FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.

EPISODE INFO

Topic: Site Audits for Better Content Marketing – understand what your content is doing for you, or not doing for you. Know what your audience is looking for, and how your content effectiveness compares to your competitor’s.

Speakers:
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics

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FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to our last edition of FOUND Friday before the Holidays. I really would like to thank everybody, for starters, for another great year of content, search, and marketing discussions. We’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve had some really great guests this year. On the Ginza side, we released some really exciting product things that have helped inform our decisions and further the conversation from our perspective about where content marketing and search is going.

 

Ray, as we head in to 2015, one of the things that we’ve been talking about a lot lately is this idea of understanding why you’re creating content – what goal you’re trying to accomplish with it so that you know what to create, where to create it, how to distribute it, etc. For a lot of people, one of the things you hear a lot is the reason they’re not doing it is that it’s too time consuming, they don’t have the bandwidth, or that they don’t really know how to start or how to make sure that they’re doing it correctly.

 

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what doing a site audit will help you understand what you’re content is doing for you, what your audience numbers are looking for, and if they’re using their competitors to find it. Ray, you’ve done site audits initially more from an SEO perspective and moving into more of a content perspective over that last two years. I’m sure that you could shed some light on why it’s relevant to every single brand on the web.

 

Ray: Yeah. It is actually literally relevant to every single company on the web because any company would tell you honestly that they have room to improve and there are so many companies out there that are managing multiple sites, multiple product lines, different properties for different audiences and so forth, and so there’s probably almost unlimited amount of things they could be doing in order to improve their site.

 

So many sites are not optimized for the normal “desktop web,” let alone the mobile web from a technology perspective and then we start talking about a missed opportunity around the better content creation and really meeting the needs of their audience. There’s just a whole ton of room for improvement for pretty much every business out there. The need is clearly there.

 

The shift or the transition between SEO and content-based audit is something that’s always been a line that’s been probably a little bit more blurry in any of the ones that I’ve been involved just because I’ve always had a hard time providing anyone with an SEO audit that didn’t address the content strategy, who you’re talking to, and who your audience is. Personally I believe that that’s critical and you’re not doing the SEO right in the first place if you’re not taking a very strong content-centric approach to doing it. We can talk more about that later in the show.

 

Erin: You bring up a really good point which is a lot people aren’t optimized for a desktop, let alone where the market has really started to move to which is mobile, especially if you’re doing anything with the global economy these days. I think one of the things that we hear a lot is questions around two different polarities.

 

One is tons and tons of detail. People want to make sure that we’re ticking off every single box to do a content audit. And it’s something that’s 150 pages long and almost an un-consumable amount of stuff that they’re like, if it doesn’t tick every box, it’s not a full site audit. Then there are other people who are like, “I can’t read 100 pages worth of this stuff. I just need to know the top five things that I’m doing wrong.”

 

This is such a polarizing thing to do because people have very different opinions as to where the real value in getting an audit may be. Do you feel that there are certain elements that everybody should have in an audit or that every audit should be really tailored to the specific brand or industry that people are looking at?

 

Ray: I think it has to be tailored to the company in question. There is just so much to cover. Every company is at a different stage in its life cycle. They have different team members on board, so a lot of times you’ll have a lot of existing internal expertise already that you don’t necessarily need to cover a ground that has already been covered. A lot of times you can get lucky with that and you’re basically brought in to provide a little more of a strategic insight.

 

I personally believe that it depends on the company. If you’re talking about doing a basic level audit, then there may be probably more room to talk about what should be a part of that basic audit if you’re doing it for the first time. But given the nature of where things are today, most companies have at least covered some of the basics and it’s really a matter of customizing exactly what their needs are.

 

In terms of the question of how do you deliver that audit, what’s actually included in that, I would say it also depends somewhat on the company, as well, on what their needs are. What I don’t like to see is a lot of times you’ll see these audits that are full of flaws that could essentially be just machine generated, where they just provide you with tons of data with no analysis or interpretation. Or you’ll get a 50-page audit and I think the goal with that is basically to make the client feel like they paid for value and you’re in a traditional consulting model. You basically charge by the set of [5:22 inaudible] of pages that you’re delivering to you customer. That’s the old school with new things.

