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Search Engine Optimization

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Paid Search Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Website Analytics

SEO and UX are Married After All

wedding rings-SEO and UXFor many years people considered user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) to be at odds. But do they truly have conflicting goals? I don’t think so. Rather they work together to move a visitor to the chosen conversion(s).

You can have optimized website pages bringing you lots of traffic, but if your site is unappealing, difficult to read or navigate and contains poor content, visitors will leave without converting. On the other hand you can have easy to navigation and fantastic headlines, content and images, but if your website cannot be easily found you will have no traffic to read your great content and convert. Without both UX and SEO, you will have low conversion rates, and that isn’t good for business.

Creating a compelling experience yet optimized website is possible. The key is balance. In fact, the two disciplines often reference each other. For example, Google Webmaster state, “Make pages primarily for users, not search engines.” Here are some steps you can take to optimize user experience and search engine optimization on your website.

Site Speed

Many studies report that visitors expect a site to load within two seconds and will abandon it after three or four seconds. Make sure your site is designed to load quickly. Tied to that is a limitation on the use of Flash and JavaScript. As more people search via mobile phones, this issue becomes more important because not operating systems support Flash, such as iOS.

Easily Understandable

The primary purpose of the site should be easily understood by a visitor. Keep the design and purpose simple instead of overwhelmingly complicated. Clearly explain your product or service and incorporate primary keyword phrases in a way that is natural. Use bullets and bold headings instead of large blocks of text along with proper semantic markup with an H1 tag and subsequent H2 tags for sections containing keyword phrase variations.

Do not be afraid to directly ask a visitor to subscribe to a newsletter, download an eBook or whatever other action you want a visitor to take. Visitors need to know what you want them to do next.

Easily Accessible

Use a clear page hierarchy and navigation structure. Visitors need to easily move around the site and find what they need with a minimal number of clicks. They should not have to guess about where information can be found because they will go elsewhere for their answers. Search indices need to have a crawlable link structure to find all the pages and properly index them.

Anticipate Visitors’ Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

When creating a website bear in mind why visitors are on your website and what type of information they are looking for. Make sure the information they most need is available, easily found and of high quality. By doing so, you help both visitors and search engines.

Match Conversion Paths to Buyer Persona(s) and Sales Process

Although it is easy to find the paths people take on your website, the more important issue is why they take certain paths. Collect data about your visitors’ website behavior and create your conversion paths based on it. Sending them on an unnatural path will only frustrate them and lower your conversion rates.

By knowing your visitors’ behavior, you can also incorporate your sales process into the web design. Identify potential problem areas and design the site to prevent them. If you do have a sudden conversion drop, find the most common drop-off points and analyze further. Modify the site based on your new understanding.

These basic steps will help you optimize your website for both UX and SEO. Will there be compromises at times? Sure. However, if you stay focused on your business goals, you will best utilize user experience and search engine optimization in the end.

Behind the High Bounce Rate Issue

“Oh, no! My site’s pages have high bounce rates. What do I do? The world is coming to an end!” Sound familiar? That’s the message being perpetuated about bounce rates when actually the issue is more nuanced.

What is bounce rate? Google says it is “…the percentage of visits that go to only one page before exiting a site.” The bounce rate is intended to help you determine the efficacy of your site.

High bounce rates

Five ways people could “bounce”:

  • Clicks on an external link
  • Presses the browser back button
  • Types another URL into the browser
  • Session timeout
  • Closes the browser window

Bounce rates vary greatly by industry, site type and page intent. Therefore, a magic bounce rate does not exist so don’t go chasing unicorns. Generally, people consider 50% or lower as being very good. However, you can have high converting pages with an 80% bounce rate.

Reasons for a High Bounce Rate

Let’s take a look at why a bounce rate may be high for a page or website:

  • People founded what they needed and left
  • Wrong traffic targeted
  • Misleading PPC advertisements
  • Content isn’t engaging or outdated
  • Poor website design
  • Intrusive advertisements
  • Slow load time
  • External links
  • In-page actions, such as video plays
  • Tracking profiles for only some of your pages

Are All High Bounce Rates Bad?

