A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Turkey’s first SEO conference, SEOZone. Since our agency, Ads2people, conducts a large number of on-page audits, from very large and often multilingual corporate sites to regular blogs, I thought it would be helpful to talk about some common on-page pitfalls we see over and over again. This is an exclusive write-up for SEMPO summarizing that presentation. I hope it helps you improve your on-page SEO.
#1 Crawl Budget
Given the fact that search engines such as Google assign a certain crawl budget per domain (and sub-domain), I’m always surprised at how often site-owners simply try to push all of their content into the index. And they also often seem to be completely careless in regards to which sites are crawler-accessible at all.
To assess and fix these problems on your site, a good starting place is Google Webmaster Tools (go to: Crawl > Crawl Stats), which gives a first impression of how a site is doing. A successful graph is slightly increasing – which usually reflects that Google picks up on content being added and therefore returns a bit more frequently. Conversely, if that graph is jumping or massively decreasing, you might have a problem.
There are two ways to control search engine crawlers: using a robots.txt directive and implementing a robots meta tag into the HTML mark-up (or serve it as HTTP X-Robots header). However, the issue with both directives is that they don’t solve your (potential) crawling-budget-issues:
- Robots Meta Tag: Implementing a proper “noindex” does prevent a given page from showing up in search results but that page will still be crawled – and therefore a crawling budget has to be used.
- robots.txt: Blocking a URL (or folder, etc.) does prevent the site from being crawled (and therefore does not waste crawling-budget); however, there are massive downsides. One is that pages might still (partially) show up in search results (mainly due to being linked from someplace else) and all inbound link juice will be cut-off. In other words, those links do not help your rankings.
Considering those points, you might think about combining those… but please – don’t! It simply cannot work. If a page is blocked using robots.txt, a site won’t be crawled and the meta robots tag therefore cannot be read at all!
Watch out for things like filters and sorting, pagination, and other potentially useless pages. We see so often that these are simply being pushed to the index but certainly never can or will rank for anything. Don’t waste Google’s resources on that!
As a rule of thumb: If you want to be sure not to waste crawl-budget, only have pages that really are useful (so don’t create others in the first place). If you have others you don’t want to show up, I’d go with meta robots to at least utilize the inbound link equity.
#2 Duplicate Content
I assume everyone is familiar with duplicate content (DC) issues, but it turns out that’s not the case (if you’re not, please read this first). It always surprises me to see how many sites out there are still not performing well due to a lot of internal (partial) DC. Even though most sites these days are OK in handling session IDs and tracking parameters, here are some “classics” I’d like remind you of: HTTP vs. HTTPs is considered to be DC, products available in multiple categories (and not using a single product URL) are causing DC as well, and sub domains (like staging servers) might get you in trouble.
That said, the rel=”canonical” meta tag (or X-Robots Rel-Canonical Header) can help you fix those issues, but I think this is the third-best option to solve DC issues. In my mind, it’s really all about efficiency – so the best way to solve it is to actually make sure that you only serve contents using one single (canonicalized) URL and not multiple ones. It’s as simple as that.
I’d generally not rely on something that Google calls “a strong hint” – because it’s a hint that they might or might not consider, but essentially it’s not a forcing directive like an HTTP 301 redirect (which they simple have to follow).
Again it comes down to giving Google as few choices as possible. Enforce single, unique URLs with amazing content and 301 redirect previously existing ones (e.g., old or multiple versions) to this (new) URL and you won’t suffer from DC issues.
#3 Proper Mark-Up
There are quite a few differing opinions on if and why proper mark-up is important. I don’t really jump into that discussion, but I’m a strong believer that doing clean and simple mark-up helps. That’s mainly due to the fact that I really don’t want to take chances that a crawler might have “issues” when trying to extract information from a site. And that’s also why I think doing schema.org mark-up is a good thing: It helps engines (not only crawlers) to actually understand (parts of) content and make sense of it. In short, to understand its meaning.
Obviously you have to consider which information you can and want to provide to Google (and others), but if you don’t give your data, they’ll get it elsewhere. So generally speaking, don’t miss out on this. It’s far more than just gaining more CTR due to more prominent results – which is great by the way – but if you combine structured data with rel=”author” and / or rel=”publisher” that the benefits are even greater. It’s basically Google moving toward understanding and assigning verified entities to sets of queries, and you surely don’t want to miss out on that. In my opinion, Google is massively moving to a point where you need to be a verified authority for a given entity and therefore will automatically benefit from all that long tail traffic that belongs to this entity – which makes a lot of sense given the fact that Google sees a massive ~20% of new queries per day.
So if you’ve not yet played around with Rich Snippet mark-up, I recommend you check-out schema.org to see what’s in store for you, get it implemented, and verify your domain and author profile with Google+ to get things started. Good luck!
