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Tips for Growing Your Business with Fewer Website Visitors

An interview with George Lee

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt hosted George Lee, CEO of SNAP Agency. George disproves the myth that website traffic increases a business’s revenue and unveils the best practices to drive real results. Dive in to get a grip on these practices and boost sales now.

Your target customer needs to be documented and understood. Without that, it would be like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

George Lee
CEO of SNAP Agency
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser. And on today's show, I have George Lee with me. George is the CEO and Accelerator of SNAP Agency, a Digital Technology and Marketing agency headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a thought leader, influencer, and risk-taker. He built his first e-commerce website in 2000. And has since launched 15 online stores across three different channels. He has also served in Senior Executive positions at the Data Card Group, MasterCard International. He is the co-founder of Tecton, a nonprofit social enterprise that is an electronics recycling industry leader, helping provide employment opportunities to the economically challenged. George, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the show.

I’m glad to be here.

So, George, you had a topic you wanted to talk about, like tips for growing your business with fewer website visitors. It was slightly thrown off when I read it without any explanation. Could you elaborate a little bit about what you're talking about? And then, we can discuss your philosophy behind that.

So quite a while ago, when I started the agency 11 years ago, I started working with organizations other than our websites. And the first request was, can you increase the number of visitors to my website? And our first question back to them was, what’s your conversion rate? Conversion rates are abysmal; it’s a quarter or a 10th of a percent. Well, you can double the visitors to your website, but you’re not going to double your sales. It’s not going to happen. So how do we address the conversion of the visitors to your website? There’s a place to start. So there are lots of tools, heat maps and other things. But it’s about the customer journey and having the right content, top-level, middle of the funnel, the bottom of the funnel, and guiding people through there. And then we asked, what, you know, what is your site optimized for? And is that a keyword? Then, long tail keywords came into play that says how to track people that are closer to the bottom of the funnel. And they are looking specifically for what they want or their problem. And they’re looking for a solution. And most candidly, today, you still have companies going through this exercise and go, what do you mean? If this is my primary keyword, I want to show up on page one of Google for my primary keyword.

Yeah, and that might help you, and that keyword might not have commercial intent. Like it just could be an informational search.

Correct. We want those keyword strings with a greater level of intent. So we started working by taking the approach that said, Alright, do you want to grow your business, or do you want to grow the visitors to your website and have more traffic? And they always say yes to both. Well, let’s just pick one. And we’re going to pick the one that says; we’re going to help you grow your business. We started this early, and traditional marketers understand that we want to research your targeted persona. Who is your target customer that’s either gathering information or making a decision on let’s structure not only the content and the website, but let’s structure everything around keywords for the way that those people talk and type things into search engines? So all of a sudden, we have clients, manufacturers, and e-commerce companies growing my website, but traffic is going down. Yes, but what’s happening to your sales? The sales are increasing monthly and yearly, but my website visitors are down. Again, do you want to increase your business and your revenue and money or increase visitors to your website? Well, I want to grow my business. I go, okay, that’s what’s happening. So basically, that is the approach we took and had some terrific case studies to support it. But we start from day one now with who is your targeted persona? We have a branding team that dives into education and all kinds of persona factors, and we use that as a brand platform, not only for content and imagery on our website but the customer journey. More importantly, what keywords are those people typing in the search engines?

Yeah, it's fascinating that you bring this up because there are so many things. For instance, the customer journey and personas, I cannot tell you how many interviews; you can go back and watch what I've done so far. In which it's marketing 101, who is your target persona, and what is the customer journey? And everyone said they've worked with enterprise-level businesses that don't even know what this is. Brands, big brands. And I can attest to that because I worked for a car dealership as the Marketing Director. And I asked the head office for such things on a car by car basis, like who's buying this car so I can develop content. They didn't have it, and it blew my mind away. And the other thing that comes up is most people don't realize how important this is. It's the foundation of marketing. I even have one guest, an instructor at a marketing school, and she says even the students don't want to do it. They thought they just wanted to get tweeting and to write the tweets. But if you don't do the foundation of the customer persona and the customer journey, you don't even know what to write. Because, as you said, it's so strategic to find those long tail keywords. But I guess one of the challenges is like, there's a certain amount of money, and people think that it's a, I'm going, being frank, people think it's a waste of money, which I don't understand because it's intangible to spend that money on that customer journey. But yet you and I know it's so strategic. It's so important. It's the foundation. So how do you bridge that gap with business owners, other CEOs, and entrepreneurs and say no, this is very important? You need to spend the money to do this. Are there objections you get that you've found ways to stress the importance of that whole thing?

