Much of my seven years in marketing has been spent reviewing websites, critiquing marketing strategy and recommending improvements to clients and employers.
My first ever marketing gig was evaluating the business of a virtually unknown real estate information product. After reading my analysis, the company hired me, on the spot, to orchestrate an upcoming product launch.
I wrote their sales copy, created their content (video, audio and ebooks), wrote all emails, crafted the product offer, set pricing and helped code their landing pages.
Just seven days later …
… my clients were pulling in thousands of dollars in additional sales and gained notoriety in their niche.
Since then, I’ve performed multiple audits and conducted dozens of reviews for sites in ecommerce, real estate, fitness and food industries.
I’ve profitably managed everything from SEO to paid search, social media, advertising, email, web analytics, referral marketing, copywriting, PR, content marketing and blogging.
My work has consistently increased client revenue by +300% and added thousands of loyal subscribers to their customer portfolios.
Today, I work in-house as an SEO Manager for the largest small business branding company on earth and don’t do as much consulting as in the past. But I still have the itch to audit.
So, I’ve decided that in order to keep my marketing skills sharp and fight off complacency … that I’ll take some of my favorite brands, go through each company with a fine toothed comb, pick apart their businesses and uncover areas where they can improve.
I’m calling this series The Hot Seat.
The first company on the list is actually a neighbor. They’re in a great industry and offer a fantastic product. In fact, their office is right across the street from mine.
Localist is a startup based in Silver Spring, MD that specializes in event marketing and event management software. Their flagship product is called Calendar Platform.
Using Calendar Platform, you can set up all of your events in one place, add event widgets to any page (so long, traditional calendar view!), easily share events on social media, connect events to ticketing platforms like EventBrite and a lot more.
Their mission is to shift the perception of calendar software from being a basic management tool to a powerful marketing tool.
Why did I select Localist?
- They work in a software category with jaw-dropping potential and have developed a well-designed product.
- They’re shedding more light on events as a core strategy for businesses and organizations who rely on marketing to spread their gospel.
- Localist is out to set the record straight about what calendar software can really do for both online and offline marketing.
Localist doesn’t want to simply add another “me too” product to the already glutted SaaS space. They’re out to create a remarkable, user-friendly marketing platform that any organization can use, no matter their size or technical ability. That’s why I chose them for the first ever Hot Seat.
This particular Hot Seat is broken down into five sections:
- Social Media
I’ll grade their overall efforts in each section, discuss why each element is important, highlight the things Localist is doing well and nitpick at things that could use some work. Let’s get started!
One of the easiest ways to increase the number of people who buy from you, without spending a lot of time or man hours, is conversion optimization.
Localist does an okay job with conversions. Below are a few recommendations that could have an immediate impact on their conversion rates and generate more revenue.
It’s understandable that an organization may be hesitant to implement a customer guarantee. When done badly, a guarantee can do damage to a business. A weak guarantee can hurt present and future sales as well as harm the company’s reputation.
When done right, a guarantee can be powerful. A strong guarantee can leap over visitor objections, lay customer fears to rest and break down the walls of buying resistance.
Localist could benefit from attaching a bold guarantee to their product. A couple of examples of what that guarantee could look like are below.
You may have noticed the second guarantee packs more of a punch than the first one. So, why include the first example?
The first example offers a guarantee, but the promise is tied directly to the performance of the product, which is a bit more predictable and measurable.
The second example promises very specific outcomes. The reality is that results vary by user and not everyone will have the same experience. This type of guarantee could make those in charge a little uneasy, and rightfully so.
Essentially, the first guarantee is safe, while the second guarantee is bold.
The question is, which one will generate the most conversions?
As Featured In
Localist uses social proof on the homepage in order to positively influence visitors to purchase a subscription.
One section that seems to have become standard on most sites, but is missing from their homepage, is an As Featured In section.
It’s not like Localist hasn’t been featured or mentioned by important websites, because they have. All they need to do is display this fact somewhere visible for potential customers to see.
I built the As Featured In section below to give you an example of what I’m talking about.
Proof and validation from third-party websites like news outlets, media sources, review sites and industry publications can lend credibility to Localist and help boost conversions.
Call to Action (CTA)
Another great way to improve conversion is split testing CTAs and making them more actionable. Split testing CTAs can drastically boost conversions, as a recent Visual Website Optimizer case study brought out.
Localist’s CTA is the standard boilerplate, Start A Trial.
Yes, it’s clickable, it uses text/CSS instead of images and asks for action, but there’s definitely room for improvement. It would be great if the copy were more descriptive and specific.
They could do this by asking themselves the following questions. What kind of trial will visitors be starting? Is it a paid trial? Is it a free trial? How long will the trial last? Once these questions have answers, they can be used in split tests.
