A person budget planning for digital ad spend

How We Decreased Pathstream’s CAC by 59% YoY

tuff-2022-growth-marketing-agency-landing-case-study-1

When we first started working with Pathstream – a Series A startup that offers online certification programs that help people level up their careers, they were spending nearly $1m each quarter in ad spend to hit their lead volume goals, but with a ROAS right around 1.10. They were hitting their application targets, but they were breaking even doing it. 

By restructuring ad accounts, testing creative, audience targeting, and different conversion events, we were able to help decrease Pathstream’s CAC by 59%, leading to their most efficient quarter ever and hitting their ideal LTV to CAC ratio for the first time. 

For 80% of our partners, we take a blended approach to reducing CAC – we focus on decreasing costs on ad channels to send more traffic to the site with the same amount of money, and we create a CRO strategy to improve website conversion rates. 

The exception? When development capabilities are limited or a partner has a custom CMS. That was the case for Pathstream. We weren’t able to implement robust CRO tests in order to improve CAC – we had to get creative when it came to optimizing Facebook and paid search campaigns on Google to hit those CAC targets.

Facebook

When we first partnered with Pathstream, a majority of their ad spend was dedicated to Facebook ads, but the cost per lead, cost per application and cost per enrollment were extremely high and they knew they needed to drive these costs down in order to keep investing a large majority of their paid spend into Facebook. 

With this goal in mind, our social ads team immediately started diving into the Pathstream ad accounts and analyzing the existing data to identify opportunities or “quick wins” as we call them, while also simultaneously working on a longer term strategy for driving down Facebook costs. 

Here’s a sneak peak of how we drove down their Facebook CPL by 63% year over year. 

Testing new audiences 

We tested a handful of new audiences over the past year for Pathstream from job titles, to interests, demographics and lookalikes. We found that our most successful audiences were based on interests for specific Pathstream programs (Asana, Salesforce, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics) and a lookalike of 5% based off of previous Pathstream students who have enrolled in one of their certification programs. 

Since some of the program interests we were targeting could possibly have overlap (Example: Digital Marketing and Data Analytics), we used the audience overlap tool to ensure that the overlap wasn’t greater than 40% so that our program specific audiences wouldn’t be bidding against each other.

testing audiences on Facebook

After we discovered that these were our top performing audiences, we tested a combination audience that targeted both the interest audience and the lookalike in one ad set. This ultimately did not perform as well as the two audiences segmented out into their own ad set. Based on this learning, we segmented each audience back into its own ad set and set the budget at the campaign level which allowed Facebook to allocate the daily budget to the audience with the lower cost. 

Optimizing for Higher Funnel Conversion Events

When we first launched campaigns, we were extremely focused on driving down the cost per enrollment, so all of our campaigns were optimized toward the “purchase” conversion event. We soon realized that most Pathstream students don’t immediately enroll in a program when they first find out about Pathstream. In fact, it could take weeks or even a month for someone to enroll in a Pathstream program after first expressing interest. 

This led us to switch up our optimization strategy and test out a higher funnel conversion event (submit application), which fires once someone enters their information, becomes a lead and also completes a quick application. 

By switching to a higher funnel conversion event, we were not only able to increase the total number of applicants, but we were able to drive down the cost per impression, cost per click, cost per lead and cost per enrollment by bidding on a higher funnel action –– which is less expensive and in return gives the Facebook algorithm more data to target users likely to submit an application. 

Developing new conversion-driven creative

A large part of our Facebook strategy we put together in our initial research for Pathstream included new create asset ideas based on a creative analysis we pulled together with what’s working well and what’s not resonating as well with the Pathsream audience. 

💡We create data-driven ad creative at Tuff, and have an entire blog post about how we approach that for our partners. Check it out here!

We wanted to test a mix of image and video assets that showcased Pathstream’s value props in an engaging way that would get our audience to click on the ad. We tested a combination of school-branded assets and pathstream branded assets and found that all of the assets that mentioned “100% online” and “get a project management/digital marketing/salesforce certificate” in 6 months were our top performing static ads. 

We also tested UGC style videos (like this one) and saw a 56% increase in CTR and decreased the cost per lead by 37% once we rotated those into our campaigns. 

testing creative on Facebook

Paid Search

With an ad account this large, we ended up restructuring campaigns twice since we started partnering with Pathstream.

Phase 1 Account Restructure

Initially, Pathstream had over 30 different Google Ad accounts they were running campaigns from. Pathstream partners with different universities to offer their certification programs covering curriculum on Facebook Digital Marketing, Salesforce, Tableau Data Analytics, and Asana Project Management. They had a separate ad account for almost every university + certification program combination. 

Our first step was combining the campaigns across 30 ad accounts into one to increase the amount of lead data in one ad account to make the Google algorithm work smarter for us.

Even though we culled down campaign structure significantly in phase 1 of our account restructure, we still had over 40 different search campaigns, each with minor differences. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Many partners have similar account structures and are certainly successful, and Pathstream was finding success early on with this approach as well. With the goal of getting CAC even lower though, we set out to restructure things again after a few months. 

Phase 2 Account Restructure

At this point, we were utilizing many automated, conversion focused aspects of Google Ads. Max Conversions bidding strategy, Data Driven Attribution, Dynamic Search Ads. With these campaign features, Google works best when there is an abundance of data, specifically conversion data flowing into each campaign. 

If campaigns are too spread out, only receiving a few conversions per month, you may be underutilizing the true power of automation. This was partially the case for Pathstream.

By condensing campaigns from 40+ to 15, we allowed more conversion data to feed into fewer campaigns, in turn making our ads more efficient. We did not limit targeting. This was not designed to decrease our volume or impression share at all. We were not looking to lighten our workload either. Instead, limiting the number of campaigns gave Google more conversion signals, gave Tuff more opportunity to experiment and learn quickly,  and also allowed for better informed expansion across channels in the future.

For starters we left our highest performing campaigns alone. The ones bringing in the most conversion volume and most search volume remained mainly untouched. The big changes were with the campaigns that had the least amount of monthly search volume. Many of them we grouped together into a catch all campaign. What was 10 separate campaigns all converting only a few times a month became one larger structure that converted much more often as a whole. 

Only 3 weeks after our account restructure we saw these results:

  • Conversion Rate increased 26%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 38%
  • CPC dropped 21%
  • CTR increased 8%

This was only the beginning. Performance continues to improve week over week while we gather more data in a much less congested structure. From here, we can start to expand our reach by efficiently pivoting what is working best for us in the short term and beyond. 

Have a complicated Google ad account structure you could use a second set of eyes on? Or need help reducing your costs on Facebook? We’d love to help!

clearbit ad case study

How We Used Clearbit to Generate More Quality Leads for Thnks

clearbit ad case study

As a growth agency, we run a lot of lead generation campaigns for our partners. Whether it’s B2B businesses looking to fill their pipeline or D2C brands building hype for a product launch, we’ve run lead gen every which way on every channel you can think of.

