Hi, I'm Tyler Willis and I've been helping businesses optimize their digital marketing and web development efforts for over 10 years. I excel at teaching and helping companies understand complex digital solutions, and applying them to their businesses.
Companies that offer expert advice and consulting must be masters of their industry. After all, they're selling their knowledge, strategy and experience for the benefit of others, and with the goal being that the knowledge will be transferred in a way that will benefit the receiver to become an expert as well.
Business-to-business (B2B) consultants have an even greater challenge, at times, and that's because they're selling their services to another company who may or may not have the resources in-house, but still decide that the consultant's experience is too good to pass up.
So, how can a consulting company, or a company that sells advice, information, strategy and planning grow their digital presence through marketing, websites, etc., in a way that will impressions and visitors into real, paying customers?
In this case study, we're going to look at Sanborn, Head & Associates of Concord, New Hampshire - and review how they're currently leveraging digital marketing to grow their business, and where some opportunities for online optimization and performance improvement might exist.
Note: As of this writing, I have not talked with Sanborn, Head & Associates, so I don't have a complete understanding of their existing digital growth strategy. I may make certain assumptions but will do so by leaning toward typical scenarios.
To start, I performed a quick Google search for Sanborn, Head & Associates and found some good, relevant company results. I think that it's very important for consulting companies like Sanborn Head to establish credibility in their industry, so I was looking for a good web presence.
It appears that they have a well-established LinkedIn page that includes good, basic company information. More importantly, it looks like they're creating and sharing new posts on LinkedIn on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Many of these are hiring-related, but others share information about competitions and hosted webinars, such as this one:
A company or individual wouldn't offer a presentation or webinar if the comfort level or expertise wasn't there, so I think that this type of promotion is a huge win for Sanborn Head.
It looks like they also might be paying to promote press releases containing news about their company:
Press releases and LinkedIn posts might not make sense for every business, but in the B2B world where your prospects might be frequenting platforms like LinkedIn and reading the NH Business Review, it can show a good understanding of your audience.
One thing to note with press releases, especially if paid, is that you should treat these the same way that you treat any other form of marketing. Be sure that the platform is willing and able to provide you with metrics - not just how many users frequent their site, but information regarding how many users visited the page containing the press release and how long they were there.
But it doesn't stop there. On your own website's analytics, you should track the traffic coming from the press releases webpage and then see what they did. Did they submit a form or whatever your end goal is to seek more information? Did you capture them as a quality lead?
The next-level way of handling this would be to set up a landing page and use that in your press release instead of just your domain. In the press release article listed above, I actually don't see any link pointing back to the Sanborn Head website which is a big miss. But, typically, a company would just put their primary domain, like sanbornhead.com.
But if the press release was regarding a new product or service offering, it would be so much better to send website visitors to a dedicated landing page like sanbornhead.com/geotech-design instead. That way, you can set up a targeted sales funnel with the press release being at the top of the funnel and a dedicated quote or contact form at the bottom.
The last thing I'll note about how Sanborn Head is doing a good job at establishing credibility, is their website's content creation strategy. It looks like the posting schedule is approximately once per week, sometimes a little less frequent, and their articles appear to be highly relevant containing quality, technical information.
Search engine optimization
Speaking of content, I've stated multiple times that I think content and having a consistent content creation strategy is the best thing that you can do for search engine optimization (SEO).
A quick review, SEO is the process of optimizing or improving your website to help its webpages display as high as possible in search engine results pages. There are various technical and content-related things that you can do to communicate and work better with search engine (Google, Bing) algorithms.
So, Sanborn Head appears to have a good publishing schedule for new content (although they could boost this by leveraging programmatic SEO), and the quality and originality of the content appears to be good (I'm not an expert in their industry, so much of it is over my head!).
I would even say that the length of their webpage's content is a pretty big plus as well - most of the posts are around 1,000 words in length. Generally, longer posts perform better in search rankings than shorter posts.
From HubSpot: "For SEO, the ideal blog post length should be 2,100-2,400 words, according to HubSpot data. We averaged the length of our 50 most-read blog posts in 2019, which yielded an average word count of 2,330. Individual blog post lengths ranged from 333 to 5,581 words, with a median length of 2,164 words."
A lot of this has to do with the length of time that a user spends on the page and the completeness of topic being discussed (Google provides value to users by promising to deliver the highest quality search results, after all).
There are a couple of other SEO components that we'd like to address - image alternate tags and loading performance.
The Sanborn Head website does well with many of the basic SEO components. It looks like the site is a WordPress website and leverages the Yoast plugin, so that provides a big help getting started.
However, it looks like most, if not all, images on the site don't have alternate tags. Image alt tags are text alternatives to what is shown in the image. This is absolutely necessary to be accessibility compliant (making your website usable for individuals with disabilities). And it can also provide a big boost for search engine optimization (i.e. Google image searches).
For example, consider this image on the Sanborn Head website:
After inspecting the HTML of the image:
I can see that there's an alt tag included but it doesn't contain a value. So, this image wouldn't pass an accessibility compliance check and is not search engine optimized.
