In this post, I will provide a comprehensive inbound marketing audit for Etherios.
This example is full of details and examples of the right and wrong ways to do things. I have also shared a number of the tools that I used to do my analysis.
Before we dive into the inbound marketing audit, let’s cover the basics…
Who is Etherios?
Etherios is a Salesforce.com Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner that I selected from the Salesforce AppExchange.
Like everyone working in inbound marketing, we all overlook or miss things (even the basics). The goal of this post is to help Etherios, and others, to learn ways to improve their online marketing, as well as to give a third-party perspective on a successful company.
To be fair, “audit” sounds like a terrible word, but in this case I ask that you think of “audit” as a metaphor for “being helpful”. The purpose of this audit is to give an outsider’s view of a great company. I hope that Chuck and his marketing team find this post helpful.
Before I jump into the nitty gritty of the inbound audit, it’s important to note that I have no affiliation with Etherios. Etherios did not ask me to perform this audit. As a result, I don’t have access to any of the site’s analytics or webmaster tools accounts, and I don’t have access to any of their back end marketing automation systems – if they even have one.
In a typical audit, I would begin by sifting through the data and then narrowing in on problem issues. So, if I make wildly inaccurate observations, I blame my data from third party tools (Quicksprout, Moz, etc…). These tools are very helpful; however, first party tools do provide better information.
The goal of this audit is to help Etherios. The aim is never to critique in a non-constructive, harmful way, but instead, to help Etherios to improve their inbound marketing by giving them the perspective of an objective third party. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.
Note: If you have questions, please use the comment form below.
Since this post will be fairly long, here is a summary of what I’ve covered to help you understand where you are throughout this audit.
- Calls to Action
- Landing Pages
- Premium Content Offers
- List Building
- Key take aways
As the website is the core of any inbound marketing strategy, we’ll start with there.
Home Page Messaging
For the vast majority of websites, the home page receives the most traffic. For this reason, it is absolutely critical that a company’s home page make a good first impression.
To make a positive first impression, the following visitor’s questions must be answered in less than 30 seconds.
- What does your company do?
- What problems do you solve?
- Why do I need your help?
If this objective is not achieved, the probability that the visitor will leave the site is very high.
Below is a screenshot of the “above the fold” portion Etherios’s home page as of Sept 24, 2014. (I use a large monitor, so the portion on a smaller monitor is even less than what I show below)
At first glance, it is easy to see that they are owned by Digi International and that they are a Salesforce.com partner.
What is less obvious are the answers to the 3 main questions that I highlighted above.
What does your company do?
As a first-time visitor, I can tell that they do something with solutions for the connected enterprise, and they must use Salesforce.com to do it.
Unfortunately, that is pretty vague.
Making matters less clear to me is the main headline (which I have put a red box around). The problem is that the main headline is all about Etherios. It tells me they are a Fullforce MASTER Partner…which is all fine and dandy, BUT, as this is my first time to their site, I don’t really care too much about THEM yet.
Instead, the only person I care about is ME. How can they help me? Am I the type of person that should be talking to this company? How are they going to make my life easier?
Sadly, the section in red (which actually rotates through several images) doesn’t do an effective job of answering these questions, and as a result, the bounce rate for the home page is probably higher than it would otherwise be. (Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave without visiting any other pages.)
Below the section in red, is more content that I have highlighted in blue. Unfortunately, this section of content really doesn’t do very much to provide answers to the first time visitor’s questions either.
Whenever I see a home page like this, it’s generally because they don’t have a strong understanding of their buyer personas (or if they do have a strong understanding, they haven’t used this information to craft their home page copy).
Now let’s look below the fold….
Below the fold we have two main sections; a customer testimonial and the list of bullet points (orange checkmarks).
Using customer testimonials is a very good idea, so I give them top marks for that. The headline, “We Enable Business Transformation” is a bit odd though. What does that mean? Why is it above a customer testimonial? Why not just say, “See What Our Clients Think” or something along those lines?
