Category Archives: User Experience

“I Can’t Afford Digital Marketing!” We Believe you Can!

“Hubspot? Pardot? These guys are just too expensive!”

We hear this a lot, and we understand. We love working with both of them, but you may not be ready for the big guys of digital marketing. Don’t just give up…there are ways to make things happen if you’re a small to medium-sized business owner:

  1. Get your website priorities in order. The goal, of course, is to be so fully optimized that you’re on page 1 of organic search results. Is this going to happen for you? Well, it depends on so many factors. Just as with traditional marketing, there’s placement, competition and, what we believe to be most important, customer experience. You can have the most optimized site on the web but if customers can’t navigate to what they want, or have a pleasing buying experience, your competition is a click away.
    • We recently audited an online retailer for fine teas because they were losing customers during check out. While their selection was wonderful and their site was easy to navigate, their shopping cart had problems. Changing one mailing field created problems with the credit card verification, thus customers were becoming frustrated and leaving the site. Analytics showed most went to Amazon where the customer buying experience is fast and easy.
  2. The basic best practices for SEO still apply:
    • Do refresh your content regularly with keywords and phrases that you have researched and found to be what the customer is looking for.
      • The most compelling key phrase for your business may not have anyone searching for it. Unless you want to spend significant dollars on creating a category, find alternatives by doing your research.
      • Don’t overdo it. Keyword “stuffing” has a negative effect for search engines.
    • Quality links are better than the quantity of links you may have. One link from a highly trusted site can boost your rankings significantly. Competitive research, analysis, and using ethical link building (hint: don’t buy or pay for links) will provide you with the quality that Google is looking for.
      • One of our clients has #1 organic rankings for most of the prominent phrases in his industry. What was missing was the plural of these phrases – the competition was beating him out here. We refreshed page content and titles and, most importantly, found a few influential bloggers that linked over using the plural formats of his terms. Bingo, the site started gaining traction for those terms as well.
    • Use Webmaster Tools to understand how Google is seeing your site. This is especially important if you have bad links coming in. There are some very unscrupulous people out there that will send bad links to their competition to affect their rankings. If you think this is happening, find the bad links and disavow them. If you don’t, you may find yourself in a penalty situation.
  3. Mobile is here to stay. I won’t preach – since 2016, most sites are first found on a mobile device. If your site is not mobile friendly, you are losing customers on a minute to minute basis. And, Google’s algorithm rewards sites that are mobile-friendly. Just do it!

So, where do you start with digital marketing outreach? If you are a small to medium-sized business, you can start small and reap rewards:

  • Create some content that people will find compelling
  • Have customers sign up to receive this content
    • Now you have their email address
    • Use a small, free email service (Mailchimp, etc.)
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • TRACK in analytics.

It’s pretty simple, will bring more customers, and potentially pay for the big guys someday.

We can help! Talk with us…the first conversation is always free!

 

The Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats

Well, as much as I hate to say it. I’ve been around a long time. My first real “career” was in marketing automation at American Airlines back in the 80s. Helping travel companies grow their business using hard-wired computer terminals, later followed by PCs.

When we got into this Internet thing in the early 90s, we were all neophytes…taking a stab at things and seeing how it worked. Google wasn’t even around…the big players were AOL and the newcomer; Yahoo!. I was fortunate to be working for a company with vision that let us make our way by making good and bad choices and learning from them. The most successful online ventures at the time continued to focus on customer service as they grew their websites. Lands’ End carried its “Guaranteed. Period.” and strong customer service model to a successful online shopping experience. We had eAAsy SABRE running on the Compuserve and Prodigy networks, which morphed into Travelocity. In a similar way, we invoked the strong customer service model that helped our customers learn about the wild and wooly practices of booking travel.

With that history in my pocket and Google becoming the prominent search engine, I struggled to learn SEO and all its minutiae. As my boss at the time, Stephan Spencer used to say; “SEO is the rising tide that lifts all boats,” and this is still true. The technical side of SEO broadened to include things like link building, social media, and other best practices…culminating in the practice that’s now called Digital Marketing.