In this case, what Sanborn Head should do is to look through their website and add alternate text tags to images where missing. Since their website is built in WordPress, there are many plugins that can help to make this an easier process.
The text should be relevant and descriptive to what's in the image. So, in the case above, you could say something like "excavator digging a trench". You could even go a step further and say what the trench is being built for. This is where image alternate text tags can be a boost for SEO. If someone searches Google images for examples of trenches for certain applications, they could stumble across your image and then click on it to be sent to the image on your website.
Finally, the loading speed of your website can have a positive or negative effect on both a website user's experience as well as search engine optimization.
Negatively, the longer it takes to load your website, the higher the chances are that a user exits your site and goes back to Google to find an alternate website. We're used to speed and instant satisfaction. So, even if we've remained on the website, if the experience is poor we'll likely get frustrated and leave - whether an alternative exists or not.
Positively, the user will stay on your site longer which will tell Google that your website is of a certain quality, earning you more credibility.
Generally, the Sanborn Head website loads fairly quickly. I don't notice any extravagant lag in any area. However, it can still be improved, specifically in the area of image optimization.
For example, consider the first image displayed on the home page's slider:
It's a nice image, but it's actually 1.5 megabytes in file size. Typically, you actually want to try to avoid having any images on your site larger than 100 kilobytes. If you're not familiar, 1.5 megabytes is 1,500 kilobytes, so quite a bit larger than recommended.
This will slow down the loading of a webpage greatly. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and programs that you can use to easily compress images prior to uploading them to your website. For this example, I used tinypng.com to reduce the image size from 1.5 megabytes to 295 kilobytes. Still larger than 100 kilobytes, but an 80% reduction in size.
And I don't think that you can even tell the difference (the one on the left is 1.5 megabytes, the one on the right is 295 kilobytes):
In addition to content and SEO, one other area that I reviewed was the design of the website itself. Design and overall layout and structure.
Design just for the sake of looking nice is one thing, but I'm most interested in where different features of a site's design impact the user experience, and it's ability to move visitors through the website to the point of customer acquisition.
A few quick things:
- The Sanborn Head website, generally, has a good, updated web design. The design itself shouldn't be a turnoff to any potential customers.
- I would focus the navigation links on Sanborn Head's services and markets, and remove the "About", "Careers" and "News" links. Those could be put in small text above on the ribbon. But we want to really feature the services that we can offer to clients.
- I would swap out the blog registration form in the footer with some sort of sign up - something more customer related, like requesting a quote for a service. Sure, it'd be a great idea to collect email addresses, but that's a whole other step or 2 behind a quote form when trying to convert those users into customers.
Similar to the navigation links, I think that the content on the home page is a little too weighted toward the company and less toward the user. For example, 3 of the 5 sections of the home page talk about Sanborn Head, its news, and spotlights on its employees. These are fine sections and have their place as useful information that can help to establish credibility.
But there are only 2 sections focused on the user - the section discussing a featured project and a list of services that are offered by the company.
When someone visits a website, we want to make it clear for them to know where to go next - what services they should consider, how they can sign up, etc. Having information about the company and employees are helpful when the user is contemplating signing up or submitting a request form. That's where your credibility can push them over the edge.
Think of the home page like a landing page. The top of the sales funnel. A webpage that accepts new users and funnels them down to your primary services (the ones with the highest profit margin? or simplest to perform?).
On the service pages, I think it's great that immediately to the right is a picture of a project manager and their contact information. That's very friendly and personal.
One thing I would add is an additional call-to-action at the end of the page. After describing the service and how Sanborn Head is the best company to help with the service, there should be another, bold call-to-action statement to make it clear that the site visitor needs to take the next step and sign up.
Above and beyond:
When thinking of ways to help a business go above and beyond in the digital marketing and website arena, I'm often drawn toward ways of transforming a straight-forward website into a sort of product or operation that benefits both the user and the business.
In a previous case study where I reviewed an insurance company, I addressed how we could simplify a user's onboarding experience on their website, and improve the business's operational efficiency.
It looks like Sanborn Head already leverages ShareFile with their clients - whether for simple file sharing or other, more advanced workflows.
I think that there's one thing missing from the company's website that would help to strength their credibility even more, and convince prospects to sign up and become customers, and that would be testimonials. Fortunately, there are quite a few existing tools that help you to collect professional testimonials, so I'm not thinking that a new, large development project would be required.
If I was Sanborn Head, I would try to collect testimonials from every external individual that we worked on a project with. Then we could share those on service pages and next to call-to-actions. We could also feature these on public platforms such as LinkedIn and our Google Business Page.
In summary ...
Sanborn, Head & Associates looks to be well on their way to continuing to strengthen their credibility in their industry - producing quality content and sharing it publicly on sites like LinkedIn. Their website is designed well and won't deter visitors from becoming prospects.
I think there are opportunities to improve their online reach even more in search engines via improved SEO (image alt tags, loading speed) and making a more simple and more focused path from home page to service sign up for users.