This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.
As marketers, we’re always trying to get more leads for our businesses.
But the problem is that all the traditional paid traffic channels are only getting more expensive. The average cost per click on Google Adwords is around $1-$2, with the most expensive ads costing $50 or more.
This means that the average small business spends over $100,000 on AdWords alone each year.
Facebook ads are still relatively underpriced, but they’re rising quickly: average CPC is around 40 cents worldwide, an increase of about 10 cents from 2015.
With the rising cost of paid traffic, it’s important to hit all the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to boosting your lead generation — and conversion rate optimization is the best way to identify and fix problems that already exist.
By making your conversion flow more efficient, you’ll increase your numbers without spending any extra money, which means that you’ll see a higher ROI on your existing investment.
In this post, we’ll show you how to run conversion rate optimization (CRO) tests on your website, what tools you should be using, and show you a few CRO case studies.
The first step to getting started with CRO is auditing every step of your marketing funnel. Without gathering data, you’re just guessing on what changes you should make, which means that you’ll waste time and effort on tests that don’t get you more leads instead of learning something that will boost your ROI.
What you want to do is gather data in a both quantitative and qualitative way.
Quantitative data helps you break down the numbers at each step in your funnel and figure out where the leaks are, while qualitative data can give you some deep insight into the real pain points of your customers. This can help you refine your marketing copy across the board and boost conversions.
Learn More: Step by Step Guide: How to Build a High Quality Marketing Funnel
Here are some ways you can start measuring qualitative and quantitative data:
Google Analytics is a simple way to figure out how many people are dropping off at each step of your funnel and where the biggest leaks are. By measuring the data around your funnel, you can get better insight as to the cause of confusion for your customers at certain steps.
But first, you’ll need to set up conversion goals and funnels in Google Analytics.
Your conversion funnel in Google Analytics will show you what “flow” users go through on your site. Here’s an example of what this might look like if you’re trying to measure your order flow:
In the image above, users first add an item to their cart, move to the billing page, then to the payment page, then to the order review page, and finally to the sales confirmation page. It’s pretty easy to see that the largest drop off here between the “add to cart” stage and the billing page.
When it comes to optimizing conversions, you can see that it’s pretty straightforward: you’d focus on reducing cart abandonment. No guesswork here.
Learn More: How to Set Up Goals and Funnels in Google Analytics
One of the biggest wins you can get when it comes to CRO is optimizing your marketing copy. By making your copy more targeted to your audience’s specific pain points, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll stay on your site longer — more so than if you just made design changes.
Surveys are a great way to understand how to optimize your marketing copy. You can use tools like Qualaroo (to survey your website visitors) or SurveyMonkey (to survey your audience from your e-mail list or another source).
For example, here are some survey questions that we asked our audience (via SurveyMonkey) to see how we could improve our marketing course, GrowthVault.
We matched each survey response to demographic categories with the following questions:
What revenue range does your business fall under?
How many employees does your business have?
These questions are designed to elicit open-ended, story-like responses. From there, we can pick the right stories and write compelling copy to get more customers.
Usability tests are great to see what barriers prevent users from placing orders or completing a specific call to action on your site.
You can get a group of “test” users who are part of the same demographic as your ideal customer and give them a set of tasks to perform on your site — such as going through the process of placing an order. You can either watch them or have them record their screen as they’re going through this process and have them “think” out loud as they’re figuring out what to do.
Chances are you’ll find that certain areas of your site are hard to navigate or have unnecessary friction.
A quick way to conduct usability tests at once is by using a site like UserTesting.
UserTesting has a wide range of testers from different demographics. To make sure that you’re getting the right people looking at your site, you can create filters and screener questions. For example, you can have people answer what industry they work in before they go through your website.
You can also set your demographic filters by criteria like age, gender, country, and even what device they should use.
Depending on how much traffic you’re getting to your site, a small increase in conversion rates could result in massive amounts of revenue.
For example, Brookdale, a senior living solutions website, was able to boost their monthly revenue by $106,000 just by replacing the home page banner video with an image when they realized that their target audience was not as likely to watch video.
Just by changing the copy of their CTA, Lifeproof was able to boost their monthly revenue by 16%.
Conversion rate optimization is one area of marketing where small changes can result in huge boosts in revenue over time. In this section, we’ll talk about how to run an A/B test.
There are variety of tools out there today that let marketers run A/B tests without needing to know how to code. Here are some examples:
Which tool you use isn’t as important as being able to run a large number of tests as fast as possible.
