June 30th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Big Boulder conference put on by GNIP in Boulder, Colorado. Around 200 attendees joined together in the St. Julien Hotel to attend what was billed as the world’s first social media data conference. GNIP, a company focused on aggregating and providing social data, assembled a great lineup of speakers, the majority of whom provide or consume social data. I enjoyed the conference and took the opportunity to learn more about social data that is now available to consumers, hear about the creative ways people are using such data, meet some great minds in the social media space, and enjoy the great food, beautiful scenery, sunny weather, and friendly vibes that are hallmarks of Boulder.
The Big Boulder presentations were mostly in a QA format with a few panels mixed in. I’ve pulled together some of the key themes that I observed from the sessions to share in this post. GNIP also posted some detailed summaries of the presentations on their blog. If anyone who attended or presented at the conference sees anything that needs to be added, please let me know!
Folks from Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook all presented at the conference in some form. All noted that they are continuing to develop their APIs to provide better access to their huge data sets, though there weren’t any big announcement of specific new capabilities.
Twitter confirmed its intention to continue sharing data from their firehose through a limited set of partners in all but a small number of cases where customers have unique needs. Their rationale for limiting access is that the vast quantity of data that comes through the firehose is too expensive for most companies to consume, store, and parse. It makes more sense for them to work through third parties who can help provide only the most relevant data to businesses looking for that data. They were asked whether they would be providing a location-based API, but they have no short-term plans to do so. They say that currently only 4% of Tweets are geocoded.
Facebook provides API access to a lot of valuable data, and states that they want to provide realtime insights to businesses. Howeve, they do not yet offer a firehose like Twitter. When asked about making more data from their social graph available, they noted that the biggest challenges they face are with managing privacy and in balancing syndication with standardization. If the language and methods for measurement are all different between sources, it gets hard for everyone to understand what the data means. Facebook said that they are looking for ideas from the community for new data to offer and some great use cases to show how it would be valuable.
LinkedIn didn’t talk much about their API specifically, but presented interesting insights and use cases about how they are using that data to drive their business forward. I’ll share a few of these insights later on.
A good percentage of the presentations at Big Boulder were from companies that are providing data that is social, but perhaps not from the traditional companies that come to mind when you think of social media data. Some were blog platforms, like WordPress.com and Tumblr. Others were blog commenting platforms like Disqus, or forum-based like Vanilla Forums and Get Satisfaction. Formspring provides a forum for general discussions around specific questions, and GetGlue is a rich community and check-in service centered on TV, movies, and books. StockTwits was another, which curates stock data from Twitter and provides a layer of social information to inform investors beyond just the traditional data.
I was seriously impressed by the volume and variety of interesting data that is being collected, curated, and shared via APIs.
A fascinating panel discussion brought together Zach Hofer-Shall (Forrester Research), Susan Etlinger (Altimeter Group), Nathan Gilliatt (Social Target), and Shawn Rogers (Enterprise Management Associates) to discuss emerging trends in analyzing social data. They discussed the challenges of integrating social data into enterprise organizations.
The four panelists were in agreement on the majority of topics disucssed. The first is that social media data is most frequently brought into organizations by PR folks, but hardly used to its full extent, as PR is usually not focused on detailed quantitative analysis. It’s used more at surface level to catch and engage with positive and negative press and to do “damage control”.
Another barrier discussed is that social data has not yet been integrated with BI teams at enterprises where the focus is mostly web analytics. At the enterprise level, there are challenges not just with siloed organizations, but siloed data. There a lots of different roles that benefit from social data insights and each has a different context. Integrating that data and offering it in ways that provide the most useful insights to those who need it is a challenge that plenty of companies have yet to surmount.
The panelists also agreed that one of the biggest challenges with getting value out of social media software is not necessarily with analytics to understand how the data relates to a business, but rather in existing software’s abilities to provide actionable insights. Though there are some pieces of this out there, the panel saw a lot of opportunity for social analytics software to really step up in this space.
There were a few insights that were shared throughout presentations, including:
From Martin Remy at Automatic (which runs WordPress.com)
From Yael Garten, Data Scientist at LinkedIn
Spam in social data has become even more of an issue with people paying for data feeds. For example, if you are paying by the tweet for your Twitter data, you don’t want to pay for the spammy tweets.
