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Five Things You Must Get Right to Grow Your Business with Inbound Marketing

inbound marketing

This is a guest post from Jessica Day - Co-Founder, Chief Marketing Officer at IdeaScale.

The term “inbound marketing” has been around since the 90’s but didn’t really start to get popular until the mid-2000s when all of the major brands started to shift their thinking about how to grow their customer base. Instead of “pushing” messages out to consumers and interrupting them (on billboards, television commercials, podcast ads) they started to “pull” people to them who were already interested in hearing their message by appearing in their path when people were looking for them.

Maybe that new customer had discovered a problem that they wanted to solve or maybe they’d already heard of a company and were looking to find out if that solution was right for them. The point is, companies started to lay the bread crumbs to be FOUND instead of doing the finding themselves and some start-ups built their entire business this way.  After almost a decade in business, IdeaScale is still almost 100% inbound and we’ve grown into a global multi-million dollar business that way. But what did we have to get right to do it?

Odds are you haven’t heard of the term “innovation management software” or maybe even “employee crowdsourcing” but that doesn’t necessarily matter. The point is, once you know what it is, once you know that you need it, when you search for it on Google… IdeaScale will be on the first page of results. So we do some very simple things to make sure that when you’re ready for our message you’ll find us.

Start with Research

No matter what tactic you’re focusing on [search engine optimization (SEO), PPC (pay per click), or social media], you must start by developing prospect and customer empathy. Find out what terms a prospect would use as they started having awareness of a need, develop other terms for when they’re looking to buy. For example, someone who is worried about ideas being transparently shared at their company might search for “ideation transparency” before they learn about and search for “idea management software,” which is why IdeaScale has developed content for both. To do this, you have to develop true customer empathy and let this be the roadmap for your strategy. And then you need to see what other content and messages are out there, what other people enjoy and share (BuzzSumo is great for this) and create your own messages that fit into this universe.

Create Content People Want to Share

Links back to your site are absolutely still the most important way to drive traffic back to your site. Not only are those links messaging outposts that will get people back to your site, but they signal relevance and importance to the search bots so will help you level-up your search results. So take all that research that you used to understand your customers and prospects and create content that they want to engage with. Oftentimes, IdeaScale will take a book that we admire or quote a thought leader that relates to our business and repackage that message in a meme, infographic, or blog post and then share it with that author or thought leader’s audience.

Social Media Marketing

Your approach to social will vary a great deal depending on your business, but don’t ignore social. Not only are social media platforms an environment for links back to your site, but they allow you to develop your brand voice in a different context. And don’t forget to encourage your most passionate employees to participate with and augment that voice.

Develop an Easy-to-Understand, High-Speed, Mobile-Friendly Website

Your website is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, of course, it should be filled with relevant, high quality information. So do all that, but Google’s search algorithm prioritizes sites that function well, as well. That means having a valuable sitemap and good information architecture, it means being able to load fast and if you’re site isn’t optimized for mobile, just forget about it. Think about content when it comes to your website, but also think about function.

Develop and Iterate Your Pay Per Click Strategy

Every time you search for something, not only do you get content results, but you see ads, as well. And these ads are far more likely to convert into a paying customer, because that person was already searching for that term. They want to see your content so take all that research and create a PPC strategy that makes sense with you and test multiple messages and calls to action. We work with Level-Up to do this and it already delivers top-line revenue growth.

This is just the beginning, of course, but when you’re growing an inbound SaaS business, understanding your prospects, developing great ads and content and a social presence that leads to a stellar website are the things that you absolutely MUST get right.

Jessica Day, Co-Founder, CMO, IdeaScale

Jessica Day is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at IdeaScale, the largest idea management platform in the world with more than 35,000 communities and 4.5 million users. IdeaScale empowers organizations to crowdsource ideas from their employees or customers who then collaborate, evaluate, and further develop those ideas into products, processes, and new initiatives. IdeaScale’s client roster includes industry leaders, such as Citrix, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, NASA, the New York City Police Department, Princess Cruises and many others. As part of her role, Day analyzes and articulates patterns appearing in crowdsourced innovation.

Day volunteers for sustainability organizations and lives in Berkeley, CA. She holds a MFA in English, Creative Writing.


Changes coming to Google and Facebook Ads in 2019

Google and Facebook are constantly making updates and changes to their platforms. We’ve summarized a few of the more important one’s in this week’s blog post:


  • Google makes it Easier to Opt Out of Ad Personalization

    • As privacy and trust in advertising continue to be in the spotlight, the major players are taking proactive steps to allow people some choice in how they are advertised to on the web.

    • Google is making it easier to change the ad personalization settings for their users via Google My Account.

    • If you’re a Google user and are interested in seeing if ad personalization is turned on for you go to your own ad personalization settings. You can also see who Google thinks you are, based on personal info you've added to your Google Account, data from advertisers that partner with Google, and Google's estimation of your interests. This is the kind of data that advertisers use to target you with Google Ads.

  • New metric!

    • Google recently rolled out the click share metric, which tells you an estimate of “the estimated share of all achievable clicks that you have received, and is available only for Search and Shopping campaigns.”

    • In the past, we’ve only had impression share metrics (your share of impressions on the Google search results page).

    • We love competitive metrics like this because they are great for macro account optimization. You can use it to evaluate your share of clicks for your best keywords and increase budget on your most profitable ones. Say that you were tracking a 3:1 ROAS on a keyword, and found that you only have a 10% click share. Why not increase your bid and budget for that keyword?


    • Google is going to start serving AMPHTML ads across all websites.

    • AMPHTML ads are a new, better way of building, delivering and measuring ads that are faster, lighter and more secure.

    • Why do you care?

      • Accelerated Mobile Pages (Google’s response to Facebook Instant Articles) are becoming more commonplace on the web. These new ads are well… better. More here if you’re interested.


  • Campaign budget optimization will be the default

    • Facebook’s campaign budget optimization automatically distributes your budget across your audiences based on performance. So if one audience in a campaign has a higher conversion rate, Facebook will automatically give that audience more budget than other audiences in the campaign.

    • Facebook rolled out campaign budget optimization a while ago, and we have been using it since. It’s much more effective than trying to manually redistribute budgets based on results. An algorithm is able to do this much faster than a human.

    • Now that it’s being rolled out as a default it means potentially better ad performance for all advertisers.

    • The caveat is that without segmenting your audiences appropriately, it can favor the larger audiences and you won’t end up seeing performance improvements.

    • There are a few ways around this:

      • You should make sure to group your audiences based on their stage in the buying funnel.

      • Depending on your budget this could mean a lot more campaigns than you currently have.

      • For example, make sure to keep retargeting and prospecting audiences in completely separate campaigns.

  • Facebook will reveal who uploaded your contact info for ad targeting

    • In Q3 of 2018, Facebook added new requirements around using custom audiences. Now Facebook is going to reveal who uploaded your contact information for ad targeting. If you are following the rules and collected your data appropriately, this isn’t going to be an issue. However, if you purchased or collected data like email addresses from a 3rd party and do not have consent from your list - this could potentially backfire as consumers can see how you’ve uploaded your list.

  • Square image sizes

    • Facebook changed the image aspect ratio requirements and rolled out square image sizes that can be used instead of landscape images.

    • This change was largely from feedback from advertisers who found the landscape images too restrictive. Facebook said the change is “to help advertisers like yourself have more creative flexibility and drive better performance.”

How To Spy on and Sell to Site Abandoners

Recently, we started working with an advertiser who has a great market-leading software tool, but a ton of competition when it comes to Google Ads.

CPC’s for their top keywords are in the $30 - $50 range. Combine that with lower search volumes, and you’ve got a challenging campaign to run.

One thing that we’ve deployed for this particular campaign is a reverse IP lookup tool called Visitor Queue to track who is visiting our campaign landing pages. The tool tells us exactly who has visited our landing pages, and their contact information.

On average, 98% of website visitors leave without converting… leaving a huge missed opportunity. Even if you’ve got the perfect landing page, you’re still never going to convert everyone who visits.

This is only suited for B2B marketing, and in fact Visitor Queue will only return company/corporate email addresses and ignore personal one’s (like Gmail, Hotmail etc.)

Visitor Queue provides:

  • Company Information

  • Website Visit Information

  • Key Contact Information & Emails

  • LinkedIn Contact Information

  • Regular Email Notifications

Once you see someone has visited the landing page without converting - you can send them an email, reach out on LinkedIn, or give them a call directly (to really freak them out).

The setup:

Visitor Queue uses Google Analytics to tag your pages or website. So the setup is super quick and easy.

However, if you want to use this tool only on specific pages, what you can do is set up a specific Google Analytics ‘view’ within your Google Analytics account. This is helpful if you want to find the contact information of people that only visit your landing pages, and not everyone who visits your main website.

If you're interested in setting this up - I can help you through the process. Just shoot me an email.

Mobile Advertising Tips for Google and Facebook Ads

When it comes to Google and Facebook Ads, mobile device inventory is a given. You are opted-in automatically when setting up a campaign unless you decide against it. Even turning all mobile delivery off would prove challenging if you don’t know what to look for.

Avinash Kaushik said, 2009 was the year of mobile. It’s 9 years later and everyone is still figuring it out. Advertising on mobile can be more complicated, confusing, and harder to drive ROI than on desktop.


It’s stating the obvious to say that behavior on a mobile device is inherently different. People search, browse social media and shop differently on mobile.

You’ll often hear statistics like:

“33% of people who showed interest on mobile, convert on a desktop computer later”

“67% of consumers start shopping on one device and continue on another”

To optimize your efforts, you should consider 3 key things:

  1. How you will manage your campaigns in the platforms specifically for mobile.

  2. How the destination (website) experience will be on the mobile device.

  3. How you will optimize your campaigns for mobile.

These are equally important and easy to mess up.

So how can you optimize your campaign strategy for a mobile, multi-device world?

Google Ads

Maximize keyword -> ad -> destination relevance:

Because Google Ads only appear when someone is actively looking for something, here is your opportunity to help them find what they need. The more helpful and relevant you can be to their search query, the more likely you are to succeed.

Make sure you are matching the keyword used to an ad written for that keyword, and a destination curated for that search. Don’t send them to a website’s homepage, and have a responsive landing page or website. This is a must. Sending someone who searches on mobile to a non-responsive or mobile-optimized website is guaranteed to turn them off.

People expect a great experience now and they will immediately bounce if they are met with an unoptimized mobile experience.

Use device bid adjustments:

Within each campaign, it’s possible to adjust your bid depending on the device used. Don’t assume you know how your strategy is going to play out on different devices. Launch your campaign with either no bid adjustments or minor ones.

Then after running the campaign for a while, use data to make adjustments based on your KPI’s. Most of the time that is going to be cost-per-conversion. This can be done at the campaign, or ad group level.

The formula for this is:


Making device level bid adjustments is incredibly tedious so we use Opteo to be more efficient. It alerts us anytime an optimization opportunity arises so we can make the improvement immediately.

Disable Mobile App Inventory:

For Display ad campaigns, this is enabled by default.

Turn it off!

Unless you are actually promoting an app, we recommend always turning mobile app inventory off.

The reality is that this is some of the worst traffic you can buy. The audience is distracted and ‘fat fingers’ notoriously lead to accidental clicks and 100% bounce rates.

Facebook Ads

Facebook mobile strategy is inherently different from Google. When someone is searching on Google they are already looking for something (intent). When someone is on Facebook or Instagram or any social network they are in recreation mode.

People are especially in a different mindset when they are using social platforms on their mobile device.

They might be:
- Commuting
- Watching TV
- Waiting in line at Philz coffee (unlike the pros who use the Philz mobile app and don’t have to wait in line)

Likely what they are doing has nothing to do with commerce or business.

Instagram is predominantly accessed via mobile device, with very few people signing onto Instagram on their desktop computers. Currently there are no ads on the Instagram desktop version.

Consider these when running Facebook Ads on mobile…

Opt-out of the Facebook Audience Network:

Have you heard of the Facebook Audience Network before? Chances are you haven’t. Yet it has been around since late 2014.

It is the equivalent of mobile app inventory on Google. The app owner has joined the Facebook Audience Network to monetize their app, and made it available for advertising.

We recommend opting out of Facebook Audience Network, due to the fact that it is mobile app inventory. Unless you are doing remarketing only. In that case, it may provide another place to reach your highly valuable remarketing audience.

Have a multi-touch marketing strategy:

Smartphone conversion rates are around half of desktop conversion rates.

Luckily, with how Facebook audiences work, it is easy to reach your audience on every device that they use. Since users log into one of their properties (Facebook or Instagram) where they control the ad inventory you are able to serve ads to that audience across all of their devices.

Shopping behavior on mobile often looks like this: user sees an ad on mobile -> clicks -> visits the site but does not purchase due to the fact that they are on a mobile device. They then return later on a desktop to purchase.

It is very important to continue to market to them via remarketing, email etc. as it can take several interactions before someone decides to make a purchase or convert.

Use video if doing branding and awareness:

Video ads are becoming increasingly popular on Facebook and Instagram. They give you an opportunity to tell your brands story without the viewer ever having to leave the platform.

You may, however, see higher cost-per-conversion and lower overall conversion volume with video ads. This is due to people not wanting to leave the social platform.

They still get your message, and you can even retarget people who have watched a certain percentage of your video. This is a great way to drive conversions.

Summing it up

Assume that mobile is going to make up a significant portion of your ad campaign delivery, and have tactics in place to maximize your return.

As always let us know what questions you have by emailing

When Not to Listen to Google: 3 Reasons to Ignore Your Google Rep

A few things happened recently that renewed our skepticism on working directly with Google Reps (our mostly benevolent overlords) on their own platform.

I’m not saying you should ignore everything they have to say, but their goals for your account and campaigns can often contradict your own.

Here are a few things to watch out for when dealing with Google Reps:

1. They will encourage you to spend more than you need to on their platform:

Google makes most of their billions in revenue from the Google Ads platform. This includes Google Search, Display, and YouTube. Ad revenues are a key-indicator of the health of their parent company Alphabet.

We often work directly with Google Reps to optimize accounts. And many times they recommend new features and strategies that can be very beneficial to campaign performance.

Recently a Google Rep was very helpful in giving some optimization tips on a campaign. However, after a few 1:1 optimization meetings, the Google Rep invited someone from the ‘growth’ team to join the call. Within a short while, this person then made the case for almost tripling the client’s budget over a 90-day period

There were several issues with this massive budget increase:

  • A big portion of the new budget would go mostly to ‘prospecting’ targeting - reaching out to new audiences using less targeted techniques like affinity audience targeting via Display ads. This type of higher funnel advertising is much harder to turn into positive campaign ROI.

  • The plan didn’t take into account the businesses seasonality. They were actually going into a very different time of the year for their customers, that would have a huge impact on their prospective customer’s behavior.

  • They didn’t have any plan for reporting on the increased campaign spend. Getting reports from your campaign, and analyzing the data is critical to the campaign's success.

We got together with our client and agreed that this wasn’t a good idea. Saving them almost $180,000 in the process (how’s that for added value?).

We haven’t heard from the Google Reps since.

2. Automated Recommendations:

In any Google Ads account now, you’ll find Google’s recommendation engine pushing anything from new ads and keywords to automated bidding strategies.

Like any robot or artificial intelligence in 2018, the tech isn’t quite there yet.

Some make sense, but they can also be completely off base.

Google is using algorithms to recommend new keywords (again to increase spend) for the account. You should go through each keyword individually to make sure they are relevant to your business, and setup tests on bid strategies before rolling them out to the entire account.

3. Google Is Surprisingly Bad at Running Their Own Campaigns

Businesses are often pitched Google Ads campaigns directly by Google.

Many think that this is perfect - have Google run your Google Ads campaigns? What could go wrong?

A lot, apparently.

They often have someone very junior run the campaigns. We recently took over campaigns for a client, and in their account were campaigns managed by Google on their behalf. Looking at the search queries, they basically wasted $3K on irrelevant traffic using broad-match keywords. Conversion tracking was not implemented correctly, so it was impossible to tell if the campaigns worked or not.

Again, their goals are around ad spend, not necessarily performance. and they often don’t follow their own best practices. If a Google Rep sets up your account without even bothering to create a custom name for the campaign (i.e the default campaign name is “Campaign 1”), that’s a bad sign. (And if they ever try to set you up with Google Ads Express, run, don’t walk away as fast as you can.)


Whether you're setting up a new account, or trying to optimize an existing one. Be sure to consult a well educated and experienced third-party (like us!) for a second opinion, and do some research on your own.