Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogel Paul, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re going to be talking about your Must Do Agency Checklist for New SMB Customers, worked on quite a few sites like that I know that that checklist is important. And joining us for that conversation, I’d like to welcome of Wright IMC Mr. Tony Wright. Tony Welcome to Press This.
Tony Wright: David, thank you for having me.
DV: Yeah, absolutely. Glad to have you here Tony and I know you and I’ve gotten to know each other quite a bit over the years going to different conferences and whatnot. Yes. So I thought it’d be great to have you on here and share some of your insights with the listeners. For those listening what Tony’s going to be talking about today is the checklist his agency uses when taking on a new SMB client with an existing website so Tony is going to talk about his thoughts on checking for performance pitfalls listing configurations and other kind of common issues that at least in my experience can can drain the growth out of a customer that you take on great things to check for Tony to kick us off I asked this every Guess I’ll ask the same of you. Could you tell me briefly about your WordPress origin story When was the first time you used WordPress.
TW: Gosh, it’s, it had to have been 10 years ago or more obviously started using it as a blogging platform. We used to be exclusively a Drupal shop before. And then, over the years, you know Drupal it became pretty obvious the Drupal was overkill for a lot of clients in the program, you know, to programming, the coding for for Drupal, the guys were a lot more expensive. We started having clients coming in with WordPress sites. Notice that it was a lot easier to maintain and now we are about. Probably 85 to 90% WordPress at our shop we deal, mainly with WordPress websites.
DV: All right, I love that yeah, I forgot to mention y’all bad right IMC has been around for a while so it sounds like you have a lot of experience there relative to your agency. 10 years ago is right around with custom post types without WordPress was really more of a CMS. So that makes sense that was right around the time you get into it, my origin story Tony right is is writing a blog post for Andy Beal on that blog he had marketing. That was my first time is engineers you here to talk about Drupal to new kind of how clients kept coming in with WordPress sites I remember experiencing that as well and my agency days. So, you’ve been kind of doing Wright IMC for a while so briefly tell us a little bit about Wright IMC.
TW: sure Wright IMC is a full service digital marketing firm we’re based in the Dallas, Texas area. We do everything digital. We’re best known for search engine marketing, both paid and unnatural but we have a full Website Design and Development Division we do marketing automation. Overall consulting, etc. We’ve been in business for 13 years, I’ve been doing digital marketing for a little over 21 years before this I was, Director of Digital at Weber shanwick, the largest PR firm in the world. I worked with everyone from Hewlett Packard Disney Coca Cola down to your mom and pop plumbing shops, you know, and right IMC, we have the fortune 500 clients we also have, but we also have a lot of clients that are that are a lot smaller. Like I said that, you know, we’ve got plumbers lawyers dentists, you name it work we’re not real. As long as someone has the budget to work with us, we will work with them but we only do digital we don’t do any traditional type of marketing.
DV: sure Wright IMC is a full service digital marketing firm we’re based in the Dallas, Texas area. We do everything digital. We’re best known for search engine marketing, both paid and unnatural but we have a full Website Design and Development Division we do marketing automation. Overall consulting, etc. We’ve been in business for 13 years, I’ve been doing digital marketing for a little over 21 years before this I was, Director of Digital at Weber shanwick, the largest PR firm in the world. I worked with everyone from Hewlett Packard Disney Coca Cola down to your mom and pop plumbing shops, you know, and Wright IMC, we have the fortune 500 clients we also have, but we also have a lot of clients that are that are a lot smaller. Like I said that, you know, we’ve got plumbers lawyers dentists, you name it work we’re not real. As long as someone has the budget to work with us, we will work with them but we only do digital we don’t do any traditional type of marketing.
DV: Alright, thanks for that. It’s a really interesting kind of perspective you talking about you’re kind of search and digital marketing background, and how that’s a large focus for y’all, but also the design and development services and, you know, as a designer as people that kind of operate teams to do, WordPress development and design. Of course you know there’s things to watch for when you get a new client with an existing site. But to have that have that list kind of also be informed by those digital growth strategies I think, you know, kind of puts you in a really interesting position. How long has right AMC been offering web development design services was it from the beginning or did it come later.
TW: Well absolutely I, I believe that really we have to offer. Digital Design and development. In order to be a full to be a really good partner when it comes to search engine optimization I would say more than half of the potential prospects that come through our door, really need a full website, re overhaul redesign and, and by when so when they come in the door if they need that, that redesign. If I’m sending them to someone else. Frankly, a lot of times they’re not coming back. And we even offered you know we were probably even a little bit cheaper than some of the some of our other counterparts because as long as I can get that ongoing SEO, or PPC project. I’m willing to, you know, kind of do a little bit more than just a little bit more than breakeven on our website build, because it’s I believe it’s so important to actually get them to where they need to be for their goals for overall digital marketing.