According to Instapage, here are some major page elements you should consider testing when running landing page tests:
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is trying to be clever instead of being clear in their copy. This is especially true for headlines. You only have 10-20 seconds to attract users with your headline, so while you might think that being clever will make your post sound more interesting, it actually just adds more complexity — and complexity reduces conversions.
By making their headline more clear, Movexa, a supplement company, was able to to boost their conversions by nearly 90%.
Their original headline copy looked like the following:
The headline said “Natural Joint Relief.” The hypothesis was that if they added the word “supplement” to their headline copy (so that it said “Natural Joint Relief Supplement”), it would add more clarity to what the offer is and what the company does.
Once they tested this hypothesis through a variation page, they found that it did indeed beat the control by 89.97%. This just goes to show how even a small amount of vagueness in the headline can reduce your conversions drastically. Be sure to optimize for clarity over cleverness or design.
Adding a well-placed call to action is a small tweak you can make on any site to increase conversions.
For example, Consolidated Label, a food label manufacturer, tested a new web page design with a prominent call to action. Their original web page didn’t have a clear call to action:
They tested a variation page with a more prominent call to action, which asked visitors to request a quote:
If users can’t tell what they’re supposed to do once they get to your page, then it’s likely that your call to action isn’t prominent enough.
Once Consolidated Label tested this variation, they noticed a 62% increase in conversions.
Learn More: How To Create CTAs that Actually Cause Action
Most marketers think that short copy is better. We’ve had it beat into our heads that people don’t have long attention spans, and that the only way to get anyone to take action is by keeping all your copy — landing page, e-mail copy, etc. — brief.
The truth is, shorter copy isn’t always better for conversions. In some cases, longer is better. For example, if you’re selling a high-priced product, then you’ll need to build a longer, deeper relationship with your users before they can trust you and be willing to transact with you.
Even your headline copy can benefit from lengthier rather than shorter.
Check out these two versions of a landing page:
Most people would think that Version A resulted in higher conversions because of the cleaner design and shorter copy on the hero image.
However, version B increased conversions by 38%. The reason for this is because the additional sub-heading highlights key features of the product in bold lettering, which makes the features easier to see. Reading “let urgent e-mails cut through the clutter and find you instantly” is more compelling than “let us find your urgent messages.”
At the end of the day, of course, the more clear and direct you can make your copy, the more compelling it will be, no matter the length.
The more friction that stands between users completing an action, the less likely they are to complete that action. Requiring unnecessary fields on a form is one of the quickest ways to reduce the number of conversions you get on your site.
You can also increase conversions by allowing users to check boxes instead of entering text, since this takes less effort.
For example, this B2B company boosted their number of leads by 368.5% just reducing the amount of text users had to enter and changing their button color on the form.
What works best on landing pages isn’t always obvious.
There are many competing factors that determine whether people convert or not. Simplicity matters (which you can get through short copy), but clarity matters, too (which might require longer copy).
Giving users the information they need about your business is important (i.e. through an explainer video), but it’s also important to reduce the number of options that are available on the page.
The best way, overall, to get better conversion rates is to figure out exactly what your audience wants, be as clear and compelling as possible, and then test it.
What are some interesting CRO test results that you’ve seen in the past? Let us know in the comments below!
This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.
In today’s rapidly shifting world, SEO techniques can change on a dime—and the worst part is that you might not even know it. Hacks that could have won you a front-page result as recently as 2016 are not only obsolete now, but they may even hurt your website’s rankings.
That’s why you need to stay on top of the ball. We spoke with Jacob Warwick, Director of Communications at Skedulo, and Jesse Teske, SEO Manager at YLighting, to get their expert thoughts on the most current SEO tactics in 2017.
Read on for some 9 info-packed tips and techniques to help you get the most out of your SEO game in 2017—and improve your traffic and conversions.
Simply put, engagement is the ability to hold a user’s attention. In SEO terms, it is a measure of the amount of time spent on a page.
Although Google hasn’t officially declared it, there is evidence to suggest that this search engine giant does reward sites with strong user engagement with higher page ranking.
Research from SimilarWeb found a positive correlation between engagement metrics and search rankings and a study of 1 million search results by Backlinko found a similar correlation between bounce rate and rankings.
Google’s reasoning is that if a user spends more time on a page, it’s probably because she found the page useful. And since Google only wants to deliver the best possible results to its users, it will push sites with strong engagement up in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
So how can you improve your site’s engagement? Here are five tactics you can use with your existing content:
Good formatting can instantly improve your page’s readability. This, in turn, can improve your engagement rate. According to an eye-tracking study by Nielsen, the following three formatting tactics can help increase your content readability:
Here’s an example of poor formatting:
Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).
