In today's Customer Spotlight we are excited to introduce you to Isaac Rudansky with Adventure Media Group and AdventurePPC (built with X). Read on to learn more about Isaac's story plus some great insights into merging the world of art and conversion.
Q: Hi Isaac! Can you tell us about yourself and how you got started in Internet Marketing?
Sure, I'd love to!
Five years ago, the concept of creating a website, let alone the idea of internet marketing and advertising were completely foreign to me…esoteric and highly complex areas of technology accessible only to the most advanced technicians.
I spent most of my time tooling around Greenwich village with my guitar and painting large impressionistic paintings of street musicians when I wasn't actually playing or practicing. I had begun a Masters program in Industrial / Organizational Psychology at Hofstra University, and whatever spare change I had I squirreled away for West Coast ski trips.
After getting married (read: far fewer nights tooling around Greenwich Village), I started taking my artwork more seriously. I had the fortunate opportunity to exhibit my work in a handful of festivals out on Eastern Long Island, and by the luck of the draw, I made a few sales and was received by an overall positive vibe.
A few months later I heard a radio ad for some sort of internet related mischief called Squarespace. It mentioned something about websites for the total layman, and although I was entirely convinced I was a substantial number of rungs lower on the technological ladder than the layman the ad was referring to, I nonetheless decided to give this Squarespace a visit.
Turns out it wasn't as bad as I thought. Many consecutive hours later, I had launched my first website. While the website was rudimentary and simplistic, my feelings were anything but. It's hard to describe the feeling of an entire set of firmly held notions suddenly deteriorating in the matter of hours. It sounds silly to anyone and everyone familiar with the many popular drag and drop site builders, but I had no idea such a thing existed—and the sense of accomplishment that I had actually made a website was extraordinary.
After developing a number of Squarespace sites for clients and friends, the idea of marketing and increasing the online visibility of a website became deeply intriguing to me. I was no longer fettered by the paranoia of the unknown, and I felt that I could get into this and do it well if I could just learn more about it.
It didn't take long to discover the many popular ways of driving quality traffic to a website. After mastering Google AdWords and managing a number of successful accounts (mainly for myself, family and friends), I felt like I had a fantastic business opportunity. I knew my artistic sensibility was contributing positively to the overall aesthetic of the sites I was designing, and I was able to not only offer a handsome website, but an effective way to expose it as well.
My partner and I launched the business primarily as an internet marketing training course, where we offered one on one consultations and AdWords training as well as cheaper, group classes. This model didn't pan out, as we realized most business owners were really interested in running their business and not running their website or developing their online exposure. We quickly pivoted into the crowded management arena, and we dove in headlong. It's been a pretty wild ride with a lot of ups and downs…but it's been an exciting and invigorating experience.
Q: How big of a deal is building pages around conversion as opposed to just a "nice" design?
It's a huge deal—and I learned it the hard way. Developers and designers (who are all essentially artists) are innately drawn to the aesthetics of their websites. And to the degree they're pulled almost magnetically to the visual landscape—their canvas if you will—they're proportionately pulled away from designing for the sake of conversions.
And it makes sense (in a way)…tell an artist that his painting is really, really nice—but sorry, it's just not gonna sell, and he'll throw you out of his studio for undiluted blasphemy. What does selling have to do with my art?
Web developers obviously don't feel it to this degree, they know how important a website that converts is, right? Yes…true—but the feeling is there.
We've designed websites for clients that were really, really neat. But they were terrible websites. I convinced myself that the customer will be overwhelmed with the design and on that basis by from us or the client…but it's just not true. Not in the world we're living in today.
People want sites that load fast, they want the information they're looking for presented in the clearest and most concise form as humanely possible, and they want a good deal. Every website needs to be built with these factors reigning supreme. Your website could look like the Louvre, but if it's missing any of the core usability elements, its as good as amateurish graffiti.
If your website caters to all the basic needs of the contemporary consumer, and you manage to make it look like the Louvre as well…you've hit the jackpot.
Design for conversions, design for clarity, design for navigability, design for speed, design for readability—and then use the visual aesthetics to augment and enhance every element of the site without distracting or interrupting the customer.
There are more artistically inclined websites that are catering to a certain crowd where the above does not really apply, but for almost every case concerned with internet marketing it's a pretty safe bet.
Q: Can you break down how you go about testing a campaign and give an example of things you are testing for?
