Tag Archive | "Optimization"

Email Testing: 7 tips from your peers for email conversion optimization

We recently asked the MarketingSherpa audience for tips on running effective email tests. Here are a few of the most helpful responses to consider as you start to develop an email testing program.
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Declining Organic Traffic? How to Tell if it’s a Tracking or Optimization Issue

Posted by andrewchoco

Picture this scenario. You’re a new employee that has just been brought in to a struggling marketing department (or an agency brought on to help recover lost numbers). You get access to Google Analytics, and see something like this:

(Actual screenshot of the client I audited)

This can generate two types of emotional response: excitement or fear (or both). The steady decline in organic traffic excites you because you have so many tactics and ideas that you think can save this company from spiraling downward out of control. But there’s also the fear that these tactics wont be enough to correct the course.

Regardless of whether these new tactics would work or not, it’s important to understand the history of the account and determine not only what is happening, but why.

The company may have an idea of why the traffic is declining (i.e. competitors have come in and made ranking for keywords much harder, or they did a website redesign and have never recovered).

Essentially, this boils down to two things: 1) either you’re struggling with organic optimization, or 2) something was off with your tracking in Google Analytics, has since been corrected, and hasn’t been caught.

In this article, I’ll go over an audit I did for one of my clients to help determine if the decline we saw in organic traffic was due to actual poor SEO performance, an influx in competitors, tracking issues, or a combination of these things.

I’ll be breaking it down into five different areas of investigation:

  1. Keyword ranking differences from 2015–2017
    1. Did the keywords we were ranking for in 2015 change drastically in 2017? Did we lose rankings and therefore lose organic traffic?
  2. Top organic landing pages from 2015–2017
    1. Are the top ranking organic landing pages the same currently as they were in 2015? Are we missing any pages due to a website redesign?
  3. On-page metric
    1. Did something happen to the site speed / bounce rate / page views etc.
  4. SEMrush/Moz keyword, traffic, and domain authority data
    1. Looking at the SEMrush organic traffic cost metric as well as Moz metrics like Domain Authority and competitors.
  5. Goal completions
    1. Did our conversion numbers stay consistent throughout the traffic drop? Or did the conversions drop in correlation with the traffic drop?

By the end of this post, my goal is that you’ll be able to replicate this audit to determine exactly what’s causing your organic traffic decline and how to get back on the right track.

Let’s dive in!

Keyword ranking differences from 2015–2017

This was my initial starting point for my audit. I started with this specifically because the most obvious answer, for a decline in traffic is a decline in keyword rankings.

I wanted to look at what keywords we were ranking for in 2015 to see if we significantly dropped in the rankings or if the search volume had dropped. If the company you’re auditing has had a long-running Moz account, start by looking at the keyword rankings from the initial start of the decline, compared to current keyword rankings.

I exported keyword data from both SEMrush and Moz, and looked specifically at the ranking changes of core keywords.

March was a particularly strong month across the board, so I narrowed it down and exported the keyword rankings in:

  • March 2015
  • March 2016
  • March 2017
  • December 2017 (so I could get the most current rankings)

Once the keywords were exported, I went in and highlighted in red the keywords that we were ranking for in 2015 (and driving traffic from) that we were no longer ranking for in 2017. I also highlighted in yellow the keywords we were ranking for in 2015 that were still ranking in 2017.

2015 keywords:

2017 keywords:

(Brand-related queries and URLs are blurred out for anonymity)

One thing that immediately stood out: in 2015, this company was ranking for five keywords, including the word “free.” They have since changed their offering, so it made sense that in 2017, we weren’t ranking for those keywords.

After removing the free queries, we pulled the “core” keywords to look at their differences.

March 2015 core keywords:

  • Appointment scheduling software: position 9
  • Online appointment scheduling: position 11
  • Online appointment scheduling: position 9
  • Online scheduling software: position 9
  • Online scheduler: position 9
  • Online scheduling: position 13

December 2017 core keywords:

  • Appointment scheduler: position 11
  • Appointment scheduling software: position 10
  • Online schedule: position 6
  • Online appointment scheduler: position 11
  • Online appointment scheduling: position 12
  • Online scheduling software: position 12
  • Online scheduling tool: position 10
  • Online scheduling: position 15
  • SaaS appointment scheduling: position 2

There were no particular red flags here. While some of the keywords have moved down 1–2 spots, we had new ones jump up. These small changes in movement didn’t explain the nearly 30–40% drop in organic traffic. I checked this off my list and moved on to organic landing pages.

Top organic landing page changes

Since the dive into keyword rankings didn’t provide the answer for the decline in traffic, the next thing I looked at were the organic landing pages. I knew this client had switched over CMS systems in early 2017, and had done a few small redesign projects the past three years.

After exporting our organic landing pages for 2015, 2016, and 2017, we compared the top ten (by organic sessions) and got the following results.

2015 top organic landing pages:

2016 top organic landing pages:

2017 top organic landing pages:

Because of their redesign, you can see that the subfolders changed between 2015/2016 to 2017. What really got my attention, however, is the /get-started page. In 2015/2016, the Get Started page accounted for nearly 16% of all organic traffic. In 2017, the Get Started page was nowhere to be found.

If you run into this problem and notice there are pages missing from your current top organic pages, a great way to uncover why is to use the Wayback Machine. It’s a great tool that allows you to see what a web page looked like in the past.

