tuff seo chsrt

How We Increased Our Organic Traffic by 630% in 12 months (And as a result, increased our monthly revenue by over 60%)

tuff seo chsrt

As a growth marketing agency, we work hard to balance quick wins with long-term strategy. Our process helps us identify which channels to test first based on our target audience and what combination of tactics will help us hit our goals. We’ve done this for over 35 different businesses in the last 3 years. 

Last year, though, we decided to get serious about our own growth strategy at Tuff. We help companies grow every day with a combination of different marketing tactics, what will happen if we test some of those out for our own growth? 

Up until this year, we had grown steadily through referrals – either from an existing client or from someone finding our Google Reviews and reaching out. Then, in November 2019, we did three things: 

  • Identified our USP (value props!)
  • Did a deep dive on our competitors
  • Fleshed out our ICP (target client!) 

With this research, we then put together a full growth marketing strategy for Tuff, with the primary focus on organic growth. While organic is tough, takes patience, consistency, and time, we knew it was the one channel that could bring us compounding growth if done right. 

For us, SEO has turned out to be a game-changer…

  • We rank for top keywords
  • Leads come knocking on our door 
  • Sales are steady and consistent (we don’t spend any money on lead gen) 

tuff seo chsrt

tuff keywords

In this post, we’ll take you through the exact steps we took to jumpstart our organic performance at Tuff. 

  1. Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 
  2. Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 
  3. Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO
  4. Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 
  5. Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google
  6. Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 
  7. Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 
  8. Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

Let’s dive in! 

Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 

High-quality content is all about providing value to your customers and you can’t do that if you don’t know what your customers are looking for. 

The first step in building an SEO strategy for a B2B company is to understand who the target audience is and what they’re looking for. The best way to know what your customers want is to ask them, or to build a list of all the questions they ask you, which is what we did.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have a list of customer questions then the next best step is to build a buyer persona.

These were questions like: 

  • I’m trying to figure out if I should hire an agency or bring it in-house – what do you think?
  • How much money do we need to set aside for a testing budget? 
  • How do we decide what budget is enough? 
  • Do you offer a performance-based pricing structure? 
  • What should we expect from hiring an agency? 
  • Do you do any YouTube ads? 
  • How long does it take to see results? 

We paired the above list, and others, with more qualitative research as well. We read blogs, we chatted with other business owners, and we studied all our existing and previous clients. 

Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 

Once we had our list of questions, we began to conduct keyword research and map out the buyer journey. This is how we did it. 

We cross-referenced the list of questions with target keyword research to find the questions with the most value to our customers. We did this by focusing on a few different metrics, amongst others: 

  1. Search volume – how many professionals have this exact or similar question.  
  2. Keyword difficulty – do we have a chance of ranking for this keyword
  3. Keyword cannibalization – do we already have content around this keyword that we can improve

Once we finished cross-referencing our list of questions with our keyword research and narrowed it down to a dozen or so keywords, we had to figure out where these keywords fit in the buyer journey. 

tuff buyer journey

We wanted to make sure that we weren’t targeting a ton of top-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel keywords. The goal is to use high-quality content to properly guide the customer through the sales funnel.

Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO 

After doing an initial technical SEO audit on our own website, we conducted competitive analysis on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO. What we found was rather interesting and helped us create additional pieces of content.

We found that some agencies were utilizing list posts to drive organic traffic to their website. We took this with a grain of salt as these articles definitely helped to drive organic traffic but were very top-of-funnel. Taking that into consideration, we included a few of these list posts into our SEO content strategy wherever we had additional content to follow it up with. 

I recorded a short video explaining this SEO competitive analysis more in-depth if you’re interested in watching it.

Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 

On top of the initial keyword research that was done, we looked for “quick wins” where we were ranking on page 2 or 3 and thought we had a good chance to move up to page 1. We looked at the keyword volume, difficulty, and top-10 ranking pages to decide if we had a good chance of ranking for that keyword or not. In regards to the keyword difficulty, we typically try to focus on keywords that have a difficulty of less than 70% but this isn’t a hard rule.

We also take into consideration whether or not this is a valuable keyword for our business and if it’s going to drive not just organic traffic but sales leads.

For Q4 2020, these are a few of the keywords that we’ve identified and are strengthening:

tuff q4 keywords

We also took a look at what page we currently had ranking and how we could improve it and support it with additional content. 

Seeing what’s currently ranking in the top-10 and analyzing those pages is one of the best ways to figure out what Google is looking for. Some important things to look for are word count, the quality of the content, rich media, the authoritativeness of the brand, and how unique the content is compared to the other rankings. Then the ultimate question becomes, can we produce better content than what is currently ranking in the top-10?

In regards to the authoritativeness of the brand, if you’re unsure about the particular brand, you can check their domain authority in SEMrush, ahrefs, Moz, or several other tools. 

Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google

After all of that research, we adjusted and narrowed our focus down to about 10 primary keywords that are vital to our business. We work on quarterly SEO sprints because SEO is not a quick solution and in order to rank on page 1 for 10 keywords we need to consistently produce high-quality comprehensive content, which takes a while. 

Comprehensive coverage is typically at least 4 pieces of content and includes a high-quality landing page and 3 corresponding blog posts that internally link to that landing page. This is often referred to as a cluster strategy or a pillar page with supporting content.

At the end of the quarter, we review all of our content efforts to see where we won and lost. We also review our keyword rankings in SEMrush and Google Search Console to determine which keywords we want to focus on for the next quarter. A few of the keywords will be chosen based on where we’re currently ranking and what probability we have of ranking on the first page.

Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 

As mentioned earlier, whenever creating content we want to make sure that we have comprehensive coverage on that topic. We want to be seen as an authoritative voice in the industry and you can’t do that by creating just 1 or 2 pieces of content. 

One way to stand out from the competition and let customers know that this is one of your core services is to create a landing page or pillar page, which is exactly what we did.

We rolled out a 12-page landing page strategy that was backed by blog posts, case studies, and more. 

tuff footer

Some of these landing pages are focused on our core services while others are focused on our culture, the industries we serve, and the processes we follow when working with clients. All of these pages have not only helped with organic traffic but also with leading customers through the sales funnel. 

Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 

We wanted to tackle the website content first because we knew it would have the biggest impact on our organic growth. This isn’t always the case but our website, at the time, was pretty thin. The content was generic, duplicated in some areas, and in need of a revamp.

Once we got through the website content updates, we went back to our target keyword list, reviewed our target audience information one more time, and then built out an editorial calendar. Here were the details: 

  • Dates: April – September 
  • Target Number of Articles: 42
  • Actual Number of Articles Published: 25  

At first, we built this out in excel, using tabs to differentiate between content priorities. For us, we have the below categories: 

tuff content categories

Over time, we moved this over to Trello so we could. The idea was to get moving on articles (balance the quality and quantity conundrum) with an easy-to-use spreadsheet. Once we started getting traction, we upgraded to a project management tool to help us streamline the process and give the internal team more visibility on the content queue. 

Here’s what it looks like now: 

Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

We had the editorial calendar, the target keywords, and the due dates. But who the heck was going to write all the content? 

Our industry isn’t overly complex but we wanted to make sure the articles we published reflected real results, accurate analysis, and our experience working with almost every type of client on 20+ marketing channels. 

We decided to produce 70% of the content in-house and outsource 30%.

For the in-house articles, we leaned on the internal team to help support. Each team member was asked to write 1 to 2 articles a month, based on their area of expertise. These could include case studies, channel deep dives, campaign results, and strategy – but needed to map back to our editorial calendar and keyword list. 

For the out-source articles, we found a combination of freelancers who we could onboard to the Tuff voice. We identified 5-6 posts, wrote outlines, and gave to a freelancer to help us bulk up content efforts on a particular keyword. 

While we would like to (one day) write all the Tuff content in-house, this was a helpful split to offset the workload. The content was primarily written by the team, we had oversight on strategic direction for anything we outsourced and were able to push out high-value articles on a variety of topics. We couldn’t have done this without the internal team willing to contribute or freelancers to help fill gaps. 

