding goals
  • Display ad campaign creation and management
  • Display ad formats
  • How to reach different groups of people through specialized targeting
  • How to measure ad performance and optimize campaigns
Video Advertising

  • How video ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network can help your clients meet their advertising goals
  • Video advertising campaign creation and management
  • Video ad formats
  • How to measure ad performance and optimize campaigns
Shopping Advertising

  • Merchant Center account creation and management
  • Product data feed submission and optimization
  • Creating and managing Shopping campaigns in AdWords
  • How Product Listing Ads work
  • Shopping campaign bidding and optimization
Mobile Advertising

  • Mobile consumers and how your app or mobile site can help them make decisions
  • Mobile-specific bidding and targeting strategies
  • Mobile ad formats
  • How to measure ad performance and conversions

With so many categories (and with many tests taking hours to complete), are they worth it?    We say yes and this is why:

  • Learning straight from or Google carries more weight than reading articles from experts in the field.  That’s not to say reading articles by 3rd party experts like Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin and Larry Kim aren’t valuable, they are.  But ultimately, Google develops the confines we all work in and it is important to know at least the basics of each offering they provide.
  • These exams are serious and are not for lightweight digital marketers.  Passing these things requires an intense amount of knowledge…or cheating (and I’m a glass half full type of person so I write this off).  Simply put, if you’re are not an expert, you won’t pass.

This doesn’t mean that agencies with certifications are all experts or that agencies without them are all idiots.  These certifications can take a long time and for a busy agency (the sign of a well run agency), time is at a premium.  In fact, Sharp Guys’ mostly focuses on the most valuable ones (like Google Analytics)  that are the foundation of every other certification.  Ultimately, only real world experience getting client’s great results should be used as a determining factor when deciding on an agency.

Once you complete the test you will get a profile page and badges will be added like the ones shown below.  


At Sharp Guys’ we have a team that has passed not only AdWords Fundamentals and Search Advertising, but also Shopping Advertising and Display Advertising (with the other certifications coming soon). 

If you are going through the process of finding a new agency, take a look at their certifications but more importantly, chat with some of the clients they have worked with in the past and learn more about their process and what type of results they have been able to provide.

Great Resources


My Experience With Hosting – The Good, The Bad, The Awful


Over the last couple of years, I have probably used or tried to use 20+ hosts. In this post I thought I would share my experiences with those hosts in case they are helpful for others trying to find a good one for their new website.  While I often recommend hosts for my clients (you’ll find my recommendations under ‘The Good’ listed below),  non clients come to me with problems from time to time.  Many times they have been hacked or want/need to move their website for some reason.  Those situations typically involve me utilizing or often trying to utilize the host’s support processes which has provided me some insight into what works/doesn’t.  One caveat, my experience mostly relates to WordPress-based websites.

The Good

Economy – You have a website with fairly limited server needs.  These economy hosts run $5-10 per month and are a great fit for this type of company.

  1. Belira
  2. SiteGround

Both of these companies provide pretty great support – especially for the price. Belira goes above an beyond for me and are perfect for small clients/test servers. They have, bar none, the best support I have ever seen from an economy host and I have used them for nearly 6 years.  As with many shared hosts, Belira can struggle from time to time with getting your emails in people’s inboxes which is why I always recommend clients use Google Apps for email (I use it for all of my SharpGuys email addresses). SiteGround costs a bit more but handles website migrations for you which can save some time. They are also pretty good about getting back with you when you need assistance. I did have a situation where a company came to me after their site was hacked that was using SiteGround.  After asking for Siteground for help, they simply said that the company needed to pay Securi $200 to get their site fixed without offering any additional assistance or options. And not only did they not help, they took the site down immediately without any warning until we got the hacked site fixed up.

Premium – You are a company that takes its web presence seriously.  These hosting options begin at $15/month and increase based on the number of visitors you get.