When we’re creating a growth marketing framework for these campaigns and thinking of what tactics to use, the question inevitably gets asked “Are we looking for quality or quantity with this strategy?”

Both.

The answer is both.

Of course, everyone wants a full pipeline of highly qualified leads for their sales team to feast on. Strong leads accompany more sales which leads to higher revenue. The issue is it’s never that simple. The typical tactics we look to employ here to generate leads usually sacrifice one of these areas. It is so difficult to generate leads at a high volume that are high quality at the same time. This is an issue we were having earlier this year with one of our partners, Thnks

Thnks and Tuff

Thnks’ mission is to help establish and build stronger relationships through efficient, personalized, and thoughtful gestures of appreciation. Does that sound vague? That’s kind of the idea. Their platform allows you to send cups of coffee, a grab-and-go lunch, or an end-of-the-day cocktail to anyone’s email or phone with just a few clicks. The platform is very business-focused, seeing most of their traction coming from sales and HR professionals.

Thnks brought us on to help them bolster their lead pipeline and unlock a new avenue for growth through paid acquisition. They had seen some success in the past but wanted a team to bring some stability to their advertising channels as well as a strategy that helped these channels work together. When it came to lead generation efforts, we really only focused on two main social platforms:

  • Facebook/Instagram
  • Linkedin

When it came to generating marketing qualified leads, we were only looking for companies of a certain size who we could expect to send a high volume of Thnks if converted to a customer. Thnks supports smaller businesses and individuals, but those customers don’t generate the same kind of LTV, so we decided against allocating budget to acquire these users at smaller companies.

Linkedin ads aren’t for every business, but they can be a really great place to generate leads depending on your product or service. With Thnks in mind, we saw a great opportunity to leverage their targeting options to isolate users who work in roles that are more likely to use Thnks and work at companies large enough for us to consider the lead“qualified.” Like I hinted at above, we were really looking for users who worked in sales or HR roles at worked at companies of a certain size.

Taking advantage of these targeting options has resulted in really efficient lead to MQL rates on Linkedin. Year to date at the time of writing our lead>MQL rate is sitting at 83%, which has been a huge factor in keeping our cost/MQL down on that platform. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about our efforts on Facebook/Instagram.

Running ads on Facebook is an attractive option for B2B lead generation since the cost to deliver impressions and generate clicks on Linkedin is typically much more expensive. While clicks and impressions are generally cheaper on Facebook, you don’t get the same robust B2B targeting options that are accessible on Linkedin. Facebook offers some job title and industry targeting, but it’s nowhere near as accurate or reliable as what you can do on Linkedin.

Year to date at the time of writing, our lead>MQL rate is 48% for Facebook generated leads. When you put that number next to the 83% that we’ve seen on Linkedin, it immediately shows a gaping whole and huge opportunity for improvement on the Facebook front. 

Now we just needed to figure out what can be done to improve our lead quality on Facebook. This number has such a huge impact on our overall cost per qualified lead, so any improvement we can find will go a long way in letting us hit our MQL goals. 

How Clearbit was able to help

Working in digital advertising doesn’t mean I’m immune to ads. If anything I might be more susceptible to them since I can appreciate it when I get targeted with a good one. A few months ago I got hit with an ad from Clearbit offering to solve the exact problem that I was having with Thnks. I give their platform a ton of credit for being able to target me so well, but the creative (and yes, this is the exact ad I clicked on) was too relevant and enticing for me to ignore. I clicked through, did a little bit of research on the Clearbit website, and submitted a lead form requesting a time to chat with one of their sales reps. 

example-prospect-audience

What I learned on that call is that Clearbit was able to offer us the best of both Facebook and Linkedin advertising wrapped into one. By plugging their product into our Facebook ad account, we’ve been able to access “Linkedin level targeting” with our Facebook campaigns. This has allowed us to take advantage of the lower cost of delivery and clicks on Facebook while also isolating our highest qualified audience by industry, job title and company size.

This was exactly the solution we needed for our low lead>MQL rates from Facebook ads. That issue was directly caused by a lack of targeting options on Facebook, and Clearbit plugged that exact hole.

Results

As I mentioned above, we introduced Clearbit to our Facebook efforts in an attempt to increase our lead>MQL rates. We were happy with our cost per lead as reported in Facebook, but not enough of those leads were actually qualified. Thnks didn’t bring us on to generate a high number of bad leads, so paying close attention to the qualification rate has been super important to our partnership.

It took a couple weeks for Clearbit to really hit stride, but since then the numbers really speak for themselves. We’ve seen a huge improvement in our lead qualification rate when looking at Clearbit campaigns vs. non-Clearbit campaigns.

clearbit advertising results

This is the exact result we were hoping to see when introducing Clearbit. We’ve seen a monumental improvement in our qualified lead rate with these new campaigns, which has helped us drop our cost/qualified lead while getting more high quality leads in the door. The results so far have been incredibly promising and we’re excited to continue using this tool with Thnks and other B2B partners we work with.  

“I view our partnership with Tuff as more like an extension of my team. We strategize together, ask tough questions, examine the results, optimize – and it just keeps getting better. Exactly what I was looking for.” – Brad Veach, VP of Marketing at Thnks (see all Google Reviews for Tuff

Conclusion

Getting Clearbit onboard was not the most straightforward test I’ve ever run for a partner. It required multiple calls with our point of contact at Thnks, calls with the reps at Clearbit, negotiations back and forth, and some onboarding for the platform itself. It was complicated, but the end results were more than worth it.

Despite the complexity, the thinking that went behind it is pretty standard for how we tackle testing and optimizations for our partners. We followed the steps Growth Marketers always take when introducing a new tactic:

  • Isolate a problem metric you’re looking to improve (Our lead to MQL rate is holding us back)
  • Find the root cause of the problem (Facebook targeting options are not as robust and accurate as we need)
  • Put a plan in place to address the problem (Clearbit gives us the targeting options needed to drive more qualified leads)
  • Execute and analyze results (Our lead qualification rate for Clearbit campaigns is 61% higher than non-Clearbit campaigns)

If you’re interested in exploring this type of testing framework and talking through some solutions we can offer to help your user acquisition, give us a holler! We’d love to talk.

Why Should I Use Nextdoor Advertising?

2022 has brought a lot of surprises to the macro environment for both marketers and consumers. A new favorite game we’ve started playing across the social ads team at Tuff is “which prices increased more this week” – gas prices at our local gas station, or CPMs for our Facebook campaigns. For some of our partners, CPMs for Facebook campaigns have risen by 30%+ in the last 60 days, with no sign of slowing down as advertisers fight to get in front of their target audiences. 

If you’re one of the countless businesses or agencies across the world (and the metaverse), you’ve likely noticed that your reliable paid acquisition channels look a little less reliable these days. You may be wanting to see if your spend can go a little bit further on another channel. So, you ask yourself, “Why not try a new channel? I’ve heard about Nextdoor advertising. What about testing that out”?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

Why Use Nextdoor?