When we looked at the /get-started URL in the Wayback Machine, we noticed something pretty interesting:

In 2015, their /get-started page also acted as their login page. When people were searching on Google for “[Company Name] login,” this page was ranking, bringing in a significant amount of organic traffic.

Their current setup sends logins to a subdomain that doesn’t have a GA code (as it’s strictly used as a portal to the actual application).

That helped explain some of the organic traffic loss, but knowing that this client had gone through a few website redesigns, I wanted to make sure that all redirects were done properly. Regardless of whether or not your traffic has changed, if you’ve recently done a website redesign where you’re changing URLs, it’s smart to look at your top organic landing pages from before the redesign and double check to make sure they’re redirecting to the correct pages.

While this helped explain some of the traffic loss, the next thing we looked at was the on-page metrics to see if we could spot any obvious tracking issues.

Comparing on-page engagement metrics

Looking at the keyword rankings and organic landing pages provided a little bit of insight into the organic traffic loss, but it was nothing definitive. Because of this, I moved to the on-page metrics for further clarity. As a disclaimer, when I talk about on-page metrics, I’m talking about bounce rate, page views, average page views per session, and time on site.

Looking at the same top organic pages, I compared the on-page engagement metrics.

2015 on-page metrics:

2016 on-page metrics:

2017 on-page metrics:

While the overall engagement metrics changed slightly, the biggest and most interesting discrepancy I saw was in the bounce rates for the home page and Get Started page.

According to a number of different studies (like this one, this one, or even this one), the average bounce rate for a B2B site is around 40–60%. Seeing the home page with a bounce rate under 20% was definitely a red flag.

This led me to look into some other metrics as well. I compared key metrics between 2015 and 2017, and was utterly confused by the findings:

Looking at the organic sessions (overall), we saw a decrease of around 80,000 sessions, or 27.93%.

Looking at the organic users (overall) we saw a similar number, with a decrease of around 38,000 users, or 25%.

When we looked at page views, however, we saw a much more drastic drop:

For the entire site, we saw a 50% decrease in pageviews, or a decrease of nearly 400,000 page views.

This didn’t make much sense, because even if we had those extra 38,000 users, and each user averaged roughly 2.49 pages per session (looking above), that would only account for, at most, 100,000 more page views. This left 300,000 page views unaccounted for.

This led me to believe that there was definitely some sort of tracking issue. The high number of page views and low bounce rate made me suspect that some users were being double counted.

However, to confirm these assumptions, I took a look at some external data sources.

Using SEMrush and Moz data to exclude user error

If you have a feeling that your tracking was messed up in previous years, a good way to confirm or deny this hypothesis is to check external sources like Moz and SEMrush.

Unfortunately, this particular client was fairly new, so as a result, their Moz campaign data wasn’t around during the high organic traffic times in 2015. However, if it was, a good place to start would be looking at the search visibility metric (as long as the primary keywords have stayed the same). If this metric has changed drastically over the years, it’s a good indicator that your organic rankings have slipped quite a bit.

Another good thing to look at is domain authority and core page authority. If your site has had a few redesigns, moved URLs, or anything like that, it’s important to make sure that the domain authority has carried over. It’s also important to look at the page authorities of your core pages. If these are much lower than when they were before the organic traffic slide, there’s a good chance your redirects weren’t done properly, and the page authority isn’t being carried over through those new domains.

If, like me, you don’t have Moz data that dates back far enough, a good thing to check is the organic traffic cost in SEMrush.

Organic traffic cost can change because of a few reasons:

  1. Your site is ranking for more valuable keywords, making the organic traffic cost rise.
  2. More competitors have entered the space, making the keywords you were ranking for more expensive to bid on.

Usually it’s a combination of both of these.

If our organic traffic really was steadily decreasing for the past 2 years, we’d likely see a similar trendline looking at our organic traffic cost. However, that’s not what we saw.

In March of 2015, the organic traffic cost of my client’s site was $ 14,300.

In March of 2016, the organic traffic cost was $ 22,200

In December of 2017, the organic traffic cost spiked all the way up to $ 69,200. According to SEMrush, we also saw increases in keywords and traffic.

Looking at all of this external data re-affirmed the assumption that something must have been off with our tracking.

However, as a final check, I went back to internal metrics to see if the conversion data had decreased at a similar rate as the organic traffic.

Analyzing and comparing conversion metrics

This seemed like a natural final step into uncovering the mystery in this traffic drop. After all, it’s not organic traffic that’s going to profit your business (although it’s a key component). The big revenue driver is goal completions and form fills.

This was a fairly simple procedure. I went into Google Analytics to compare goal completion numbers and goal completion conversion rates over the past three years.

If your company is like my client’s, there’s a good chance you’re taking advantage of the maximum 20 goal completions that can be simultaneously tracked in Analytics. However, to make things easier and more consistent (since goal completions can change), I looked at only buyer intent conversions. In this case it was Enterprise, Business, and Personal edition form fills, as well as Contact Us form fills.

If you’re doing this on your own site, I would recommend doing the same thing. Gated content goal completions usually have a natural shelf life, and this natural slowdown in goal completions can skew the data. I’d look at the most important conversion on your site (usually a contact us or a demo form) and go strictly off those numbers.