The next section (the orange check marks) is all about Etherios. “We do this…., we do that”….etc…
When you spend too much time talking about yourself, prospects lose interest. Instead of talking about themselves, it would be much more effective to provide answers to questions prospects are asking. Questions like the the ones I outlined above (What does your company do? What problems do you solve? Why do I need your help?).
If you doubt this, read all six bullet points and then ask yourself: Do you feel more inclined to contact them to learn more? If the answer is no, the copy is not effective.
It is true that at some point prospects are going to be interested in your company’s credentials…but that comes later, and that home page isn’t necessarily the best place for that.
What problems do you solve?
The only reason people buy products and solutions from companies is because they have problems to solve. In the case of Etherios, it’s not immediately clear what problems they solve – at least not in the language that a potential customer might use.
For example, in his book, Same Side Selling, author Ian Altman talks about a concept called Entice, Disarm, Discover. Using Ian’s framework to speak in a client’s language, here’s how we at Groove share what problems we solve for our clients:
Companies come to us when they are having trouble generating qualified leads for their sales team. We can help them to uncover the deficiencies in their online marketing, create an inbound marketing game plan, and then implement that plan in such a way that lead generation becomes predictable and automated – all for less than it would cost them to do with internal resources.
The key with the statement above is that it is written using language that a client would use to describe their marketing problem – not the other way around.
To see an example of one of Etherios’s competitors describe the problems they solve, have a look at Appirio’s home page.
Highlighted in red, we see a section of text and icons devoted to giving the visitor some clues as to what problems they can help you solve. While it’s not perfect, it does a better job than Etherios’s home page.
In addition, I’ve highlighted another section in green. Here, they are offering a free download that also gives a clue as to one of the problems that they can help a client solve. We’ll talk more about the value of free downloads later on in my audit.
Why do I need your help?
There is an old expression that says, “facts tell, but stories sell.”
On Etherios’s website, when I clicked the Customer link on the navigation bar, I was taken to what you see below.
There is some great content here! Obviously, Etherios is a successful company with plenty of clients. Why not put some of this on the home page instead of some of the content that is less effective?
When a prospective customer sees a success story of another company that is even remotely similar to them, it makes it much easier to understand how Etherios could help them.
For example, take a look at Bluewolf’s home page below and pay special attention to the areas that I have highlighted in red. To see these things, I didn’t have to click anything on the navigation bar.
There is a video that is going to tell me why clients choose Bluewolf. To the right of the video is a button that will take the visitor to a page of client reviews (stories). There are many reviews on this page that, in aggregate, provide a great deal of social proof.
Below these two buttons is one of two client quotes that automatically change back and forth. While neither quote is particularly descriptive to the layperson, to someone looking for the solutions Bluewolf offers, the text is likely more meaningful.
Had I not clicked the Customer link on Etherios’s navigation bar, I would have never seen the information about the clients they work with.
Now that we have spent some time reviewing the home page let’s have a look at what Etherios is doing to generate traffic.
As you can see below, Etherios’s traffic rank (data from Alexa) is 465,240. In other words, they aren’t getting very much traffic.
To give you context on this, Groove’s site, which is ranked at 104,805 for traffic, received 10,277 visitors in the 30 days leading up to Sep 22, 2014.
As you can see from the screenshot below, blogging can have a dramatic impact on the amount of traffic and leads generated.
The reason that Etherios’s site receives so little traffic is because the content they are publishing to their blog isn’t getting traction. While I don’t have access to their analytics, I’m quite sure my assumption is correct because the posts that they have published don’t have any social sharing either. If they were getting read, people would be sharing them on their social networks.
There are a number of possible reasons why their blog isn’t getting traction.
The most likely reason is because they are publishing content that no one cares about. Whenever I see this, it’s generally because they haven’t invested the time to create an inbound marketing strategy. There is a very specific process to be followed with inbound marketing, and it starts with strategy.
The very first step in creating this strategy is to understand who you are trying to attract (buyer persona), what they care about, and the questions they are asking. Skip this, and your efforts are likely to fail – as appears to be the case with Etherios’ blog.
