How a Total Online Presence Audit (TOPA) Can Improve Your Business

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Note: New Initiatives Marketing is part of The Marketing Guides for Small Business podcast of which this is one episode. The podcasts are produced and recorded for the ear and they were designed to be either watched live on video or listened to via audio. If you are able to, we strongly recommend listening to this episode which will include emotion and emphasis that isn’t obvious when reading a transcript. Our transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and humans. They may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. This is not meant to be marketing advice.


Welcome to the Marketing Guides for Small Business podcast. In this podcast, you’ll get discussions and interviews 100% dedicated to helping small business owners tackle their marketing challenges. The Marketing Guides for Small Business podcast is produced by the marketing guides for small business, a collection of five small business marketing consultants with dozens of years of combined experience in helping small business owners plan execute, measure their marketing plans and strategies in order to grow their business at a rapid pace. 


Your host and panelists include:

  • Ken Tucker, Owner and Chief Marketing Strategist at Change Scape Web in St. Louis
  • Paul Barthel, Chief Technical Officer at Change Scape Web
  • Dan Gershenson, CEO of Caliber Brand Strategy in Chicago
  • Ian Cantle, President and Chief Marketing Strategist at Outsourced Marketing in Bradford, Ontario
  • Jen Kelly, Founder and CEO of New Initiatives Marketing in Toronto


Welcome to this episode of The Marketing guides for small business podcast. My name is Jen Kelly and today we are talking about total online presence audits or TOPAs for short. We’ll explain what that is how it helps and why you need to consider running your business through a Topa. As always, I’m joined by Ian can and Paul. So let’s get started. So Ken, what is a TOPA?



TOPA is really an analysis to go through and look at how your business is represented online in a very complete manner. That’s why we call it a total online presence. The word audit might turn off a lot of people, because audits frequently have a negative connotation. But in this case, it’s like an accounting going through. And just seeing how your business is listed online everywhere. Do you have a Facebook page? Is it name consistently with the way you have your Twitter account? profile name, for example? Do you even have some of those accounts? Do you have Instagram? And so it’s really looking at not only what most people think about for online presence, which is a website or maybe even their Google My Business page. But where all are they listed online. And there are several different dimensions, social media directories where businesses can be listed, your reputation, search engine optimization, all these things you just look at in the totality. And then finally, you would want to take a look at maybe the top competitors in the market.



It’s the main sections of the TOPA. So we broke it down into the social media audit, see where you’re at see what what’s going on with your competitors, SEO content, and then online reviews and online reputation. So those are some of the sectors for it. When I perform a TOPAs for our clients, I have a favorite section. And my favorite section of the TOPA is typically social media and I it’s my favorite because typically, we have clients coming in that either do not like social media at all, do not think it can work for their business, or they love one channel hate another channel, don’t you want to hear its name. And the reason I love the social media part of the audit is because when we run through and we look at where their competitors are at what’s going on in the industry in social media for that client or their industry or their services, we can change the minds that we can say that okay, perhaps you hate Instagram or you hate Facebook, or you think LinkedIn is, you know, just too stuffy. Look what’s going on the industry, look what’s going on with your competitors there? Is there a way to remove your emotional attachment or detachment to that channel, and actually see that it could be bringing your company some business. So that’s usually a real eye opener. It’s my favorite part of the TOPA in Paul can do you have favorite parts of the tool by yourself?



I just wanted to elaborate real quick. So when you’re talking about social media, and you’re showing somebody how they can leverage social media where maybe they dislike it or whatnot, I mean, are you doing that by showing them either opportunities of where their competitors are missing out? Or what their competitors are maybe doing that? Better than them? What are you talking about there?