Here is a neat heatmap of a split test we ran on one of our earlier sites. The results showed us that customers were more interested in seeing the pricing section than the how it works section. We simply swapped the tabs so the Pricing section loaded as the default open tab. Heatmaps and clickmaps are fantastic ways to easily and quickly get a sense of how users are interacting with your page.
Q: Are there any tools you especially like to use when it comes to optimizing for conversion or setting up landing pages?
There a few great tools we use on a regular basis, but there isn't any substitute for the hard work and deep thought necessary for setting up high quality pages.
We use SEMRush often (in conjunction with the AdWords keyword planner) to do some preliminary research into keywords and content ideas. If there is a well-established competitor in the industry, this tool becomes invaluable.
We're able to get a good sense of how the competition is setting up their sites and their marketing, and we'll be able to emulate and improve upon the elements that have proven to work in the past for these other companies.
Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer are both unbelievably powerful and easy to use tools to A/B test any element on any given web page. For example, you can run a test on your sign-up form where you'll change the amount of fields a customer has to initially fill out. 50% of your visitors will be served version A, while the other 50% will be served version B. You can also use these tools to customize any line of text to visitors coming from a certain location. This is a great way to serve content on a more personal level to your visitors.
For clients looking for a simple, elegant landing page solution we've used Unbounce. It's not a great tool for a fully functional website, but it works really well as a landing page if you already have a good marketing strategy in place. All the unbounce templates are designed specifically for conversions, and you can pick up some more industry- specific designs on the Envato marketplace.
Honestly, setting up landing pages has been much less complicated since we've begun using X. If you're a beginner, just load in some demo content, throw in your text and images, and you'll have all the elements in place for a high quality, high converting site.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with X?
Anyone familiar with WordPress knows how difficult choosing a theme for their new project can be. It's the bedrock of all the future work you're going to put into building your site, and getting stuck with a theme that doesn't provide the flexibility for you to reach your goals can feel like being stuck in an interminable purgatory nightmare. It's too late to back out and it's too frustrating to drag along.
After a number of such indescribably frustrating experiences, I went on the hunt for a theme that would give me everything I needed to create the sites I wanted to create. I was unyielding in my expectations—compromises hadn't panned out in the past, and getting stuck with another slipshod theme was the last thing I was interested in. We were getting ready to redesign our company site, and we wanted it to be everything we wanted it to be, without qualifications and without compromises.
I demoed a number of themes, including X. It wasn't a difficult decision. The X theme was by far—and I mean by far—the most engaging and appealing theme I had ever come across. The level of flexibility was unprecedented, the attention to design was so good it was bordering on neurotic, but most importantly, every component—from soup to nuts—was just so well thought out. This was less a theme and more of an overall WordPress experience.
Initially, we were overwhelmed by the options we had in approaching the design of the new site. We weren't used to having such comprehensive freedom within the framework of a theme, while at the same time every permutation so easily modified and customized.
We drafted our project, with the core usability elements as our top priority, and then the X theme allowed us to seamlessly integrate all the design and functionality we needed to enhance and accessorize the user experience.
Like I said, I'm not a coder by trade, and the number of times I needed help with something, the X support team was there for me…and when I say they were there 24/7, I mean it. I've engaged in a great deal of support forums in the past, but the X support forum feels more like a chat room with your friends and family than a traditional support ticket system. I'd recommend the X theme based solely upon the over-the-top level of responsiveness, thoroughness and thoughtfulness I've been privileged to receive from the superior X team.
Q: What are the main features in X that allow you to build effective pages for both yourself and your clients?
In my mind, it would be disgraceful to talk about X features without drawing due attention to the Customizer. Customizer really takes making WordPress sites to another plateau. We loved the ability to see real time edits and experiments—a functionality sorely lacking in other themes.
It goes without saying that the Stacks concept is nothing short of genius. Many can argue and quibble on different silly points defending the superiority of their theme of choice, but show them Stacks and even the most inexorable of the naysayers tend to become very quiet very quickly.
Stacks introduces an unequivocally unprecedented level of versatility in design. Simple as that. With Stacks, it's easy to impress clients with a disproportionate amount of work…what's not to love about that?
I really appreciate the ability to easily create cutting edge one-page sites, and customize the navbar and menus with header widgets and megamenus.
