Why do I need the best SEO tools when I can promote my business through social media platforms? How does SEO help my business? Doesn’t paid advertising get better results? Isn’t SEO dead? If you are still asking these questions, it means that you have pretty much written off SEO. And if that is the case, you’re making a big mistake. Ranking at the top of search engine results is what adds to the credibility of your business, and greatly increases visibility for your brand. Paid ads or PPC may drive more revenue for your brand, but you need to…
Year round Liz and Bill Farrell, a husband and wife team, work the dirt at Fat Stone Farm in Lyme, Connecticut with their two kids.
After making the move from cubicles to the great outdoors, the Farrells realized they loved growing fresh food, and creating healthy, farm-grown products ranging from elderberry apple shots to their own maple syrup.
Now—when you think of a typical farmer’s marketing strategy—you might picture a hand-painted sign at a local market, but Liz and Bill run a digital elderberry empire.
The couple started as Shopify merchants and then partnered with digital agency Webistry to take their business to new heights. They wanted to see better return on ad spend, and prepare for winter (their best sales season of the year).
It was a perfect partnership from the start, but nobody could predict that a combo of Unbounce landing pages, popups, a Shopify integration, and near obsessive audience building and retargeting on Facebook would:
Lower cost-per-acquisition from $145 (at its highest) to just $1.55(!) for the company’s Elderberry Apple Shots and DIY Gummy kits.
Increase return on ad spend for their Elderberry Apple Shot campaigns from 1.66X to an incredible 33.12X.
Deliver a cost-per-lead for a sweepstakes campaign of just $0.51.
See sweepstakes conversion rates from ad click to entry of up to 79.55%.
And garner Facebook relevance scores of 8s and 9s.
Overall, with Webistry’s help, Fat Stone Farm tripled ROAS in just five months (December ‘16–April ‘17), and—via continued optimizations—reached returns of 33X over a year and three months.
Here’s their epic ecommerce story, and the paid media tactics that could work for you too.
Winter is Coming
Historically, sales of Fat Stone Farm’s Elderberry Apple Shots go up in winter to help fight off flu season. So in early winter 2016, Bill and Liz approached Jonathan Naccache, Co-Founder at Webistry to prep some advertising.
The agency discovered that they couldn’t look to AdWords for a huge win. The search volume for elderberries or related products wasn’t super high, and this approach simply wasn’t scalable. Instead, they needed to generate extremely targeted custom audiences on Facebook (which can be difficult because prospects on Facebook aren’t necessarily screaming about their love of elderberry – these prospects need to be uncovered).
In Webistry’s approach, each ad campaign would target a group of interests that could coincide with elderberry products. They’d target Facebook users who’s interests included: alternative medicine, natural remedies, homesteading, or those engaging with popular health blogs like Mother Earth News and Wellness Mama.
It took a lot of research, and as Jonathan says this is where the agency advantage comes into play: “having access to several strategic minds, resources and thorough research gets you a significant edge right off the start.”
The First Ad to Shopify Landing Page Combo
From December 2016 to January 2017, Webistry ran campaigns on Facebook targeting each of the audience segments they’d identified might be interested in the elderberry shots.
Here’s an example of some of the ads (corresponding to fall and winter seasons):
Pictured above: the ads Webistry ran to the associated landing page.
All elderberry apple shots ads led to this Unbounce-built PPC landing page, which converts at 4.7% (lifetime average conversion rate). A conversion in this case was a purchase via the ‘add to cart’ button):
Notice the benefit copy from the ad headlines is carried through to the Unbounce landing page. Click to see a larger version.
Two months into this campaign, return on ad spend was 1.66X, and cost-per-purchase was fluctuating between $19 and $145. Jonathan knew they could improve upon these early results and began targeting audiences of vegetarians, vegans, healthy eating affectionados, and homesteaders.
And so, in April 2017 the agency launched a new landing page campaign for smoothie lovers.