Here’s an example of the same paragraph, but with good formatting (which improved usability by 124%):
In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were:
A “bucket brigade” is a copywriting technique designed to keep capture a reader’s interest and keep them on your page. It essentially involves breaking an idea into multiple sentences, using a trigger word or phrase (as simple as Look: or as lengthy as The secret to great copywriting is this:) and then ending the sentence with a colon.
Look at this example from Backlinko:
Including professional, high-quality images (photos, graphs) throughout your content is an easy yet powerful way to increase engagement. For one, images help you show an idea, not just tell it (a picture tells a thousand words, right?). Secondly, images help you break content into different sections. And finally, people just like pretty pictures.
For example, take a look at how Growth Everywhere uses images to clearly illustrate the step-by-step content in How To Do A Content Cleanup (And Grow Your Organic Traffic):
On Single Grain, charts and screenshots are frequently used to divide up content into separate sections, like this example from The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Advertising:
If you went to journalism school, you know all about the inverted pyramid style of writing:
This method means giving away the most valuable information at the top of the article, and following it up with less important information. If readers tend to scan and rarely make it to the bottom of an article, it makes sense to give them what they want as soon as they land on the page.
Writing well, delivering value, and proper formatting only go so far. Another key part of engagement is lowering your bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who land on your website and leave without interacting further. Bounce rates can be raised by a number of factors, from incorrect implementation to poorly designed landing pages.
More often than not, however, high bounce rates result from poor usability and an awkward user experience (UX). While these problems vary from site to site, they are very easily remedied with several popular online tools, such as:
For instance, heat maps are colorful representations of where users have clicked on your site, while scrollmaps show you just how far down the page your users scroll before leaving. With this data, it’s possible to figure out what your best design features (or flaws) are, and correct them accordingly. Here’s an example of a heatmap that shows you where visitors clicked:
In A/B testing, multiple versions of a web page are randomly shown to users, compared against a control page (generally the existing website), and then analyzed for effect. The biggest advantage of a proper A/B testing process is that marketers can understand how even the tiniest changes can positively affect their website, such as moving the buy button to the left or changing its color from red to blue.
Take a look at the sample A/B test below from 5 Important Landing Page Elements You Should be A/B Testing:
In this test, hygiene company L’Axelle is trying out different headlines, pitting a comfort-oriented headline against an action-oriented one. The change is subtle, but it’s there.
It’s clear that A/B testing is an integral part of both the copywriting and the UX design process. The genius of Optimizely is that it massively simplifies something that would otherwise require a team of dedicated, experienced UX designers and researchers to carry out.
Image Source: Optimizely
But perhaps the biggest draw of Optimize is that it seamlessly integrates with Google Analytics, allowing marketers to further leverage their existing resources. With Optimize, marketers can use existing Analytics metrics as a starting point, which allows them to rely on a familiar interface as they move on to deeper and more complicated experiments.
Here’s a shot of the Google Optimize user screen. Notice that it gives recommendations and suggestions for the optimal interface.
Pro Plan subscribers, however, have the option of receiving the help of UX professionals who will conduct research, analyze user behavior, and measure and benchmark. In this form, User Testing.com offers customers the benefits of an in-house UX team at a fraction of the cost.
With its conversational tone and engaging manner, Krug’s work gets readers into the habit of critically examining and rethinking everything about their websites, including even the tiniest details, like misplaced buttons or unwieldy site maps.
There’s also strong evidence that click-through rates will influence your website’s Google search ranking, though this is difficult to confirm given the company’s secrecy surrounding their algorithms. Either way, improving CTR is absolutely a good investment for the long-term health of your business.
Luckily, there are programs like Google Search Console and Tableau, which allow marketers to identify critical keywords which are performing (or underperforming) for their position, understand why and, most importantly, quickly visualize the terms and pages to target. With these programs, marketers can turn around underperforming terms by rewriting titles and descriptions, thereby increasing CTR and drumming up traffic.
Learn More: 10 Google Search Console Hacks to Boost SEO
A recent study by Backlinko concluded that the longer the content, the higher the likelihood of it ranking at the top of the SERPs.
However, writing 2,000+ words for every blog post is not for everyone; it’s an intensive, time-consuming process. Instead, it’s much easier to take a page from 1,200 words to 2,000 words than to go from 0 words to 2,000 words.
Existing content already has authority and an established readership. So rather than writing something entirely from scratch, it’s much simpler to find a post of yours that is already doing well on Google, refresh it with updated information and extra content, and rely on existing signals to make it rank for terms.
Here’s how you do it. First, under “Search Traffic” in Google Search Console, click on “Search Analytics.”
