- Planning a New Website? Don't Launch It Until You Do This
by Mike Fleming
Can you imagine how happy your website users would be if they were always able to complete the tasks they came for easily and efficiently? Can you imagine how your bottom line would be affected?
A major problem with the way a website is planned and built is that it typically starts with decision makers and web developers/designers looking around at industry & competitor's websites - reacting favorably or unfavorably, creating their own version, suggesting changes and repeating until all decision makers are happy. Then comes site launch. This seems reasonable and normal.
So where lies the problem? No one ever finds out if what is built actually works for the users, which is kind of important, don't you think?! I mean, what if the competitors' websites you took some of your favorite ideas from don't actually work that well? You have no idea that's the case because you don't have their data. After all, just because you like how something looks doesn't mean it works.
See Through Your Users' Eyes
As humans, we tend to find it hard to accept that people don't see the world (and our website) the way we see it. We use certain language because that's what we know. We label things a certain way because that's how we identify them. Let's face it, we have trouble listening and adjusting to serve others based upon how THEY see the world.
Just the other day I was reviewing a client's new site concepts and noticed they used two call-to-action labels that illustrate this perfectly. The two labels were "Place a PO" and "Submit RFQ." Now, I'm not sure what percentage of their users would know exactly what these labels mean, but I'm quite sure it's not as close to 100% as they think it is (or as it could be).The meaning of both of these labels are common knowledge to those involved in the design of the site because they've been working with POs and RFQs for years. But, I can guarantee you that many of their users will experience a level of mental frustration if these were present on their site. Even if they're able to figure it out eventually by using the context of the labels, every bit of frustration you add to the user experience increases the chances of a user not converting and not coming back.
So, how do we get around this obstacle and find out what works and doesn't work for users on your website before you launch it? To use a technical term - usability testing. Usability testing in simplified, non-technical terms is the cyclical process of observing users using your site, identifying a problem and fixing it! Then, you repeat as necessary until it's all fixed (you have to watch the video to get the reference and have a good laugh).
You Don't Need Much
One of the misconceptions that people can have when they first come across the concept of usability testing for their website is that it's a long, drawn out process that requires tons of resources to accomplish. The truth is...it doesn't need to be. If you have the resources, by all means do the best usability testing you can afford. But if your resources are limited, you can do it with just these few things...
A desk, computer and two chairs
Screen recording software
3 or 4 participants
And, a few hundred bucks to pay the participants for their time
But no matter what, just do it. It will help your bottom line.
Tips for Testing
Anytime you get started with something new, it helps to have some tips that will save you from learning lessons the hard way and help you get the most out of your efforts.Here are 8 things to keep in mind as you start with testing...
Use just a few per round. Especially at the beginning, you're looking for major problems. The chances are, you'll find enough of them within just a few participants to have plenty of notes and changes to implement. The thought here is to do many of rounds with a few participants per round. This way, you find big things quickly and have momentum on your side.
Don't worry about how perfectly participants match your target audience. Although the closer you can get the better. This shouldn't limit the timing or ability to test quickly. So, if you find it difficult to get participants that have the characteristics of your target audience, just get people that have used the web a decent amount (unless you have special exceptions). After all, your target audience would never be upset about things being too clear and easy. Heck, you could even recruit your friends and neighbors.
Use a "people person" to facilitate.These types of people are typically good listeners that are naturally inquisitive. They tend to be better with asking questions that will help draw out good feedback from participants and are better listeners for taking good notes. Select observers who are most likely to be "left-brain" thinkers to ensure insightful and analytical questions will be asked.
Attract as many spectators as possible.There's a very good chance that minds will be blown, and you want as many blown minds (especially among decision makers!) as you can get. The more you get key people around you to be exposed to the wonderful world of insights that come from usability testing, the more buy-in you'll get.This leads to more resources, better performance and (best of all) bigger paychecks!
What to Test
Big picture stuff. These are things that should be known by a user just by looking (and not doing anything). They should be able to tell you whose site it is, what is being offered, what sets the site apart from other competitive sites, what the site wants them to do, etc.
Tasks. Every time a user comes to a website, they are coming to complete a task. It may be to research, get support, download something, purchase, consume content or many other things. The holy grail of website performance metrics is "Task Completion Rate by Primary Purpose." This tells you if a user was able to complete their task and why or why not. Back to my opening question again - can you imagine how your bottom line would be affected if every user that came to your website was able to complete their task easily and efficiently? Like I said, the holy grail.