 

I much prefer to – I provide the data as necessary in whatever format is useful for the customer, whether it’s Excel or what have you. But really what they’re paying us for is of course is the interpretation, analysis, and recommendations of what they should really focus on. Ideally I would say, the best audience are those that are: the recommendations are no longer than a page or two so you can sit down a meeting and make decisions about what to do next right there.

 

Erin: I love the kind of illusion back to what you and I talked about early in the year when people were asking us about picking analytics platforms. There are always these questions about: what’s the best analytics platform or what’s the best thing for this? What’s the best thing for that?

 

My response is the same for this as it is for those questions, which is the best one is the one that you’ll actually use. If the thing that you’ll use is 500 pages of individual data points then fine. That is the absolute best audit for you. If the thing that your company will actually use is three recommendations of things to do differently for the coming year, that’s the best thing for you if you’re not going use the rest of it.

 

To me, there’s no question about what you should look for when you’re talking about doing an audit is. You need to understand how you’re going to use whatever comes out of this. And yes, you should be able to access the data that the recommendations came from. I do think that that’s really important. You, as consumers, should have access to those things and you should keep it on file so that you can compare year over year and be able to look at that information. But don’t work with somebody that won’t provide you the output in the way that you need the output.

 

Let’s talk a little bit about getting started. When you’re going to do an audit of your entire site, is this something you can do effectively yourself or is this something that you need a little bit of help from? I know that there are a lot of places that you can go and what you were mentioning, run something through, and you get what I affectionately refer to as the number dump which is a lot of data and information somewhat done to scare you at times. Then what you’ll get is this whole, “Now pay us $100, 000 after we send you a lot of very scary numbers and we’ll fix your problem for you.” There’s a lot of that going on. What are your thoughts on doing it yourself, working with somebody?

 

Ray: I would say that it’s useful to actually run some of those number dump tools yourself beforehand at a very minimum. There are lots of free tools out there that you can do and basically just say, “Hey, give me a quick scan on my site,” you can probably do a five-second Google search and find any of them.

 

That way, it’s useful for two reasons. Number one, you’re going to recognize if someone tries to feed you the same thing. Number two, you can see when you’re getting these pitches from people who were saying they’re going to come into a site or content audit for you, you’re going to see what value they would potentially add on top of what that thing can already give you for free. They start pitching that they’re going to give you a full audit of all your title tags and everything else and that’s all they’re going to do. They’re not really adding any value and you probably best go elsewhere.

 

But if they start talking about helping you figure out what your strategy is, addressing the needs of every one of your personas, potentially giving some more persona development and tying that back to specific content creation and how you’re going to map that out on your site and addressing all the technical details and everything else, that’s where there starts to be a lot more value that comes with that and obviously that’s much worth the investment.

 

Then it’s a question of: do you have that capability in-house to do that? If you do then that’s fine. You’ve already got the people and you should do it internally. Those people who are really good at that stuff and have seen a lot of different angles on doing high quality site and content audits are kind of rare and they’re hard to find. So even if you have one or two of them in-house, they may be swamped with other projects. A lot of times it makes sense to bringing somebody externally to help you out, as well.

 

Erin: I think one of the other benefits to looking for an outside opinion – I totally agree. You should run stuff internally so that you know if you’re getting [9:39 inaudible] later. It’s really, really important. Do your research.

 

The other thing I think is useful for organizations is, we’ve talked a lot about data integrity and how you can make numbers tell a story, whatever the story is that you want to tell. Because you can make numbers tell your own story, then if you’re an executive and people are bringing to you all these different numbers, you don’t know how they’re really portraying the numbers and where they’re gathering their data from. I think that it’s important for especially people at this executive or management or director level to be able to really say, “This is an objective third-party view of how our site, our content and things are performing.” Somebody could come in and tell me, “Our e-mail got 70% open rate,” and if I’m not the one managing the e-mail tool, I actually don’t really know what’s working and not working about that.

 

Ray: It’s an excellent point. I’ve actually had a number of deals where I was brought in specifically to repeat to the executive team exactly what the person who brought me in have been saying all along. They’ve been trying to get their team to follow their advice. They get it internally and they literally are not getting anywhere. I’ll come in and make the same exact recommendations because we’re on the same page. As a result, those ideas will get pushed through.