On this page, check “Position” and select “Pages”:
Try to find pages that are ranking between positions 11-30 on Google. These are ideal candidates for additional content that can increase their rankings.
55% of all keyword searches on Google return at least one video and 82% of those videos are from YouTube. YouTube is also the second most popular search engine with more than 3 billion searches per month, surpassing Bing and Yahoo combined.
Focusing on YouTube SEO will push your website onto the first page on Google and get you traffic from YouTube as well.
The result? Twice the traffic with the same content.
Learn More: The Complete Guide to Youtube SEO
Here is how you can improve your YouTube SEO (after creating your videos, of course):
The filename, the title, the description—all these elements affect your rankings.
Here’s a great example:
Another tactic is to use your keywords at the start of the title, then add a sub-header after a colon to drive clicks. Here’s an example:
At the very least, your title should have 5+ words and include a broad target keyword. This will not only help you rank in SERPs but also get you more clicks on YouTube.
Learn More: 20 Ways to Grow Your SEO Rankings
It can be as short as this example from Growth Everywhere:
Or as long as this example from James Stafford:
This tells Google—as well as your readers—exactly what your video is about. Since most of your competitors aren’t doing it, it will also help you rank way faster.
Like content, longer videos tend to do better in YouTube search.
Try it yourself: type in a popular keyword or topic and see what shows up at the top of the page. For example, here’s what you’ll see when you type in “wordpress”:
Or when you search for “photography tips”:
Try to make your videos at least 5 minutes long. As with written content, longer videos tend to get the most traction.
Learn More: A Youtube Video Marketing Guide to Increase Prospects in Your Funnel
A better video thumbnail won’t necessarily help with your SEO, but like a great headline, it will help you get more clicks. This means that you can often earn more views than higher ranked results, all thanks to your choice of thumbnail.
A strong thumbnail should tell viewers exactly what the video is about. Try to use a compelling image along with a title card. Here’s an example:
Back in 2010, Google announced that it would be using site speed as a ranking factor and since then, Google has consistently emphasized the importance of site speed.
First, it launched the PageSpeed tool to help developers improve site performance, followed by the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to boost speed on mobile sites.
Recently, it launched another tool called Think with Google to help gauge how responsive (or mobile-friendly) a site is, which includes speed as a parameter.
Clearly, Google wants your website to load faster than it is right now. But how fast?
Unfortunately, the exact definition of “site speed” is open to speculation. According to the surveys done by Akamai and Gomez, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. If the site fails to launch in 3 seconds, there is a good chance they’ll abandon it.
You should work on your site’s speed not only to work your way up Google’s rankings, but also to increase conversions. For instance, one survey found that nearly 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance won’t return to the site to buy again.
While improving site speed is a pretty big topic, check out this HubSpot article to improve page load times.
Learn More: Using Google AMP to Boost Site Speed and Mobile Optimization
Images are usually the largest components on any site (in terms of file size). By compressing them, you can often cut down page size by 30-40%.
A quick way to do this is to use Kraken.io. This tool automatically compresses all images uploaded to your WordPress blog. It also has an API to make image compression for non-WordPress sites easier.
Caching is the mechanism for temporarily storing web data such as HTML pages and images in order to reduce bandwidth usage.
If you’re on WordPress, enabling browser caching is as simple as installing a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
For non-WordPress sites, browser caching is a little trickier. One quick way to do it is to change your .htaccess file. Follow the instructions here to learn how to do this.
A CDN is a network of servers based throughout the globe. When visitors access your website, they are delivered the site from a server that is as close to their physical location as possible, thereby improving site speed.
Using a CDN is a easy fix to instantly improve site speed and will have an immediate impact on site performance.
Image Source: Moz
Google is evolving and so is its algorithm. Its objective now is to understand the intention of the users: what users expect, what they are looking for, and more specifically, what search results would best help answer their query.
Plus, for an increasingly large number of queries (19.45% to be exact), Google shows “rich results” that include the best answer at the top of the results:
In 2017, don’t expect your website to end up on the first page of Google simply by creating keyword-focused content. Tom Anthony from Moz concludes, “We need to stop looking at keywords and starting looking at queries.”
In short, you must consider what your users are looking for rather than coming up with different ways that users can phrase a search query. Here are two things in particular you should consider:
What kind of content you’ll create will depend on your audience. The better you know them—their location, age, and likes—the better the content you’ll create (and the better your SEO).
For example, suppose your keyword tool shows that “android” has a lot of search volume. People searching for it could fall into several categories:
Without knowing your target audience, you might end up creating content for all these topics, which would win you neither readers nor good rankings. By building a detailed buyer persona, you’ll be better able to zero in on topics that matter to your readers.
Instead of focusing on standalone keywords, organize all your content into different “themes.”
For example, if you run a website about WordPress, you might have three types of readers:
To target each of these types of readers, you can organize your content into different themes that cover multiple topics, such as:
This is far more reader-friendly than simply creating content for specific keywords.
At the same time—keywords still matter. Organizing content thematically is very important, but it’s a mistake to ignore keywords entirely, given that they serve as signposts to Google’s spiders, signaling topics and giving hints as to the nature of the content on the website.
Still, the keyword aspect of SEO is becoming increasingly difficult with Google Adwords hiding volume data.
Luckily, there are a number of tricks and tools that can help marketers find topics and volume data. Google itself is a good way to get related search ideas. Just type “sushi restaurants in San Francisco” into the search bar of Google Chrome and you’ll be presented with carousels of related images at the bottom of the page, such as the names of specific restaurants or dishes to order.
This is a strong hint for developers to include these topics in their content, or to create pages to leverage these related images.
Read on for some extremely useful tools that can help you find and optimize keywords:
Image Source: SEMRush
Interestingly, SEMRush also allows users to use a competitive positioning map, where they can see overall website traffic and keywords: Title Boxing boasts 120.9k in search traffic and 15.3k in keywords, far outpacing their closest competitors.
Image Source: SEMRush
When considering which keyword tools to use, look for something that allows you to monitor a high volume of keywords broken down by relevant themes. Additionally, the best tools must ensure that you can track all your competitors, from large corporations to small, up-and-coming firms.
As always, go for quality and not quantity. It’s better to get 10 conversions from 100 visitors than it is to get 10 conversions from 1,000 visitors. Rather than casting a too-wide net, focus on keywords and topics that are within your niche, ones that you can optimize for and be the authority on. Fill in these gaps and establish yourself as an expert in this smaller field before tackling larger and broader keywords where the competition is much fiercer.
Despite what you might have heard, building backlinks is still crucial for good rankings.
As per Moz, a site’s backlink profile is still the most reliable indicator of its eventual rankings. Another Moz study shows that without backlinks, it is nearly impossible to rank well, even if you have great content.
Image Source: Moz
What has changed is the way you must build backlinks if you want good results. Low-quality links that are easily spammed—blog comments, paid links, etc.—don’t seem to work anymore and can actively harm your site.
Links that are earned—through high-quality content, outreach and influencer marketing—on the other hand, are safe and extremely effective.
Read More: 5 Ways Cold Emailing Can Help Generate Backlinks
A critical part of SEO is reporting and analytics, which are indispensable to improving marketing strategies. By setting up an analytics platform to track both micro and macro events, you can understand your customer’s journey from your sales and marketing funnel.
For instance, what content really appealed to your customer? What part of the website had the most UX issues? Which page was the least (or most) visited, and why?
Having the ability to tie online data back to offline data to get a full 360 view of how your content and marketing is performing.
One great tool to help you do this is Google Datastudio, which helps you aggregate data from multiple sources (rankings, traffic, conversion data) into a single interface. You can even share your data internally or with clients. Most importantly, these metrics can help you determine the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, and whether you need to pivot or change tactics.
Along those lines, always be on the lookout to see what your competitors are doing, and how well it’s working. What techniques are they using? How have they changed their approach? What mistakes have they learned from?
One great tool to see how your competition has changed is Wayback Machine, which allows marketers to access petabytes of archived web pages. By sifting through Wayback Machine’s extensive database, you can track the evolution of your competitor’s brand and web presence, taking note of factors such as changes in UX design or differences in copy from one web version to the next.
Still, you shouldn’t implement something just because your competitor is doing it, whether that’s designing a website a certain way or using specific copy or images. This is especially true for larger websites like Amazon, which have much more leeway with search engines. Thanks to their numerous, highly skilled staff, they can test small changes and measure results with a high degree of accuracy.
If used correctly, Wayback Machine has some interesting lessons to offer any company. Take a look at these two screencaps of Title Boxing. The top picture is a screencap of Title’s homepage from Wayback Machine, circa 2007, while the bottom one is a screencap from 2016.
Image Source: Wayback Machine
Image Source: Title Boxing
The differences are pretty clear. In 2007, the web layout was much more cluttered and crowded, with small, hard-to-navigate sidebars squeezing some small, insignificant-looking pictures in the middle advertising daily specials.