Competitors' sites. Yes, those sites that you're pulling your ideas from. Why not do some usability testing on them before you start building your new site so you know what types of things work and don't work? Use the things that work and neglect the things that don't work. Brilliance!
Your concepts. Before rolling a site out, test it at every stage and make adjustments until all of the big picture stuff is clear and people are easily able to complete major tasks that would be performed on the site.
Of course, usability testing can get more involved than this, but this will give you a start. Doing simple usability testing like this is waaaay better than doing none at all.
After testing these four things, I'll bet you the minds of those involved will be popping with insights about the site and ideas for avoiding problems. Now, instead of arguing around a table about what works and doesn't work, you can actually test and adjust until you know what works. Then, all that hard-earned money you're spending on marketing won't be pouring water into a leaky bucket!
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
- Good Web Marketing Just Isn't Enough To Succeed Anymore
by Stoney deGeyter
As a web marketer for over 15 years I know the benefits of a good SEO/Social Media/Conversion Optimization/Content Marketing campaign. The number of businesses who have succeeded by implementing solid web marketing campaigns is beyond numbering. But not every business that places a heavy emphasis on SEO succeeds. Sometimes, SEO cannot save your business, only you can!
When the Pole Position Marketing Pit Crew begins analyzing a website and starts building a web marketing strategy, we see a lot of things that fall outside the scope of "web marketing" in general. In short, we see a lot of the shortcomings built into the business. The fact is, it's impossible for us to develop a successful marketing campaign without first understanding, and second, addressing other business issues. While web marketing primarily deals with how visitors find and interact with the site, if the behind-the-scenes stuff is broken, there isn't an SEO campaign in the world that will make it succeed. Why? Because Google wants to drive people to great sites that people love.
If visitors hit your site and have a bad customer experience, sooner or later the smaller guys who are delivering a great experience will earn enough online authority to push your website down, down, down the search results! For any business to succeed, it must have a clear mission and goals. What are you trying to achieve? Why? For whom? Having a solid grasp of who you are and what you expect are fundamental keys to developing a successful online marketing campaign. Here are several questions you must ask and answer to be effective at business and that will allow you to have an effective web marketing campaign.
What Solutions Do You Provide?
Everybody wants a solution. The product or service you sell, or information you provide, is merely a means to that solution. For example, this article right here may be a solution for a business owner wondering why their online marketing efforts are not working. What's the solution? In short, analyze your business model. Do you sell auto parts? Or do you sell top-brand parts for hard-to-find makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs? Do you sell baby toys? Or do you sell educational toys and activity ideas that stimulate your baby's learning process? Do you sell roofing services? Or do you help businesses and homeowners overcome the obstacles of fixing or replacing their roof after a damaging storm?
Then ask, how do you please your audience? Do you offer guarantees or easy returns? How far are you willing to go to help a customer before and after the purchase? It all comes down to this: how much is a happy customer worth to you, and are you willing to do what it takes to make sure they got the solution they thought they were buying? You have to remember, you have competition out there that is willing to go to all lengths to make their customers happy. Maybe they are new, maybe they are well established. Either way, you're competing against them for customers. Search engines reward businesses that delight their customers. Are you delighting your customers?
Who Will Benefit From Your Services?
I've found that people often oversimplify who their target audience is. "I'm targeting anybody who wants to buy my product or services". Well, sure, that makes sense. But who are those people? Are they parents with kids, single adults, or college students? Are they frugal, well-off, or do they have plenty of disposable income? Are they environmentally cautious or conservationists? Are they indoor or outdoor enthusiasts? Do they own a business, work blue-collar, white-collar or entry-level jobs?These are all important questions to think about and once you start getting some thought behind the answers it opens up the door for more.
The information you gather here will be useful in not only your business messaging, but also with choosing keywords, site design and usability issues, and even determining how your content will be written. Compare your new insights against your main competition. Find out if they are also targeting a similar audience or perhaps going after an entirely different demographic. With all this information in hand you are able to get a good grasp on which direction to take and how to leverage yourself against your competition.
What Makes You Different From Your Competitors?