DV: So this was kind of like the strategy from the beginning it sounded like that you felt like the search marketing and digital marketing activities that they y’all were are known for, and focus a large part of your timeline, can’t happen without extensive development is designed to complement that, is that true.
TW: That’s very true it’s, it, it really they really do go hand in hand and even the clients that don’t require a total redesign usually require some extensive work that on the development side so it is just absolutely imperative, I think, as an agency that either you can provide that in house or have a very trusted partner to make sure that the, all the i’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed when it comes to the actual code of the site.
DV: Yeah, I imagine that allows you to move very quickly. And as you think about the development and design services you’re providing compliment with your marketing services. Do you have different checklists for each is like all one checklist or how do you how do you think about that within the context of your business.
TW: I’m not a huge fan of true true checklists, we have a number of things that we look at each site is very, you know, individual and, and when we’re working with a prospect. A lot of times we’re looking at not only the code of the site and you know running some audits and doing some crawls and looking at how they, you know, their site speed etc. which are all things that are there within what we’re looking at. We’re also looking at the design the user experience of the site. In fact, sometimes for a client, I will you know a prospect I’ll even install something like hot jar on their site for a few weeks just to see what’s going on there if it’s something that I’m not totally sure about, you know, we obviously know the best practices from, from a UX standpoint but but even then it’s you know looking at what theme are they using what what is their hosting. What, what is their hosting situation look like. Is it something that is where the site speed is is causing huge issues which, frankly, is as far as site speed goes that’s what I’m seeing the most right now is site speed issues with the mobile side of things and you know that are coming in the door and it’s really. Frankly, I mean, yesterday I did three did three analyses for proposed for prospects and all three of them had a site speed insights score a PageSpeed Insights score of less than 20 for mobile, which is absolutely unacceptable
DV: and with Google’s new update coming in these fast labels that’s going to be even more imperative as we think about the future, dig a little, sorry Tony Gaskins says, I want to dig a little deeper into this, we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
DV: hello everyone welcome back to Press This the WordPress community podcast on WMR This is your host, David Vogelpohl interviewing Tony Wright of Wright IMC about your must do agency new SMB customer checklist. Tony was explaining right before the break that PageSpeed was a big thing he’s noticed as customers are coming in and in particular with PageSpeed scores being low and Tony are kind of mentioned right before the break that Google has an algo update coming. That’s going to be kind of flagging PageSpeed and giving PHP more weight in terms of, like, the rankings. But I was hoping maybe you could, you know, talk a little bit more about that, like, how you’re viewing that with your customers.
TW: Well, obviously PageSpeed has been a factor for a while, but I think that the biggest thing that I’m cautioning clients about. Most people are already in what Google calls the mobile first index and if you’re not familiar with the mobile first index. What that means is the part of the algorithm that Google is looking at for speed, they’re looking at how your site loads on a typical mobile device. So, if you can actually go and just Google PageSpeed Insights, and there’s a tool that Google has given you can put your URL in and see what your score is it’s a score from one to 100, and you can check both desktop and mobile. The thing is that Google has said by March of this year. If you do not have something on your mobile site that you have on your desktop site, they’re just not going to index that portion of your site so. So we know that that’s important, but we also know that Google is looking at how that site loads on a mobile device, when they’re looking at the relevancy of that site for specific keywords when it comes to that part of the algorithm and it gets a little bit complicated, you know, and, frankly, we don’t even know exactly how that works because we don’t know how it’s weighted, but we have seen that when we can get a site, mobile site speed, or how fast it loads up the site does increase in rankings and it becomes easier to rank that site for specific queries. So we spend a lot of time looking at the responsive design, looking at the theme, understanding how we can get that site to load faster on a mobile device because it is extremely important when it comes to the search engine optimization of the site.
