by Courtney Eckerle
When marketers are looking at redesigning their website, there are usually two pressing concerns. How will these changes affect organic search traffic? And then, once prospects arrive to the website, how will these changes affect conversion?
Website conversion optimization was the endgame for One Call Now, America's largest provider of routine and emergency voice, SMS text, text-to-voice and email notifications, during its website overhaul including improved on-page SEO to increase organic search traffic.
"A website is never truly fully optimized," said Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, One Call Now. "There is always something to do."
However, the issue One Call Now was facing wasn't just tweaks here or there — its entire website needed overhauling to expand along with its customer-base.
"The main challenge we were facing, that caused this whole initiative to be taken on, is we are about a 10-year-old company, and … close to three years ago, our markets really started to diversify," he said.
Starting out, One Call Now mainly served sports teams, nonprofit organizations and schools, Baldwin added.
However, "businesses began to see value in a one-to-many communication service such as ours," said Brian Ferrar, Chief Marketing Officer, One Call Now.
It was a potential threat with a stagnant website, One Call Now would be left behind.
The issue, according to Ferrar, was that "people would come to our website and see pictures of school buses and soccer balls, [and] we didn't appear to be the enterprise-level solution many businesses were looking for."
The challenge for their team, Baldwin and Ferrar said, became not only rebranding themselves, but developing their content and search engine optimization strategies to be more appealing to their growing business markets.
Baldwin, as well as Christina Brownlee, Marketing Communications Director, One Call Now, and their team were tasked with rolling out a brand new website.
This involved identifying of all of the buyer personas on the website, and identifying all of the conversion actions to go along with them.
From there, the team had to create new and attractive calls-to-action specific to each of those personas, outlining a planned and appropriate next step. They then developed content that would appeal to each.
One Call Now didn't really market to specific personas before this initiative, according to Brownlee.
"It was quite the evolution … It was very complex, because not only were we looking at where our markets were, but we also had to speak with them with all of the different voices," she explained.
The new website was more than 10 times the size of the previous one, but was built with enhanced segmentation to provide more niche messaging and benefit statements.
In the process, Ferrar said projects such as this one "can meander — and that's not good for any budget. So, ensuring there was direction and progress being made was important to minimize this project's impact on our budget."
To ensure the project didn't stray off course and budget, the team held weekly meetings to discuss roadblocks and the progress of the project throughout the entire campaign.
Step #1. Understand the customer
To begin, Baldwin said the team identified issues currently plaguing the website — SEO opportunities that were not being capitalized on, and outdated imagery and content.
"There was a group brainstorm that took place that identified some issues that we wanted to really address in the website optimization," he said.
The team started first by identifying four buyer personas by working with a consultant. Previously, they hadn't considered "tailoring digital content to each individual persona," but at this point, they worked to identify four they wanted to accommodate on the site, all "relevant to the markets that we do business in."
- Competitive: Baldwin said this persona wants to see the advantage you can deliver over your competitors. They like to compare solutions side by side: "It could be a soccer coach who is trying to get communications honed for his team, or it could be a Fortune 500 executive who is looking to drive the bottom line."
- Humanistic: This persona is going to react more to testimonials, case studies and "how you're able to help other organizations and market with a purpose," Baldwin said. One Call Now's charitable initiatives come into play here, he added.
- Methodical: Baldwin said this persona likes to read and analyze data, so product specs, case studies and technical aspects of the product are going to reach this persona. "They're going to ravenously consume your content, so make sure you've got strong copy," he added.
- Spontaneous: This is an impulse buyer, who "typically buys on the first visit, and doesn't think twice about it — just goes for it." The purchasing process needs to be easy for them to work with their spontaneous purchase habits.
"We attributed each persona to a character on "Star Trek" … so this whole website optimization effort became known as the Spock project," Baldwin said, giving the examples that "humanistic was the doctor. Methodical is your Spock … Competitive or spontaneous was your Kirk."