Surprisingly, this is a difficult question for many businesses to answer, but it's a critical one. When you fail to articulate what makes you different or better than anyone else, then you are not giving people any real reason to buy from you rather than from someone else. The most successful businesses are not those that do something unique, they just do something in a unique way. And that's a crucial point to understand. You really need to answer the question, "why you?" That's what Google is trying to determine when analyzing websites and deciding which pages get first page placement. If you can't articulate an answer, then Google will find someone who can and does to put in those top positions.Your customers will do the same!
If you can't do what you do uniquely, then you have to do one of three things: 1) find a unique angle, 2) find another business to be in or 3) simply become the authority on your industry. Do that by providing better content, more robust information and more helpful tutorials or articles on your site and blog. Draw people in, not because you have better products, but because you've gone out of your way to tell them something they could not get anywhere else. Do that well and you will become unique in your own right.
What Are Your Business Goals?
No one would ever say their business goals are to get top search engine rankings. But that's what most people looking for online marketing think is the goal of the campaign. Rankings are just one of the means web marketers use to help you achieve your business goals. Think about what you want to accomplish over the next 12, 24 or 60 months. Do you want to double your traffic? RFQs? Leads? Sales? Another question I like to ask is, if your SEO could help you achieve that without getting you a single top search engine ranking, would you still pay them to do it? If you hesitate at the thought, then there is a good chance you still have the wrong goals!
Set goals that are in line with the nature of your business. If you are purely an informational site that sells ad space then page views are a good measure. If you sell products or services then the sales are the measure, and beyond that, making a profit from each sale. Businesses don't succeed without a plan. Heck, many businesses with a plan still fail. If it's hard enough to succeed with goals and a plan, it's even harder without. If you don't set the proper measures for success then you'll never be able to measure your success accurately, if there is any success to measure at all.
What Are Your Expectations?
Before you move forward with any marketing campaign, you need to settle on the expectations that campaign will deliver. Most business owners and web marketers fail to have similar expectations when starting web marketing, which leads to frustration, if not extreme disappointment on both sides. Some businesses pass everything off to the SEO team and let them do their thing.Others want to know what's going on each step of the process.
What the site owner or manager expects is important to know otherwise you can be in danger of providing too much information or too little feedback. Either can make you appear as if you're not doing enough of the "right" things. Be sure everyone is clear on what success means and how soon that will be achieved. This involves communication, understanding of strategies, follow-through and solid progress reporting.
Success Is Up To You
Nobody ever said running a business was easy. Being successful at it is even harder. But there are some basic things you need to do so you can give yourself greater potential for success. Don't think SEO will save you, it won't. Web Marketing is just a magnification device. It takes what you have and amplifies it, drawing in more visitors, and hopefully improving your communication and sales processes at the same time. But web marketers don't run your business. That means they are only responsible for so much of your success. You have to take ownership of the rest. Answer these questions above, and make sure you will succeed, with or without web marketing. If you know you are hitting it on all cylinders, let the optimization begin and amplify your success to the next level!
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
- How you can break into digital marketing
by Mike Moran
Sometimes they email me out of the blue. Other times they come up to me after a speaking engagement. They always seem so appreciative for my help, but to me it is just giving back a blessing that I has been bestowed on me by others. They are unemployed or "in transition," as many call it these days. They have a good idea--they want to break into digital marketing. And they want to know how to do it. Let me lay it out for you.
When you are trying to break into any new field, you have the odds stacked against you--especially in a down economic environment. With so many people out of work, it's likely that some of them have exactly the background that an employer is looking for. So how do you stand out in that kind of crowded field?
Start with what the employer is looking for. First, lay it out in your mind, and be honest with yourself about what you can point to in your resume that says you have each one. Because you are changing your career, it makes sense that you will not have them all. Nevertheless, if the employer wants five things and you have none, that's a problem. If you have one or two of them, that's better, but still tough--three would probably be enough to talk your way past the last two with the right employer.
So just what is the right employer? Remember, many employers won't hire you unless they know you have done that job already, which is bad for those of you changing careers. Don't worry about them. You don't want to work for them anyway. What you want is to find the employer who will give you a chance when you have just three of five, but you need to really work your resume over and polish your answers. So you need to really think about what the five things are. Skills are always one of them, and might count for more than the others, but you need to emphasize your fit in other ways or people might be suspect of your skills. Here is a clue:
Role. Have you had this role before? Because you are changing careers, you haven't, so 0-1.