For my client, you can see those goal completion numbers below:

Goal completion name

2015

2016

2017

Contact Us

579

525

478

Individual Edition

3,372

2,621

3,420

Business Edition

1,147

1,437

1,473

Enterprise Edition

1,178

1,053

502

Total

6,276

5,636

5,873

Conversion rates:

Goal completion name

2015

2016

2017

Contact Us

0.22%

0.22%

0.23%

Individual Edition

1.30%

1.09%

1.83%

Business Edition

0.46%

0.60%

0.76%

Enterprise Edition

0.46%

0.44%

0.29%

Average

0.61%

0.58%

0.77%

This was pretty interesting. Although there was clearly fluctuation in the goal completions and conversion rates, there were no differences that made sense with our nearly 40,000 user drop from 2015 to 2016 to 2017.

All of these findings further confirmed that we were chasing an inaccurate goal. In fact, we spent the first three months working together to try and get back a 40% loss that, quite frankly, was never even there in the first place.

Tying everything together and final thoughts

For this particular case, we had to go down all five of these roads in order to reach the conclusion that we did: Our tracking was off in the past.

However, this may not be the case for your company or your clients. You may start by looking at keyword rankings, and realize that you’re no longer ranking on the first page for ten of your core keywords. If that’s the case, you quickly discovered your issue, and your game plan should be investing in your core pages to help get them ranking again for these core keywords.

If your goal completions are way down (by a similar percentage as your traffic), that’s also a good clue that your declining traffic numbers are correct.

If you’ve looked at all of these metrics and still can’t seem to figure out the reasoning for the decrease and you’re blindly trying tactics and struggling to crawl your way back up, this is a great checklist to go through to confirm the ominous question of tracking issue or optimization issue.

If you’re having a similar issue as me, I’m hoping this post helps you get to the root of the problem quickly, and gets you one step closer to create realistic organic traffic goals for the future!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

Small changes to call-to-action wording can have a large impact on conversion.
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Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

If you’re in advertising or marketing, it helps to have an understanding of what conversion rate optimization is. CRO can be a powerful tool to improve the success of every marketing campaign, initiative and website you work on.
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Your Daily SEO Fix: Keywords, Concepts, Page Optimization, and Happy NAPs

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Howdy, readers! We’re back with our last round of videos for this go of the Daily SEO Fix series. To recap, here are the other topics we’ve covered previously:

Today we’ll be delving into more keyword and concept research, quick wins for on-page optimization, and a neat way to stay abreast of duplicates and inaccuracies in your local listings. We use Moz Pro, the MozBar, and Moz Local in this week’s fixes.


Fix #1: Grouping and analyzing keywords by label to judge how well you’re targeting a concept


The idea of “concepts over keywords” has been around for a little while now, but tracking rankings for a concept isn’t quite as straightforward as it is for keywords. In this fix, Kristina shows you how to label groups of keywords to track and sort their rankings in Moz Pro so you can easily see how you’re ranking for grouped terms, chopping and analyzing the data as you see fit.


Fix #2: Adding alternate NAP details to uncover and clean up duplicate or inaccurate listings


If you work in local SEO, you know how important it is for listings to have an accurate NAP (name, address, phone number). When those details change for a business, it can wreak absolute havoc and confuse potential searchers. Jordan walks you through adding alternate NAP details in Moz Local to make sure you uncover and clean up old and/or duplicate listings, making closure requests a breeze. (This Whiteboard Friday is an excellent explanation of why that’s really important; I like it so much that I link to it in the resources below, too. ;)

Remember, you can always use the free Check Listing tool to see how your local listings and NAP are popping up on search engines:

Is my NAP accurate?


Fix #3: Research keywords and concepts to fuel content suggestions — on the fly

You’re already spying on your competitors’ sites; you might as well do some keyword research at the same time, right? Chiaryn walks you through how to use MozBar to get keyword and content suggestions and discover how highly ranking competitor sites are using those terms. (Plus a cameo from Lettie Pickles, star of our 2015 Happy Holidays post!)


Fix #4: Discover whether your pages are well-optimized as you browse — then fix them with these suggestions


A fine accompaniment to your on-the-go keyword research is on-the-go on-page optimization. (Try saying that five times fast.) Janisha gives you the low-down on how to check whether a page is well-optimized for a keyword and identify which fixes you should make (and how to prioritize them) using the SEO tool bar.


Further reading & fond farewells

I’ve got a whole passel of links if you’re interested in reading more educational content around these topics. And by “reading,” I mean “watching,” because I really stacked the deck with Whiteboard Fridays this time. Here you are:

And of course, if you need a better handle on all this SEO stuff and reading blog posts just doesn’t cut the mustard, we now offer classes that cover all the essentials.

My sincere thanks to all of you tuning in to check out our Daily SEO Fix video series over the past couple of weeks — it’s been fun writing to you and hearing from you in the comments! Be sure to keep those ideas and questions comin’ — we’re listening.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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5 Content Optimization Mistakes You’ll Wish You Fixed Sooner

"Show your site visitors that you’re a match for them — faster." – Stefanie Flaxman

By now you know that — technical details aside — SEO is not separate from content marketing; it’s an integrated aspect of content marketing.

Optimizing your content for search engines is part of your craft and a skill you can strengthen with practice.

But even when you rank well for search terms your audience uses, the real test is what happens when someone clicks through to your website. As Brian wrote on Monday:

“There’s nothing worse than a quick bounce.”

To avoid a quick bounce, you need to focus on content optimization. Since you don’t want to miss any opportunities to connect with your site visitors, study this list of five common mistakes — and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: Your visitors can’t tell if your content’s right for them

A row of four new houses that all look basically the same were just built on the street where I live. When a real estate agent starts taking potential buyers on tours of the houses, do you know what’s going to happen?