 

It can be a useful tool for trying to bring in that objective third-party view on things. For whatever reason, executive teams tend to pay attention to that sometimes, unfortunately more than their own team members.

 

Erin: One of the things that you and I have talked about a lot, too, which is this idea of transparency and breaking down data silos – that’s such a jargony thing to say, I just want to punch myself. But this idea of sharing information when you’re looking at doing a complete content and site audit, one of the things that I think this is really useful for is people who are looking to do – what Joe and I were talking about a couple weeks ago – which is getting everybody together on the same page. Karen and I addressed it, too. We’re trying to make sure that everybody understands that we’re all being fair here and that we’re all just trying to make it better or trying to get the best possible content or trying to attract the best possible target audience and we’re trying to do that through the marketing channels and the mediums that are really going to work well as the best vehicles for us.

 

When you’re talking about doing that, we’re talking really about better budgeting, better resources, smarter spending and higher ROI. I think the idea of this audit is this is one of the things that you can really use to get everybody on the same page. All areas of marketing because you’re really going to be able to see what’s working best, how our campaign is performing, what channels are performing best. All these different elements.

 

Ray: When you mentioned it, audit is actually kind of a funny word. I’m trying to think of what may be a more appropriate word would be for the real process should look like. Whenever we say “audit,” some think it’s “tax audit” or something. Or you’re basically trying to find all the problems. I’m sure you’re looking for problems, you want to fix the problems, but a lot of times the problems are you’re not really taking advantage of this whole opportunity that you have in front of you. We need to come up with a better word than “audit” and I think people will respond to it even more favorably.

 

Erin: I think it’s one of those things where people get a little scared of some of the terminology. So I think that what happens is we use platform and audit and all these different terms and what we’re really talking about, when we’re talking about doing a site or content audit, is getting all of the information from multiple different views about how things are performing across a number of metrics.

 

We talked at one point about landing pages. I think that was the last thing you and I chatted. Landing pages can be used to do a variety of different things. They can also be measured on a variety of different ways. Everything on your site can be thought of in that similar fashion. All of your content can be thought of in that similar fashion. How are people finding it? What are they doing once they’re on there? What’s the next step? Who is finding it? What does that kind of conversion look like? What does that piece of content look like combined with some other similar pieces of content? What does that piece of content look like in comparison with other pieces of content?

 

The thing that we are talking about, Karen and I were chatting about, is this idea of what you’re really not probably measuring correctly are three basic things. And what we’re talking about is the medium, the method, and the message. I want to go back to that as the core of what you should understand from your content message or from your audit or whatever we’re calling this thing.

 

Ray: We can call it audit.

 

Erin: Now I’m trying to think of a better word and I really can’t off the top of my head.

 

Ray: I don’t have a better word yet.

 

Erin: I think the reason that people call it that is because it encompasses this idea of a really deep dive into things. But I think there’s probably a better word for what the final output should be.

 

Ray: Yeah.

 

Erin: Because the audit itself does make it sound a little scary and daunting and that it’s always going to yield negative results as opposed to a site exploration or something. But that’s also insanely jargony sounding.

 

Ray: Yeah. It’s hard to come up with a non-douche sounding alternative, unfortunately.

 

Erin: I’ll add it to my to-do list for the holidays to find a better word. I’m sure I’ll come up with something after a few drinks that we’ll both agree on.

 

The medium, the method, and the message goes back to this really core idea that the method and the medium – what we’re talking about here is there’s a difference between e-books, white papers, case studies, and SlideShares. These things are things that you actually create. This is a type of content. Then there’s a way in which you distribute it, which is the medium, which is I want to post it on YouTube or Vimeo, both video sharing services, and Vine, not the same thing. Instagram and Pinterest, both photo sharing things, are not the same thing.

 

What we were talking about when we were discussing this was this conversation about people saying “Oh, e-books don’t work for us,” or “Photos don’t work for us,” or” Videos don’t work for us,” and what you’re not understanding is maybe it’s actually where you’re trying to put them, not the actual thing. Or people saying, “YouTube doesn’t work for us,” and I’m like, “Maybe YouTube does work for you. Maybe your videos just suck.” Let’s look at that.