Company size. Have you worked in this kind of environment before? If you have experience with large, small, and in-between, then great, but if most of your experience lies in a certain size, focus on that size for your job prospects. No sense telling employers that you don't have the skills and you have no experience with their size company if you can look for positions in situations you already know.
Industry. Have you worked in this industry before? If you are changing roles, it is easier to persuade employers that you can do it when you are in a familiar industry.
People Skills. Does the job need them? You can make the argument that interacting with clients in social media is easy for you because of your sales experience, for example--you already know how to operate in public.
Teamwork. Everyone wants this even if they didn't ask for it, but make sure your answers and your resume show this off. You are trying to let people know you won't turn out to be a jerk.
Eagerness to learn and to face a new challenge. When you clearly don't have all of the skills, show them another situation where you succeeded when you didn't have all the skills. Show them that instead of sitting on your duff, you took a training class, for example. You get the idea.
There are probably more, but what you are trying to do is to broaden their thinking from just skills to all the other things they are looking for that they might not have thought about. You want to show them that even though you haven't done the job before,you are a lower-risk candidate than they thought. They are afraid that they will hire someone who will bomb, so you need to take away that fear.
For most people, all they need is a chance. If you can enlighten your prospective employer that you have most of what they want and are working on adding the latest skills, sometimes that will be enough, especially if you provide a discount off the typical salary for that role.
Originally posted on Biznology.
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
- Site search: Too many results and not enough
by Mike Moran
I often work with clients in an area that gets very little love, yet is critical for your website: Your own site's search function. We love to talk about Google and search engine optimization, but most of us spend almost no time optimizing our own site search. So few companies work on this capability that we are in danger of teaching visitors not to even bother using our site search. That's bad, because their alternative is to go back to Google and find someone else's site. One of the things that kills us over website search is that if we ask our customers what is wrong, they are likely to give us answers that don't help us. We must dig deeper than that, because if you really expect to optimize your marketing results, you can't ignore something this important.
One of the things that searchers will tell you if you ask them about why they hate your website search is that there are "too many results." You probably can guess that this isn't the real problem, if for no other reason than Google provides millions of results for every search keyword and no one ever makes this complaint. I wrote a post a few years ago to explain what searchers mean when they say too many results.
But a real problem that searchers never bring to your attention is not enough results. If you've spent no time optimizing your site search, try this little test. Go through your top one hundred searches and see what your search engine returns. You might be surprised at the results. In many cases, you won't see anything that seems like the right answer. That could mean that your search engine has a problem, but just as frequently, it is your content that is either missing from the site completely or so bollixed up that no search engine could ever find it for that keyword.
I wish that fixing these problems were as easy as it is to find them, but it's unfortunately rather complex, especially for larger sites. (That's why these clients have hired me to help.) But in Chapter 17 of the second edition of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., Bill Hunt and I walk you through how to diagnose what is wrong and what you can do to correct it.
There are three major steps in the process:
Determine the value of correcting the problem. You first must assess your situation and convince yourself that there is something wrong, that it's important to fix it, and that you are willing to spend the time and money to fix it because of the return you'll get on that investment.
Optimize your most popular search keywords. When I asked you to check the results of your most popular keywords above, admit it: you didn't even know how to find them. Don't be too upset with yourself--most people don't. So figure that out and then set out to create and optimize the right content for each keyword. Work your way as far down the list as you think makes sense, based on the level of effort and the return you expect. It might be the top 100 or the top 1000, but at some point you reach diminishing returns.
Tweak your technology and process to improve the remaining keywords. When I managed site search at IBM, we found that the top 1,000 keywords accounted for only 27 percent of all search volume. Clearly we needed to do something less manual for the rest of the keywords. The approach for your "long tail" keywords has to be about technology and process. You must focus on tweaking your search engine, your content management system, your e-Commerce system and other technology so that it does a better job. And you must address your content creation and update processes so that the content is search optimized from day one.
Again, this isn't simple, but it is critically important for most businesses. Some companies have increased their conversion rates by 25% just by addressing the simplest measures in website search optimization. Or you can keep doing what you are doing, which is subtly requesting that customers go away.Originally posted on Biznology
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
- The Top 7 SEO Web Design Methods to Increase Visibility
by Jayson DeMers
Anyone who has Googled him- or herself understands the power and mystique of search engine results. When you run an e-commerce business, where it lands in search rankings plays a critical role in how many people are exposed to your company and its services.
