Why Local Websites Make Sense For The Customer & For Home Services Businesses With Many Locations

National brands such as Vivint, TruGreen, Davey Tree, Terminix etc. are more than just national brands. With their network of local stores and representatives, they are a network of local businesses. While a national brand, these types of home services businesses are also your neighbor. National brands create jobs in the local area. And because customers look more than ever to buy local and have a local experience, national home services companies must give them that buying experience. Customers want the local buying experience because it feels personal, they know you understand them, and they know the local store can better answer their questions.

In fact, according to a recent study by Yodle of 6,000 consumers, “The majority of consumers find that local businesses outperform national chains on service and quality. For example, 96% think that local businesses offer more personalized service.”

Multi-location businesses should put as much care and focus at presenting themselves as a local business online as they do offline. Because you wouldn’t try and service the whole US out of one location. So why should you service the whole internet out of one domain, that isn’t customized to the local market.

While we know and understand that local home service company locations operate much like a local business and are truly their neighbors, customers aren’t going to often see it that way. Because for all that national businesses do to be local in their market in the physical sense, they often don’t take the same care to make a truly local online buying experience.

What Customers Look for in a Local Online Buying Experience

So, what is a local buying experience in an online context for the customer like? Currently when a customer goes to a well run local-only business website:

  • They go to a domain that is all about that product or service in that local market
  • It has a local phone number all over the site. It doesn’t feel like if they call the number they are calling a call center
  • It has the local address all over the site
  • It might have a picture or information about the local manager
  • It might talk about local charities that they sponsor
  • It’s going to use local terminology when talking about the areas that they cover. This could include copy that uses things such as demonyms that reference people in their area.
  • Its product images on the site might look like homes in their area or even have pictures of famous local places
  • The copy is going to mention throughout the website the area that they serve and make references to it so that customers know you are in their area, even if they don’t come into the site from the homepage or a “local store page”
  • They know if there is pricing or bundle information that the listed prices and bundles will be available in their area
  • The social profiles on the site will link to local social profiles and not a corporate profile, and the content on the social account will have locally relevant content.
  • The copy won’t talk about having to deal with snow if there is never any snow there, and won’t talk about ocean views if there are no oceans there. All copy and product feature benefits will only speak to needs that are relevant locally.

So, if you truly want the customer to feel you are local, then these are the kinds of things a customer is going to expect. The problem has traditionally been how do we deliver this level of experience that a local-only business can provide, but do it at scale for every local office or store? National businesses have been able to do this kind of localization and personalization with their physical stores and local salespeople. So why can’t they do it with their website and create digital-personalization? 

We know that if we create a local online buying experience that this kind of personalization pays dividends for local stores, as local businesses often see higher conversion rates than a national brand online when all things are equal. This is because their site only talks about their local market, and generally only gets traffic from their local market. 

How to Create a Local Online Experience as a National Brand

So is it possible to provide this level of customer service online at scale for a national brand? Historically no, or at least not without an incredible amount of investment. The reason it isn’t possible is because of the amount of manpower it would take for a national brand to have hundreds of local websites that are consistent in brand feel, while maintaining a local experience. And this manpower effort has made it be too prohibitive for businesses to do. 

But with the right technology platform, such as Campfire by Flint Analytics, it is possible. That’s because you can easily create unique local content across hundreds of websites and manage them as if they are one. And this can be done while still letting truly unique local customization or digital personalization that customers want. So instead of having to repeat the process of managing a site 100 times for 100 stores, we can do it with the effort of managing 2 websites for 100 stores or the effort of managing 3 websites for 1,000 stores.

This platform truly lets your national brand be as local online as it is in its physical stores. All the effort to locally hire a knowledgeable sales team and customer service reps or to find good retail locations can be hindered if you present your local store as just another cog in the corporate wheel online.

And when you have locally personalized sites customers love it. Our clients generally have a corporate site with a local directory structure that you might find on almost any multi-location business site. And they can perform very well. But, our clients also have a local website or domain for every store as well. The local store’s websites organic visitors generally convert at more than 2.5 times as well as the corporate website. 

*Does not include phone calls that increase the conversion rate by 50%

And if you are thinking that’s just because local pages convert higher already than the main corporate pages, so that is to be expected. It’s true corporate local pages convert better than the rest of the site, but local websites convert even better than the local corporate pages. Because when comparing a local directory page on corporate to local sites we generally see a bump of between 20% to 50% increase in conversion rate. 

Common Concerns About How Search Engines Work with Local Sites

So customers like the experience better, but we are often asked about what Google and the search engines think. When doing anything online, we need to pay attention to how it affects the search engines and how they view your site or in this case “sites.” Does Google also like local websites? And will it hurt traffic to the primary domain? Or am I just cannibalizing my current efforts? What about duplicate content?

These are all important questions to ask. And issues we have studied and experimented with for years. So let’s start with these questions one by one.

Does Google Like Local Websites? 

We have researched over and over and have found that Google loves local-only websites. Google loves local websites for many of the same reasons that customers do. The CTA’s are normally clear as to who to reach out to. The content is about one specific location. The sites generally aren’t trying to do too much. Local sites are simple for Google to understand. Google also likes that they are only trying to rank in one specific area. They know they aren’t trying to rank outside that area. 

Google Often Ranks Well-Managed Local Websites Above their National Competitors

There are several things that help us understand this. First and foremost, Google often ranks well-managed local websites above their national competitors. This is true not only in the local pack but in the regular organic results. At the link here you can find just one of many examples where local sites are outranking much bigger websites with much greater authority for local terms. 

In this example, the search phrase we used was “pittsburgh windows”. In the local pack, you will notice that the top spot was held by Pittsburgh Window & Door co. Also, notice another local company held the top organic spot. Notice using the Moz extension the top 3 organic listings have the lowest domain authority of any site in the regular organic listings, yet they rank first. This listing not only beats out Renewal By Anderson, but Anderson Windows, & Pella windows which are much larger nation window companies. And not only did they outrank the big companies in the space but they outrank aggregators such as Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and others. This is very common as it isn’t even the only local only site that is ranking above much more difficult competitors. 

