Is Your Website DOA? Use SEO for CPR!

hatchimalThe scenario: You have the most amazing website layout known to mankind, the wittiest homepage,and (most importantly) this Christmas’ hottest toy, the Hatchimal, in stock! So, why isn’t your inventory flying off your virtual shelves? One problem might be that your website isn’t taking advanatge of SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s seo_1unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural’, ‘organic’, or ‘earned’ results.” Basically, it’s how people find your website when entering information into a search engine’s search bar.

So, back to our scenario: Curious about your site’s page rankings, you type in “hatchimals near me” into Google’s search bar. Well, your website definitely isn’t on the first page results. Not on the second. Not even on the fifth of sixth. Finally, on page twenty-four of the search results, you find your store’s link. Ah, well there’s your problem right there. Your website is burried in the search pages which is a big problem because no one really searches past the first few pages.

How does SEO work?

algorithm

SEO uses algorithms to determine page rankings. The higher the ranking, the more visible your site. The algorithms to determine rank are contantly changing too, so it’s important to keep up-to-date on the new requiremets. As of the date of this blog post, Google has released Penguin 4.0 as its newest algorithm.

brent_johnsonBrent Johnson, cofounder and CEO of Cadence Preferred (a sales and marketing campaign, content, and training company), wrote an article for PC Magazine entitled 4 Google SEO Best Practices to Help Get Your Small Business Noticed. In this article, he gives four tips to keep on top of the SEO game despite the changing algorithms.

  1. Write Often
  2. Google often refines its algoriths so that it can weed out the cheaters. No longer can a typingwebsite simply use only keywords to go up in ranking. Now, the algorithms are smarter
    and able to distinguish between a list of keywords and actual content. Johnson says “If you want your website to rise in the rankings, you need to be publishing fresh, new content on your website as often as possible.” So, no skimping on content, slacker. Get writing!

  3. Monitor Changes
  4. Has your website suddenly gone down in rankings? This could be due to an upgrade in the SEO’s algorithm. Johnson recommends that you compare today’s traffic to traffic in the months before the upgraded algorithm. If there’s a significant drop, then you may want to review Google’s specifications to see what they look for in content.

  5. Go Small
  6. responsive-design
    Bigger is no longer better when it comes to screen resolution. We live in an age where our screen sizes are getting smaller and smaller. Search engines are now penalizing websites for not being mobile-friendly. If you’re not on the mobile-friendly bandwagon, now is the time to jump on. Besides, non-mobile friendly sites are so 2012.

  7. Review and Watch
  8. Basically, keep an eye on your page’s ranking. Johnson specifically mentions Google Console as a good tool to track keywords and look for changes. He recommends you do it quickly because Google only archives 90 days of data. He further advises “monitor both your logs and the press over the next few months to identify changes so that you can react quickly to them”. In doing so, you may get an early lead on the changes and leave your competitor in the proverbial dust.

SEO can be a great asset and every website developer and/or business owner should learn how to use it and take advantage of the information it provides.


Website Example: Travelocity

travelocity

Online travel reservation websites are fiercely competitive. Websites such as Travelocity, Hotels.com, and Exepdia want their websites to be the first offered link when you search for travel needs. In 2016, Travelocity turned its efforts to optimizing search engine performance through the use of an Adobe product, Content Optimizer, and claims to have noticed a 67% boost in SEO in just four weeks.

I decided to test Travelocity’s SEO results and typed in “travel deals” into Google’s search bar. Travelocity is the first link that was presented to me. Way to go, Travelocity!

So, how do you use SEO to keep your website alive and kicking? I’d love hear from you. As usual, send me your questions and comments below!

More Than Numbers – Why Web Analytics Matter

hitcounter

Website Visitor Counters. We’ve all seen them. Rejoiced over them. Wept happy tears over them (or bitter tears depending on the count). 1,345 vistors to our website already? Oh, happy day! But, what if I told you that a vistor count wasn’t enough? What if I told you that you could have a steady stream of hit counts to your website, but still not be successful in the long run? Why is that?

john-leavy

In an article in Entrepreneur magazine, John D. Leavy, president of InPlainSite Marketing, explains that a vistor count simply isn’t enough. The article entitled Five Things You Should Know About Web Analytics says that the more important questions are

  • Where is the website traffic coming from?
  • What web pages are visitors landing on the most?
  • What percentage of visitors return to the site?
  • How many visitors convert into customers?

According to Leavy, these questions can be answered through the use of analytics. There are a lot of paid and free web analytics available on the web, today. One such free tool is Google Anayltics . The report generated from this analysis will help you find answers to the questions above.