The potential buyers are going to examine the properties and make judgments about the differences they notice.

A woman is going to dislike the filigree on one of the front gates and select the house with the simple brown gate and extra large balconies. A man is going to love the house with the filigree on the front gate. Another woman is going to hate the house with the extra large balconies and prefer the house with additional living room space.

You get the point.

While these houses appear roughly similar from the outside, visitors quickly assess which property is right for them based on their personal preferences.

The same thing happens when people search for information about a topic. The websites that appear at the top of search results for a keyword phrase might all look the same at first, so visitors will quickly inspect your content to see if it contains the qualities that are right for them.

If your special qualities (your proverbial front gate with filigree, large balcony, or spacious living room) aren’t clear, you won’t convince the people you want to attract that you can satisfy their preferences.

How to fix it

Take 15 Minutes to Find Your Winning Difference

When you stop trying to attract everyone, it’s easier to attract those who recognize and appreciate your unique selling proposition (USP).

You’re right for some visitors and your competitors may be right for others. That’s okay.

Mistake #2: Your headlines aren’t specific

The quickest way to a quick bounce is a generic headline that could appear on any other website in your niche.

Typically, these weak headlines fail to offer a benefit, or the benefit could be so vague that it fails to capture the attention of the people who you actually created the content for.

They could also be boring.

How to fix it

Ask Yourself These 3 Simple Questions to Craft Better Headlines

If you immediately communicate details about why your content is helpful, you’ll grab the attention of people who need that kind of help.

Aim to infuse your headlines with the essence of your USP and show your site visitors that you’re a match for them — faster.

Mistake #3: You don’t edit

Plenty of websites have success publishing first-draft content. If rough drafts form a bond with the people you aim to serve … cool.

But if your content isn’t striking a chord with the people you want to attract and develop relationships with, you may need to push yourself further.

How to fix it

Discover Why Content Marketers Need Editors

Rough drafts often fail to effectively convey your messages. They may contain too much information or tangents that distract busy readers and make your content less useful.

Editing is about creating a content experience. Rather than expressing raw thoughts, you craft a thoughtful presentation that helps solve a problem. When you click on the link above, you’ll learn how to think like an editor.

Mistake #4: You don’t give visitors more opportunities to learn

Websites with a lot of content may still look like “brochure” websites if they don’t present a different angle or perspective that makes visitors think, “I like this specific approach to this topic.”

When visitors feel you offer them something they can’t find on other websites, they want to hear more from you and stay connected.

If you don’t anticipate a reader’s desire to learn more, he might bounce to other sites to see if they offer more resources.

How to fix it

Add a Tantalizing Incentive that Will Build Your Email List

Ideally, you want to have so much great content that when visitors land on your site they’re frustrated that they don’t have enough time to consume it all in one sitting.

They’ll have to make a note to come back. Now the question is:

Do they sign up for your email list so they don’t miss any new content?

Make signing up for your email list a no-brainer by providing an incentive that is a perfect match for their needs. Your email list could also offer exclusive content the public doesn’t see.

Visitors will feel like they hit the jackpot that day on their journey.

Mistake #5: You don’t empower visitors to make a purchase

Information is … information. It doesn’t spark the buying process.

If you don’t give visitors a taste of what it’s like to do business with you, you won’t convert prospects to customers.

How to fix it

Educate to Convert Your Prospects

When you convince your website visitors to keep up with everything you publish, you’re able to build the relationships that will build your business. And the right balance of content and copy helps your prospects imagine what it’s like to buy from you.

Demonstrate why your product or service will give them the transformation they desire.

Optimize your content to grow your audience

Here’s a suggestion:

Assign each of the mistakes above to a day next week, Monday through Friday, and spend a couple hours each day identifying where you might make those errors and how you can fix them. By the end of the week, you’ll have a wealth of new ideas about how you can improve going forward.

What’s your process for producing exceptional content that impresses your website visitors? In the comments below, let us know how you stand out.

The post 5 Content Optimization Mistakes You’ll Wish You Fixed Sooner appeared first on Copyblogger.


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The 4 Fundamental Steps of Conversion Optimization

Once upon a time, I was sitting in my office looking over data for one our new clients and reviewing the conversion project roadmap. The phone rang and on the other end was the VP of marketing for a multi-billion-dollar company. It is very unusual to get an unannounced call from someone at his level, but he had an urgent problem to solve. A good number of his website visitors were not converting.

His problem did not surprise me. We deal with conversion rates optimization every day.

He invited me to meet with his team to discuss the problem further. The account would be a huge win for Invesp, so we agreed on a time that worked for both us. When the day came, our team went to the company’s location.

We started the discussion, and things did NOT go as I expected. The VP, who led the meeting, said, “we have a conversion problem.”

“First-time visitors to our website convert at a rate of 48%. Repeat visitors convert at 80%!”

I was puzzled.

Not sure what exactly puzzled me. Was it the high conversion numbers or was it the fact that the VP was not happy with them. He wanted more.

I thought he had his conversion numbers wrong. But nope. We looked at his analytics, and he was correct. The numbers were simply amazing by all standards. The VP, however, had a different mindset. The company runs thousands of stores around the US. When someone picks up the phone and calls them, they convert callers at a 90% rate. He was expecting the same conversion rate for his online store.