Notice how using the Moz toolbar you can see small domain authority sites competing well against national competitors.

This type of result is repeated over and over again for local searches in the home security space, in the window treatments space, and in the garage door space. Pick any industry and do test searches for things like Window Shutters Indianapolis, Roofers Louisville, Kitchen Remodel Miami, Lawncare Phoenix, etc. and you will find local businesses outranking their large national competitors.  So what would happen if you could scale local sites? 

We have worked with many home services businesses and have seen how effective creating local sites for each store can be. For example, one of our clients in home services who we have been working with for 5 years is using this strategy. When we started with them they had a series of local pages and had all local listings such as Google My Business pointing to their corporate site. 

When we set up these local sites and pointed their local listings to the local site, we quickly began to see these sites start to rank. And the corporate site has not just maintained organic traffic but has continued to gain organic traffic. 5 years later corporate site organic traffic is up 105%. This is great news, but it is nothing compared to what has happened with the local sites. When you combine the new local traffic with corporate traffic compared to the same time period in 2015, traffic in 2019 was up 17x. 

And these are highly converting keywords we are getting because remember the traffic on the local sites converts better than the traffic on corporate ever did as we see conversion rates for the local sites when combining calls and forms of close to 10%. And the traffic growth continues as in January 2020 YOY growth of the local programs was up more than 20%. 

There Are More Spaces to Rank for Locally-Based Searches

The reason local traffic continues to grow is that there is so much space in locally-based searches. In fact, it is bigger than most marketers realize because when you only have a single page or even a series of pages targeting localized search you miss out on all the other terms people might be using to find your products in your service area. Also, most on-site directories are only able to effectively rank for the terms in their store’s main market.

For example, if you had one store in Fort Lauderdale, you might have a page about Fort Lauderdale, but you might not have pages for Pompano Beach, Oakland Park, etc. that are areas you service. Our sites target both the primary market, in this case, “Fort Lauderdale,” and the secondary markets such as Pompano Beach and Oakland Park. This gives companies a lot more coverage to rank in searches. And when you rank for all this local content, you have a much greater opportunity to get into more local packs as well. 

So this not only improves representation in the local results but improves representation in the local pack as well. Most of our clients see 30% of their organic SEO traffic coming from the local pack or maps listings and the rest coming from a regular search. However, the local pack is more valuable as it makes up 50% of local leads. 

We track about 5000 keywords for the stores in our Sunburst program. These are both secondary market keywords and primary market keywords. Across all stores, we rank on the first page for 98% of the keywords and in the top three for 77% of them.

Will It Hurt My GMB Rankings?

We often hear that people think this will hurt their GMB rankings. It is quite the opposite. In fact, it often increases the number of times you are able to show up. When your GMB page only points to a local page and there is no other content for that store in that region, your site will only show up for so many search terms. But with a whole site dedicated to that market, the amount of times you can be shown in Google My Business grows, which increases your local traffic and GMB impressions.

Will Local Sites Cannibalize My Traffic?

This is a common question we get, and we like to talk about how big the local keyword universe is. And we can’t expect a single page about a service in a given city to be effective at capturing all the search share for the various ways people will type in information about that business. The keyword universe is huge with local search. And if your business offers: blinds, shades, curtains, shutters, roller shades, etc. it is going to have a hard time ranking for the following keywords with a single webpage:

  • Roller Shades Indianapolis 
  • Shutters Indianapolis
  • Curtains Indianapolis
  • Blinds Indianapolis
  • Shades Indianapolis

But this is what most multi-location businesses are trying to do, and it isn’t working. They might be able to rank for a couple of those, but they won’t rank for the rest.

Our data backs up that our local website strategy doesn’t cannibalize corporate site traffic. For example, with Sunburst we saw interesting things happen. We saw the amount of local search traffic the corporate site captures remains the same even 5 years later. So all their organic growth came from head terms or terms that weren’t local in nature. This is a great opportunity for the SEO and content team to spend less time on local search and more time on high funnel traffic to build the authority of the corporate domain, which will only help the local sites.

Also, not only does this strategy not cannibalize traffic, but it takes away spots in the search results of your competitors. If you rank the corporate site and the local site for the same term, that is one less spot on the front page for your competitors to get. In fact, we get many of our clients for highly competitive terms to rank 1 and 2 for terms. Most often with the local site outranking the corporate site. And if you are running paid ads, you are making up a significant portion of the search results page.

Will Multiple Domains Hurt My Corporate Domain Authority?

We also get asked about what having multiple sites effects are on the domain authority on the corporate website. This is a vital question as people are concerned that it will harm rankings for other parts of the site. As mentioned in the Sunburst Shutters example, there was no negative effect on corporate website traffic or domain authority. GMB and other listings sites generally aren’t passing much authority or not enough to make a difference to the corporate site and the kind of links they get don’t really help for the broad terms the corporate site is focused on. While there might be short term cannibalization, Sunburst’s corporate traffic very quickly had increased to well beyond what was there before.

Also, while you no longer have these local listings links pointing to you, you gain an entire network of locally and topically relevant sites linking back to corporate, which is often even more powerful for corporate.

And perhaps most importantly, since the only links that are changing are the links from local listings and GMB, these are the easiest links to change back. So if for some reason it wouldn’t work it could always be changed back and there wouldn’t be any long term effects on your business if you were to try it.

Won’t This Create A Lot Of Duplicate Content?

Our system creates a lot of content and a lot of content at scale, but none of it is duplicate for several reasons:

  • We create extensive variable lists about each location and use that information in our copy to make it unique.
  • Our writers and system rewrite the content where we know every variation, but the software picks the variations our writers put in for key phrases, synonyms, and variables. This creates unique content that is drastically more unique than most corporate directories that are out there. Because, most corporate directory pages on the internet have the exact same copy on every local page, with only the name of the city changed.
  • These sites are only meant to rank in their local area and Google recognizes that. Very rarely will you see more than one local site rank for the same search term and this only ever happens if someone uses a search term without a geo-modifier where we wrote a better piece of content then everyone else out there. In cases like these, we can take up the first several pages for that term.