Yes. I can share a few recent examples where you quantify the value of that customer journey. So I ask every new and candidly existing client these four questions when I have an opportunity to talk with them, and they are, who are you? Doesn’t mean your name, doesn’t mean your logo, but who are you as an organization? What is the essence of your organization, and what’s important to your mission, vision, values, and so forth? Very few organizations have that document. So then, what do you do, and which problem are you solving? And specifically, the persona, who do you specifically solve that problem for? And then the fourth question is, why should somebody choose you versus other alternatives? I said, Okay, you have about 60 seconds, maybe a little longer than that, to answer all four of those questions, in any advertisement for your website, to anybody that has eyes on your ad campaigns. I said, let’s look at your bounce rate. You’re going, so Okay, let’s look at your blog bounce rate. Oh. So that’s when they start talking and at about five minutes, I go, you know what? I tuned out three minutes ago; I’m gone. A recent example is a healthcare organization where we did everything the way that I just described in terms of brand discovery and brand platform, and it seemed design, UX, and UI all the way through. And their CEO spent a significant chunk of money on an updated website. And then their CEO came back and challenged the VP of marketing that said, what did we get from this investment of an updated website other than it’s a lot more attractive than the old? And I said, well, let’s look at your bounce rate. Your bounce rate decreased by 56% exactly. How do you measure the value of your customer journey? How about decreasing the bounce rate on your website by more than half? That’s a lot sticking to your website; I think what does that mean? That means people can find what they’re looking for. They can get the information they want or transact with you in the way your target customer wants to transact with you. So that’s the goal. So how do you measure the value of UX? That’s one way to measure the value of UX. Yes, everybody’s got an opinion. And again, my perspective is that it’s taking traditional marketing. The cigarette companies mastered that before cigarettes were outlawed in the United States, the Marlboro Man and take a billboard driving down the highway. I mean, how does your target customer talk? So literally, we interviewed target cutting. We’re going through an exercise with one of our larger clients. You just don’t understand our target customer. And I go, Well, you have customers, let’s interview those customers, and we want to ask them the questions. So literally, what questions do they ask when looking for a solution to a problem? Online? So how about taking whether it’s engineers? It doesn’t make any difference what the persona is. You talk to 10 or 20 of those personas, and it’s amazing how consistent they are with the questions they ask for solutions they’re looking for. We go; okay, let’s start focusing on those specific keyword strings that persona, their target customer, typed in because that’s what they asked. When someone types in a longtail keyword string, it’s the way that they would talk. Now, Google’s gotten smart and can interpret what they think you’re looking for. But in terms of getting your website ranked, let’s put that type of content and wording exactly on the on-page as well as the technical side of the website pages.

Yeah, building content around those words. And you mentioned speaking to the personas and the existing customers. I mean, I heard from one guest that the stipulation for working with one of her clients was that she would spend one day in the customer service department listening to customer service calls. So do you think that's a valuable way to find that information? And just listen to those calls?

Yes. Especially in a B2C environment.

Yeah. Especially for a B2C environment. Yeah. What about B2B?

We are primarily a B2B agency. We do have manufacturers that have E-com functionality on their websites. But in our case, it’s using Google Surveys to get people on the telephone. And user conferences and many different ways. But the whole essence is, what are the keyword strings that the audience is like? And the only way you can do that is by asking the questions. And it seems to be working. So again, the whole objective is you want to grow your business. That’s great. And if you do it the right way, starting at Ground Zero, your website traffic will probably decrease over three or four months, but your sales will increase, and your website visitors will start tracking up again. But they will follow your sales or leads or your website’s objective.

Its correlation between seeing the traffic goes down because you're not wasting traffic on irrelevant searches and targeted prospects and visitors interested in what you're offering. But you also have developed a clear message based on who your persona is, mapping out their journey of what they're looking for and taking them through that process. And they're more interested. You have more targeted content and more targeted searches, and you're optimizing for those things. Even though your traffic goes down, you're saying there's a correlation between the bounce rate going down and more leads in business results. That's amazing. When I was at the car dealership, all they talked about, all they wanted was more leads, more leads, more leads. And I was like, Well, what about all the things you're talking about, but they were so impatient, they didn't care about those things, just wanted more leads, more leads, more leads. But I eventually started to put in strategic KPIs and things like that to measure what was happening to prove that we needed to do things differently. So when it comes to like, you mentioned the searches or the questions that the people that you're interviewing are asking and getting that information, do you use any tools like keyword research tools to correlate that and verify that data, to make sure those are actual search terms or do you just base it on those interviews?

We use SEO Moz and AGL and a whole bunch of tools to narrow the focus. There are businesses, usually startups, that come to us, or if a new company wants to launch a new product and then go, what’s the best way to market this? And candidly, there are times that we have to say, not digitally. When it’s, no one is searching for it. No one knows what you did. So no, wrong place to spend your money, sorry. I end up saying no a lot. Either client expectations they’re going; I just want to increase visitors to my website. Well, we’re not the right fit for you guys. It’s okay, but we’re going to either fire you or you’re going to fire us.

