Posts Tagged 'web content'

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.

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Get It In Writing

requirementsI just finished reading Startup Daddy’s post, Starting A Business: Define Your Definite Major Purpose & Envision Your Desired Outcome. The post focuses on the concept of defining one’s purpose, as in what’s your purpose in going into business. It speaks about the importance of defining one’s goals, both personal and professional, and how that helps in selecting your niche.

New web entrepreneurs often ignore this step when building a new website. You need to establish your site’s purpose. If you don’t, you risk a lack of focus that will cascade throughout your web presence, inhibiting SEO planning,  online marketing efforts and many times delaying site completion. You can’t select the best keywords, write good ad copy or build effective conversion paths without site focus.

Just like your business, your website needs a sound plan. That plan should be built before you ever speak with a web designer. In business its called a business plan. In the techie world, we call that plan a requirements document.

Building the Document, Then the Website

Start your document off with a purpose– literally.  Write down a few sentences about your business. In this summary include what you do, how you do it and your market segment. Don’t forget to include any differentiators.

Follow this with a short paragraph about the reasons you desire a website. Try to match your need for a website, with the summary of your business. This purpose will provide scope to your web project.

Determine Required Site Sections

List out all the sections that need to be included in your site. If you can diagram them using Visio or some other tool, that would be great.

Next you want to describe the pages to be included in each section. The ‘Services’ section of your site will have a Services landing page, and most likely a page for each Service you offer. 

Now list what you want included on each of the pages listed under each section. Include images, cross promotion, forms or widgets.  For forms and widgets, be specific about what functionality should be included.  For forms list the fields that should be included, what to do with the form information and designate required fields.

Add the Icing

Now list pages, content or functionality that would be nice to have, but not mission critical. This might seem like wasted effort, but it helps to understand future goals when designing your current website.

Now You’re Covered

Your requirements document provides insurance on your design investment. When working with a professional web designer or firm, you have more security. Get the designer to sign the form, recognizing it represents what will be delivered.  This prevents confusion with billing. It also helps recuperate penalty fees for missed deadlines.

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.

Using Analytics to Build Your Funnels

In previous posts we talked about building ‘site funnels’.  Site funnels represent the page-by-page paths site visitors view before exiting your site.  In most cases, you’ll create paths based upon your projected user behavior. What we predict, and what actually occurs, may not always coincide.

Customer Focus

Focusing on customer wants and needs generally produces better results. Your perceived can’t lose ideas, at times fall flat. You want to make user visits more predictable.

Your visitors leave clues as to what they want. The secret decoder ring to these clues will be your analytics report. Users will provide a trail, indicating what natural paths or funnels they prefer to follow.

Like any good hunter, if you follow this trail, you can improve goal conversion with a few tweaks, rather than whole sale site changes. So let’s look at how to use some of those clues:

Use Your Analytics Report To Identify Most Viewed Pages »

  • The most viewed pages obviously contain the information visitors perceive as the most relevant to their needs. 
  • Make note of the ‘bounce’ rate.  A bounce rate of more than 40% signals that users might not be finding what they expected.
  • Now find the  ‘next pages’ statistics.

Follow the Navigation Summary »

  • Note the top two or three most popular next navigated pages.  Look at the percentages, anything under 20% can be ignored.
  • Continue through the navigation summary until you get to points where the exit rate is greater than 40%.

Analyze Your Natural Funnels »

  • Navigate to your site, and click through these user generated funnels
  • Pay close attention to points in the path where exit rates rise above 40%.
  • If the selected paths don’t end in goals, determine what types of goal content can be implemented.
  • Look for opportunities for new promotional ideas.

Develop Goals »

  • Now you can create new goal endings for your user created funnels. If you link to existing goals, make sure your links and text are relevant to the new path.
  • Use multivariate testing to find the funnel goal page that produces the best results.
  • Also utilize multivariate testing to determine user willingness to end these funnels sooner.
  • Think about adjustments to your keyword campaigns, that might lead to greater success.

Play with the percentages, they aren’t set in stone.  If the user defined funnels match your designed funnels, implement multivariate testing to improve weak conversions.  Use goal test points along paths, make the test points related to the most popular next pages.  Knowing where a visitor will most likely navigate next, provides a prime opportunity to begin cross selling.

Site Home Pages: “Sell the Sizzle”

I once worked as a telesales representative for a cruise travel agency. Our new sales hire training contained a module named “Sell the Sizzle”.  The instructor stressed that we should sell the experience, not the cruise.  

As an example, we shouldn’t tell the listener that the cruise stopped in the Virgin Islands. Instead– the cruise let them enjoy the crystal clear waters of the carribean, including access to one of the most beautiful coral reef snorkling experiences available anywhere.

In a nutshell, sell the benefits not the features.   When you sell the sizzle, be creative–  see your site as someone who knows nothing about you.

Site visitors scan your site in seconds, what they see must compel that first click. That doesn’t mean avoid text, it still rules the SEO world. 

When looking at your home page, ask yourself a few questions:

Does a First Time Visitor Know What We Do?

  • Users should understand what your company does with a quick scan of the page.
  • Find a way to encapsulate your business in a few words or short sentence. Use this text on your homepage.
  • Make it easy to find customer testimonials. Satisfied customers love to talk about what you do, and how well you do it.
  • With ecommerce sites, products— big and bold, should be the first thing I see.

Does Your Homepage Describe What Problem You Solve?

  • Right from the beginning, tell visitors how they’ll benefit— sell the sizzle.
  • Numbers work great. If you can reduce costs by 40%, say so– and make sure the words ‘Reduce’ and ‘40%’ are in large type.
  • Convey what makes your business unique. Sure— you sell great steaks, but tell or show me what makes your steaks special.

Do You Have Enough Accessories?

  • Provide information that supports your main point. If you sell BBQ grills, provide great grilling recipes– or maybe a photo of the family having a great time in the backyard watching dad grill.
  • Again testimonials help drive home the point— word of mouth is the best advertising. 
  • Provide answers to common questions. You already know your customers’ most common questions. Provide the answers right up front— there’s nothing else left for them to do but buy.

Do I Establish My Expertise?

  • Provide a very visible link to a basic tutorial about your product or service. 
  • Displaying logos of well known clients provides credibility from the start. Be sure to get permission first.
  • Display logos for professional or trade organizations or certifications. The Better Business Logo goes a long way in making a potential customer feel better about giving you their credit card number.

Do My Images Tell the Story?

  • Make sure your images reinforce the story told by your words.
  • Your images should put your product or services in context. Think back to the image of dad on the grill we described earlier.
  • Always use high quality images.  Hire a professional photographer, it’s worth the investment.

 

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

 

Test to Find Out What Works

Putting all the elements together into a presentable home page can be daunting.  Take it a piece at a time.  Play with different layouts, and combinations– use multivariate testing to verify you’ve found the right recipe.

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.

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.