How I’d do SEO for Metalab’s Ballpark App

Anyone that has dealt with us here at Skyrocket SEO will know that we use Ballpark to deliver our invoices and to send out estimates. I think it’s a great app and it would take a lot for me to stop using it. Prospective and existing clients compliment us (bear in mind, we didn’t build it) all the time about how professional it makes us a company look.

It’s safe to say, I’m a real Ballpark fanboy. When I see a worthy product (as Ballpark clearly is) I want to be able to help, even if it’s only in a small way, to make sure more people hear about it and start using it. So today, I thought I would offer up a few ideas I’ve had to improve SEO for Ballpark.

Better keyword targeting

At first glance, Ballpark appears to be having an identity crisis. It’s an online invoicing, estimate sending, payment processing, team managing CRM software app.

I first decided to checkout Ballpark following a recommendation by a friend but if I hadn’t then I know I would have been confused at their opening headline “The better way to get paid” – is Ballpark an alternative to PayPal? Is it a bank account for freelancers? [no]

Upon closer inspection it is a clearer what their strapline is referring to but I am certain they would benefit both from an SEO perspective and from a conversion perspective by clarifying their offer.

This brings me on to my next point, just what is Ballpark?

I asked myself the question and drafted a braindump answer…

“It does invoicing and it allows you to send estimates. It also streamlines the processes surrounding these two activities. It’s simplified; kind of no frills but still professional looking. It’s reasonably priced and is probably a best fit for freelancers and small agencies who don’t have complex accounting systems or even an accounts department.”

‘Online invoicing’ is Ballpark’s key term and by my research, they rank around 6-7th for the term in Google.com. Not too bad but could be better. The keyword seems to get a fair number of searches if you believe Google’s Keyword Tool.

My suggestion would be to also target ‘easy online invoicing’ because it might not have the same volume of searches but it hits one of their core features right on the head and provides opportunity for communicating their USP whilst strengthening their visibility on the much more popular phrase ‘online invoicing’.

Ballpark are also targeting ‘online estimates’ which I’ve no issue with. They rank well for it and although it might not bring in all that much traffic (only the Ballpark guys will know that for certain), it is a very relevant description of their product and should certainly be targeted even if it isn’t the main focus of linkbuilding or outreach campaigns.

Now their final “core” keyword phrase appears to be ‘CRM software’. I can say with confidence that if you sent Yoda to GetBallpark.com, he’d tell you “CRM software, Ballpark is not.

It is in actual fact much closer to being ‘proposal management software’ since it helps you manage and simplify the usual communication that occurs around sending estimates and proposals. This keyword phrase is much closer to the mark; not only would it be easier for Ballpark to target the phrase (less competitive by my estimations) but it would be a far more relevant keyword for their business.

CRM software might be a very popular term but even if Ballpark were visible for it (I couldn’t find them in the top 50 of Google.com) I sincerely doubt they’d convert many prospects who click from the SERPs expecting a feature set that matches Salesforce.com but instead are presented with an app which just doesn’t (and shouldn’t) match up to a more complex and expensive full CRM suite.

Build out content landing pages for target industries

Without looking at the internal data, we’ll never know for certain but I would guess that Ballpark probably doesn’t see much in the way of mid-tail or long-tail search traffic. This could be helped along by building out the site to include content landing pages dedicated to industries that are likely to use the app. Off the top of my head, Ballpark could be used by…

  • SEOs
  • Web designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Other Consultants

As a starting point I would craft specific copy for each of these vertical sectors based on what is known about their needs and how Ballpark can better serve them. This not only serves to add rich content to the website which is likely to bring in some mid-tail to long-tail search traffic (think: ‘online invoicing for SEO consultants’ etc), but these pages are also likely to convert much better than a generic landing page aimed at all sectors. Each landing page could then be used as a hub for outreach e.g. a page to send visitors from guest posts to.

Outreach & Linkbuilding

Whichever way you slice it, Ballpark is behind two of it’s main competitors (Freshbooks and Blinksale) both in terms of new links being generated each month and also a cumulative count of inbound links (see chart above).

In order to gain some headway, Ballpark really needs to scale it’s outreach and linkbuilding. That’s not buying a shed load of forum profile links either since Freshbooks for example attracts a solid range of links from the likes of Smashing Magazine, Freelance Switch, Mashable, Specky Boy, Web Designer Depot and more. As well as a plethora of other relevant but less authoritative links which gives them some serious volumes.