Let’s face it. A typical e-commerce store converts at an average of 3%. Few websites are able to get to anywhere from 10 to 18%. These are considered the stars of the world of conversion rates.

The sad truth about a website with 15% conversion rate is that 85% of the visitors simply leave without converting. Money left on the table, cash the store will not be able to capture. Whatever way you think about it, we can agree that there is a huge opportunity, but it is also a very difficult one to conquer.

The Problem with Conversion Optimization

Most companies jump into conversion optimization with a lot of excitement. As you talk to teams conducting conversion optimization, you notice a common thread. They take different pages of the website and run tests on them. Some tests produce results; others do not. After a while, the teams run out of ideas. The managers run out of excitement.

The approach of randomly running tests on different pages sees conversion rate optimization in a linear fashion. The real problem is that no one shops online in a linear fashion. We do not follow a linear path when we navigate from one area of the website to the next. Humans most of the time are random, or, at least, they appear random.

What does that mean?

The right approach to increase conversion rates needs to be systematical, because it deals with irrational and random human behavior.

So, how do you do this?

The Four Steps to Breaking to Double Digits Conversion Rates

After ten years of doing conversion optimization at Invesp, I can claim that we have a process that works for many online businesses. The truth is that it continues to be a work in progress.

These are the four steps you should follow to achieve your desired conversion rate:

Create Personas for Your Website

I could never stop talking about personas and the impact they have on your website. While most companies talk about their target market, personas help you translate your generalized and somewhat abstract target market data into a personalized experience that impacts your website design, copy and layout.

Let’s take the example of a consulting company that targets “e-commerce companies with a revenue of 10 million dollars or more.” There are two problems with this statement:

  • The statement is too general about the target market (no verticals and no geography, for example)
  • I am not sure how to translate this statement into actionable items on my website or marketing activity

You should first think about the actual person who would hire the services of this consulting company. Most likely, the sales take place to:

  • A business owner for a company with annual revenue from 10 to 20 million dollars.
  • A marketing director for a company with annual revenue from 20 to 50 million dollars.
  • A VP of marketing for a company with annual revenue over 50 million dollars.

Now, translate each of these three different cases into a persona.

So, instead of talking about a business owner for a company that is generating annual revenue from 10 to 20 million dollars, we will talk about:

John Riley, 43 years old, completed his B.A. in physics from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a happy father of three. He started the company in 2007 and financed it from his own pocket. His company generated 13.5 million dollars of revenue in 2014 and expects to see a modest 7% increase in sales in 2015. John is highly competitive, but he also cares about his customers and thinks of them as an extended family. He would like to find a way to increase this year’s revenue by 18%, but he is not sure how to do so. He is conservative when it comes to using new marketing techniques. In general, John does not trust consultants and thinks of them as overpaid.

This is an oversimplification of the persona creation process and its final product. But you get the picture. If you are the consulting company that targets John, then what type of website design, copy and visitor flow would you use to persuade him to do business with you?

What data points do you use to create personas for your website? I would start with this:

  • Market research
  • Demographical studies
  • Usability studies
  • Zip code analysis
  • Existing customer surveys
  • Competitive landscape
  • AB and Multivariate testing data

A website or a business should typically target four to seven personas.

Add Traffic Sources

So, you have the personas. These personas should impact your design, copy and visitor flow.

But how?

Let’s start by looking at analytics data. Look for a period of six months to one year and see the top traffic sources/mediums. If your website has been online for a while, then you will probably have hundreds of different sources. Start with your top 10 traffic sources/medium and create a matrix for each of the personas/traffic source/landing pages:

Now, your job is to evaluate each top landing page for each traffic source through the eyes of your website personas. For each page, you will answer eight questions.

The persona questions: Eight questions to ask

  • What type of information would persona “x” need to see to click on to the next page on the website?
  • What would be the top concerns persona “x” have looking at the page?
  • What kind of copy does persona “x” need to see?
  • What type of trigger words are important to include on the page for persona “x”?
  • What words should I avoid for persona “x”?
  • What kind of headline should I use to persuade persona “x” to stay on my website?
  • What kind of images should I use to capture persona “x” attention?
  • What elements on the page could distract persona “x”?

As you answer these questions for each of the personas, you will end up with a large set of answers and actions. The challenge and the art will be to combine all these and make the same landing page work for all different personas. This is not a small task, but this is where the fun begins.

Consider the Buying Stages 

You thought the previous work was complex? Well, you haven’t seen anything just yet!

Not every visitor who lands on your website is ready to buy. Visitors come to your website in different buying stages, and only 15-20% are in the action stage. The sequential buying stages of a visitor are:

  • Awareness stage (top of the sales funnel)
  • Research stage
  • Evaluating alternatives
  • Action stage
  • Post action

A typical buying funnel looks like this:

How does that translate into actionable items on your website?

In the previous exercise, we created a list of changes on different screens or sections of your website based on the different personas. Now, we are going to think about each persona landing on the website in one of the first four buying stages.

Instead of thinking of how to adjust a particular screen for John Riley, now you think of a new scenario:
Persona “x” is in the “evaluating alternatives” stage of the buying funnel. He lands on a particular landing page. What do I need to adjust in the website design and copy to persuade persona “x” to convert?

Our previous table looks like this now:

Next, answer all eight persona-questions again, based on the different buying stages.

Test your different scenarios

This goes without saying; you should NEVER introduce changes to your website without actually testing them. You can find plenty of blogs and books out there on how to conduct testing correctly if you are interested in learning more about AB testing and multivariate testing.

