Tag Archives: Conversion Optimization

2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors

Every two years SEOmoz polls a bunch of SEOs on what we believe influences Google’s search rankings. They assembled new data today and have released their 2011 Search Ranking Factors report to the masses. We’re always very excited by this chance to see a community overview of what makes Google tick.

The ranking factors are fairly complicated, a lot of you aren’t SEO junkies like we are, so I wanted to break down a few of the really important details from the report.

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Big Numbers vs. Real Leads

Often I hear from clients that they want a lot of web traffic, that if only they had the traffic, some random percentage would convert to sales.  That is true to an extent but wouldn’t you rather have 50 customers, over 1,000 visitors?  When optimizing for the search engines it is possible to evaluate which keywords are of most value, and through ongoing optimization of a site you can achieve fantastic conversion rates without needing huge traffic volume.

I am a small business SEO, so right off the bat I am at the disadvantage that a lot of the articles you read apply to much larger enterprise level businesses.  I chose to be a small business SEO because I believe in the small businesses value to America, and because often the small business is in greater need than the larger business with a huge built in marketing budget.  When I get your small business onto page one of Google, that is an accomplishment when you consider how many people are linking to these larger name brands.  That one small local business stands out, and the hits they get from being there quickly turn into sales.

Let’s use the example of “san antonio medical text books”.  I don’t have a client that sells medical texts, but let’s assume I did, and I optimized for phrases related to medical text books.  I could target ‘book store’ I could target ‘text book’ I could target a pretty wide variety of subjects, but how likely is a person searching for ‘book store’ going to need my medical text books?  The traffic may come, the site may get hits, but the conversion rate would hardly be noticeable because these terms are related, but not necessarily supportive of the goal of our site.

This is why Keyword Research is so important, and it pains me to see the web sites designed BEFORE any kind of SEO or Keyword Research has been done.  When you put the SEO as an afterthought to the development of your site, you have to work backwords, and as any business owner can attest to, no one wants to pay for the same work twice.

So once again, our friend the Google Keyword Tool comes into play, and we sit down with the phrases we feel will generate sales.  On average I try and build a list of 5 or 6 keywords that are related and can be worked into site content without much issue.  For the most part, small businesses live or die by a single keyword and you start by making an educated guess about which keyword that is, and then follow the search volume over time to attach value to each keyword.

Ryan Kelly from @PearAnalytics makes a product called SiteJuice which we’ve talked about before.  SiteJuice assigns value to each of your keywords, and Ryan tells me that in future versions of SiteJuice you’re going to be able to assign specific value based on your industry to those keywords.  So just because you come up under “san antonio book store” doesn’t mean the value is there that you’d want targeting “san antonio medical text books”.  I’m really excited to see the progress there as that will make tracking the value of these keywords that much easier.

What are your top performing keywords?  Do you even know?  Contact an optimizer near you and tell them you want an hour of their time to talk about your existing analytics.  See what they can tell you about your best performing search terms and see if you can better target those phrases.  At the end of the day, you don’t just want big numbers in the visitors column, you want a hige conversion rate, and targeting the RIGHT keywords is the way to get there.

What are your top performing keywords?

Was this helpful? SEO can be frustrating, so if you have any questions please post them in the comments below.  Check out the Image Freedom homepage for the full SEO kick or contact Matthew directly for a free consultation.

Interesting Sites Covert

Who cares?  No seriously.  When you pull up your web site, when you get right down to it, who cares?  Nothing created in the history of the world was widely loved and accepted by all, except maybe Susan Boyle.  Your web site is no exception, and it’s about time you asked yourself, who actually cares about my web site?

Who are your primary web visitors?  Ok, now that you know who they are, are they also your customers?  What do you want someone to do once they come to your web site?  Sometimes the best looking web sites have the worst conversion ratio.  So I’m going to ask you again, who cares?

Are you selling a product online?  If so are my questions answered before I have them?  How do you ship?  Are there related products, what is your policy on returns?  If you are advertising a physical store online, how hard is it for me to find the map?  How much text are you throwing at the user, how many people do you think will actually read your eight paragraph introduction about just how awesome your store is?

The truth is, nobody cares.  People are in a hurry nowadays and when they visit your site, they want to laugh, they want to answer a quick question, and they want to move on.  How can you make your web site into a product destination?  What struggles do your customers deal with every day?  Have you ever considered making fun of yourself?  Maybe publish a cartoon unique to your business?

The new e-consumer is much more likely to stay on your web site if you give them something of value to stay there for.  If you could tell the funniest story about your business, what would it be?  Could it be told via a Sunday Comics style cartoon?  Where could you put this on your site?  Would it be funny to the average consumer?

Start from the perspective that nobody cares, and start serving individual groups of people.  Target the groups you’re going to want to take actions.  If you could attract a group of people to your site, would they tell others about it?  Why would they?  What do you need to give them or share with them or offer them on your web site that’ll cause people to spread the word?  The answer is probably a lot easier than you think.