Next Up 

For the next couple of months, our focus is still on feeding our content process with high-quality, diverse content for the Tuff blog.  Here’s what we have on the roadmap to keep improving our organic performance: 

  • Implement UX fixes on the blog to make it easier to navigate 
  • Add author pages to the blog so users can filter by each team member at Tuff 
  • Implement a remediation plan to make sure we remove any content that is outdated, irrelevant, and not bringing value 
  • Launch two new core playlists on the blog – SEO and LinkedIn Ads 

If you’re curious about what we did to get these results, have feedback on our process, or simply want to chat about organic performance, shoot us a note. We can chat in more detail about the content plan and SEO strategy we used that might work for your businesses in a similar way.

Data to measure your ecommerce conversion rate.

Pairing Market Boom With an eCommerce Growth Strategy

ebike in the snow

When we think about a brand as a good fit for us at Tuff, we look to their current traction and historical growth. How’s their momentum currently and how have they been growing?

Based on the answers to these questions, we then think through whether our team will be helpful to them. Will our strength in Growth strategy specifically around services like Social Advertising, PPC, and SEO be channels that we can drive significant growth month over month? 

In addition to larger growth marketing opportunities, we look to a brand’s success within their market as well as that market’s current growth. Is it an industry that is booming or stagnant? How does the brand’s offering work within that market and how is that market responding to them? 

We then seek to pair external market forces with a growth strategy.

A great example of how we paired market boom with an incredibly smart growth strategy is from our partnership with QuietKat. 

QuietKat is an electric bike retailer based out of Eagle, Colorado that sells direct-to-consumer, on Amazon, and through a network of large and mid-sized retailers including within the Cabelas and Bass Pro Shop network. 

Unlike many electric bike brands within the cycling industry, QuietKat’s primary audience is not your typical urban commuter. Instead for the last few years, they’ve been carving out a place for themselves with a hunting and outdoorsmen space. 

Turns out that electric bikes, in addition to hauling groceries and kids in an urban environment, are also ideal for backcountry hunting when outfitted with fat tire mountain bike tires and accessories. 

Electric bikes are specifically good for hunters due to their quiet and stealthy approach (hence the name QuietKat) combined with new battery efficiency that gives riders the ability to go further for longer. 

QuietKat came to Tuff to talk about growth in March 2020. Their success in the hunting space had propelled them to seek new audience growth within the Outdoor space.

As mentioned, before we bring on new partners, we do our research to make sure that specific clients are a good fit for Tuff. QuietKat was no different, we did our homework and spent time pouring over historical data, Electric Bike Industry insights, and projections for where the market was headed.  

From our research, we found numerous opportunities for growth within QuietKat’s offering that would pair perfectly with Tuff’s Growth expertise. In addition, we learned that the E-Bike Market was in the midst of a Market BOOM. In short, while e-bikes had taken years to gain popularity outside of niche customer markets specifically for environmentally conscious buyers, the market had shifted sometime in the late 2010s and the mass opinion had decided that electric bikes were ‘in’ and were buying them quicker than brands could build them. 

For example, during our research, we found that Rad Power Bikes, an urban commuter electric bike industry leader from Seattle, had one of their largest revenue-generating years in 2019 with over $100M in electric bikes and accessories sold. In 2020, following their successes in 2019, they’ve seen 300% revenue growth month over month. 

Due to a pairing of market boom with growth strategy, QuietKat has also seen significant growth in 2020. Here’s how we were able to yield results with our growth strategy attached to a growing market. 

We Made Our eCommerce SEO Strategy a Top Priority

We often find that organic is overlooked as a channel. Strategies for growing organic often get put somewhere at the bottom of the marketing strategy and harped on the least. 

Don’t get us wrong, paid advertising is very exciting but in our opinion, brands with organic revenue making up the largest chunk of their overall revenue stand to do the best in the long run. 

The simple fact is that it’s incredibly difficult as a brand to subsist on just paid growth. Typically, you need a pipeline of investment to help pay for that growth when costs increase or you need to scale. 

With a strong organic revenue-producing strategy, you can build your own investment pipeline for the days when cost is high or turning up the scale is prime time. 

But doesn’t an eCommerce SEO Strategy take years to actually start working? 

organic growth from Google Analytics

Yes, it takes time (so does growing a brand), but you can start seeing results in 90-days or less should you know how to build on organic momentum through a tactic called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). 

One of Tuff Growth’s Channel Expertise is SEO, we even have a dedicated channel expert who heads up SEO strategy for our clients. 

For QuietKat, we found that in 2019 Organic Traffic made up 40% of eCommerce revenue, the highest revenue-generating channel with the highest conversion rate in our analysis.

By making Organic Growth a priority we’ve been able to grow that channel. Currently organic makes up 60% of revenue for QuietKat. 

We were able to grow organic with three main SEO tactic improvements. 

Dashboard example from SEM Rush

1. Improving Site Health + Speed

When we first start working on improving the organic performance for our clients, we typically run an SEO Audit to determine whether we can start implementing organic revenue-driving strategies that will work with the current infrastructure. Two primary data points we look to when making this assessment are Site Health and Site speed. 

Site health is based on the number of total errors and total warnings that are found on the pages crawled on your site. We typically feel comfortable implementing revenue-driving strategies when websites have a 90% or better score. 

Another check we do is on site speed. We find that website’s with slower speeds perform at lower rates than ones with faster speeds. This impacts how organic traffic will perform on your website. We can spend lots of time developing revenue driving organic strategies but if the website infrastructure they land on isn’t ready to handle their needs then performance will suffer. 

2. Improving Internal Linking 

Once we’ve improved site health and speed, then we seek to improve the internal linking on your website. For QuietKat we made sure that every single page on their website linked to other content in a parent / child like structure. 

We specifically worked on making sure that there were no dead-ends for the user and that the user always had a place to go that we wanted to rank. For example, they might start on a blog post and end on a landing page, because we had included a link to a collection page within the blog post that then pushed the user to checkout a product page. 

3. Improving Product Optimization

Once we had improved internal linking for QuietKat then we worked on product optimization, which involves one of the most effective tasks you can do in eCommerce SEO – optimized product titles. 

Product titles need to have clear and searchable titles that Google can easily index and rank. When titles are optimized, it’s more likely that user queries will trigger your organic content to be shown on search engine results. 

In addition, we also optimize product descriptions, which helps with driving more organic traffic because there’s more content on the page to rank. High quality content in your product description will work in combination with your product title to help you show up higher in search results. 

Developed a Strong PPC Strategy That Plays Nice With Social & Organic 

Example of an eCommerce search ad on Google.

PPC is one our favorite tactics at Tuff. It works really well by itself and can help bring websites extremely qualified traffic due to the fact that when done correctly brings in people already in the discovery phase of what you’re offering. 

It’s also our favorite because it can work really well with social and organic. 

One big issue that is often overlooked when thinking about Growth is how paid tactics work together individually and with organic. My hunch is that this is due to paid tactics usually being performance based. At Tuff we use performance data strategies to inform us on how tactics are working – a very common perspective to use in marketing. 

Where we separate ourselves at Tuff is how we isolate those tactics’ performance and consider how those tactics are working with one another to advertise as a funnel. How are the paid tactics working in combination with a strong organic strategy? How are we informing users on a more impression-based model to consider our brand down the line? 

Just looking at who saw our ads, clicked, and immediately converted is a poor way to judge an overall Growth Marketing Strategy, but it’s also a great way to determine if a particular ad campaign is performing at a high enough rate to warrant increased spend. 

The secret is to utilize a balanced full-funnel approach to decide what channels serve as awareness or reminders and what channels attribute to the last click sale.  

Understanding Audience Has Never Been More Important

Like many marketing strategies, audience understanding is key to success. For QuietKat, we spent a lot of time on both social and PPC refining our audiences. One of QuietKat’s objectives for us was to find new audiences outside of the hunting space. To do this, we worked off of hunters and found subsets of Outdoorsmen closely aligned with their primary audience that existed outside of the immediate audience. 

To do this though, we tested the same creatives across platforms like Youtube, Google Display Network (GDN), Facebook, and Instagram. 

We quickly learned that these top of the funnel placements would not yield immediate results and that we would need to look to longer conversion paths with multiple touchpoints. 

We found that on average it took 7 touchpoints in a sequence to yield a conversion, but on the extremes, we saw 13 touchpoint highs and 1 touchpoint lows. 