So, now that you have the report. What do you do with the information? Leavy suggests five ways in which you can use the report to your company’s benefit.

  1. Check for New Vistors
  2. Are the vistors coming to your website new or existing visitors? If you want to attract new customers to your website, this information will come in handy. Ultimately, you want to attract vistors to your website who haven’t even heard of your business. Leavy recommends that “a well-designed website should only have a small percentage of visitors, maybe 5 percent, who have used the company’s name to find it.”

  3. Focus on Potential Customers
  4. moneyBottom line: You want people who are going to spend money. You want to attract people who know what they want. For example, someone who searches for “running shoes” is a whole lot less likely to make a purchase than someone who searches for “Women’s Saucony Grid Excursion TR 10 Trail Running Shoe”. Obviously, you want to attract the latter as they know what they want and are ready to spend some money.

  5. Set Goals for Social Media
  6. A lot of website traffic comes from promotions advertised on social media. Google Analytics allows you to set up a goal scenario for media. Do you want to see more people coming from Instagram to your website? Then simply set up a promotion on Instagram and see how many people follow the path from Instagram to your website.

  7. Identify Hompage Bailersjumping_ship
  8. Are your vistors jumping ship on your homepage without visiting anything else? This is often known as a “bounce rate”. Leavy warns “If the bounce rate is more than 60 to 70 percent, you have a problem”. If you’re attracting the right people then maybe the website’s design might be the problem. Check and see that the content is good and that the site is simple and straight-forward.

  9. Monitor Traffic Patterns
  10. trafficpatternsWith analytics, you can see where your vistors are going on the webpage. If you ultimately
    want them to purchase something are they being directed to the page that allows them to do so? If not, then you may want to review your website’s flow. The article recommends “The homepage should be divided into decision-making paths that quickly separate visitors by their interests and lead them to the information they are looking for”.


Website Example: Newegg

newegg

Newegg is an online retailer of computer hardware and software. As a completely e-commerce company (a company where commercial transactions are conducted electronically on the Internet), Newegg relives heavily on web analytics. Since they do not have a physical store front, they can’t watch customers come and go to their store. Their financial success relies on the information web analytics provides to them. From that information, they can create optimal traffic flow. This allows customers to find what they are looking for and utlimately make a purchase.

What are your experiences with web analytics? I’d love to hear from you. Questions and comments are welcomed below!

No More Fluff ‘N Stuff – Design Tips for Websites

We’ve all been there–checking out a website, clicking on links, reading content, and looking at pictures and suddenly we realize that (gasp) we’ve wasted 30 minutes on
a site (a web designers dream come true). So, what do these websites have that others don’t? What keeps a vistor engaged in a website and keeps them away from the little x in the upper-right hand corner?
barret
Lucy Barret, front-end WordPress developer and team lead, believes she knows the answer and it’s not just about optimizing performance anymore. In an article Handy Tips for Improving Web UX for Better Conversion Rates”, Barret points to 7 website strategies which will help keep your user engaged.

  1. Make Content Talk
  2. Sure, we are a generation of website skimmers, but we also enjoy engaging and interesting content. Once a user skims the website, what is going to keep him or her there? Barret says that web designers often see content as filler. In effort to sound professional, designers will use overly flowery and formal language. For example:

    “This morning, I presented sustinance to my biolgical offspring in which they ingested less than or equal to one quarter of the aforementioned sustinance.”

    or

    “This morning, I fed my kids and they barely ate anything.”

    drsuess

    Which sentence would you rather read?

  3. Stick to the Familiar
  4. This simply means to appeal to the users’s confirmation bias (a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions). Users will stick with what is familiar and comfortable. Websites that look confusing or cluttered will turn a user off. So, keep it simple, stupid!

  5. Grab and Hold Attention
  6. Barret suggets that after you put the user at easy with a familiar layout/design, then you can grab their attention. She recommends using visuals for this. The old adage of “show” don’t “tell” works as well for web design as it does for literature.

    For example:

    octopus

    I don’t even have to tell you that an octopus is really good at camouflage. The above picture does a better job at showing you that.

  7. Keep Sincere Reviews
  8. Simply, don’t pad your reviews. Users would much rather read a few negative reviews than find out that some reveiws were less than truthful. But, then again, that goes for life in general. Honesty is attractive.

