10+ things to do before spending money on marketing your website

February 17, 2017| Mike

If you’ve been following the transparency reports over at Epic Plugins, you’ll see that in October 2016 I undertook a mission to create 12 WordPress Themes in 12 Months. What this meant was I was also taking on the task of Growing a WordPress Theme Business from scratch.

I get some traffic from Epic Plugins, but I wanted to really scale up Epic Themes. That meant marketing

How does marketing affect your website? It helps people discover it. However, if you’re about to spend money on marketing your website make sure you read through this post first.

I wanted to share what I went through to make sure I was getting the most out of my marketing spend, and whether now was the right time to start Paid Traffic Acquisition.

Here’s my tips for things to do before spending on paid traffic

  1. Add Google Analytics Tracking
  2. Make sure you have funnels set up
  3. Know what visitors are doing on your site
  4. Find out where visitors may be having issues
  5. Make sure you have a cache plugin installed
  6. Check (and improve) your Google Page Speed Insights
  7. Do competitor analysis using a tool like SimilarWeb
  8. Send your existing users a questionnaire
  9. Run Google Experiments (or A/B Testing)
  10. Use Google Search Console
  11. Use Google Keyword Planner
  12. Trial different advert providers

Read more on each of these points below and my own experience with them. This post is super relevant for anyone looking to start to market their website more, whether it be paid advertising, general outreach, SEO etc to improve your website visits and eventually your bottom line.

What are your own thoughts and experiences? Agree or Disagree with anything in this post? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear more views on this.

This is a detailed post covering at least 10 areas to focus on. It’s not an exhaustive list, this topic could be written about for days on end with detailed guides on each section, which isn’t the focus of this blog.

1. First up. Install Google Analytics.

This is a no-brainer. A lot of the analysis that comes from your marketing efforts will be done within Google Analytics. It’s great for seeing things like search volumes, channels of acquisition and much more.

If you’re running an eCommerce store and want to track conversions it’s really great  to be able to analyse and improve on your funnel conversion rates.

2. Make sure you have funnels set up

In Google Analytics this is done via Goal URLs and then creating your funnel steps. Google Analytics back fills the steps in the funnel, so if someone completes the funnel then Google assumes they’ve been through the funnel (some other tools, such as HotJar do not do this).

A funnel is the funky word used for the journey that customers go through from discovering your product through to potentially purchasing your product. Why is it a funnel? It’s because customers will drop off along the way. Let’s take a look at a couple of funnels. These are real funnels from two services which I use:

Make sure you TEST your funnels before spending on marketing

Funnel 1 – HotJar – 8th Feb 2017 to the 15th Feb 2017

Funnel Information

Funnel information from HotJar

The conversion rate for the above channel is lower than I would expect, but I know some of the reasons for this..  but what’s important is the flow of customers or sessions through the funnel which is setup.

Funnel 2 – Google Analytics – 8th Feb 2017 to the 15th Feb 2017

I’m also using a slightly different funnel with Google Analytics. Over the same period it is showing the following ‘Goal’ (the goal is the same in both funnels)

There’s even issues with the setup above, since you’ll be able to see that 34 of the “exits” from the “Shop” page are actually people going on to page 2.

If you have this setup before, you’ll see that actually, we have a ton of exits from the ‘Shop’ to individual product pages, so I need an extra step in my funnel before the ‘cart’ step.

What to learn from setting up a funnel before you spend any money marketing your site, here is what I learned from the above:-

  • I was seeing ‘drop-offs’ because my ‘Shop’ was paginated and I hadn’t used a regex in the funnel
  • I was seeing ‘drop-offs’ between the ‘Shop’ and the ‘Cart’ because people were visiting products

If I would have launched straight into paid traffic, my conversion tracking from the paid traffic would be over-estimating the exits at the step.

You can see that the Google Funnel also shows people entering at each step when working out the final rate.

There’s also some differences in the number of goal completions between HotJar and Google Analytics. This is because HotJar is actually tracking the full funnel. If someone enters the site and doesn’t go via the steps defined it won’t track the conversion (e.g. if the user went straight to checkout without viewing the cart then this wouldn’t be tracked as a conversion in hot jar).

3. Know what visitors are doing on your site

The next step is invaluable to making sure there’s no parts of your funnel which may cause ad spend leakage through lost conversions. Through using HotJar I was able to get some great insights into the behaviour of website visitors. First up, let’s look at the heat map for a product page (as at 16th February 2017)

What are the take-aways from this heat map?

