FreshBooks on How to Double Organic Reach and Grow Sales by Firing Agency
You're listening to marketing scoop. Podcast brought to you by. Sem Rush the third season of marketing. Scoop podcast is dedicated to the brightest cases in digital marketing presented by industry experts revealing their unique mix of best practices tools insights and skills that impact your marketing strategy and now your host featured by INC magazine as one of the top women in tech to follow known as the girl gets done. It's back to the marketing podcast powered by SEM rush so looking forward to today's episode with one of my favorite companies. Fresh books yes. We will be having an amazing conversation with one of the premier cloud and counting an invoice software companies. On how after they got bad advice from their agency we were able to double their organic reach increased sales significantly so excited to share this case. Study with you enjoy episode. Welcome Paul Thank you. It's awesome to be here. Amazing intro thank you. I'm just really looking forward to this. Fresh books has been one of my favorite companies from the Get-go I think what you guys do to rally the community together. It's not just accounting bookkeeping. Fresh books built a culture and a community to really serve and it just stands for so much more than just a software so I I can't wait. I'm looking forward to this. Awesome excellent so pal go ahead tell us formerly a little bit about who you are and what you do sure. I'm Paul Callan. I'm the chief marketing officer here fresh book so that means that I run marketing here at the company. I've spent a long time in this marketing world. I've traveled between big companies and startups and throughout the years. I've really kind of got to roll up my sleeves with everything that I'm doing. So love this world and it's always a ever changing and fun environment so looking forward to chatting a bit better today. Tell us a little bit about fresh books. I know that I'm a super fan but I don't want assume everybody listening knows so. Can you tell us a little bit about fresh books? What does it do sure? We're in the exciting category of cloud accounting so most people don't don't get too excited when they hear the words accounting but from the inception and today we've we've been a platform that's really been built for owners. We've really focused on giving the appropriate tools for owners to be able to run their business and keep really close to you on. What's important to them? Which is their finances and even more importantly their client so our platforms been specifically built for what we call service based businesses or really what that means. It's it's companies like web designers or lawyers or contractors or people who generally feel like people who are servicing customers servicing clients have a relationship from a client standpoint and everything we do is really bad how we can connect them to understanding that relationship with their client which is obviously based off their finances. And give some context. How large is fresh books? How many people are on the team? We'RE BASED UP HERE IN TORONTO. We've got offices in Amsterdam and down in Raleigh North Carolina in Toronto. Our head offices were about three hundred fifty people and growing quite a bit so we're probably bursting a little bit at the seams by the end of the year. We'll be at about five hundred and forty five hundred and fifty people and obviously servicing people in one hundred sixty odd markets worldwide. Right now and you have a crazy amount of customers. You know the company's been around for fifteen years and we have a service well over twenty four million people over that amount of time so we we definitely have touched a good population of small business owners and people that they're working with. We're going to be getting into really cool case study today. Can you tell us a little bit about the case study? Wanted to talk a little bit about what we're doing in the SEO space and some of the challenges that we had in terms of our existing setup and what we're able to do so we focused a lot last year on really kinda reinventing what we're doing in Seo. We had had had a couple of gaffes in in terms of working with some of our partners. And we're able to turn those around and be able to triple our seo traffic to our site and really be able to get some of that rocket ship style growth. That people like to see in their marketing efforts. I'm so looking forward to getting into it. But before then. What attracts you to marketing. When did you first get into marketing? I well I think there was a of reasons why I got into marketing. One is is back when I was a thirteen year. Old running my lawn cutting business. I really love the whole thing of being able to go out and build Your Business and and and service customers and clients and try to grow business. So I really quickly realized. The value of door-to-door sales flyers kind of did so direct marketing was in my veins. And you know as I as I went through the years and kind of went through university and stuff. I spent a lot of my time. Instead of focusing on a education I like to throw a lot of parties and do things like bus three thousand people from to a small town and be able to host them at a at a great party a rent out a parking garage so what. I found more interesting than anything was being able to figure out how I could get people to decide to do things and then provide great experiences for them and that really launched on on why I want to go into marketing and what I wanted to do with my career in terms of trying to get people to get an rational love for brands and for companies. Someone that you follow that you