Understanding Multi-Channel Sales Paths

Example of mult-touch attribution for eCommerce.

For QuietKat, our analysis found that due to the cost range of an electric bike by QuietKat ($2500 – $6500), we weren’t going to find one advertising channel that would definitively carry our sales. For higher priced items this is generally the case since the decision stage is inherently longer. 

As explained above, we found on average that conversion required 7 touch points. This meant that customers were coming through to convert on a longer sequence that included our multiple channels from social to ppc to organic to direct. 

For less expensive priced items, we might find that a single channel or two channels play a central role in assisting a conversion. For more expensive items, we’ve found that the buyer’s journey is longer and requires more touch points.  

Having an independent strategy for each channel that worked together underneath our larger growth marketing strategy allowed us to increase overall eCommerce revenue by 88% since our partnership began in April 2020.

Focusing on eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization

Example of an eCommerce website.

The final tactic that contributed to our partnership success has been a keen focus on eCommerce Website Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). It’s such an important factor of a successful growth strategy, because you could have the best ad creative and copy, but without a solid conversion rate – your ads might never get the conversion they deserve. 

One area of focus that applied to our overall eCommerce Converison rate was improving onsite navigation by developing a data-driven layout combined with our expertise for eCommerce to build a smart navigation header bar. 

Our strategy helped increase eCommerce Conversion Rate by 26%, which led to over 100% increases in Revenue and Transactions. 

Stats on an increase in online CVR.
Essentially, we were able to get more people to purchase by simply making it easier for them to find what they were looking to purchase. 

By focusing on eCommerce Website CRO, we were also able to increase revenue without needing to increase ad spend budget or traffic. 

MoM data results for online store.

This is possible because eCommerce CVR is directly tied to eCommerce Revenue. When eCommerce CVR goes up, revenue and transactions go up. See the chart above for reference. When we increase the eCommerce CVR to .5%, we see a direct increase in Transactions and Revenue without needing more traffic or an increase in average order value. Growth Marketing Strategy

Each Growth Marketing Strategy looks different for each brand we work with at Tuff. Not all the channels featured in this case study may work for any other brand. Let us take a deep dive into your brand and develop a strategy built for your business. 

Download a Sample Growth Marketing Proposal

Thalamus Case Study

From Qualified Traffic to Booked Demos: How We Helped Thalamus Increase Sales 3x

Thalamus Case Study
When it comes to driving demos, it’s rare that a business can rely exclusively on one channel to generate all their leads. A demo, unlike a website click or impression, is a commitment from a potential customer, and to get them to take that step, it’s a bit of an ask.

That’s why, more often than not, you’ve got to figure out the right mix of channels and touchpoints to get quality traffic to your site the first time, the second time, the third time, and then convert. It’s a funnel.

You’ve got to remind them, often and at the right times, about who you are and what makes your product valuable for them. Then, if done well, after a few site visits, they’ll agree to a demo. From there, your sales team can come in and close the deal and the rest is history.

When it comes to booking demos, there are steps. It’s a journey. You’ve got to match your marketing to this path and nurture them down the funnel.

In this post, we’re going to look at how we tackled this for Thalamus and grew their bookings consistently month over month with LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and Bing.

Meet Thalamus

Thalamus is the premier GME interview management platform that connects residency and fellowship applicants and programs. They are a small, 20 person team, based in Nashville and distributed throughout the US. We started working with them in March 2020 with the primary goal of testing out new paid channels to help increase bookings.

“Tuff is amazing. For about 11 years, I’ve always been involved with or owned some element of a brand’s marketing efforts. I’ve been given teams that already existed or tasked with finding the right partner. Tuff is honest the first time someone/s REALLY nailed it. I mean completely nailed it! They understood us quickly. They report in weekly and the reports make sense to me. :) They have awesome ideas and follow through. I feel completely at ease that they are in charge of that critical part of the our SaaS business. They truly know everything there is and give amazing advice, direction, and take action constantly on our behalf.” – Kristi Anderson, Head of Sales, Thalamus (View our reviews on Google and YouTube)

Before we get into the process and details of our partnership, here’s a look at the last couple of months from Google Analytics. This is a 150% increase YoY in booked demos.

Results from Google Analytics

Before we get into the details….it’s worth noting that the interview process, due to the state of the word, had to shift virtual overnight. Thalamus was in the best position to help them with the transition so natural demand was at an all-time high.

Now, let’s talk about the details!

Step 1: Select channels based on targeting and cost

Since Thalamus hadn’t experimented on any channels we knew we would need to start lean, test out each channel, kill anything that didn’t work quickly, and then scale up what worked.

In order to determine the channels and tactics we wanted to test first, we started with their target audience.

For Thalamus, it looks something like this:

Residency coordinators or program directors at academic medical centers and hospital systems throughout the US & Canada.

Using what we knew about the target audience, as well as our experience running campaigns on almost every major channel, we selected these three channels to start:

LinkedIn Ads
LinkedIn advertising has behavior-based targeting and we knew we could get in front of people with very specific job titles. LinkedIn advertising, unlike the other channels, allows you to get very niche with professionals and industries. While expensive, testing here was a no brainer.

Facebook Ads
While we couldn’t target specific job descriptions on Facebook, we knew we could use this platform for cheap retargeting. We put a small percentage of the budget here to capture eyeball
Google

Google Ads
With Google, we wanted as many high-intent searches as possible. For Thalamus, there is a bit of seasonality so we needed to pull historical CPCs and impressions to get started. At first, we kept the keywords tight to ensure the traffic would stay healthy, and overtime we’re able to expand. We relied on a mix of competitor keywords, brand terms, and search terms to make this work.

Increase in search volume and search impressions

We are continuing to see an increase in Search volume and Search impressions

Bing Ads
We didn’t start out with Bing (I wish we had) but added it once we saw such good results on Google. We were able to duplicate our strategy, make small tweaks, and scale bookings with an added lift from Bing.

Bing advertising isn’t right for every industry or company but it’s less crowded (and cheaper in most cases) than Google. This helped us cover more ground and capture additional high-intent terms for Thalamus.

Step 2: Develop highly-target messaging with social proof

Now, we can’t really take credit for this but getting the copy and content right with ads, especially social ads, is really important. Our writer, Elle, dug into the target audience and helped pull out very specific trust-indicators and product features we know would stand out.

 

While Thalamus had never run paid campaigns, they’ve been the leader in the industry for years. We leaned hard on this experience to build as much trust with our cold audience as possible.

Step 3: Measure the results and get better

Once we aligned with Thalamus on their key objective from the paid campaigns – getting more demos booked from their website – we knew that everything we did from a measurement and optimization perspective needed to be shaped around this sole KPI.

Perhaps the most important aspect of setting yourself up for success is being able to accurately measure the results and trust the data you are receiving. Optimizing your website or campaigns based on inaccurate data may be just as bad, and in some cases even worse, than not attempting to optimize your performance at all.

With this in mind, we worked closely with Thalamus to ensure the tracking of the demo request submission form was accurate. We used this goal, along with other on-site performance metrics, as the baseline for analyzing the value of the paid traffic arriving from our paid campaigns. We also reported on leads coming from paid channels by timestamp. The Thalamus team could then score the relevancy of the form fill submissions and subsequent contact to help us determine the true value of the leads we were receiving.

Cost per demo results

With this baseline KPI driving our measurement, it naturally also drove our campaign optimizations, and we continuously reviewed our campaigns, ended campaigns, and launched new campaigns across platforms to identify the best sources of traffic. Intent-driven Search campaigns on Google and Bing were optimized by reviewing the converting keywords and search terms. For social, campaigns were optimized by reviewing the converting ad copy, audiences, and image assets. With continuous measurement and optimization, we have been able to see a steady MoM decrease of cost per lead.

Facebook mobile.

[Case Study] Facebook and Instagram Ads: How to go from $0 to $43,000/day Ad Spend on Facebook in 60 Days

Facebook ads for mobile apps.

Crunch time. An App partner (iOS & Android) needed to get a massive volume of installs ASAP to support a critical holiday important for their annual revenue and new customer acquisition. 