 

This is one of the things that an audit would help you figure out. Is it the medium or is it the method? And then the message is what exactly is it that you’re trying to convey? Because if that doesn’t resonate with people, it doesn’t matter how good the medium and the method are. If your message sucks and really doesn’t resonate with anybody, you’re already dead in the water.

 

Ray: Yeah, totally. I actually really like that. It’s a really good way of breaking things out. That’s a nice coolness bring to it, as well.

 

Erin: I try.

 

Ray: That’s what you’re aiming for. I think it helps to break things up. Because a lot of times you said, you can have a specific instance of creative video or text or whatever, and a lot of times your audience may just not be on a specific network. So it could be a great content that you’re just completely missing the boat on because you’re not what people would actually look for.

 

Erin: The idea hopefully of the auditor (whatever we’re going to call it) would also be that you should understand not just your content, the kind of the landscape in which it placed. This year, we as a product have focused a lot on building out more capabilities around competitor and industry information. Whether that is competitor discovery or tracking and monitoring or understanding how audiences are interacting with them on social, that should be a really core component of understanding your content because the answer to the problem may not be that your content sucks, it’s that your industry may be experiencing a decline or a shift.

 

So looking at the data in a vacuum and not comparing it with what’s going on with the rest of your ecosystem can really cause detrimental effects or your content could seem to be performing hard, it could be performing better than a lot of other people’s if your industry is experiencing a decline. Keeping that in mind, what do you think about how deep should you get into a competitor analysis when we’re talking about doing an audit? Because sometimes you can actually go a little too far, I think.

 

Ray: It’s a really good question. I think it’s crucial that you do it. I think that it’s only useful if you’ve done a sufficient enough amount of work on understanding your own brand and how you’re different from your competitors. Because just paying too much attention to your competitors without really understanding what makes you different, not even better – thinking about better is completely subjective term – but literally what do you do that’s different than your competitors. How do your customers perceive you differently? If you can’t articulate that in everything that you do, then you’re better off just focusing on that.

 

But then once you’ve done that then it is really helpful to pay attention to your competitors because when you’re trying to objectively measure the overall opportunity for an audience for you to capture, you have to look at various ways on looking at it because there is no one number that can tell you that. You can look at landscape data, you can look at overall market data, but a lot of times your competitors, they’re going to be really good and they exist because they’re good at finding an audience that you necessarily haven’t found. You can figure out if that audience makes sense for you to try to go after and try to resegment more on your favor, as well. I think it’s definitely important but you have to understand where you’re coming in the process.

 

Erin: One of the things we’ve talked a lot about, especially when we’re talking about developing our own product that continues to be a bit of challenge, is sometimes the people who want these audits or want to do these things don’t have access to the necessary tools or things within their brand to do the complete full picture thing.

 

An example would be maybe a marketing director at a large corporation wanting to do an audit to be able to create better marketing campaigns and data, but doesn’t have access to the admin for Google Analytics so they couldn’t connect it to the backend of the system. Maybe that’s a function that’s still held by digital marketing or IT or something else.

 

For people who are stuck in this position where they’re saying, “I want to do this and I really want to get started,” and we know that there are a lot of components that could potentially feed in, is there a baseline of things that you need access to or that we, for instance, would need in order to perform a really good audit for somebody?

 

Ray: Yeah. I would always start with some of the higher level stuff and actually the stuff that you’ve done in the past have all been really instructional to me too where you start talking about more of who are your personas, who’s the audience that you’re targeting, why are you doing this, why are you in this space. Getting more understanding of the company itself and why they serve their customers, I think it’s going to be really crucial in doing this successful content and SEO audit. It’s an audit at the same time. I would say that that stuff is definitely preliminary.

 

Beyond that, understanding the goals of the audits or what they expect to get out of it, and then practically definitely access to Google Analytics, web master tools. If you’re running a bunch of advertising campaigns, it would be helpful to see that if it’s possible to get it. Site maps obviously are going to be up and our web master tools, then probably just a list of their competitors, all in the different social networks. You can get a lot of information based on that.