Yeah, it’s totally better than so there’ll be two different avenues. So client a will say, Okay, here’s our presence, here’s our top competitors. And away you go. So then you can have a real discussion on Okay, X Y, Zed accountant is doing this. Look at what’s going on with them for Twitter, let’s look at some of the hashtags in your industry or that applies to your product or services. Look at the conversations going on around here. Moore’s educational to say, like, see what the opportunity could be. We do have some clients that come in and say either I don’t know who my competitors are, or I don’t have competitors. And so in that case, what we do is we go ahead internally with our team and we pretend Okay, pretend I need that type of service or product that this client offers. What am I going to Google? What comes up? And we pick those companies just as some kind of placeholder to let the client look, no, you may not feel that you have competitors. But if someone is searching for the type of work that you do, here’s what’s coming up, here’s what they’re finding on on Facebook, or here’s what they’re finding on Twitter when when they’re searching. So you might want to pick that and get involved.



And that leads really nicely into you, you had asked also which part I enjoy. And the part that I get really excited about with our clients is the competitive analysis. And so that really is a thread that runs through the entire total online presence audit, through social media, through SEO, through online rankings, reputation, but what I love about that is most businesses get very myopic, and they know that most of the time, but not always, they know what they’re doing. But they don’t know what their competition is doing and how it affects them. And so it’s really powerful to be able to uncover and show them in both an analytical, statistical way. This is how your business is performing against your nearest competitors, because usually, business owners are quite competitive, and that gets the competitive juices going. And that leads to further discussions about how they can improve that competitive landscape for them. Yeah,



I don’t know that there’s any one area of TOPAs that I would say is my favorite. I think what a TOPAs does is it brings everything together and shows a business owner because a lot of times they’ll look at things in silos are independently, they don’t look at how it all works together. And going back to what you said about the competitors, a lot of times they don’t realize that their online and offline competitors can be two different things. They may have an online competitor that’s not an offline competitor and vice versa.



Yeah, very true. Absolutely. So Ian, I mean, aside from the competitive nature and the data, what does the TOPA end up telling you, the marketing consultants, and what does it end up telling your small business clients? And are you learning different things about your client during this process?



Yeah, absolutely. The the key things that it tells us as a marketing consultant is the health of their marketing. So not only their current health, but also some historical snapshot, because usually we we can see a little bit into the past and just see, is their website healthy? How does that affect their SEO rankings, you talked about social media, there’s so much encompassed in this, it really does give an overview of the health of the marketing of a client. So as a consultant, it actually uncovers a lot of low hanging fruit that can be fixed in order to help a business better market themselves online. And then for for the business itself. It’s almost like pulling back the curtain on their marketing, because a lot of businesses use multiple vendors, Paul talked about silos. And that’s kind of the standard way that many businesses market themselves is they hire a social media person, they hire a web developer, they hire an SEO person, whatever it is an email person, but there’s no continuity to it, or rarely continuity to it. And so this really gives them an overall informative view of how their marketing is performing. And it also gives them recommendations on how to fix that. And I think that’s really powerful for a business owner, because a lot of times they’re they’re living in a bit of a gray haze as to what the end results of what they’re spending in relation to their marketing, and what that means to their business on a day to day basis,



could just kind of jump in there, too. Unfortunately, still way too many businesses look at marketing as a project, and they’ll do a project, they’ll do a campaign. And then they won’t do another campaign, they won’t do anything in a consistent manner for a period of time. And right now, clearly, in my mind, the thing that’s working the best is an omni channel approach. And by omni channel, it’s not just the channels that you’re using, but it’s using them together in concert so that you get the amplification effect. And so what Ian said there, I think is really powerful. And definitely on point,



I think, what can we really need about what it can tell you as a marketing consultants, the way we run the Toka? Well, I was gonna say it’s a try before you buy, but you have to buy it, but we see it typically two things. So clients will come and say, got our website, we’re doing all these things online. Why isn’t it working? And one of the things we say is you may have forgotten an audience member, meaning that maybe you’ve got your messaging, right and whatnot. But Google is part of your audience when you go online. So how your setup technically indicates how well you get pulled up in search results. I mean, there’s other things as well, but a lot of business owners don’t realize that everything could look really great for the humans, but technically on the back end. It’s basically invisible to Google. And so educating them on that and how that has to be right is one of the things that comes out of the Tilopa as well for us we run it for eight days. So what we say is It’s a really fast way for us to get together and see if we’re a good fit to work together longer term, because as soon as you sign up and you pay for it, we need seven businesses to do the TOPA, we can start to present to you as quickly as the eight business days. So within basically two weeks, you’re going to know how we think or what improvements your marketing needs, what you’re already doing, right? Because I think we forget about that, too. There’s a lot of good stuff going on, that clients are doing. And then you’ll be able to understand what exactly we would start to work on. Or if we decided, and of those eight days, which is not a fix, the client still leaves with the recording the PowerPoint information, and they know what to do next, with a different consultant. Typically, if it goes that way,