Over 60 days we went from $0 to $43,000 per day ad spend on Facebook & Instagram. Along the way we helped the app achieve its best revenue day ever, tripled their Instagram following (a positive side effect of the massive spend, and engaging ad creative), and brought in millions in lifetime value (LTV), all while keeping cost per install (CPI) on target. 

We’ll be using “CPI” a lot in this article, so take a moment to sear its meaning into your brain before you read on. Say it with me: “CPI = Cost per Install” 

Here’s what’s included:

  • Overview
  • Campaign Setup and Results Summary
  • Days 1-30: Testing to Find Facebook Ads, Audiences, and Settings that Scale
    • Creative that Scale 
    • Audiences that Scale
    • Ads Settings that Scale
    • Tracking Troubleshooting
  • Days 31-60 The Ramp Up and Final Push
    • More testing; audiences, creative, and settings 
    • Push Budgets to Winners  
    • Event Specific Creative Push 
    • Emergency! Account Spend Limit Hit & Workaround 
    • Emergency! App Stability 
    • Final Push and Rising CPI
  • Summary 
    • Top Ads
    • Performance 
    • Final Assessment and Key Takeaways

Campaign Setup and Results Summary: 

App install campaign data from Facebook Ads.

  • The Client: iOS and Android App with in-App Purchases 
  • Primary Channel: Facebook and Instagram App Install Ads
  • Supporting Channels:
    • iOS App Store Ads 
    • Google App Install Ads 
    • Pinterest App Install Ads 
    • Email (To drive in-app purchases and user-adoption post install) 
  • The Geo: 🇺🇸
  • The Results:
    • 60 Days
    • $263,000 Spend 
    • 97,975 Installs 
    • $2.68 Cost per Install (CPI) 
    • 9.2m Facebook Reach 
    • 26.8m Facebook Impressions 
  • Best revenue day in company history 
    • Bonus Performance Metrics
      • 2.1m video views 
      • 54,000 post reactions 
      • 11,000 post shares 
      • 6,000 New Instagram followers
      • Multiple ad variations went viral 
      • Featured in the App Store

Days 1-30: Identify Facebook Audiences, Creative, and Settings that Will Scale 

After an initial planning, strategy, and goal alignment phase we jumped in. In order to protect costs and efficiency, we spent the first 30 days testing creative concepts including layout variations, and ad copy; we tested 68 audiences, and different bid optimization strategies. This section will get into what and how we tested in the first 30 days. 

Finding Creative the Scales

We went through years of creative in the Facebook Ads Manager and identified ad variations and their attributes of top past performers. We looked at metrics like click through rate (CTR), cost per install (CPI), ad quality metrics and more to identify top ads. We looked at the ads copy, creative, CTAs, and ad formats (single image, carousel, and video). 

This research revealed: 

  • Top formats: Carousel, Single Image, Video 
  • Top creative: was explanatory or had humor 
  • Top Audiences were list and event based lookalikes 

The research resulted in 12 ad concepts to be paired with the different ad formats and creative. We used existing client creative, and worked with their design team on new creative options. 

Creative testing leaned on Facebook’s algorithm to serve the ad variation that would work best. Ad sets typically had 2-6 creative variations, and the Facebook algorithm would move budget to top performers, but the Facebook Algorithm didn’t work alone. 

The Tuff team would monitor ads daily, and turn off any ad variations or ad sets that had high CPI. This would force Facebook to spend more on the other variations, which sometimes would go on to become winners.  

Audience Research

The audience investigation was similar. What audiences had the best performance metrics? Were they segmented by age, gender, or geography? Were there exclusions (users specified not to receive an ad, e.g., existing app users?) 

Though we had initial ideas on what audiences would perform well, seeing historical audience performance, gave us a running start on audience development. 

Audience targeting results on Facebook.

For early learnings we looked at Facebook Demographic reporting in the Ad Account Overview. By Looking at Mobile App Installs compared to Amount Spent, we were able to identify which demographics were likely to have the best performance. In this instance we’re looking at the ratio of mobile app installs to amount spent by age group. To note, this trend didn’t hold through the 60 day push, so it is important to continue to target all ages so opportunities for installs aren’t missed. 

Note: Audiences are selected at the Ad Set level in the Facebook Ads Manager. At times in this Facebook case study, you may hear audiences and ad sets used interchangeably. 

Generally, the Facebook campaign structure is as follows: 

Facebook ads campaign structure diagram.

In the first 30 days we tested 63 audiences, paired with a mix of creative. For our tests, we’d typically have 4-8 ad sets per campaign, and 2-6 ad variations per ad set. Over the course of the test period we would turn off underperforming ads and ad sets to push more spend to winning mixes of audiences and creative variations. 

Facebook campaign structure.

As Facebook Ads performance data came in ads and ad sets we’re turned off, signified in the chart above by “🙅‍♀️”. Only about ¼ of our ad sets survived month 1 testing, and 3 creative variations (of 12) rose as top performers. 

Days 1-30 Summary

TESTED

  • 21 Campaigns 
  • 63 Ad Sets
  • 12 Ad Variations 

RESULTS 

  • $9,821 Spend
  • 7044 Installs 
  • $1.39 CPI 
  • Three top creative variations identified 
  • 15 core audiences identified 
  • Cost-cap bid strategy identified as effective at this scale…
    …but would it last? 

Days 31-60 The Ramp Up

With top audiences, creative, and bid-strategies identified we were prepared to ramp up spend. On day 31 we had 3 campaigns live, 5 audiences, and the top three ad variations running. We spent $950 that day. From there we inched up budget at the ad set level daily, and by day 45 we hit the $2,000/day mark. 

More testing; audiences, creative, and settings

Although some audiences didn’t succeed in the 30 days, there was a chance it was due to the creative and ad settings mix. We ensured these previously tested audiences were given a chance to be paired with top creative and ad settings. 

During this period the client continued to develop new creative, and that was tested as well using the assistance of the Facebook algorithm. We also isolated some creative to guarantee Facebook spend. 

A big driving force behind this rapid Facebook Ads ad spend ramp up was a holiday important to our client’s business, and we wanted to ensure that creative specific to the holiday was served. We tested 10 holiday ad variations, and only one version took off. It would become one of our best ads for the entire 60 period, though it underperformed two non-holiday specific top ads. 

An interesting take away from the top three ads is that the event specific creative didn’t perform as well as more general app functionality ads. This may be due the holiday not being applicable to everyone who sees it. 

Facebook ad example.

Here is the top event-specific ad. It was a carousel and showcased the product offering. More on how they ad variation performed in the results and summary section. 

With top audiences and creative identified we were ready push spend way up leading up to the holiday, however, the the path to spend ramp up we encountered two speed bumps.

$5,000 Ad Account Spend Cap Hit & Workaround

Did you know Facebook has a default $5,000 ad spend cap per ad account, even on established ad accounts? That’s right! This spend cap is different from the ‘spend limit’, and can only be increased by Facebook Support. Unfortunately, support can have a several day turn around, which would be after our peak push. 

In this instance, we were able to find an immediate workaround that allowed us to keep advertising. We created new ad accounts. With each ad account having a $5,000 cap, we created 6 additional ad accounts that would take us up to the $35,000 per day in spend.

We did finally hear back from Facebook Support and get the spend limit increased, but this was a good stop gap measure to keep ads rolling. 

App Stability Issues

With this massive ramp up underway the app encountered some stability issues due to the influx of new users. This led to a temporary pause on campaigns while app capacity was addressed. 

The takeaway from this experience is that if you are undertaking a massive app install or web traffic push, have the app and website stability on your radar. How many users can your app support? Who and how will stability be addressed if there’s a crash?  

Thanks to the app’s solid team of developers, app stability issues were resolved quickly and the ramp up would continue. 

Final Push and Rising CPI

The final push up to $43,000 was made possible by attention to detail and willingness to sacrifice CPI for more spend around the important holiday.

Facebook CPI results for app installs.

As we spent more in the final days of the campaign, CPI rose as well. We followed our earlier approach of pushing budget to top ad sets and creative variations, and some of these groupings had literally hit their limit (See $5,000 account cap section above). 