As X has been created in tandem with a team of highly trained, industry-leading marketing experts, the demo content and video tutorials are an absolutely huge asset to the beginner looking to make a fully polished site. X really makes it possible to create a fully functional, undoubtedly professional websites designed for conversions in a couple hours. It's just crazy.
It's just my opinion—but X really has the potential to expunge nearly every other theme from our WordPress psyche and send them into eternal cyberspace orbit.
Q: I see you manage Adwords campaigns for clients. What are some of the most important characteristics to running successful campaigns with Google these days?
Google advertising is a really dynamic landscape, and they're constantly updating their platform. That being I said, the most important characteristics of building successful campaigns haven't changed since AdWords launched back in 2000.
Brad Geddes writes the 800 page AdWords Bible chock full of technique and best practices, but before any of that, and before beginning to develop the actual campaigns—you need to really understand your clients' (or yours) business. We've seen countless cases of campaigns positively hemorrhaging money every day—campaigns positively doomed from the start, all because the campaigns were built with a fledgling (at best) understanding of the business being advertised.
For example, we recently took on a client who came to us from a different agency. He's in the business of providing industrial hard drive crushing machines to large corporations looking for a way to comply with NSA regulations pertaining to data destruction. He's sold machines to companies like Facebook and Twitter.
But his advertising campaigns weren't bringing in any business. Zilch…not a single lead. We took a look at his campaign and we saw that 90% of his budget was being spent on clicks coming from search queries like:
- hard drive shredder
- data removal
- how do I erase my hard drive
- Hard drive deleted
- data destruction
None of these terms are indicative of a customer seriously looking for industrial strength, $8,000 plus corporate hard drive crushers. Some of these clicks were most likely looking for a service to repair their hard drives!
After consulting with the client, it became clear to us that most of his potential customers further along in the buying cycle would be familiar with specific manufacturer names, model numbers and obscure industry jargon that you and I never ever heard of.
If that was the case, the best keywords to target would be queries including specific manufacture names, model numbers and industry-specific terminology. We needed to take the time to research the business, understand the different types of data crushers, and learn the way people familiar with this sort of thing actually spoke about it.
We built the campaigns with a tight focus on what his ideal customers were searching for. The only way we were able to do this was by taking the time to get a firm grasp of his business.
All the other optimization techniques and best practices are secondary to building this preliminary blueprint. I'd say that it's the same exact thing as building a house without a strong foundation, but if you never heard that analogy again in your entire life it would probably be too soon, right? So maybe it's more like dropping a child one too many times on his head and expecting him to grow up to be functioning adult (too macabre? Sorry).
The greatest AdWords advertiser on the planet can't salvage a campaign built for the wrong business, but even a mediocre internet marketer could run a successful campaign by building a campaign with a thorough understanding of the business and the behavioral patterns of its ideal customers.
One last thing…whichever optimization techniques you do choose to adopt, wether it be adjusting your bidding strategies, reorganizing your ad groups, expanding your keyword lists, adjusting your bid schedule—make sure you do them consistently. It's better to choose fewer optimizations and stick to a consistent schedule than do every possible optimization once every 6 months. If you're competitors are doing it, than you're in big trouble if you're not…if you're competitors have let things slip (and you'd be surprised how many of them do), then you have a golden opportunity to outshine them by a long-shot and it would be nothing short of an injustice to your advertising dollars if you don't.
Q: So everyone loves to know behind the scenes sort of stuff. How much does your largest client spend daily?
Our largest client currently spends a couple thousand dollars a day on Google AdWords. More is spent on other forms of advertising (Yahoo! BingAds, Facebook, LinkedIn—which we also manage).
Most of our clients spend between $150-$5000 per day, with a number of clients on either side of the spectrum. We're really trying to target small to medium sized businesses and offer them professional management at really affordable and competitive rates.
We make a great point to develop our relationships with each of our clients and to build a sense of trust and collaboration There is a lot of inherent unpredictability in any for of advertising and internet advertising is no different. There will be bad days, weeks and even months. Clients with whom we've developed strong relationships tend to stick out the lows. I believe that is a direct result of a sense of trust that we're doing everything we can on our end, sparing no effort on their behalf. Which of course, is completely accurate.
Thank-you Isaac for contributing to our Customer Spotlight Series! We encourage you to check out AdventurePPC for more information on his Adwords management company as well as the awesome job he did using X and the Integrity Stack to create that beauty. If you are a customer of ours who is interested in being featured in a future Spotlight, we'd love to hear from you.