Welcome to the companion article for my presentation “Advanced Online Marketing for WordPress,” which I gave at WordCamp Austin 2014. In this article, I’m going to walk you through the techniques I shared at WordCamp, covering how to build sites focused on driving revenue. This article covers a little SEO, site monetization, conversion optimization, and analytics tracking. Enjoy the read!
Create Designs That Create Revenue
As a web designer or developer, my guess is you’ve created quite a few sites that you’re proud of and that your clients were ecstatic about. That’s great! But do you really know if what you created was successful? Do you know if the designs you created compelled the visitor to take actions that created revenue for your clients?
If you’re truly honest about the performance of the pages you’re designing through revenue based analytics tracking, you’ll learn that the only way to be successful long term is to measure and test new approaches to your designs. This iterative testing is the best way for you to find your magic formula in a sea of endless possibilities.
Here are a few of my favorite tools for creating and testing conversion focused designs:
This free tool made available to you through Google Analytics allows you to implement and measure A/B experiments on landing pages. There is no visual landing page editor with GE, unlike services like Optimizly, but you’re a WordPress developer, so what do you care anyways?
Are you a little short on cash this month for expensive eye-tracking studies of your designs? Don’t worry, conversion powerhouse Tim Ash has created a tool called Attention Wizard that let’s you load designs into his tool and returns a graphical representation of the predicted eyeflow of a visitor. Run your designs through Attention Wizard to see if your calls to action and important messaging are where they need to be.
Custom Post Types
I know this is a development feature within WordPress, but I love using CPTs to help support marketing efforts. When creating pages for your site, give your marketing department the ability to make fast versions and modifications to the pages they create. We use CPTs to create landing pages, video pages, content pages, and any modular content a marketer might want to experiment with. By using fields in the CPTs, you can give the fat-fingered marketers a way to do what they need for A/B testing and updates without the need for them to murder HTML inside a WYSIWYG editor.
The Hawthorne Effect describes the tendency of a subject being studied to behave differently if they know they’re being studied. Cool fact huh? Luckily there’s a service like Session Cam that can help avoid the Hawthorne Effect when evaluating user behavior. Costly eye tracking and user testing services can’t even do that.
Don’t Leave Your SEO Pants Down
As a developer, the most sinking feeling in the world is when you’ve left this box checked after pushing to production:
This nasty little checkbox can nuke a sites rankings overnight. What this box does is place a noindex tag in your robots.txt file, which is a signal that you don’t want search engine bots to index your site. Bad news.
I recommend always leaving this box unchecked. To be fair you do want to noindex your staging server. Having a copy of your site on your staging server which is visible to search engines can be a very bad thing when the staging server shows up in search results or causes a duplicate content penalty.
To hide your staging server from search engines without worrying about the little checkbox, you can use sub directories for your staging environments (e.g. staging.domain.com/website1). Next you install a master robots.txt file for your subdomain that blocks indexing. This way you don’t have to worry about noindexing each install that lives in a specific subdirectory. Robotstxt.org has a great article on creating a noindex tag for your staging domain. You can also password protect your entire staging areas to help keep the search engines at bay.
The Only SEO Plugin You Need
I often see threads on forums or the Advanced WordPress Facebook group about the best plugin for SEO. For me there is no debate, the winner is hands down Yoast SEO.
First and foremost, one of my number one criteria for picking plugins is the developer behind the plugin. Yoast the company and Joost the man are staples in the WordPress community and develop many leading WordPress tools focused on marketing. The longevity of their company and their commitment to the types of plugins they create help me sleep at night choosing Yoast SEO for my sites.
Beyond the warm and fuzzies, Yoast comes ram packed with features including the obligatory meta title / description fields, permalink SEO settings, RSS optimization, the ability to import settings from your current plugin, and the most consistent tool for creating accurate Google optimized XML sitemaps.
Sell Advertising On Your Site Like a Pro
So you’ve built up a large audience with blog posts of cat pictures. Good for you! Now what? Monetizing a content site is a tough nut to crack, but if you go in with the right tools and the right plan, even you can make it work.
There are four main types of ad pricing models that publishers typically run on their content sites. These models include cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-1000-impressions (CPM), cost-per-acquisition / commission based (CPA), or flat rate.