Don’t you just recommend this to everyone?

While we think our system is great, it isn’t right for every client. There are businesses with many stores we don’t recommend it to because they are either too small or they’re too big or their product isn’t sold this way. i.e. This specific approach isn’t good for a Starbucks or even a good user experience for their customers. But for businesses with considered purchases where research is involved and where there are many stores that each serve a large area, this can be a powerful tool.

Is A Multi-website Solution Right For You?

Your customers want to buy locally and have a local experience. They also are going to not see you as much of a local organization by default. You have to work harder to help them realize how local you are. A local site strategy gives the customers that feel of being a local business in an authentic way that doesn’t trick them. It also increases your conversion rates and gives you access to the much larger local organic search universe.

And with a system like Campfire you can also run a local website strategy that gives corporate strong brand controls. To find out if it’s right for you give us a call at 317.658.0831 or fill out the form here.

The Only Two Metrics That Actually Matter In Advertising

There are only two metrics that actually matter in advertising: cost and revenue. Cost is readily available in all ad platforms, but revenue can be difficult and costly to obtain. Because of this, many agencies and marketing departments fail to track this crucial metric, leaving them to spend client dollars blindly.

Advertising’s Sole Purpose Is to Drive Sales

It’s easy to lose focus on the ultimate goal of sales with the staggering amount of data relating to bounces, traffic, impressions, view counts, likes, comments, shares, and heart reactions. But, bounce rates become irrelevant when your content doesn’t sell. Traffic doesn’t matter when your website doesn’t convert. Facebook page likes are completely meaningless when people don’t click your posts.

It’s not that marketing VPs, account executives, and creative directors don’t agree with the sentiment that advertising should drive sales, it’s that they fall into the trap of trying to derive value from sources where there is none. 

This phenomenon goes back a lot further than just the digital age, as made evident by this David Ogilvy clip from several decades ago:

Ogilvy praises direct advertisers for their ability to measure results “to a dollar.” While the entire 7-minute speech is worth a listen, the relevant sentiment is best summed up here:

You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work, you know to a dollar…The general advertisers and their agencies know almost nothing for sure because they cannot measure the results of their advertising.

We recently worked with a client who had been sold (and burned) by another agency that Ogilvy might call general. The client had entrusted the agency with a 6-figure ad buy promoting a single event, and they were rightfully furious that the agency was unable to tell them how much revenue had been generated after the campaign was done (though, I’m sure the agency’s accountant had no problem telling the client how much money they’d spent). That client contracted Flint Analytics to fix and automate their revenue attribution, making tracking a non-issue for future campaigns.

Learn how Flint Analytics may be able to help you solve your company’s revenue attribution problems.

We believe there is a certain amount of negligence and irresponsibility in spending client dollars without having the slightest idea how much value that client received in return. For ecommerce, you can and should know, down to the dollar, your earnings from each individual advertising source. For clients with longer sales cycles involving multiple consultations and touchpoints, you can and should know, at a minimum, the source of every single lead generated. If you cannot report on the true business impact of your spend, you are doing your client a disservice.

If you’re the type who can sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves, and you use that ability to convince clients to spend money on the idea that weak metrics like social follows or heart emojis on posts are absolutely good for business, you’re sitting somewhere between misguided and dishonest.

The Narrative Fallacy

To be fair, a lot of marketing professionals seem to honestly and wholeheartedly believe that increased pageviews, lower bounce rates, higher domain authority, and more social engagement definitively (key word) lead to more sales. This is innocent enough. When agencies and marketing departments are technically incapable of tracking actual sales results, they tend to justify their strategies, actions, and budgets by taking any stats they can — no matter their relevance — and creating causal links where they might not actually exist. In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb writes extensively on this practice, referring to it as the narrative fallacy. He writes:

The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship, upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.

Think about that in the context of digital marketing: sometimes all we have are sequences of facts in the form of sessions, bounce rates, engagement, view counts, impressions, and more. It’s information overload, and our job security is partially dependent on convincing clients and superiors that we can make sense of it all.

Any marketer with a basic Google Analytics setup — but no way to tie revenue back to its source — is probably guilty of committing a narrative fallacy. If quarterly sales increased, they might tell their CEO that increased web traffic from clicks on a Facebook campaign were the root cause of the increase in sales. If this marketer was an agency pitching a potential client whose sales had been dropping, they may point to a lack of advertising budget as the root cause. The same goes for anyone pitching or justifying SEO work, a creative strategy, or social media management: these are all things that can help business, but they do not definitively do so.

This is why revenue tracking is so important: it eliminates the human tendency to rely on biases and allows you to focus on identifying marketing practices that have real, valuable business impact. It is only through knowing how much money your efforts made that you can accurately analyze if the money you spent was worth it.

Need Help with Revenue Tracking?

The technical process of tracking revenue is extensive and worthy of volumes, which is why we’ve limited this article mostly to the importance of this data point. If your company or your client is struggling with revenue attribution, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

Integrating Ecommerce and Facebook

Integrating Google Enhanced Ecommerce and the Facebook Pixel

This article is for those who:

  • use Google Tag Manager and the data layer to implement enhanced ecommerce (see our handy guide),
  • use Google Tag Manager to manage their Facebook Pixel, and
  • are interested in running dynamic retargeting ads for a Facebook Catalog.h

In order to send existing enhanced ecommerce data into Facebook, you will have to fulfill the requirements needed to run your dynamic retargeting ads. At a minimum, you need to send the associated parameters for the ViewContent, AddToCart, and Purchase Facebook events. Each variable can be extracted from an existing enhanced ecommerce setup.

Let’s Begin With Some User Defined Variables

For starters, you’ll need to create a few user-defined variables in Google Tag Manager that will extract data from the enhanced ecommerce code and translate it into a format readable by Facebook.