Now, not every high bounce rate is cause for alarm. The goals of some pages aren’t to get a visitor to spend a lot of time on site but to take a specific action. For example, if you have a page with contact information, a person might leave after getting the phone number or address. That would count as a bounce but could result in an offline conversion. Also, a regular blog reader may visit a site to read the latest post and then leave. Knowing the purpose of each page and looking at returning versus first-time visitors can be beneficial.

What Can You Do to Lower Your Bounce Rate?

But what if the goal of your website pages is to keep people onsite? What steps can you take to lower the bounce rate?

  • Add links to related information on your site
  • Offer high quality, relevant content with clear calls-to-action
  • Enhance website usability – fonts, color contrast, organization, bulleted lists, large headlines
  • Use intuitive navigation
  • Design site specifically for target audience
  • Decrease page load time
  • Use mobile responsive site design
  • Reduce number of advertisements, especially above the fold
  • Open external links in new windows
  • Customize 404 page with search box and link back to home page
  • Turn off autoplay
  • Avoid pop-ups
  • Fix broken hyperlinks

Before making a bazillion tweaks and changes to your site, first review the individual pages and overall site to see what’s performing as expected and what’s not. Once you know where you problems are, you can start implementing specific tactics to lower the bounce rate, making your pages stickier. 

 

Why You Should Use Secondary Calls-to-Action

Marketing experts advise companies to use prominent calls-to-action (CTAs) for their websites, social media, emails and any other communication. We are to tell people exactly what we want them to do – a single action. But what if they aren’t ready for it or interested? That’s where secondary calls-to-action come into play.

What is a Secondary CTA?

A secondary CTA is a call-to-action that provides an alternative action to the primary action you want people to take whether they are website visitors, prospects or leads so you don’t lose them altogether. They let you further engage and potentially capture people who are not interested in your primary CTA or may need additional information before taking the desired action. Your secondary CTA is typically less prominent than your primary CTA and requires less commitment. For example, your primary call-to-action may be to start a free trial period for new software with a secondary CTA to take a tour of the software’s features.

This example is from Moz, where it is promoting its new marketing analytics software, Moz Pro. If you are like me, you want to get more information to maximize your 30-day free trial experience, or you may prefer to just jump in. Moz kindly provides you with both options.

Secondary Call-to-Action - Moz Pro Software

Benefits of Secondary Calls-to-Action

Using a secondary call-to-action has many benefits than using a primary CTA alone:

Increased Time on Website
People today are spending more and more time checking out your business and researching the solutions to their needs. This is especially true in the complex B2B environment where the conversion process can be quite long or any large personal purchase like a car. Sending people to an online demo, related articles, etc. will keep them exploring your website instead of jumping to your competitor’s.

Incremental Conversions
Ideally, primary CTAs match where a person is in the conversion process.  However, a lead may have already downloaded multiple e-books or articles but still may not be ready to move ahead. If you are using tools like progressive profiling, then you can gather more information on a leads as they continue to convert on the secondary CTAs to create better personalized lead nurturing campaigns.

Move Leads to Next Stage
Despite sophisticated technology, we can never truly know when someone is ready to move forward in the sales process. Secondary CTAs at least keep people moving incrementally along, which is better than not at all. You may also have people who have only converted on a couple offers so you don’t feel comfortable for the big score just yet. However, what if you provided a lesser option as a primary CTA and the big one as your secondary? Some people may be ready to make the big commitment. They don’t need any more nurturing. This way you’ll get both groups.

Support Other Company Goals
Not every call-to-action has to be focused on the “ideal” sales action. Other actions may be just as important to your company. These actions can be used as either primary or secondary calls-to-action based on your current goals. You can have the CTA involve social sharing and connection, email newsletter subscriptions, promoting a company-sponsored event, fundraising or any number of other business goals.

So don’t just create primary CTAs and walk away. Instead, make sure you are capturing and converting as many people as possible with the addition of quality secondary CTAs. You may be surprised how many people will take the ultimate action with just a bit more nurturing.

 

Landing Pages: A Marketing Must Have

Landing Pages-parachutist

photo credit: pmarkham via photopin cc

You spend tremendous amounts of time, money and effort getting prospective customers to your website but then nothing. Crickets. What’s the missing piece here in your online marketing efforts? Landing pages!

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is a singly highly focused website page that an advertisement or other hyperlink direct people to “land” on to take a specific action. Some potential actions include downloading a white paper, completing a demonstration request or signing up for a newsletter.

