Archive for the 'Web Marketing Applications' Category

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.

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Get Your Analytics in Gear

analyticsTo say the least, 2009 presents a daunting challenge for the small business owner. The economy finds itself in deep recession, and funding to push critical business needs has become more difficult to attain. These facts don’t mean 2009 presents only gloom and doom. If your business can survive this period, it can probably survive anything. As small business owners we must find ways to do better with the same or less.

Speaking to this concept, I’ve just read two great articles– one specific to online search, and the other giving advice from the CEO of a major corporation. They both made me think about the importance analytics will have on web based businesses, and how many small businesses neglect this very important aspect of owning a web presence.

Web Analytics: The Key to Online Marketing Success

The first article, 10 Things You Need To Know About Search from OMMA provides some critical tips on utilizing search in the down economy. Tips three, four and five made me think specifically in terms of analytics:

3. “The dirty secret of the industry is that there’s a huge amount of grunt work involved today in finding the gems and opportunities,” says Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing for Clickable.

4. “With better analytics and optimization across campaigns, understanding how search fits in and where it impacts the funnel is a key area,” says Jill Balis, senior vice president, managing director of SMG Search, Strategy & Analytics.

5. With search capabilities moving in-house, and better management and analytics software at every price range, “agencies will have to work harder for their margins, offering more strategic services. You can’t sell the grunt work at a high margin,” Kalehoff says.

How do you find those “gems and opportunities” spoken about in tip three? That dirty work starts by finding out what works and what doesn’t. Knowing which keywords or phrases produce the most visitors makes sense. You’ll need to research search terms, to find words and phrases that offer potential. At the same time you know the corporate players with huge budgets will take the best options. You’ll need to do the ‘dirty work’ to compete.

SEM: A Trial-And-Error Process

Once the user arrives at your site, you have to make sure you close the deal. Again, the key is determining what works and what doesn’t. Multivariate testing provides crucial data on how well you convert site visitors into leads or customers depending on your goals. As we talked about in a previous post, it’s all about the landing pages. The same thing stated two different ways can have different effects on different people. How you present your offer– based on the key words or phrases used to compel the click-through can also alter results. A positive side to all this– you may discover a market you didn’t know you could attract!

SEM is a trial and error process, like any other marketing media. As you understand what leads to success, you can replicate strategies. Success also gives you more insight into the validity of your current market research. Ultimately you don’t want to waste time and resources on marketing that doesn’t work. With web marketing, the best way to get the most value from SEO and SEM is good analytics analysis.

Streamlinig SEM for a Down Economy

The second article, Six small biz tips from a CEO who flies right— from BloggingStocks.com, provides advice from Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. Two of his tips– Build strategy on customer focus and Tighten operations with process improvement tools, enforce the idea that small businesses need to find better ways to do the work required for good SEM. To align our small businesses with these two savvy pieces of advice, finding a good analytics package– remember the quote containing ‘analytics software at every price range’ from the previously referenced article, we need to find a good analytics application to make our SEM efforts more effective and easier to maintain.

Use Analytics to Improve Customer Focused Processes

A good web analytics strategy should be the basis of a good Customer Focus strategy for company’s doing business on the web. Analytics will tell you what customers want– the definition of customer focus. So make it your point in 2009 to find a good analytics application. Learn what metrics you should be watching, and what their impact on your ‘funnel’ really means. Here are some good places to start:

Analytics Talk
Focuses on the use of Google Analytics package, which is a great place to start. It’s powerful and FREE!

Web Metrics Guru
Good info on practical web analytics.

Occam’s Razor
Voted one the best analytics blogs on the web

Google Analytics Blog
The official analytics site for Google’s own analytics tool.

Parsing SEO From the Ground Up – The Finale

parserpart3We’ve talked about the parser, and how it deals with various web technologies, so lets address how you can verify what’s being parsed.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google makes content parsing verification easy with a set of tools— the Google Webmaster Tools.  If you haven’t utilized this tool set, then you’re not serious about SEO or SEM.  The Google Webmaster Tools gives you direct insight into what the googlebot— the name for Google’s parser, sees when it crawls your site.

Getting Started

The tool set doesn’t require any downloads or installation, its all web based, making it really easy to use. Like all Google online tools, it will require an account.  If you already have an AdWords or Analytics account, you are ready to go.   If not, registration only takes a minute.  You will need access to your web server.  In order to activate your account, Google requires you to verify your site ownership by uploading a file to your server.  Don’t worry, its a simple html file with a specific name, that you create.  No security issues to worry about, and you can delete the file once the account is verified.

The Google Webmaster Tools provides a great way to know how your website is being parsed.

The Google Webmaster Tools provides a great way to know how your website is being parsed.

Important SEO Metrics

Inside the tool set you’ll find a vast array of metrics.  We’ll look at few of the most important.

What Googlebot sees
This section provides the top 100 phrases and keywords in your site content– as the Google parser views your page.  If you’ve paid for professional SEO work, here’s where you can ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Top search queries
Another critical SEO/SEM tool.  What Google search queries provide you the most traffic?  You might be surprised.  Again, here you can verify that your SEM strategy is on the right track.  You can also discover other areas of potential SEM success.

Index Stats
Find out what pages Google already has indexed.  Important information, especially if you see pages missing. Also provides a list of pages that link to your sites homepage.  This is the most important stat in terms of Google organic SEO.

Diagnostics
Another important tool set.  Lets you know if Google had any problems crawling your site.  We discussed potential technology related crawling errors the last post— this particular tool provides a way to ensure those pages, and all the other pages of your site are crawled properly.

Only the Beginning of Your SEO Journey

Hopefully our walk through web crawling technology has demystified CSS web design. SEO and SEM are always a work in progress, but your web design will provide a solid foundation upon which to build.  You should also note that SEO and SEM efforts will be greatly improved with the proper use of web analytics.  Even if the parser sees the correct keywords and phrases, you must still consider the human factor.  You’ll definitely want to implement multivariate testing as a part of your analytics approach.

One final note.  It’s important to realize that the Google Webmaster Tools only gives you the Google perspective.  The MSN or yahoo search engines may view your site somewhat differently.  Yet, good results with the Google tools, generally means a good chance of success with other search engines as well.  At this time, I don’t know of any similar tools for the other major search engines.  If anyone out there knows of any, drop us a line so we can spread the word.