For a start, keep the five No’s of AB testing in mind:

1. No to “Large and complex tests”

Your goal is NOT to conduct large AB or multivariate tests. Your goal is to discover what elements on the page cause visitors to act a specific way. Break complex tests into smaller ones. The more you can isolate the changes to one or two elements, the easier it will be to understand the impact of different design and copy elements on visitors’ actions.

2. No to “Tests without a hypothesis”

I can never say it enough. A test without a good hypothesis is a gambling exercise. A hypothesis is a predictive statement about a problem or set of problems on your page and the impact of solving these problems on visitor behavior.

3. No to “Polluted data”

Do not run tests for less than seven days or longer than four weeks. In both scenarios, you are leaving yourself open to the chance of inconsistent and polluted data. When you run a test for less than seven days, website data inconsistencies you are not aware of may affect your results. So, give the test results a chance to stabilize. If you run a test for more than four weeks, you are allowing external factors to have a larger impact on your results.

4. No to “Quick fixes”

Human psychology is complex. Conversion optimization is about understanding visitor behavior and adjusting website design, copy and process to persuade these visitors to convert. Conversion optimization is not a light switch you turn on and off. It is a long-term commitment. Some tests will produce results and some will not. Increases in conversion rates are great but what you are looking for is a window to visitor behavior.

5. No to “Tests without marketing insights”

Call it whatever you like: forensic analysis, posttest analysis, test results assessment. You should learn actionable marketing insights from the test to deploy across channels and verticals. The real power of any testing program lays beyond the results.

If you follow the steps outlined in this blog, you will have a lot to do.

So, happy testing!

About the author: This guide was written by Khalid Saleh. He is the CEO of Invesp, a conversion optimization software and services firm with clients in 11 different countries.

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How 3 Mega E-Commerce Websites Approach Title Tag & Meta Description Optimization

ecommerce-shopping

Here’s a test: Google “fairy wings” right now. Your job is to quickly find which result will sell you a set of glitter fairy wings and preferably include free shipping.

Now that you’ve begun your search, how do you know which result will bring you to the most qualified products? One way is to visually scan the title and description snippets in your search results.

There are nearly 12 billion Google searches per month. Consumers conduct searches for products or services they need, and often use the snippets in search results as deciding factor on whether to click, or keep scrolling.

The examples below show how three mega e-commerce sites approach title tags and meta descriptions, what they’re doing right and some additional opportunities.

Alibaba.com

alibaba logo

Alibiba.com takes a keyword-heavy approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Jam-packed with keywords, their title tags and meta descriptions often exceed recommended character counts and do not create compelling arguments for click-throughs.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Including keywords in title tags and meta descriptions
  • Using action-oriented meta descriptions to call readers to “Find quality [product name here]”

Strategic recommendations

  • Reduce title tag length: Lengths are consistently over 100 characters. Limiting the character count to 50-60 will reduce truncation in search results and allow Alibaba.com to reign in their optimization strategy to focus on 1-2 top priority keywords per page.
  • Reduce meta description length: Descriptions tend to be upwards of 200 characters on this site. Limiting the character length to 160 characters or less will allow Alibaba.com to lead with a complete, cohesive sentence in search results.
  • Draft unique and compelling meta descriptions: Meta descriptions on this site’s product pages simply reorder keywords listed in title tag and tend to trail off into lists of keywords for the bots to read. Draft descriptions for readers instead of search bots to improve click-through rates with concise, actionable language that emphasizes Alibaba.com’s value proposition.

alibaba meta example

Amazon

amazon logo

Amazon appears to take a minimalistic approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Template-style descriptions leave room for improvement in terms of providing useful and compelling reasons to click.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Not exceeding character limitations in most cases

Strategic recommendations

  • Draft more robust meta descriptions: Second level category pages such as Toys & Games or Electronics appear to have effortless, default meta titles and descriptions. Due to the incomplete description provided by Amazon in the example below, Google has opted to feed additional copy from the page that it feels better represents the content of the page. Amazon could take control of this lost meta description real estate by providing a detailed and compelling description.
  • Draft compelling title tags: Although “Toys & Games” may be the actual page title, this title tag does not compel a reader to click. It does not evoke interest, or curiosity, or excitement. We recommend drafting a title that highlights the value proposition or ties into an overarching brand voice.

Amazon meta example

Best Buy

best buy logo

Best Buy’s approach to meta titles and descriptions is the perfect mix of taglines, keywords and marketing objectives to provide attractive page snippets you can’t help but click.

What they’re doing right

  • Concise language that defines the benefit of shopping with them: In-store pickup, free shipping on thousands of products, expert service.
  • Appropriate lengths to avoid truncation in search results
  • Unique title tags and meta descriptions on every page

Strategic Recommendations

  • Keep rocking your mad meta skills!

best buy meta example

For years, optimization experts have been told that keywords within meta titles and descriptions do not effect organic ranking – and while Google’s ranking algorithm may not be reading these keywords, users are. They’re deciding which search result to click on based on their perception of the relevance of each result page.

How compelling are your title tags and meta descriptions? Ensure they follow recommended character limits, include 1-2 keywords most relevant to the page’s content and concisely pitch your value proposition. If you do, your glittery fairy wings should be flying off the shelves in no time.

For more real-life examples of search engine optimization strategies and results, check out TopRank Marketing’s integrated marketing case studies.