Some Reasons to Use Landing Pages

  1. Lead Capture – So many campaigns simply send people to the home page. Instead, send them to a page that details the benefits of taking a specific action and include a lead capture. These leads can then be segmented, nurtured or distributed to the sales team.
  2. Advertising Conversion Effectiveness – All advertising is more effective if it sends prospects to a targeted page that does nothing but support your advertising message.
  3. Promote Multiple Products – Instead of having a general product or service page, create pages that are focused on individual products or services and are tailored to specific audiences.
  4. Keep Visitors Focused – The typical home page allow visitors’ attention to wander. Properly executed landing pages help focus them more effectively on your offer and nothing else.
  5. Increase Conversion Rates – Because you are giving visitors exactly what they want, your conversion rates increase.
  6. Better Qualified Leads – Unlike general visitors to your website, people who arrive on a landing page do so because they clicked on a specific ad or link. They are already interested in what is being offered. With the landing page, you can provide more information on the benefits of taking a specific action.
  7. Better Metrics – Each time a prospect completes a lead capture form or takes other specific actions, you can collect more demographics about them and understand which ones are more engaged. You also gain better insight into your marketing efforts, such as how well your offers compare and how prospects are converting on your landing pages.
  8. Increase Appearance in Search Results – By having multiple focused pages, your website has a better chance of showing up in search results.

Instead of losing prospects, capture them by using landing pages and convert them to sales. Numerous resources exist to help you create and test landing pages. Take advantage of them. Your bottom line will thank you.

Help Users Find What They’re Looking For

In teaching a class this semester on digital media writing, I stumbled across this quote.

“Zen with the fact that your readers are not choosing you because you are great, but because you have something they need.”

The quote is by Brian Carroll, author of “Writing for Digital Media,” which is the textbook for the course.

Isn’t that what search engine optimization is all about? Our goal is to be found because of what we have on the page. And then if our users decide we’re great, that’s an added benefit.

Interestingly though, Carroll places this quote in the middle of a chapter not on SEO, but on page structure and organization and writing for the digital screen.

In other words, if SEO helped get a person onto your site, what have you done on your page to make the information that the person is looking for easy to find?

Think about it. How many times have you typed a phrase into Google and clicked on a search result, only to hunt around and hunt around on the page and not find what it was you were looking for in the first place?  Usually you do one of two things. You either use your Find feature in your browser … or you click the back button and try another search result.

Either way, it’s a frustrating experience. So don’t make your site require a compass for users to find what they’re looking for.

Carroll offers several suggestions to help you help your users find the information they need, including providing clear and consistent navigation throughout the site and writing with simple language. These days, both of those things are fairly commonplace.

But here are some others that we don’t always think about that may be helpful:

Subheads

I’m not sure why we don’t use these more, but as online content producers, we should start doing so. Subheads are a great way to help aid in navigation through chunked content. (It also provides another strong opportunity for a natural keyword insertion.)

Lists

This is another technique that we don’t use nearly enough. I know my classes are tired of hearing me talk about lists, but when used in a strategic way, they can be extremely effective. Also, be sure to think about the length of the list. If it’s too long, your users may not read all of the items, which defeats the purpose.

Shorter Paragraphs

In general, users don’t read pages on the Web, they scan. The best way to help in the scanning process – in addition to the aforementioned subheads and lists – is simply to keep your paragraphs shorter. The extra “white space” between paragraphs is a break for the eye and makes it easier to find things quickly.

By trying some of these tactics in addition to your already well-planned SEO strategies, not only will users find your site, but they’ll find what they’re looking for on your page quickly and easily.

Keep that up, and your users will think you are great.

The Best AdWords Updates During July

The month of July in the world of PPC brought anticipation with a little bit of a let down, new extension options, and a (little) more insight into the all important quality score metric (kind of).

Here is a wrap up of the four best AdWords updates during July!

E-Day Wasn’t That Big of a Deal
The much anticipated date when all AdWords campaigns would be automatically upgraded from the legacy to enhanced came and went and the switch was not completely flipped “on.” After being flooded with months and months of alerts and emails warning to update before June, then by July 22nd, Google announced that the “deadline” was more of a “you should get it done by this time-ish because it’s slower rolling out than we anticipated.” Now that everyone is on the enhanced platform the focus will shift from news about preparing for the change to best practices for the update.