Variable 1: FB – Product Detail ID

This first variable will pull the Product ID from a product detail impression. This will be used in both your ViewContent and AddToCart tags. The configuration for this is fairly simple, just create a data layer variable type named FB – Product Detail ID with the following settings:

Variable 2: FB – Revenue

Then, you will need to send a value along with the Purchase event so you can properly track and optimize for revenue within Facebook. This can be extracted directly from the enhanced ecommerce purchase array that you should get every time a transaction occurs.

To do this, create a data layer variable type with the name FB – Revenue using the following settings:

Variable 3: FB – ecommerce.purchase.products / FB – Purchase ID Array

Additionally, you will need to send an array of product IDs to track which products were purchased by Facebook users. But to get to the end variable, we will actually need to create another variable first.

Therefore, create a data layer variable called FB – ecommerce.purchase.products with the following configuration:

This will pull the individual product IDs from your purchase array.

Next, create a custom JavaScript variable in Google Tag Manager called FB – Purchase ID Array using the following script:

function() {
 var products = {{FB – ecommerce.purchase.products}};
 return products.reduce(function(arr, prod) { return arr.concat(prod.id); }, []);
}

This will create an array of product IDs for all products that are purchased that can be passed into Facebook.

Now You Can Configure Some Tags

Using these variables, you can now configure tags for the Facebook events ViewContent, AddToCart, and Purchase.

REMEMBER: Use advanced settings to make sure that your base Facebook Pixel fires before any of these tags, otherwise you risk losing data.

Tag 1: ViewContent

You can now create a custom HTML tag for sending a ViewContent event into Facebook. Use the following code:

<script>
 fbq(‘track’, ‘ViewContent’, {
 content_ids: {{FB – Product Detail ID}},
 content_type: ‘product’
});
</script>

<noscript>
<img height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=”” style=”display:none”
src=”https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=<INSERT_FB_ID>&ev=ViewContent&cd[content_ids]={{FB – Product Detail ID}}&cd[content_type]=product/>
</noscript>

As far as triggering goes, that is up to you. We typically set this as a pageview to a product page only so that we can limit tracking to meaningful content views only.

Tag 2: AddToCart

Your AddToCart tag should be triggered by your existing enhanced ecommerce addToCart trigger. Use the following code for this tag:

<script>
 fbq(‘track’, ‘AddToCart’, {
 content_ids: {{FB – Product Detail ID}},
 content_type: ‘product’
});
</script>

<noscript>
<img height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=”” style=”display:none”
src=”https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=<INSERT_FB_ID>&ev=AddToCart&cd[content_ids]={{FB – Product Detail ID}}&cd[content_type]=product/>
</noscript>

Tag 3: Purchase

Your Purchase tag will use the following code:

<script>
 fbq(‘track’, ‘Purchase’, {
 content_ids: [{{FB – Purchase ID Array}}],
 content_type: ‘product’,
 value: {{FB – Revenue}},
 currency: ‘USD’
});
</script>

<noscript>
<img height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=”” style=”display:none”
src=”https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=<INSERT_FB_ID>&ev=Purchase&cd[content_ids]=[{{FB – Purchase ID Array}}]&cd[content_type]=product&cd[value]={{FB – Revenue}}&cd[currency]=USD/>
</noscript>

In enhanced ecommerce, transactions are not events. Instead, they are actions defined in an array (as explained here). For triggering, just use whatever identifier that confirms a transaction has occurred (ex. Confirmation Page viewed, button click event, etc).

Summary

These methods will not only save you time in setting up your Facebook Pixel for dynamic retargeting, they will also allow you to more easily integrate your Google and Facebook advertising strategies (which is also the subject of our next analytics article!).

Need Help with Your Analytics Integration?

Flint Analytics can help your company execute tough analytics setups like this. If you want help, contact us for a free consultation today!



Content is Hard, Time Consuming, And Invaluable

With the rise of social media influencers, some companies have decided to get out of the content game. Sure, they have a website, and perhaps a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, but they’re rarely updated. They may even have a corporate blog section, even though it hasn’t been touched since Obama’s first term. It just seems easier to pay an outside blogger to write articles on their own site, especially since some writers will push out articles simply for free samples. Isn’t that enough?

Using an outside voice can be a meaningful part of your marketing portfolio, but don’t expect their articles to help you generate a lot of web traffic. Bloggers have one, primary goal — increase readers for their blog. They may have an affiliate link or two that can help you make sales, but it’s kind of a crap shoot if those links convert. And those backlinks won’t necessarily help you, especially if the writing is poor or their domain authority is low.

What will help get you ahead of your competition, however, is for you to generate original blogs, white papers, or e-books for your own site. But why is content creation so important?

Content Plays Into The Science Of Searching

While it may not seem like it, SEO has a great deal of humanity in it. That’s because search engines like Google and Bing try to be as intuitive as possible. They need to ensure that you get exactly what you want every time you search. In response, our search queries have evolved from disjointed words to full sentences.

In the Olden Days, if you wanted to search for dairy-free ice cream, then you would be instructed to type in something like, “Dairy Free” + “Ice cream”. As searching became more intuitive, you could just type in dairy-free ice cream without any extraneous punctuation marks and still get the same results. Basically, Google wants us to search like we talk, and let them do all the heavy lifting.

We’ve now taken this directive to the next level. We may still search for Dairy-Free Ice Cream, and get a slew of product homepages, but we also will type in the best dairy-free desserts or What dairy-free ice cream can I serve at a kids birthday party?  In these cases, the search engine pulls up pages that attempt to answer these questions, and a lot of times that isn’t a product’s homepage.

If you rely on contributors to answer these search queries, then you have little control over how these questions are answered. Some may represent your product well, many won’t. They may not even rank in search results. And even if they do, it’s the blogger’s site that will rank, not yours. Every click will go to their playground. To get to your site, the user will have to perform additional actions.

However, if you write your own articles on your own site, then searches will go directly to you. Having a blog that addresses different topics allow you to possibly rank in numerous search queries. By ranking for many different queries, your web traffic will start to climb exponentially. Of course, your content has to be pertinent, well-written, and properly formatted for SEO — and that’s not always easy to do.