  1. GetFlywheel
  2. WPEngine

I have clients that range from 100 visits to 2 million visits per month on these services. One is a news website – when a story goes viral, they can miss out on 300k impressions in an hour if it goes down so it is crucial it stays up. GetFlywheel has some pretty amazing emergency help (24 hour support) and handles the transition from taking a client from a test server to the production site incredibly well. They also offers automated daily backups, a staging website, and automatic caching.  WPEngine also has great support and similar features but they cost a bit more for larger clients.  Between the two I would say GetFlywheel is a bit better at this point. Neither of these hosts provide domains or email so that will have to be handled somewhere else. This can be a bit frustrating if you would like to minimize the number of logins you have. Also, both of them will charge ongoing costs for giving you the ability to use an SSL license (they will also charge you extra for the license) which needs to be built into the cost.

The Bad

These services I have used extensively – I have not had good experiences and it is likely you will not either.

  1. Arvixe – Fast servers but poor support.
  2. BlueHost – I have never seen servers run slower on so many different types of websites.
  3. Dreamhost – Awful support and a tendency to have their websites go down.

The Ugly

These services I have used extensively – I am nearly sure that your one good experience will be followed by 10 bad experiences.

  1. GoDaddy – Simply atrocious support and they will screw people over to try and make a buck on the initial sale.  They will ALWAYS oversell people that don’t know any better via chat or phone.  “Yes sir, you definitely need to buy the .biz,.info,.net,.garbage domain extension versions of your domain along with the highest level SSL license” (for your personal blog that will not sell e-Commerce items).
  2. Network Solutions –  (Horrible, HORRIBLE support – tickets take 2 days to hear a reply and then it will be automated and not even be applicable to the problem).
  3. HostGator – 24-48 hour support tickets answered by computers.  When they are answered by humans, they can’t help you.

A Few Others

DiscountASP – The oldest backend tech I have ever seen but their support is pretty good. – Also incredibly old tech. Pretty decent support but they will charge you extra for it.

Dan Lyons’ Silicon Valley’s Culture Complaints Are Misdirected/Annoying

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble is a book by former Tech Editor of Newsweek, Dan Lyons.  The premise of the book is that Dan is fired at Newsweek, hunts for a job as a non-journalist for the first time at age 52, and signs on to work at a Boston-based Silicon Valley type company named Hubspot.  Hubspot has tons of culture-based ‘silliness’ like a wall made entirely of candy dispensers, an office-wide Cinco de Mayo shutdown where they ship in a ton of tequila and food and everyone parties, and an annual Halloween party where people all wear costumes to work (this in particular is an affront to Dan as he has ‘never worked in a place where ADULTS wear costumes to work’).  It’s a fish out of water story in which Dan constantly mentions to the reader how he used to be someone, interviewing tech luminaries in a magazine that no one reads anymore.  Purported hilarity ensues…except it never does, and many of his complaints seem gratuitous and misdirected to someone that has personally worked in marketing and software driven companies for nearly a decade.

When I was 25, I began working at a relatively small software company named eTapestry as a sales guy.  At eTapestry, we had things like dodgeball tournaments, chili cook-offs, remote control car competitions, and during March Madness, things pretty muchdisrupted-cover shut down so we could watch the ball games.  I wore shorts to work during summer and played basketball (poorly) with the CEO two times per week unless I was traveling.  I also washed my clothes in the company washing machines, played ping pong with coworkers, and when I got sweaty from all of the sports, took a shower at work.  We even dressed for Halloween in costumes – oh, the horror!  For someone aged 25, it was one hell of a good time.

However, we also worked our butts off and constantly traveled the country in luxury – which consisted of me taking the cheapest flights, the cheapest hotels and the cheapest mode of transportation (walking), whenever possible.  That meant a ton of red eye flights back from California and a few sketchy hotels where I had to have someone from a nighttime security team unlock the gate to let me in. I had a 3 course dining budget of $35 when traveling out west so as you can imagine, I ate at only the finest restaurants.  We didn’t make much money, we had large monthly quotas to hit, our sales cycle generally took 2-3 months, and under-performing sales people were let go left and right.  But all of this was formative – while I wasn’t a great salesperson, I was responsible for doing nearly all of my own marketing including setting up and speaking at seminars, webinars and conferences while also sending out emails and generating leads.  On top of my regular sales job, I was basically doing two jobs and I decided I liked marketing a whole lot more than selling.

eTapestry had a camaraderie that I have still not seen anywhere else between coworkers.  But that camaraderie wasn’t built by simply paying people good money and saying, get to work.  Instead it was built on the basketball court, or while whizzing a ball at someone’s head in dodgeball, and with end of the month tequila shots.  That culture led to great success for the company and yet, Lyons would have you believe that this type of culture is incompatible with success.  He would also have you believe that it is incompatible with people older than 30 yet eTapestry had many people over the ages of 30 and they fit right in.  What the culture was incompatible with was people that were close minded, set in their ways, and generally curmudgeonly – traits that seem to describe Lyons to a T based on all of the complaining he does in his book.