Bastian Grimm co-runs Ads2people, a full-service performance marketing agency based in Berlin, Germany, where he heads the SEO department as the VP of Search. Having a passion for software development and everything “Tech,” he loves to challenge IT and marketing departments to come up with outstanding results in search marketing. Bastian is a widely cited authority in SEO having spoken at almost every major search conference including SMXs, ISS, SES, SEOkomm, LAC, BAC, and many more events around the globe.
Just last week, numerous SEO blogs and news outlets reported that Google is soon going to start encrypting all search activity both for users who
are signed in as well as those who are not. The only exception will be clicks on ads, which Google will not encrypt. As you can image, this has many marketers up in arms and others simply scratching their heads wondering what comes next. Are there going to be any benefits for marketers, or is this the end of keyword data as we know it?
The Quick Basics: What Does Google “Not Provided” Mean? Hubspot reminded us that the discussion of encryption actually started back in October 2011 when Google announced that any users who are logged in to a Google product (Google+, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) would have encrypted search results. Essentially, a marketer would not be allowed to see the keywords someone used before visiting his/her company’s website, so knowing which keywords to optimize for was a struggle. As any good marketer knows, keyword insights open the door not only for optimizing an actual webpage but also for improving content marketing, retargeting, identifying audience, and much more.
The Real Reason Why: Is Google Doing this to Enhance Their AdWords Sales? Google is claiming it is for extra protection for searchers—a completely valid reason that makes sense. However, many in the field are a bit skeptical. Marketing Land feels that Google might be attempting to block NSA spying activity, while Search Engine Watch threw out the idea that Google might soon release a new “premium” version of Google Analytics where users would pay a monthly fee in order to get access to full keyword data. A more popular opinion is that it could be to drive more people to use Google AdWords. Since ad clicks are not part of this new announcement, how can we not jump to that conclusion? Many are telling small businesses to use AdWords in order to gather this organic data. Consider some quotes from around the web:
- QuickSprout: “Even if Google goes with ‘not provided’ for all your data, you can still uncover new keyword opportunities by using keyword research tools or spending money on AdWords.”
- Search Engine Watch: “At this time advertisers still get full keyword referral data from Google, while there is speculation this could change sometime in the future, there is also the necessity for advertisers to be able to determine conversions from the traffic they are paying for.”
- Moz: “Optionally, we can use AdWords to bid on branded terms and phrases. When we do that, you might want to have a relatively broad match on your branded terms and phrases so that you can see keyword volume that is branded from impression data.”
You certainly can’t blame anyone for giving users this advice because it is good advice. In fact, we’d give that advice ourselves. In short, Google’s plan has worked perfectly. It’s clear that AdWords is going to benefit and privacy was just a secondary thought in Google’s mind that happened to work perfectly when informing the public. Nevertheless, for now all we can really do is believe Google and move on to the next part of any announcement—create a new strategy that works.
Your Reaction: What to Do With Google Not Provided The first thing to understand is that the new change isn’t going anywhere so it’s time to react, whether you agree with Google’s decision or not. Fortunately, there are ways to cope without falling into their trap and spending a lot more money on AdWords; there are still things that you can measure using search data that isn’t necessarily keyword data. Consider some of your options below:
- Other search engines. The keyword trends you will find with search engines such as Bing and Yahoo are very similar to those you would find on Google. These engines have not encrypted their keyword data, so put your focus here and on the keywords that work.
- Traffic from organic. You might not be able to see the exact keywords people are using to find your website but that doesn’t mean you can’t see your overall organic traffic just like you’ve done in the past. It might take a bit more work, but figure out what you’re doing in the way of keywords and how your traffic is performing and then find correlations.
- Use filters and track landing pages. You might not be able to see the exact keyword someone used, but if you can set up a filter on all of the ‘not provided’ traffic and see which landing page those people landed on, you can get an idea of what it was they were searching for when they came to your website.
- Google Webmaster Tools. You can view your top pages and top search queries in GWT where you get clicks. Although you can’t see anything past 90 days, it’s still something that can help you keep track of your progress.
- Google Trends. This will help you see quickly if you are improving or you need to ramp up your efforts.
In the end, this Google update is just something else that will force marketers to adapt, but it isn’t going to take away your job or ruin your chances in the results pages (after all, everyone is in the same boat). Many see this as a positive move for the industry because it will force websites to create great content and put a focus on things that will really produce a great website. As a user, you’re going to be a little bit safer. Do you think this change was for privacy reasons, or do you think Google was more interested in lining their pockets with some increased AdWords sales? What are you going to do in response? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: lumicall.org
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.
Mobile-optimized websites are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their various devices.
If you have a website, the good news is that your business is accessible from any device. The problem is that your site may look very bad if it’s not mobile-optimized, which will create poor user experience and lead to low CRO. While over 50% of people surfing the Internet use their mobile devices to do so, only 21% of all website are mobile-friendly.
The trend to mobile is unstoppable, and Google is constantly pushing the creation of mobile websites. It won’t be surprising if this friendly graphic turns into a ranking factor in the near future.
It is obvious that the growing trend is to think of mobile first and desktop second. This is a hard thing to accept, but all programmers can already see the trend and thus are beginning to apply the change to their work.