Content Reinforces Your Brand

While it’s great to rank high in a Google search, that’s not the only reason to produce content. After all, you can be found in other ways, like Pay Per Click, Facebook remarketing, and traditional advertising. With the right targeting, these avenues may actually be more effective at driving people to your site. Although, they are usually limited-time campaigns that cost money.

Content is eternal and can be one of the best ways to establish your brand. With the glut of online and offline marketing, consumers have become inundated with noise. The old Mad-Men salesy shtick with a slick slogan and attractive logo doesn’t work much anymore, as most people will just filter that junk out. This is especially true in more niche markets, where customers are more discerning in what they buy or who they get services from.

A static website can establish a brand, but it won’t develop it. Even your heartwarming story about how your dairy-free desserts were developed from recipes handed down from your lactose-intolerant Nana-Booboo doesn’t mean much when it’s parked on your About Us page. These sections are important, but they may not mean very much to a consumer who can see hundreds of About Us pages talking about their own Nana-Booboo recipes.

When you develop content through a blog, white paper, or e-book, you give people a look at your company beyond the gimmick. Instead of yelling “LOOK AT ME” with the rest of the crowd, you develop your brand by talking about what’s most important to the customer. So while your website can talk about how much kids love your dairy-free ice cream, you show how much your product fits a child’s dairy-free lifestyle through blog articles on dairy-free birthday parties. This strategy goes beyond “becoming an expert in your field,” and connects you to your audience on topics that they actually care about.

The Caveat — Your Content Has To Be Good

There’s a big catch on creating content — it needs to be good. Google and other search engines try to filter out junk that is poorly written, spammy, and/or unhelpful. A search engine’s reputation is based on good experiences and quality results, and that means it needs to lead people to pages that help fulfill their query. If your content is vague and meaningless, or repeats content that’s already is out there, Google will pass you over and all that hard work and time would be for naught.

If you have the time and talent to write engrossing web pages and blog articles, great. Just make sure you post new content consistently (more than one blog post a quarter). One article can help one query. A hundred articles can cast a much larger fishing net. And while content should be brand-building and customer-focused, is also needs to be structurally sound SEO-wise. Each article should use interlinks, keywords, and a strong call to action.

Flint Analytics Can Help With Engaging Content Creation

Let Flint Analytics help you make content an integral part of your marketing portfolio. With strategic planning, SEO audits, and creative service, we can create engaging content that connects you to potential customers. Just contact us at 317-576-2855 and we can help you fulfill your goals.

5 Ways To Increase Local SEO For Franchisees

If you’re a local franchisee with a small budget, it can seem overwhelming to know how to increase your local SEO and compete against national companies. Luckily for you, it’s possible for your local website to rank higher than national brands online when you take a local strategy.

Taking a local strategy is key because it’s easier to rank for local terms like “bike shop in Pittsburg” instead of “bike shop.” Google and other search engines want to give customers what they’re searching for. So if customers are looking for local businesses, that’s what Google shows them.

So how do you start building a local marketing and web strategy as a franchisee? It depends on how you’re set up as a franchisee.

If your franchise shows up as a page under your national franchise brand’s website, then you may not have as much control over your local SEO. So you should focus on the first two methods that aren’t on your website: local listings and reviews. Then you can try to persuade your corporate office to put more resources into local SEO by using the suggestions in the rest of the article.

Get listed on Google My Business and other listing services

When you search for a business category on Google — either by mobile or desktop — a map with some local listings is what first appears. These listings show the essential stats for a local business including their website, reviews, address, and phone. These stats come from Google My Business (GMB). It’s one of the main ways your local customers find you online.

For example, when you search for a local service like “Pet grooming Dayton Ohio” in Google, chances are one of the first results may be a map.

Google My Business map of pet grooming studio

Your potential customer can then click on one of these listings or go directly to a provider’s website or reviews. If the customer clicks on a listing, they’ll see this screen which shows them the business’ contact information, a link to the company’s website, reviews, photos, and questions and answers.

By building out your GMB listing you can increase your chances of being seen by your local customers and also give them relevant information like your hours, website link, reviews, etc.

Google My Business isn’t the only listing you should create. We recommend adding your business to other listings that your customers search for. These might include Yelp, TripAdvisor, Bing, Manta, etc. Find out which ones your customers search on and then add your business to those listings. You can also use local listing services to manage all of your listings.

Solicit reviews from customers

What’s one of the first steps customers take when researching local companies? Finding reviews of them online.

So if reviews are so important, how do you build up positive customer reviews from your customers?

Decide which avenue(s) is most important and send customers there

Some businesses may have customers looking them up on Facebook, while other franchisees’ customers look them up on Google or TripAdvisor. Find out which venue most of your customers look for and post reviews on and then focus your energy on those one or two platforms.

Build a strategy for how you’ll get reviews

If you want to build up your reviews, you need to be proactive and ask your customers for reviews. First, decide when you’ll ask your customer for a review. Is it in person? Through a follow-up text or email? The best time to ask for a review is when your customer has had some time using your product or service, but the experience is still fresh. Make it easy for them by including a link that sends them directly to where you want them to review.

Optimize Your Site for SEO

If, for example, you’re a franchisee of a pet boarding studio in Dayton, Ohio, you want to show up when people search for “pet boarding Dayton.” You can pay for Facebook ads or Google ads which cost money, or you can optimize your site for local SEO. Here are some basic steps to take to increase your local SEO by optimizing your site.

Decide which local keywords you want to rank for

Local keywords like “pet boarding Dayton” instead of just “pet boarding” are at the heart of your SEO strategy. By targeting local keywords, you have a higher chance of ranking higher in the search results, even against larger brands. Google knows that when a customer is searching for a local service like pet boarding, they want local results to show up.

So think of the product or services you offer and build a keyword list around them. If you want to get more advanced, you can do keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Ubersuggest.