Is Nextdoor effective? Does Nextdoor advertising work? How much does Nextdoor advertising cost? As you might’ve guessed, the answer is, “it depends.” As a growth marketing agency, we work with all types of partners with a variety of needs. Many of them use Nextdoor with great success, for some, it doesn’t make sense as part of their marketing mix. 

The first of many considerations you have to make when you’re thinking about using Nextdoor is “Why?”. Maybe Simon Sinek was onto something when he said to start with “why”. The first real question you should ask yourself when considering Nextdoor isn’t “should I?”. It’s “Why should I?”.

There are a few reasons why you would consider using Nextdoor: 

  • Your target audience is there
  • Your competitors use Nextdoor advertising
  • You need to differentiate spend away from rising costs on your Facebook Ads

Regardless of your reason, there’s a why, and you should unearth that before you move on to the next step.

Can I Reach My Audience Using Nextdoor Advertising?

According to Nextdoor there are nearly 1 in 3 U.S. households already on Nextdoor. These neighbors are motivated to support local businesses.

More than that, 88% of Nextdoor users frequent a local business at least once a week and they make 90% of their purchases within 15 miles of their work or home. Nextdoor neighbors love to spread the word.

If you’re a business with a local storefront or local events, then this should be appealing to you. Understanding that every social platform has slightly different behavior, you can leverage Nextdoor’s ability to generate local behavior in a way that you can’t with Facebook or TikTok.

What Targeting Options Exist on Nextdoor Advertising? 

By default, Nextdoor will deliver your ads to all audiences within your selected locations. You can uncheck this default setting though and get access to more demographic targeting options

Overview of Nextdoor Targeting Options

As of the time of this article, Nextdoor does not have targeting that is as robust as some of the other demographic targeting platforms such as Facebook, but it does give you some pretty interesting homeownership and interest targeting options that you can leverage. 

Are Nextdoor Ads Expensive?

Nextdoor ads are comparable in cost to other paid social channels. Nextdoor works on an auction system so you’re bidding on placements in the platform based on the targeting parameters you’ve set. The platform offers you the ability to bid on a CPC basis or a CPM basis. 

The option you choose will influence how you’re charged and it will affect your costs. It is possible to run Nextdoor with relatively small budgets, but as with most platforms, it performs better given more budget to work with.

Overview of Nextdoor's Bidding Options

What Creative Placements Are Available on Nextdoor?

Nextdoor has 3 placements for you to use in their self serve ad platform: Newsfeed, Finds, and Right Rail. We have found that most advertisers opt to only use the Newsfeed placement since that is the most effective use of spend on Nextdoor. However, depending on your objective, the Finds placement and Right Rail placement could also be good for brand awareness initiatives. 

Should I Use Nextdoor Advertising? 

Nextdoor as an ad platform has a few limitations, and it’s not for everyone. It isn’t the next Facebook (Meta), TikTok or Snapchat. And it’s not trying to be. 

Nextdoor is incredibly effective for local businesses, local events, and getting the community involved. So if you have a business that has a strong localization component or wants to be seen in the community more, then absolutely give Nextdoor a try.

Want to take a new approach to paid social channel diversification, but are unsure of where to start? Let’s talk about how Tuff can help you make the most use of your paid social advertising spend with a multi-channel approach.

tuff-customer-acquisition-using-facebook-ad

How To Scale User Growth Using Facebook Ads

We sometimes get questions about how other clients work with Tuff to reach their growth goals — so we’re sharing some stories to help bring our services to life.

Author’s note: This post was originally published in 2018, it has since been updated for 2022! 

Thnks is a platform designed to help users build business relationships by sending thoughtful gestures of appreciation. With a curated catalog of gifts, personalized messages, and more, Thnks is helping sales organizations, marketing groups, customer success teams, and more grow their business.

Why Thnks Tapped Into Paid Social Acquisition

Any company looking to grow through paid social has to consider a few things before getting started.

First, you have to work towards building your audience in the right channel. Secondly, understand that it takes time.

Scaling growth requires you to be rigorous about the channels you experiment with in the early stages of your business. It might seem easy to find one right away and then dump all your money into that one tactic but that almost never happens. Testing, analyzing, and optimizing is a great three-prong approach to finding the recipe for success.

We found the most success with user acquisition for Thnks with social ads, specifically Facebook. With a wide range of targeting options to help businesses find the right niche to reach their target audience,  Facebook ads can be a highly cost-effective channel for customer acquisition. We launched Facebook and Instagram campaigns with highly specific interest and demographic targeting with ads that were relevant to those audiences. Our goal was to help grow overall user growth, while also finding efficiencies along the way. 

The Three-Step Process

Step 1: Conduct user research and identify key audiences to target

Figuring out the right targeting is key to reaching the audiences most likely to convert. As an agency, you can lean on your client’s customer-facing team members. If you’re in-house, partner with your support team to learn more about your customers and their goals and interests. This background information is vital in crafting audiences that can attract and convert your target customer.

For our core audiences, we relied heavily on interest and demographic targeting. Knowing that sales and human resources are Thnks primary customers and highest converters, we did testing of different variations of demographic and interest targeting to create the perfect mix of both to find the ideal audiences. In addition to core interest- and demographic-based audiences, we also built out lookalike audiences using website traffic, used existing customer email lists as well as leveraged pixel data from our ads, and created lookalike audiences of people who successfully submitted leads or interacted with our ads.

Step 2: Develop custom creative for each audience

Once we were confident that our targeting options were set up to attract the right audience, we then had to look at the end product–the ads. Knowing that we were going to be targeting specific people in the sales and human resource fields, we needed to build ad creative and copy that spoke to those people.

Thnks Ad Examples

The major difference between the two ad designs is that the sales creative relates to people in that specific role that are looking to prospect new clients and close deals. The human resource ad calls out use cases for people in the role to “welcome new employees”, keep current employees happy, and show them you care. These differences may not seem like a lot at first, but speaking directly to these audiences with this messaging showed an immediate lift in performance. 

Step 3: Analyze and improve

Looking back on your data and analyzing results is one of the most important steps of the whole process. Figuring out what is and isn’t working is the first step to being able to scale and grow users. Through this process, we were able to scale what was working and optimize away from what was not. As a result, we were able to scale Thnks users by 81% in just 30 days.

Sales Audience Growth:

Human Resource Audience Growth:

At the end of the day, there really is no secret sauce to finding success through paid acquisition.

It’s only with meticulous research on your target audiences, testing different creative and ad copy, and analyzing and optimizing based on your data you can find success. Growth is a journey, not an overnight magic trick. 

 

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.

A laptop, cordless mouse, yellow glass, pen, and camera on a wooden table.

Boosting Conversion Rate for AKKO: Social Ad Strategy + Creative + Web Design

A laptop, cordless mouse, yellow glass, pen, and camera on a wooden table.

The ability to combine strong social ad strategy with high quality ad creative and landing page optimization has been one of my biggest strategic wins of 2021 as a Growth Marketer at Tuff.

