We’re introducing a new series on our blog called “The Array”. Each month, we are going to take a list of URLs, complete a website analysis, and find out what we can learn about how different industries and cohorts build their websites. This month’s list is from the St. Louis Business Journal and looks at the Largest Advertising & Marketing Agencies in St. Louis.
In the last post, we learned that 100% of the Agency Websites used HTTPS, but did you know that this was a ranking factor for Google? If that impacts SEO, that leads to an obvious discussion about the Content & Marketing Strategies of these Agencies.
Content is King… Sometimes
We found that 22 out of 25 of Marketing, Advertising & PR Agencies maintained a Blog or News section on their website. Curiously, only 68% of the Agencies had posted this year.
When reviewing the frequency of 2022 posts, it was a bit all over the place in terms of the size of the company vs. the frequency of updates. Though the larger Agencies tend to post more often. And while Wunderman Thompson is only #4 on The Agency List, it led with 203 News or Blog posts, we suspect this is because the list is ranked on local St. Louis employees rather than Wunderman’s 20,000 global employees. This could be an area where a smaller agency could out thought lead large agencies with a streamlined content production schedule.
|# of Posts This Year||# of Websites|
Tenacity Note: It would be interesting to look at which agencies sell Copywriting or Content Marketing as part of their solutions and how that correlates to their own strategy. We’d also like to dive deeper into who had previously maintained a blog as part of their mix but abandoned it in favor of other things.
Oh, is it Copyrighted?
It makes sense that 16% percent of sites didn’t have copyright as there is legally no need to stamp a Copyright on something since once it’s published, it’s Copyrighted. But this is, one indicator of whether or not an organization is frequently updating its site is whether or not the Copyright year is accurate. So it’s good news that 76% had the current year in the Copyright.
Tenacity Note: We understand that it’s pretty easy to forget to update the copyright date. Since we manage websites, we built a very simple plugin to just update this for us.
More than Just Word of Mouth
Since we’ve been talking about Content Updates, which can be an important ranking factor for Google. We thought we should also take a look at a few other items that could impact Site Rank and Marketing in general.
Bigger May Not Be Better
While more pages mean a higher probability of ranking a single page, that doesn’t mean having more content isn’t necessarily better. When looking at the Google Index, we found all but one Agency site ranked, so the indexed pages go all the way from 0 to 3970 pages; even with one of the sites missing, the average number of pages on Agency Websites was almost 550 pages, even though the median was 293.
|Google Index Size||# of Websites|
Again, we found that some smaller agencies outperform larger global brands in this area.
Let’s Get Technical
There is a variety of technical website features that help Search Engines better understand your website. We’re going to take a look at Canonical tag, Sitemap XML, and Robots. As you might expect, the features are used on most of the Largest Advertising & Marketing Agencies Websites.
Is it Canon or Not?
The Canonical Tag tells Search Engines the “correct” or most authoritative URL for a given page. This is important for duplicate content might get indexed on a site. This can also help when a website are accessible at multiple domains or protocols. 76 percent of St. Louis’ Largest Marketing & Advertising Agency Websites use the Canonical Tag.
You can’t use an old map to explore a new world.
Like Canonical, Sitemap XML tells Search Engines something. In this case, they tell them what the site owner wants to be indexed, and it also gives the Engines an idea of when and how often things on your site get updated. While Search Engines will index a site without them, it provides them with a clear path. Thankfully, most modern CMS build these automatically. 96 percent of St. Louis’ Largest Marketing & Advertising Agency Websites use Sitemap XML
Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Last, we look at Robots, which tell the Search Bots what Content the Dite wants Indexed, what it doesn’t, and in some cases, how it wants it Indexed. This is a particularly powerful tool, remember when we previously discussed a non-indexed Agency Site? That was due to the Robots tag in the HTML. 2 types of Robots code are used. Meta robots tags go in the HTML code and usually tell the Search Engine how it wants specific information indexed. And the Robots.txt which give Search Bots specific instructions on what should and should be indexed on the site. We found 96 percent of St. Louis’ Marketing Agency Websites used Robots in some way.
This is the most important, Do this!