And then you have to worry about your reputation because they think you were a terrible marketing agency when it wasn't a right fit in the first place. I wish I had learned that lesson earlier in my life, George, in my journey, instead of just trying to take, because there are certain clients that I there's, nobody is searching, and people have come to me and said, Hey, Matt, like I even got somebody now. And I won't do it. I haven't told them yet. Nobody is searching for what you're selling. Even longtail low volume searches. Nobody is searching for what you're selling. But I have a question, though. What about doing like, for instance, I know somebody creates some darn wrist band or something, and they hit success on Facebook ads by targeting that way, by demographic targeting or whatever you call it. Like, targeting people not on search but based on who they are? Is that the way to go about it to solve that?

Something that’s a new product or niche product. It’s not Google or Bing; it’s social media. That’s how we’ve helped companies launch and grow until they have enough of a market presence. But you can target it so tightly because of some restrictions Facebook has put on over the last six months, but you can do that. And analytics will tell you who is coming to your website and looking for some information. As part of their quarterly QBRs, we have clients who will go. What do you mean our primary customers are females between 23 and 35? That’s who has been buying your stuff or making a loan, whatever it is. Yeah. What? And what do you mean 80% are transacted over a mobile phone? Why are we spending money on your website? Your website is what shows up on a mobile phone. So yeah, that helps a lot if you have enough graphics to generate to help zero in on who that target audience is.

Yeah, that's amazing. And so did they think their customer was somebody else? Were they, like, completely caught off guard?

This particular one, they are just going, doesn’t make sense. We think it’s males in this age range. Well, that’s what the data says, do what you want, but here’s the data. And they’re going okay; we need to soften up; they are smart. We need to soften up the harshness of the colors on Pantone and all kinds of things on our website. So using the data to enhance the user experience is kind of the secret sauce.

So, do you think it's important, for instance, is it possible to launch a venture, from the ground up, of developing the personas and the identity of who you think your client is? And building a website that will exactly affect what you've been talking about? Or do you need to build the site first, get the traffic and let the data tell you? What I'm trying to say is, can you do the data first to find out who they are and avoid the headache of misunderstanding who your customer is? Or have you found that you can go out and from the beginning, do all that research, develop those customer personas without that customer journey, and get the low bounce rate and the conversions in the business?

I think you can get 80% of it upfront, but there’s always going to be information that the data will provide. We’ve created websites and brands for Disney and Lucas Films and some other innovations, and they know their target customer. A SaaS-based company that’s coming out with a new SAAS platform. Go here, our competitors, we’re going to go right. We can reverse engineer stuff to get some insight. And you can get 80% of your data launched in that situation.

So what are your strategies for creating the content around those long tail keywords with that personas? Are there multiple personas that develop that you create content around?

Yeah, so typically, especially in larger organizations, you’ve got different personas. And in healthcare a perfect example is healthcare. So if you’re dealing with seniors, your persona is the caretaker. But you have to solve the problems that the actual whoever they’re caring for has. But you must create the content for searches based on the caretaker’s persona. So you have two target audiences. And in larger organizations, you’ve got the decision-maker, somebody up the food chain, doing research. So they’re just trying to find alternatives. So it’s really important to talk to an organization that says, Okay, who is asking for information and who is the decision-maker? And often, there are sometimes two or three personas, and the point is to create content for where that person enters the website. So if they’re looking for information, that’s top of the funnel. They’re not looking for stuff in the middle of the funnel; they’re still looking for solutions to a problem. They haven’t narrowed down exactly what their problem is, sometimes. They’re feeling something, have a need, and don’t know what the solution might even look like and what the alternatives are. So I mean, they go further down the funnel, ” Okay, we’re looking for a commercial vacuum system. We have an Italian client that I was on a call with yesterday. I’m going to go, commercial vacuums or industrial vacuums. Oh, no, that’s industrial vacuums. Are they? Let’s do some data. There are some tools you can put on your website, which we put on their website and go, these are the companies that are coming to your website, and this is what they’re typing in the search. Its commercial vacuums mean industrial vacuums.

Yeah. Because there's a difference, isn't there, between commercial and industrial big time?

There is, but the point is, what are your target customers typing in? What are your competitors using for keywords on their websites?

Whoo. Yeah. So so, yeah. So doing the competition analysis is part of the strategy. And then obviously finding, what's the word, I'm looking for the gap analysis between, what they have and what the competitors have and filling that gap with content.

That’s exactly right, and that solved the problem yesterday with this Italian client that said, No, in Italy and Europe, this is what people type in. Sorry, Dorothy, you’re not in Italy anymore. Here is what your competitor’s keywords are? Well, okay. You can’t argue with the data. You may not like it, but you can’t argue with it.

I think more data-driven marketing is the future. I don't even know if people have been paying attention.

For content, you have two audiences. You’ve got humans, and you got robots from the surgeon. I have this conversation pretty regularly. I go; I want to approve every blog post because this is how I want it to read and go, do you? Well, first of all, how many people are looking at your blog post, humans? Or do you want to rank? Which is the search engine? You have two audiences; which one do you want? We have a client right now that it’s all about humans. And I go, that’s fine, you’re getting zero value for all that content you’re putting in once or twice a week, and here’s why. So if you want to waste your money or not, that’s the question.

Sorry to be blunt.

I said 93% of their traffic is not to their blog posts. Great information resource. That’s what you want. You’re spending money to create content generating nothing for your business.

It could cost money and web hosting traffic costs without getting an ROI. And there is an art and science to creating content that, like, do you think it's possible to create content that satisfies both? Like the user and the bot?

Yeah, it’s structured, though. And in our games, when we look at heat maps and other things, the top 15%-20% of the content is what the humans, almost exclusively what humans are looking for. And there’s a way from a technology perspective to address what the humans are looking for and then not clutter up a page. Seven or 800 words are structured for robots.

Very rarely do I read a full blog post or complete resource. I scan those; everybody does it; we scan some headlines, sub-headlines, and bullet points to get the information. If we are researching, we'll read it more. But I think the rest of that content is written for this algorithm, the search engine, the gorilla, Google or smaller competitors' market share, and even who else there is.

Google also happens on YouTube, which means their algorithms are enhanced, or anybody that has a video on their website and they’re looking at the length of the video, and it’s not one thing it’s a lot of things that you have to look at.

What about creating to get, you've lowered your traffic, you've targeted your personas, what about creating, segmenting your traffic by seeing, like, I'm thinking of four columns on the page, are you this kind of customer? Are you 18 to 35, Looking for this or whatever? 18 To 25, 26 to 30 like if it was healthcare, and are you these agencies, we're looking for this? Have you found strategies like that to help people segment who they are that have been effective?

It’s insightful information. Sometimes it’s surprising, but we’ve used little pop-ups. We asked for demographic information. And it’s a little annoying, so you can’t do it permanently. Some companies like doing them, and you’re just annoying people. That’s like asking or requiring you to set up an account to purchase something. There we go. You just eliminated nowadays about 80% because nobody wants more accounts.

Yes, that's true.

Everybody has too many passwords to begin with. So they don’t need it anymore. How about a discount? We just want an email address. Well, you will have an email address for anybody who checked out.

So there are times they can have an account just to buy something rather than wait for them to decide to buy and create an account? They are trying to do it in a reverse way or to capture the leads, sort of a deal? That's not going to work.

You can log into your account and already have your address; you don’t have to put your address and credit card information on. A lot of people like myself have auto sales technologies on their laptops. No. I don’t need to create another account at some businesses to transact themselves. Again it’s the user experience for you.

Is there anything you want to add. Are there any questions you think I should have asked that I didn't?

There is so much, Matt. I think we covered a lot of ground. I think we tried to stay on topic.

Is there a big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?

I think we discussed it earlier, and that is you need to document and understand your target customer. Completely. And it is worth the investment to do that because you should use that brand platform for anything you create, whether it’s a brochure, a business card, a website, or your tradeshow booth. Everything that is created, your content. Everything. If you don’t do that, it’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Yeah. I completely agree with you essentially, if I may sum it up. If I may? You need to get your business down to your elevator speech, who you are and who you target. And that is not easy to do. It requires an investment of time, money, resources, and research. But it is essential if you want to be successful.

My four questions, if you can answer these questions in fifteen seconds, then you have it down. Who are You? What is the essence of your organization? What problem do you solve? Who do you solve it for, and why should anyone choose you versus the alternatives?

You need a well-crafted elevator speech. I want to thank you so much for coming to the show. How can our listeners connect with you?

You can track me down on LinkedIn, George or at george@snapagency.com. You can Google me George Lee – Snap Agency. Like it or not, with my reputation, I am all over.

It's hard for me because my name is Matt Fraser, and other are many of us. You have a hockey player, there is a psychic there are so many other people. I don't know if you have that problem, but that's another discussion.

There is a surprising number of George Lee.

I was thinking about that as I was saying it. So George Lee Snap Agency, if you want to search for him on Google, you'll find him. Thank you, George, for coming to the show. I appreciate having you here.

It was a pleasure. Thank you.

You have a great day.

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