  1. The screenshot of the theme is below the fold.
  2. 10% of people clicked away from Epic Themes to look at Plugins!
  3. The demo link was clicked the most (20% of clicks)
  4. Almost 15% clicked the Reviews Tab

Following this type of analysis changes can be made to your pages to make sure that people are getting what they need and you have laser focus on your page objective (a theme sale in our case)

Learn from Heat Maps and make incremental changes

Heat maps and understanding what visitors are doing is a great thing to get familiar with before spending on marketing. That way you will have your pages setup in a way which gets the point across to your visitor.

Change your layout based on your Heat Map

Take a look at the second variant of the page based on the analysis above

Much cleaner and easier to see what’s going on.

4. Find out where visitors may be having issues

This is an area where insights can be picked up from different sources. The key here is to make sure you’ve got your ear to the ground and are identifying potential issues with your site that users may be having. Here’s some examples

  • Users are clicking ‘Add to Cart’ but the page does not redirect to cart. They are unsure of where to go next
    • Solution: Add to Cart redirect after buy now button is clicked
  • Users are clicking through to Epic Plugins (Menu link was included) and thinking their account was the same
    • Solution: Separate websites need separate logins. This is now clearer to users
  • The ‘per year’ on the Cart + Checkout Page was not clear what this was for / whether it is required. People were asking questions or abandoning the cart.
    • Solution: Added extra text on the Cart Page explaining the annual renewal and what is it intended for. That licenses are lifetime.
  • WooCommerce + WooCommerce API Manager (controlling license keys) both added a ‘Downloads’ tab. This confused users.
    • Solution: Tidied the ‘My Account’ page (see below)

But how do you go about identifying and improving your website for these areas before spending cash on marketing? There’s a few options for you here

  1. You can use HotJar and record drop offs / activity (anonymously) this gives you insight into what’s happening
  2. Monitor your emails / support tickets – are there any common themes
  3. Does anyone complain? If someone complains, there’s likely 10+ more people having the same issue / questions

Here’s an example complaint which led us to look into the ‘My Account’ page:

Hi, I can’t see my theme download in my account? The downloads tab is blank – customer

This resulted in a reply from support along the lines of

Hi there, really sorry that you’re having issues, what’s your order number so we can check the system – support

… a few more back + forths and then

Ah, I see, you need to be looking under [this tab] you can access it [here].

… we then refined it from having two download tabs (why, oh why would a plugin do this) and generic page icons, to a single download tab and specific icons for license keys and downloads (read how to remove and change the icons here)


Knowing where and what issues people are having and refining your site reduces the number of support tickets about that particular issue.  If you’re about to scale up your traffic with paid adverts (or more marketing in general), the last thing you want to be doing is triggering 10x as many support requests when you know there’s a common issue.

5. Make sure you have a cache plugin installed

This next one is certainly something that you should be doing if you do not already. You may have worries that certain pages will be cached that shouldn’t be (such as your store pages) but finding a good Caching Plugin can really make the difference when it comes to your site. Have a look at the results of our before and after when looking at one of our Theme Guides

What did I use for this? I’m pretty risk averse, so I decided to plump out a bit of cash and go for the WP-Rocket plugin.

6. Check (and improve) your Google Page Speed Insights

It’s worth spending some time on your Google Page Speed Insights. They can give you some quick wins about improving your score.

Can you score 100?

It depends. If you’re running a WordPress website you may see the very common:

'Eliminate Rending Blocking JS and CSS in above the fold content'

This is not surprising given that most plugins will enqueue their scripts into the header (and not the footer).

If all your plugins are kicking out their stylesheets on every page then you’ll get this issue.  Fixing it isn’t easy and takes time combining scripts and styles (there’s plenty of plugins out there which help with this – they can often give display issues if not used carefully). Test them out, see if you can get 100 🙂 share your results in the comments if you do!

There’s plenty of other quick wins when looking at your Google Page Speed, such as Optimising images and minifying scripts that aren’t minified. They often saves bytes of bandwidth, but if you’re ramping up your efforts and expecting a TON OF TRAFFIC through your marketing little wins and bytes here and there soon add up.