Turns out, it’s also one of the best ways to drive the strongest traffic to a page to convert an action. 

The reason the results are so strong has to do with control. When we can control what the traffic views in our ads, how they enter and the experience they have when they get to the landing page, we’re able to control all aspects of the customer journey and build a seamless funnel to conversion. 

Take for example our partner, AKKO (pronounced kinda like ‘Taco’ but ‘Aco’) a consumer fintech startup that came to us with great PPC traction for their phone and gadget insurance protection plans. 

Knowing that they needed to convert more people than those just searching for products related to their brand with queries like 

  • phone insurance
  • laptop insurance

In essence, they needed to diversify their ad strategy to scale. 

Developing data-driven ad creative and a strong social foundation

To start, we put our resources into getting the right combination of performance creative for AKKO. 

Before we launched ads, we spent 4 weeks putting together a collection of animated and UGC videos between 15 and 30 seconds long that we could test across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. 

In hindsight, it would have been a massive misstep for us to use generic cracked phones and waterlogged computer stock images to begin our testing. 

AKKO’s original social ad testing had gone this route and results had been mixed. 

While we developed creative, our social ads and youtube channel experts put together an audience testing plan that detailed who and how we would test our new creatives across a potential audience of 290 Million smartphone users in the United States. 

Launch Ads First Then Optimize 

Now that our foundations were set, we launched ads first and directed them to an existing high-performing PPC landing page.  This allowed us too figure out what ads of our had the most promise. 

We could have launched with generic stock images and spent time working on a social ads landing page but that would have cost us time in the long run though. 

While this approach to setting up a foundation, then launching,  then optimizing was a longer process, it made it far easier for us to adapt with optimizations faster. 

Early Results

The biggest difference between a targeted PPC strategy and a social ads strategy comes down to intent. 

With PPC Campaigns, we’re able to get in front of people who already have a problem and are looking for a solution. 

Generally, with social ads, we’re able to get in front of people who might have a problem and usually don’t know they have a problem. Essentially, we have to create intent in the social ad – give them a reason to realize they have a problem and need a solution. 

The major differences in intent here dictate the landing page experience. 

After a couple of weeks of limited conversions sending ad traffic from social ads to the PPC landing page, we found that the traffic did this on the website: 

ToS (Time on Site) Pgs / Session Purchases CVR
PPC LP 0:00:30 2.31 5 0.30%

In addition, we also used a website session recording tool to watch what the traffic was doing when they got to the website. 

Their scrolling actions and clicks showed a lack of intent. Our ads may have pushed them to the website, but once they landed on the destination URL there wasn’t much to draw their attention. 

For users coming off of PPC campaigns – in the act of searching for a solution to their problem – this type of landing page experience provided information to push them along. 

Social Ads Landing Page 

To counteract low onsite metrics that users exhibited once they got to the landing page, we went back to the drawing board to develop a landing page specifically for our social campaigns that would use strong creative and copy to draw the user in and make the transition from the ad to the website much easier. 

This would be the test to see if it was our ads or overall strategy to develop intent for users within social channels. 

We leaned on FinTech inspiration from neobanks to guide our design concepts. The reason for this was simple – banking is boring. No one is thinking about finding their next bank when they’re scrolling feeds or binge-watching cat videos on Youtube. 

Here’s a peek at the page we developed:

landing page test example

Second Round Of Results

While not immediate, we saw a quick change in behavior by users once they got to our social ads specific landing page. After a couple of weeks of testing, here are our social ads landing page compared to our PPC landing page. 

Before vs. After Last Click Purchases ToS (Time on Site) Pages/Session CVR
PPC Landing Page 5 0:00:30 2.31 0.30%
Social Ads Landing Page 20 0:01:47 4.19 3.86%

We saw a 256% increase in our time on site average when users entered this landing page, but the biggest difference was in CVR and purchases. 

Not only were users more engaged when the website through the destination URL from our ads, their likelihood to convert increased 1,186%. 

Next Steps

While not anywhere close to done, these results provided us with the traction to scale spend on our prospecting and retargeting campaigns. It also enabled us to test new channels. 

From a testing standpoint our next steps involved: 

  • New iterations of our social ads landing page
  • New Ad Creative 
  • New Ad Copy 

For more information on how Tuff tests, optimizes, and scales brands with Growth Marketing across industries click here to download a sample growth marketing proposal. 

kids bike

“Bikes:” How We Helped Cleary Rank on Page 1 And Snag a Slice of the 135k Monthly Search Volume

kids bike

Cleary Bikes is not just any kids bike brand. The company—based out of Oakland, CA—makes among the highest-quality kids bikes out there. Their philosophy: instead of giving your kid training wheels and a rickety frame as they’re taking their first pedal strokes on their own, give them a sized-down experience of what it’s really like to be on trail, in the air, or at the park. That way, they’ll be building real, transferable skills from the get-go. It’s a perspective that resonates. That’s among the reasons that, when we first met the folks at Cleary, we learned their organic revenue was already booming! 

The health of their organic traffic was one of the reasons we were eager to partner with them. We knew that continuing to put in the work to improve Google search results while layering on other acquisition channles would help us build a holistic, long-term, and scalable path to growth. 

When we look at partnering with a brand at Tuff, really any brand, but especially eCommerce, we examine their current traction to help us understand how we plan to craft our Growth Marketing Strategy to help them reach their goals.

For Cleary, our minds were blown (literally), when we saw that organic revenue was the largest sector of their overall revenue d2c eCommerce makeup. 

Here’s how their traffic looked prior to April when we started our partnership: 

organic traffic results

Of their organic traffic, a large percentage of it converted due to Cleary’s success in showcasing the benefits of their bikes, the high quality of their messaging, and the overall praise from their customer base. 

From a growth perspective, we could see that a great formula for growing Cleary’s revenue would be to increase the volume of quality organic traffic to the site. 

This step by step guide lays out how we were able to develop an SEO Growth Content Strategy to increase Cleary’s organic traffic by getting them to rank on page one on Google for keywords specific to their business. 

Step 1: Lay The Technical SEO Content Foundation

No matter what you’re selling – SaaS, physical products, or a service – having the correct Technical SEO foundation for your performance content to work from is the most important thing you can do. 

With Cleary, they happened to be in the middle of a website overhaul so making some of our big changes was a no-brainer for their website and easy to implement. 

Step one was identifying tactics and updates we could implement to help us earn a website health score over 90%. A high health score helps our performance content rank faster and more efficiently. To get to the bottom of what was keeping us from better site heath, we first needed to run a SEO site audit

The results of this audit showed us what to change and included information about page errors, broken links, and more. The site audit also shows us how to fix those errors. 

In addition to the website audit solutions, we also provided Cleary with information about how best to migrate their website. 

Our biggest fear with their website migration and with any website migration is that we’ll lose our organic traction and need to rebuild from square one. This is not a great scenario to confront, so the only way to keep that from happening was to make sure the website migration process was accompanied by a strong SEO perspective.