I would personally structure the outreach campaign as a series of outreach efforts based around their target market sectors as well as a more general-purpose link development and outreach campaign for the overall site. Luckily for Ballpark, many of the sectors I suspect they are looking to target have active online communities – SEO, Web Design, Graphic Design, Online Marketing etc. There are countless blogs to guest post on, communities to interact with and relevant links that can be encouraged and earned using content.

You’d be hard pressed to run out of things to write about when it comes to the industries that Ballpark is likely to be popular in.

Promotional content/Linkbait ideas

Off the top of my head, here are a couple of promotional ideas I had for Ballpark…

  • Create a True Hourly Rate calculator as an attention tactic and linkbait tool to help freelancers calculate how much they actually earn based on statistics that you spend just as long pitching for the work and getting the client to actually pay as you do working on billable time. Ballpark could subtely work the features and benefits of Ballpark into the tool, highlighting the app as the solution to payment frustrations. The ‘You .vs. John Paulson‘ tool proved very popular indeed.
  • 100 reasons clients said they couldn’t pay – some fun and frustrating reasons clients couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. This could easily be a curated, user generated piece of linkbait that has the same appeal as Clients from Hell.
  • Industry specific guides to getting paid – this content series would provide excellent scope for a partnership with sector specific players who could promote the piece to their existing audience. Superb content and a readymade audience hungry to consume it – Ballpark would likely attract far more links and eyeballs through partnering on this series than going it alone since they can piggyback of the sector-relevance and “tribal-authority” of their partner.
  • Industry specific ‘Getting Paid’ Surveys – a look inside the different industries asking people on the frontline, insightful questions which offer interesting and shareable data relating to how long it takes to get paid in the web design or SEO industry. Ballpark can help solve this kind of issue so it helps to be present in the mind of a prospect when they are considering this kind of issue in relation to their own business. Maybe even crossover into “How much you typically charge.” – I know in SEO, that’s guaranteed to be a hit topic with so many different pricing models and pricing tiers in existence.
  • A look inside Ballpark – data/research linkbait along the lines of Freshbook.com’s “Freshbook’s Economy Infographic‘ which proved very popular. The Ballpark homepage says $3million was billed back in 2009; we’re nearly in 2012, maybe it’s time to give us all an insight into how well Ballpark is doing now? Humans are fundamentally curious which is why transparent organisations tend to get a lot of attention.

Make better use of the blog

Develop multiple content strategies to reach and engage the different sectors that Ballpark targets. HubSpot for example has a blog section for content related to their eCommerce clients. (Take a look at my list of the 18 best blogs written by businesses for further inspiration on creating a world-class blog.)

It pains me to see such an effortlessly cool web app that has fallen behind on their blogging. Given the product that Ballpark is and the content potential, they could be in a much better place.

Ballpark is probably doing just fine without my advice but there’s always scope for improvement. This public strategy/site critique is a new kind of content for me so let me know what you think?

Oh and if the folks at Metalab feel like giving us a free couple of months on Ballpark or even better want to hire us to carry out the above, I wouldn’t be against this. ;-)

4 Comments

  1. avatar
    Jon Cooper November 7, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Great job James! Glad to see you helping out Ballpark like that!

    I see you did the same thing Tom Critchlow did for HipMunk: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-i-would-do-seo-for-hipmunkcom. Was this your inspiration? :)

    • avatar
      James Agate November 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi Jon, Good to have you commenting. It wasn’t actually my inspiration to start with but I came across it when I was writing the piece and it definitely influenced. His ideas were great, as yet no call from Metalab :-D

      I really like your stuff by the way over at Point Blank – although I would personally prefer not to see any niche site stuff or section it off somewhere :-) Has the niche site series been popular for you?

  2. avatar
    Jon Cooper November 16, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    I know what you mean; it’s not the classier side of link building, but not everyone has the luxury of building links for reputable sites in exciting niches. I think it helped; I got links from Pat Flynn’s niche site duel hub page on SPI, which has consistently sent 3-4 visitors a day; it was more of an experiment I guess.

    Also – send Metalab a tweet! Just mention it to them via twitter and see what they say (i.e. Hey @metalab, what do you think? #url#)

    • avatar
      James Agate November 16, 2011 at 9:35 am #

      Sure, so I guess it’s served the purpose for you then. That’s interesting.

      I have emailed the metalab guys but heard nothing – don’t think I will bother tweeting because clearly they don’t wish to engage in a conversation. I’m not trying to sell them, I would just be interested in their take.

      If they monitored the web for brand mentions then they would already have seen the post I guess.

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