The cost cap bid optimized campaigns also weren’t spending their full daily amount as Facebook struggled to find users at the cost and volume we had set forth, so most campaigns were switched to a lowest cost bid strategy, which contributed to rising CPI. Low cost bid optimization, however, increased volume and ensured campaigns would spend their set amount daily. 

Fortunately the increased CPI in this final push was acceptable because the volume of installs, and subsequent LTV supported the costs. 

Summary 

Top Three Ads:

Facebook ad results from installs.

Our top ad was a carousel. Carousels are known to do well on mobile devices, because they can be used to convey information without the bandwidth of video. This particular ad was also highly engaging and received thousands of reactions and 100s of shares over the course of the campaign. 

Facebook ad results from installs.

Our second best ad was an informal video shot on an iPhone, that shows the end product of the app (a physical card and gift). This video was paired with concise text and a headline on what the app does. The informal nature of the video may have been what made it resonate with people. 

Facebook ad results from installs.

The third best ad was event-specific, and also in the carousel format. It showcased end-products of the app, and also had the clear concise message about what the app does. Because it was event-specific, costs may have been higher, as it wasn’t relevant to everyone who saw it. All this said it was our third best ad of dozens of ad variations run over the 60 day campaign period. 

Results 

Facebook ad results for install campaigns.

Getting to $45,000/day didn’t happen right away. There was little visible activity in the first 30 days while the hard work of research, audience, and creative testing was executed. Increasing spend was only possible because of this critical foundation established early on. 

Spend peaked several days before the event this campaign was based around, after which we settled in at $1,000 – $2,000 / day spend. 

Facebook ad results for install campaigns.

Installs tracked closely with spend. This consistency was the key to our confidence as we pushed budgets up. 

Facebook ad results for install campaigns.

CPI was initially very high. To note the budgets on these learning days was very small. And CPI dropped considerably and stayed low once initial learning was complete. 

Key Takeaways to Ramp Up Spend Quickly on Facebook 

  • Test to identify top audiences, creative and settings 
  • When an audience fails, try new creative 
  • Be considerate of technical issues 
    • Is your site or app capable of the increased traffic from this kind of ramp up? 
    • Have you requested that the default $5,000/day ad spend cost cap be lifted on your Facebook ad account? 

Finally, with these principles in place, don’t be scared to push up ad spend.

Facebook has a propensity to spend what you give it especially with low cost bidding, but this spend isn’t always paired with the desired results. In this case, however, through the approach of finding audiences, creative, and ad settings that would scale, we were able to achieve a massive spend and results ramp up in a 60 day period. 

A team of marketers sitting at a table with computers.

Best Growth Marketing Agencies in Nashville in 2020

A team of marketers sitting at a table with computers.

There are a ton of great growth marketing agencies in Nashville and it can be hard to stay on top of them all. Since we have team members throughout the US, I spend time researching agencies in the cities we operate in, including Nashville. 

In this post, I’d love to share 10 growth marketing agencies in Nashville who have been partnering with clients to drive meaningful results. Some of these agencies specialize in specific tactics, like SEO or Google Ads, and others offer more end-to-end solutions. 

  1. Social Link 
  2. Tuff
  3. redpepper 
  4. Spark Marketer 
  5. Speak Creative 
  6. Astute Communications
  7. Dash Two 
  8. Taillight 
  9. Parachute Media
  10. LSM 

Social Link 

Growth marketing agency website in Nashville.

Social Link was founded in 2018 with a mission to connect people with your brand. 

Their primary focus is on digital marketing strategy using inbound marketing. The agency’s expertise includes Brand Strategy, Lead Generation and Nurturing, and HubSpot Developer and Partner. 

Social Link has 11 strong reviews on Google and the team is led by Brady O’Rourke. 

Sample of clients: Remax, Best Western, and North Shore  

Tuff 

Screenshot of marketing website.

Tuff is a plug-in growth marketing agency for hire. The team was founded in 2017 by Ellen Jantsch and hired it’s first Tennesee employee in 2019. Since then, the agency has grown it’s client base in Nashville and surrounding areas.

They are a small, fully remote team that specializes in tactics like: Conversion Rate OptimizationTechnical SEO ImplementationFacebook and Instagram Ads, Google Shopping, Google Search, Display Ads, YouTube Ads, Retargeting, Content Strategy, Link Building, Influencer Marketing and Email.

Sample of clients: Thalamus, CITI Program, and WatchBox 

Case study: Felt 

redpepper 

redpepper is a full-service agency that specializes in branding and creative services. They are experts when it comes to brand design and brand identity. 

The agency was founded 15 years ago and the team now has 60 full-time employees. redpepper was founded by Tim McMullen and they’ve worked on brand projects for some top companies in the US. 

Sample of clients: Slack, Verizon, and Mars 

Case study: Urbane 

Spark Marketer

Spark Marketer is a one-stop-shop for local service and small business owners looking to navigate the world of online marketing and social media. They work with HVACs, Restaurant Owners, Remodeling Contractors, and other local businesses. 

The agency was founded in 2012 by Taylor Hill and Carter Harkins and has 16 full-time employees. If you’re a local business, Spark Marketer could be a great fit. 

Sample of clients: A to Z Window Screen, Winston’s Chimney Service, and Legacy Hill Dentistry

Speak Creative

Jacob Savage founded Speak Creative in 1991. Since then, they’ve partnered with dozens of brands to help them with website development and brand identity. 

The agency describes the team of 42 as “web design company with a passion for all things digital” and they can help you with things like mobile app development, video production, and website design. 

Sample of clients: Ballet Memphis, OKC Zoo, and BROOKS  

Case study: Graceland

Astute Communications

Astute Communications is a digital marketing and web design agency that focuses on developing cohesive brands and comprehensive digital strategies that generate leads and grow businesses. 

The agency was founded in 2013 by Anna Stout, a web designer and developer with a background in business development, the company was built to create harmony between client interests and production realities. It’s a smaller shop, with 9 full-time employees. 

Sample of clients: Nashville recovery center, aerial innovations, and vintage millworks

Case study: Verdi Oncology 

Dash Two  

Dash Two is a digital marketing firm headquartered in Culver City, CA, with a second team and location in Nashville. The agency was founded in 2009 and now has 30+ team members. 

Dash Two specializes in end-to-end digital marketing, with solutions for paid ads, landing pages, conversion rate optimization, and data and analytics. 

One thing that makes Dash Two particularly unique is that they combine the power of online channels with more traditional marketing like billboards, print, and outdoor advertising. 

Sample of clients: Adidas, Puma, and Universal Studios 

Case study: Klarna 

Taillight 

Taillight is a creative video production company based in Nashville. The agency was founded in 2000 by Tom Forrest and has a team of 10 employees that provide video production, branding, and content marketing services.

The team has extensive video production experience and focuses on TV programming for live music specials, comedy specials, awards shows, original series.

Sample of clients: CMT, Glow, and Hallmark 

Case study: Lady Antebellum Global Tour 

Parachute Media 

Parachute Media is a go-to creative agency in Nashville with a passion for brand-storytelling. The agency was founded in 2012 and now has 13 full-time employees. 

The agency’s expertise include photography, web design, data and analytics, reputation management, brand development, and paid ads. 

Parachute Media strive to have their clients view them as their in-house team rather than a distant, third-party agency.

Sample of clients: Kirkland, Alpha Park, and Camping with Dogs 

Case study: Evolve Pet Food 

LSM 

LSM is a 50+ person agency focused on helping local and small businesses succeed with online marketing. The majority of the team is located in Tennessee with support from an Indonesia office. 

The agency was founded in 2006 by Tevor Emerson and has since helped hundreds of business owners build and grow their online presence. This includes services such as local reputation management, local SEO, website design, and more. 

Sample of clients: DMMG, European Wax Center, and YMCA

Case study: Thompson Burton

Woman on a video call.

When You Sign Up For a Discovery Call with Tuff

Whether you are curious about our team and how we work, or you’d like to know your growth marketing potential, we’d love to chat with you.

The first step is to schedule a 30-minute discovery call with us.

This is a pressure-free conversation (30-minute discovery call) about what you’re trying to achieve and whether or not our teams could be successful together. 