I’ve provided some examples below. Previous experience tells me that at least one of these will succeed in boosting the click rate of their CTA.
“Start A Free Trial”
“Start Your Free Trial”
“Start A 2-Week Trial”
“Start A Free 2-Week Trial”
“Start Your Free 2-Week Trial”
“Start A 14-Day Trial”
“Start A Free 14-Day Trial”
“Start A Free Unlimited Trial”
After clicking the CTA, I was taken to a landing page containing additional information, but I still couldn’t find any details about trial time length and whether or not it was a full-featured trial or a limited-feature trial.
The sign up form on the page asked for my name, email, organization name and the industry in which I work. There’s definitely an opportunity here to split test the number of required form fields. A 2014 Formstack study shows a strong correlation between the number of fields in your form and conversions.
Additionally, it would be good to see the copy suggestions above implemented within the title of the sign up box. I created a mock of this below.
Copy should always be the embodiment of the best pitch from your best sales person. It should quickly answer all your visitor’s questions and completely crush any objections. Your site should be a lean, mean sales machine.
There are two sections of the Localist homepage copy that could use a shot in the arm.
Hero Copy Section
The copy greeting visitors above the fold is heavy on talk about what the product does, but is light on the results companies can expect from using the product. When selling, it’s really important to help potential customers see how life will be easier and better with your product.
There are several different approaches Localist could take in tweaking this copy. I’ve provided an example below.
Proven Value Section
The features listed under the Proven Value section tells visitors what Localist will do for them (i.e., increase event attendance 70%), but it’s missing the explanation of how the product makes these results possible.
See if you notice a difference between the copy before adding the how and after adding the how, in the images below.
You may have noticed the “after” copy isn’t too different from the “before” copy, but there are two important changes. First, the after copy now ties the specific product feature(s) to the expected result(s). Second, each title is now capitalized to show the importance of individual features. As a side note, I’ve bumped up the padding to create a little more buffer between the images and text.
Content marketing is one of those strategies where if you know your audience, if you can create share worthy content and are in it for the long haul, the traffic upside could be huge.
On the other hand, if you don’t know your audience and choose to crank out irrelevant, boring junk, then you’ll waste gobs of time and throw money down the drain.
Localist is definitely on the right track in that it publishes articles, ebooks and webinars and has even created publicly available tools like Calendar Grader and On-Page SEO Template.
But, they’ve still got a lot of work ahead of them when it comes to creating content for their target audience.
One of the first places I went on Localist.com was the blog. I wanted to check out articles and get a better feel for what type of audience they’re targeting with their content.
I was expecting mainly to read articles about using events as a strategy within a larger marketing plan or tips for making events successful. What I ended up reading were articles about how to use LinkedIn, ways to take care of your health, how to make libraries cool and celebrity quizzes.
It took a bit of digging through the blog to find useful, relevant articles—which shouldn’t have been the case.
I get it, Localist serves multiple verticals with their product and wants to target each of those verticals individually, but the blog isn’t the best place to do this. A better place would be in email automation campaigns or during webinars.
On the plus side, I’m happy that their marketing team isn’t blindly producing articles. I just wish they didn’t feel so off message.
Developing a list of anchor topics could go a long way in helping them find their content marketing voice and figuring out exactly what audience to serve.
Anchor topics are interesting subjects that can be discussed again and again without boring your readers because they’re full of depth and can be examined from multiple angles.
There are several ways to develop anchor topics.
The first way is to perform a simple search in Google for one of your company’s target keywords and take a look at the results for both web and news tabs. This could help spark ideas for what to write.
The second way is to take a look at industry sites to see what types of articles are already being published and widely shared.
The last way is to use a tool like Buzzsumo to search keywords and discover the most shared articles for your specific query.
Once you’ve developed anchor topics, it becomes easier to create content because you’re not constantly worried about what to write and your content progressively becomes more shareable as you dive deeper into tutorials, how-to articles, instructographics and other interesting content.
Localist’s resources page is reminiscent of Hubspot’s marketing library. As I mentioned before, they’re definitely on the right track when it comes to content.
Where most software companies are still being convinced of the value of content marketing, Localist is producing it in multiple forms.
But, in browsing some of the ebook titles, nothing really stands out. Many of the ebooks target specific niches, which is great, but none of the ebook topics were compelling enough for me to exchange my contact information for the download.
I read through 5 Ways Your Online Calendar Can Influence SEO and was really surprised that it was just 5 pages. In my opinion this ebook didn’t really contain anything that would benefit me as a potential buyer of their software.