My point in this little trip down memory lane is that learning from mistakes can lead to success, and it’s a game of inches. Google can impose penalties on those online businesses that try to cut corners, but overcoming this using online marketing best practices can lead to stronger results. Spending thousands of dollars on firehose marketing campaigns that produce few results is a learning experience that can result in being receptive to (full circle for me!) marketing automation tools that drive ongoing customer relationships.

One of our clients, TVLiftCabinet.com sells those nifty TV Lift Cabinets that hide the TV when you don’t need it. Back in 2014 when we started working together, they were the target of some spammy links, and were put in penalty situation with Google. The process to fix this took several months of tedious work to identify the offending links and implement the process to disavow them. The result of all this work more than doubled TVLiftCabinet’s natural search traffic and revenue. Since that time, we’ve done some pretty creative things along with the day to day work of SEO, all within the ethical best practices of online marketing, to continue to grow their business.

Finding the solution for your business can be about learning the hard way or finding someone with the experience (and the mistakes under their belt) to lead you in the right direction. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune…and will save you money in the long run.

Talk with us…the first conversation is always free!

 

Six things you can check right now to improve your site

Whether it’s a defined goal, aspirational resolution or just a subconscious want, “Make the website better” is a common theme this time of year. The first quarter is kicking in, so it’s time to get started. images

But before you do—and this is important—step back and adopt a neutral perspective. Don’t automatically hate your website, but don’t fall in love with it either. Instead, if you look at it through the eyes of an uninterested-but-reasonable shopper, you might see things you can improve.

  • Quick! What’s your site about?  Within a few seconds, your visitors should know what your site is about and have a good idea how to navigate it. Returning visitors should have a feeling of confidence and familiarity. Make sure your visitors know what’s in it for them: a great deal, a new product or a quick path to the information they want. This should happen fast with no ambiguity.
  • Appearance is important. Do your pages look strong and up-to-date?  Does your site appear up to the standards of a professional business, or does it look like it was coded by your nephew in 2007? Is it welcoming and intuitive? Is it ready for a modern and sophisticated user whose expectations of online experiences grow by the day? Would you buy from a website that looks like yours?
  • Are your keywords really hitting?  Sure, the keywords that worked a few years ago might still be working. Or maybe not. Knowing exactly what your target audiences are looking for, what terms they use, and how search optimization evolves can make a big difference in traffic and search rankings. If you haven’t done a keyword analysis in a while, it’s time.
  • Be honest: Are your pages fast enough?  If web pages don’t load in a split second and users have to wait to see them, the propensity to click off is higher than ever. Users aren’t patient. Slow-loading pages not only keep customers away, but search engines don’t like them much either.
  • Do your visitors get lost?  Here’s why good website navigation is so important: Aside from the human experience, usability influences your search engine rankings. Make sure your site’s navigation is intrinsically easy enough to let visitors know where they are, where they came from, what their options are and how to complete the sale or desired action. The easier it is to navigate your website, the higher your conversion rate. Simple as that.
  • Do you offer compelling content and a clear call to action?  Stale and boring content isn’t flattering. And it’s not effective. Make sure your pages are interesting, current, informative and error-free. Answer the visitor’s inherent question, “What’s in it for me?” as clearly as possible. Do some periodic refreshes. Update some photos. And most of all, make sure each page features a clear call to action.

Not sure where to start?

Hey, we get it—it can be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help. Drop us a line and we’ll walk through these things together. Soon, that tuned-up site will be hummin’ right along for 2016.

Three Not-Trues

As marketers, it’s essential that we sometimes step back and challenge our own assumptions. In many cases, we take things for granted that are simply not true. Here are three.

  1. “Email marketing doesn’t really work.”

    Mailchimp
    Mailchimp

Not true. E-mail marketing absolutely works. In fact, over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, it continues to be the strongest channel for generating online sales. In fact, it accounted for 25.1 percent of transactions, according to Custora, which tracks e-commerce and benchmarks retailers. The key? Sending impressive and relevant offers to customers who have expressly opted in. Companies that do this well are seeing big returns.

  1. “Social media drives e-commerce sales.”