“Google programmers are doing work on mobile application first because they are better apps and that’s what top programmers what to develop” –Eric Schmidt. Google Chairman
We really need to shift now to start thinking about building mobile first. This is an even bigger shift than the PC revolution” – Kevin Lynch CTO Adobe
The future of the web is mobile design. There is new device every day, and more and more we find ourselves reaching out to our mobile devices to use the internet.
The Importance of a Mobile-Optimized Website
Wherever you go, you undoubtedly see people on all kinds of mobile devices surfing the web. Over half of Americans who have cell phones use their phone to surf the web, so there are clear benefits that highlight the importance of these features. One of the greatest benefits is that mobile-optimized websites provide a better user experience and increase usability, which should be the ultimate end goal aside from increasing a company’s ROI.
It has been deemed a best practice to have a mobile-optimized website, and Google itself recommends the practice of using responsive web design. New websites that are in development should design with mobile in mind, and existing websites should seriously consider optimizing for mobile use. Here’s an inside look at each type of mobile website optimization:
There are two types of mobile design. The first type consists of an original website and a sub domain dedicated for the mobile version: www.example.com and m.example.com. Can you guess which one is the mobile version? In this form of mobile design, “m.” prefaces the original URL and visitors are redirected to the mobile version when they access the website from a tablet or smartphone. The mobile website is a sub domain, which makes it completely different website than the main one. The mobile version of the website is created specifically to be used on mobile devices, and it usually offers a link with the option to use the regular site instead. This is the old way of doing mobile design and is not the best option available today. Some downfalls include the risk of duplicate content, multiple URLs, and updates have to be done both on the regular and mobile version.
The second form of mobile design is a website that has multiple CSS files (or only one with multiple options for screen size). In this situation, the server determines which type of device is being used, and then it can pull up the specific CSS for a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet. This is the best way to do mobile design. It requires a little more work but it is well worth it.
The difference between the two is that in the first one, there are two completely different websites with different CSS, template, and layout, and in the second, it is the same website but just with three different templates to respond to three types of devices. Both styles of mobile design exist specifically for the purpose of simplifying and enhancing website access on mobile devices.
- The most aesthetically pleasing
- More user friendly
- Only one URL
- Easy to maintain
Responsive Template Design
Responsive template design is the most common approach, although it is not necessarily the best. It is popular because it is often the easiest. It allows a website to be accessible on all devices, regardless of screen size, without CCS changes or additions. Responsive design uses a single template, and the CSS can “sense” the size of the screen so that it can adjust the elements of the page to fit in a cascading manor. It takes the modules with the highest priority and places them first, with the rest of the modules following in order of priority. By default, the modules on the top left are the most important while those on the bottom right are the least important. That way, when a user is scrolling down on a responsive design website, they will see the most important features of the website first. In this sense, responsive design is a “one size fits all” solution, but that doesn’t mean that it is the best solution. Here are the pros and cons:
- High user experience and navigation from mobile to desktop.
- Consistent content and easier to update the website.
- Easier with stats – no need to split traffic between two versions of your website.
- Only one URL.
- New to SEO and might need some fine tuning before we see the optimal result on responsive templates.
- Responsive design could make a website load slower as it adjusts to the appropriate screen size.
- Responsive websites are more complex to code.
- Responsive design is one size fits all, which is usually reflected in the final look of your website.
Successful Brands that Optimized
There are many brands that have successfully employed one of the above options.
Sun Maid, Gateway Bank, and Caribou Coffee have all implemented interactive, interesting, and appealing designs for mobile use. Each of them is different in the features offered. For example, the Sun Maid and Caribou Coffee websites look similar with the menu options, but Caribou Coffee’s website has a convenient slider that switches between pictures on the home page, revealing their latest specials and offers.
Overall, a website that has been optimized for mobile use is the best option for increasing brand awareness. Mobile-optimized websites are designed to deliver faster downloading and browsing speeds, plus they are more cost effective than developing an app. In addition, companies that optimize their websites for mobile use have a competitive advantage when compared to their competitors who do not optimize.
Content, content, content. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of content. But does it really make that big of a difference? You better believe it. The right content can attract new customers and help SEO for your site, which results in all the precious leads. According to B2B Infographics, 92% of SEO practitioners say content creation is an effective SEO tactic, and 76% regularly invest in content creation.
Let’s take a step back and start at the beginning. Content is a cycle that helps create brand awareness, website traffic, and leads and build relationships. Your social media presence, blog, email marketing, and paid search work together for consumers to find your business online. All of these activities increase brand awareness. Then, your engaging content sends customers directly to your website, where they can scope out your business.
Content also improves your SEO by helping your website get indexed faster, increasing rankings for search terms, and increasing domain ranking. It’s a win-win. According to iMedia Connection, 71% of marketers say that content marketing has helped improve their site’s ranking in organic search, and 77% say it has increased website traffic.
So we understand why it’s important but how can using content be put into action to generate leads?