Header image via Shutterstock.


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A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Search Optimization

small business owner

It’s a restaurant owner’s worst online nightmare – someone is searching for a restaurant in your neighborhood and your business doesn’t appear until page 7 of the search results, right below the creepy deli/gas station hybrid three towns over.

According to a 2014 Google study, 50% of mobile users are most likely to visit a storefront within a day of conducting a local search online. Over the next few years it’s very probable that these numbers will only continue to increase. With conversion rates like these, it’s clear that there are revenue driving benefits to optimizing your local presence so that you can be seen online by more of your potential customers.

Small business owners often wear many hats: accountant, business strategist, general manager and marketer. I’d venture to say that search engine specialist likely isn’t at the top of your resume, and it doesn’t need to be if you follow these simple steps to ensure that your local business’s online presence is off to the right start.

#1 – Lock Down Local Directories

Take a few minutes to research what local directories (ex: Yelp, SuperPages, YellowPages, UrbanSpoon, DexxKnows, etc.) are ranking on page one of Google for the keywords you are targeting as part of your SEO strategy. Next you’ll want to identify the top five directories, uncover whether your business is listed on them and take steps to claim the listing or create a new listing for each.

Below is an example of the directories that appear for a local search for “watch repair”. If you’re a watch repair shop in Minneapolis, but aren’t listed on these local directories, or are categorized incorrectly, your business won’t be presented as an option on these sites.

watch repair minneapolis

Tips for claiming and optimizing your local business listings:

  • Standardize your company name. Take the time to ensure your business name is correct and consistent across all listings. This solidifies signals to the search engines that help boost brand-name based rankings.
  • Opt for a local phone number. List your company’s local phone number instead of a toll-free number. Google prefers to see a local number that is consistent with your geographical location.
  • Include keywords. Ensure 1-2 of your priority keywords are integrated into the business description. Priority keywords are generally centered on your main products or services. If you’re a Pizza Hut in Denver, your priority keywords would most likely be “denver pizza delivery” or “denver pizza”.
  • Utilize imagery options. Adding an appropriately sized logo and images of your business will ensure your listings appear official and polished.

#2 – Optimize Google Local Listing

Despite the upcoming changes to Google+ as a social platform, your company’s Google Local listing is still the most important local listing to claim and optimize. This page appears in company-related local searches and in Google Maps results.

cold stone creamery

Tips for claiming and optimizing your Google Local listing:

  • Optimize your business description. Take advantage of Google’s option to hyperlink text within the business description area. Link to your highest priority services pages or products on your website.
  • Be strategic with your login credentials. If you have a company YouTube account, claim your listing using the same Google login. This will allow you to easily feed YouTube videos into your Google Local listing.
  • Upload a high quality banner image. A poor quality image that is stretched or blurry will reflect on the quality of your brand. Aim for an image that’s 2120 x 1192 pixels.

#3 – Encourage Customer Reviews

Customer reviews have a direct impact on local listing search rankings. Moreover, when 73% of searchers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, it’s well worth the effort to ensure your company offers the third party validation that potential customers are looking for.

Best Seattle Restaurant

Tips for collecting online reviews:

  • Not all at once! Collecting too many customer reviews within a short time period will immediately raise red flags on local directories like Yelp and Google. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Integrate review requests into your service process. Add “Review us on Google” to your receipts. Add “Request a review” to your service staff’s checklist when serving a satisfied customer. Integrating these requests into the service workflow will ensure a constant stream of user reviews.
  • Accept the good with the bad. You’re going to have a disgruntled customer, and they’re going to leave a bad review – it’s just part of the business. Know that one bad review immersed in a collection of positive reviews is likely to be dismissed by users.

Google allows business owners to respond directly to reviews. Use this feature to draft an attentive, respectful response that offers an apology and helps to remedy their concerns. Potential customers will appreciate your willingness to make things right for unhappy customers.

#4 – Integrate Keywords into Website Meta Tags and Content

Yes, you can do this. No, you don’t need to be a code wizard.

If you have a content management system that allows you to edit the content on each webpage, more than likely there’s an option to specify a meta title and description for each page. When you’re a local business with a service area centered on a large city, adding the city name to your meta titles, descriptions and content will help your ranking for city-related searches.

Here’s an example of how you could incorporate the city name into the meta title of a homepage:

current updated

You should also make sure that your target city is mentioned within the actual content of your website. Include a sentence like this in an introductory paragraph on your homepage.

Bella Bonita

How Optimized is Your Local Presence?

The tips above are the bare basics of local optimization. Although they just scratch the surface of a comprehensive optimization strategy, they serve as an achievable starting point for local business owners that aren’t sure how to approach the topic of local search optimization.

Think you’re getting the hang of this? Take your optimization to the next level by aligning your keyword objectives to your content lifecycle by learning How to Incorporate SEO and Influencer Content.

Header image via Shutterstock

 


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Evil Tips for Landing Page Optimization – Sonia Simone

Sonia Simone - Authority Rainmaker 2015

Is marketing evil? Sonia Simone kicked off her Authority Rainmaker 2015 presentation with a question that has certainly been asked before. Unfortunately we’ve all come across misguided campaigns that seem intended to trick people rather than help them. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

“Like brushing your teeth before going out on a date, marketing is about putting a good face on what you have”, explains Sonia. You may be able to pull the wool over people’s eyes in the short term, but tricking your audience is a sure path to failure in the long run. Every brand’s reputation is pretty easy to research on the internet these days and people just aren’t dumb enough for a truly ‘evil’ strategy to work.