recommend we should pay attention to. I'm kind of old school and in terms of of who who look at who I follow. I love staying current but I really been a big fan of Jeffrey Moore in the work that he's done in the author of crossing the Chasm and do grill a game in this. Most recent book I believe is inside. The tornado really is dynamic in terms of trying to think about managing businesses and think about different ways that we should be adapting strategies to be able to adapt to different competitive environment to market dynamics and one last question before we jump into this case study. What is one great piece of advice that you've got in your marketing career? Along the way recently I was having a conversation with some folks about just how marketing has been changing a lot and specifically in terms of how people's careers have been progressing within marketing. Today one thing I always want to make sure people think about is in their career. Make sure that they've got like a kind of a veracious appetite to be able to learn horizontally and to be able to really understand all of the different marketing skills and disciplines. What I'm what I'm starting to see is that there's very kind of like vertically. Based kind of skill sets that are being developed where people don't really still understand the full marketing sweet and so you know when people often kind of used to pursue kind of a t base career path where they would kind of get expertise and then and then start to to branch out learn other things. Were starting to see more and more. That people aren't branching out from their core area of expertise so with people coming into the marketing world on my team and otherwise I really try to get people to stretch sideways and start to learn about some of the other disciplines to make sure that we're growing a really great kind of classes of horizontally base marketers. Who can who can really understand things like the full funnel Info Customer Journey and experiences. Completely and I can't forget to mention you guys launched a podcast of your own last year. What can fine tuning into the fresh books? Podcast it's been a great success for so far. It's it's really focused on helping people who are thinking of starting a company or people who have been running a business on their own and give them some some really practical advice tips and talking with other people who've gone through some of those similar types of experiences and obviously having some very dynamic and interesting personalities like yourself who has appeared on our podcast as well and be able to really kind of give people that that practical understanding about the things that they may face in how to get over some of those those core problems in feelings of isolation and or whatever it might be that they're having on their journey of growth. And and where can we find? You can find it wherever any podcasts are found. All you need to do is search for. I make a living fresh books and you will come across it there. We run a series of of events called. I make a living as well. So on top of the podcast we do these events which host a bunch of people who are specific to the city or town that we happen to be in and and we provide a forum for both people to learn about the trials and tribulations that people have gone through in terms of building their business as well as a forum to build a network with other folks within that either startups or entrepreneurial or or small business space to be able to to kind of help figuring some of the things that they need to do to grow successful in their business. And what a great way to intimately get to know your customers to be able to solve their paying points and to be able to curate your. Seo To match what? They're searching for to solve online right and they have nothing but ideas for us in terms of how we can improve our product to. So let's get into this. Seo Journey of yours so you got rid of your agency and then completely doubled your organic reach flake. What a bit of background in terms of kind of where fresh books that had been coming from at the time we got into into where we were you know. Like most companies were were playing in an attrition. Game where you know. We're we're attracting prospects or bringing into our trial experience with our product and we want to get them to convert into a into a paying customer after obviously a a certain amount of time and And really we just need to make sure that mathworks through the funnel and more importantly though through at the final we're providing the best experiences that we possibly can to the customer and through the years. Fresh books has really been focused on being response driven marketer so like like most companies we love performance and we love making sure that the channels that were looking at are driving people in. We're looking in constantly optimizing those different channels to make sure that Our spend is the most effective. We possibly can in terms of attracting the right type of people. So the early and mid twenty tens we. We're we're really diverse in terms of our integrated channel strategy and doing things like digital and PC direct TV and some radio and stuff and and it was working fairly well and then in the mid to Kinda the later two thousands. We pulled back a little bit in terms of the full spend and started really just focusing on lower funnel in response activity in focusing on like sem as a primary driver of of of our activity and so really it was great. But when when we're having to pay for all of our our traffic and it was fairly low funnel it definitely then comes at an impact things like brandon and things like our organic search volume and stuff like