For example, if you offer pet boarding for both cats and dogs as well as additional services like grooming you could try to rank for the terms:

  • Pet boarding studio Dayton
  • Dog boarding Dayton
  • Cat boarding Dayton
  • Pet grooming Dayton
  • Overnight pet boarding Dayton
  • Doggie daycare Dayton

Match those keywords to pages on your site

Once you have your list of core local keywords, match them to pages on your site. If you have a page that currently has information on both overnight boarding and daytime boarding, consider splitting it into two pages so that you can rank for both terms.

You may need to build new pages or add new content to existing pages so that each of your core pages has a keyword that you want to rank for.

Add those keywords to key parts of your pages

You want to tell Google and other search engines exactly what each page is about, using your keyword strategy. So add your keyword phrase to your page’s title, headline, and 3-5 times in the text. Try to make your keywords as natural as possible, because it’s important that your customer has a good reading experience with your page.  Also, avoid keyword stuffing where you’re putting a lot of keywords in your page so that you rank better because Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing.

Explore more advanced SEO techniques

Once you’ve built your keyword strategy, explore other ways to improve your site’s ranking. This can include your site’s organization and schema, increasing your site speed, etc.  

Create local content

Local content such as articles or blog posts that focus on helping your local customers is a great local SEO strategy. That’s because:

  1. Your customers search for local content
  2. Writing content establishes you as a local authority for your customers
  3. Google gives priority to local content and local content can rank higher than national content

So maybe you write a blog post about how Dayton residents can prepare their pets for an overnight stay at your local boarding studio. You could focus on how Dayton’s weather and seasons might affect their pet, or benefits of your particular studio.

By taking a local focus, you’re more likely to rank when your customers search for “preparing my pet for overnight stay Dayton” compared to a broader article where you’re competing with other boarding studios all over the nation.  

Get relevant backlinks

Another way to increase your SEO rankings is by getting relevant backlinks. What are backlinks and why are they important?

Backlinks are when other websites link to your website. These websites could include publications like your local newspaper, industry listings such as Yelp, etc. When your site has backlinks from reputable websites that have a strong domain authority, then Google considers your site to be more trustworthy since these sites linked to you.

So think about ways to get backlinks to your site. Maybe you can be featured in a local newspaper story that’s posted online and linked to your site. Or you could join an industry publication or directory that includes a link to your site.

Take the First Step to Increase Your SEO

Now you know a few ways to increase your SEO on your website. Choose one strategy to start with and build from there. If you want some more help with local listings, writing localized content, or building a franchise listing contact us at 317-576-2855.  


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JC Hart Website Photo

Property Management Company Gets 20 Localized Websites

J.C. Hart’s Website Challenge

The J.C. Hart Company, an Indiana property management company with over 20 multi-family apartment communities, was spending too much time managing their websites and needed a better website solution so they could focus on other, more lucrative marketing initiatives. Their solution criteria included:

A central interface so they could make changes across 20 websites at once and reduce time spent on maintenance.

Unique, individualized content for each community’s website.

Fresh design that was fast and mobile responsive.

Tight integration with their current scheduling software, LeaseHawk, as well as their resident management software, ResMan.

The Integrated Website Solution

Having worked with Flint Analytics before on analytics projects, and knowing they had a multi-location website capability, J.C. Hart turned to them for help on their website redesign and relaunch.

“There are plenty of companies that know what they’re talking about. The big differentiator with Flint Analytics is that they know what they’re talking about and execute in a timely manner.” -Mark Juleen, J.C. Hart V.P. of Marketing

Together they worked on a website solution and design that would give J.C. Hart the ability to manage websites through a central interface and still have the flexibility to make changes at the property level. They could create a new page once and have it populated across all sites with each property’s unique information, name, and copy instead of having to do each page one at a time.

Branding was important, and J.C. Hart retained brand control over the sites while still having unique logos, photos, and copy for each property. Ryan Cox, J.C. Hart Digital Marketing Manager said, “One of the challenges was that a job this big (20 individual websites) is really 20 different brands, while carrying through one brand identity.”

Other website features included:

●      The ability to quickly add new websites for properties that J.C. Hart had built or acquired

●      Prospects could schedule tours directly on the website with custom LeaseHawk API integration

●      Resman custom API integrations including floor plans, pricing, and resident services

●      Strong call to actions on mobile and desktop

●      Photo galleries, floor plan, amenities, testimonials, and more

●      Automated social media integration with Instagram

Website Results

More Scheduled Tours and Better User Experience

The ability to easily schedule tours on their website was important, as J.C. Hart has learned that prospects who schedule tours are more likely to lease. Within the first couple of months they’ve had an uptick in scheduled tours, due to the strong CTAs on the website as well as the LeaseHawk integration. This was especially true for their apartments that cater to students and young professionals who are more likely to schedule online rather than call.

The J.C. Hart team has been pleased with the user experience on their sites.

“I think on mobile they are ten times better than previous mobile sites. The way that they render on mobile is just so much better, and the way that people can navigate and calls to action on mobile are better.”

-Mark Juleen

Reduced Maintenance

J.C. Hart reported reduced maintenance on their sites.

“A centralized hub for mass-changes, and a decentralized exact-hub for individual properties is an excellent feature. Additionally, better websites (speed, content, layout, usability, UX, functionality) mean I’m having to make changes less, and the maintenance is definitely, significantly reduced.”

– Ryan Cox

With their new websites, J.C. Hart has been able to begin focusing on other marketing initiatives while increasing their scheduled tours, reducing their time spent maintaining websites, and creating a better user experience, especially on mobile.


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Math for Marketers: Quadratic Trendlines

Math for Marketers: Quadratic Trendlines

Disclaimer: We’re going to be using some calculus and linear regression here. The math can be a bit boring, so bear with me. We’ll get to the fun applied part after getting through some of the need-to-knows. If you’d like to skip the theory and go straight to the application, click here.

Introduction

At Flint Analytics, we specialize in hyper-local marketing strategies for multi-location businesses. What that means is that we utilize geographic siloing to a large degree: every city we’re marketing to kind of exists in its own little strategy bubble.