Vertical and subvertical markets
The one thing that was different about the site after the "Spock project" took place, he said, is they had certain verticals segmented with subverticals, where certain verticals were segmented based on application.
It wasn't who was using it, Brownlee added, "it was how they were using it."
There was "a little bit of a disconnect" in how the team was presenting the product initially, Baldwin said, so for example, the subverticals for business would be "business continuity, employee communication, things like that."
The team decided to pick up "this subvertical philosophy and apply it across all of our verticals where applicable," Baldwin said.
They essentially kept the same structure with education, except adding virtual schools as a "viable opportunity, and we decided to accommodate that emerging market with our new website," he said.
One Call Now hired a vertical marketing manager, who verified their initial subvertical work, and after additional research, made the decision to go after other industries as well, such as property management, utilities and healthcare.
For instance, Baldwin said he was able to discover the core competency for a healthcare company would be using One Call Now's service to solve staffing needs and fill empty shifts more than for communicating during an emergency.
"We had to … accommodate the voice of the customer and to appeal to the most commonly applicable service," Baldwin said.
Step #2. Improve content to accommodate diversifying markets and their needs
"As our business developed and the business market came into fruition, we had to evolve," Brownlee said.
Since its online rhetoric was presenting itself as "friendly and approachable," companies believed One Call Now was smaller, and not able to take on larger businesses, despite it having "a really robust system."
With the repurposing of the website, Brownlee said the company was able to "step up, and really play in that market quite effectively" while still maintaining the writing styles of the other verticals that needed a more approachable style.
"Something I feel strongly about is storytelling," Ferrar said.
He said his focus as CMO during this process was to ensure that in the company’s case studies, blog posts and websites, the team engage in storytelling using the voice of the customer.
"We work hard every day to show the millions of people who rely on our notifications every day that we are the leaders in our industry, that we have a solid social conscience," Ferrar said.
Between its vertical and subvertical space, Brownlee agreed One Call Now has made a "significant evolutionary leap in delivering the amount of online thought leadership."
"We had some case studies that we had developed over the years that we were not highlighting. We had so many blog entries that we hadn't really been able to push," she added, saying implementing different sections for these case studies, now separated by verticals, and pulling blog entries has been "huge."
According to Brownlee, One Call Now brought in an external writing agency to help produce a lot of its content. All of the vertical marketing managers work with the external editorial team to craft:
- Client success stories
- Industry publication feature articles
- Blog posts (both industry and One Call Now-related)
- White papers featuring clients
Brownlee added it has been an incredible addition in the evolution of "knowing who we are and developing our brand. Hiring people outside to write for you makes you focus on how it is that you want people to discover who you are, how you want to be perceived."
One Call Now's "About Us" section has been a previously undeveloped opportunity for people to learn not just about the company, but the people behind it — a page that might appeal to the humanistic persona.
"We're in the business of mass notification, but if you look at our About Us page, you'll be able to see that we are a company who is not only devoted to furthering the business and everything else, but we're also people and we really want to make our communities better," Brownlee said.
Step #3. Optimize the site for organic search
The next objective was to capitalize on on-page SEO gains as a result of creating this new kind of structure for the website.
"We've identified our personas and we've identified what kind of content we think they would be interested in. So, we created a page structure that would accommodate that interest," Baldwin said.
He gave the example for methodical people, the team developed a resources page to read various case studies, or a testimonial page for a humanistic persona.
On your website, Baldwin said, "every page is an opportunity to rank for a … targeted keyword, and every group of pages is an opportunity to create context around a group of keywords that feed to each other and build each other up, and create an area of relevance for our client base."
Too many people try to optimize the website for a robot or spider, Baldwin said, "when in reality, if you optimize your website for the people who are going to use your website, you're going to get more traffic, you’ll be more relevant."
The focus of this campaign was around "creating a better, richer digital experience for our website visitors and in our brand interactions in general."
However, the team didn't neglect off-page optimization completely, "just a little bit, at first," Baldwin said.
