Bench: inbound, SEO and conversion optimization at its finest
Learning about cash accounting vs accrual accounting maybe doesn’t sound that exciting, but let me tell you… I’ve had a morning.
An awesome user acquisition model driven by truly great inbound marketing and awesome SEO is rare, and Bench - an online bookkeeping service for small businesses - is crushing the entire thing.
So this morning started with me learning about the difference between cash accounting and accrual accounting. And then I actually stopped what I was doing to write this post, because a great example can speak volumes to anyone who really wants their inbound and SEO to fly with the best of them.
Here’s how Bench is doing it.
Bench's "off-page" SEO
"Off-page SEO" refers to actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages.
It's a deep topic which I go into in other posts, but for now just want to highlight a few things Bench is doing well from an "Off-page" SEO perspective.
The Featured Snippet is a short selection of text at the top of Google’s search results which is automatically pulled from web pages in Google’s index; they're designed to answer a searcher’s query without requiring them to leave Google.
Bench owns the Featured Snippet for the phrase ‘cash vs accrual accounting’, so shout out for that.
Ranking in Google's coveted "Zero Position" has many benefits: one being more clicks.
HubSpot for example saw their CTR for high-volume keywords increase by over 114% when the results appeared as featured snippets.
Additionally, around 8% of people click the featured snippet on any given Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Google Adwords estimates that the keyword ‘cash vs accrual accounting’ gets between 1,000 and 10.000 monthly searches across the US, so that’s 80-800 monthly clicks Bench is pulling down off that one search and Featured Snippet… and that’s without looking whether the same page ranks for any related keywords, with or without the snippet.
Featured Snippets placements are also considered to influence brand recognition.
Think about it. Because Bench is in this placement, I get to see one of their graphics. That means the next time I see a Bench graphic I’m going to have some level of recall about who they are as a company.
Featured snippets: good for your organic traffic and good for your brand too.
But anyway, featured snippet aside, I’m a spoiled millennial searcher in 2020 and I wasn't in the mood to read; I wanted a video.
Well don't ya know: they also rank in one of the 3 video spots in the organic results.
There’s not a huge amount of research yet into the impact of being in Google’s ‘video carousel’, but by some estimates it can grab 4-6% of the clicks.
So now Bench is hogging a whopping 12-14% of click throughs from that SERP. They’re also in the top 3 videos for a search for the same query on YouTube.
And look closely at the 3 videos in the carousel below. As a self-proclaimed ‘busy person’, which one am I going to click? The 4 minute, 7 minute (ha!) or the 1 minute video?
Which is most likely to let me digest the information I need in the shortest amount of time possible?
Yes, the one minute video... oh AND remember Bench was in the zero position, which already built up my trust through subconscious brand recognition.
And there’s that now-familiar brand again - CLICK.
The video itself is short, to the point, with a clean modern design that triggered all of my trust mechanisms… even as an Inbound marketer who is always scanning to see if I'm being marketed to. It’s had 40,000 views since May 2018, so it’s pulling in almost 1,800 views to Bench and their brand each month.
At the end of the video they had me and my cynical marketing brain on a pivot. My thought process very quickly went:
"Who are these guys? I should use them."
"Damnit, they got me!"
"But yeah, let me just check out their pricing page."
But back to the video SEO and how they got me to this position in the first place, because now I’m interested in Bench as a company to work with AND as a company that knows how to market itself.
The video obviously has a really strong exact keyword match title, with a broad match in the YouTube description.
We’ve talked about the strong branding already and that’s reflected in the preview and screenshot used. Back in the description there’s a link out to the page on the Bench website that also ranks for the query on Google and on the page itself there’s an embed of the video.
This is really complete, joined-up stuff and before I know it, now I’m on their website...
By now the SEO guy in me was like: “OK let's put aside all this accounting stuff for a hot sec and see how they're doing with their "on-page" SEO across the board”.
Answer (and this won’t surprise you at this point): Bench is nailing just about everything.
Keyword-rich, well-formatted URLs
A well-crafted URL provides both humans and search engines an easy-to-understand indication of what the destination page will be about.