At my next software company, TowerCare, I worked from home in Indianapolis and the company was based in Pittsburgh.  TowerCare paid much better and I was able to stay at home with my wife and new daughter.  It was a perfect culture match for that time in my life where I was looking for more security and less travel craziness.  I did this for 3 years and while I desperately missed the twice a week basketball sessions I had previously at eTapestry, the job provided the right culture fit at the right time.  This is where Lyons really misses the point.  While he thinks that his experience with Hubspot’s culture was the only sane response, it was simply the wrong place for him to be at that time in his life.  He should have been at somewhere more traditional, like the government, where many employees still wear suits and never, ever have Cinco de Mayo celebrations featuring free tequila.

At Delivra, an email marketing software company, I was ready to get back out there and be around folks again.  It was time as sitting by myself all day, every day was making me realize how boring I can be (sadly my wife was right).  It was great to be back in an office and this time there were far fewer tradeoffs.  Delivra had (and still has) an outstanding company culture that helped everyone work together to get things done.  It also paid well.  Perfect fits like this don’t just come along by accident.  Before landing at Delivra, I spoke to a ton of friends about potential good fits in the local market.  I found out that Delivra was named one of the best places to work, and Delivra made current employees available to me to learn more about what the day to day looked like.  In other words, I knew what I was getting into.

When Lyons was let go from Newsweek, he wrote that he was desperate to find something and had not gone through the interview process since graduating college nearly 2 decades earlier.  Perhaps if he would have done more research and listened more attentively when people described the culture of Hubspot, he would have known from the beginning that this wouldn’t be a good fit.  While it does seem he was sold a bill of goods when he met with the founders of Hubspot (there are several spots in the book where Hubspot clearly drops the ball and indeed, is shown to be a less than admirable company), he should have seen the writing on the wall far earlier.  However, when he found out that he wasn’t going to be doing what he was told he would be doing or that his boss was 28 years old (which really seems to bother him), instead of immediately looking for something different, he tries to make it work.  Generally this is a huge mistake (unless you’re planning on writing a tell all book about the company).  When it isn’t a good fit and your company lies to you, get out!

Throughout the entire book, Lyons complains.  Among his many complaints are:

  • Companies have Initial Public Offerings (IPO) without making a profit first.
  • Marketing companies are selling garbage. Their products are mostly worthless and they are in the business of simply selling spam and dreams that are BS.
  • Older people are systematically kept out of these types of companies due to ageism.
  • Companies no longer are loyal to their employees though they expect employees to be loyal to them (team players).
  • The people at the top of a dotcom are trying to push for growth in order to build up the chance for an IPO and will do anything it takes in order to do this (to the detriment of the rest of the company and employees).
  • He hates how young people dress.
  • He complains that Hubspot and companies like Hubspot are all white, middle class kids.
  • He really hates flip flops. He seems to mention this and J. Crew on nearly every other page.
  • Companies give unlimited vacation so they can fire you without having to pay out a chunk of vacation days (I absolutely agree with this one).
  • He hates the candy wall – he wants to be paid in more than chocolate covered peanuts (I made this sad joke and I’m pretty sure it is better than any other joke that he tells in his book).

There are many things in the above list that I agree are problems (like flip flops), but when buying the book I didn’t realize I would be reading something far less interesting than an Andy Rooney rant.  Mr. Lyons certainly can be an interesting writer, he recently wrote one of the best episodes of the HBO sitcom, Silicon Valley.  My hope is that the next time he lands at a company, he tries to find the right culture fit at the right time in his life, and if he doesn’t, he knows when to cut and run.  But based on his previous actions, he will probably be taking notes and readying the sequel – Disrupted 2: How to Make Money Selling a Book of Complaints.

How Much Do Email Marketing Lists Cost?

My buddy and I had a website when we were 18-19 years old that has been dead for well over a decade.  I won’t use the real address (let’s call it since the content was sports related and displays a quality of writing (that though I was proud of at the time) has not exactly aged well.  We wrote a bunch of content, designed the website by scratch in HTML, and thought it was beautiful.  We even had our own site-specific email addresses, and

We’re 14 years older these days and over that time many things have come and gone and come and gone again.  Recently my buddy went into a well known tux rental shop (we’ll call it John’s Warehouse) to get sized for a tux for an upcoming wedding.  He provided his information as he got there including his current Gmail-based email address and got sized for the suit.  At the end, he was asked by a different associate if he wanted to pay for the suit rental, and after doing so they asked him if he wanted a receipt sent to the email address they had on file.  He agreed and they said, “We have on file, is that correct?”

An email address that hadn’t been used or even valid since 2003 was being spoken aloud for the first time in 13 years and my buddy couldn’t believe his ears.

catI was called immediately and the tale was hilariously retold until I couldn’t stop laughing.  However, a mystery was afoot – how could John’s Warehouse possibly have this email address in their client database?  The old website and the email address had been defunct for over a decade.  My friend had never been to John’s Warehouse when the website or email address had existed.  After some soul searching and more laughing at JW’s expense, we could think of only one possibility.

My friend used to use the email address to sign up for things online in 2002.  It is likely that some company probably sold the email address to some email list broker.  John’s Warehouse, in their nonstop fervor to make John’s ‘like the way they look’, gobbled it up and kept it until that very special day in late March when it resurfaced like a cocoon that hatched after a decade and an old, ugly butterfly fell out.

My buddy still rented the suit for John’s Warehouse so what did this possibly cost them?  Nothing.  Unless you consider that the email list that John’s Warehouse likely bought is the same one still being peddled today by tons of email list brokers.  So before you consider buying an email list from a broker, ask yourself how many bad or defunct addresses are on it, and how many 19 year olds (who are now 33) are in your target market?

But seriously, buying a list is never worth it.


How Much Does a New Website Cost? No Beating Around the Bush

How much does a new website cost?

$5,500 is Sharp Guys Web Design’s standard website rate and it goes up from there depending on your company’s unique needs.

But even a number that seems refreshingly clear can be muddied by questions like – what is a standard website?  That is a GOOD question (half of our clients end up getting standard websites but the other half have more complex needs) which is why I want to bring up the things we ask when we start chatting with someone about a potential website project.

These aren’t all inclusive but give us a MUCH better idea of how we may be able to help a client (the questions below assume this will be a redesign of an existing website).

  • Do you sell products directly on your website (eCommerce)?
  • Does the information on your current website represent your company’s processes and products as they currently are?
  • Do you need content or imagery created for a new website?
  • Who else, besides yourself, will be included in moving forward with a new website?
  • Are there websites out there that have functionality you wish you had?  Which ones?  What functionality?
  • Who are some of your competitors?20_questions_1954
  • Did a company design the website or was it done in house?
    • If it was a web design company, are you still working with them?
      • If so, are you paying them for ongoing maintenance?  What’s included?
  • What is the main goal of your website?   –   lead generation / brand awareness/eCommerce?
  • In an ideal world, how much time do you/your team want to work on your website once a new website is built?
  • Do you currently track your website’s traffic?
    • How?
  • How many leads/how much revenue does your website currently provide?
    • Do you know your cost per lead/sale?
    • If you were able to generate x leads per month, what would that mean to you/your company?
  • Are you tracking the number of leads you received from your existing marketing campaigns?

A company’s answers to these questions can help us learn if this will be an eCommerce website (much more time consuming), require ongoing maintenance going forward, require us to create content, etc.  All of these things will obviously determine our pricing and whether or not we may be a good fit for a client.

I hope by pulling back the curtain on our process a bit, it helps bring clarity to a question that seems to always have a long, drawn out answer.  And if you are a web developer/agency and find some of these questions useful, please feel free to use them.  It is ALWAYS better to have a good understanding of a client’s actual needs than to treat every website project like a nail waiting to be hammered by standard pricing.

How Do I Get More Traffic to My Website?