1. Create a mix
Develop a mix of both paid and owned content to generate leads. Mixing PPC ads and social media ads along with engaging content will allow new customers to become aware of your business. In combination with your engaging content, customers will never want to leave.
2. Get creative
There are numerous ways to reach customers through engaging content. One way to reach customers and build relationships is through email. For example, after a customer makes a purchase, offer them a discount if they review your product. This will not only show that you care about what customers think but also provides incentives for making another purchase. You just generated another lead through content (Go you!).
3. Drive it back home
Consistently linking content and paid search back to your website will help drive traffic to your website, therefore creating leads. Whether it’s a blog post, mobile app, or a Facebook ad, every piece should have a website link. Provide a contact form on each page, ask for feedback, post customer reviews, and get customer contact information to continually generate leads.
Once you’ve executed your plan, it’s time to analyze your success. Determine the cost per lead by using your PPC amount and the number of leads you received. Use Google Analytics to determine the number of clicks from social to your website. By analyzing the data, you can make informed decisions to decrease your costs and increase your profits.
iMedia Connection found that 70% of marketers say that content marketing has increased their brand awareness,59% believe it supports sales growth, and 45% say it has reduced their advertising costs. After analyzing the data, it’s important to remember that generating leads through engaging content is an ongoing cycle that can play an integral role in your business’ success.
Compelling website content is the key to engaging with your audience. It needs be unique, shareable, and useful for the reader, as well as optimized to help attract/influence search engines… Let’s go back to the basics with 10 tips to writing engaging, optimized content:
1. Headline – When it comes to creating content, a headline needs to be compelling. Why? Simply because it is the first thing readers look at. When trying to write a headline, keep in mind that it should draw in readers and give them (and search engines) a very concise idea of what your content will be about.
2. Show and Tell – Write your article as if you were writing your English papers back in college. Back up your points with reliable sources (links when possible) as this will make your content more credible. Also consider using graphics to reinforce key points (see below for more on this).
3. The 5 W’s – Try to answer the “who, what, when, where, and why” questions as concisely as possible. When each of these questions are answered, your content becomes more useful and more likely to be shared.
4. KISS (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) – Most of the time, content that is to the point keeps readers interested and more likely to read through the whole article; put away those thesauruses and avoid using jargon!
5. Meta Description – Like the headline, the meta description is what search engines use in their results listing to let your readers know exactly what your content is about. Try to be as specific as possible so as to capture your reader’s attention.
6. Optimize with Keywords – A very easy way for your content to be easily searched and receive higher traffic is by implementing the use of keywords. Focus on a single keyword or keyword phrase for each piece of content. Include several “natural/conversational” keyword mentions but don’t overdo it. Remember, it’s always quality over quantity.
7. Images – Like keywords, images are what draw readers to your content. Remember, search engine bots don’t see pictures, so be sure to optimize your images. This can be done by including a descriptive file name, alt text, and a caption for your images.
8. Summary – As a conclusion to your content, always recap what you are trying to say in the article. For some readers, the conclusion is where they draw most of the information, or at least tidbits of the information. It’s also a good place to encourage feedback from your readers.
9. Revision – When you believe you have finished writing your article, think again. Always revise and edit until you cannot revise anymore. Then don’t be afraid to make more changes to the content if it’s not getting the readership you expected.
10. Social Sharing – Finally, include social sharing features on each page of your website. When people share your content through social, it can help your website rankings.
Try out different tips to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Always experiment until you’ve come to the right recipe for drawing readers to your website.
Do you have a tip for writing engaging, optimized content? Share in the comments below:
You wake up to the alarm on your phone. Then you quickly check the weather forecast for the day from your weather app. While standing in line for the elevator at work, you get caught up on world news through Twitter. When it’s time for lunch, you don’t feel like walking down the street, so you order takeout from your favorite restaurant through their app. As you are about to leave work, you get an alert about a traffic accident. Now you know to take an alternate route. After a long day, you’re not sure what to eat for dinner, so you find a new recipe with a quick search. All in a day’s work for your mobile device.
If this is how you are using your mobile device, you better believe your customers are using it the same way.
Mobile is no longer an option; it is a way of life. According to StatCounter, mobile devices now drive almost 20% of all global internet traffic. Google recently confirmed that sites without optimized mobile experiences won’t rank as high in their search results. And if you want Google to like your business, you better start with some mobile initiatives.
Most consumers are not only using mobile devices for search but they are starting with mobile devices for search. 50% of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. This isn’t just when they don’t have access to a computer; this is when consumers are at home, on the couch, with friends, or travelling. To be straightforward, if you don’t have a mobile strategy, you are losing out.
Here are 4 tips to develop a robust mobile strategy:
1. Know Your Business and Know Your Consumers
It may seem like a no brainer, but the first step in developing a mobile strategy is starting with self-reflection. Determine the key aspects of your business and what consumers need from your brand. For instance, analyze the mobile visitor’s behavior on the current site. What pages are they requesting? Where are most of the mobile visitors dropping? Once you know what they need and what you want to get across, you can begin to cultivate a plan of action.
