All Posts By

Sam Underwood

Google Continues Blurring the Lines Between Paid and Organic Listings

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Did you notice a recent change in how Google displays its search ads? You’re not the only one. 

Starting in mid-January, Google began tweaking the appearance of ads within search results. On January 13, Google rolled out the new-look ads, which still featured a tiny “ad” callout next to the ad; importantly, however, organic search results also featured tiny icons next to these results as well, making them nearly indistinguishable from ads.

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How Futurety Blends Digital Marketing and Data in Columbus

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From the start, Futurety was founded on the basis of taking the “traditional” digital marketing agency into its next-generation here in Columbus.

Most agencies operate on a model of 1 analyst for every 10 content creators. A room of writers and community managers write content, publish it, and have that 1 analyst generate a report with a few ideas at the end of the month.

We’ve turned this model on its head. Our goal is to have 10 analysts for every 1 content creator, so we can spend less time writing content that might work, and more time understanding your audience and market opportunities, finding new ways to generate revenue that other agencies would miss.

This translates into more value for you: Better digital marketing, more validated ideas, and strategy & insights that impact far more than just your marketing.

What makes Futurety different among Columbus digital marketing agencies? Here are a few ways.

Futurety is…

Unashamedly data-first in everything. Data informs every decision and strategy we undertake.

Transparent. You own all your accounts and data, and if we stop working together, you leave with everything we did as yours to keep.

More than just Google Analytics. We use advanced tools and processes, like R, Python, SQL, DataBricks, and much more, combining disparate data to guide your digital marketing strategy.

Focused on achieving success together, with your internal team and other agencies. We’ve worked with every other agency in Columbus and look forward to partnering for even better results.

Focused on building a long-term relationship with you. We have no outside investors or board of directors demanding quarterly growth or else. Retaining all our clients is our #1 goal.

How do we do this? It all comes down to people. We focus on building a digital marketing and analytics team that is both skilled and humble, to give our clients the best service possible while also providing them with a Futurety team that makes their day-to-day as pleasant as possible. Columbus is a big small town, and the more we can all enjoy working together, the more we can accomplish together to build a stronger Columbus.

We’re always looking for exciting digital marketing and data projects to help us learn new skills and industries. Got a cool one that you want to talk about? Let’s get in touch! 


4 Simple Tools to Benchmark Against Your Competition

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In the world of digital innovation, one of the most powerful ways to generate ideas and prioritize projects is doing a little competitive research and benchmarking. Here at Futurety, we’ve put together a few ways to compare ourselves and our clients to the competition, and see where everyone stacks up. Check out our four favorite tools below.

Tool #1: GA Benchmarking

Did you know Google Analytics offers a built-in benchmarking feature? It’s somewhat hidden and easily overlooked. Navigate to “Audience” then “Benchmarking” to view benchmarking data for sites in your specific industry and sub-industry, categorized by the number of monthly sessions.

This is a great way to see how your competitors are generating traffic and leads. Data is sorted by channel, and includes quality metrics like time on site and bounce rate per channel. Unfortunately, but with good reason, Google anonymizes the actual sites behind the data, but this is still a great way to see how your direct competitors are creating a demand for their products and services.GA Benchmarking Snapshot

Tool #2: Facebook Comparison

Like Google, Facebook also offers a direct comparison tool, with the added benefit of allowing you to choose which specific competitors you want to benchmark against. To access it, go to your Facebook Business Page, click “Insights”, then scroll to the bottom under the “Pages to Watch” section.

As you would expect, there are limitations to how much data Facebook shares. You can’t go more than 30 days into the past, so if your competitor(s) just had a great or slow month, the comparison may not be accurate in the big picture. We often recommend setting up the comparison and checking back every few weeks to review data to control for short-term ups and downs.

Tool #3: LinkedIn Comparison

LinkedIn offers a similar competitor comparison tool to Facebook. Head to your LinkedIn Company Page, click “Analytics”, then “Followers”. At the bottom of the page, you’ll notice a list of pages that LinkedIn has identified that are similar to yours, based on common followers, content, geography, and other factors. From here, you can manually review each page’s content, or compare engagement rates to see who engages their followers most effectively. Even better, LinkedIn will often give you dozens of “similar” pages, potentially fueling your research efforts on other tools and channels and revealing competitors or peers you may not have previously considered.