While this detailed level of attention yields fantastic results for our clients, it can make my job as an analyst very difficult. Things may look great for the client as a whole, but how do we sift through the data quickly and efficiently to know when things might be going wrong in, say,  just the Oklahoma City market?

There are several different methods for accomplishing this goal. Today we’re going to discuss how to use quadratic trendlines and their mathematical properties to quickly and efficiently identify potential problems in your multi-location data.

 

What is a Quadratic Trendline?

Generally, a quadratic trendline is a second-order polynomial which attempts to best fit a set of data. The equation will look something like this:

In our application, the x-value will be a measure of time like {1, 2, …, n}, and the y-value will be our KPI (sessions, leads, organic traffic, etc). The most important part of this equation is or the quadratic term within the equation, as it allows us to do some interesting analysis with regards to current trends and changes over time.

Let’s say you’re analysing traffic trends over a period of 60 days and your best fit quadratic trendline is:

In your data, the x-values are days {1, 2, …, n}, and your y-values are the actual session counts for each day. Graphing this equation alongside the actual data looks like this:

image-3

The blue line is the actual day-to-day data, and the red line is the quadratic trendline. You can easily notice two things:

  1. The day-to-day data fluctuates periodically every 7 or so days, suggesting some weekly trends.
  2. The trend line hits a low point somewhere in the late 20s or early 30s.

With the periodicity of the day-to-day data, it’s very difficult to visualize whether things are trending in a good direction over time. One thing we could do is find the slope of the best fit line without a quadratic term. In this case, our equation would be:

The slope tells us that things are technically trending positively over 60 days, but the coefficient .00286 is practically 0, which doesn’t really give us a lot to work with. This basically says “things are going up…barely.” The reason the quadratic equation gives us so much more to work with is that it has a critical point.

Warning: Calculus Ahead Let’s bring back the quadratic equation and take its first and second derivatives:

From the first derivative, we can find that there is a critical point somewhere around day 30:

From the second derivative, we know that the equation is convex. Recall these basic rules:

If y’’ > 0, y is convex

If y’’ < 0, y is concave

A concave function looks like a sweet Peyton Manning touchdown pass (it goes up then comes down), while a convex function is like a skater dropping into a halfpipe (you get it). Or, more precisely:

utoronto

http://mjo.osborne.economics.utoronto.ca/index.php/tutorial/index/1/cv1/t

So we know that our trendline is convex and that it has a critical point around day 30. What that means from an analytics standpoint is that during the 60 day period of analysis, things had started off trending in a negative direction before they began trending positively around day 30. Maybe we started a new ad campaign on day 30? Maybe our luck turned around? The answer is irrelevant to the issue at hand: what’s important is that we now have a mathematical way of breaking out trends into two date ranges separated by a critical point.

 

Interpreting Trends with Convex and Concave Curves

At any specific point in time, a quadratic trend can exist in 1 of 6 states, visualized below.

math-for-marketers-quadratic-trendlines

 

If a trend is in the Negative, Decreasing state, it is losing value over time but at a decreasing rate. This is important, because it tells us that each successive day is losing less value than it lost the day before and the trend is approaching a critical point. When the trend passes the critical point, it will generally move into the Positive, Increasing state, which is commonly referred to as hockey stick growth.

If a trend is in the Positive, Decreasing state, it is experiencing diminishing returns. A value in this state should be monitored for future changes, as passing the critical point will take it into the Negative, Increasing state. In the latter state, value is diminishing at an increasing rate overtime, resembling a nosedive.

If your trend is in the Minima state of a convex curve, it is expected to begin hockey stick growth the next day. If your trend is in the Maxima state of a concave curve, it will begin its nosedive the next day.

 

Translating the Math to Google Sheets or Excel

Let’s take our data and create a report like this in Excel or Google Sheets:

report_example

This report allows us to quickly visualize the trends of our target cities. Each individual location will require the same analysis that I outline below, so as you’re reading, keep in mind that you will have to replicate this process multiple times.

Recall that we will need the actual day-to-day data, a set of days relative to 1, and the squared days. So, our data may look like this, where the grey-shaded cells correspond to the cell column and row references:

data_tableData Table

In another table, we will estimate the quadratic trendline using the linest() function, as well as perform the calculations necessary to find the critical point and the trend. Let’s say that we’re placing our data manipulations on the same sheet as the data table, starting at row 5. Our output for, say Oklahoma City, will look like this:

data_manipulationsData Manipulations

Before getting into the calculations, let me explain the data contained in each column.

  • x2 – the coefficient on the quadratic term in the linear regression
  • x – the coefficient on the x term in the linear regression
  • CP – the critical point calculated from the linear regression
  • Shape – whether the curve created by the linear regression is convex or concave
  • Trend State – whether we are currently seeing the metric of interest increase or decrease and the acceleration of the change

Now, let’s look at how to generate these calculations.

The Linear Regression (Columns B and C)

Here we use the linest() function to generate a regression equation in which Total Traffic is the dependent variable and Day and Day2 are the independent variables. The linest() function spreads each coefficient across several cells, so in order to contain our output to the first two coefficients, we use the index() function as such:

Cell B6

=index(linest(B1:BH1,B2:BH3),1)

Cell C6

=index(linest(B1:BH1,B2:BH3),2)

The Critical Point (Column D)

Return to the general form of our quadratic equation:

In order to find the critical point for this equation, you need to take the derivative, set the derivative equal to 0, and solve for x. Generally, this will always look like this with any second order polynomial:

In our application, this general form translates to:

=(1*C6)/(2*B6)

In order to simplify analysis down the line, I like to add the round() function to this equation:

Cell D6

=round((1*C6)/(2*B6))

Curve Shape (Column E)

Curve shape is determined entirely by the sign of the quadratic term, and can be calculated very simply with a nested IF statement:

Cell E6

=if(B6>0,“Convex”,if(B6<0,“Concave”,“Linear”))

Note that we have added the condition Linear as well. It’s very rare that trend data will be absolutely flat, but this would occur if the coefficient on the quadratic term was 0. This is a catchall for that extremely rare case only, and in practice, you will most likely never see any truly linear trends with this method.