2. Create a Mobile Website
Consumers expect to easily be able to view a company website through their mobile device. One of the best options recommended by Google for a mobile-optimized website is responsive web design in which the website responds to the device your customer uses. This means one website with a layout that varies depending on whether your customer is on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Without a mobile-optimized website, customers can become frustrated and annoyed by the enlarging, scrolling, and unnecessary clicking they may have to do. A mobile-optimized website allows consumers to find the information they need quickly. Create a layout that highlights key points your consumers will want to find – location, phone number, hours, sales, or specials.
You will also want to optimize your mobile pages for organic search. Google recommends focusing on rendering above-the-fold content to users in one second or less while the rest of the page continues to load and render in the background. Web pages that render quickly will rank better than those that have a long load time. Another consideration for the web developer is to avoid common configuration mistakes that affect rankings in a Google search. These mistakes include unplayable videos, faulty redirects, and app download interstitials.
3. Understand and Develop PPC ads
Mobile PPC ads are based on four main factors:
Position – Because screen sizes on smartphones are smaller than desktops, it is extremely important for advertisers to bid more aggressively for the first two positions on the search page results. If you don’t come up in the first 2 positions, your ads will be shown at the bottom of the first screen, or worst, pushed to the second page, increasing the chance of not being seen.
Keywords – Generally, mobile searches include more misspellings and shorter phrases than those performed on desktop computers. If budget allows, keep this in mind and bid on commonly misspelled brand and related terms.
Individuality – Write ads that are tailored specifically for mobile users. Potential customers performing searches on mobile devices want to find information quickly and be able to navigate the site easily as possible. Mobile accessible discounts, promotional codes, or sales alerts that are triggered by location encourage users to utilize a business’ mobile site or app.
Extensions – When possible, ads should take advantage of call extensions. If your business has a phone number, you can easily include a “Call” button in your ad or on your website that allows the searcher the option to call your business right then and there. Remember, 52% of users have called a business after searching.
4. Incorporate Social Media
Social media and a mobile strategy go together like peanut butter and jelly. This is where you can really engage your consumers to use all the mobile strategies you’ve been working on. Offer mobile-friendly coupons, start a loyalty program that requires customers to “check-in” to earn rewards, or go big and create an app designed precisely for the needs of your customers. Encourage your customers to continue to use the app/mobile device to drive engagement and build brand loyalty.
70% of mobile searches lead to action within an hour. Can you imagine what that number will be like in the next year? The next two years? Consumers expect a mobile strategy. However, don’t jump into creating it without a plan. It’s important to make your mobile strategy memorable and creative but most importantly useful. Don’t forget about the “real world” aspects and how mobile will be incorporated. Developing a strategy to serve your customers, creating a mobile-optimized website, utilizing mobile ads, and incorporating social media are four main ways to ensure your business will be ready for 2014 and most importantly, ready to serve your customers.
According to comScore, one in every three minutes spent online is spent on devices other than a PC. With the increase in usage of mobile and tablets, businesses need a mobile strategy to compete and meet customer needs, regardless how big or small the company is.
Mobile devices are extensions of the people who use them. According to research done by Morgan Stanley, 91% of all Americans have their mobile devices within reach of them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Given the growth of the industry, Internet availability, and the number of consumers using mobile devices, there should be no question as to whether or not a business should develop a mobile strategy to reach local consumers.
Let’s talk about the keys to an effective mobile strategy:
A Mobile-Optimized Website
A mobile-optimized website is essential for an effective mobile strategy. According to Google, 67% of mobile users say they are more likely to buy a product or service from a site that is mobile-friendly because a well-designed mobile experience allows users to easily find the information they are looking for without frustration. When designed correctly, mobile sites can make a sale available at the touch of a button.
On the other hand, 52% of users say a poor mobile experience will make them less likely to engage with that brand in the future. So you can see how critical a mobile-optimized website is to conversions and your company’s brand and reputation.
A Local Search Strategy
Approximately 40% of all mobile searches on Google are for local purposes and that number will continue to grow. In today’s world, consumers are relying on their mobile devices for information on everything, including local products and services. This is a big opportunity for local businesses to be found.
An SEO campaign that targets a specific location is the most effective way to ensure potential customers can find you. A well-executed local SEO strategy means your website is optimized for location-specific keywords as well as for local business directories like Google+ Local and Bing Local. These directories are important because Google and Bing have assigned the top of their search results pages to local businesses for local searches. Being listed at the top of the search results page is important; 92% of traffic comes from first page search results.
In addition to organic search, consider using paid search to increase mobile traffic. The key is creating a PPC campaign that targets the specific location you serve. This includes adding the business phone number and address in the PPC ad. This will allow mobile users to quickly find you or easily click to call you. It is important to test and monitor your ad ranking to make sure it is being shown at the top of the first page of results, as traffic drops by 95% when you move to page two.