that’s a powerful way to start a relationship together. One of the things I wanted to add to was from a reporting standpoint, oftentimes, when I talked about silos before, oftentimes, specific vendors and marketing will report on what they’re doing. Hopefully, they’re at least reporting on what they’re doing, and the results of that, but it’s like you have blinders on, because they’re only presenting a small window into what their part of the marketing is doing rather than the whole. And so the TOPA is actually a fantastic third party review of all your marketing, where it’s it’s far more objective than having your current vendors present their small pieces. Not all the time. But oftentimes, we see, especially in the SEO world, people will present only the good news rather than the full picture. And so they’ll present where the clients are ranking in the number one number two position on Google. But oftentimes, those keywords are actually meaningless. So they’re ranking high for meaningless keywords. But the ones that actually people are searching for and attract more volume, they’re ranking very poorly on and those aren’t reported to the client. So this is a great way for them to get a third party review of their marketing,



then we do go into technical aspects in the Topaz. So Paul, how technical does the topic get? And how do you go about explaining any of the technical areas to a small business owner that might not be that technical? Well, I



totally can get as technical as you want. To be honest, I try not to go too deep into when explaining it to a client, what I’ll tell them, I’ll touch on it. But really, what I tell them is that it comes down to website load time, which is a Google ranking factor. And what you touched on is that Google isn’t looking at the front end your website like a person is they’re using bots to crawl the code on your website. And that’s how they’re making a determination as to how user friendly your website is, are you using schema structure data, things like that, which we’ll probably talk about a little bit later. But I try not to get too deep into when explaining it to the client is not going to mean anything to them anyway, what they’re going to understand is that there’s some issues with your website that are causing it to load slow, and Google doesn’t like that, they’ll understand that. If you tell him G your JavaScript needs to be minified, that means nothing to him.



Even things like inbound link, we find that a lot of people still think that when they link to another website, that that’s what’s helping them with SEO, and they don’t understand the power of the links or the danger of having some links, some websites that link to you. And so again, it’s a it’s an under the covers kind of the thing that as in talked about, somebody may or may not have reported to them, if they’re doing SEO, or they may not even have anybody really actively working on their SEO. And so we always try to meet the customer at what level they’re at. And I love education, I love helping people understand these problems. Because there have been a lot of bad actors out there, especially when it comes to SEO services or selling a solution that’s really good for that vendor, because they can sell it to a client and the client maybe just knows that they should have that. But it may not be the right thing for them. And so I think that’s also the beauty of the topaz, you can really kind of use it as a great educational opportunity and make the customer a smarter buyer, which is something that I always love to do.



Can a TOPA apply to any small business? So are there some that are more suited for TOPA than others?



That’s a great question. Definitely some level of a TOPA, I think works for pretty much every small business. Now, having said that, if you’re a local brick and mortar business boutique down on your main street and in your local city, or even more so restaurants, I don’t think the search engine optimization aspect of a TOPA is very important for those businesses. They need to have social they need to have a great strategy to drive traffic. They need to be doing some really effective direct response campaigns, leveraging email and text message marketing, which maybe are things that we don’t always talk about a lot, you know when we review the TOPA with somebody, but yeah, I think everybody can Can definitely benefit. They’re clearly also, I think, based on size of business. So the smaller annual revenue A business might have, the less they’re going to be able to afford a true search engine optimization strategy. And so that doesn’t mean that we still wouldn’t want to do the competitive analysis, we absolutely want to do that. And we would really focus our efforts at that point, we certainly would capture the broad brush, but we would really delve into the sections of our analysis that would really mean the most to our clients, I can’t think of a specific sector that it doesn’t really apply for. The biggest thing is if you don’t have the capacity to scale, if you’re a two person operation, and you just need to make sure you get more word of mouth business with a couple of great referral partners. I would not tell somebody to pay for TOPA. In that scenario, we would definitely want to look at a different approach and probably build a referral marketing system instead of doing a total online presence.