Tool #4: SEMrush

The Futurety team are big fans of SEMrush, one of the leading SEO tools in the industry. Although the monthly service fee is $99, we feel it’s well worth the cost to gain valuable insights on your competitors that you can’t get anywhere else. Some of the ways we use SEMrush for benchmarking include:

  • Organic competitor analysis: Seeing who often outranks us for our industry keywords
  • Search advertising overview: Plug in your competitors’ domain, and see what keywords they spend on for paid search, and how much they spend each month
  • Display advertising overview: See the actual display ads your competitors are running, and how long they’ve been running them. See the photo below for what Salesforce has been running lately.
  • Traffic analysis: Similar to Google’s Benchmarking report, with added data going back several years.

Is More Data Always Better?

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One of the most common problems we help solve at Futurety is, “My data isn’t giving me actionable insights.” In today’s data-driven business culture, we all look at our existing data to help us find new markets and differentiate from competitors; but what if the problem isn’t a lack of data, but a lack of good data?

We’ve all heard the age-old innovation story about Henry Ford choosing to build a car, instead of building a better horse. This is somewhat of a tired refrain in product development but opens up new worlds when we apply it to data problems. What if, rather than organize, systematize, analyze, and strategize our existing data (that hasn’t helped us so far anyway), we can find new opportunities faster, cheaper, and better by obtaining new data on the problem we’re trying to solve?

Here are a few examples:

  1. Not sure why users are visiting your e-commerce site, but not buying? Stop your team over-analyzing pages per session, time on site, and funnel completions, and try surveying existing customers to see where they had trouble before purchasing.
  2. Having trouble justifying an expensive display campaign that maybe is driving search traffic, but also maybe isn’t? Validate the campaign by identifying similar geographic markets and A/B testing by turning off the campaign for 30 days in all the B markets.
  3. Can’t figure out why certain products on your site aren’t selling? Install Google Tag Manager and see how far people are scrolling on the page and what buttons they’re clicking on to identify a pricing or photography issue.

Generating new, actionable data isn’t the resource-hungry process it once was. Tools like Amazon Mechanical Turk, affordable and flexible survey options, Google Tag Manager and Optimizely, and many more are making high-quality data much easier to come by, and in a matter of days rather than weeks or months.

If your past data projects have been underwhelming, maybe it’s time to rethink your data sources. Contact us for a free data strategy audit with one of our analysts, and let’s find out what ideas we can create together!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Use These 5 Internal Data Sources to Transform Your Marketing

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For many of us, realizing that our marketing or product communications plans are getting stale can be a moment of panic. What worked a few weeks, months, or years ago is looking like it’s running out of gas, and reinventing that strategy is an intimidating process. Should we run focus groups? Survey our past customers? Test and learn until something works? The options are endless.

In our work here at Futurety, we’ve found that many of our clients overestimate their need for external data. Often, you already have the information you need to identify a new marketing or services delivery strategy, it’s just a matter of organizing it so you can brainstorm on it. Here are a few sources that often trigger new ideas and insights:

  1. Google Analytics. Bear with us–there’s a lot more here than you may think. You probably already know what channels are driving traffic or sales, but what are your top exit pages where people drop out of the funnel? What search terms are people using who ultimately convert vs those who don’t? Does landing on a certain page impact if that user will ultimately place an order? This is all available in Google Analytics, it’s just a matter of slicing and dicing the data the right ways.
  2. Google Ads. We often call Google Ads (formerly AdWords) a “crowd-sourced focus group.” Google Ads are great for testing messaging in real-time, even if you’re not primarily selling your products or services online. Put a $100 budget on a campaign with 3 ad copy variations, and see what gets the highest click through rate, and voila–you now have a good idea of what messaging gets you the most attention from the average user. Google Ads are great for A/B testing landing pages, value propositions, and discounting strategies, too.
  3. Email Data. Much like Google Ads, your past email sends can tell you an awful lot about what your prospects or customers want to hear from you. What subject lines get the highest open rate, and what does that tell you about your offerings? What specific links within emails get the most clicks, and what emails led to the most orders from your site?
  4. Your Sales and/or Customer Service Team. We’ve often found that the best ideas for innovation come from those who spend the most time with the customer. Most sales or customer service reps have strong opinions on how your products could be better positioned to your customers–they spend all day doing it, after all, and want to do well for themselves. Consider asking these front-line types their honest opinions, or hiring an intermediary to conduct an anonymous survey and see what anecdotal ideas are created.
  5. Google Trends. We make frequent use of the Google Trends tool to see what the top search terms may be around our clients’ industries or services, and how that could impact our work on their behalf. For example, over the past 90 days in Columbus, the top related searches for “tacos” include “fish tacos” and “shrimp tacos.” A savvy Mexican restaurant might launch a new campaign featuring their fresh fish and shrimp lunch specials.

      Photo credit: Campaign Creators