As consumer behaviors and attitudes change, marketers will need to quickly adapt to stay ahead of the competition. According to Collin Cornwell, Vice President, Natural Search, iCrossing, “In order to compete for today’s sophisticated online consumers, brands must have a deep understanding of how users arrive at their website, and the tools and know-how to optimize their site to stay in front of the consumer at every step of the purchase cycle.”
Multi-channel customer care options including a mobile-optimized website and paid search advertising are becoming a must for businesses. By developing an effective mobile strategy, your business will strengthen customer relationships, build brand loyalty, and increase its bottom line.
Are you fine-tuning your mobile strategy? Share your ideas in the comments below:
Like any other marketing tactic, site owners want to see the results of their SEO investment. Are their efforts/time/money paying off? Since SEO is long-term, it’s often hard to show immediate progress, but with a few months of link building, content creation, and social activity under your belt, it’s usually possible to see some semblance of positive progress. Here are three ways site owners can measure their SEO success:
1. Increase in non-branded, organic traffic.
Probably the easiest way to measure SEO success, a growth in non-branded, organic traffic is usually a sure sign your SEO campaign is having a positive impact on your website. Visitors who come to your site through non-branded keywords didn’t necessarily set out looking to do business with your brand; they found you through the search engines. As you optimize your website and begin to build new links and fresh content and grow your social presence, your website earns more SEO value, helping it do better in the SERPs for various search phrases. Depending on your niche, your SEO growth might be a steady upward slope month after month, while for other companies it has its ups and downs and is a slower process. But even a small increase in organic traffic month over month adds up. While 50 new visitors a month may not seem like much right now, at the end of the year that’s an extra 600 visitors.
2. Increase in referral links and visitors.
As you build more content, both on your blog and on other industry sites, you are also building/earning natural links. One blog post on a popular niche blog can send hundreds of visitors to your site over a few months. For instance, I did an interview with link building expert Eric Ward, which he linked to from the homepage of his site. In a month that one referral link sent 800 unique visitors back to the blog post! As you build/earn links you might start to notice new referral links and extra bursts in traffic. For instance, one of my clients wrote a blog post that got linked to from a Forbes blogger (perfect example of earning links through content marketing!) and that post is still sending 25-50 visitors a month to their blog. Take a look in your Google Webmaster Tools account and download the latest links to see if there are any new referral links that indicate your SEO program is proving successful. You can also look in Google Analytics as well as Moz’s Open Site Explorer for new referral links.
3. Increase in number of non-branded keywords driving traffic.
While you may have a short list of “money keywords” that you want to do well for, those aren’t the only search phrases that could be driving traffic to your website. A good SEO program is about building organic traffic from as many relevant search phrases as possible because no two people are guaranteed to search for the same thing in the same way. You want your website to be a viable result for a wide variety of non-branded search phrases in order to connect with as large a customer base as possible. Take a look at your Google Analytics account, pick a time frame 6 months before your started your SEO campaign, and compare it to now—how many new non-branded keywords are appearing? It doesn’t matter if those new keywords sent 10 visitors apiece or just 1—more non-branded keywords is a good sign that your SEO campaign is helping improve your organic search presence.
Obviously the end goal of any marketing program is to increase sales, but it’s equally important to look at these SEO successes as steps along the conversion path. You can’t reach more customers if they can’t find your website, right? An increase in traffic, referral links, and non-branded keywords are all signs that your overall online presence is growing and with that comes more leads into your sales funnel.
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/), a Boston-area SEO company. With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.
Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Google’s recent Penguin 2.0 update affected 2.3% of English language queries. Despite significant foreshadowing during the weeks leading up to the rollout, a large number of affected websites obviously were not able clean up their link profile in time and were hit with an algorithmic link spam penalty. This is what happens when you can’t act rapidly.
Web marketing is a rapidly changing field. It’s important to have a process that allows for rapid adjustments and focuses on rapid iteration. Basically, systems are needed where experiments can be implemented and measured at the speed at which the research methodology and environment changes. As web marketing professionals in a constantly changing landscape, we can’t have processes that need to be re-done constantly while we adapt to a rapidly changing environment. For this reason, agile/lean startup methodologies are super hot topics in marketing communities right now. For those of you who are unfamiliar, I will give a quick overview, but I highly recommend watching this Whiteboard Friday video by Jonathan Coleman that gives a quick rundown of agile marketing.
Agile started out as an offshoot of extreme programming that put the developer at the forefront of development work (shocking right?). If you are interested in the origins of agile you should check out the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development.” Meanwhile, The Lean Startup, a book written by Eric Ries, combines some of the methodologies of agile with customer development as well as some of the tenets of lean manufacturing. I highly recommend reading The Lean Startup as well as checking out Jim Ewel’s website.
One quick concept before we start:
Do you persevere or do you pivot? This is a core concept to know when it comes to lean startup methodologies. The basic point of agile/lean is to ensure you are in a feedback loop where you are constantly working to iterate on your existing projects or develop new ones. Ries calls this the ‘Build-Measure-Learn’ cycle. After the learning component, you have to decide if you are going to continue to iterate down your existing path, aka persevere, or if you are going to alter your tactics and strategy because you aren’t seeing the results you would like: a pivot.
Prerequisite: It’s Okay to Fail
In fact, this is probably the most important part of implementing agile/lean and may require a major cultural shift within your organization (or for your clients). Sometimes we end up on “Failure Road,” and that’s okay, as long as there is knowledge gained from the failure that propels you towards success. However, very few managers want to tell their people that it is okay to fail. If you are in this position, then you must advocate for this change. Luckily, there is some correlation between telling people it’s okay to fail and subsequent success that you can share with people. In my experience, the resistance to this concept is based around the misconception that you are encouraging failure. This is not true. What SHOULD BE encouraged is people putting their best ideas forward, to think experimentally, and to try risky things. If people are worried about failure, they will only put forward sure things, which MAY succeed more often, but generally won’t be huge successes. When people believe they won’t be punished for failure, they will contribute more. Remember, you don’t have to succeed at first, as long as your efforts help to iterate or pivot toward the success you want.
Tip # 1: Establishing Metrics
You may think this is obvious, but I am always shocked when I hear people talk about the metrics they put in place before launching/changing a marketing campaign or altering something on their website. In today’s online marketing climate, data is pervasive and should be used to determine not only relevant success metrics (KPIs) but also metrics that may help determine if it’s time to pivot. This is particularly important for the current wave of search marketing, where data are already being used to drive decisions. Marketo has a useful guide on marketing metrics, and Joanna Lord has a great post about marketing analytics that I highly recommend. If you need more help, the amazing Avinash Kaushik lays out his best web metrics for you in this blog post. The best piece of advice I can give here is both tried and true: stay away from vanity metrics.
Tip # 2: Bias towards Action
Don’t let the focus on metrics and data bog you down with analysis paralysis. A key component of agile/lean is continual development, so it’s important to constantly try new ideas out, measuring them and pivoting/persevering based on the success of the strategy. Keep in mind, having a bias toward action is not the same as regularly throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. The latter is not a strategy; it is a tactic that results from a lack of a strategy. A tactic I have used to help create a bias toward action is “Unless I Heard Differently.” This technique is based on putting your best hypothesis forward and explaining the reasoning behind it, while at the same time preparing to implement it in accordance with your internal agile/lean processes if you don’t hear back from key principles. I understand that all teams are different, so your mileage may vary, but I would urge you to check out the website linked above and give the technique a test drive.
Tip # 3 Use a Canvas
Canvases stemmed from some of the problems surrounding business plans, project plans, and product requirement documents. They are one-pagers that generally take less than an hour to create and are designed for constant updating and manipulation. There are tons of lean and agile canvases out there. Seriously, there are lots. My personal favorite is the Lean Startup Machine’s Validation Board. It can be used for search marketing with very little adaptation. Another good choice is Jim Ewel’s marketing model canvas. Whatever canvas you chose, the important thing is to treat your canvas like a living document. This is important because the decision to pivot can be a tough one, and when you have an easy-to-consume document that contains all the relevant data, getting buy-in for that decision will be much easier.
Tip # 4 The 5 Why’s
A tactic Eric Ries talks about in The Lean Startup I have found to be incredibly useful is asking “why” five times to get to the root cause of an issue. Here is a great article about the tactic. Not only does this process help to get to the root cause of problems, but it helps break down transparency barriers and teach people that failure is okay as long as you work rapidly to correct the problem and drive toward success. This is one of the most successful tactics I have implemented to get to the bottom of issues surrounding poor performing campaigns, or a lack of proper training.
Tip #5 Using an Agile Board
Don’t try to manage projects in a spreadsheet or worse, Microsoft Project. An agile board is the preferred project management system for agile/lean and for good reason. It is designed to work best in an environment where there is constant iteration. It is different than a canvas, at least in the way I use them, because the canvas is very high level while the board is for project management. You can use a wall and a bunch of sticky notes or you can use a software program. Trello is a free agile project management web application that is pretty amazing. At Relevant Ads we use LeanKit, but there are a lot more available for choosing if you find either of those options lacking. Personally, I would recommend Trello. Speaking of which, Miranda Rensch gave a fantastic presentation on agile at MozCon 2013 and created this work sheet for creating your own agile board using Trello.
What it Looks Like When You Are Doing it Right
A great example of having a bias toward action is Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet. In case you haven’t heard about this, there was a blackout during Super Bowl XLVII that delayed the biggest American sporting event of the year. While the stadium was still dark Oreo put out this tweet:
They developed messaging to a real-time event, had creative designed, copy written, and went live. The result of this rapid development process for their marketing campaign speaks for itself.
Look at all the top tier sites that have embedded this tweet! This tweet was retweeted by 11% of Oreo’s followers. Granted they are not all Oreo followers but we are going to use that number, retweets divided by followers, to normalize disparate follow counts and act as a proxy for reach. For example, it was retweeted 101 more times than this post by Rand Fishkin announcing the rebrand of SEOmoz to Moz.