In 2016, however, the user experience is much more streamlined. Visitors are greeted with a clear, easy-to-use sidebar at the top, labeled with categories like “Gloves,” “Punching Bags,” and many more. A large, sliding image in the center replaces the tiny, hard-to-notice ads from 2007, allowing buyers to see exactly what is on sale. The new website is almost minimalist, doing away with the previous confused, slightly chaotic format.
Clearly, Title has come a long way when it comes to UX, testing their changes and eventually settling on this new, simpler design. Still, it’s very likely that plenty of testing, design and redesign was put into this process, which is clear when you track their changes through Wayback Machine.
Be strategic about your changes, test them thoroughly, and examine how your competitors’ websites have evolved with Wayback Machine.
SEO and content tips aside, it’s absolutely essential to have a solid website, without worrying about any technical issues that may arise. With that being said, here are some tips and techniques to help you ensure that your website is up to par.
First off, do yourself a favor and switch to HTTPS, the most commonly used, securest version of the old http web protocol. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP.
It’s a best practice that will help your website boost its SEO presence, stay secure, and make it harder for malicious parties to break in and take advantage of your website.
Granted, transitioning to HTTPS is easier said than done, and requires a multi-step process. When the Atlantic, a highly-regarded, well-established media organization, decided to move to HTTPS in early 2016, the transition was complex. First, content had to be scanned individually, then ported over and checked for compatibility. The process was repeated with ads, and once compatibility and security were ensured, the website slowly went live in order to guard against traffic loss and unforeseen errors.
If you’re a smaller organization, your process will likely be less painstaking or time consuming. All the same, moving to HTTPS is a necessity in a world of cybersecurity threats and heightened SEO and SEM requirements.
AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, began as a Google-backed open initiative to allow publishers to easily create responsive, mobile-optimized content.
Image Source: Toobler
Envisioned as a way to quickly render content on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, AMP combines three components:
Since AMP was only incorporated into the search giant’s results in February 2016, the format itself is still fairly new. For those of you who use WordPress, AMP should be much easier to implement than a home-grown CMS from scratch.
Learn More: Using Google AMP Pages to Boost Site Speed and Mobile Optimization
To ensure that Google is crawling your preferred pages and not pages that don’t appear in its index, turn to crawl programs like Deep Crawl or Botify. These SEO crawler programs are similar to Google’s own crawlers and will give you an overview of how your page will perform in SEO rankings.
Image Source: Botify
To help Google understand your data or to show your website smartcards and voice searches, you need to ensure that your semantic markups are correct. Semantic markups are essentially HTML tags which can help emphasize key information on your website.
For instance, a heading tag (H1) can help a crawler understand precisely what your content is about. If you tag “Five Holiday Destinations in Eastern Europe” with a H1, then a crawler will know to sort your blog post under relevant categories, such as holidays or Eastern European travel. In short, edit your semantic markups so that they reflect your data and information as accurately as possible.
Nothing will sink your website faster in search rankings than a 404 error, when a search engine can’t find the desired web page and leads to a dead end. It’s in your interest to fix these broken or missing pages and re-engage your users as soon as you can.
Whatever platform you use, be it Google Analytics or Oracle, take a look at the number of pageviews for your 404 page. Then add URL as a secondary dimension and fix the biggest offenders first. This way, you can boost UX and regain any inbound links from those pages.
Image Source: EyeEm
Learn More: Data-Backed Best Practices for Building a Killer 404 Page
To make your job easier, there are a number of web browser and WordPress plugins that you can use. We’ve listed a few of them below, along with a brief description of their capabilities and common uses.
Image Source: Ultimate Nofollow
In the digital era, it’s easy to forget that people still visit physical shops and establishments. True, they may use online resources to research, but plenty of commerce is still conducted in real life. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can’t neglect local SEO and listings if you want to stay profitable.
As powerful as search engines like Google or Bing are, they still can’t be everywhere at once, and have to rely on additional information from local, on-the-ground sources, which gather, aggregate, and submit relevant data for area businesses. These aggregators will do much of the legwork, pulling information from physical directories (like Yellow Pages) or scanning business registrations.
In a nutshell, bigger search engines will rely on these data aggregators to fill in the gaps of the existing information already in their databases, and will also cross-check to make sure that the facts are up-to-date. Problems arise, however, when aggregators collect out-of-date data, leading a search engine like Google or Bing to list the wrong information, like an old address for your business or a disconnected phone number.
Learn More: How to Do a Comprehensive Local SEO Audit
Image Source: Moz
That’s why it’s critical to ensure that your physical contact information is as current as possible.