That sounds like a topic for another podcast. Yeah.



Yeah, I would add one thing to that. I would say that if there’s any business that’s investing in marketing, online marketing, they can use the TOPA because it actually affirms or helps them better invest that marketing spend. So if they’re already spending money on marketing, I think a TOPA almost regardless of the type of business can be a fantastic fit. They’re spending the money they should be getting a better investment from it, perhaps.



Absolutely. So if you’re a small business owner listening, how do you know you’re good candidate? We’ve heard it from Ken and Ian. But another thing could be a couple of burning questions, if you’ve got the lead capture on your website. So people are able to either download something, sign up for a newsletter or get something and you’re noticing that Why Why am I not getting more people to sign up? What’s happening? Why isn’t my website working? That can be a burning question that would indicate it’s time for tilba. Let’s look under the hood and see what’s going on. Let’s see what else is happening around the the marketing system that you’re using or not using that may be blocking those inquiries from coming in? Any other burning question that small business owner might have that would make them go you know what the TOPAs might be a good next step.



I think I’d say that. If you don’t really know where you stand against your competitors, you don’t know what your competitors are doing. Can touched on omni channel marketing. We don’t live in the Yellow Pages world anymore. You don’t pick up the Yellow Pages and look for something. If you don’t know where your clients are, what channels they’re on. You probably need a TOPAs.



Yeah, that’s a great point.



Yeah, I would say the other burning question that we hear a lot of from people looking at Topaz is I’m investing in my marketing. But the phone’s not ringing, or we’re not getting form fills on our website, or we’re spending money on Google ads. But again, it’s not really bringing in the leads that we want. So those those are often where the dollars hit the business is where a lot of questions seem to arise for us with prospects for the TOPA?



Yeah, I asked a little bit before about how does the TOPAs help you as a marketing consultants? But I want to go further into sort of the client consultant interaction there. How much interaction do you have with your clients while you’re doing the Tilopa? And can that gives you a good indication how the working relationship will be if you guys decide to work together long term?



Yeah, I love that question. One of the first things we do in the tope is we have a standard intake process of gathering information about the business so that we understand who they are, what information should be consistently across the internet, about their business, who their top competitors are. And then we get into access to their different platforms so that we can then analyze them on their behalf. And one of the things that we’ve found is that if if a client is aggressively able to gather that information, and complete the form quickly, that usually represents a really good relationship, because they’re really hungry to get the results. And they will do whatever needs to be done in order to gather that information. Because some of the information, they might not know how to log into their website, or how to log into their social channels, or whether they have a Google Analytics account or and how to access it. So all of those things need to be gathered in order to do it well. And we certainly walk them through that process, as each of us here does in order to make it as easy as possible. But I think that really sets the tone of the relationship. And then when the results are presented. That’s kind of the second gate as far as we’ve had our initial kind of consultation with them. At the beginning. We’ve done the intake process, we’ve created the audit, we now present the audit, and it’s really about how do they take the recommendations that we’re giving them? And are they going to implement those and whether it’s with us, whether it’s with their internal team, whether it’s with another external team, that really gives you an idea of where that relationship is going in How we can help each other or how we can partner with that particular client to help them grow.



So even you talked about getting access to a lot of their accounts. And frequently, we can do a really fantastic job of doing a total online presence without really getting access to any of their accounts, with the exception of maybe Google Analytics, because that does tell you an awful lot or Search Console, for example. But you don’t have to get access to those accounts. As a matter of fact, one of the things that we frequently find is people don’t know how to access any of those things, they may have had a Twitter account created for them, they may have a Google My Business page, they have no idea who manages it, or how to get access to it. That’s kind of another thing that I think is a real eye opener for a lot of businesses is they don’t know what all they already have, and what they could be using. And there’s certainly not have been anybody who’s kind of brought this in, in under central control, so that it’s organized so that somebody can take it and really start to use it for the business. And I think that’s another really great potential for Atoka is just literally to find out what do you have? And do you have access to it? And do you even know who has access to it?