The idea was to position the elderberry product as the ideal ingredient to add to a smoothie. Here’s a sample ad used to launch this campaign:
And of course, the landing page this ad pointed to:
This beautiful landing page converts traffic to purchase at 9.44%
Beyond driving sales, the agency realized there was potential for lead capture here too (as a means of remarketing to especially interested prospects later), so they added an on-exit popup to this page. It offered up a free smoothie recipe book and integrated with a Mailchimp autoresponder.
With an 18% conversion rate, here’s the popup built in Unbounce:
The smoothie campaign helped drop cost-per-purchase down to ~$9.65, and Bill and Liz saw a return on ad spend of 3X from their initial investment after just five months of executing this strategy.
This was great, but Webistry wanted to help Fat Stone Farm stay present in their potential buyer’s world year round. They could lie low waiting for winter again all summer, or they could start developing highly refined retargeting and lookalike audiences to reach all year long.
The Sweepstakes That Raised the Stakes
In May 2017, continuing in the off-season, it was time to start preparing for their next winter. Fat Stone Farm was seeing major benefits from refined Facebook audience targeting, so Jonathan and the team extended this strategy with sweepstakes.
They used weekly sweepstakes as a means to gauge and track prospect’s interest in the products, then later in the winter, they created Facebook lookalike and retargeting audiences to get in front of similar groups of interested people regularly.
As Jonathan shares, this allowed the team to generate even better target audiences:
“Our goal was to create campaigns that helped us measure different levels of interest, and to identify these audiences by tracking every event with a pixel. We had a drip campaign setup, and non-winners of the first sweepstakes were given access to a second sweepstakes.”
That is – those who didn’t win each week were offered access to another sweepstakes prize (either the breakfast pack or gummy pack product). This helped introduce prospects to other Fat Stone Farm products and gauge interest for these versus a complementary offering like smoothies.
Here’s a sample ad for the sweepstakes:
And here’s the first landing page touchpoint:
Click the image above for a closer look.
If you didn’t win, you might be sent a second offer in the sweepstakes, with a chance to win an Elderberry Gummy Kit via the landing page below:
Click the image above to see the full landing page.
Of the people who clicked through on the Facebook ad and reached the first landing page above, 18.79% converted. Moreover, of the people who did not win the first sweepstakes, but clicked through the email announcing the second sweepstakes, 79.55% converted via the landing page.
Hot tip: Webistry embedded a third party tool called ViralSweep on these pages. It’s a sweepstakes application to help manage entries, select a winner at random, and allows people to win bonus entries by referring friends via social.
Not only did this campaign collect over 15,000 relevant leads that Fat Stone Farm could remarket to year long with terrific offers, but it reduced cost-per-lead down to a mere $0.51.
Which brings us to…
Winter Season, 2018
After all the ad testing, landing page alterations, and lessons along the way, Webistry re-launched the sales campaigns using six months of audience-segmented data.
They launched the gummy kits as a standalone product landing page (vs. the sweepstakes page) and continued to sell the Elderberry Apple Shots. The best part? From January to March 2018 Webistry achieved the highest return on ad spend for Bill and Liz since starting to work with them: a whopping 33.12X.
Additionally, this season they saw the lowest cost-per-acquisition of just $1.55.
As Bill Ferrell says of the partnership with Webistry:
“These guys are worth every penny. Excellent results (very high CTRs, good CPA, [and] lots of new customers!). The Webistry co-founders are hands-on, creative, and keep tweaking throughout. Their attentiveness to the campaigns and my crazy ideas have exceeded my expectations month after month.”
Pictured above: Rolf Inge Holden (Finge), founder of ConversionLab.
Whether your best ideas come to you in the shower, at the gym, or have you bolting awake in the middle of the night, sometimes you want to quickly A/B test to see if a given idea will help you hit your marketing targets.
This want to split test is real for many Unbounce customers, including Norway-based digital agency ConversionLab, who works with client Campaign Monitor.
Typically this agency’s founder, Rolf Inge Holden (Finge), delivers awesome results with high-performing landing pages and popups for major brands. But recently his agency tried an experiment we wanted to share because of the potential it could have for your paid search campaigns, too.
The Test Hypothesis
If you haven’t already heard of San-Francisco based Campaign Monitor, they make it easy to create, send, and optimize email marketing campaigns. Tasked with running especially effective PPC landing pages for the brand, Finge had a hypothesis:
If we match copy on a landing page dynamically with the exact verb used as a keyword in someone’s original search query, we imagine we’ll achieve higher perceived relevance for a visitor and (thereby) a greater chance of conversion.
In other words, the agency wondered whether the precise verb someone uses in their Google search has an effect on how they perceive doing something with a product, and—if they were to see this exact same verb on the landing page— whether this would increase conversions.
In the case of email marketing, for example, if a prospect typed: “design on-brand emails” into Google, ‘design’ is the exact verb they’d see in the headline and CTAs on the resulting landing page (vs. ‘build’ or ‘create’, or another alternative). The agency wanted to carry through the exact verb no matter what the prospect typed into the search bar for relevance, but outside the verb the rest of the headline would stay the same.
The question is, would a dynamic copy swap actually increase conversions?
Setting up a valid test
To run this test properly, ConversionLab had to consider a few table-stakes factors. Namely, the required sample size and duration (to understand if the results they’d achieve were significant).
In terms of sample size, the agency confirmed the brand could get the traffic needed to the landing page variations to ensure a meaningful test. Combined traffic to variant A and B was 1,274 visitors total and—in terms of duration—they would run the variants for a full 77 days for the data to properly cook.
To determine the amount of traffic and duration you need for your own tests to be statistically significant, check out this A/B test duration calculator.
Next, it was time to determine how the experiment would play out on the landing page. To accomplish the dynamic aspect of the idea, the agency used Unbounce’s Dynamic Text Replacement feature on Campaign Monitor’s landing page. DTR helps you swap out the text on your landing page with whatever keyword a prospect actually used in their search.
Below you can see a few samples of what the variants could have looked like once the keywords from search were pulled in (“create” was the default verb if a parameter wasn’t able to be pulled in):
What were the results?
When the test concluded at 77 days (Oct 31, 2017 —Jan 16, 2018), Campaign Monitor saw a 31.4% lift in conversions using the variant in which the verb changed dynamically. In this case, a conversion was a signup for a trial of their software, and the test achieved 100% statistical significance with more than 100 conversions per variant.
The variant that made use of DTR to send prospects through to signup helped lift conversions to trial by 31.4%
What these A/B test results mean
In the case of this campaign, the landing page variations (samples shown above) prompt visitors to click through to a second page where someone starts their trial of Campaign Monitor. The tracked conversion goal in this case (measured outside of Unbounce reporting) was increases to signups on this page after clicking through from the landing page prior.
This experiment ultimately helped Campaign Monitor understand the verb someone uses in search can indeed help increase signups.
The result of this test tell us that when a brand mirrors an initial search query as precisely as possible from ad to landing page, we can infer the visitor understands the page is relevant to their needs and are thereby more primed to click through onto the next phase of the journey and ultimately, convert.
Message match for the win!
Here’s Finge on the impact the test had on the future of their agency’s approach:
“Our hypothesis was that a verb defines HOW you solve a challenge; i.e. do you design an email campaign or do you create it? And if we could meet the visitor’s definition of solving their problem we would have a greater chance of converting a visit to a signup. The uplift was higher than we had anticipated! When you consider that this relevance also improves Quality Score in AdWords due to closer message match, it’s fair to say that we will be using DTR in every possible way forwards.”
Interested in A/B testing your own campaigns?
Whether you work in a SaaS company like Campaign Monitor, or have a product for which there are multiple verbs someone could use to make queries about your business, swapping out copy in your headlines could be an A/B test you want to try for yourself.
Using the same type of hypothesis format we shared above, and the help of the A/B testing calculator (for determining your duration and sample size), you can set up some variants of your landing pages to pair with your ads to see whether you can convert more.
ConversionLab’s test isn’t a catch all or best practice to be applied blindly to your campaigns across the board, but it could inspire you to try out Dynamic Text Replacement on your landing pages to see if carrying through search terms and intent could make a difference for you.
There are lots of ways to measure the performance of a web page and the most popular one is by far Google Analytics. But knowing exactly what images, words, or elements on your site catch your site visitor’s specific attention is not possible with these tools alone.
Sometimes, you simply want to know what makes your page great in terms of design, layout, content structure (you name it) and what prompts people to take one intentional action instead of another. You will be probably surprised to learn that there’s actually a solution to your question: heatmaps.
Unlike Google Analytics, which works with numbers and statistics, the heatmaps show you the exact spots that receive the most engagement on a given page. Through heatmaps, you will know what are the most clicked areas on a page, what paragraphs people select while scanning your content, and what is the scrolling behavior of your clients (e.g., how many went below the fold or how many reached the bottom of the page).
In this article, we will talk about why heatmaps are so efficient for your marketing goals and how they can be integrated with your WordPress site.
Why Use Heatmaps On Your WordPress Site
Before progressing to the “how to” part, you might want to know why it’s worth it to dedicate valuable time on implementing heatmaps for your WordPress site and what their actual role is.
First off, visual marketing is constantly growing as many more people now respond positively to a modern and user-friendly interface and skip a plain, non-interactive one. If a certain action requires too many steps and a hard to maneuver platform, they eventually give up, and you lose clients.
Of course, great content is still the key, but the way your site is structured and combines various elements will influence the activity of your visitors, which is either convert (engage) or leave.
Marketing experts researched this kind of behavior over time:
37% of marketers think visual marketing is the most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging (38%);
But what were heatmaps built for specifically? A heatmap can help you discover valuable and, sometimes, surprising facts about your audience.
If you add one to your WordPress site, you can:
Track your visitors’ clicks and become aware of their expectations while browsing through your site. This way, you can adjust your pages and make them catchier and more compelling.
Find out what is of interest for people. You’ll know what information they are looking for, so you can put it in the spotlight and use it to your favor.
Analyze the scrolling behavior. See how many visitors reached the bottom area of the site and how many left immediately without browsing further through the sections.
Keep an eye on the cursor movement and see what pieces of content your audience is hovering over (or selecting) in a text.
Again, using heatmaps is not only about tracking clicks for fun, it can have many implications for your business’ growth. They can influence purchases or conversions of any kind (it depends on what you want to achieve with your site).
You will know if your call-to-action buttons get the attention you intended, compared to other elements on the same page. Maybe other design elements you placed on your sales page distract people from clicking the buy button, and this can be seen on the hot spots map. Based on the results, you can change the way they look, their position, their styling, etc., hence sales increase.
Bloggers can also use the heatmaps because this way they will know how to create customer-friendly, appealing layouts for their content. Some layouts generate more traffic than others, and it’s up to you to find out which ones.
If people linger on a certain piece of information, it means it’s valuable for them, and you can use it to your favor by placing a link or a button nearby. Or you can simply create a separate post with even more information on that topic.
How To Add A Heatmap To Your WordPress Site
No matter if we are talking about plugins originally made for WordPress or third-party tools, the integration is not difficult at all. Usually, the most difficult part about heatmaps is the interpretation of the results — the conclusions along with the implications they have on your business and how to use them to your advantage.
It’s important to mention that all these tools (except for Heatmap for WordPress) work with other website builders as well, not only WordPress. They are universal; it’s just that the WordPress developers found an easy way to integrate them with the latter so that the non-coders won’t struggle much with it. To integrate them with any other website builder, such as Squarespace for instance, you need to play with the code a little bit.
So, how to set up the heatmaps on your site? Let’s use Hotjar because it does a good job overall. It is intuitive, modern, and quick to implement in WordPress.
In this case, let’s take Hotjar Connecticator plugin as an example. After installing and activating it, you need to create an account on hotjar.com, add the URL of the site you want to monitor (you can add more sites later), and copy the provided tracking code to the plugin’s page in your WordPress dashboard (as seen below).
Now, it’s time to create the heatmap, which can be done right from the Hotjar platform (you can’t customize anything on your WordPress dashboard). So, click on Heatmaps, then New Heatmap.
Next, you need to choose your Page Targeting preferences. Do you want to track the hot spots on a single page? Do you test several pages at the same time to compare their results? That works too. If you need the latter, you have some URL formats available, so you can make sure you can target all the pages from a specific category (sorted by type, publishing date, etc.) You can even write the exact words that the links contain and Hotjar starts tracking the pages.
An interesting thing about Hotjar is that it lets you exclude page elements that you don’t want to monitor by adding their CSS selectors. This way, you can avoid being distracted by unneeded things when you compare or analyze the results and can focus only on the ones that you want to test.
After you create the heatmap, the first screenshot with the hot spots will be provided only after the page starts to get visitors and clicks, so don’t expect results right away. The tool tracks all the views you had on that page since the heatmap was created so that you can make reports based on the views and the number of clicks. This kind of reports let you know you how clickable (or not) your content is.
Here’s how the first screenshot provided by Hotjar looks (the testing was done on an uncustomized version of Hestia WordPress theme):
Another awesome thing about this tool is that it provides you the option to create simple and interactive polls to ask your users why they’re leaving your page or what were the things they didn’t enjoy about your page.
Case Study: How We Improved Landing Pages On ThemeIsle And CodeinWP With Heatmaps
The theory sounds captivating, and it’s almost always easier than the practice itself. But does this method really work? Is it efficient? Do you get pertinent results and insights at the end of the day?
The answer is: Yes, if you have patience.
We love heatmaps at ThemeIsle and use them on many of our pages. The pages are mostly related to WordPress themes since the company is an online shop that sells themes and plugins for this particular platform.
One of the most popular pieces of content from CodeinWP blog is related to themes as well. We have a large range of listings, and many of them rank in top three of Google results page. Lately, we have experimented with two types of layouts for the lists: one that has a single screenshot presenting the theme’s homepage and another providing three screenshots: homepage, single post page, and mobile display.
The main thing we noticed after comparing the two versions was that quite the same number of people reached to end of the list, but the clicks distribution was different: the listing with more visuals didn’t get as many clicks in the bottom half as the one with only one screenshot. This means that the list with more visuals is more explanatory because it offers more samples from the theme’s design, which helps people realize faster which ones are appealing to them. Given this fact, there’s no need for extra clicks to see how a theme looks.
In the one-screenshot case, people dig deeper to find more details about a theme, since there’s only the homepage that they can see from the picture. Hence, they will click more to get to the theme’s page and launch its live demo.
Another example of using heatmaps is Hestia theme’s documentation page. During the testing process, we noticed that a significant number of users are interested in upgrading to the premium version after seeing the number of clicks on the word “Upgrade”, which convinced us to move the upgrade button to a more obvious place and improve the destination page that contains the premium features of the theme.
Speaking of premium features, another experiment of ours was to track the cursor movement and see what are the features people are hovering over more when checking the documentation. Based on the results, we used the most popular items on many landing pages that were seeking conversion – which, in this case, was the upgrade to the premium theme by our free users.
We also created a heatmap for our FAQ page to track the less clicked questions, which we replaced subsequently with other relevant ones. The test is still in progress, as we are trying to improve our support services and offer the customers smoother experiences with our products.
The Importance Of A/B Testing
After getting great insights from the heatmaps, you don’t have to stop there. Create alternatives for your pages based on the results and use the A/B testing method to see which ones perform better.
A/B testing is probably the most popular method with which you can compare two or more versions of the same page. The end goal is to find out which one converts better. You should try it because it definitely helps you get closer to your goals and offers you a new perspective on how your content is being consumed by your audience.
So, after using heatmaps for a while and tracking the behavior of your users, start to make a plan on how to improve your site’s usability. Create alternatives, don’t stick with only one. If you have more than one idea, put them all to test and observe people’s reactions. The goal here is to create the most efficient landing page, the one that has the best chances to convert or to receive the expected engagement.
But how does A/B testing work?
Well, there are several plugins built to make this method work on your WordPress site, but Nelio A/B Testing is the most popular based on the reviews it has on WordPress.org directory (and it’s also free). After installing the plugin, you can choose the type of experiment you want to run. It has a large range of options to compare: pages, posts, headlines, widgets, and more.
Now, starting an experiment is really easy, it takes a few minutes. When you create it, you need to add the original page you want to run tests on, the alternative you want to compare it to, and the goal (what you are trying to achieve with the experiment: get page views, clicks, or direct people to an external source). After stopping the experiments, the plugin will show you detailed results that revolve around the goal you set in the first place. So, at the end of the test, you can tell which page performed better, and you can use it on your site… until a new idea comes to your mind and you should start testing again. Because digital marketing is not about assuming and hoping that things will happen, it’s about making things happen. That’s why you should always test, test, and test again.
By the way, with Nelio A/B Testing plugin, you can create heatmaps too, but they are not as sophisticated as the plugins listed earlier and don’t deliver as many insights. But you can try it out if you want to run quick experiments and need some basic information about a page.
If you want to have a successful business or to be the author of a bold project, keep adjusting your strategies. Try new things every day, every week. To be able to adjust, it’s not enough to simply know your audience but to also test its behavior and make the next moves based on that.
Marketing is not about guessing what your customers want; it’s about finding it yourself and offering them that one thing they need. The heatmaps method will help you along the way by sketching people’s behavior on your site and highlighting what they care most about. It’s simple, fast, visual (you don’t need to dig too much into statistics to understand your audience), and fun.
Knowing what your users’ actions are when they land on your web pages could be something truly fascinating, and you can learn a lot from it.
It’s dangerous territory to make assumptions, over-generalize, or depend on logic or even so called “best practices” to make decisions about site changes. My team and I launched an e-commerce website a few years ago, and here are four ways we tried to break through common conversion pitfalls in order to ensure we increased our own conversions: Assumption #1 – All Of Your Ideas Are Great Ideas You’ve had these experiences countless times… you had a great idea for the site that was informed and re-enforced by “best practices.” You sold it to the team by explaining how your idea…
At some point in your career, most web designers and developers can relate to issues with scope creep, unexpected project delays, client relationships breaking down, and unpaid invoices. The good news is that there’s an insurance policy to help with these scenarios. In the UK, we call it “professional indemnity insurance.” Elsewhere, it can be called “professional liability” or “errors and omissions insurance.”
Let’s explore what this insurance is and how it’s designed to keep web professionals in business. I’ll also be sharing real stories of businesses who were glad they had insurance.
What Is Professional Indemnity Insurance?
Professional indemnity insurance protects your business from screw-ups and problem clients.
Let’s say a client threatens legal action, claims loss of income or damages due to a service you provided. Even if you’re in the wrong, professional indemnity steps in to ensure the consequences to your business aren’t crippling.
It’s also important to distinguish what professional indemnity insurance isn’t. After all, business insurance is an umbrella term for different types of cover. One of those covers is public liability insurance — or general liability insurance as it’s known in the US.
Public liability insures your business against claims of:
physical injury to clients and members of the public
accidents on your work premises
damage to third-party property.
This is a popular cover for those who have clients visit their office or those who work from client premises. However, in this article, we’re focusing exclusively on professional indemnity.
How Can Insurance Help Me If I’m A Designer Or Developer?
Business insurance isn’t often talked about in web circles. I think it’s because insurers have focused their products and user experience on traditional industries. A lot of the information out there isn’t relevant to those of us working in digital.
To add to that, people don’t equate working with a computer as being a danger or massive liability. Especially when you have all of your clients sign a contract. This can lull designers and developers into a false sense of security. A common objection I hear from web professionals when talking about insurance is:
I can’t cause any damage as a web designer. For anything that does go wrong, I have a clause in my contract that says I’m not liable.
Firstly, I have to debunk the myth of not needing to have insurance because you work with a contract. Contracts don’t alleviate you from liability. They’re useful for laying the foundation of what duties are expected of both parties, but insurance steps into action when those duties come into question.
With every scenario I’m sharing today, they all had the following in common:
A contract was signed by both parties.
They had years of experience in their profession.
They were professionally insured, but never expected to have to use their insurance.
Below are real stories of how professional indemnity insurance helped these designers and developers.
A developer built a web platform to spec, but the client complained of missing functionality.
The developer agreed to build the perceived missing functionality for a further fee, but the client believed it should have been included in the initial build. Not only did the client refuse to pay the remaining invoice, but they threatened legal action if the developer didn’t cooperate.
Having professional indemnity insurance meant that the developer had a team of legal experts behind him. They helped the developer communicate with his client to avoid the problem escalating.
The developer’s professional indemnity policy also had a mitigation costs clause. This meant the insurer paid the amount owed to him by his client, which was thousands of pounds.
Designers and developers often work to tight deadlines. Missing deadlines can cause problems if the project has an important launch date.
A creative agency was hired to design a website, but the project started to unravel. Key members of the team left part way through the project and the pace of the work being completed slowed down.
While the website was delivered in time for launch, it was missing a lot of major features. The client said it wasn’t fit for purpose.
After wasting money on a marketing campaign for the launch, the client refused to pay the final invoice. They also incurred extra expenses from hiring new contractors to complete the website’s missing features.
The client threatened to involve solicitors if the agency pursued payment.
The unpaid invoice was settled by the insurer under the mitigation costs clause of their professional indemnity policy. The insurer also provided the agency with legal advisors to confirm with the client that the project is considered at an end.
Client Relationships Breaking Down
This is a common catalyst for professional indemnity claims. Even if we spot a few amber flags, we like to believe we can make our client relationships work and projects run smoothly. However scary it is, sometimes you have to burn bridges with a client.
A designer did this when working with a client they felt didn’t respect them. An ever-changing scope, long hours, and poor pay lead to a breakdown in the relationship. What had started off as a promising project was now a strained working relationship and source of stress. The designer decided to walk away from the project.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things. The client wanted to be reimbursed for the money they had already paid to the designer. They also wanted damages for the loss of income due to a delayed launch and compensation for hiring other contractors to complete the project.
A team of legal experts was arranged by the insurer to deal with the designer’s client. A settlement was agreed out of court, which was also covered by the insurer.
What Does A Professional Indemnity Policy Insure Against?
Professional indemnity insurance is a meaty policy, so it isn’t feasible to cover every scenario here. At its core, it’s designed to put your business back in the same financial position after a loss as it was in before a loss. As you can see from the stories above, a loss can be legal fees, client damages, compensation or even unpaid invoices. However, this has to stem from a client expressing dissatisfaction with your work.
While all professional indemnity policies differ, let’s look at some of the key features you can expect to see.
If a client makes a claim against you, your professional indemnity policy will pay the defence costs. This isn’t just for situations that have escalated to court. Insurers want to solve problems before they get to that stage, so they’ll provide a team of legal experts to help negotiate terms with your client.
Intellectual Property Infringement
Web and graphic designers are vulnerable to arguments over copyright infringement, whereas developers could get into disputes over who owns the code. This clause covers claims against copyright infringement, trademarks, slogans, and even domain names.
If you read the stories above, you’ll have seen mitigation costs mentioned where unpaid invoices were paid by the insurer. If a client is dissatisfied with your work, refuses to pay any or all your fees and threatens to bring a claim against you, professional indemnity may pay the amount owed to you by your client. This is only if the insurer believes it will avoid a claim for a greater amount.
Negligence covers a broad spectrum, but think of this as a warranty for any mistakes you make that lead to an unhappy client.
Unintentional Breach Of Contract
Breach of contract can take many forms. It could be something as simple as failing to deliver a project on time or not meeting the client’s expectations. Any breach of contract may entitle the client to make a claim against you.
Some Practical Tips For Buying Insurance
The first question people ask when it comes to buying insurance is, “How much should I insure my business for?”. The level of cover will typically start at £100,000 and can go well into the millions. It can be a difficult question to answer, but there are factors that can help you arrive at a reasonable figure.