Not true. Over the same five-day shopping period, Custora also found that social media drove only 1.7 percent of online sales. So if you’re dubious about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter driving any serious sales (retail or otherwise), you’re probably right. Simply, while social media plays a role in influencing purchase decisions and search results, it doesn’t drive e-commerce sales yet. Yes, there are a few exceptions. But considering we’re past the peak of the Facebook era, social media in its current form may never establish itself as a main sales driver.

  1. “When shopping online, consumers go to Amazon first.”

google shoppingNot true. While many consumers may indeed end up making a purchase on Amazon, Google Shopping is establishing itself as the 800-pound gorilla of online deal hunting and where they start first. In other words, instead of consumers wading through lots of different deal sites (like slickdeals.net or woot.com, for example), Google Shopping provides a consolidated look, right there in the regular search results.

Since Google transitioned to Shopping campaigns last year and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continued to explode in popularity, retailers now have access to more tools, more advanced reporting and more competitor data than ever before. The e-commerce consulting firm Channel Advisor notes that Google Shopping is even cannibalizing its own search results.

As always, we encourage our clients to challenge their assumptions, look beyond the status quo and make data-driven decisions. Not surprisingly, given the dynamic nature of online shopping and e-commerce, hard-and-fast rules usually don’t last too long.

If you’d like some help evaluating your assumptions and discovering what’s actually true for your business, drop us a line.

8 Things You Can Do to Drive Traffic and Create a Good Experience

Yep, it’s time for a list post.

These tips are especially good because they’re time-proven. They aren’t based on flavor-of-the-day techniques to outwit Google or give you a quick temporary boost you’ll later regret. So if you’re looking for some solid traffic drivers and good experience builders, try these tips:

  1. Use good keywords in your content. Doing your homework with keyword research pays off. You’ll know what to say in your content because you’ll know what your customers are looking for.
  2. Make sure your sitemap is working hard. When done properly, your sitemap gives Google, Yahoo and Bing a list of everything you’d like them to see.  An XML sitemap is the place to start.
  3. Use simple page titles and good descriptions. Not only do humans like to see pages with appropriate and understandable titles, so do the search engines.images
  4. Fix broken links and 404 errors. Nothing kills an experience like an unexpected 404. There are lots of tools out there to scan your site and see what might be broken.
  5. Strengthen weak content. If the page contains more template content (headers, navigation, buttons, footers, etc.) than actual content, it might not provide a great experience for your customer. Fix it with more information, better product descriptions, an instructional video, product specifications, links to other resources, anything.
  6. Fix content errors. Hey, it happens. A misspelling. An incorrect price. Missing information. Take an hour with a few other sets of eyes and be as nitpicky (but objective) as possible.
  7. Decrease page loading times. While not always easy, your IT resources or web host may have suggestions to make your pages lightning-fast. And who doesn’t love that? The search engines certainly do…it’s a ranking factor!
  8. Get more backlinks. Organic backlinks to your site are precious. There’s no shame in asking for them, especially with trade associations, charities, or anything you’ve sponsored. And don’t forget to create your own backlinks using your social media accounts. The more stuff that points to you, the more valuable your web channel becomes.

For more insights or assistance with any of these, call us any time or contact us by email.

Google: Delivering traditional web-based results is soooo 2014.

In early June, Google announced that iOS users who search with the Google app will be able to find content that exists on other iOS apps.

That means searching for a restaurant might return content from an app like OpenTable. Or if you’re looking for a recipe, the results could include something delicious from iphoneyour Pinterest app.

See what they’re doing here? That’s right: Delivering a better experience. It means a combination of high-quality results AND the front-end interface users enjoy. In other words, it’s not just about web browsers anymore.

If we’ve learned anything from Google, Bing and Yahoo in the past year or so, it’s that user experience is becoming the top factor in terms of search rank. So it’s not just about traditional WEB content, but ALL content.

In the coming months, Google says it will roll out new search features to help users find content from even more apps. Bing’s doing it too. In many ways, it’s simply an intelligent response to how we realistically use our smartphones.

But just like every other technology rollout, it’s nothing to fear. Sure, it’ll mean some new optimization techniques, but they’re all pointing to the same thing:  Better user experiences.