AdWords Bid Adjustments Now Pulling into Analytics
In news that will kind of cut down on the number of places you log in to, PPC managers will now be able to see enhanced campaign bid adjustment settings within analytics, yeay! Users who have linked the Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts will now be able to analyze the performance of enhanced functions such as location, device, and ad schedule strategies within Analytics. 

Enhanced Campaigns Brings Another New Extension Opportunity
The latest and greatest AdWords extension has been announced, and it’s perfect for businesses that rely on testimonials (which really is everyone), it’s the review extension! The review extension pulls a summary of a review or a direct quote into the ad from a reputable third-party source. The reputable sources are yet to be named, so… stay tuned.

Look Out for Improvements in AdWords Quality Score Reporting 
Over the next few days, Google will be rolling out an update to quality score reporting that will they said will more closely tie the 1-10 numeric quality score to the three important sub factors of quality score: the expected click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.

Google notes that the update is designed to help PPC campaign mangers take specific action to improve ads and to better recognize when changes help the campaign. However, Google also notes that this update doesn’t change how the quality score is calculated and that ad performance won’t be affected. There has been extra chatter about quality score lately, so look out for more on this important topic. 


Facebook Custom Audience Primer

Facebook recently announced ad targeting through custom audiences. It taps into those lists advertisers have been building for years. This new Facebook audience segmentation takes quite a leap into deeper marketing tactics and possibly more questions of privacy. I’ll dive into that and more …

What are Custom Facebook Audiences?
Facebook now allows advertisers to create a segment of ads based on a given set of users. Marketers can submit a list of email addresses and/or phone numbers to Facebook. In turn, that identification is connected to Facebook accounts. Those accounts can now be placed into an audience.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads

Custom audiences let marketers find their offline audiences among Facebook users. Using email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs to make the match, you can now find the exact people you want to talk to, in custom audiences that are defined by what you already know.
https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=273730399409300

The List Payoff
Any advertiser that’s been involved in marketing for that last … well, 100 years has heard about building a list. That means a list of customers, phone numbers, email addresses, mailing address etc. Having a list is the ultimate way to direct market. It’s the simplest, yet oldest form of marketing. Now with Facebook, that list just became even more valuable. There is a good chance large portions of the people on that list have a Facebook account AND have used that information to create that account.

Custom Audience Ethics
This opens up an ethical question. Do subscribers of list understand that they may be marketed? I think that’s a “yes”. It’s understood. However, they will not accept the same company passing that information to allow others to market to them. That’s not even a gray area. Of course, that’s the logical next step for many though. Lists are a very valuable. Unfortunately, many have been selling lists for years (i.e. Spam), so it’s bound to happen here. If it’s bound to happen, then this tool is bound to get scrutinized. I’ll leave the rest of the ethics questions for others to debate, but in the mean time back to marketing.

Facebook Custom Audiences are Not for Everyone
No, I mean literally it’s not for everyone. Currently, it’s available through Facebook ad vendors. That includes partners like Kenshoo and SalesForce. In fact, SalesForce announced their part at the DreamForce conference.

Today we are excited to announce that Salesforce Marketing Cloud is integrating Facebook’s new custom audience targeting feature. http://www.buddymedia.com

Facebook Custom Audience can also be setup using the Facebook Power Editor. The link to the Power Editor can be found on the left side navigation on the Facebook Ad Manager page.

Facebook Power Editor

Facebook Power Editor

Setting up Facebook Custom Audiences
After installing Facebook Power Editor, users can begin setting up Custom Audiences. The first thing that’s noticed is the terms of service. I’ll save the details, but needless to say I did not see anything unusual on my initial read of the terms.

Facebook Custom Audience Terms of Service

Facebook Custom Audience Terms of Service

The next step is to upload the list. This is a pretty straight forward process.

Facebook Custom Audience Creation

Facebook Custom Audience Creation

After uploading the list, the crunch time begins. This where Facebook does its magic and matches up your email list with current Facebook profiles. It’s normal not to expect a complete match. There are bound to be some users that are not on Facebook or used a different email address.

Facebook Custom Audience Upload Complete

Facebook Custom Audience Upload Complete

Using Facebook Custom Audiences in Campaigns
Now that the audience has been added, advertisers are able to use some of the same tactics they have been using on Facebook for awhile. Of course, there is a whole extra layer added on top.