The first step is to identify any obsolete information that may be out there. Because Google is the largest search engine, start with Google My Business, its free-to-use listing service, and update your data accordingly. Be sure to list important details like extra locations, the latest opening hours, and what forms of payment are acceptable.
Then, use a local directory management service, which carries out the painstaking, tedious work of scanning countless local directories, interacting with data aggregators, and correcting any old information. The best of these are Moz Local and Yext, which can help you avoid any glaring inconsistencies that can hurt your revenue stream, or even worse, trick Google’s algorithms into thinking that you’re a different business entirely.
Learn More: 10 Free Local SEO Tools for Small Businesses
Next, use your directory management service to hit at least four of the major data aggregator services. While these companies do vary by location, some of the bigger names are Infogroup, Acxiom, and Localeze, all of which provide information on millions of business listings to larger search engines.
From that point on, local search listings should be accurately and automatically updated by your management service.
Carrying out technical SEO for local search engines is a similar process.
You may be questioning the point of optimizing for local search engines, especially given Google’s unquestioned dominance of the search landscape. Even so, local search engines are still extremely useful. After all, if you’re a physical, brick-and-mortar establishment, you will benefit greatly from having in-store visits.
Learn More: How to Get More Reviews for Your Local Business
If you’re a digital business, local searches are still important. One study shows that consumers are 36% more likely to begin with local search engines, rather than general search sources like Google. Even if they’re looking for a digital marketing agency rather than a hardware store, if you don’t optimize for local search results, your business could lose potential customers.
Image Source: IDC
Here are some useful terms and techniques to ensure that you optimize your business for local searches:
First, understand that schema markup is one of the most powerful, least used parts of SEO today. Schema are basically brief snippets of data that can give extra information to search users and search engines. Best of all, schema markups don’t require extra coding, and can be inserted through Schema.org, a rare collaboration between Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
In the case of the example below, the schema gives extra information about showtimes at the following venue:
Image Source: Google
As you can see, schema is a game-changer: you can make your site more visible in Google and quickly add brief, useful data for the benefit of users.
Image Source: Moz
Ultimately, SEO is rapidly changing from one year to the next—even from one month to the next. Business owners and marketers have to adapt quickly, but it’s still possible to give your business website the edge on your competition.
Just remember to focus on solid content creation and copywriting fundamentals, engage your viewers deeply, and stay abreast of technical trends like backlinks, SEO health, site speed, and schema.
If all this seems overwhelming—take a deep breath. Taking the effort to understand even the basics of SEO will help your site gain higher click-through rates, engagement, and of course, rankings. In 2017, a little bit of reading and tinkering on your own can still go a very long way.
Feel free to reach out to us for a friendly chat to see how our team at Single Grain can help you with your SEO!
This is a guest post by Edwin Choi, VP of Marketing at Mobovida, a customer-driven, vertically integrated mobile accessory brand delivering fashion forward products direct to consumer. Check out our recent podcast interview with Edwin.
At CellularOutfitter.com, a leading online retail site owned by Mobovida, it can be said that we have created a new religion centering on conversion rates. This can best be exemplified by the giant (slightly altered) Wu-Tang decal we had in our old office:
C.R.R.E.A.M. = Conversion Rates Rule Everything Around Me!
Sadly, the decal didn’t survive the move to our new office. It’s hard to fault us for being dedicated to this metric: it’s a key reason why we have been growing like a weed during my five year tenure.
With higher conversion rates, we were able to exponentially lower our cost per acquisition for new customers and pour the cost savings into capturing more marketing share on our top-performing marketing channels. We’ve also built a considerable moat as competitors struggle to keep up with the rising costs of paid digital marketing (I’m looking at you, Google Adwords).
Read More: 13 Quick Tricks to Increase Conversion Rates that You Can Do Right Now
A huge proportion of our time during the last three years was dedicated to running hundreds of A/B tests through our constantly evolving conversion rate optimization process. A consistent, ever-present motivator for the blood, sweat and tears involved are the numerous learnings we were able to extract from our test data.
With a heavy combination of quantitative and qualitative data, we’re able to get into the minds of our customers and build marketing messages that resonate with our core personas. The wealth of information driven by Adobe Test & Target, Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely tests helped us to intimately understand what makes our customers tick.
CellularOutfitter.com is built to handle large volumes of traffic and daily orders, so our testing methodology was perfect for scaling the business rapidly. However, what if each order was worth more to the business? One of our core metrics is the all-important “revenue per visit” metric, which combines both conversion rate and average order value into a telling key performance indicator.
We decided to extrapolate our learnings about the customer with a new goal in mind: raising the average order value.