that we really wanted to just reinvigorate that activity. We had some partners on board who were helping their but unfortunately there was a few challenges that we ran into after some bad advice and then all of our organic absolutely plummeted due. To some of the court gauges nine. Never never get things a little bit about what was done wrong. Well it was. It was some some bad advice. Involving some three zero one redirects so where we just redirected a bunch of pages to our core main page just resulted in some dramatic declines in our actual traffic volume. Also not fun. It wasn't a good thing to see so the team kind of took the reins over internally and we wanted to just kinda rebuild our SEO efforts to make sure that we could resurrect that activity in that also get a bit more of a best in class type of approach to what we're doing like most things that it always kinda starts off with research. So we use tools like sem rush to be able to do some researches fewest some other tools to really understand what we're the relevant keywords and what keywords had the highest demand against them for us to be able to start capitalizing on that type of activity. What we wanted to do is use the tools like that to be able to make sure that we could create content and our pages appealed to the variety of short medium and long tail keywords. That the primary traffic drivers one thing we knew of in one thing we covered too was that invoicing has a huge amount of demand and capitalize on this. We'd be in great shape so in terms of the numbers like to give you a sense. At the time the target keyword invoice template was getting about ninety thousand searches per month in the US globally. It was seeing about two hundred fifty thousand searches per month as well so a huge amount of traffic going there and and in particularly as we are a company. That's targeting the owners. We know that this was also a a pretty major pain point from customers as well when you think of the like our competitive set so yes our competitive set is you know other other accounting software providers but the other side of it too. Is that a lot of small business owners whether they're starting up or or relatively established are using things like excel like Microsoft. Excel or word. Documents has their invoicing templates right so we. We really felt that if we capitalize on this pain point really focus on building oh content around this pain point we bring them into our pages and be able to help convert a lot of traffic but this is where things get difficult because to build pages and to build content is definitely not not an easy thing. We just at the time because as I know fresh books it's always been the invoicing solution back then right but at the time. What you were discovering this about the key words was your presence as I know it as an invoicing solution or did you change your your forward facing presence as well. When fresh book started fifteen years ago there were no other competitors in the category or no other real cloud competitors in the category so now if you if you start to look for invoicing platforms like you have marketing platforms. Do Invoicing and payments you have platforms do payments. You have vertically based ones that was specifically focused on a specific type of customer segment so the category is is much more crowded than it was ten to fifteen years ago. So we're still no one for those things but the competitive landscape in the competition over all these keywords is absolutely immense right mm-hmm okay. So so you dive in. And you start to restructure everything and then what are the first steps? We created about one hundred and ten different pages around the Keyword Invoice. Template we wanted to own this this category and dominating this category. We knew that if if we did this we would. We'd be able to significantly drive a huge amount of traffic and a huge amount of people coming into trial product and potentially then conversions on top of that as well to give you an idea like we created a main page. Start off with the easy stuff which is like let's create an invoice template page and give people lots of different types of tools that they can comply with and give people assets like where they wanNA download invoice that was an excellent or otherwise and then we would create massive amounts variants off of these different types of templates than we used a hub and spoke model in terms of the Lincoln approach to the pages. So really what we did. There was forever kind of secondary page that was created. We would link back to the main envoys page or to other related pages than the person might be interested in so the part here is like being able to have like a artists. Be Able to get over to the graphic designer page and be all linked together to help kind of our traffic from that standpoint as well. I just remember back in the day. Everybody would create these micro sites which weren't on the main domain. They were You know In order to do a link buildings tragedy. And so yeah okay. So everything's on the fresh books domain in all internal and you're building up the content ecosystem. Yeah Yes oh pages are some aren't but we're actually working on a strategy right now but making some of the things a little bit more a little bit more findable off of our core pitch today and how do you maintain your ranking. You already have the most efficient content for invoice template and then what can you possibly add on top of it to increase the value to Google another Internet's one? Just being able to make sure we're continually doing that. That research to make sure that those those keywords and that what the content that's being reflected on the pages are