When it comes to getting traffic, more content is better.
With more content, you create an opportunity for more inbound links, and as you can see below, Etherios’s site has only 207 back links.
A low number of backlinks is another indicator that very few people are interested in the content you are publishing.
While not as important as they used to be, inbound links do still play a role in SEO.
More important than ever for SEO is on-page optimization. Etherios’s two biggest technical mistakes are using page titles that include their company name and not using unique page descriptions.
Omitting the company name from page titles is important because 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three organic search results, you need to do everything you can to nail one of those top spots. Optimize your page titles and use compelling meta data to get off on the right foot.
Unique page descriptions are important because 75% of users never go further than the first page of search results. You’ve got to do what you can to stand out in the pack of results, and compelling page descriptions are important.
Technical glitches, while important, are not actually their biggest problem.
The biggest SEO problem is just a lack of relevant content that is optimized for SEO. In our case, regular blogging has produced the results you see below.
If Etherios were to do a better job of creating optimized content targeted for their buyer personas, and these folks were to read and share the content on social networks, their organic traffic would begin to steadily increase like has happened for our blog.
When it comes to lead generation, the #1 influencer is content (more content = more traffic), and the easiest way to consistently create more content is to have a blog.
In looking at Etherios’s blog posts, I noticed that none of the ones that I looked at had a graphical call to action. They do have a page with several ebooks that can be downloaded; however, they haven’t put appropriate graphical calls to action at the bottom of their blog posts to promote these eBooks.
This is very likely killing their conversion rate.
If you are going to successfully convert a portion of your website traffic into leads, there is a specific process to be followed in order to maximize your conversion rate. To see a shining example of perfection, have a look at any blog post on HubSpot’s very popular blog.
When you do, you will see that there is a compelling Call to Action at the bottom of every blog post.
Calls to Action
Here’s an example of a call to action. We put these at the bottom of every blog post. So does HubSpot. So does Appirio on this post.
Without a proper call to action in place, it’s very unrealistic to expect that more than about 0.5% of your total traffic is going to convert to leads. With optimized calls to action in place, converting 2-3% of total traffic to leads is quite achievable.
When it comes to quickly increasing conversion rate, adding blog articles with calls to action is the low hanging fruit.
As with content, the more landing pages a site has, the more leads it will generate.
When clicked, a call to action should take the visitor to a landing page.
Below is a screenshot of one of Etherios’ landing pages. I have highighted in red the clickable areas that should be removed. Whenever a visitor has too many options to click, the conversion rate goes down.
With a properly optimized landing page, conversions should be in the 30-50% range.
Premium Content Offers
Premium content is most typically a downloadable eBook that is offered on a landing page (like the one above).
As I mentioned previously, Etherious does have a page devoted to premium content offers, however, they have failed to use graphical calls to action at the bottom of each blog post to bring attention to their premium content offers (eBooks). As a result, I’d guess that their site-wide conversion rate is well under 1%.
When it comes to premium content, the more offers you have, the more leads you will capture. Helping our clients to figure out what types of premium content to create is just one of the things we cover in an Inbound Marketing Game Plan.
When a visitor downloads a free report from your site, they convert into a subscriber, and when that happens, all sorts of amazing things start to happen.
With a list of subscribers, you can:
- Drive traffic to your blog on demand
- Invite prospects to a webinar
- Send prospects to a new landing page offering premium content
- Segment and nurture your prospects based on whatever criteria you like using lead scoring
- And so much more…
By offering downloads, Etherious is building an email list; however, they don’t appear to be using a marketing automation solution (at least that is what my analysis tool told me). Without a marketing automation solution in place, it’s very likely that leads are not being nurtured down through the funnel.
A top of funnel lead is a very different lead than a bottom of funnel lead.
The goal of using a marketing automation system is to automate a lead nurturing process that will convert as many top of funnel leads into bottom of funnel leads as possible. Without having this in place, conversion of leads to customers is likely much lower than it otherwise could be.