If your client contract has an insurance clause, it’s usually for £1,000,000 of professional indemnity. This is the base level of cover a client would expect. It’s the most common level of cover I see businesses buy.
Types of Clients
What type of clients are you working with? Is it large corporations with in-house legal teams, or local small businesses? It’s not unwise to assume the larger companies pose a bigger threat, therefore should have a higher level of cover. You may also find that larger companies will have an insurance clause in their contract.
Type Of Work You Do
A developer building a payment platform will potentially face a bigger risk than somebody designing a website to showcase a restaurant’s menu. Does your work involve dealing with sensitive information or higher-cost products? Are businesses depending on your service to generate income for them?
If it feels like I’ve skirted around answering this, it’s because there isn’t a straightforward figure. A lot of insurers will simply tell you to buy what you’ve budgeted for. If in doubt, consider a base level of £1,000,000 and periodically evaluate your clients and type of work you do. Most insurers allow you to make a mid-term adjustment part way through your policy to increase your level of cover.
Other than the cost of insurance, there are a few other factors to be aware of when buying insurance.
Insuring More Than One Activity
The web is a multi-disciplinary industry. You should be looking for a policy that can cover your various activities. A web developer may also provide web hosting. A designer may also offer consulting services. If you fall outside of the typical box, you might find it useful talking to a broker or using a service like With Jack where your policy can be customized instead of using an online comparison site.
Insuring Your Work Worldwide
By default, professional indemnity policies in the UK exclude US jurisdiction. If you’re working with US clients under US contract law, look for an insurer that can lift the jurisdictional limit from your policy, so you’re insured worldwide. Just beware that it will increase your premium.
Your Policy Can Adapt To Your Needs
Insurance can be flexible. Don’t delay buying insurance because you’re thinking of switching from sole trader to Limited company down the line, or because you’re waiting to add a new service to your business. A good insurance company will allow you to adjust your policy, adapting it as your business changes and grows.
How Insurance Can Help You Build A Bulletproof Business
Whenever I see newcomers ask for advice on starting their business in the web industry, I see a lot of suggestions that look like this:
“Get an accountant immediately.”
“Build a network!”
“Have your clients sign a contract.”
“Monitor your cashflow!”
This is all great advice, of course, but rarely do I see anybody mentioning getting insured. Insurance should be a crucial part of any professional designer or developer’s toolbox.
Offering your professional services to clients comes with a degree of risk. It’s your responsibility to mitigate that risk. You have to be confident that — if something does go wrong — you can get back to work quickly. There can be issues with mistakes in your work, a relationship going sour or a client claiming they’re unhappy with your service. It doesn’t matter how good you are, these things happen!
This is why I’m sharing these stories — to highlight the importance of being insured. I want to get web professionals not just thinking about insurance, but understanding it. Insurance is something we don’t necessarily want to budget for or consider, yet as professionals, we have to. The stories above show how critical it can be.
So yes, work with a contract. Monitor your cash flow. Have an accountant manage your bookkeeping, but also get insured. There’s little point in building your business only for one problem client or mistake to take it away from you.
Europe’s imminent privacy overhaul means that we all have to become more diligent about what data we collect, how we collect it, and what we do with it. In our turbulent times, these privacy obligations are about ethics as well as law.
Web developers have a major role to play here. After all, healthy data protection practice is as much about the development side — code, data, and security — as it is about the business side of process, information, and strategy.
Traffic and conversions. That’s what we want. And we usually start at the beginning, with traffic. I agree. Traffic is great. Have you ever logged into Google Analytics on a Monday morning and found a huge traffic spike waiting for you? That’s a fantastic feeling. But unless you’re a 16-year-old YouTuber with a fame complex, you’re not actually interested in traffic. You want conversions. You want to see increases on your income report, not just your Analytics display. But hold up. Doesn’t more traffic equal more conversions? Well technically, yes. I’m assuming your conversion funnel is good enough that a 30,000 increase in visitors…