DV: so I kind of did threaded story as I was in to describe that and as I think about the threaded story I think about like well, your customers don’t know this stuff right they don’t know about the algo update and kind of what’s coming down the pipe, what we can tell what’s happened in the past or any of these strategies. And so it’s kind of up to you in a sense to alert them to things they need to be paying attention to. And of course, particularly when they’re coming through the door and you haven’t already received your health. When they come through the door though and I remember this was one of the big lessons I learned in my agency days, is that customers often ask for the wrong thing. As you as they come through the door and they’re asking you to do SEO or PPC and you’re like, hey, look what you really need first this new landing pages or a new redesign or this or that. How do you counsel them in that. Switching over, like their assumption on what they needed to what you think they actually
TW: are I think the best way that I found to do that is actually to show them data. I really encourage our prospects to give me at least read only access to their Google Analytics. And of course we run a lot of tests on a site. I mean one of the, I guess it’s not a true secret but one of the things that I do for every single prospect qualified prospect that comes through the door is I run a preliminary analysis of their site and I utilize, you know, a video of myself going through their site and looking at all of these things showing them what we’re seeing. And a lot of times that gives the prospect, an idea of kind of how we think about their site, but in many cases, it also opens their eyes to wait a minute, this is there’s something wrong here. You know if there is something wrong. You know when I show those site speed scores a lot of times and explain how that works. Oh my gosh that’s important I hadn’t thought of that. Or, if we look at you know I run just a very simple sem rush audit on a site, and they have you know 300 errors and like just yesterday I ran one that, you know, their, their current agency had installed their, their secure socket layer incorrectly and so they had making the content throughout pointing to the non secure to non secure portions of the site, which obviously you know to someone who doesn’t know, websites. They don’t even understand why that is an issue huge issue, but that creates a trust problem to where they could eventually even have on Chrome, when someone goes to their site, Google saying this site is not secure we don’t recommend you go there and there’s nothing worse than for your sales than Google Chrome telling your customers, not to go to your site. So, so it’s, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that I do that goes into that and showing them the data, usually will get them to think about it. Sometimes, people are stubborn and they and they want what they want and at the end of the day if their client I’ll say hey, you know, you’re the client we’re going to do what you want but I’m going to do it kicking and screaming and telling you why I don’t think that’s correct and if that happens a lot of times, frankly, they’re usually not a good fit for our agency because I. We’ve got enough work to where I don’t need a client, that is that is going to fight me for every, every step of the way anymore so we’re, you know, we’ll, we’ll tell them this is what you need, but if it keeps going on and on and they and they consist that if they want something that is, it’s not going to help them achieve their goals, then, then we probably are not they’re probably not going to last very long.
DV: And that doesn’t sound like a very good relationship to be in on either side and I’ve been there before. Some of my happiest days were firing clients they weren’t focusing on the right things in a polite way. Okay so want to save some time in this segment is I want you to kind of start running me through your kind of structure for agency and a checklist specifically but just like generally the things you check for but I wanted to do something a little fun First tell me a war story about something that went wrong with a customer that made you add something to your checklist. Did you forget to uncheck discourage search engines Tony was that the thing.
TW: Well no, actually, uh You know what’s funny is that for a long time I didn’t have the checking. I didn’t when a client would come in. We did you know we do our initial checks but I wouldn’t check there. And this is stupid I wouldn’t check the robots dot txt file. Periodically, and now that is something that is checked at least once a month. And the reason being, I’m going to say who it was but there’s a very, very large belching their IT department, decided that they thought that Googlebot was crawling their site too fast and taking up too much bandwidth and all the sudden our rankings completely dropped I couldn’t figure out why. And come to find out that they’re one of their IT guys had decided to put a put a disallow for Googlebot on their in their robots dot txt file to keep them from crawling the site and taking up quote unquote too much bandwidth.
DV: That’ll fix the server bandwidth issues.
TW: It probably cost that hotel chain about two $3 million a month for the month and a half we had expensive bandwidth there. Yeah, So, but, you know, but ever since. Actually we have a, an ongoing. That’s one of the things, ongoing, is that I don’t care I say you just have to look at the robots dot txt file once a month, and that’s my team, you know takes.
DV: It’s not just the kind of onboarding checklist it’s also these checklists that you’re kind of checking in an ongoing basis to make sure people aren’t getting themselves into a bad situation. I want to transition now if we could into kind of your structures and kind of hit on some good I think kind of one on stories and talking about things you check check for but could you do this from the high level talk about like the major pillars and things you check.
TW: The first. The first thing that that I always check for is, we were looking at you know what is the overall structure of the site what themes are they utilizing, what are the plugins that they have. Are there are there plugins, are they updated, you know, obviously, they’re coming in with a very old version of of WordPress, can, can it be updated to a more current version with the theme that they have is the theme supported, that’s a big one. If they’ve come if they’re coming in with a theme that is that is no, that has been deprecated or no longer around. I have to look at, we have to look at that because that’s usually going to take some time to transfer them over to another theme if they don’t need a total redesign. And if we’re going to transfer them over. We have to find one that’s going to fit with their design and all of the specifications that they have and that can take a lot of time. So, that’s kind of I you know looking at code is one of the big things that we do just looking at the overall code of the site, you know what, what, what is the setup. And obviously if they’re, you know if they’re on a hosting platform. Not all hosting platforms are created equal, as you know very well David. And so we want to make sure that the hosting platform that they’re on is going to be able to support what where we where we want to go with site speed with making sure that they’re not, you know, in a bad environment, making sure that we can you know we have, we can get them backups etc.