We knew that our customers loved a great deal and that they often wanted to buy more things on the site, but they didn’t know that we had certain deals or products available. Because of this, we could hypothesize this through some of the data that we ran in previous tests as well as effective event-based, triggered marketing campaigns.
A light bulb went off in our heads: what is one of the most effective ways that retailers increase average order size in physical retail? It’s the “impulse buy” section at a checkout aisle:
This is the same reason why Fry’s Electronics, a large consumer electronics chain, sells candy in their checkout aisles as well. Customers waiting in line to complete their order are confronted with low-priced, high-margin items that they didn’t want or need. Close rates are high because the customer is already in line to make a purchase and the comparative cost of adding additional items to their current order is relatively small.
Also, it’s super easy! All you have to do is reach over to a bag of M&Ms, toss it onto the conveyor belt, and the retailer just gained $2 in average order value. It takes the customer just a few seconds and there’s very little decision criteria needed to add friction to the process.
We hypothesized that we could mimic this same experience online on our virtual shopping cart and increase the average order volume of our carts.
Our first test would give a massive discount if the customer added a certain amount of items to their cart. This was mainly powered by two widgets:
We launched the test and crossed our fingers.
It sharply decreased conversion rates and the net loss from losing those orders hurt one of the most important parts of our site. In order to confirm this, we double checked the amount of carts created before, during and after the test in order to make sure it wasn’t influenced by pre-cart site factors. It was flat:
We have losing results from our tests all the time, so we were excited to see what type of learnings we could dig up from this test. We started to look into the key losing metric: cart conversion rate. It plummeted 6.2%:
At the very least, we proved that we could sharply change consumer behavior! This means that the presentation was effective enough to alter the path of our customers.
Let’s dig in further!
We segmented the customers who reached this page into three groups and looked at their average order values:
We really spiked up average order values for users that somehow powered their way through promo redemption. The proportion was just too small to overcome the drastic drop in conversion rates. We cross verified this with coupon use event fires in Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics and our internal reporting system and everything checked out.
We had huge learnings from our first test, so we decided to refine the test and launch it again. This time, we had additional data and hypotheses. We knew we could significantly influence consumer behavior, but we were turning off too many people with the minimum order redemption requirement. We decided to build custom promotional tiers based on data:
As you can see from the above chart (KPIs blurred for privacy), we mined our cart data from our in-house business intelligence database and broke users out to certain cohorts based on the average number of items they had in their cart. We then asked ourselves this question:
Can we have a personalized widget that will get more people to “just buy one more item”?
This is akin to getting more people in the checkout line to buy a pack of gum. We also heavily reduced the amount of friction needed to add one more item to their cart. We had these hypotheses:
We decided to target certain Average Order “breakpoints” where the discounted AOV would still raise our sitewide based on our cohort data. The hypothesis was that we could upgrade cart AOV for our high volume cart cohorts if we tiered out our coupon code structure.
Learn More: LeadPages CEO Clay Collins Talks About How To Ramp Up Your Conversion Rates (Up To 75%!)
We relaunched the test with a new widget – this widget would count how many items were in a customer’s cart and give them a special discount upon adding one more item. The discount was mathematically derived to give the customer a great deal while at the same time raising our average cart values.
The results were astonishing for average order value – it increased by over 15% and it stayed there over time! It also resulted in flat conversion rates which meant that we had a massive double digit net gain.
As with any test, we had to cross verify the numbers with as many different data sources as possible to be sure that this was, indeed, the case. We built a custom dashboard that feeds data in real time from our business intelligence server to monitor “Big Carts.” A “Big Cart” is a cart defined as a shopping cart with an average order value at least two standard deviations above our typical rolling average:
After the test was launched, our number of “Big Carts” increased by over 20%! The widget coupon codes also became some of the most highly used coupon codes on our entire site. They also have some of the highest conversion rates and revenue per visitor metrics as verified by Adobe Analytics:
This single test has added millions of dollars in revenue to our site per year.
For every test that wins big, we always try to harvest the learnings from understanding our customers better into more wins down the road. The learnings from this test powered other similar winning tests on our mobile sites as well as countless hyper effective campaigns (for example, this was converted into a very effective e-mail campaign).
For us, this test also highlights the importance of testing for learnings instead of wins. When we lost heavily during the first test, our first reaction was not “Aw shucks, we lost. Let’s go for that win!”
It was “Let’s see what we can learn from this” – and the second home run test would not have happened without the first test.
Read more on this topic (and much more!) from Edwin Choi on his blog Marketing Muses.
What is your experience with AOV? Have you run any tests or learned anything new about it? Share in the comments below so we can all learn!