 

Erin: A good starting point I think is fundamental for anybody to be really successful and it doesn’t mean that it has to be your ending point. What I mean by that is we will help you discover a lot of things. We’ll help you discover new competitors. We’ll help you discover potentially new topics and things that you should be paying attention to in your industry. We can shed light on a lot of these things for you. But you have to start somewhere, right?

 

Ray: Yeah.

 

Erin: Just hooking up your site and putting in really bland keywords like “shirts” isn’t going to help because do you know what problem you’re trying to solve with shirts? Are you trying to make shirts? Are you trying to sell shirts? Are you trying to design them? What kind of shirts? T-shirts, dress shirts, shirts for sweater ponies? Who the heck knows?

 

We’re talking about this idea of, you need to come up with what problem it is that you’re trying to solve or what your business problem is currently. What’s your current marketing problem? What’s not working? Are you not driving enough traffic? Are you not converting? What’s not converting? These kinds of things. We can help you discover more and find out more from there. But if you don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re doing it, there’s really so much any tool can do.

 

Anybody who promises that they’re going to answer those questions for you is either probably wearing a hat with a feather in it and playing with a little crystal ball or is lying to you. That’s because short of them being part of your own internal company – and you should really be concerned that they’re going to take your job – why would they know what exactly it is that your brand is trying to solve, how you’re trying to solve it, what your current business problem is? If they’re not your own internal team or your agency, how did they know that, especially if they haven’t connected anything? There’s nothing in Google Analytics or Omniture or whatever that’s going to say, “Your business problem is X and here’s what you’re trying to solve.”

 

Ray: Absolutely. I think the best publicly traded company – you can spend some time reading the most recent annual report and that sort of thing to get a view over the mission of the company but it comes down to the day-to-day work that the executives and management are going to be bringing into you and I hopefully they have enough time to sit down and really tie what the mission is because it’s really important to understand that. Otherwise, you’re just going to be getting a subpar result from any audit process you tried to take on.

 

Erin: We’ve been through this ourselves as a team and we’ve also seen it a lot with other teams which is not coming to expecting for something to have great output without decent input is a really unreasonable expectation. Crappy data in is crappy data out. But from a meta perspective, going and hiring an agency without any ideas to what kind of product you want to create, what your team looks like, what your business goals are, where your company is going, is a failure for both of you because nobody has a really good opportunity there.

 

I have to defend agencies and the fact that even though I find it very frustrating to work with them at times because I just really want them to be this magic place where they’ll come in and solve problems for me. What I really have to remember is a lot of this stuff is in my head and I have not thought it through and written it out in a way that actually will really help somebody help me accomplish my goals. I think a lot of times this is what happens, which is a marketer will say, “I want to use this tool,” and I have this idea in my head of the magical output that I expect to occur from this. I have this thought in my head of how I want to see it be.

 

I know what I think my problems are. But I am not properly inputting it into this system and I’m not properly communicating it to this platform. You have to really look at the platform in any system you’re using as how you expect this thing to figure that out without any sort of input from you? I’ve actually asked that to folks that were users. I think that you and I have talked about updates we’ve made to the wizard and updates we’ve made to the UI of the platform and of course it’s an ever evolving process.

 

But I remember two years ago, when we were first looking at it, one of the things that was really difficult for people at times was, “How do I tell it to give me what I want?” And now the onboarding wizard really walks you through, “Here’s what to add, here’s why you need to add it, and here are the different ways you can do it with some more examples.” You have to have responsibility. There’s no magic wand to wave here.

 

Ray: Yeah, totally. The problem that we see almost all the time is companies feel like they have some sort of ambiguous notion of what they want to achieve, but when you ask them to try to actually put it down on paper or get specific about it, it becomes an entirely much larger conversation. And it’s good. You have to challenge people to do that. But it’s just always surprising how few people have really taken the time to go through that. That could be one of the beneficial parts of the audit done well. You can help people think through this stuff and make sure it’s much more successful.

 

Erin: I was having a really funny conversation with my husband who works at a large agency the other day. He was kind of lamenting this idea that people want to overcomplicate things and usually puffed up language because they think that it’s what the customer wants to hear or what the client expects. So instead of saying, “We need to get the right message to the right person at the right time,” they were like, “We need complex user algorithms with implemented vehicles to explain the time and space at which the customer should interact.” Oh my God. Nobody even knows what that means. It’s not real words.