Here are some of the suggestions we made: 

  • Setting up redirects on the server side for product pages, collections, etc. 
  • Switching to WP Engine servers. 
  • Using a third party migration tool like Cart2Cart

The final suggestions we made addressed Cleary’s product page descriptions and collection page descriptions. We noticed that most of Cleary’s rankings were coming from their home page. To help diversify the high-ranking pages as well as lead high-intent users further into the funnel, we worked with their team to develop SEO-focused copy for the mentioned page descriptions. 

Step 2: Develop A Strategic Content Strategy

As the decade-old saying goes “Content is King!” 

Yes that’s true, but not if the content itself is total garbage 💩

To develop an informed content strategy, it’s imperative to do some research. A great place to start is to first run a keyword gap audit against your brand’s competitors. Here’s the one we did for Cleary to show us where we were weak against their competitor Guardian Bikes. 

seo comparison chart

As you can see in the above “Missing” category, Cleary didn’t have any ranking keywords (KWs) related to bike sizing. Therefore, we determined that our first piece of content needed to be related to sizing. 

Step 3: Produce Content, Publish, Repeat 

This first piece of content wasn’t just a normal article, instead, we created a main hub page, which we called Kids Bike Sizing Guide. This is designed to be a sort of center around which all of our following sizing content could sit. This clustered approach—essentially similar to a whike wheel hub and its spokes—helps communicate to search engine algorithms that Cleary truly is an expert in this topic and therefore should appear at the top of search results.

Leveraging this one hub page, we were able to help Cleary rank for multiple KWs related to kids bike sizing, which tied back into the data we saw in our Competitor Keyword Gap Analysis. Examples of our focus KWs for this hub page were: kids bike sizing guide, bike size guide, bike wheel size chart, bike size chart.

Once we had our hub page developed we began developing auxiliary content pages that were related to our hub page and would help us boost its ranking through internal linking. 

Examples of these auxiliary content pages included a “Bike For X-Year Old Series” that featured more than four content pieces related to kids bike sizes that we could use to support our hub page. 

From there, we were in a great position to begin supporting our other hub pages like our product and collection pages using high volume KWs related to Cleary’s industry, missing and weak topics (from Keyword Gap Analysis), and full-funnel strategy content. 

Step 4: Improve Google Search Results  

Within 60 days, we started to see encouraging results with our Growth Content Strategy for Cleary. 

seo results conversation

Step 5: Keep Repeating The Formula

Just because you land on page one for specific terms doesn’t mean you’ll stay on it forever. Similarly, if you haven’t gotten onto page one for a specific KW, that doesn’t mean you won’t. 

Growth content is a long-term solution, not a quick fix, but you’ll see key indicators of growth like higher search rankings and new traffic within 30-60 days of publishing in most cases. Typically, within four to five months you should see significant traction toward your goals.

Excited about growing your organic traffic but not quite sure where to start? We’ve got your back. Let’s talk about how to level up your site traffic and land you on page one. 

mobile delivery app growth

Wait! Come Back! How Our Email Winback Strategy Converted at 27% For Dumpling

grocery delivery in bags

At its simplest, Dumpling is a grocery delivery app. But dig a bit further and you’ll see that Dumpling is taking a service that has historically capitalized on the gig economy and flipping it. 

Dumpling’s competitors like Instacart automatically match you with a shopper. Which keeps things simple, no doubt, but you get no extra communication with the person picking out your produce. So when you’ve put “cabbage” on your list and your shopper shows up with a purple cabbage instead of a napa cabbage, you’re either changing your dinner plans or you’re running to the store. 

Dumpling was founded on the idea that both shoppers and customers could benefit from open, transparent communication and an actual relationship with the people on the other end of the line. So, when you download the Dumpling app and drop in your zip code, Dumpling lists personal shoppers (a.k.a. business owners) that you can connect with through the app. Then, once you send them your list and they hit the store, they can communicate with you in real-time when they walk up to grab a cabbage and aren’t sure which one. 

dumpling app

The best part: you can order with your personal shopper again and again, so eventually, they won’t even have to ask, they just know you want that napa cabbage. 

Dumpling reached out to Tuff looking for a growth marketing agency that could help them attract and keep more engaged users. Here’s a look at what we worked on together.

Goal 1: Drive App Installs

Dumpling reached out in search of a team to help them supercharge their acquisition efforts and smooth their new users’ path to conversion. 

We knew we wanted to drive some quick wins (and the sophisticated Dumpling team had already established a number of paid acquisition campaigns). So we started with robust Facebook and Google Search strategies to drive users to download the Dumpling app. 

Goal 2: Turn New Users Into Power Users

Next, we turned our attention to the large number of users that had taken three key actions:

  1. Downloaded the app 
  2. Created a profile
  3. Connected to a shopper

From there, we identified three subgroups of users that signified a huge potential:

  1. Users that have ordered once and never reordered
  2. Users that have placed 1-3 orders but haven’t reordered in 2+ months
  3. Users that have never placed an order

As part of the signup flow, users shared their email addresses with us, so our reengagement strategy centered around email

email winback flow

Using Value Props to Drive Conversions

In order to entice users to come back and order again, or order for the first time, we created email flows that were super specific to each of the three different types of unengaged users. 

To start, we organized the value props that were most relevant to each user at their particular moments in their journeys. For example, the first email we sent to the segment that had downloaded the app delivered two important messages: first, that connecting to a personal shopper will make their life easier (a tangible benefit) and second, that when you order through Dumpling, you’re supporting your neighborhood. Here’s what that copy looks like in action:

Hi there [name],

We created Dumpling for two main reasons:

  • To make your life easier! Grocery shopping isn’t at the top of anyone’s list when it comes to the best ways to spend time (catch that pun? 😏)
  • To make it easier for people in your neighborhood to be awesome personal shoppers. 

So, our magical equation…

You + Personal Shopper = ✨

Using Offers to Drive Conversions

After we organized our value props and created separate flows catered to each of the three segments, we layered on discounts and special offers. 

The discount that the Dumpling team had found most impactful after testing several offers against each other in their email newsletters and on social media was a 15% discount with an order of $50 or more. So, we ran with it! We sent this offer to most of our segments, but we drove it home hardest with the users that had connected with a personal shopper but had never placed an order. Here’s what that offer looks like in action:

Hi there [name],

It’s simple. When you shop with a Personal Shopper on Dumpling (like bizOwner_name!​) you…

✔️ get what’s on your list

👋 support a local small business

🛒 and you save yourself a trip to the store 

Plus, Dumpling doesn’t mark up your groceries like the other guys. And if you needed just one more reason to place your first order, use code WELCOME15 to save $15 when you spend $50 or more. 

So what are you waiting for? Make your grocery list today.

The Dumpling Team

And, although every email we sent to this particular segment included the offer, we set up some A/B subject line tests to see if including the offer in the subject line would impact overall conversion rate. Surprisingly, the CVR wasn’t significantly different between the emails that included the offer in the subject line and those that didn’t.

