It’s easy to overlook the obvious. So here are a few helpful hints to remind you of some basics to make sure your website starts the New Year on the right foot.
Ask customers to take the action you want them to take.
Buy now. Learn more. Add to Cart. Checkout.
If you don’t tell your customers what to do, they might not do it. Here’s a post on this subject.
2. Make it easy for your visitors to take an action. The harder they have to work for it, the less likely they are to do it. I was on a well-known site yesterday and really wanted to add a photo book I’d created to my shopping cart. I couldn’t do it. I could clearly see the quantity button and the price (I drew the green arrow in the picture), but there was no ‘add to cart’ button. I had to completely exit out and come back in through a different set of commands before I was shown the ‘add to cart’ button.
3. Make your action buttons large enough so that they stand out on the page.
4. Don’t use reversed out white type in your body copy. Yes, this is one of my pet peeves, but it should be yours as well! Reversed out white type is hard on the eyes when used on more than a line or two of type. And if your web pages are hard to read, your potential customers won’t read them.
5. Have a mobile version of your website. Seriously, you should have done this a few years ago, but if you somehow haven’t, make it your next project. The time spent on the Internet via a mobile phone has now surpassed the time spent on the Internet on a desktop computer (Mary Meeker KPBC Internet Trends Report). Consumers now expect sites to be mobile friendly and will leave your site if it’s not (latest research from Google shows 29% will bounce immediately!). Plus, having a mobile friendly site helps you with your Google organic search. When a user is on a mobile phone, Google gives preference to mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites when it returns search results.
Obvious tips, but so often overlooked. Get your website into the best shape you can so that you start 2016 off right!
Google makes algorithm changes on a fairly regular basis (I’ve read that they make 500-600 changes per year!) and they can have noticeable impacts to your search rankings. It can be hard to keep up and understand what these changes may mean for your website and SEO strategies. This MOZ article is a great historical perspective on all of these changes, and I’ve pulled out just a few to summarize their impacts. Note that some changes happen once as a general cleanup, while others represent an actual ongoing change to the algorithm.
May, 2015 – Quality Update
This update was not widely discussed by Google and the general opinion is that rather than adding anything to its existing algorithm, Google instead rebalanced some of the existing components. In other words, some factors became more important, moving previously higher ranked factors lower. This update appears to have been a one-time thing, so if you were going to see an impact from the update, you would have by now. If you did see changes to your rankings, particularly negative ones, it’s likely to do with how Google perceives the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of your content. Here are Google’s very own tips for how to make your site higher quality.
April 22, 2015 – Mobilegeddon
This widely hyped update turned out to have a relatively low actual impact. Mobilegeddon was made to encourage websites to be mobile friendly. It impacted organic results shown on mobile devices, giving preference to mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites in those SERPs (search engine results pages).
September 23, 2014 – Panda 4.1 Update
Those in the know (not me), have seen many Panda updates since 4.0 was launched in May, but this is the first update officially acknowledged, so it gets a .1 designation. This update was aimed at de-prioritzing ‘bad’ affiliates, keyword stuffing, doorway pages (pages that don’t really have content, but stuff keywords so that they rank highly), and other deceptive practices.
October, 2014 – Penguin 6 (aka Penguin 3.0, so dubbed by Search Engine Land)
The Penguin updates have all been about linking. This one, though it appeared ‘big’ was said to have impacted less than 1% of total English queries. If your link profiles are good ones, you should have seen an improvement in your rankings as a result of this update. But, just because you weren’t penalized by Google directly, you still may have seen a negative impact from this update. That’s because your site may be getting credit for other sites that link to yours that are now being discounted by Google. Frustratingly, you can’t actually tell if you’ve cured a Penguin problem until the next Penguin update.
I am not an SEO expert by any stretch of the imagination. But there are many out there if you need help. Here are a few I’ve come across over the years:
Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) is the news editor of Search Engine News and is hugely knowledgeable on this subject.
Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) is an expert in digital marketing, especially as related to SEO.
Travis Wright (@teedubya) speaks regularly on the subject of search marketing, and he used to be a stand-up comedian, so he’s funny!
Larry Kim (@larrykim) founded wordstream and is a search expert.
Tom Pick @tompick) specializes in B2B web marketing.
“Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.”
There are a handful of things that you should know about if you are just getting started with your website. These tips and tools will help you to get ranked in Google search to make sure you are visible! Note that this process can take a while. The more visitors you generate to your site, the higher you will start ranking in Google search. Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) helps your website to become more visible.
Adding keywords to your site is a key part of your SEO strategy. It’s a good idea to do some research to make sure you are choosing the right keywords and keyword phrases. You might want to choose phrases that have less competition (how to do this is a blog post for another day!). Your goal is to show up in a search engine when a user types in terms that are relevant to your business. To do that, you need to make sure you have those words present on your website. Don’t overdo it, but mention your keywords at least once or twice on your home page. The home page carries more weight in Google’s eyes, so that page in particular needs to show the right words. But don’t overdo it. ‘Keyword stuffing,’ the practice of loading up your site with your keywords in an effort to manipulate the system, is a bad practice and if Google catches you at it, you’ll be penalized.
Keywords can be visibly present (as in, a part of your copy), and they can also be present in page titles and page descriptions (also called meta data), as a part of your site’s html code. You may be advised that these are no longer important, and while they aren’t as important as they once were, they still have value and are an easy addition to your site, especially for your home page. Your page titles should be no more than 60 characters, and should be set up to have your primary keyword first, followed by a secondary keyword, followed by your company name. Your page descriptions should be limited to 160 characters and no two pages should have the same description. It’s a good idea to include a call to action as a part of your description too. As an example, if you do a search for my employer, RM Factory, you’ll see this:
In this example, the RM Factory: Sales Enablement Marketing Agency is the Title tag, and the copy that starts with “Market Ready. Sales Focused…” is the page description. This looks much better and is more impactful than just seeing rmfactory.com in your search engine results page (aka SERP).