They have "proprietary tools in place to help us build relevant links, and an active social media program." Additionally, Baldwin added, content marketing has helped to build out "credible thought leadership pieces that have been picked up and linked to by industry influencers and publications," all of which helped the optimization of their off-site content.
A keyword map was created for "direction and preliminary keyword research for us to get the ball rolling," Baldwin said.
The team did keyword research to identify relevant keywords to include throughout the site.
Reformatting style rules for their H1 tags allowed Baldwin and his team to place the H1
in "an attractive place using styles that weren't obnoxious or loud."
Elements that were optimized with a new keyword selection were "meta descriptions, image alt tags, page title and the use of strong tags to highlight keywords in the body copy," he said.
Vertically specific keywords were assigned to relevant pages, page titles, descriptions and image tags, he added.
Step #4. Learn from SEO metrics to help with SEM
Because the current website is much larger than the previous iteration, "there was more opportunity to rank for more keywords," Baldwin said.
"Creating continuity between our organic and paid keyword lists was and still is important," he said. Currently, in the relationship functions where "SEM is a laboratory that we use to test interest in new keywords, and to run optimization tests on ad copy, landing pages and remarketing ads."
Google Analytics, "right out of the gate, is huge" as a tool to measure the results of initiatives, Baldwin said.
It helped Baldwin create a couple of advanced long-tail search query segments using regular expression code that would show traffic and conversion score for three-, four-, five-, six-, seven- and eight-word query streams.
Baldwin said while four-word search queries actually had a slightly higher conversion rate, "the traffic driven by four-word query search terms is a fraction of that driven by three-word queries."
Conversion rates of three-word search queries, both branded and non-branded, drove a "very, very close second." However, if only categorized by the sheer number of conversions, "three-word queries win every time — by a long shot," he said.
Bing it on
Utilizing Bing was important to them, Baldwin said, adding many SEO marketers mistakenly ignore it. One Call Now uses Bing Ads alongside Google Analytics and AdWords to measure the search program's effectiveness.
While Google dominates the search market, the population that doesn't use it is still significant because "that's a lot of people that are coming through paid search channels … tens of millions of people that you could be marketing to."
One of the "coolest tests we've run in AdWords is with our remarketing ads," Baldwin said.
One Call Now's text-based remarketing ads feature a title line or a headline, and then two lines of copy. These text-based remarketing ads will essentially follow people around the website based on a cookie in the browser.
"If someone comes to our website and they do not complete a conversion action, then their browser is cookied … and where there is ad space available in their browsing experience on third-party sites, on the display network, one of our remarketing ads will show," Baldwin said.
He added he would label it a branding initiative, and they "came out of the gate with text ads, and then we knew we wanted to create some kind of graphically-oriented ads," using creative featuring real people.
One Call Now had ads that focused more on an “urgent kind of a feel for … emergency communications” but tested ads featuring “people smiling — happy, friendly ads with the same messaging.”
The friendly ads they developed focused on specific verticals, such as:
The team found ads revolving around "lowest prices on the Web, and function" were consistently the top performers, regardless of "whether there was emergency imagery or sunny day imagery."
Moving forward with the evolution of the ads, Baldwin said, they will be very informational, and One Call Now is going to take more of an offer-based orientation, he said.
This is an initiative, he said, where the team is taking charge of being thought leaders, and using content marketing. They are testing if "people [are] going to connect with a piece of value-added content, or will they connect with a service-based offering?"
So, the variable will be the type of offer, determining if one person wants "15% off with this promotional code … [and] this person wants to get this white paper."
Step #5. Optimize the site for conversion
Driving traffic to One Call Now's website is the ultimate goal for all of the team’s hard work, Baldwin said, as well as the payoff as a marketer.
"That's why we do keyword research, that’s why we strategically place them on a page, that's why we use them in writing blog posts and social media posts, and link all of this stuff together to create a holistic approach to it," Baldwin explained.