Trend State (Column F)

Finally, we get to the point of this entire debacle: estimating the trend state of our data. Recall the 6 states we can be in, depending on the shape of the curve:

  1. Negative, Decreasing
  2. Positive, Increasing
  3. Minima
  4. Positive, Decreasing
  5. Negative, Increasing
  6. Maxima

These states are based entirely on the current time relative to the critical point and the sign of the coefficient on the quadratic term. We have calculated all of this data, so now we can simply use a sequence of if statements to determine the state.

Cell F6 =if(and(E6=“Convex”,60<D6),“Negative, Decreasing”,

if(and(E6=“Convex”,60>D6),“Positive, Increasing”,

if(and(E6=“Convex”,60=D6),“Minima”,

if(and(E6=“Concave”,60<D6),“Positive, Decreasing”,

if(and(E6=“Concave”,60>D6),“Negative, Increasing”,

if(and(E6=“Concave”,60=D6),“Maxima”,))))))

Note that I’m using the number 60 as a placeholder for the current date, since we are using rolling 60-day data for this example. This can be replaced with any variable that suits your analysis.

I spend the majority of my days staring at spreadsheets trying to figure out better ways of organizing and visualizing complex marketing data. If you have an analysis problem you’d like more help on, feel free to email me at patrick@flintanalytics.com or call (317) 993-3411.


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How Local Content Marketing Helps Franchises Succeed

To understand the importance of local content marketing, let’s take a pop quiz.

Homeowner A needs a new roof on his house.  So does Homeowner B.

You, being the business owner that wants to sell each of them a new roof, can broadcast your company’s well-researched, broad-based marketing campaign at both of them, and hopefully land both sales.

Right?

Not really.

Because Homeowner A lives in Pasadena, California and Homeowner B lives in Newark, New Jersey. Homeowner A needs to make sure his shingles won’t melt and he’ll still have room for solar panels. Homeowner B just wants to know his roof won’t collapse under two feet of snow come January.

Since your well-researched, broad-based marketing campaign focuses on your lifetime warranty, proven craftsmanship, and decades of professional service as a company, you might miss out on BOTH sales.

See, as meaningful as your umbrella message is, it doesn’t mean something specific to the unique local needs of Homeowner A or Homeowner B.

So how does a franchisee – or a franchisor – avoid this pitfall?

For Multi-location Businesses Serving A Wide Geography, Your Company’s Message May Not Be Enough

So what can multi-location businesses do to secure those sales in both Pasadena and Newark? The onus is on both the franchisee and the franchisor to deploy local content marketing strategies that serve individual locations equally well, so both can capture sales.

The Local Franchisee Challenge – Own Your Space, Focus On Local Content

Some new business franchise owners come into the job believing that all of their marketing will be taken care of “by corporate.” And while it’s true that franchisees do get some help in that area, at least compared to independent small businesses, the most successful marketing campaigns have work put in by both sides.

Own Your Own Space

The first responsibility franchisees have in digital marketing is in owning their own space. A business’s physical brick and mortar location is unique unto itself; it has specific needs to maintain its curb appeal, interior design and product layout – all ways in which it attracts and retains local customers. Why should their online presence be any different? A franchise website has its own needs for local prominence that may be neglected.

“But corporate set us up with a website and it looks fine,” a local franchisee say.

Looking presentable and being effective in leading customers through a sales funnel are two completely separate things. All too often, franchisors roll out a suite of websites for each of their locations, only for every one to give mediocre performances when it comes to driving organic web traffic or conversions. Though made with the best of intentions, these sites serve up duplicate content, recycled images, and vaguely audience-targeted messaging. In trying to capture every customer, they usually capture none.

When a single location in a multi-location business is able to own their online space, however, the benefits are undeniable. Any unique content, be it in copy, photos or beyond, is proven to be incredibly helpful to SEO performance. That unique content is also able to target the unique local needs of their specific customer base, something that might not be feasible for a nationwide cookie-cutter marketing campaign.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the need to focus on the local when it comes to local content marketing.

Focus on Local Content

With that owned space comes the next responsibility: focus on local content. Even if all the marketing efforts thought to be handled on the corporate end came through, they still might not be doing much for local franchisees.

Like with the roofing example discussed at the beginning, all the great features of a product or service pales in comparison to customers’ unique needs – those are the things your customers are going to be looking for when they open up their search engine. The search engines know this as well, and tend to reward local content with higher rankings on results pages.

Luckily, franchisees have something that corporate doesn’t in their corner: knowledge of your local customer base. They know who their prototypical customer is, what products they’re interested in, why they choose that particular company, and a slew of other useful information.

When forming a marketing strategy, multi-location businesses are able to use that knowledge to tailor their content in multiple ways:

  • Geographic targeting – Use geomodifiers often to appeal both to search engines and individuals. A geomodifier is a location-specific keyword, such as a city, state, or region that you want to target. Knowing how one’s customers talk about where they live can help better capture potential leads–for example targeting customers interested in a “Brooklyn plumber” versus a “New York City plumber.”
  • Address specific issues – What are the customers’ primary needs? Are they unique in any way, especially to their location? Going back again to our first roofing example, a headline of “What Newark Homeowners Can Do To Protect Their Home From Winter Storms” is typically more effective (and pleasing to search engines) than “Stansbury Roofs Can Stand Up To Anything.” Not only does it stress a product benefit over a feature, but it targets a benefit unique to a local service area.

These are some of the more straightforward and salient methods of doing so, but are by no means the only ones.

Franchises, Start Working Towards Digital Marketing Success

If you’re ready to leave cookie-cutter design, duplicated content and vague marketing messages in your rear-view mirror, Flint Analytics can help you get started. As is our philosophy, to make the right decisions you need the right data, so let’s start talking about putting the numbers together to find a solution that will start you on the path to local content marketing success.

Photo Credit: 123rf.com/ramcreative

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