Using ebooks as a lead generation tool is a great idea, but the content must be extraordinary. Why? Your content acts as a primer for your paid subscription. If your ebooks deliver great value, then the assumption is that your paid product will deliver equal or better value than stuff you give away for free.
It would be great to see the blog post Planning an Event on a Shoestring Budget turned into an ebook that covers the details and how-to’s of event planning and execution.
Ideally this ebook would be targeted to small businesses and startups that have little or no budget and have never hosted an event.
I love the fact that Localist is open-minded and flexible enough to consider using webinars as a marketing and promotion tool. However, I was a bit surprised to find out there were only two webinars available.
I almost gave my contact information in exchange for access to the webinar, but then I remembered seeing them publicly available on their YouTube channel.
My only advice here is to consistently produce more audio content, but do it on a regular schedule and do it in the most optimal way. Lead Pages put together a great 24-tip post on lessons learned from doing over 200 webinars.
When done effectively, webinars can have a major impact on marketing conversions, like it did for Josh Turner of Linked University.
PR is a great way to generate brand awareness, build backlinks and drive traffic to your website. When done regularly, mentions, features, reviews and interviews have the potential to drive wave after wave of traffic to your website.
A nice side benefit of consistent, high quality PR is that Google begins to see you as an industry authority, which can help improve your search engine visibility.
I’m not sure if the Localist Newsroom just hasn’t been updated in a while or if there’s been no press since then, but the most recent article mentioning the company is from September of last year.
Whether it’s a matter of adding recent articles or getting their brand more public exposure, it would be great to see the press page consistently updated.
Before making purchasing decisions, people often consult third-party websites like The Better Business Bureau to help them feel good about what they’re buying and to confirm that they’re not getting scammed.
My search for feedback and opinions of Localist turned up zero reviews, which is both good and bad.
It’s good that I didn’t find anything negative about them. However, a problem arises if a current or former product user decides to leave a negative review. That negative review could show up on the first page of Google, could damage their reputation and may be hard for them to get rid of.
My suggestion to them is take control of the online conversation about your brand, now.
Localist should register on sites like G2 Crowd, Trustpilot, Trust Radius and SiteJabber and should ask their customers to rate them.
Additionally, it would be helpful to have major publishers like CNET, PC Magazine and PC World review their product—but I only recommend using this tactic if they’re certain the product will score well.
With newer strategies like mobile advertising, social media advertising and content marketing dominating the conversations of marketing professionals everywhere, many people overlook email as an effective conversion tool.
A recent McKinsey report estimated that email is 40x more effective at acquisition than Twitter and Facebook, while a Forrester report cites email as the most effective lead nurturing tactic for B2B marketing professionals.
What makes email marketing so effective even after all these years?
- It’s easy to reach customers.
- Email is highly customizable and plays well with other marketing tactics.
- It’s inexpensive and simple to get up and running.
So, how did Localist’s email marketing fair? Not terribly, but also not as well as I hoped.
I was expecting a series of welcome emails that seamlessly moved me through the customer onboarding process and helped me publish my first events. Instead, I received a welcome email with my login credentials, a link to the blog, a link to the resource center and a number to contact customer support.
The upside to the emails I received is that the second through fifth messages were free of logos and graphics and felt extremely personable. Mykel, Localist Co-Founder, even extended an offer to individually assist me or directly answer my questions. This move helped endear me to their brand.
I wouldn’t necessarily call their email approach wrong because they provided me with links to resources and even a support number. But onboarding is a critical, yet overlooked, piece of product marketing and Localist can definitely do better.
Having worked in SaaS for the last four years, I can tell you that providing a great first time product experience and guiding people to their first publish is really important. It can literally be the difference between customers staying or quickly churning.
In retrospect, it would’ve been great to receive an email that read something like this.
The example email above not only provides new sign ups with important login information, but it also tells new customers what to expect. This is great because a busy marketing manager might not have the time to browse support articles or pick up the phone—but will likely have time to open an email.
What about emails that would follow the example above, what should they say? I envision them being part of a Localist email boot camp or crash course that shows users how to quickly get their calendars up and running and that provides tips for squeezing the most out of a paid subscription.
When it comes to SEO, there are a lot of moving parts. There’s on-page optimization, off-page optimization, link earning, outreach, and a lot more.
Website optimization should be a top priority for every online business owner as it increases search engine visibility.
Localist is doing a good job with on-page SEO. Not one title, description or URL is out of place. There were however, a few technical things that stuck out.
For this section, I didn’t worry about comparing Localist to competitors. My focus was how they can improve traffic generation and rankings.
Page Load Times
Page load speeds for Localist.com, both desktop and mobile, were below average. This is interesting given that pages on the domain are ultra-lightweight coming in at a mere 27.21kb.
According to HTTP Archive, the web average is 1976kb as of October 1, 2015. So, their page size is well below average.
It looks like page load times are being bogged down by a lack of browser caching for some cacheable resources and that locally hosted and cloud hosted images aren’t compressed.
Google’s Page Speed Insights tool offers additional detail and improvements that Localist can make to further boost page load speeds.
Why are page load times so important? Faster sites convert better. Check out the case studies below.
- An Aberdeen Group speed study showed that a delay in page load times of just one second decreased pageviews 11% and led to a 7% drop in conversions.
- In a page load test performed by MindValley Hispano, improving page speed increased conversions 8.47%.
- Shopzilla improved page load times by 5 seconds and boosted conversions 7%-12%.
If you’re curious about how much you could add to your bottom line by improving conversions, check out the ClickZ Website Optimization ROI Calculator.
Although it’s very easy to find Localist when you search for the company name in Google, they don’t rank well (if at all) for the same keywords as competitors like Trumba, ActiveData and CalendarWiz.
I performed a keyword gap analysis which outlines the terms Localist currently ranks for, their search engine position and where their competitors rank. The spreadsheet is embedded below. Or you can view the full sized spreadsheet here.
Localist should consider focusing more effort on including target keywords in their title tags, meta descriptions, headings and body copy. It would require little effort on their part and they could begin to see the benefits of this work within the next 30-90 days.
A quick check of Majestic.com reveals a backlink profile for Localist that is disproportionately NOFOLLOW (23k nofollow backlinks for every 10k follow links). A deeper investigation revealed that these NOFOLLOW links are primarily Localist branded footers.
Healthy, optimized sites should have more FOLLOW links than NOFOLLOW links.
Typically when sites encounter duplicate content issues, the problem is often that both www and non-www versions of the pages are being successfully served to both visitors and search engine spiders.
Likely thanks to some savvy engineers, Localist doesn’t have this specific duplicate content problem.
However, in taking a look at the XML sitemap, I discovered that the /library/ folder contains articles that have the exact same content as some posts on their blog. Both are showing in Google’s search results.
To resolve this issue, Localist should 301/permanently redirect these pages and match them to their counterparts on the blog. To keep track of these redirects, I recommend using a spreadsheet.
On a different but similar note, the sitemap still lists the /library/ directory. They should remove these. A sitemap should only contain canonical (preferred) URLs, not URLs that redirect.
Localist has social media accounts across all major channels including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Vimeo. Many of the accounts are updated regularly or semi-regularly while others are not.
Although the Twitter account is updated regularly, the posts range from focused and event-marketing specific to broad, overly general and off topic.
In reviewing their Facebook account, I was a bit surprised. At one time, updates were spot on with their core business and were poised to help further the Localist brand if promoted to the right influencers. However, starting in May of this year, there was a noticeable drop off in quality updates.
Like their Twitter account, updates now feel too broad in focus and linked articles don’t come across as relevant to event marketing and event management topics.
It’s great to see Localist utilizing YouTube. The majority of their publicly available videos are support related, with a couple of webinars and an explainer video thrown in for good measure. The video upload dates tell me that this account isn’t updated regularly. It would be great to see more content published on a consistent cadence.
Additionally, it would be nice to see the Localist channel a bit more customized, including a featured video, channel sections, a video for new visitors, channel art, etc.
Pro – Localist’s LinkedIn company page is updated regularly.
Con – content is identical across LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It would be preferable to see content posted to each platform, tailored to each network’s audience.
In my search for Localist social media profiles, I came across their Vimeo account. The profile contained two old videos and didn’t appear to be actively maintained.
Given all of the other social media profiles the marketing team currently manages, it might be worth it to re-evaluate the strategy for Vimeo and consider whether or not to keep the account or get rid of it.
Localist is a great company with a remarkable product in a software category with a lot of upside. After having gone through their pages, articles, social profiles, press and technical front end, there are several areas of opportunity, both immediate and long term.
In the near term, the biggest of these opportunities is improving conversion. Conversions are great in that, by far, they offer the best bang for your buck. Making the choice to build a culture of testing, starting today, is one of those decisions that could benefit Localist now and in the foreseeable future.
In the far term, Localist needs to find its marketing voice and start producing share worthy content. Search engines drive traffic to relevant content and if they can figure out what their audience wants and deliver it to them, there’s no limit to how far they can go.
I hope you enjoyed reading this first Hot Seat as much as I enjoyed writing it.
My sincere wish is that everyone can take something from this piece, apply it in their business and see positive results.
If you’d like the chance to see your company featured in an upcoming Hot Seat, visit my contact page and fill out the form.