Before this campaign, One Call Now had an actions panel
. Inside were all of the calls-to-action for the entire page, featuring:
- Request a Quote
- Sample Call
- Download PDF
- Free Trial
- Have Someone Call Me
- Live Chat
- Send Us an Email
Limit calls-to-action on pagesAs Baldwin began to read about landing page optimization during this process, "about offering limited conversion options, about the paradox of choice," the thought began to develop that One Call Now needed to limit the number of calls-to-action it featured on the page.
From the previous actions panel, the team created three-button layout, consisting of:
- Free Trial
- Receive a Sample Call
- Learn More
Clicking "Learn More" would lead the customer to a phone number to call, or they could request a quote from within that button.
As a result of the change, he said, "request a quote" counts fell so dramatically in April that "if I show you an aggregate trend line, you could see there is just a canyon of where the request a quotes fell" when they removed the button from the webpage.
In spite of the drop, Baldwin said it was "an awesome moment for me in my development as a digital marketer in that, yes, things that are made available on the webpage are truly interactive, are truly consumed and truly do affect the bottom line of this business that we’re all trying to build and grow.”
A customer lifetime value analysis was done and it was determined a customer coming through "Request a Quote" on an aggregate spends more money.
With that realization, it was important to have the button back on the page, he said, and "so the concept of this quadrant-style call-to-action area," was born with four buttons, and four calls-to-action.
Brownlee explained not all of One Call Now's plans are available on the website, so it is necessary to speak with someone, and the "Request a Quote" button allows customers to take the first step without making the phone call.
"When you're trying to drive those higher-end clients … you want them to have some sort of ability to get their toe in the water," she said.
Baldwin added many of the company's markets are complex sales where "there are IT infrastructures to talk about, there’s system integrations … and the 'Request a Quote' is essentially necessary."
After moving to the four-button format, "Request a Quote" frequency increased "back to levels that far surpassed what they were before." Free trials remained high as well, Baldwin said.
"In the beginning, we were merely trying to create a website that was more appealing to a corporate audience. What we got was so much more," Ferrar said.
He added "perfection is impossible … it's never ending — an unattainable ideal," but now that the team has realized the financial impact of this effort, "the scope of Marketing’s job has exponentially increased."
Instead of merely focusing on SEO and SEM, "it's all about the optimization of the digital experience, driven by a scientifically-motivated testing program … we've adopted the mantra that the goal of marketing is not to persuade, it is to learn what our clients want and to serve it to them."
Baldwin said he has adopted a couple of philosophies out of this experience, saying the first one is that "driving the online conversion is critical in building in conversion and lead attribution."
His other takeaway, he said, was to never compromise user experience for internal processes.
"This is a good fight that we fight every day to keep our website user-friendly. Know that one more form field in that form really will cause more people not to fill it out," he said.
The conversion optimization efforts paid off in the following year-over-year results (comparing April 2011 to April 2012):
- Overall traffic increased by 9.3%
- Organic search traffic increased by 32.3%
- Paid search traffic increased by 48.7%
- Conversion activity (overall) increased by 81%
- Revenue driven by Web-related activities increased by 24%
Before this optimization effort, organic search represented 55% of One Call Now's search traffic. After the initial optimization effort, organic search was 52% of its search traffic.
"There was a 32% increase in the amount of organic search traffic, so the optimization of other channels such as paid search and our email and social media programs contributed to a large increase in traffic in the new year," Baldwin said.
The big picture takeaway from this campaign for Baldwin is: "You're testing, testing, testing and you need to take pause from time to time to do an analysis."
Marketers need to consistently ask themselves, he concluded, "What does this mean, what are the implications, how can this lead to improvements in business and how can this drive the needle?"
To learn more about One Call Now's website redesign, join Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, for a MarketingSherpa webinar interview with Brownlee and Baldwin. Their presentation, "Search Marketing: Insights on keyword research and customer personas," will be held Wednesday, August 21, 2013, from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. (EDT).
- H1 placement
- Education ad
- Religion ad
- Business ad
- General ad
- Original actions panel
- Three-button CTA
- Aggregate trend line
- Four-button CTA
SourceOne Call Now
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