Presumably, when people arrive at a website, we want them to take a specific action. To do that, we incorporate clear Call to Action (CTA) Buttons or Forms. These are particularly important “above the fold.” Slight less than half (44%) of the Agency Websites had a clear CTA. Most of these came in the form of a Button, the one exception was an above-the-fold Web Form. Interestingly, these CTAs were most commonly found at the Biggest and Smallest Agencies. Only 3 of the Sites used CTAs to direct the user to contact the Agency.
We found one more trend for CTAs with 8% using an Exit Intent CTA, so that when the user leaves the site a lead magnet form displays.
Tenacity Note: Interestingly, most of the sites didn’t use a CTA to drive leads, rather they opted for either giving them more info about the Agency or displaying previous Work.
Let’s Talk About Your Project
Making it easy for potential clients to contact you is important. Contact Forms are obvious, but there are a couple of other methods to make it easier than a lengthy Form. The simplest being Email, Phone, and Chat. 100% of the Agency Websites provide one or more of these communication methods.
Further, we found that the most common location for these items to be displayed on the site is in the Footer of the site. This is practical as it gives the easiest access no matter what the user is doing.
We found similar placements on the Email Address. However, it was never found in the Header on any Agency Website.
It’s, all about Choices… Design Choices
So many Web Design Trends articles are trying to tell you what you should do with your site in the coming year. We thought it would be interesting to look at common Design paradigms in the Agency Word.
Death to Loaders!
Loaders were a bad solution to have a high-fidelity website when broadband was slow. Thankfully, we only found one of these on all of the Agency websites. This means these organizations rely on user broadband or a well-optimized website. We’ll find out in the next post.
But Can You Make It Move
Video Backgrounds are very common in the Creative Space but typically have a performance cost. There is a very clear reason to use these; when they are well produced and tell a great story, they provide a great chance to say a lot without crafting a lot of words that won’t be read by users. Plus, they are “cool”, which might explain why more than half (52%) of the Largest Agency websites used Video Backgrounds.
Keep Going In Circles Man
An alternative to a Video Background is the Hero Carousel. These devices were used to add more elements to a small space, likely driven by a compromise between Senior Marketing and Design & Development. But the Nielsen Norman Group figured out almost ten years ago that Carousel was ineffective at best and annoying at worst. It is great that 2 out of the 25 Largest Agencies’ Websites had a Hero Carousel.
There are Browsers, and There are Searchers
We found a few different styles to give users a way to navigate the website. While people have become very familiar with “hamburger” style menu, there are still questions about whether that is as effective as having the main website menu on the page. But in for the Largest Marketing & Advertising Agencies, 68 percent used an on-page main menu for desktop display.
Tenacity Note: One of the agencies used a “Creative” icon to trigger their menu. We recommend using the hamburger or having the main menu on the page. Otherwise, people will never find your menu.
When it comes to finding things on your site, sometimes, people are looking for them without having to discover them via browsing. This is where Site Search comes in handy. For large sites, this makes sense to have search, but if you don’t have hundreds of pages, it might make sense to skip or, as a compromise, only have a Blog Search. Another spot where you’ll find Site Search is on Custom 404 Pages.
While Site Search was present on 24% of the Agency Websites, it was not correlated with with the largest website in terms of pages. That said, the five websites with more than 1000 pages indexed on Google three had Site Search.
Tweet, tweet, Fun, fun!
Social icons on a website are an incredibly common feature, which is why 24 out of 25 of the Largest Agencies Websites had social icons on the page. But is there is an indication of whether these are meant to be helpful or more of a Call to Action? There might be an indication that only 20% of the Agency sites had social icons above the fold. In most case, they were found in the footer area of the site.
One Last Spot for Branding and Messaging
Since we just mentioned 404s, we were interested to find out which of the Agency Website used Custom 404 pages. While we all hope to never find a broken link, how a website handles those requests are important. Give me a joke, a clever phrase, or good instructions, and we might be a lot more forgiving of that broken link. So it’s a We found that 72% of the Agency sites use some kind of custom 404 messaging.
Some of the research indicates that the smaller Agencies are attempting to compete in Content Strategy with the Largest. To us, it makes sense to establish local thought leadership. We also like to see that organizations are becoming more comfortable with allowing direct contact methods, giving potential clients the ability to communicate the way they are comfortable.
How often do you update your websites? And what communication methods are you using. Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out our next post tomorrow, where we finish up with Performance Optimization of the Largest Advertising & Marketing Agencies in St. Louis.