Integrating Facebook Custom Audiences in Campaigns

Integrating Facebook Custom Audiences in Campaigns

Options for using Facebook Custom Audiences
Okay, now that we know how to setup the campaigns, now what? There are some terrifically, awesome ways to utilize this new technology. Below are a couple of suggestions:

  • On-Demand could target registered users with the latest movie releases. To turn it up a notch, they could also use that list to partner-up with movie studios on theatrical releases.
  • Advertisers can target the unsubscribed email lists with incentives and discount, by giving them a reason to get back on board.
  • Business owners can also target the customer database where the e-mail address is missing, by using phone numbers. Once they have thhe email address, in turn they can target them to subscribe to emails.
  • The retail industry can tap into loyalty cards and shopping history… Oh wait, that’s being done: http://mashable.com/2012/09/24/facebook-tracking-retail-purchases/

The Possibilities are Wide Open
Having this added-value in advertising makes things a lot more interesting. Using this tool can allow marketers to encourage former buyers to Like their page on Facebook. Not to mention, the deals and discounts that can be given to loyal set of customers via Facebook. The options are limitless. Well, they are as limited as that list you have been building. How’s that going for you anyway?

6 Campaign Landing Page Tips

You have analyzed your campaign over and over. Adjusted bids, changed budget, added more keywords, researched negatives, and so much more. It is just not working.

The truth is you can over analyze online campaigns (search or non-search) to death, but if you are sending the visitors to bad landing pages, it does not matter. The best campaigns are destined to fail if the landing page is not optimized properly.

Here are 6 guidelines to help you customize and optimize campaign landing pages:

  1. Relevance
    It is essential that landing pages match the message from the ad. Follow up on the promises that led them to click on your ad. If, for example, the pay-per-click ad headline is “Free Shipping”, the landing page better deliver. There should be continuity between the ad and the page.I rarely recommend sending campaign links to the main page of a website. That usually indicates there is not a core message in the campaign and the main page is a “catch all”. Ultimately, not having a message means not having a sale. The landing page should correspond with that message.
  2. Call-To-Action
    It may be “old school marketing”, but a call-to-action is at the heart of all campaigns. Just like your campaigns, the landing page should complete that process. Every landing page should have a clear and concise target.When possible, having one action is best. Multiple messages and actionable items often lead to decision paralysis. Placing the call-to-action “above the fold” (i.e. no scrolling) make the process a lot easier for consumers. Let them know what the next step is in the shopping process and encourage them to go further.
  3. Show Authority
    Your visitors, especially new visitors, have no reason to trust you. Showing endorsements, client list, assurances, warranty, or other recognizable icons puts familiarity on the minds of consumers.
    Examples:

    • If your site has secure ordering through VeriSign, then drop the VeriSign logo on your site. It is a small adjustment that causes big assurance for some visitors.
    • Has your company or product ever been featured on television? If yes, then add that channel’s logo (NBC, CNN, etc.). It is a recognizable comfort for many consumers.
  4. Limit Distractions
    Always keep in mind the goal of this landing page. If anything added to the page does not aid with that goal, then it becomes a distraction. By controlling the funnel and purchase path, you limit the distractions of a visitor. This can be done by limiting the navigation options.
  5. Say No to Squeeze Pages
    Although, minimal navigation is good, you always want to allow visitors a way to explore. The other extreme is sending users to a landing page with no company information, or links for more details.These “squeeze pages” are unappealing and lack credibility. In fact, they often have a “spammy” feel to them. Users need to trust the site and trust your company before making a purchase or conversion. I would never give my email address or credit card to a landing page that doesn’t look reputable. Would you?
  6. Offline Options
    Like it or not, some users will not convert online. Providing offline options is a necessity for these users. Make sure you provide a phone number on your landing page. If needed, a unique phone number per campaign can aid with tracking.A phone number also means trust. They may not call, but they always like to know they have the option.

Landing Page

Keep in mind the 6 campaign landing pages elements above and test. Then, adjust. Then, test again.

Ultimately, it does not matter what I say, let the numbers tell you the story. Follow the users and the data. They will ultimately dictate your best landing page ideas. Through this process, you will learn that providing clear and concise landing pages directly leads to higher conversions.