Bench's URL structure is keyword rich and easy for the searcher to understand the broad topic Bench is going to be discussing and the individual focus of the page they’re on.
Let’s look at how they’ve done this for just a second.
The name ‘Bench’ in and of itself doesn’t really tell me (or a search engine) what this company does. But take a look at the URL. Immediately, by categorizing their blog and using a logical URL structure, they’ve got the word ‘accounting’ in there, regardless of what they now want to write about. Take a quick look back at their YouTube Channel and what do they call themselves? You guessed it: ‘Bench Accounting’.
They’ve figured out a way to both brand build and hit as many broad keywords in their URLs as possible. URL structure? Nailed it.
Proper use of HTML headings
HTML headings define the structure of your content to both the reader and the search engines.
When Google is deciding what your website content is about, it looks at heading tags as the most important and relevant text on the page. It’s basically Google’s way of ‘speed reading’ your content.
Your first heading (Heading 1 or H1) is normally your title and therefore tells the reader exactly what your content is. We already know what Bench’s H1 is.
Your first level of subheading (H2) then gives the reader and Google more detail. It’s another chance to give some indication about what you’re discussing.
So check out Bench’s first H2.
SNAP! They just hit another related keyword.
Check out who has the featured snippet for the search ‘the difference between cash and accrual accounting’. Spoiler alert: it’s Bench.
Further down the page they throw a H3 into the mix and, again, they’re indicating to Google what exactly their content is going to help people to do.
The structure is spot on too. The H3 comes after a H2, which comes after a H1. After the H3 section is done it’s back to a H2. This is exactly what Google wants to see, so it can ‘scan read’ effectively. And it isn’t just Google that loves scan reading...
Before reading you can scan the page and know exactly what you're about to commit to.
Great website content should be scannable using short paragraphs, callouts, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easily digestible. Bench is nailing this too. It’s a complicated topic, but they’ve made their content as friendly as possible for the reader.
Multiple content consumption options
We’ve talked about the fact that they feature the short video supporting the text content (the one I just found on Google). If I arrived on this page first then awesome; I’m still going to see the video option.
That’s not all though. Further down the page there’s a diagram providing me with yet ANOTHER method of digesting the same content.
I said at the start that Bench is not just nailing SEO; they had the whole inbound marketing piece locked down too.
Bench has well-placed CTAs that cater to users in every stage of the buyer’s journey.
For visitors in the awareness stage:
Check out the Chatbot on the Bench ‘cash accounting vs accrual’ page.
It already knows my problem because Bench did their buyer persona homework, so it starts by telling me that: "you're too busy running your business to think about bookkeeping, right?".
Umm YES, EXACTLY!
This chatbot knows me and my needs and it only just met me. There’s no other way for me to respond to that question (and notice: it is getting me into conversation by asking a question).
For visitors in the consideration stage
I know I have a problem and I think Bench might be the way to solve it.
There’s a prominent and well-ordered menu on the Bench site that gives me easy access to ‘How it works’ and ‘Pricing’ pages. I’m two clicks away from knowing if Bench does what I need it to do and if it fits into my budget.
For visitors in the decision stage
Take a look up and down the page and count how many opportunities there are to ‘start a free trial’.
There’s the ‘sticky’ menu at the top:
and the ‘Try Bench’ call-to-action in the Contents list on the left.
Then as you scroll through reading the article you’ve got big ol' final callout when you’ve finished.
The ‘start a free trial’ and ‘get started’ buttons are a different color than any other object on the page. This contrast creates attention where Bench most wants it. Clicking through gets you up and running on Bench for free, which removes all of the friction from my decision and gets me into the next stage of Bench’s user acquisition model.
The complete inbound marketing picture
From now on when my clients ask me what their SEO and inbound strategy should be, I'm starting by walking them through Bench’s marketing efforts and the growth it’s likely leading them towards.
Examples speak to us louder and for so much longer.
Bench may have railroaded my morning, but it was worth a deep dive into digital marketing done this well.
I could go on and on about how well Bench is doing SEO and inbound but, simply put: this is it!
This is what you want your inbound marketing to look like!
Feed a great website with organic traffic by doing great on-page and off-page SEO and the results will follow.
Be more Bench!