Here’s what you can expect on the call: 

When you sign up for a discovery call, you can plan for a 30-ish minute conversation with our team to discuss:

  • Practical tips on your existing marketing strategy 
  • Your challenges with and opportunities for your company’s user acquisition 
  • How we plug-in teams with on-demand growth marketing services
  • An honest conversation about whether or not we’re a good fit 

During this call, we’ll ask you questions about your business and what you want from a partner. Things like: 

  • What are your north star goals and core KPIs?
  • What are your existing acquisition channels?
  • How much are you spending on ads currently?
  • Do you have any major roadblocks right now? 
  • What’s an acceptable CAC or CPS? What’s the ideal CAC, CPL, or CPS? 
  • Do you have someone working with you today? 
  • If you’re looking for a partner, what’s your ideal timing? 
  • If you are looking for a marketing and growth partner, what are you looking for with that relationship? 

We’ll also spend a chunk of your time sharing a bit more about Tuff – our team, how we work, what the first 30 days of working together looks like, how we structure our weekly marketing sprints, what tactics we specialize in, and how we get good results. We want you to get to know us, honestly. 

What happens after the discovery call? 

After the discovery call, if everything makes sense and feels good, we’ll get access to your core accounts. This data gives us the insights we need to prepare a custom partnership proposal. 

The accounts we typically get access to include:  

  • Google Analytics 
  • Google Search Console 
  • Facebook Ads Manager
  • Google Ads 

Using this data and insight, we’ll then put together a Partnership Proposal that puts down on paper what working together would look like. 

If it doesn’t feel like a good fit or we don’t think we can help you achieve your goals, we’ll send you over a list of vetted agencies and freelancers we think could help. Our goal is to be as helpful as possible and get you paired with the right growth marketing talent – whether that’s our team or someone else. 

Ready to chat? Let’s talk. 

Tuff ecommerce case study.

How We Boosted Koala’s eCommerce Conversion Rate by 153%

Tuff case study image.

New Mexico based Hangtime Gear is an early stage startup designing innovative mobile accessories. 

Their core product is the KOALA Super Grip Phone Harness – a smartphone holder with a leash and clasp that secures to any fabric keeping your phone safe from drops, damage, and loss. 

The KOALA was originally a 2019 IndieGoGo Campaign that raised over $500K. It has been featured in Outside Magazine, The New York Times, Gear Patrol, The Boston Globe, and on CBS’ Innovation Nation with Mo Rocca. 

From crowdfunded campaign to eCommerce Growth Strategy

Hangtime Gear reached out to our team in March 2020 to help them build and execute an eCommerce growth strategy. After doing foundational research and reviewing the full user journey, we immediately got started on getting quality traffic to the site. This included: 

  • Google Ads
  • Google Shopping
  • Facebook and Instagram Ads
  • YouTube

As traffic increased, we turned our focus to conversion rate optimization. When it comes to increasing revenue, we knew it would take more than clicks. 

In this post, we’re going to break down how our website optimizations increased the eCommerce conversion rate by 153% by:

  1. Differentiating between a crowdfund backer vs eCommerce customer.
  2. Rewriting, redesigning, and rebuilding key sections of the site. 

Crowdfunding Campaign Design eCommerce Website Design 

A great crowdfunding campaign can pave the way for your eCommerce business by giving you access to the capital you need, market validation, PR, and product reviews. 

What it can’t do is provide a verbatim model of how to advertise to your customers and optimize your eCommerce website. 

Hangtime Gear’s existing website featured design elements that were pulled from their crowdfunding page, which didn’t translate into a high enough conversion rate for our paid advertising strategy to produce a high ROAS. 

This is a common situation for founders that launch with crowdfunded campaigns – what works for a backer audience doesn’t always translate.

A crowdfunding backer is supporting an idea – more times than not this idea isn’t fully realized or completed – which is okay. The point of the crowdfunding campaign is to give you a platform to test your assumptions. 

On the contrary, an eCommerce customer is buying a fully functional product to use for a specific need. 

Due to this distinction, the two audiences require different customer journeys and user experiences, especially when it comes to a website. 

Here are the four main changes we implemented to increase Hangtime’s eCommerce conversion rate from 1.36%  to 3.46%. 

Data from Google Analytics showing an increase in conversion rate.

We started with the homepage.  

The first step in the redesign process was the homepage section. Originally, the site featured all product information on one page like you would do for a crowdfunding campaign page or for an Amazon listing. 

You could learn about the product, read customer reviews, look through top-tier publisher testimonials, and add the product to your cart, all from the homepage. 

The strategy behind this is smart – lots of the world’s leading platforms utilize it from Amazon to IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. This design centers on the assumption that the conversion rate will be higher if people have to navigate to fewer pages. 

For Amazon and crowdfunding platforms it works for two reasons: 

  1. High levels of trust with those platforms. 
  2. Those platforms have spent thousands of hours and millions upon millions of dollars optimizing their single page layouts to perform at the highest conversion rates the world has ever seen. 

However, for early-stage startup brands with very little recognition and no resources to properly optimize a single home page and product page website, getting the conversion rate results to scale can be incredibly tricky. 

To help clean up the user experience, we started by breaking out the home page from the product page and utilizing a product benefit banner structure on the homepage featuring different creatives with product specific copy and different CTAs (Calls To Action) on each banner. 

We introduced a separate product page.

For the product page, we utilized the product page section from the original website but broke it out onto its own page for the above-the-fold content. Here’s what this looks like: 

Shopify website product page design.

Below the fold of the product page, we added a customer product review section using Stamped.io’s widget that highlights top reviews with user-generated content and chronologically ordered reviews. With Stamped.io, users can filter through the reviews using a query function as well as preset tags to see all reviews featuring a term like “iPhone.” 

After the review section, we added an additional product information section that dives deep into exactly how the product is used, how it was made, and why you should use it. We used an app designed for Shopify websites called PageFly Page Builder to build this custom section. The app also allowed us to utilize a feature called lazy loading which made the product page’s loading speed faster.

We built a dedicated review page. 

One of the great things about Hangtime Gear’s KOALA product, especially for an early-stage brand, is that it has over 400 reviews.  Given that they’ve only been around for a few months – this is amazing and speaks to their customer satisfaction. 

However with 400 reviews, we didn’t want to crowd the home page or product page showcasing all of the user-generated content. We decided to break out the reviews onto their own page using generated code that we injected into the Shopify page using Stamped.io.

Example of ecommerce reviews page using the stamped.io plugin for shopify.

The start of this page features a YouTube Video testimonial of the KOALA in action and is preceded by a scrolling page of the reviews. 

We restructured the header navigation to provide easy pathways to find the product, product proof, or helpful answers about the product.

The final change that we made to the KOALA Website was to reformat the header and footer navigation menus. We wanted to control the UX journey flow, so we took out specific menu items to push non-purchasers to either learn more about the product, read user reviews, or learn about the product on the FAQ page.

We removed: 

  • About 
  • Blog 


We kept: 

  • Shop
  • Reviews
  • FAQs

Website Optimization Results 

We launched the new version of Hangtime’s website on April 23 and instantly saw an increase in conversion rate that leveled out over the next 12 days.  

In addition to bumping up conversion rate, we saw added benefits: 

  • The average session duration increased by 299% 
  • Revenue increased by 36% 
  • Bounce rate decreased by 28% 
  • Page speed increased by 29% 

Not a one and done solution. 

At Tuff, ongoing optimization is part of our conversion rate optimization website design process. It can also be used for our clients who already have high conversion rates and would like us to test new variables in a safe testing environment. 

We typically implement 2x tests per week to optimize the conversion rate. We do either a copy or creative test followed by an offer based test. The process uses 72-hour testing increments to let us measure the success rate of the test. 

If the first test increases or perpetuates the baseline conversion rate, then we leave it and add a second variable into the mix. If the test decreases the conversion rate, then we pull the test variable and move the original variable back into place. Then we move onto the second test of the week. 

This testing process allows us to test new variables regularly without adding too many variables at once which makes it difficult for us to measure what contributed to an increase or decrease in conversion rate.

If you want to explore more about how to increase your eCommerce conversion rate with Tuff or want a first-hand look at the data showcased above, touch base to set up a free, 30-minute growth strategy session with our team. We’d love to learn more about who you are and what you do so that we can help you find your way to the next level.