So stop creating content from the perspective of yourself, start creating content for the person that doesn’t care.  Who are they?  How can you make them care?  How can you make your web site stand out?  Don’t confuse a hit with a customer, give them a REASON to stay.

Landing Page: Why am I here?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the landing page.  I want to preface this article with a little bit of my own mission statement.  As a blogger, and as an optimizer I have a lot of friends and social media contacts that are interested in SEO but don’t really know where to start.  My goal for 2010 as I’ve covered before, is to make the basic SEO techniques readily understandable and accessible to everyone.  So if you’ve got a great understanding of SEO, my blog is probably not for you, but if your head is already cocked in that HUH!? angle, keep reading.

I have a web site.  Most businesses do.  A lot of what I see, as maybe an internet snob but more accurately as a web developer, is that web sites are created BEFORE an Audience Analysis has been done.  Take a moment to think about who might visit your site?  What are they looking for?  Have you asked your customers why they visited your site, what they hoped to take away from reading your pages?

How easy is it to get directions to you if you have a physical location?  How obvious is it what you do, or what your site is about?  Do you give someone an actionable step they can take to contact you, or purchase a product, or request a consultation?

If you have a web site that is mostly just text on a page, that is ok, but what takes web site VISITORS and turns them into converted web site CUSTOMERS is a well planned out landing page.  When I arrive on this page, what is it you want me to do?

If you log onto the new Image Freedom Web Site you will see that I have moved away from the “hit you with text” approach to a homepage.  There are a lot of different theories about your homepage, but I subscribe to the idea that when I visit a site, I want quick and easy answers, and I want access to a next step.  Is that next step a contact form, a video, a phone number?  Whatever that is, it needs to be easy and obvious.

So using my own site as an example, you’ll see that I included a welcome letter, first of all.  This is something I decided to do after attending the Business Building Boot Camp hosted by @AliciaSanera.  This welcome letter focuses on building a relationship between the new visitor, and myself.  I stopped trying to sound like the smartest guy on the planet, I stopped trying to hit the new user with a ton of information, and instead I sent the message “Hi, my name is Matthew, and I’ll tell it to you straight”.

So my landing process, comes from a place of invitation and welcome.  Now that the reader has seen they’re dealing with me, a real person, someone who will be invested in their success, they’re more likely to go to the right and contact me for a consultation.  Very soon we’ll also be adding some SEO for Newbies videos to that page and those videos will also end with a request for action, “click here to contact us” “click here to learn more about X” and what have you.

So think about, as you’re working with your web developer, or you’re building a web site yourself, what is it you want your visitors to DO once they arrive at your site?  A little bit of planning goes a long way here, and helps us move away from the “OMG WALL OF TEXT” mentality of web development.

One message, one invitation, one call for action.  That is the recipe for success.

Web Audience Analysis in Web Design

I warn you in advance, for me 2010 is the year of the audience analysis.  Recently I’ve been involved in a lot of web projects and what I continually hear is that the cart is being put before the horse.  “We’re going to build a web site.”  Ok for who?  “For people.”  Sure, but what people?  “All people?”

The most important thing you can do, as a web developer, is take yourself out of the equation, and that goes for the client as well.  Little visual tweaks, what color a button is, that kind of stuff is not going to impact how likely someone is to convert from a visitor to a customer, but targeting content without first doing Audience Analysis is going to create a tool for you without a mission, and a tool without a mission is a waste of space on the internet.

Even Jimmy knows it!

Even Jimmy knows it!

Growing up, my grandfather was a very highly placed Program Manager and often he’d tell me about group members asking for this tool or that, and he’d laugh at how rarely they’d actually know WHY they needed this tool they wanted fifty thousand dollars set aside to develop.  More often than not a tool would be wanted because, wait for it, the guy in the next department over got something similar.  So here we are, Fortune 50 company, massive military contracts and we’re still worried about keeping up with the Joneses.

The Web has gotten much easier to develop for, you can make a web site in an hour that used to take a team a few weeks.  These dime store web sites are definitely pretty, and have enabled many who didn’t have the budget to get online to do so, but what you’re left with is a watered down version of the internet, where cookie cutter web sites are everywhere and you don’t really separate value from aesthetics.

Does this web site appeal to the target audience?  What exactly is the target audience looking for in a web site?  Once the user arrives at your site, are they given an obvious next step to going from visitor to customer?  These are the areas where these cookie cutter sites lack depth, and even the best looking template will fail to convert.

So what is the solution?  Audience Analysis!  Get to know your audience, follow Dale Carnegie’s logic and be as attentive a listener as you are a salesman and figure out what it is your audience is looking for.  Target not only the usability of the web site to these people, but also the wording of the content, and the volume of the content.  If the average reader is on your site for two or three minutes, how much could they possibly read in that time?  Be concise with your text and target those time frames accordingly.

Slow down, take it one step at a time, and develop that new web tool with a mission in mind.  You’ll find that every dollar invested returns via increased sales, and isn’t that the goal at the end of the day?