September 1, 2016

Marketing Automation Guide, Part 1: Hack Inbound Marketing with These 4 Tools

Lee Steely

Whether you’re a marketer or just a hands-on business owner, having some tools to help automate your digital marketing efforts can save you precious time on repetitive tasks and keep your efforts focused. Online marketing is a 24/7 game, but we mere humans do apparently need to sleep–and automation software can crunch the numbers you don’t have access to, so your work can be more strategic and effective.

Marketing automation software is a growing industry with a lot of options for different levels of scale and targeting. We’ll cover the key players here to check out here for website analytics tracking, SEO, PPC ads and email marketing. You can set up a complete set-and-forget inbound marketing strategy with just these 4 tools.

Google Analytics: Maximize Your Website’s Performance

Google Analytics

If you have a website, you should have a Google Analytics account. It’s free, reliable, and you can use as much or as little of the data tracked there as you like–the point is, you want to have access to that data. If we use the analogy of your website as digital storefront, Google Analytics is the very meticulous receptionist who knows exactly who comes and goes each day–and she speaks in flawless metrics.

Questions Google Analytics can answer for you:

  • How many people are visiting your website each day?
  • What page on your website is most popular with visitors?
  • What websites are linking visitor traffic to your website?
  • Where are your visitors geographically?
  • How many visitor conversions does your website generate?

In fact, a Google Analytics account offers such a rich data set, it may take some time to perfectly optimize the list of metrics that matter most to you. If you start small, and build with an ongoing trial-and-error process, you’re virtually guaranteed an improvement in online strategy.

How it works: Google magic! Enter your website information, set goals, and track the results with custom reports.

Notes on Google Analytics Setup

Luckily, Google has a simple walk-through for account setup that’s easy to follow. Make sure you use a Google user account that you control to start the process–you’ll need to log in with this account every time you need to access Google Analytics. You can create up to 100 Analytics accounts under 1 Google user profile and track up to 50 websites, so be aware of those limitations if you’ll be managing more than that.

You’ll be given a tracking code to install on every page of your website that you want to track. These can be inserted into your website’s HTML code before each page’s <head> tag, but many content management systems and platforms (such as WordPress, Shopify, Tumblr) have built-in tools for easily pasting in your tracking code.

If you want to track conversions on your website (you do!), make sure to set a custom “Goal” in Google Analytics to track every successful conversion event. If a conversion for you means a visitor filled out a particular contact form, choose the URL of the page that the visitor sees after they’ve submitted the form to submit to Google. This could also be a newsletter sign up form, or an online purchase. You can actually create and track up to 20 separate goals to track on your website, so make them count.

Google Analytics Reports: Reviewing Your Data

Once your account setup is complete, you’ll be able to see your Audience Review Report every time you log in to track your data. This is just the default report, but you can still get a lot of information from it: audience overview by users, pageviews, sessions, bounce rate (ie, how long a visitor stays on each page before leaving), percentage of new and returning visitors, audience demographics by geography, device, system, and language. It’s a great start. And every clickable link on the overview page offers more detailed analytics when you click through, so reporting can be as granular as you like.

In addition to the main overview, Google Analytics offers up to 50 different reports. Pull reports on your Audience, Acquisition (traffic sources), Behavior or Conversions. You can pull reports from different months to compare and contrast, and there’s even a shortcut setting to set up regular emailed reports for certain metrics so you don’t even need to remember to log back in.

Lots of other automation systems integrate Google Analytics, so it’s the perfect place to start. All other automation programs we cover here have Google Analytics integration capabilities.

Moz Pro: Keeping It SEO

moz

Once you’re comfortably in the driver’s seat with Google Analytics, you may want some help with tracking and suggestions for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and relevant keywords. For that, we suggest Moz Pro.

How it works: Somewhat similar to Google Analytics, Moz Pro can crunch the data and simplify key points for you with keyword rankings, crawled pages tracking, competitor rankings, and search visibility. If any of these sound like gibberish, never fear–Moz’s helpful interface will alert you whenever something needs your attention and explain how to fix it. You’ll even get suggestions on opportunities you may have missed.

We’re recommending Moz Analytics solely as an SEO tool here, but it’s worth mentioning that you can get more out of the service depending on your price range, and every membership comes with access to the Moz.com community, which can be a helpful resource for starting out in the murky waters of SEO. Moz also has offers more targeted products like Moz Local for auditing local search, Moz Content for content auditing, and Followerwonk to unlock Twitter analytics.

Google AdWords: Get Started with PPC

google ad words

Once your website is optimized, you’ll want to start creating new conversion tunnels to get new site visitors, leads, or sales. With Google AdWords, you can create ads that appear in Google searches for keywords you select. Like Google Analytics, you’ll want to check your progress on this frequently and make tweaks to your campaigns as needed to meet your targeting goals.

How it works: AdWords ad campaigns automatically bid for ad slots against other advertisers based on keyword and location parameters. You’ll need to be strategic with your location and keyword targeting and make sure they’re realistic within your budget.

Location

Your geographic target can be as large or small as you think is appropriate for your business–obviously, local search results are less competitive than national or global, so we recommend starting there.

Budget

Then, set your “bid strategy” with a budget. When starting out, you’ll get a better feel for how AdWords works if you change the default “bid strategy” to “I’ll manually set my bids for clicks,” and then set a daily budget maximum you’ll allow Google to charge you per day (this is really helpful way to keep things from going off the rails if you find out your targeting needs some work).

Keyword Selection

Choose a handful of important keywords to target at first–less is more in the beginning. If your daily budget is modest, you’ll want to focus on low-cost keywords to maximize your ad’s reach.

You may be surprised how fast a high-price keyword can drain your budget if you’re not careful. And be aware that each keyword represents a different market, and you can set default bids for each.

MailChimp: Email Marketing

mailchimp

Beyond search engine optimization and search-targeted AdWords ads, email marketing is another essential tool in your online marketing arsenal. It may seem like email is ancient technology now, but email marketing is still shown to be one of the best ways to re-engage leads. And MailChimp is one of the most user-friendly tools for it on the market.

How it works: MailChimp solves a lot of guesswork in design, coding, responsiveness across devices, and email list segmentation. Customize their built-in email templates, use built-in sign up forms, responsive email campaign templates, and receive free analytics and A/B testing reports.

It can be tricky to design emails that display properly across all email platforms without lots of time for testing that you probably don’t have, and this is where the genius of MailChimp comes in for businesses. With the free account option, there’s really no reason to re-invent the wheel anymore.

Paid versions will give you greater feature access, of course: you can automate your email campaigns to re-engage customers, integrate with a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), Google Analytics integration, and delivery send-time optimization, to name a few.

Mastering the Basics

Every piece of automation software here will take trial and error to perfect for your business, and you could easily stop here for a smooth-running small-to-midsize digital marketing strategy. Just be aware that even automated strategies will need occasional tweaking and ongoing education as user behavior and search engine algorithms change.

If you’ve mastered the basics and want to learn more about advanced marketing automation software like CRM platforms, our Marketing Automation Guide “Part 2” is coming up next.