7. Do competitor analysis using a tool like SimilarWeb

Similar Web is one of my favourite tools recently. I’ve found it a great way to have a nosey about other sites. What traffic they get. What keywords they rank for. It also gives me the top 5 backlinks that send them traffic.

If you wanted to find out places to market your products then this is for you. But how do you go about using it before you spend any money on marketing. Well, I created a Google Sheet to analyse and review competitors, see what they’re doing what they rank for and who sends them the most traffic.

This gives me ideas and insights into what works for others, and where I can check out for referrals to my own site.

8. Send your existing users a questionnaire

This is something that is also great in understanding your potential customers, or collecting information. It’s really easy to pose questions to your customers. But one way which I think is really cool is how I’ve created a form over at Outreach List WP.

When people click the ‘Submit a site’ they’re taken to a TypeForm I’ve created, which captures their responses and stores them into a Google Sheet (via a Zapier “Zap”). Super useful to do and collect information to then analyse later (and not worry about fighting off 100s of feedback emails).

9. Run Google Experiments (or A/B Testing)

A/B Testing. It’s all the rave isn’t it? Or has this died off by now. Either way it’s good to test things as I covered in the earlier steps. Google Experiments lets you add a JS type tracking code to your pages A and B and then it’ll do the A/B testing for you based on your ‘Goal’.

Similar to funnels it’s a good way of testing to see if changes you make actually increase your conversions, improve your bounce rate or whatever goal you’re tracking.

I’m not going to go into detail here about how to setup and run Google Experiments but they’re a free alternative to some of the other tools out there for A/B testing of pages.

10. Google Search Console is your friend

Using Google Search Console (previously Google webmaster tools) you can find out what people are searching for. You can also see this in tools like Similar Web (#7 above). Checkout the screenshot below from Epic Plugins (ouch)

Look at the (worrying?) Google Search impressions..  but if you take a look at the queries that people are searching for, you’ll see that I was getting a TON for reddit wordpress (and theme etc.) which isn’t what I want for a PLUGIN SITE.

I recently moved the few themes I had over to Epic Themes in January. I also ‘un-verified’ Epic Plugins when shifting hosts, so I’m putting the above chart to that (rather than the sky is falling down – help me chicken little)

I’ll touch on how Google Search console can be used to help you identify areas to market in (and I’ll be keeping these types of metrics and charts under review in the monthly transparency reports – follow along with my journey by singing up below)

  • Login to Google Search Console
  • Check what people are searching for
  • See how many impressions and clicks you’re getting

From here you can decide whether you want to target thee queries in your keywords.

11. Use Google Keyword Planner

I’ll only touch on this one here, if the above doesn’t give you any ideas on what to target in your paid ads you can use the Google Keyword planner to find monthly searches and whether there’s much competition for them.

12. Trial different advert providers before spending too much

When it comes to pulling the trigger and spending on adverts, review what your options are and test out with small chunks to see whether they convert at all. It’s better to find out it’s a loser after betting small.

Remember our earlier step on funnel analysis? If you had a 0.1% Conversion Rate before any adverts, but with your analysis and tweaking you improved this up to only 1% conversion, assuming the conversion rates stick for paid traffic, your spend got 10x cheaper.


  • $500 in advert spend getting you what $5,000 may have got you before working through the steps
  • $5,000 in advert spend getting you what $50,000 would have got you..
  • $50k getting you what $500k would etc.

But each channel where you spend your advertising budget could have totally different conversion rates. For example

Facebook – this may convert REALLY well for some people. Hell, you’ve seen all these Digital Marketer case studies that show a $400k spend on FB ads bringing in $1.5m in revenue etc…wow you’d be mad not to do it.

But it may not work for you, you may not be the right type of business for the Facebook crowd…

Twitter Ads – these might work really well too, promoted tweets have a good chance of being clicked on, but again they may not work well at all.

So, how do you go about knowing what to spend where?

I’m glad you asked. I’ve been compiling data along the way, what works and what doesn’t (i.e. what did I do wrong).

I’ll be putting this all together and releasing it in an easy to follow package / series of blog posts. If you want to follow along with my Journey (building a WordPress Theme Business from $0 in monthly revenue to $x) sign up below to be notified when I write a new post.

If you have any thoughts, comments (and have reached the end of this post) then WELL DONE. It’s a monster of a post with lots of valuable content (Ok, I might be biased).

I’d love to hear your views in the comments!

Categories: Epic WordPress Themes

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