The right choice for you is based on your niche, the sophistication of the advertisers in your space, the ad networks you join, and your available time. In most cases you’ll have a mix of these pricing models and you’ll want to test out several different approaches to see what works best for you.
Now I know that this all sounds like a lot of work, but there’s a plugin I like to use called AdRotate that can make testing and deploying multiple types of ads and billing models a snap.
AdRotate allows you to create ad units that can run multiple types of ads. The ad units can be embedded via shortcodes or as a widget, which appears in the WP admin widget area.
The ads can be image banners, embed code from an ad network, text ads, video ads, and much more. Once you have your ads in your placement, you can set the frequency and logic which will cause a specific ad to fire. You can wieght ads and rotate ads with different billing models (CPC, CPM, CPA, Flat Rate).
Additionally, AdRotate will email you when a particular ad is about to stop running based on time, purchased clicks etc. It’s like a little reminder telling you to keep testing new ad units. How cool is that?
A Quick Tip for Affiliate Marketing
If you’re running an editorial site and you’re looking for a unique way to integrate offers from affiliate programs, you need to check out PopShops. PopShops aggregates product feeds from all kinds of affiliate programs and networks. You can pick the feeds you want and embed product search functions, product listings and other shopping aspects to your site. There’s even a WordPress plugin available and the product links in the embed widget automatically use your affiliate IDs.
Here’s a screenshot of a pricing comparison engine across multiple affiliate networks and advertisers we built using PopShops.
Nothing you do when building a WordPress site means anything unless it creates value. Most of the time value means cold hard cash. If you really want to up the value of your work, you’re going to need to know what works and what flops. This is why I like to deploy a comprehensive tracking solution with the sites we build.
Since Google Analytics is used by the vast majority of sites out there (mainly because it’s pretty good and free), I have put together some of my favorite techniques for tracking value using Google Analytics:
Use the UTM Link Builder by Google to tag links you post in ads, social media, and anywhere else so they show up clearly in Google Analytics. You can identify the source, medium, search term and campaign in any given link. You can put whatever you want in the fields so you can get creative with your tagging, even tracking down to the sales a particular Facebook post creates. Next time you’re linking to a site use a UTM link to call it out in Google Analytics later.
Warning, do not use UTM links if you’re trying to get SEO value out of that link.
Access the “Admin” area in Google Analytics to set up and value goals. A goal can be a sale, lead, online chat, phone call (through ifbyphone), contact form or any other element on your site that drives value. You can also define the value of the goal and run reports that show your goal value compared to your costs for certain advertising channels. Goals are the backbone of any analysis and if you don’t have goals set up and valued in Google Analytics, you basically have no analytics at all.
I always skip right past the standard reports in Google Analytics and go to the custom reports. Custom reports are a great way to answer questions like which source of traffic is the most valuable, what landing pages perform the best and pretty much any question you have about the use of your site based on the metrics that Google tracks. Play around with the custom reports and get good at using them. This will be the key to your future success.
To get you started, I’m sharing links to my favorite Google Analytics custom reports that I customized and shared as a template just for this presentation. Import the report by clicking on the links below and start using the reports right away!
Source Report Where traffic and revenue come from.
Landing Page Report Top pages bringing in visitors and value.
Browser Version Report Browser performance based on traffic and revenue.
Lead Report Great for your sales people hunting for leads in your website traffic.
The Governing Principle
My number one tip with developing sites is measurement and iterative testing. This is the formula for success. There is no other formula. Iterative testing represents the best chance of success and my entire presentation at WordCamp was based on that one simple principle. If you want to create sites that create value you have to live the mantra “Always Be Testing.” Anything else is just stabbing in the dark.
Thanks for reading the article and thank you so much to the WordCamp Austin organizers and everyone who attended my session. I’m always humbled at how lucky I am to be able to contribute to a community as positive and forward thinking as the Austin WordPress community. Thanks guys!
Did anyone see the presentation? What are your reactions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
David Vogelpohl is the founder and CEO of Marketing Clique, an advanced web development and online marketing agency. David has been building and promoting websites since 1996 and WordPress sites since 2007. David is a leader in the online marketing and web development communities speaking at national events like Pubcon, Affiliate Summit, WP Summit, WordCamp and others.