When businesses land near the top of the search results page for keywords related to their industries, users are much more likely to click on their pages, view their content, and learn about their products or services. The more visitors to the site, the more opportunities the company has to make sales and achieve high marketing ROI.
To benefit from optimal search engine rankings (increased visibility, higher traffic, and improved sales), many effective tactics exist. If you incorporate these strategies into your websites as you build and maintain them, your business stands the best chance of SEO dominance over the competition.
Read on to learn how businesses use SEO to maximize their impact in their industries and boost the bottom line.
The best SEO optimization tactics for web design
Although companies can retroactively optimize their websites, DigiTech Web Design
states "the most effective way to achieve high ranking is to build a site from scratch with SEO in mind." This enables the designer to incorporate a variety of techniques that will maximize the site's impact." Some of these techniques include:
1. URL structures. When creating URLs, make sure they adequately describe the subject matter of your content and contain keywords relevant to the topic. This gives search engines and visitors alike a clear idea of what the page will be about.
Also, keep URLs short and simple, using hyphens (not underscores) between words and keeping out unrelated characters or terms.
2. Responsive design. The most SEO-friendly sites are those that incorporate responsive design techniques to make them accessible for users of all types of devices. Building and maintaining separate mobile and desktop sites may present a complication with duplicate content, which e-commerce companies should avoid.
3. Descriptive navigation. Visitors should be able to navigate sites quickly and easily to find the information they need. With that in mind, web designers should not get too creative with the navigation bar location; place it across the top or along the left margin of the page.
Use flyout and dropdown menu bars with caution, because both robots and humans have more trouble navigating them. Text links are best, and sites should strive to use no more than 6 or 7 menu options on a page.
4. Image optimization. To make images SEO-friendly, edit them to the minimum size (often 20-100 kb) necessary for user visibility. Avoid using source code to shrink them; this has a negative impact on the length of time the page will take to load. Organic search rankings and user experience will suffer as a result.
When creating alt image text, make sure to use keywords in header images, logo images, graphics, and buttons on each page.
5. Page load times. Mobile users wait an average of 5 seconds for websites to load; desktop users only three. To keep pace with busy consumers, websites must load efficiently or risk losing businesses.
can help you determine your website page load times.
6. Keyword research. Which keywords, phrases, and topics have potential customers researched with relation to your industry, product, or service? Google Keyword Planner helps businesses learn how their target market locates competitors, as well as identifying sub-categories that may apply to them.
Armed with valuable keyword data, companies can use this information to name and structure navigation bars - as well as product and category pages - for the most effective websites.
7. Sitemaps. XML sitemaps (for search engines) and HTML sitemaps (for website visitors) allow these entities to locate exactly what they need. It also allows Google to index your site thoroughly and efficiently.
How to use SEO techniques to maximize the impact of your content
Once companies have created the framework of their website, establishing and maintaining search engine-optimized content becomes a crucial activity. Content marketing techniques for SEO include:
1. Fixed content. Keyword-rich content, such as articles and blogs, should present high-quality writing and contain at least 400-500 words per article. The longer content remains on a site, the better ratings it receives from search engines.
2. Encourage linking. When businesses write compelling, unique, and useful content, readers are more likely to link to their articles from social media or blogs. Addressing misunderstandings or myths, discussing newsworthy topics, or raising questions for the public encourages engagement and sharing, and that will make your page show up more in search engine results.
3. Natural keyword use. When you use keywords in articles, blog posts, or page content, place them at the beginning of the content and not in nonsensical or repeating patterns throughout the page. Search engines will detect "keyword stuffing" that doesn't adhere to genuine language patterns.
4. Use built-in marketing messages. To ensure your company's contact information shows up on search engine indexes, replace links that read "Contact us" with ones that read "Contact [your company name]." This maximizes the number of times individuals will come in contact with your brand.
When it comes to search engine optimization, the companies that achieve the greatest success are those that combine technological know-how with content wordsmithing. If you pursue the above strategies, in a few steps your brand will be on its way to the top of the search engine rankings, not to mention the hearts and minds of your target audience!
How have you successfully leveraged SEO to achieve higher visibility and web traffic?
Be sure and visit our small business news site.