 

Google Ads: How Tuff Optimizations Turned $172 of Extra Ad Spend Into $192,853 More in Sales

Renogy solar panel on RV

Does this post look familiar? We originally published it on January 16, and so much has happened since! It’s now updated with all the latest data and research on the topic. Enjoy!

The renewable energy industry is growing, big time.

According to CNBC, in the U.S., of all new power capacity added to the grid in 2018, about 30% was from solar. In addition to these increases, nearly every segment of the renewable energy market is seeing rapid price declines.

It’s easy to see there is tremendous room for growth, which is why Renogy, a renewable energy company, reached out to our team to help them supercharge their enterprise SEO and paid efforts.

“Working with the Tuff team is an absolute pleasure. They’re incredibly sharp, goal oriented, and fantastic strategists. Most importantly: they get results! Everyone on the team is very personable and we always look forward to our meetings. Integrating the Tuff team has been one of the best decisions we’ve made and we are confident that we’ll do very well scaling up with their help.” – Evan Huynh, Marketing Director, Renogy (View our reviews on Google & Facebook)

We integrated closely as a team back in November, just in time for the end of the year push. In the first 2 months of our partnership, we were able to generate $192,853 in additional sales for November and December by only adding $172 bucks to the budget. That’s when we originally wrote this post. 

Now, 6 months into our partnership, we’re back with some updates. At the turn of the new year, we worked closely with the team at Renogy to identify our revenue targets for 2020. 

Our first challenge was to increase overall ROAS across our Google Ads campaigns – including search, shopping, and display – with the goal of hitting 3.5 ROAS overall in Q1. And we’re pleased to say we cleared these goals with a 4.5 ROAS.

In this article, I’ll take a close look at the part Google Ads plays in building and optimizing an ecommerce growth strategy, and how Tuff & Renogy worked together to smash the Q1 goals:

We started with a profit-focused strategy

When your online store has different products at different price points and margins, you need to think of them differently. Why? Because not all sales are created equal.

When we took over the Renogy account towards the end of 2019, structurally it was in great shape. Campaigns were organized, settings were optimized, and ads had an above average CTR for the industry. If we had only cared about volume, we would have given this account two thumbs up and kept it humming.

But for Renogy, we cared about volume and profit. So, we needed to analyze the account through a profit-focused lense if we were going to make any meaningful improvements.

We evaluated the value of each sale in the account, not just volume of sales, and identified big discrepancies in ROAS. For example, one ad group generated $250 from $200 spent and another generated $1,200 from $200 giving us a ROAS 1.5 and 6.0, respectively—a significant difference in return for the same amount spent. From a volume perspective these campaigns are equal (each generated one sale) but when you factor in revenue the picture changes quickly.

Armed with the above information, the very first thing we did in the Renogy account was update our analysis and reporting to follow a profit-focused strategy, the goal to achieve as high of a ROAS as possible without losing scale. This helped us:

  • Reallocate existing budget to higher ROAS campaign
  • Set more profitable campaign spending limits
  • Know where to focus our efforts first
  • Where are the low ROAS campaigns in the account? Can we update these and get them more profitable?
  • Where are the high ROAS campaigns in the account? Can we pump more money into these without dropping our return?

Going even deeper than campaign and ad group level, we performed an exhaustive keyword and search term audit on every non-branded Search campaign (this audit template can be found in Tuff’s “9 Ready-to-Go Growth Marketing Spreadsheets Startups Can Use to Boost Productivity”) using Renogy’s extensive internal Google Ads data over the prior 12 months, to identify our winning keywords and search terms, i.e. the keywords and search terms that were contributing the most revenue, as well as those with the highest ROAS. 

Using the audit spreadsheet mentioned in the article linked above, we were able to export all of the data needed from Google Analytics within the past 12 months, and quickly compare the keywords and search terms with a variety of filters.

What we found was that although certain keywords and search terms may have had an above-average conversion rate, that didn’t necessarily mean these keywords and terms were performing a positive ROAS. By focusing on the ROAS above all of the other factors, we easily identified our winning keywords within each campaign, as well as our underperforming keywords, which were promptly removed from the campaigns in order to allocate the spend to our top performers. 

We were also able to identify some additional search terms that were driving great ROAS but weren’t currently being used as exact match keywords. With these findings, we were able to add these search terms that have been proven to drive profitable ROAS as exact match keywords into our campaigns in an attempt to trigger results for these terms more often.

Since the completion of the keyword audit, performance of non-branded search campaigns has skyrocketed, with a 194% increase in conversion rate and 274% increase in transactions when compared to the previous time period. Additionally, we substantially lowered the average cost per order from $632 to $128!

Then, flipped standard shopping to smart

Out of all the existing campaigns in the account, Renogy’s shopping campaign was driving the lowest ROAS. 

With our profit-first focus, we dug into the analysis for the standard shopping campaign and realized that it wasn’t structured around the most profitable products and search terms. Instead, it treated every product – from the $49 solar speaker to the $1,200 lithium battery – the exact same.

In this case, three of this campaign’s 100+ products were spending half of the budget over a 30-day span. And they’re only bringing in a tiny 11% of revenue. Ouch.

Because Shopping campaigns don’t use keywords, your product feed takes their place and is responsible for the signals that connect people’s searches with your products. For a quick win and momentum boost, we flipped the campaign from standard to smart and stripped out any product that was sucking up spend without delivering a solid return.

Google ads shopping campaign.

Within a week, our negative ROAS shopping campaign started turning out a consistent 668% ROAS week over week over week. And with Q1 officially wrapped up, our Smart Shopping campaign finished the quarter at 679% ROAS.

And finally, bulked up sales with the right promos

This final strategy we had very little to do with but it’s worth mentioning in the grand scheme of it all. While we were busy making profit-focused account optimizations, the Renogy team strategically rolled out product promotions and sales to support our revenue targets. In turn, we were able to supercharge these sales with Google Ads by:

  • Updating search ad copy to match the promo and sale messaging
  • Build sitelink and promo extensions to accompany our campaigns
  • Bulk up display efforts promoting the sale
  • Each one of these promotions, small and large, helped us bulk up our growth trajectory with Google Ads.

Building and optimizing an ecommerce growth strategy on Google to get results like this is not easy. It’s not rocket science either, though. If your execution is data-driven and your product is high quality, you can see results like this, too. If you want to explore more about how to scale your customer acquisition with Tuff, or want a first-hand look at the data showcased above, touch base to set up a free, 30-minute growth strategy session with our team. We’d love to learn more about who you are and what you do so that we can help you find your way to the next level.

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

And stay tuned for a Q3 update!

Email onboarding flow computer.

Onboarding Emails: Three things that increased clicks by 50%

Email onboarding flow computer.

Installs, sign-ups, trials, and demos mean nothing if you can’t keep your users. Which makes your onboarding email campaign incredibly important. 

It’s your first impression. But, it’s also your opportunity to guide new users to take the action that will increase their lifetime value. 

Before you start working on getting more people to your site, you need to make sure you have an onboarding experience that motivates your users to take that action you care most about. Otherwise, you’re throwing money out the window.

Onboarding Emails In Action

Earlier this year we started partnering with Felt, a company building an app that sends your personal, handwritten cards and photos from your phone. Our goals were to increase reach, installs, and revenue by running data-driven campaigns on different channels. 

 

Felt app screenshot.

While our full strategy was a mix of campaigns and channels (Facebook Ads, Google, YouTube, Apple Search Ads, etc), in this post, we’re going to focus on just one of the tactics: onboarding emails. We were able to increase clicks by 50% through these three steps:

  • Step 1: Mapping out the existing flow and setting benchmarks
  • Step 2: Figuring out the “aha” moment (using data)
  • Step 3: Rewriting, redesigning, and rebuilding each email to focus on that “aha” moment

But, first, we’ll set the stage.

The Results: A look inside the numbers

On average, 600 – 700 people install Felt every day. Each person who downloads the app and doesn’t immediately send a card, gets put into the new user onboarding email flow. 

Here’s what the numbers looked like before and after we made adjustments based on our research, learnings and experience. On the left, you have the original onboarding flow and on the right, you have the updated flow.

Email onboarding flow case study.