Often times this is the first thing a business owner/marketing person is interested in when we chat. It can be a good question but let’s take a step back. Do you simply want eyeballs on your website’s content? Probably not unless you earn money by the eyeball. Most likely, you have an ulterior goal that most businesses have for trying to do something hard – revenue. If that’s the case, I would challenge you to not worry about getting MORE traffic to your website – at least until you have analyzed some data.

Things to look at in your current data:

1) How much relevant traffic are you receiving on your website from your target market?

For example, if you run a business that only caters to Indianapolis patrons, you probably don’t care about traffic from San Francisco. In that same vein, if you are receiving a ton of traffic from Indianapolis-based visitors yet your website isn’t generating any leads or revenue, that data point should hit you like a lightning bolt. You already have the right people coming to your website – why aren’t they converting to leads or revenue? You can also look at visitor engagement metrics like time spent on the site, bounce rate, etc. This is a much better jumping off point than simply trying to push for more traffic that may or may not be targeted.  Plus, even if they are targeted visitors, if your current website isn’t converting people from that same target, why would it be different for the new folks you bring in?

2) How many leads/how much revenue is your website currently creating?

Most companies don’t do a good job of figuring this out. If that’s the case for you, make it easy on yourself (until you implement more rigid controls). Simply find the number of website forms that came in over the last year (count old email notifications if you have to). Then look the at the total number of leads you received last year. Divide the number of website leads by the number of overall leads. That’s the percentage of leads coming from your website. Then take that percentage and look at your overall revenue. If we pretend that website leads convert at the same rate and have the same per deal value (generally not the case but better than nothing) then we can come up with a very basic guideline for how much revenue your website produced.  Used in tandem with the first data point, you should be able to get an idea of how much more your website can produce if you bring in twice as much targeted traffic.

One more thing

Perhaps it’s easier than that because you haven’t received any website leads over the last year. Make sure your website’s form are actually working (simply fill out the form and make sure you receive an email notification). You wouldn’t believe how many times I run into a company that hasn’t had a working contact form and they never knew it. Imagine how many leads and how much revenue was lost. If this happens to you, don’t imagine that – it will depress the heck out of you. Instead, fix it right away.

Back to the original question – how do I increase my traffic? Resources – money, time, etc. and unfortunately it isn’t a quick fix. To substantially have ongoing traffic increases that are lasting you are going to not only have a great website and content foundation but keep it up. Generally a mix of on-page optimizations, PPC, SEO, and email marketing is the right path to go.  The percentages for each of those efforts is dependent on your budget, short and long term goals, and what type of business you have.  Sound hard? It is. All of your competitors are fighting for the same traffic and Google makes it increasingly more difficult for small businesses to simply do this without an excessive amount of hand holding or paying them money. However, it can certainly be done.

If you get nothing else out of this blog, please remember this – it is always easier to take the traffic your website already receives (especially traffic that can potentially generate revenue) than to use resources for traffic that may or may not generate revenue.

Why Google Analytics Should Cost $100 a Month

No, I don’t think Google needs more money. However, spending money typically has the benefit of leadership wanting to know what they’re getting from it. That would mean that people would have to start looking at their Google Analytics data to find out what they can learn in order to appease the boss. They would soon find, the things they can learn can easily save or create thousands of dollars of revenue per month for a small to midsize business. So few small to mid-market businesses use Analytics appropriately that creating a system where an ongoing monthly payment is required, seems to be the best course of action to get their attention.

I don’t want to punish companies that are actually using Google Analytics appropriately.  That’s why I propose a waiver for companies that set up goal/conversion tracking and log in every once in a while.  See, I’m not crazy.

As a small business owner I know it’s ridiculous to ask Google to start charging companies for something that’s already free (they 1367605556619516744already did that when they took our ability to see which keywords people searched for and converted into a lead/sale and moved it strictly to Adwords). I also know that Google may initially lose a number of companies to free sub-par analytic software’s, but inevitably everyone would come back.

Here’s my thinking – enough companies would start paying attention and using Google Analytics appropriately to tell all of their friends about what they were able to do and get out of that data. They would learn how to track their leads appropriately, learn how to figure out which pages on their website need improvements and/or have inefficiencies, and they would learn how to use small amounts of data to make a large impact on their bottom line.

Then again, I’m dreaming. Google is more than happy to continue just collecting all of your website’s data, analyze it themselves, and make a huge amount of revenue on the data they glean.