going back to those short mid and long term tail keywords and as those evolve that were making sure that we're keeping pace with that and then for any updates that we're making to those pages. Were making sure that technical side of the pages are being updated as well and we're not just kind of doing superficial changes to the pages but we're doing as much as we possibly can basically. There's no secret sauce. The secret sauce is really be efficient in doing your research and your keyword homework and creating really valuable content and then the hard part is creating it in the execution but not in knowing what to do. Am I missing something? If it's it's right like it sounds I think with all these things they sound simple but when it gets into execution it's real. It's hard sometimes people. Just underestimate the amount of time and the amount of volume of content that they need to put into the space so we really didn't value the volume of content. That we really should have so building. Scalable approaches to be able to generate. Content is extremely hard to build out our resource hub. We're we hired five writers for a three month timeframe and spent a week with training them on how to write. Seo Style or for or content. That would work really well in an SEO style so for example doing things like how to optimize for feature sniffing. Can you give us visual? Walk through like a feature that you have and what that would look like or these would be specifically for content that might be addressing specific types of pain points for customer or specific types of features within the platform as well. You know we would do things like sourcing topics from Google around using the people also ask feature to be able to see questions and be able to make sure that we're answering questions as a related to like accounting and taxes entrepreneurship and we will then build a bank of those questions so that we would have like thousands of different types of topics and total similarly group topics in. They'd be altogether. It's so close. Sem Rush has that feature the questions like takes care of all that for you know absolutely and that's where that's where I think using using tools appropriately and then being able to execute it as is the hard part. What are your systems in place to assess traffic and to see what pages maybe aren't working as well and to reorganize what are your operations are strategy related to analysis. Luckily we have a really great data science and analytics team that we partner with working a lot looking at multichannel attribution to be able to see the types of touches that that go on as people engage with us and really it is that ongoing cycle of of making sure that that we have our SEO team paired up with our analytics team so that they can they can have that view as to like. How much traffic are they referring? What's actually happening with that traffic? It's really about trying to understand to make sure that the quality of all of the activity that's coming in is is is looking looking good as well as converting. Yes and you know. It's really interesting. So this this all started with getting misinformation in the implementing a strategy. That didn't turn out so well. What lead in order to help others? What led to Green Lighting Strategy? Didn't work what can we do? What should we ask ourselves to prevent that mistake from happening? I think we always need to make sure that one. We're looking at the numbers and that were being able to like dig a little bit deeper and not taking things at face. Value our images justice crucial as taxed. Sometimes imagery is more important as it relates to being able to drive the conversion activity you could create wonderfully seo optimized pages purely based on text or minimal amounts of text. But I think the imagery is going to be what drives the behavior on the page that you want the customer to take and is coming from a guy who worked for a few years shutter stock and selling imagery to people from fresh book standpoint in evolution of what we're doing just because we got hit in the Seo World No matter what there's always a big mountain to climb and so. I think that that constant desire to keep changing and learning and adapting marketing styles and approaches is so key today and just having that thirst to never kind of sit in on your loyals and just like be happy with what you actually drove is one of those things. I'm trying to get like my team to kind of get that hunger for anybody. I work with. Try to get them to really just kind of think about like what's next and what's next. How do we constantly improve on this stuff? And just because one playbook worked five years ago two years ago six months ago. It doesn't mean that playbook necessarily the right thing to be doing as we move forward totally times are always changing. We have to stay on top of our game and adapt with how things are evolving forward. We're people connect with you. If you just Google Cowan you will find me. And all the various places whether it's linked in twitter or otherwise and then if you if you dare to message me I may return to. And where should they message you just on anywhere on social yeah absolutely? It's usually at count on all channels. Thank you so much for hanging out with a marketing scoop podcast. This has been fantastic to connect and collaborate with SEM rush picture to say hello at Sem Russia and also show on twitter on instagram on facebook rate in review. The podcast to say hello to me at Esprit. Devora on all social. I will see you guys in the next episode by Marketing Scoop. Podcast is hosted by ME IS FREE DEBORAH WITH HELP FROM JANICE. 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