Kyle: Hello, and welcome to the Google Ads Strategy Show. I’m your host, Kyle Sulerud. And today I’m going to be talking with Mike Lannen, who is the founder of an agency called Eternity. And I guess that hasn’t always been the name. Well, let me let Mike get into that. Mike, tell me about your company, what you do and how it has evolved over the years. And of course, welcome to the show.
Mike: Thanks, Kyle. Yeah, thanks very much for having me. We have gone through a couple of changes over the years. I am the founder like you said, started the company about 20 years ago, in my college dorm room. And back then, I was just known as Eternity Web Development. That was our core focus on the business: just website development, website design. That was really even Google in its infancy, the web in its infancy back then. And in the past 5 or 6 years, I started diving deeper into digital marketing and switched our name really down to just Eternity, so it wasn’t so pigeonholed.
Kyle: Got it, and the website is EternityMarketing.com
Mike: That’s correct.
Kyle: Okay. So have you been involved with Google Ads since the beginning? Or has it been more recently that you’ve gotten more into that?
Mike: I think most recently in the past five or six years, and I would say even more so in the past two years, primarily as clients asked us though, we, like I said, we started first and foremost as a web agency, just building really SEO-friendly, custom-built websites, and just stayed out of the Google Ads side of things and would either align ourselves with a partner, or just say, “Hey, we don’t do that. But if you go find a PPC partner, we’ll work with them and implement all the tags”.
Slowly but surely, we were involved indirectly with a lot of other agencies. And also slowly but surely got feedback from a lot of our clients that they weren’t really getting what they wanted out of that relationship with those other agencies. So we went through all the standard training and Google partner certifications. And now we just eat sleep and breathe that, and just about every website that we launched, now, we at least bring Google ads to the client’s attention and let them know that we can help them with it now or at some point in the future.
Kyle: Okay, so from what I gathered, (when you filled out a little while questionnaire before the show), you’re really big on systems. And it sounds like, you know, in business for 20 years, obviously, you have to have some systems. But it sounds like you had a really good handle on that before you really started doing Google ads. So I imagine that probably benefited you from day one, thinking about it in terms of systems and how can you turn this new service you’re offering into a system. Is that true? And can you walk me through how you looked at that? And how systems have really benefited what you’re doing with Google ads?
Mike: Yeah, totally. So my natural mindset is a bit combination like ADHD and OCD. So I can oftentimes go in a different direction if I see a new shiny surface. So systems have always been, and lists have always been pretty critical for me to get things done and stay on track.
When we first started taking on Google Ad clients, it was less system-focused. It was more like getting used to the Google management system itself, how to set up the proper strategy for the build-outs. And then over time, as we started getting more clients on board, it became pretty apparent that we needed to have just consistency, and naming conventions, and setup and management, and all those processes.
So to start, I just started having interviews with a lot of different agency owners and partners, ones like, far out of our geographic locations, so we didn’t really ever overlap, and just had really open conversations like “Hey, how were you setting up your systems? What tools are you using? Which ones did you like? Which ones did you not like?”
And I was surprised how many didn’t just hang up the phone or ignore my email, and ended up being very mutually beneficial, like learning a lot sharing information back and forth with each other.
And from there sort of to build out task-based systems. So we use Trello for most of our project management for our website build-outs, and we naturally just hopped into using that to build out our systems for planning, keyword research, client intake, all of that.
And luckily, I guess I would say luckily, about two months before COVID hit, we brought on a new hire that was going to help us grow and take this system that I had developed mostly myself, to the next level. So I onboarded her and she was able to go through that system that I built, really fine-tune it, get all of our systems and tools in place. So then as soon as we had to all instantly work “remote”, we weren’t scrambling to figure out: “Alright, what’s the exact way that we set up this project? How do we manage this type of client?” And it was really helpful.
Kyle: So you mentioned talking with agency owners outside of your geography. So are you mostly working with clients that are local to you? What types of clients are you working with?
Mike: Yeah, so for the most part, on both our website side of things and our Google Ads side, I would say pretty easily 95% of them are in the Vermont area. Our headquarters is in Burlington, Vermont. So mostly in Vermont.
And (we have a) pretty wide range of clients. So anything from a standard lead generation for service-based industry clients, we have a handful eCommerce clients, a few lawyers. What we’ve done, by design (by the way, Vermont is quite small as a whole). And working with a particular industry, it could be very difficult to take on one type of client, and also take on their competitor because they might have like the entire state, really, as their client base. So we’ve very carefully picked out the types of clients that we’d like to work with. And not really done a vertical of those particular industries in Vermont, at least, but we’ve started to spread out a little bit out of Vermont. So we can take what we learned from each industry in each system that we’ve built, to not be a conflict of interest to working with a company that might have their competitor, literally across the street from them.
Kyle: So a system for setting up and running an e-commerce campaign would be a lot different than a system for setting up and running a campaign for a law firm. Right? So how do you account for those types of variables? Is it completely different systems that you would have for different types of businesses like that? Or are there certain variables built into the same system?
Mike: I think that through all the different kinds of system build-outs that we’ve done for search display remarketing, shopping, they share a lot of similarities in the intake, the research, even down to a little bit of the management and the reporting tools that we use. So there’s a lot of similarity, across the board on those. But definitely some major differences in build-out like for a shopping campaign versus a search. And also even in direct management, there’s just far different things. And sometimes even just far less things to do on a shopping campaign versus a search campaign.
Kyle: Let’s get into strategy here a little bit. Can you talk about some things that you do or some things you’ve uncovered when it comes to maybe giving you an advantage? So when you’re setting up an account for a client, what are you doing to make sure that they are competitive and to make sure that they’re getting the best results possible? Not talking about systems anymore, but talking about, like specific strategies that you’re implementing?
Mike: Yeah. So I think this might not be really original in any way, but I’m just doing an extensive amount of initial research where I think some, not all, but some agencies might hop right into just building out the campaign.
We’ll use a lot of tools like SpyFu, and just even Google’s own Keyword Planner, to try and best assess which keywords are going to give them the best bang for their buck. And I think something that might, from a strategy perspective, help us stand out a little bit. We’re not just a Google Ads firm, we do the website as well and the SEO.
So in our strategy, we’ll do a lot of research into what some of the incredibly expensive high cost-per-click keywords are in the Google Ad system, and our content folks assigning them some specific strategy of go-to-town writing blog content about this, make sure the website, you know appropriate title tags and meta tags are updated for these types of keywords. So we don’t necessarily either have to bid on those keywords in our setup, or we could bid far less and you know, not always be on page one for those high cost-per-click Google ad keywords, but possibly on page 1 organically through SEO.
Kyle: So you build the websites, you build the ad campaigns, are you tracking all the results? Are you tracking leads and sales as part of what you do also?
Mike: Indeed, yeah, conversion tracking I think is probably like the most underrated and underestimated thing. And I’m constantly surprised , when we take over a campaign, how often there’s either not proper conversion tracking set up or no conversion tracking, and that the client wasn’t getting any report. Or if they were getting a report, it was a like 30-page auto-generated report that they’d never looked at and didn’t understand.
So we take a lot of pride in making sure that all those tracking metrics are set up. So tracking all their contact form completions, their e-commerce tracking, phone calls. And then we’ve used a lot of different reporting tools over the years. One that I would highly recommend, and we’re not like affiliated in any way, is dashthis.com. It allows you to pull in Google Ads, SEO rankings, you can connect CallRail in there, and some other call tracking tools, all with a very easy drag and drop interface, basically like Data Studio, but without needing to learn as much about custom integrations. And most importantly, the client can understand it and digest it and helps a lot for retention.
When we were first starting off, we were creating some amazing performance for clients. But because either there wasn’t a proper report setup, or no report, some clients were just wondering like “what am I actually even getting out of this?”, because they didn’t clearly know, this particular campaign generated these exact phone calls, or this campaign generated these contact forms, because Eternity was doing that for us. So I probably can’t stress enough how setting up a really easy to look at the report for a client can help for retention and, you know, keeping them paying you monthly to manage things.
Kyle: So are you tracking sales and leads that come from SEO and other traffic sources also? (It sounds like you are because you’re nodding.)
Mike: Yeah. And indeed, so we use another system for all of our forms called Formstack. And basically it can just get pumped into any website. And one of the nice things about it is it can pull into UTM tags. So on our Google ad campaigns, and any other campaigns, when the client receives a contact form, it has that lead inside there but specifically says the source like if it was organic, or pay per click, which campaign and what keyword. So not only do they get that report, usually on a monthly basis for most of our clients where they can just take a look at things, they get the instant gratification of this contact form that just came in, was like the result of Eternity’s SEO, were the result of Eternity’s Google ad campaign.
Kyle: Okay, so, obviously, with Google ads, you can start getting results right away. I’m curious, with the SEO stuff you’re doing. Let’s say you’re setting up a brand new site website for a client, how long is it usually taking you to start seeing results from SEO? And at what point does it plateau? Like you’ve done mostly what you can, you might see some more improvements but probably nothing huge.
Mike: I would say, while each industry is different, and some are like far more competitive than others, usually within like the first two months is when we start to see the Google fully indexing things that we’ve done.
Typically, though, like in a week or two after site launch now (because we track we do an audit before the site launch), and after of all the keywords, they want to track organically for SEO. So we’ll take a look at their old website, index it and run it after. And we typically start seeing those rankings go up within like a week or two. But it’s taking a pretty good two months for Google to really just fully re-index all of that. And during that time doing content strategy and blogging, just really trying to ramp up those keywords that they didn’t have good rankings for before, at the same time, in tandem managing their Google ads, whatever they’re not ranking for as quickly as they want, organically paying for those inside Google ads.
Kyle: Do you think Google Ads has an effect on SEO? I know that people discuss this a lot. I don’t know that there’s a definite answer that’s been proven. But what are your thoughts on it?
Mike: Yeah, there’s definitely completely I think different schools of thought. And I think even Google will, in a roundabout way, say like, it doesn’t have any effect on rankings per se. But other things, at least that I’ve been taught, that have to do with your organic rankings, if there’s more traffic to a website, if folks are staying on your site longer, if in a bunch of other factors that Google ads can directly control, like it can bring more traffic to your site. And when done right, bring really high-quality traffic with the real intent, they might stay there longer.
So, I can’t see how it couldn’t be helping rankings. It’s been difficult for us to ever pinpoint, you know, exactly like “Oh yeah, this definitely increased your Google organic rankings” Because we’re doing so many other things on the website itself, it’s hard to pinpoint that.
But I think the other benefits that it has just whether it does or not, I think it just works well to be able to get outside of your normal geographic reach organically, you might be ranking really well locally organically, but maybe not regionally or nationally.
Kyle: One thing that I see that for sure happened and would for sure have a positive impact on SEO is: someone comes over to a website from a Google ad, a lot of people want to look for third party reviews for this website. What do they do? They go to Google and Google the name of the business which obviously, a lot of people are googling the name of your business, that’s gonna look good in Google’s eyes. So I agree, there must be some positive effect that it has. There’s probably no negatives.
Kyle: Okay. A couple of other things you mentioned, you are an Eagle Scout. I almost achieved myself, although I was one Eagle project away. It was a little overly ambitious and I ended up abandoning it. So we have that in common. You also love Legos, which we also have in common. I think we have similar analytical minds for that type of thing, which I think makes us good marketers. However, you say that you are afraid of giraffes and I personally have no problem with them.
Mike: Yeah. A short story: when I was maybe about, say five or six years old, maybe a little bit older, I went to a petting zoo, the giraffe was there, came outside of the gate, and licked me on the face. And since then just don’t really love being around giraffes…definitely made an imprint for sure.
Kyle: Interesting. Alright, is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that you think we should?
Mike: I would say this is just more of an overarching thing to just constantly be leveling up. And we go through so many different kinds of training, tools and courses and things like that. And at times where it can seem overwhelming, all that new knowledge, we’re constantly adding that into our system and refining our system. And we’re actually (because I think you have one) Elite Local Ads course (I promise this is not a plug, you did not ask me to do this).
Kyle: Got it. Well, cool. Mike Lannen, thanks for coming on today. Again, the website is Eternitymarketing.com. Is there anywhere else people should go if they want to get in touch with you?
Mike: I would highly recommend, if you want to reach out, connecting with me on LinkedIn. I live on there for networking and learning and growing my business network there.
Kyle: Okay, sounds good. Thanks again for coming on. This has been the Google Ads Strategy Show. Again, I’m your host Kyle Sulerud and I will talk to you later.