 

If you’re getting an audit or if somebody is interacting with you and saying those kinds of things, you’re probably choosing the wrong place. You and I have a rule about trying not to use really overblown language and trying not to get super jargony. It’s hard at times because of the nature of the beast. Don’t use a $5 word when a $1 one would do because then you’re just spending money needlessly when you’re talking about your word count.

 

Ray: I’m good for ten words of a sentence. Anyway, after that I’m already tuned out.

 

Erin: If somebody were to send you an audit and everything is just in this massive tangle of jargon, it’s not only paying for something that is to me just a lot of whitewashing. It’s really harder to use. You can’t share it as easily because it takes you an extra 20 minutes to decipher what the heck they’re actually trying to say.

 

So what I want from an audit is really somebody saying, “All of your URLs are too long,” or “You haven’t put a description or anything,” or “Your images are not optimized. Here are three ways to optimize your images.” Just tell me that.

 

Ray: Totally. I would say probably a deeper problem in some regards is the language. You and I have both encountered this. When we see people using language like that, a lot of times it’s being used as a smokescreen to cover up not really understanding the problem, potentially some level of incompetency. People a lot of times go hide behind this language. It can be revealing when you see that because you can a lot of times try to figure out what’s going on there. But it’s a problem because if those people are the ones who are running the show, a lot of times you’ll not be able to push through that.

 

Erin: Let’s wrap up a little bit with some suggested next steps for folks who are looking to get started. I want to close out by saying one of the reasons we’re talking about this at the end of the year is because we really want people to consider starting off 2015 with all of the information about how their site, their traffic, their content marketing, all of these elements are really working for them, what building blocks they should use for the next year and some improvements that can be made.

 

So what we’re talking about is really setting a baseline at the end of this year or super early next year before you start rolling out a ton of new campaigns so that you can really take a look and say, “Okay, here’s where we started the year.” And then at the end of next year you’ll be able to look and say, “Here’s where we finished the year.” So this is really great timing and why we’re having this discussion now. Let’s talk a little bit about what you should do if you’re interested in getting an audit. What would you do if this is what you were going to start on tomorrow?

 

Ray: If I was going to be someone else pursuing an audit for my own site or company, I would start off by defining what my goals are, try and get really specific and narrow down. What are the top two or three things that I really hope I can accomplish in the next quarter or two with my site?

 

One of the business goals for us was the SaaS companies. Are we trying to increase more leads? Are we trying to increase more conversions or more referrals? It’s usually one of those three things for a SaaS company. If you’re an e-commerce, you’re basically looking at new visitors or increased transactions and increased conversions or more repeat purchases. So it tends to be very specific.

 

Try to tie everything that you do back to those business goals because it really brings a lot of clarity. From there you can work backward and say, “We think you can form hypothesis around – we want to achieve these goals. We’re currently not achieving these goals because we think we’re running into this. We want to fix this problem by doing these things.” You can be very specific at how you articulate these problems. You can then decide whether or not you need to bring in that external person to help you, or if you’ve got the team members and resources internally to actually just make it happen. Going through that step can really put you in a position I think to decide how you want to proceed with your audit.

 

Erin: Cool. Once you’ve done that, because it does start with defining what it is you’re hoping to accomplish is that you should be able to clearly explain that to the organization. If you’re talking about working with a third party solution, you should be able to have a conversation about those goals and you should be able to understand how information is going to help fulfill that once you’re done with the audit.

 

I would also say that if what you’re looking at is evaluating tools to figure this out, do what we suggest at the beginning, which is perform a couple of these things yourself. If you need recommendations on something like free data dump places to use, you can ping Ray or I on Twitter at GinzaMetrics or marketing@ginzametrics.com. We’re happy to send along a list of some free stuff you can use to check out.

 

Once you’re looking at maybe doing a bigger content analysis and larger audit of everything, make sure that you can actually speak to someone there who really understands your problem and that also what you’re working with is not somebody necessarily who is trying to pay for 20 different tools. I think that that always gets a little bit dangerous to me, that when what you’re paying for is someone who is using a lot of disparate data sources and cobbling them all together as one audit for you and that they don’t actually know or understand the technology themselves. What I mean would be an account manager person sitting at a desk running all the same data that you’re asking for through the same free sites you could have done yourself and then literally just sending you printouts of all that stuff. We’ve seen it happen.