  9. Leverage Mobile Responsiveness
  10. These days more and more people will access your website through a tablet, phone, or 640px-content-is-like-water-1980other smart device. It is time consuming, but good practice dictates that you test your website’s
    responsiveness on other devices. These days you don’t even have to physically own these devices. A lot of apps and plugins have ways to test what a website would look like on different devices. For instance, Chrome has a plugin for responsiveness testing which can be found here.

  11. Offer Consistent Experiences
  12. Barret reminds us that “engagement is part of the user experience, and it doesn’t end once the prospect makes a payment or fills out a form. Saying ‘thank you’ is a good start and basic etiquette.” Don’t forget your user once they’ve done what you want them to do. Remember, you want them to return! Keep them engaged in your website even after a purchase.

  13. Use Smarter Testing Practices
  14. Finally, test, test, test!! Prioritize your tests according to you websites’s specific needs or even your user’s specific needs. Barrets says “For example, engagement is a higher priority for sites with more interactive elements, while high cart abandonment rates mean you need to test the cart and checkout process before anything else.”


Website Example

northface

A great example of Barret’s website design tips is The NorthFace’s website. When you first see their website, the layout looks familiar. The cart and the search bar is where you would expect it to be (upper-right hand corner) and the navigation menu is right across the top. The pictures are bright and engaging, and you can almost feel the warm of the jacket in the frigid landscape. Content is brief, but engaging. I ran the website through my Chrome responsiveness tester, and the site did really well at resizing for mobile devices.

My one complaint is the pop-up window that appears about 5 seconds after looking around the website.popup

I absolutely hate pop-ups (even worse are the ones that have a choice between “Yes, I want to be healthy and save money” and “No, I don’t care about my physical or financial health”). I’ve been known to leave a page simply due to these kinds of pop-ups. I know I’m not the only one who finds pop-ups annoying. If this was my website, I’d definitely get rid of that. It’s such an unwelcome interruption.

Questions? Comments? What do you think of Barret’s article and/or The Northface’s website? Send me a message below.

How to Unlock the Secrets of a Good Blog (Hint: You’ll Need Three Keys)

In today’s digital world, blogging has become an important element in business marketing. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to write a successful blog. A lot of questions may go through your mind: “What do I say?”, or “How can I reach people?”, or even more importantly “Where do I begin?”.

andy_torres_4554_640x812

“Just be yourself” laughs Andy Torres entrepreneur and founder of StyleScrapbook, a website dedicated to helping ordinary people acheive a high-fashion look. One glance at her blog and social media presence shows that Andy Torres knows how to gain loyal readers. Her Instagram account has over 700,000 followers and her Facebook account has close to two million. In a 2011 TedxAmsterdamWomen 2011 TED talk titled “The Key to Successful Blogging”, Torres claims that over a million people visit her blog a month.

So, what’s her secret? Torres points to three important keys that each blog should have to be successful.

  1. Use Quality Pictures
  2.  

    Torres mentions that her pictures weren’t always of the best quality. She says that it took a lot of practice to get better pictures. Good quality pictures draw the reader in and keep him or her on the page. Since our society is a very visual one (look at how much time we spend watching television shows, Netflix, and YouTube), this is good advice. Also, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read (you can view the statistics here). Good visual elements in a blog post help bridge that gap. In her TED talk, Torres uses the pictures below to highlight the the importance of a good picture. Both pictures are from her blog, but the one on the right is an example of a good picture taken after many years of practice.

    before_after

  3. Build a Strong Social Network
  4.  

    In business, we need to communicate our presence to the digital world and invite readers into our blog. How else are they going to know that it exists? Torres says that the secret to great website traffic comes from a strong social media presence on places like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. She mentions that the majority of her readers follow links to her blog from social media sites.

  5. Be Yourself

This may seem like simple advice, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s far easier to see successful blogs and attempt to mimic their tone and/or look. Torres says this is a mistake. Readers can spot an inauthentic voice from far away. “Being genuine is attractive to others” Torres advises.


One Example of a Successful Business Blog

rei

If you’re looking for an example of a successful blog with many of Torres’ recommendations then check out a blog (cleverly named a “Co-op Journal”) by REI, a retailer of outdoor clothing and equipment. REI seemlessly does the following:

  • Draws you in with clear and colorful pictures
  • Links you to blog posts from social media sites (take note of the use of hashtags in the picture above which allows you to link pictures, text, and other media with the use of the same hashtag)
  • Engages you with an authentic voice

REI liberally uses pictures and white space to keep the page from looking too text heavy. This invites the reader in and keeps him or her reading the blog. REI is a good example of a successful business blog.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear what you think, so please leave them below.