DV: Let me just just pause okay just to recap that part we’ve got the structure of the technology stack, taking a long look at you know their code and how they’re structured and what technologies they’re using their hosting your site speed. I want to kind of get through the rest of this list, we’re going to take a quick break.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl interviewing Tony Wright about his new customer checklist. Tony we’re kind of giving us the major pillars right before the break. You were talking about like the structure and technology stack of the site. I love how you mentioned that you check to see if the theme, even the customers using as is being supported or updated apparent familiar with what that means. And I don’t know a lot of people that actually go to that level a new customer checklist that’s a that’s a really good one. And then also talking about the hosting to make sure they’re in an environment you think is sufficient for what their needs are. And then you talked about site speed are you doing I’m guessing you’re doing PageSpeed test because you mentioned that earlier you kind of had a new customer and you noticed that their speeds were atrocious on mobile.
TW: Sure. And when I’m doing the Olympia the analysis before we’re getting into them becoming a customer, I’m just usually utilizing PageSpeed Insights when we’re actually building out the PageSpeed trying to improve it. I mean, we’re using gt metrics and several other tools that
DV: might make a distinction between optimizing for the PageSpeed Insights score and optimizing for the actual speed of the site. If you think of those differently, it sounds like using different tools,
TW: well we mean, when we’re reporting to the client I use the PageSpeed Insights just because it’s a lot easier for the, for the client to read and understand them the GT metrics are
DV: also funny I often say when people are like what’s the best PageSpeed testing tool my favorite one for analyzing and webpagetest.org. But if I want a stakeholder to say as I show on PageSpeed Insights.
TW: Oh, absolutely. Because, because some of those, you know those tools are great if you really know what you’re doing. But for the layman, they’re just overkill and I found that overkill with, especially with clients that aren’t as sophisticated makes it so they just turn off and then they don’t even listen when you do have something really important they don’t necessarily listen to you, their eyes glaze over,
DV: like the Google logo at the top doesn’t hurt. I think like when you say luck Google thinks our site is slow. We need to do some stuff to fix it. I feel like that gets to a yes to a yes faster than any other speed. I’m not sure and one
TW: of the other things is it’s a free tool and you can they can run it as often as they want. And so I’ll give them the URL for the PageSpeed Insights test and just say, you know, go run this yourself you can, you know, I’m not lying to you you can see you can run this and see, see the exact scores that I’m giving you
DV: yeah I love that, I love that but the power information in the hands of the customers, so I’m sorry to cut you off though and your list you have kind of the structure technology stack hosting sites v What are other major pillars you check for sure.
TW: Well we’re also, you know, obviously if we’re if we’re gonna, you know, we need to decide if they’re if they need a redesign or not. And sometimes that decision is also made based upon our their legacy systems that we need to look at are they are they tied into any sort of marketing automation are they tied into a CRM, though, all of those. All of those things you know I’m a huge. I’m a huge built with fan I use built with all the time. And I’m looking at prospects just to see what is running on the site and see you know the basic structure of it obviously looking at it from a development tools as well and seeing, seeing what is going on on that site just just. I find that sometimes it’s also, you know, when we’re when a prospect comes in. I need to know what what all they’re running on that site. What are you know, and that also usually helps me in the discovery section session if we need to do a redesign, because then I can say okay you’re using, you’re using this particular plugin or you have this particular, this particular thing running on the site What are you using that for Do you really need you know, crazy, Google Analytics and Adobe on your site, and that type of thing
DV: that’s that’s interesting and just real briefly because we’re kind of running a little short on time but is analytics part of that checklist as well like their analytics health.
TW: Yes, absolutely. We. Whenever I’m doing. If a client can at all I asked for access to their analytics. Just read only access, especially so that I can make sure that their analytics is set up properly. I also look at we also look at their goals in their e commerce they haven’t set up correctly, do they have dashboards, etc.
DV: Oh my goodness goals I’m so glad you mentioned that I remember my agency days I don’t, I think we maybe had one customer and all that all those five years, that actually had goals set up going into it. Well, Tony. This was super informative, thank you so much for joining me here today.
TW: Thank you for having me David it’s really a pleasure speaking with you.
DV: Awesome, super helpful insights there. If you’d like to learn more about what Tony is up to you can visit right wrightIMC.com, like to thank everyone for listening to press this WordPress community podcasts on WMR. Again, this is your host, David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week.