 

Ray: Oh yeah, all the time.

 

Erin: Buyer beware. Caveat, inform yourself as much as possible before you decide to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to somebody to do something. Have a clear idea of what the output would be.

 

I would say attach a writer of the contract that says you get some kind of follow up. There’s not a “Here’s your PDF report. Good luck! You’ve already collected our money – peace out.” Make sure that there’s a writer in there that says, “We get at least a one-hour follow up or two-hour follow up or whatever worth of phone call with a knowledgeable human,” someone that will get it.

 

Ray: I couldn’t imagine performing an audit without doing that because there’s just a lot of information to process. We didn’t talk about pricing much but let’s talk about what we’ve seen in terms of ballpark price ranges for some of these types of audits. Do you have any thoughts on that?

 

Erin: I’ve literally seen it range anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000 depending on how big the company is. I remember back in my agency days, the pricing that agencies would charge – I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus – but we’re talking about what do we know that their budget is and what do we think the ceiling is, and doing the car pricing model which is, “Well, I’m going to place it way up here and if we have to bargain down, we can.” Starting at such an exorbitantly high price that even cutting the price in half felt like a huge win.

 

This is why I’m saying you should be really cautious about choosing an audit provider that is going to just cobble together up onto disparate data from free tools that you could’ve done yourself. Because then what you could do is try to have a junior-level person do this. Or you could say, “Look, I’m going to send you a lot of data and I just want you to analyze it.” There’s a difference between gathering really good data, collecting important data, and then the analysis of that information and calling out recommendations from it is what you’re really supposed to be paying for.

 

In most instances, I would say that what you should be paying for is not the data points themselves. What you’re really paying for is a smart person to look at the data and to tell you what to do with it. That’s what you’re paying for.

 

Ray: Absolutely. I would say that that goes back to understanding your business goals. Say if you’re a $100 million a year e-commerce company and your business goals are going to increase revenue over the next 6-12 months by 15% and you think that this is going to help you get halfway there then you’ve got a very specific number that you understand the overall value contribution of what an audit like this would be. So if the consultant understands that, they can come in and legitimately claim to add value to that and they deserve to be compensated for that, as well.

 

Erin: It’s like why you pay for a doctor. You’re not paying for the tongue depressors and the eye thing or whatever. You’re paying for someone who has gone to medical school for a number of years and hopefully knows things you don’t know. You are literally paying for the information that someone has gathered in their own head after collecting data. You’re not paying them to say, “It looks like you have a sore throat.” You already know you have a sore throat. You’re talking to them because they are supposed to look at all of the things that are currently going on with you – blood tests or whatever – and diagnose the problem and tell you how to fix it. That’s what you’re paying them for.

 

This is the exact same thing that you should be getting when you do a content and say audit is you’re not paying for somebody to tell you everything that’s wrong. You’re paying for the recommendations as to how to fix it. You’re paying for additional knowledge that you couldn’t get from printing it out yourself.

 

Ray: Definitely.

 

Erin: With that, I want to close off and say that we’ll do a couple of follow-up posts on this because I think we really bucketed things out into a couple of different things, probably some dos and don’ts on searching for something, some key points to look for when you’re talking about doing an audit and the benefits of that, and maybe even some information on how to make sure that you’re finding the correct person and pricing to match your business goals. We’ll be sure to post those things up for the GinzaMetrics blog to everybody for resources.

 

Once again, I want to thank everybody for a really fantastic year. It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I can’t believe it’s already gone. But we’re going to be ready to kick off 2015. I think we even got some new product stuff that will be coming out beginning of the year, so we’re really excited about that and I’m sure we’ll be talking about it more.

 

If you have suggestions for show topics or guests that you want to see either for FOUND Friday or for webinars, please always feel free to submit them to us. We really like hearing from you with all of your information and input. With that I will say goodbye and see you next year.

 

Ray: See you next year. Thanks, Erin.

 

Erin: Bye, Ray.

 

Ray: Bye.

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