Those 157 retweets only represent .09% of Rand’s “reach.” On the other end of the spectrum, the following tweet by Barack Obama announcing victory in the 2012 presidential election is the most retweeted post in the history of Twitter. It was retweeted 50 more times than Oreo’s post, but it accounts for only 2% of his “reach.”
It takes time to get your agile/lean processes to the point at which you want them. Post-mortem reviews are critical because it takes a while before hitting your stride. This allows applying the same methods applied to campaigns and tactics to be applied to your agile/lean process and allows you to get to where you want to be quicker.
Do you implement agile/lean in your company? I would love to hear from you regarding successes and/or horror stories in the comments below.
At the end of the day, the main goal of most SEO campaigns is to drive more targeted, organic, non-branded traffic from the SERPs to your website. The keywords you target on your site and with your content marketing efforts have a significant impact on the kinds of searches your website will rank for. Not everyone is going to search for the same thing in the same way, and depending on where searchers are in their buying cycle, they might be looking for different kinds of information. That’s why your keywords have to cover every stage of the customer buying cycle and include both informational and commercial keywords.
Informational keywords tend to have the highest amount of search volume because they are being used by searchers at the very beginning of their buying cycle and can lead searchers down many paths. Since these keywords have more search volume, they are “worth” a lot more to the companies targeting them with their SEO, since even 10% of 20,000 searches from one keyword would be a nice bump in organic traffic. This increase in competition makes it that much harder to rank well in the SERPs for these informational keywords, simply because so many other sites are fighting for top billing.
Let’s say I am an inventor and I need to hire a patent attorney. I have no idea how much I should pay for their services, how to tell if a patent attorney is trustworthy, and so forth. So my searches for “patent attorney” are going to involve more informational and broad keywords at the beginning as I’m looking to gather as much information as I can before making a final decision. As I learn more, I might search for things like “patenting my idea,” “how to patent my invention,” “invention patent,” and more.
Broader keywords don’t usually convert as well as long-tail keywords because, as I mentioned before, they can take so many directions based on user intent. For instance, when I did a quick search for “patent attorney” the 4th site I saw in the SERPs (after all the local listings) was about how someone can become a patent attorney. As an inventor, that doesn’t help me very much. However, an actual patent attorney isn’t going to avoid targeting “patent attorney” as a keyword simply because some of the searchers might be looking for a new career path. This informational keyword could drive a lot of potential business to their site early on in the buying cycle, giving them more time to educate, inform, and build a rapport with those visitors. As the inventor, I might not pick up the phone and call the first result I click on, but maybe I scope out their services, read some of the blog, download a white paper about filing patents, and file that particular attorney away in the back of my mind. As I continue my searching and move further along my buying cycle, if I see that site again I might be more inclined to click back over.
Informational keywords are an important part of your SEO program because they can help introduce your website to a wider audience and help turn your company into a resource for those customers as they move through their buying cycle.
Commercial keywords tend to be used by searchers who are further along in their buying cycle and are getting ready to pull the trigger. Obviously words like “buy,” “download,” “order,” and so forth are strong indicators that someone is looking to convert soon, but not every commercial keyword has to include a purchasing word like those. For example, let’s say I was interested in starting a vegetable garden in my backyard. My informational searches might be things like “planting a vegetable garden, “easy vegetables to grow,” “first time gardening tips,” and so forth. I’m not necessarily looking to buy anything just yet; I’m just trying to get a better understanding of what I’m getting myself into. However, as I move through my buying cycle and am getting ready to actually start planting, my searches might evolve to included things like “vegetable garden starter kit,” “vegetable garden soil mix,” or “raised vegetable garden bed.” I don’t specifically say I want to buy something in my search phrase, but what I am searching for indicates I’m looking for a specific thing as opposed to general information.
Commercial keywords are an important part of your SEO campaign because these are the keywords that tend to make the money. While the conversion rate might be higher, more long-tail and specific keywords also tend to have a smaller search volume, meaning a smaller pie for you to drive traffic from. For instance, “vegetable gardening” might drive 3,000 visitors to a particular site while “organic vegetable garden pesticides” may only send 50 in the same time frame. However, someone using the more commercial keyword knows what they are looking for specifically and might be more inclined to buy sooner rather than later.
When it comes to SEO, you have to make certain that your keywords cover all stages of the buying cycle—all the way from the initial information gathering phase right up until the point where they pull out their credit card. Depending on what you are selling and how much it costs, the buying cycle might take several months to complete. Imagine if you had to lay down $10,000 for a product—you would probably take your time, right? Or your customer’s buying cycle could be relatively short if it’s a relatively straightforward purchase. But a good SEO campaign seeks to target both informational and commercial keywords because it helps your website appear in the SERPs for the broadest possible audience.
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO solutions company Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/). With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.
Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or email@example.com