So, effective digital marketing is decidedly not ‘evil’, but can we learn something from evil people? According to Sonia, we certainly can. Drawing on some classic villains including Dr. Evil and the Joker, Sonia laid out how well-meaning digital marketers can benefit from adding just a little ‘evil’ to their landing pages.

Dr Evils Landing Page Optimization Tips - Authority Rainmaker 2015

Always Try to Shoot Fish from a Barrel

The best way to generate conversions from your landing pages is simply to make it easy for people to convert. Like a barrel, a well-constructed landing page puts visitors directly in the firing line of your offer and doesn’t include ‘leaks’ or distractions to divert them from converting.

To get more ‘fish’ into your barrel, it needs to be inviting to your audience. Make sure your landing pages (and by extension your whole website) look professional, are easy to use and load fast. Test your forms across all major devices and browsers, then test them again. Even better, ask your grandma to test them.

Also, your offering needs to be something that people actually want. As Sonia explained, if you’re trying to sell broccoli ice cream, it doesn’t matter how well you market it, because nobody wants that.

Social Proof is Scarily Effective

Just like nobody wants to miss a party that they know their friends will be attending, people are much more motivated to join a list, download an ebook or sign up for an offer if there is evidence that others like them have already taken the same action.

Smart marketers have been aware of the power of social proof for a long time and the really smart ones are incorporating it into their landing pages to help them convert better.

A few ways to take advantage of the evil power of social proof:

  • Endorsements from influential people in the industry
  • Case studies
  • Social share count widgets
  • Facebook Like Boxes

 Landing Page Title Optimization - Authority Rainmaker 2015

Don’t Be Too Clever

Catchy clickbait headlines may work well for BuzzFeed, but they are notoriously poor performers on landing pages.

One of the fundamentals of high-converting landing page is clarity of messaging. While clever headlines may be attention grabbing, they are often confusing and confusion is the enemy of action.

In addition, confusing messaging can lower the perceived trust people have for your company, which is absolutely the last thing you want when potential business is on the line. Would you prefer to trust your health to a doctor who knew her craft, or one who could entertain you with jokes?

There’s a time and place for cleverness, but landing pages are rarely a good fit for either.

 The Terrifying Power of the Call to Action - Authority Rainmaker 2015

A Good Call to Action is Like Jedi Mind Control

When it comes to landing pages, your biggest competitor is inaction. Everyone’s attention is extremely limited, so make sure you aren’t wasting your audience’s time by being confusing or ambiguous with what they are supposed to do by including a good call to action.

Really killer calls to action have the following attributes:

  • Incredible clarity
  • A clear benefit
  • Builds trust

Provide Multiple Paths to Your Evil Lair

Any evil genius with any credibility has at least a few routes to reach their lair. There’s the hallway with spikes that pop out, the ventilation shaft hidden behind a bush and of course the front door (with lasers or something…).

Each of these distinct paths to the inside of your lair appeals to a different kind of secret agent or commando. The cautious and pragmatic spy will likely prefer to take their time and slink in through the ventilation shaft, while the overpowered bruiser henchmen will crash their way through the front door.

Similarly, visitors to your landing pages are likely to respond to different paths to conversion. Varying degrees of experience with your brand, places in the sales cycle and personal values are a few factors that can cause people to respond better to different messages or formats.

Boiling it down, Sonia says there are two major categories which your visitors are likely to fall into:

  • Already sold – These are the people who know what they want, know you can deliver it and are ready to convert. Make sure you have a direct, frictionless, straight-to-the-point path to conversion for these visitors. Don’t waste their time.
  • Need some convincing – There’s a reason these people made it to your landing page (perhaps a useful blog post, ebook, or webinar you created?), but they’re not quite sold yet. A softer call to action will likely work much better for these visitors to help convince them it’s worth it to become a customer.

Make People Feel Safe

In order for evil geniuses to be successful, they must be able to build trust. In order for your landing pages to convert visitors into customers, you have to do the same.

According to Sonia, your audience’s single biggest fear is feeling stupid. Most people want to believe that your offering is everything you claim it is, but they can’t be sure until it’s too late. What if they buy your product and it doesn’t work? What if they join your email list and receive nothing but spam? What if they come to your webinar and you share incorrect or unhelpful information?

All of these unfortunate outcomes can make someone feel pretty stupid. Unfortunately, anyone who has used the internet for a while has probably been in at least one of these situations before, so they have built in wariness about it happening again. Therefore, in order to convert visitors to customers, you need to help them overcome the fear that you’ll make them feel stupid again.

In order to help your audience feel safe to do business with you, make sure your landing pages:

  • Project credibility
    • Include visual indicators such as security badges and privacy policy links.
    • List endorsements from trusted authorities.
    • Include references to other clients you work with.
  • Reverse the risk
    • Offer a money back guarantee.
    • Start with a free trial.

Evil is Good - Authority Rainmaker 2015

The objective of any strategic digital marketing campaign is to translate attention into action. A well made landing page can be scarily effective at doing just that. But, as the decidedly non-evil superhero Spiderman famously said, “with great power comes great responsibility”, so please make sure to use these evil landing page optimization tips for good.

Keep your eye here on Online Marketing Blog for coverage of Authority Rainmaker as well as Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and Twitter @TopRank.


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