Yeah, if through the process, if they’re able to give access to the consultant. What I find too, is that if the relationship continues, if they then take us up on the offer of having us do the the fixes, or the recommendations that we’ve presented, we’ve already gathered all that information. And the speed in which we can then implement is far faster than if that information hadn’t been gathered at the beginning,



Paul, what are some of the technical fixes that may come out of it? TOPA, which are most common, like the most common ones that you that you see,



a lot of times, they are really on the technical side, like I had mentioned earlier, minifying, JavaScript or CSS, and that’s a fancy way of saying remove the whitespace in your code. And because the computer reads things sequentially, and a computer doesn’t need that whitespace that’s put there. So humans can read that code. And that’s a very technical thing, it can speed up the website schema markup, which helps Google or any search engine, understand what your website really is about. It says, Here’s what this page is about. Or here’s what this website is about 404 pages, historically, Google hasn’t been too aggressive and penalizing you for for four pages. But that could change because with some of their recent algorithm updates, and they’ve said that page, our user experience is going to be a ranking factor. So I would think that 404 pages definitely going to affect user experience. So that could very well become something that you need to deal with. But yeah, a lot of the technical fixes, it’s something we do in the background, I don’t go into too much depth about it with a client because like I said, they’re not going to understand it’s not their job to understand it. That’s what they’re paying us for.



We did a blog post about the 10 most common things we saw, across doing several audits, some of the things that we came across are like the homepage is missing some really critical elements. It’s amazing how many times somebody may not have a prominent call button, on their website, in the header, where it stay in, it’s on every page, now even a call to action like schedule a consultation, they use weak language, like contact us, that’s a fairly ineffectual thing to do, or the the big call to action they might have might be subscribed to our newsletter, well, why that doesn’t really work very well. So looking at dimensions like that, we still find websites that don’t have HTTPS. That’s another common problem, it’s less. So now, I’ll just kind of scan through here. Bad data about the business out there can really hurt the business, you know, the way the business is listed having incorrect phone numbers. It’s amazing what you’re going to find when you kind of go through this. Some of these are technical, some of them aren’t, I’ll provide the link to this blog post. If anybody’s interested, they can go check it out. And see, I don’t want to take up a lot of time on this. But we do see a lot of consistently similar issues popping up.



And one of the things business owners should understand too, is that Google never stops evolving their algorithms and what they’re looking at. And so Paul mentioned, you know, some of the technical aspects of user experience. And Google’s going big into that. In fact, this year, they’re launching Google Web vitals for real because they’ve had it for a few years where you can look at those and see how your website is performing. But now they’re getting really serious about that and saying that it’s going to be actually a ranking factor. And so as a business owner, if you want to outrank your competition, you need to start taking these technical aspects really seriously, and they are super technical and most business owners, even a lot of web developers can’t find Do these things on their own. They need a higher level of SEO knowledge and expertise to make some of these changes. Well,



this is probably a good place to wrap up this podcast on a TOPA. Thanks, guys for an interesting discussion. And thanks, everyone for listening today. We’ll see you next episode.



We want to thank you all for taking the time to listen to today’s podcast. Please be sure and subscribe to the marketing guides for small business podcast in your podcast software. We’d love for you to rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. And please don’t forget to visit marketing guides for small For more episodes, free resources and links to set up free consultation calls with any of the hosts of this podcast. Thanks again and stay tuned.


Jen Kelly runs New Initiatives Marketing (NIM), the marketing team for businesses who don’t have a marketing team. With implementation and execution as NIM’s focus, we’ve been working world-wide remotely since 2009. NIM has supported marketing strategy execution in companies as large as the Fortune 50 and those as small (but growing) as $2M in annual revenue

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