With our first round of improvements, we were able to increase the ‘Clicks per unique opens’ from 7.5% to 11.3%. This action (getting people back in the app and sending cards) immediately gave us a sustainable increase in daily revenue.

At this point, we’re only scratching the surface. 

Holistically mapping the user journey 

With every client, we analyze each piece of the conversion puzzle so we can spend our time focused on the areas with the highest impact on revenue.

In the first two months of partnership, we: 

  1. Configured Branch for better campaign analytics 
  2. Produced copy and creative (videos and images) 
  3. Set up Facebook/Instagram ads
  4. Set up Google Ads
  5. Set up Pinterest ads
  6. Built and launched an influencer program 

With the combination of these tactics, install volume skyrocketed. It’s also worth noting that sending handwritten cards from your phone is a helpful resource while the country sheltered in place.

With the spike in users, it was even more important to make sure they were adopting the Felt app, sending cards, and having an awesome experience. 

So we conducted a full funnel analysis. We asked key questions and mapped data to the user journey to identify where we could improve. We started with: 

  1. How does a user get from install to paying subscriber? 
    • For Felt, it’s when the user sends their first card. If a new user sends a card, they 2x their spend in the subsequent 5 day period. 
  1. What’s our “aha” moment? When do users really get the value of Felt? 
    • When the person they sent a card to actually gets it in the mail. Which speaks to the “do good, feel good” aspect of Felt. When people send cards it makes them feel happy. 
  1. What touchpoints can we leverage to guide our users down the funnel? 
    • For us, this came down to triggered emails, retargeting ads, and app-based onboarding cues. The first, and quickest win was email, so we started there. 

Here’s what we did: 

Step 1: Mapping out the existing flow and setting benchmarks

The 5-series email flow for new installs was in good shape. It was already set up in Mailchimp and had been running for months. We liked the timing but wanted to see if we could increase the number of users who click on each email in the sequence. 

We started by mapping out the entire email flow: 

Email onboarding map.

(There are tools to visualize this type of work but I still love good ol’ fashion spreadsheets).  

Step 2: Figuring out the “aha” moment (using data)

When we conducted the full funnel analysis we uncovered one of the most critical moments for a Felt user. The first card in Felt is always free. When a user sends that free card within the first week of downloading the app, they are 4x more likely to become a paying customer. 

So, how do we get someone who downloads the app to send a card quicker?

Step 3: Rewriting, redesigning, and rebuilding each email to focus on that “aha” moment

Now that we were crystal clear on the one action we wanted our users to take (CTA was “send a free card”) we rebuilt the email flow to focus users on taking this action in a few ways:

  • We stripped out extra images (removed 4 total) 
  • We removed any marketing copy that wasn’t about our sole CTA (cut the word count by 505) 
  • We outlined the user journey so it was clear exactly what the next steps with Felt looked like 
  • We acknowledged that they had already done something huge (install the app) and so only had one more thing to do 
  • We linked the “send free card” twice – in the primary CTA and in the text of the email

To put it more directly, we removed anything that would distract the user from sending the free card.

Before and after email examples.

Up Next

We mentioned these adjustments are just scratching the surface. We’re lucky that the Felt team had already been sending onboarding emails, giving us a benchmark to start from. 

As we continue with our goals to increase reach, installs, and revenue we’ll want to continue updating and testing emails so the next post is about how we increased conversion by 50%.

Facebook advertising for ecommerce.

How Tuff Partnered with EZ Lifestyle on Facebook and Instagram to Increase Revenue by 50%

EZ Lifestyle is an international nutraceutical company that sells products through Shopify stores and Amazon. Their most popular product is their hangover prevention pills, Over EZ, followed by sleep aid Dream EZ, and energy supplement, Fuel EZ. They are well-reviewed both on Amazon and through private customer surveys. People rave about how effective their products are on social media.

Despite having an efficiently managed online presence, including ongoing CRO work, and a library of videos and images, EZ Lifestyle had not yet found consistent success through their Facebook and Instagram advertising. Both channels were viewed as critical to growth.

EZ Lifestyle reached out to our team to help crack the Facebook and Instagram Ads for e-commerce code, and grow EZ Lifestyle’s overall sales while consistently achieving a positive return on ad spend (ROAS).

Tuff is a true growth agency. We’ve been working with the facebook ad specialist Nate and it’s been a great journey so far. They are highly skilled in all aspects of performance marketing and specifically what it takes to win at facebook ads, which is constant experimentation and analysis. Since we started working with them we saw immediate results growing our revenue by 50% MoM! – Matthew Greenspan, Head of Digital Growth, EZ Lifestyles (View our reviews on Google & Facebook)

In this article, I’ll take a close look at the part Facebook Ads plays in ramping up revenue for EZ Lifestyle.

An all-encompassing testing plan for Facebook Ads 

The first step was determining if Tuff was a good fit for EZ Lifestyle and vice versa. Goal alignment was critical here. EZ Lifestyle granted the Tuff team access to Google Analytics, the Shopify store, and their Facebook and Instagram Ads Account, so performance potential could be identified. 

From there, we developed a three-month plan focusing on these key areas: 

  • Finding efficiency in the Facebook Ads account 
  • Developing high-value audiences for ad targeting 
  • Ongoing ad testing 

Finding efficiency in the Facebook Ads account 

Audience overlap 

The first thing we did was dig into the audience. We found efficiency by focusing on identifying and eliminating audience overlap, a mistake that can cause double bidding on the same users. 

Facebook audience overlap.

Current events

With the US election in full swing at the time of our launch together, key “early voting” states were excluded from our geo-targeting. This helped us avoid bidding against presidential candidates who were spending millions on Facebook. For Facebook ads, it’s important to note, advertisers compete to serve ads to the same audiences regardless of what they’re selling. 

Audience research to identify top audiences 

Another miss advertisers often make is cross-referencing Google Analytics audience data to Facebook ads. Google Analytics lets us know which age groups, genders, devices, and geos spend the most on their products. 

As part of our Google Analytics eCommerce investigation, we discovered that though the USA market has 21% fewer transactions, the USA market drives 20% more revenue, and has an average cart value 34% higher than Canada. This data informed our initial audience development. 

Creative best practices

EZ Lifestyle was running dozens of ads per ad set, and frequently encountered ad rejections which stymied performance. At launch, we winnowed ads down to their top performers and used the dynamic text option so the Facebook algorithm would serve the best copy to the right audiences. Reasons for ad rejections were identified and fixed. 

Developing high-value audiences for ad targeting 

Google Analytics behavior and eCommerce data was leveraged to identify the most valuable audiences. Segmented retargeting, including cart abandon audiences, were identified as well and included at launch. 

The audiences were created and launched, however, they didn’t last long. As part of ongoing performance monitoring underperforming ad sets, and ads we’re turned off, freeing up budget for top ad sets, in turn creating revenue and ROAS growth.

Rapid experimentation was a critical piece to Facebook Ads eCommerce revenue growth 

By the end of month two, five Facebook Ads trials or tests had been completed, three were active, and 12 tests are waiting on deck in a test back-log. The series of tests helped us identify top audiences, placements, objective types, and ad optimization strategies. 

The ongoing testing has helped us create a base level of revenue and ROAS that will facilitate the next phase of growth without wasted spend. 

Facebook eCommerce ad example. Instagram eCommerce ad example.

The results: revenue growth of 50%

  • From month one to month 2 EZ Lifestyle experienced revenue growth of 50% 
  • Overall Account ROAS increased 70% for currently active campaigns at the end of month 2.
Facebook advertising results.

Tuff Ads launched week 15. Week 12 was a holiday sale.

These results were not achieved in a vacuum. Though Tuff was able to find efficiencies out of the gates in the Facebook Ad account and via Google Analytics analysis, the willingness of the EZ Lifestyle team to collaborate was key. It also was beneficial that EZ Lifestyle and their product had the following attributes: 

  • Desirable and highly rated product 
  • Website, eCommerce, and CRO fundamentals 
  • Existing resources readily available: past performance, email templates, creative

Though if these things aren’t available on day one, they can be developed with the help of the Tuff team. Schedule a 30-minute strategy session today to explore how Tuff can help your eCommerce business grow.