When it comes to driving traffic by promoting your content, social media can be a very powerful tool. For B2B companies like Etherios, Twitter and LinkedIn are the way to go.
The greater a company’s Twitter reach, the more traffic they will get.
As you can see below, Etherios’s has just 870 followers. Despite this, there are recent tweets in their feed.
With so few followers, tweeting really isn’t going to do them much good.
Appirio has done a better job of building a following of just over 11,000.
To improve their results from Twitter, some of the activities that Etherios should pursue include:
- Focus on sharing their own (and other’s) content
- Promote their Twitter profile to increase their following
- Engage in some influencer marketing to build relationships with people who already have a large following
Etherios’s LinkedIn company page (shown below) suffers from some of the same problems as their home page – in that it talks about them too much, instead of talking about what’s in it for the customer.
The only other issue is that their follower count is just 1,125. With that said, I have no way of knowing if they built this following in the last 30 days, or the last 6 months. If it was just 30 days, they are definitely doing something right.
Probably more important than improving their company page would be to improve the LinkedIn profiles for their staff. In looking at Chuck Malone’s (Director of Marketing) profile, it is little more than an online resume for him.
By only using LinkedIn profiles in this way, Chuck is missing out on several opportunities. Below are some suggested ways to improve their use of LinkedIn.
Syndicate Blog Content: Etherios should take advantage of the new publishing capabilities of LinkedIn and syndicate their blog posts to each executive’s user profile. (See my profile as an example.)
Promote Premium Content: This is the byproduct of syndicating blog content; however, as I have done on my profile, Chuck and his colleagues could also be promoting their premium content offers on the publications section of their respective profiles. This would create opportunities for lead capture every time someone viewed their profile.
Optimize the Summary: In the image below (highlighted in red) is a section of Chuck’s profile that he is not optimizing.
Instead of just a single sentence, this section would be better used as I have done on my profile.
If you have read everything in this audit example, I am truly impressed. If you have skipped straight down to this section, that’s ok, too. Either way, this section contains a summary of my most important observations for Etherios and tips for you as you audit your own site.
Make Your Home Page Count
- Ensure you have a modern looking home page that answers three key questions: What does your company do? What problems do you solve? Why do I need your help?
- The key to steadily increasing traffic is to steadily publish content. Blogging is ideal for this.
- If you are going to start blogging, make sure you have clearly identified your target audience and what they are interested in reading. Do NOT just write about your company’s products and services on your blog. People won’t care.
- SEO is simply a byproduct of blogging done correctly.
- Put a call to action at the bottom of every blog post. Make that call to action link to a landing page.
- Create optimized landing pages where visitors can download your premium content.
- Create premium content that is going to capture the interest of your target audience. More premium content = more leads.
- Use your premium content to build a list of subscribers and do everything you can to engage that list. These are your best prospects. Treat them right, and they will reward you.
- For B2B companies, focus on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Ensure all your profiles are completed and optimized.
- Use social media to promote your blog posts and drive additional targeted traffic.
Inbound marketing, when done correctly, can have a dramatic impact on website traffic and lead generation. I hope this audit has given you insight into how to succeed with inbound marketing. Building a successful company is a huge challenge for anyone, and I have the utmost respect for the entrepreneurs behind Etherios for building a successful organization. My hope is that they will be able to use this information to become even more successful.
This audit has proven three things:
- No company is perfect. Even the best companies have to constantly monitor their online marketing. This should be encouragement for us all.
- Inbound marketing requires a very specific set of skills. You can be a brilliant entrepreneur, but if you haven’t studied what it takes to succeed with inbound marketing, you will need to find help.
- You can build a successful company without being good at inbound marketing. Inbound marketing just makes it easier to succeed.
I will be doing a limited number of inbound marketing audits each month. If you would like to request one for your firm, fill out the form here.
If you are with Etherios and wish to call me to talk about this audit, I can be reached at 208-391-2057.
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