Adding Your URL to Google
You can add your URL to Google by visiting here and typing in your website URL. If you aren’t prompted at that time to open a free Google Webmaster Tools account, make sure you do that also. You’ll be prompted to verify your site and you’ll need to know where to put the Google code to do this. Google provides instructions.
Also, don’t forget about registering with the other search engines. (You can submit your site to Yahoo/Bing here.) Other search engines have less competition so it’s easier to be more visible. Here’s a great post on that subject :).
It makes sense to include a site map at the bottom of each page of your website. A site map lays out all of the pages that are a part of your website. Not only is this a good place for keywords, but it also helps a user with navigation. A site map will typically look similar to this one:
While the general thinking about Google+ is that it’s not a great lead or sales generator, it remains a positive in the eyes of Google. So create an account and post to it now and then. For now, it helps with SEO, though the current buzz is, that won’t last.
Good links are highly valued by Google. You can have inbound links, outbound links and internal links. Google values inbound links the most, as long as they are relevant to your site. If you have logical partners who you think will be willing to link to your site, give them a call and see if they agree. It might also make sense for you to return the favor by offering an outbound link to their site (make sure that any click on a link in your site opens as a new tab). Again, the key is to make sure that the inbound or outbound links are relevant, and are from a reliable and solid source. Internal links can also enhance your rankings and refer to links from a page on your site to another page on your site. Make sure the links have relevant keywords and that they make sense. An example is your site map (shown above). Site maps consist of inbound links to the various pages that are a part of your site.
Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media and super smart guy, recently published a great SlideShare presentation that talks about the value of links (that part starts on page 6). As he says: “Links are credibility.” You can access that presentation here.
Doing these things will help you on your journey to get noticed and help you drive more traffic to your site.
Google has 67% share of the search market. With over 19 billion total searches happening a month (Comscore, August 2013) there is no question that Google has a stronghold on the search market. However, other search engines represent 6 billion searches a month and should be a part of your search plan. The partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing powers almost 30% of all searches.
Another search engine, DuckDuckGo, recently relaunched (in beta) with features to make it more useful. DuckDuckGo is small but does process almost 5 million searches a day. They’ve added image search and auto suggest along with some other features. The appeal of DuckDuckGo is privacy. Their claim is that they don’t track what you search. That can become a more valuable value proposition as time goes on and consumers decide that they like the idea of being able to search privately.
If you aren’t including at least Yahoo!/Bing in your search plans, you should be. Or more to the point, at a minimum you should be testing there. For one thing, Yahoo!/Bing will cost you less per click. You might be reaching fewer people, but importantly, your Cost per Click will be lower. Your strategy can be similar on both search engines. You can even import your Google ad campaigns into Bing.
As has been reported in the past by many other studies, click-thru rates and conversions on both Google and Yahoo!/Bing are fairly similar if you’re a small business. But for other advertisers, it seems that conversion rates are typically higher on Yahoo!/Bing. Here’s a great read by Amanda DiSilvestroon on why you should try Bing and how to get started with a Bing account.
Yahoo!/Bing has some new features like ad units called Hero Ads that come up when a user is searching for brand specific information (currently it’s a pilot program, only available on Windows 8). They offer call extensions on mobile ads and claim that those can yield up to 30% greater click-thru rates. And, Bing is the default search engine for Siri on the iOS7 release. Plus, search is being integrated into a number of Microsoft products such as Xbox, Windows 8, MS Office and others. Finally, while Google is no longer showing keywords that drive organic traffic to your site, Bing is not imposing that limitation in their analytics.
While this article will help you understand how much to actually spend on your campaigns, the real trick is to figure out how much to allocate between Google and Yahoo!/Bing and still be profitable. Plus, adding in some of the smaller engines like DuckDuckGo might give you surprising results. To figure out the balance, you’ll need to test. Definitely start with Google, and take your best keywords/phrases from there and test them on other search engines. If your profit is greater on Yahoo!/Bing or DuckDuckGo, try allocating additional spend to maximize that profit.
Know your options and continue to test so that you can adjust and balance to maximize your spending. Don’t forget, there are others besides Google who want your business.
It’s been six months since Google made the change that shook up the SEO market. If you are still perplexed about what to do about it, read on.
Keyword analysis is extremely important for optimizing both paid for and organic keyword traffic. Many pay per click buyers use Google Analytics (GA) to analyze their results. GA is fairly robust and can satisfy the needs of most buyers. But what about your organic keywords? It’s equally important to know which ones are driving the most traffic to your site.
Not Provided. This term refers to keywords where Google is no longer sharing information on their origin. This is not new news. Back in 2011, Google made a change that keywords from anyone searching from a secure site (denoted by an ‘s’ after the http in your URL bar) would show up in reporting as Not Provided. Then in October of 2013, they made the change universal for all Google organic search, hiding the keyword information that used to be so useful. Information on organic keywords is still available in Bing/Yahoo search. But, because Google search has 67% of the search market, you are now missing a large amount of information.
When Google first started down this path, Matt Cutts, the Head of the Spam Team at Google, guessed that Non Provided visits would remain in the single-digit percents. He was wrong. According to a BrightEdge survey from Q1, 2013, 56% of search traffic in the tech industry was already coming from Google secure search, and therefore showing up as Non Provided in GA. And now it’s a 100%, since all Google searches are secure.
There have been a number of very useful articles written about getting around this pesky problem: