Archive for the 'SEO' Category

SEO and CRO: The Long and Short of It

landingrhtcolpromoIf your small business maintains a website, you’ve most likely considered, talked about or implemented some type of SEO strategy. The belief being, that if you can attract traffic, you will by default attract customers or registrants. This may be the case to a small degree, but doesn’t accurately represent how things usually work.

Your site does need to attract visitors, but it also needs to drive those visitors to some goal. Establishing that goal, and subsequently compelling the user to satisfy that goal, means just as much to your business. Internet gurus label this concept conversion. Though the concept remains the same for all websites, the specific outcome— the actual goal, may vary. Your desire may be to register users, request a sales call or make a purchase. In any case, the final outcome provides some benefit to your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

Just like SEO, where we optimize our sites so they will be found during user searches, we need to optimize websites so that they convert as many visitors to successful visits as possible. This concept is known as Conversion Rate Optimization. Many experts agree, including most major online retailers, that conversion rate should be considered just as important as SEO. Jamila White, owner of E-Commerce Diva said about conversion, “So many small biz owners don’t know that is THE most important metric.” The two concepts do not contradict, actually one complements the other. They do need to be approached with a different perspective.

SEO the Long Term Strategy

Irrespective of many claims by some SEO consultants, results from SEO take time. That’s because SEO is organic in nature. You should commit yourself to at least a six month effort before expecting consistent benefits. During that six month time span, you’ll need to work and rework your strategy to stay ahead of the pack. In short, SEO strategies are long term strategies.

CRO

CRO focuses more on the present. In short, it focuses on how well we compel the current site visitors, to accomplish a desired result upon visiting.  CRO has a more immediate effect. Conversion rate matters, whether you receive 100 visits per day, or 1000 visits per day. Conversion rate impacts your website efficacy more than SEO.

You can receive 100 visits per day, but convert twenty visitors into customers. This would have more impact than receiving 1000 visits per day, and then only converting ten visitors into customers. Again, we can stress the immediate focus of CRO, no matter the number of visitors, we need to convert as many as possible.

SEO and CRO a Combined Approach

SEO and CRO should not be considered competitive concepts. As website owners we should combine the two practices, knowing that our strategy will have short as well as long term business impact. It should also be noted that  CRO will benefit your SEO efforts.  CRO helps to better identify successful market segments, thus enhancing your ongoing SEO practices.

When converting customers, you will hopefully have analytics giving you customer data. Knowing what regions, pages or search terms used to find your site will elucidate more about the segments that find your product, service or information attractive. If this market doesn’t match your present SEO focus, now you know how to adjust, or better focus your current strategy.

SEO and CRO: Continual Efforts

Both CRO and SEO require continual modification. Consistent testing of landing pages and conversion paths– your CRO efforts, will greatly benefit your long term SEO. Let’s look at an example.

CRO can be affected by numerous factors. If a CNBC guest makes recommendations about what to look for in certain financial products, or throws out a new term, this could alter what financial products customers seek. Sudden drops or increases in conversions, could be the first clue to  a change in your visitor’s needs. Knowing this, allows you to also adjust your SEO strategy to be in place when that CNBC audience turns to the internet to find the company who will sell that product.

Online Top 10 Retailers: What We Can Learn

analyticsrhtcolpromoTake a look at the Top 10 Online Retailers for December. You can find the info at Marketing Charts.com. First thing to notice— the list relies on conversion statistics not total sales. That measure of success, reiterates the importance of conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Also notice the conversion percentages  ranging from 19 to 31%.  That’s pretty good, especially when research from Fireclick tells us the average conversion rate hovers between 2 and 3%.  Imagine the impact of a 10% conversion rate increase for your small business’s revenue.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, let’s look at some things you can replicate in your site, that may help increase your conversion rate.

Keyword Ads Link to Product Pages

The right keyword text, linking to the right landing page. When the user clicks on keyword text that says ‘luxurious lingerie’ , they don’t land in the soap section of victoriassecret.com. They don’t land at the home page either. If the visitor searches for potatoes, they want potatoes.

Graphics Heavy Home Pages

All the big winners had very graphic intensive home pages. The text explained large graphics highlighting featured products.  Outside of that, very little text. Its all about the visual and pushing product. Be assured that the featured items are most likely proven sellers.

Unique Page Titles

Every page has a unique title.  Product pages were titled with their respective product names. They do this because page title holds a high priorty in page rankings. Make sure your ecommerce application allows you to use product names as page titles. 

Alt tags for Every Image

All images posses ‘alt’ text. Another SEO strategy,  alt text influences search engine page ranking.

Products to the Left, Checkout to the Right

All the product pages held true to form– product image on the left, description, size charts, colors and checkout on the right. Visitor attention tends to gravitate towards the visual first. Marketing research suggests that users have a harder time moving from right to left, than left to right. Looks like our top ten retailers saw the same study.

The Conversion Lynch Pin: Understanding Search Habits

All these retailers understand the search habits of online buyers.  They search based upon specifics, not generalities. A web buyer looking for shoes, generally will search for a specific shoe type– ‘xj7 running shoe’, ‘rockport men’s dress shoes’. Knowing this, its better to focus your ecommerce SEO efforts on your product and category pages, not just the home page.

Ramping Up
You’ve got almost a full year until the next Christmas shopping season. Start implementing changes now. Starting now gives you the opportunity to test what works best. It also allows you to evaluate your ecommerce application. Make sure it automates things like page titles and alt tags. If not, check the upgrades or another vendor.

By the time the heavy shopping traffic begins, you’ll be in prime position to convert visitors into revenue.

5 Reasons You Will Use Hiconversion in 2009

landingrhtcolpromoTake note of the term Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). During the down economy, CRO will justify itself more than any other online marketing strategy. The reason being, CRO proves what online marketing strategies produce revenue.

Thinning budgets demand improved ROI. Quite simply, businesses can’t afford to waste resources. Money will not be spent without strong justification. CRO provides the best means to test, measure and justify online marketing strategies.

CRO has been slow to take hold. Mainly due to a lack of affordable choices, and reliable expertise. Until recently choices have been limited to free applications— such as Google’s Website Optimizer, or investing in high end enterprise applications costing thousands.

Zee Agonovic, the CEO of Hiconversion, a CRO software development company, sees CRO taking center stage very quickly.

Online marketers are putting the cart before the horse,” he stated in our recent conversation., “All the money and effort is spent on generating web traffic and very little, if anything, is done about visitor conversion”. It doesn’t matter how many users visit your page, if they never take the next step.

After having the opportunity to see Hiconversion’s tool first hand, here’s five reasons you’ll be using Hiconversion in 2009.

1. Improves Online Marketing ROI

With Hiconversion, you get the CRO benefits, at a much lower cost, with less complexity and a higher level of reliability than any other tool on the market.

2. Works with Low traffic volumes

Hiconversion’s patented algorithms don’t require large volumes of traffic. If your site generates 100 hits per day, you can get reliable data, and improve conversion rates.

3. Easy Setup

Hiconversion utilizes a service based model, like Google’s Weboptimizer. There are no installs— you create an account online and begin testing. Creating multivariate tests has been reduced to simple point and click functionality.  The tool provides the ability to create an unlimited number of test pages, for as many pages as you want.  The tool gives you the capability to test unlimited page element combinations via a graphical interface. You can test entire conversion paths, almost eliminating the need for more complicated analytics reports.

4. Quick Results

With low site volume, 100 clicks per day, you can get reliable results within weeks. With 1000 clicks per day or higher, you get reliable data within days. Many users of the tool start seeing improved conversion rates before they even complete their testing periods. Hiconversion also comes with a complete set of out-of-the-box reports, including real-time and projected ROI analysis.

5. Fits Your Budget

At $99  per month, you can’t find a better way to invest your money. You can get turnkey CRO services  starting at just $995 per project, with a 10% CR increase guarantee.

10 Tips to Improve eCommerce Sales

analyticsrhtcolpromoThe holiday buying season has come and gone. Now its back to the day-to-day grind in terms of sales. What little money many consumers had, has been spent. So now we need to really focus on converting visitors to buyers.

Once you implement your marketing strategy, its time to find ways to close the deal. Internet retailing relies heavily on your technical infrastructure and store design. I’ve formulated ten tips gathered from advice by the biggest players in the eCommerce space. Read now, and you’ll find a bonus tip:

1. Identify Your Top Searches

Plain and simple, you will need to be customer focused to be successful. Knowing what customers want, makes you better able to serve them.  Perform test searches. You want to make sure visitors find what they want– and you provide. For obvious reasons, note searches for items you don’t sell.

2. Find Customer Exit Points

Outside of your sales confirmation page, you want to know where customers most often leave your site. If they leave at your product pages, it might be time for a redesign. If they leave during the checkout process, look at ways to simplify your checkout process.

3. Test Site Performance

Online shoppers don’t like to wait. If they did, they would shop at a physical store. Test how well your site functions at peak times.  Test user flows to analyze your purchasing paths.  Be particularly aware of any errors that occur. Test during low traffic periods as well. If performance problems still exist, this might be an indicator of a software or hardware problem. Compare your site metrics with these indice from ECommerce Times, to see how your site measures up to competitors.

4. Monitor Usability

Usability may be a reason for some of the exit points you found in tip #2.  Navigation should be a key area of focus, especially for sites with large offerings. If users get lost, or can’t find what they’re looking for, statistics tell us they’ll find another retailer. 

You also want to test your usability in various browsers and browser versions. With the introduction of Chrome, there’s a new landscape to traverse in terms of compatibility.

5. Optimize Product Pages

Test various layouts of your product pages.  Try different copy to determine what drives sales best. If you’re serious about increasing revenue, implement a multivariate testing strategy.

6. Find Customer Tendencies

Again, we’re back looking at customer focus. How customers navigate your site says a great deal about their needs. For example, if visitors tend to visit certain products in groups, you’ve got a hint on what to include in your cross-sells items list.

7. Make Your Most Popular Products Easy To Find

Sounds like common sense– and it is. Yet, many shopping sites don’t do this simple thing. If you sell shoes, make sure each subcategory page displays at least your top seller on that page. If you can display your top three, you’re in even better position to sell.

8. Simplify Checkout

As internet retailers, we have to accept cart abandonment. The idea will be to reduce it. Make sure your checkout process doesn’t confuse visitors. Add a step-by-step navigation bar at the top of the cart, indicating what steps still need to be completed. Consolidate steps where possible. Make sure you provide simple easy to understand instructions to facilitate checkout.  Don’t forget to make the ‘help’ or ‘faq’ button highly visible.

9. Address Shipping Charges Sooner Not Later

No one likes surprises on their bill. Provide shoppers with some expectations about shipping costs prior to checkout. 

10. Review Your Customer Service Plan

Recent surveys indicate that customer satisfaction with online shopping has dropped. The causes of this increased dissatisfaction have yet to be thoroughly identified. Be assured customer service will be some where on the list. Asses how well you handle customer inquiries and returns

Test and Retest      

Develop a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. Testing various page layouts, copy and combinations of both, can greatly enhance you sales success. CRO should be just as important as SEO to your internet sales plan.               

Jeff Prus, senior director of user experience at VistaPrint recently stated at the Internet Retailer Conference 09, “VistaPrint regards ongoing site optimization as a revenue-generating function, one that generates millions of dollars per year in proven business value,” . CRO maximizes your SEO benefits. In these economic times every dollar counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for Better Forms and Qualified Leads

formtips2Finding good leads make or break a salesman. The better the lead, the easier the sale.  This concept has a name— qualified leads.

Generating leads via the web presents its own set of challenges. The online form works day and night, gathering information about potential customers. The form constrains us, due to its finite nature, limiting us to a fixed set of questions. In the end, we act on faith more than assurance that leads will be of any substance. 

Creating good forms, forms that create qualified leads, requires a trial and error effort.  Here are ten ways to increase qualified lead generation via online forms:

1. Ask For the Right Information.

The basics:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Company Name
  • Visitors Title (helps to establish buying decision power)
  • Phone Number (distinguish between work and cell)
  • Reason for the Request/Type of Request (just looking or ready to buy)
  • Market Identifiers (ask questions that will define segment of market)
  • Influencers (who else will be involved in the decision)
  • Anything specific to your industry or product

Obviously the Name and email should be required.  Don’t be afraid to require a phone number, especially for services. Required phone numbers will fend off the casual visitor. In addition, get the phone number type, work or cell. A work number indicates a more qualified lead.

2. Use Dropdowns
  • Use drop down menus to isolate prime targets in your market
  • Drop downs allow for more flexibility, while keeping control of the provided information
  • Drop downs are easier to answer, allowing you to squeeze in two or three more questions
  • Two or three well thought out drop downs are worth one big additional notes text field
3. Generate Specific Forms for Specific Conversion Paths
  • Users in different roles have different needs, cater to the roles in your forms
  • Use specific forms for specific products or services
4. Give Up Something to Get Something
  • Requiring a form for a whitepaper has a less salesy feel
  • Require a form to get pricing
  • Utilize form completion for user group membership
  • Add a private users section to your blog, requiring registration
5. Make Forms Convenient
  • Make sure form questions are easy to read and understand
  • Put forms in the margins of high traffic pages
  • Make text in links to forms real marketing copy, not ‘get more info’
6. Make Specific Forms for Requesting a Phone Call
  • Create a form specifically for people wanting a sales call
7. Strong Validation
  • Make sure you validate important form fields (name, email, phone, etc)
8. Keep the Number of Fields to a Minimum
  • Too many fields can run off potentially good leads
9. Always Follow Up Form Submissions
  • Unreturned requests can harm your company’s reputation
10. Implement a Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

Optimizing form conversion rate via testing, should be you top priority.  In order to find the best form, you will need to test.  A form completion is a funnel goal. Its a link the visitor clicks that has potential value for your business. You’ll need to test various combinations to get the form that produces the most submitals, as well as the best qualified leads. Multivariate testing provides the best way to optimizing success. If you don’t test, you will waste valuable time and resources, while losing business to your testing competitors.

5 Tips to Convert Visitors to Customers

Does your website work? Yeah sure— it loads, the links work and and you don’t get any ‘page not found errors’.  That only means your website functions properly. But, does it really work? Does it sell or drive business well? 

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

Most small to medium business owners would answer no. The others that answer yes, could most likely see a greater return based on the statistics. The average website only converts about 2% of its visitors into viable leads or customers.

With all the promises of the internet, most of us expected more from a web presence. So how do we do better?

1. Know Your Market

Make sure you identify your market. Your technical SEO efforts mean nothing, if you focus on the wrong keywords. Your customers have unfulfilled needs, that’s why they’re customers. Ensure that your keywords match your customer’s needs.

2. Match Content to Your Market

SEO gets your site ranked at the top of the heap. Now the user visits. Whether the user ‘bounces’ or stays depends on your content. Make sure your content addresses the needs of customers.

3. Build Funnels

I often see keyword ads that direct users to landing pages, that immediately propose the offer. In some cases this works, but most consumers have questions. That’s where funneling plays an important role. Offer multiple choices on your landing pages. The all or none approach leaves you very little room to persuade.

4. Write Good Copy

What you say plays an important role in conversion.  How you say it plays just as an important role. Your users will find certain words more compelling than others. Professional marketing copy helps to convert visitors.

5. Test Your Content

The most important tip of all. Utilize your website metrics to better understand what content works and doesnt’ work. Its rare you that you will build the perfect funnel or write the perfect web copy the first time. You need to vary copy, funnels and page layouts to find the most compelling combination.

Experts call this multivariate testing, or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). If you haven’t heard of it, you will.  CRO will be what separates the most successful web marketing strategies, from the also rans. Here’s a great article on CRO if you want more information.

Putting Your SEO Strategy to the Test

Many small business owners in 2009 will decide to take a do-it-yourself approach to SEO. I say go for it! In fact, marketing trends indicate moving SEO duties in-house has become the smart thing to do.

If you’ve already started your efforts, you quickly discovered that executing a good SEO strategy takes a great deal of time. Your next thought– “I hope all this work pays off”.

The top ecommerce companies test and retest their SEO strategies to find out what works, and what doesn’t. You will want to do the same thing. This article will help you get started.

First let’s look at some of the tools required to test how well you’ve done. Then we can look at a simple five step plan to start your SEO testing strategy.

Analytics Provides the Foundation

First you’ll want to start with a good analytics package. If you’re going it on your own, utilize Google Analytics (GA).  GA offers a feature rich web based tool at no cost. The tool provides an extensive set of metrics and reports without any setup. Because its widely accepted in the industry, you’ll find lots of support across the web.  Start with the Google Analytics Forum. 

Multivariate Testing: The SEO Proving Grounds

Multivariate testing allows users visiting the site, to each view different versions of the same web page.  Your testing application tracks how users respond to each page. 

Google provides a great multivariate testing application— Google Web Optimizer for free. Again it’s easy to setup, and comes with the support of  a large user community.

How to Implement Your SEO Testing

Below I’ve provided a few suggestions on setting up your testing methodology.  I’m assuming you’re using the Google Analytics and Web Optimizer package.  If you decide to go with something else, it most likely will provide the same functionality, just with possibly different names and locations.  If your package doesn’t provide the abilities described here– scrap it, and go with GA.

STEP 1:  Place the GA Tracking Code on Your Web Pages
If you have a large site, this may take some time, but it’s worth the effort.  If you don’t feel the page merits tracking, then the page probably doesn’t need to be included in your web site.  Not tracking pages leaves you in the dark.  Not knowing what appeals to users costs you money– in either lost conversions or wasted effort.

  • Write down the file names of the pages included in funnels you want to track.
  • This is also a good time to make copies of these files as you prepare for multivariate testing.

STEP 2:  Setup Goals Tracking
Goal tracking allows you to guage the efficacy of the various funnels within your web site.  

  • Start with your most important landing page, and determine where you want the user to end up.
  • If your funnel includes a form, be sure to include the thank you page.
  • Include product display pages from your shopping cart.
  • Include the registration pages for your cart.
  • Your cart funnel should also include the thank you page.
  •  For keyword advertisers pay attention to the  landing pages that result from advertising clicks.

STEP 3: Setup Multivariate Testing
Now you can find ways to optimize your funnels success.

  • Create multiple copies of the same landing page.  Start with your busiest landing page. 
  • In each version of the page, things like graphics, page copy and page layout. 
  • With keyword advertising, test how various pages work with different ad copy.
  • If you’re advertising via print, radio or tv, set up specific landing pages.
  • Remember to that you can use different page versions to alter funnel flow.  Test if one flow works better than others.

STEP 4: Review Goal Tracking Results
Determine how well your funnels worked.

  • Utilize conversion percentages to establish baselines. These will be useful for future testing.
  • Look at visits as compared to visitors.  This will give you an idea of how often users converted on their initial visit, or on a return visit.
  • Also make note of referring web sites.  Knowing where users came from can help improve efficiency with marketing budget.

STEP 5: Review Multivariate Testing Data
Go back and compare your goals with various landing pages in the funnel.  

  • For a very successful funnel, use the best variations as a model for other pages.
  • Remember to note unsuccessful variations as well.  Try to analyze why the page failed. 
  • Take the most successfule variations from each page, and put them together in one funnel.
  • If variations all had similar success rates, take a good look at your goal conversions. Poor goal conversions may indicate an offer with little appeal to visitors. 

Going Forward

Don’t stop testing.  It will take consistent effort over the long haul to truly gain the benefits of SEO.  Don’t let early successes lull you.  Remember that the Internet and user behaviours change constantly.  What worked in January, doesn’t always hold true in June.  Attempt to run tests on at least one funnel per month.  This will require planning, but don’t let the additional work dissuade you.  The benefits will be worth the effort.