The Results

Simply, the results we saw after we implemented these email flows were incredibly impactful and made a significant difference in the overall business health for Dumpling. Here’s what that looks like broken down:

Segment: Users That Have Ordered Once and Never Reordered

  • Of the 2,084 users in this segment, 352 placed an order (17%)

Segment: Users That Have Placed 1-3 Orders and Haven’t Reordered in 2+ Months

  • Of the 2,035 users in this segment, 556 placed an order (27%)

Segment: Users That Have Never Placed an Order

  • Of the 3,455 users in this segment, 480 placed an order (14%)

Are you currently segmenting your email lists and creating dedicated flows? Think that automation can save you time and drive revenue? (Hint, you’re right about that one).

Get in touch!

 

Person getting ready for a jog.

Kicking Dynamic Creative Ads to the Curb: How we Decreased CPA by 66% For Joyn

Person getting ready for a jog.

Joyn represents everything positive about the future of movement. True, we’re biased, but one of the best parts of what we do is choosing who we work with. And the truth is, our jobs are much, much easier (and more fun!) when we believe in our partners’ business. So, it goes without saying: we’re big fans of Joyn. 

Simply, Joyn is a movement app for every body. Built on the conviction that feeling the joy and freedom of movement shouldn’t be exclusive to muscular influencers in size 00, Joyn’s online library includes a wide range of videos led by instructors that are positive, warm, and inclusive—truly. At the beginning of each class, the instructor introduces themselves, shares their pronouns, and takes a moment to talk through their recommended modifications to the movement they’re about to facilitate. That way, people that might need to be seated can still have fun and participate. 

When Joyn reached out to us in late 2020, they had a well-established brand, product market fit, and a growing (and super excited) audience. But what they were looking to accomplish was replicating their positive growth across multiple channels and supercharging it with a growth marketing agency like Tuff. 

The Backstory

When we jumped in and got access to Joyn’s Facebook Business Manager, there was already quite a bit of historical data accumulated from past campaigns they had been running.

Similarly to many new Tuff clients, Joyn knew that Facebook Ads were a key tactic for scaling their subscription user base, so their in-house team jumped in, whipped up some creative, and launched ads to start getting a finger on the pulse of which combination of targeting and creative would drive the most conversions on the site. 

Truthfully, for any startup seeking product-market fit, this is the perfect approach. Get scrappy, launch some ads, glean some learnings, and when you’re established and ready to scale, call in more resources. 

When we stepped in, we did it with a pointed goal: drive down CPS. We paired with a clear game plan:

  1. Dig into the historical data 
  2. Test Non-Dynamic Creative 
  3. Get UGC Influencer Style Creative 
  4. Optimize what performs, ditch the rest

Joyn’s Facebook Dynamic Creative Ads: Were they Working?

After pulling and organizing the historical data, we realized that Joyn was relying heavily on dynamic creative ads, giving us an excellent place to jump in and uncover more insights. 

Dynamic ads require the Facebook strategist (or whomever is executing the ads strategy) to jump into the platform and upload several different types of creative along with several different headlines and body copy. Then, when the ad is published, Facebook—using its algorithm—automatically tests different combinations, eventually prioritizing the combinations that are most effective (“effectiveness” is measured based on whether you’ve chosen to run a conversion, traffic, video views, reach, brand awareness, or app install campaign). While generally, marketers can see some positive results using this approach, there are some significant drawbacks:

  • It’s a challenge to drop in creative that’s going to be cohesive no matter what combination Facebook serves
  • It’s relatively challenging to optimize on the fly with dynamic creative campaigns

So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and launch non-dynamic ads. The results speak for themselves. 

Launching Non-Dynamic Ads: a 66% Decrease in CPS

Our main goal when we launched non-dynamic ads was to first optimize spend toward the best performing asset. Although typically when we pivot to test new Facebook strategies (whether it’s a new audience, new bid type, or new ad creative) results are far from immediate—especially given Facebook’s seven-day attribution window.

But, after just $545 of spend, we saw a sharp drop of 62% and within the very first week we saw a 66% decrease in CPS. 

  • Dynamic Spend: $6,583.44 | 153 Start Trials | CPS: $43.03
  • Non-Dynamic Spend: $1,744.40 | 121 Start Trials | CPS: $14.41

faceboook cps decrease chat

True, non-dynamic ads aren’t for everyone. They necessitate a much closer eye and the oversight of someone that can spend time reallocating budget to best performing assets and manually testing creative combinations frequently. When done right, though, the results speak for themselves. 

Fresh Creative: Tapping Into Influencers

Next up on our agenda for Joyn was to deep dive into their creative assets and emerge with…

  1. A full assessment of the creative that’s historically been performing at the top of the pack
  2. Clear ideas for new types of creative we’d like to test

Here’s a peek at what that looked like.

We noted that the strongest-performing creative tended to be shorter videos that open with high energy and/or full-screen movement. Both of our best-performers featured a modified way to access the movement, and bright colors with quick, varying shots. Finally, we were immediately able to see recognizable Joyn branding. 

Strength Training Video  |   Yoga Video

So, the next steps: recommending fresh creative. Joyn’s library of body-positive movement classes is populated by a cohort of inclusive, positive, extremely personable coaches. So when we recommended testing influencer content, we were able to create fun, big-energy new creative on a few day turnaround without having to source or negotiate with influencers. 

We were able to get two raw videos back from two of Joyn’s most memorable coaches, Kanoa Greene and Anna Chapman, use Joyn’s internal team for some extra editing and text overlay, and deploy them without a hitch. 

While there are a few extra steps to take (both on the Joyn Instagram page and on the influencer’s personal page) once we began promoting the two videos, the results were extremely interesting.

  • Kanoa Greene Influencer Campaign: $643.18 | 14 Start Trials | CPS: $45
  • Best-Performing Audience: “Female Leaders” — CPS: $14.81

The name of the game for Joyn: drive a CPS of less than $20. And while our results for Anna’s influencer campaign were not quite as tight, serving Kanoa’s ad to fresh audiences, rotating in new copy, and testing new placements have us seeing results that are closer to what we’re aiming for. 

Ready to See What Works Best For You on Social?

While we have been able to deep dive into both creative strategy and rigorous optimizations with Joyn, no two brands are built the same. Have a suite of creative you think we could supercharge? 

Let us take a deep dive into your brand and develop a strategy built for your business. 

Download a Sample Growth Marketing Proposal

A screen capture of the homepage of Sabio Coding Bootcamp

From Google Ads to Reddit: How We Tested 7 Different Acquisition Channels to Get Better Applicants for Sabio

If you’re a founder, you face two major obstacles: 

  1. Finding traction: proving that there’s a sustainable hunger for your product or service.
  2. Scaling: taking your proven concept and bringing it to the masses.  

Together, these two obstacles are an impressive challenge. One we’ve built our business to help founders overcome. Over the past few years we’ve worked with all kinds of different businesses across a range of industries to help them figure this out. 

In this post, we share our experimentation process and the original channels we chose to help an early-stage company acquire new users online. 

The scenario: 

Liliana, CEO of Sabio, approached Tuff in November 2020 with one goal: 

“Can you help us acquire new students for our online coding bootcamp?” 

Sabio has strong product market fit, growing revenue, consistent enrollments, and regularly gets feedback from graduates to refine their course curriculum. For a company at this stage, we knew our biggest opportunity was to test a variety of different channels to see which would bring us the best students (high quality leads) at the most efficient cost. 

 

The entire Tuff Team is amazing, which is no surprise because their leadership is exceptional. Ellen has put together one of the most amazing firms out there, and we are so happy to be working with TUFF.“  – Liliana Monge, CEO, Sabio (Read all Reviews on Google)

 

How to Find the Best Acquisition Channels for Your Business

Acquisition channels are diverse and plenty. With so many options, how can you create a channel strategy that will really accomplish your goals?

The first thing you need to do is focus on your users, not your channels. Who are you trying to get in front of and who is your target audience? Once you have this down on paper, channel selection becomes significantly easier. 

In general, there are two types of targeting options — behavioral based and intent based. When it comes to behavioral targeting, think channels like Facebook and Instagram or TikTok. For these channels, you can get very specific with who you are targeting based on things like age, income, job titles, and interests. Clicks can be cheap and reach can be wide. 

On the flip side, you also have intent based targeting. This could be a channel like Bing, Google, or YouTube. Intent based targeting means you can target based on search terms or people who express some intent to purchase or learn more about a service you might offer. Clicks can be expensive and conversion rates can be extremely high. 

A screen capture of a Sabio alumni testimonial

Our target audience: Post-graduate students between the ages of 21-27 who are looking for a career change. 

Using the above, we looked at 30 different channels and ultimately decided on the below because we knew we’d be able to get in front of this group on each. We also had enough video creative to explore both YouTube and TikTok. 

  • Google 
  • Bing
  • Reddit 
  • Quora 
  • YouTube 
  • Facebook & Instagram
  • TikTok 

Budget and Goals 

We had two options on this account: 

  • Test all seven channels at once 
  • Test one channel at a time 

We decided to test all channels at once for three reasons: 

  1. We have a stacked team of experts. Among our full team of growth marketers we divided the work and put our best strategy and execution into each channel. A smaller team would run into trouble investing enough time and resources into all six channels without dividing resources and diluting focus.
  2. We had a healthy budget. Not every company can afford to actively use more than a handful of channels and, even so, it’s tough to figure out which ones are delivering the right customers. Because we had more than $25,000 a month to allocate to our paid efforts, we decided to test each channel, eliminate under performers, and scale up winners as we learned. 
  3. We had an existing library of strong creative assets. For some intent-based channels like Bing or Google where ads are text-based, you don’t need a big inventory of graphics and videos. But for channels like YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook, you definitely want a library of creative assets to test and optimize. For Sabio, we had at least 15 different videos to support our efforts and knew we were unlikely to see creative fatigue right away. 

TikTok 

TikTok is new and growing fast. Because Sabio had such strong video creative and an active organic audience on TikTok already, we carved out $4,000/month for this channel for initial testing. Here were the initial videos we tested: 

Video 1  |  Video 2  |  Video 3  |  Video 4

TikTok brought us the most student applications for the lowest CPA. The volume was high but the quality of applicants was average. 

As we continued to optimize on TikTok, three things became extremely important: 

Dayparting 

When we first launched ads on TikTok, all of our daily budget was being spent before 2 p.m. Our hunch was that our audience was most active on TikTok in the evenings, and we were missing valuable impressions. 

We scheduled our ads to be served from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., and our CPA dropped 34% because of this simple switch. 

Approvals

TikTok’s ad policies are strict, and getting ads approved was definitely a challenge for Sabio, a brand that really exists to help people advance their careers. Sabio’s strongest value props are around potential salary, their tuition program, and job opportunities post-bootcamp. We had to be really strategic with our copy and video to get around some of TikTok’s ad policies. 

Additionally, there are also strict guidelines for the landing page your TikTok ad drives to. Be sure to to study TikTok’s ad policies before launching campaigns to avoid potential disapprovals. 

Pre-Paid  

TikTok requires that advertisers pre pay a balance on their account, instead of retroactively billing the advertiser like other social channels. We quickly learned that it’s important to stay on top of the ad account balance making sure there were plenty of pre-paid funds. 

Every time your account runs out of balance, your campaigns reset and results tend to dip for a day or two as the algorithm re-optimizes. To maintain consistent results, we recommend adding the entire monthly budget to your account at a time instead of small increments.

Twitter 

While only about 5% of all Tuff clients explore Twitter as a paid acquisition channel, because of the handle and hashtag targeting capabilities, we knew we needed to test this out and see if we could find potential developers and engineers. Here’s what this setup looked like: 

  • Optimized the campaigns for traffic 
  • Daily Budget: $95
  • Audiences: 
    • Career Switch
    • Women in STEM
    • Coding Interests
    • Gaming Interests
  • CPC: $1.51 

We tested several ad creatives on Twitter to see what would perform the best and we found that video ads had a 58% lower CPC but yielded lower quality site traffic compared to images and graphics. We optimized our campaigns so that the majority of our Twitter spend went to the top performing image ads. 

While we had a few applicants come in during the first four weeks, we ultimately decided to kill this channel after six weeks of testing. The CPA was high, bounce rate high, and time on site was extremely low. We ditched it and reallocated the funds to Google and Bing.

Google Ads 

a screen capture of a Google Search Ad "Pay $0 until you get a job"

For almost any business that gets searched online, Google Ads is a no brainer. For this channel, Sabio was already running campaigns and our big focus as a team was to get into the account and clean it up so that we could more efficiently drive scale. Almost immediately, we were able to find some quick wins. 

We quickly noticed that over 75% of the conversions from Google Search campaigns in the previous three months had come from branded terms. Although branded search is a critical component to most brand’s search campaign structure, we knew that we needed to expand into non-branded campaigns to increase the volume of applications for Sabio. 

Our initial keyword research also uncovered significant opportunities to add highly-targeted, long tail keywords into our campaigns. With high volume projected on these long tail keywords, we were able to stick primarily to exact-match targeting while also removing previous non-branded broad match keywords that were wasting a significant portion of the search campaign budget. 

Over time, our keyword list has shrunk as we have gathered data, reviewed the search terms reports, and honed in on the exact terms we need to focus on as exact-match keywords.

A table showcasing cost, clicks, CPC, and more data for Sabio Google Ads performance

Overall, our strategy on Google has been simple but effective:

  • Avoid wasteful broad-match terms and general search queries by targeting long tail keywords
  • Break out campaigns by location-focused KWs vs. remote to match the structure of the search and the website 
  • Create and break out a branded search campaign to capture all Sabio searches optimized for impression share

Within three months, we’ve been able to decrease the CPA by 36% while almost doubling the total amount of leads just by finding ways to eliminate waste. 

Bing Ads 

We think about Bing ads in a very similar way to Google. The intent is high and the searchers are already looking for a solution similar to Sabio. 

The interesting thing about Bing is that it can be cheaper and less crowded. If we can get results on Google, we can almost guarantee that we’ll see the same results on Bing

For Sabio, not the case. Bing was expensive and low scale. We tested for three months and ended up reallocating the spend elsewhere for Q2 based on initial learnings. In comparison, here’s what the costs looked like across both channels for the final two months of testing: 

A chart showcasing how Google Ads was a stronger performer than Bing for Sabio

Although CPCs were slightly cheaper on Bing for the same keywords, the traffic quality was not nearly as strong as Google, resulting in Cost Per Application over 2x that of Google Search, and a conversion rate less than half.

With these results and sufficient testing spend already having been allocated to Bing, moving future funds over to other channels with lower conversion costs made sense. 

Reddit 

A screen capture of a Reddit ad "Score a $100k job, then pay tuition"

Reddit is a smart strategy for very select, specific, and niche companies. It’s not a channel for everyone. 

While we ended up killing Reddit after two months, we wanted to try this channel because we knew we could get ads (for a very low cost) in front of a specific audience and relevant subreddits. 

Our big focus on Reddit was to get our campaign structure right. To do this, we started by split testing two different objectives: Traffic and Brand Awareness/Reach. 

Like other social platforms, we wanted to test both campaign objectives to analyze how the metrics would truly shake out. For example, would the Traffic objective yield more clicks and lower CPCs as it is intended to? Or would our testing show that Brand Awareness was actually a better option for getting traffic from Reddit?

Interestingly, in our final month of testing, the Brand Awareness objective campaign outperformed the Traffic objective campaign in both of these top level metrics, yielding lower CPCs at about half the cost of the Traffic objective campaign, as well as a higher CTR. Without testing, we could very easily have assumed that the Traffic objective campaign would have been more effective at driving traffic, although the results tell a different story in this case.

A chart showcasing Reddit performance for Sabio

We also decided to target four different subreddits: r/earnprogramming, r/coding, r/codinghelp, r/codingbootcamp. Over time we dropped the low performers and added in new subreddits for testing. 

We also got specific with our creative. We didn’t want the ads to stand out on Reddit. We were constantly rotating in new creative ways depending on success from other channels. 

Ultimately, we killed the channel due to low performance but here’s a look at the data to get an idea on how this might compare to a more traditional channel like Facebook or Google: 

  • Spend: $1,707
  • Traffic: 1,839
  • CPC: $0.82
  • Applications: 10 
  • CPA: $170
  • CVR: 0.54% 

Facebook & Instagram

A screen capture of a Facebook ad for Sabio "Hesitant to invest in your future?" A screen capture of an Instagram ad for Sabio "Your six-figure career in tech begins now"

While we originally thought Facebook and Instagram ads would be an incredible channel for retargeting, it proved successful for both prospecting and retargeting, bringing us some our lowest CPAs. 

Similar to other channels, our success was dependent on our optimization strategy. When we took over the account, the majority of the campaigns were being optimized for traffic. Within the first week, after configuring conversion goals and events within Facebook, we started testing out campaigns optimized for conversions. For Sabio, this meant a user clicking on an ad and filling out a form on the website. The results were drastic. Not only did the conversion-optimized campaigns drive more leads but the traffic was significantly higher quality when we analyzed the performance of each ad creative in Google Analytics. 

Here’s how this works: 

Your optimization strategy plays a significant role in performance on Facebook and Instagram. Audiences on the channel are typically millions of users in size, and it’s the algorithm’s job to prioritize who out of that audience will see your ad. By choosing certain optimizations (like conversions for example), you’re essentially telling the algorithm to go out and find users most likely to take that action (like filling out a Sabio application).

But in order for that to work properly, the conversion event has to have enough data to help the algorithm prioritize users in your audience. For some brands, there just isn’t enough conversion data available on their Facebook pixel to optimize for lower funnel events, and it’s better to optimize for traffic instead. 

Facebook—along with TikTok—is now fueling two areas of our marketing funnel for Sabio. We’ve allocated spend to prospecting audiences on both channels to drive new traffic to the website as well as spend around 30% of the budget on retargeting campaigns to drive traffic back to the site to convert. These social channels sandwich our PPC campaigns on Google, YouTube, and Bing. 

YouTube Ads

A YouTube Ad for Sabio on mobile A YouTube ad for Sabio: "Learn to code."

Last but not least, YouTube ads. This is one of the fastest growing channels and a personal favorite at Tuff. 

For context, a few years ago (2019ish) maybe 10% of our clients were advertising on YouTube. Fast forward to today, almost every client we work with is actively running YouTube campaigns or has tested out the channel. 

YouTube is great for so many reasons but in particular it can supercharge results for brands that have solid video assets because of the targeting capabilities. YouTube is like a hybrid of Google Ads (intent-based targeting) and Facebook Ads (behavioral-based targeting). You can get extremely specific with who you serve your ads to based on their actual search history and you can also leverage high-converting visual creative assets to reach them. It’s the best of both worlds. 

For YouTube, we tested Video Action Campaigns and YouTube In-Stream Prospecting – the In-Stream tanked and we killed it quick. The Video Action campaigns were, and have continued to be, super effective. 

We tested multiple videos and quickly isolated top performers in order to lower cost and drive up quality. Here’s an example of a two-week creative test in which we sought to understand which video would resonate the most (and drive conversions): 

A chart showcasing how different video creative assets drive very different results on YouTube

After isolating creative and campaign type, we then shifted our focus to additional targeting optimizations. Within a few weeks, we were able to test targeting placements and channel placements, discovering that for this unique account, topics are significantly more effective than channels. Here’s a peek: 

  • Topics = $46.24 CPA
  • Channels = $281 CPA

After this, we layered on retargeting and have continue to optimize the follow areas to improve performance: 

  • Campaign Type 
  • Audience Targeting 
  • Creative 

What’s next? Strategy for Q2 

We started our partnership with Sabio at the end of 2020 and we’re actively building on our strategy for Q2. Our mission stays the same: Can we drive more applications on the Sabio website at an efficient cost? 

Based on our learnings from the last three months, here our some of the initial optimizations we plan to apply to our next round of campaigns as a team: 

  • Allocate at least 50-60% to the intent-based channels (they’re higher cost but higher quality)
  • Kill Reddit, Bing, and Twitter. Move forward with TikTok, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube
  • Continue to work on attribution so we can get an even better understanding of quality (vs quantity) 
  • Test two new channels: LinkedIn and Snapchat (stay tuned!) 

As we’ve outlined above, the first step is defining the user acquisition channels that will or have the biggest impact on growth, and working tirelessly to test and validate the combination that will have the biggest impact on your business. It can seem overwhelming at the start, but testing and optimization should become part of your growth DNA. What might seem like a steep learning curve will turn into a path with long-term payoff when you get it right.

 

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.