Given that notion, Twitter is working hard on combatting spam and noted that their spam team has grown to be one of the biggest teams at the company. Twitter combats spam through initial filtering, which would keep it out of the firehose feed, though they can’t catch everything that way without risking pulling legitimate content, too. Therefore, some spam gets through the system initially and is pulled after the fact.
Ken Little, Director of Engineering for Tumblr, also talked about spam being a big priority. They try and shut down spammy looking registrations right out of the gate. Tumblr uses a simple 3rd party content analysis to identify some spam and have been are developing an in-house system that identifies spammy accounts based on behavioral analysis. Some people just don’t use their accounts in ways consistent with your average human.
For most businesses, verification of the content and source of social data is important, but not critical. In one panel discussion, however, we learned about some fascinating uses of social data for the public interest that are providing insights, but struggle with the verification of social data sources.
Moeed Ahmad, Head of New Media at Al Jazeera Media Network, talked a fair bit about the challenges and need for data verification, especially for his news organization. Al Jazeera’s charter is to provide voices to the voiceless. This proves a challenge in the regions they traditionally report on most, where media is generally state-run. Social media has proven to be a great way to hear directly from the the people and surface amazing stories and viewpoints that might never have been heard otherwise. The challenge with this, as with in any reporting, is to ensure that the information shared is correct and can be verified. To try and manage this, Al Jazeera Media added procedures to the usage of social data in reporting. This change was largely an issue of verifying as much as possible and setting context in the report itself. Conversely, Moeed talked also about using social channels for verification of information. He spoke of a particularly gruesome video that had been sent to Al Jazeera showing what was reported to be a recent atrocity. Unable to verify the video and story, he posted it on Twitter and quickly found out that the video was 3 years old, and was actually from a totally different country than suggested by the person who had submitted it.
Katie Baucom, Geospatial Analyst at the Geospatial Intelligence Agency, has been working to use social data to aid in disaster response and in assessing the damage done by natural disasters. Her organization is traditionally focused only on satellite imagery, but can receive social data and photos far faster than the satellite images can be processed. Their process seems like an incredibly powerful use of social data, but verification of authenticity and location is critical in their context. They need to ensure that they are providing accurate data to ensure that disaster response is applied first where it is needed most.
Rumi Chunara, instructor at Harvard Medical School, works on a project called Healthmap, which seeks to discover and track the spread of infectious diseases in real-time using as many data sources as possible. Her challenge in this is determining fact from rumor in Tweets. To help solve this issue, they’ve been comparing information from social sources against trusted data from doctors on the ground. Her team is hoping to compare where the differences lie and model how they might be more accurately predictive using the social data. She also noted that Google Trends has been a great tool in finding outbreaks. For instance, when the flu hits an area, the searches for flu symptoms in certain geos increases noticeably.
We heard this topic discussed from a good number of people in the blog, forum, and commenting space. One panel focused specifically on how people engage online. A rule of thumb that was generally substantiated was the 90-9-1 rule. 90% of blog or forum readers are passive lurkers, 9% engage lightly, and 1% of the readers create most of the content. Everyone in the panel seemed to agree that making light social engagements, such as likes, or thumbs up, or even smiley faces easy to engage with is the path toward starting to draw in more of that 90%. One of the reasons this is so important, beyond further engaging the readership, is that it further engages the bloggers, who in turn write more content.
Brad Feld of Foundry Group led off day 2 of the conference with a quick talk about why Boulder has a thriving startup scene and shared his thoughts about principles to build an entrepreneurial community. His four points for a successful community are:
Beyond putting on a great conference and pulling together some fascinating people, GNIP sought to show off their hometown of Boulder, Colorado. They definitely succeeded, starting with the conference hotel. We stayed at the St. Julien Hotel and Spa right off of Pearl Street where we enjoyed the great food and drink in the walkable neighborhood, and were amazed at the throngs of students, profs, techies, families, and aging hippies all hanging out late on a school night.
To show how outdoorsy Boulder is, GNIP lined up a bunch of ‘healthy’ events for us to enjoy while there. Unfortunately I missed the morning yoga sessions at 6AM and a hike planned out at 6:30AM as sleep won out. However, Jamie and I made it out for the biking pub crawl after the close of the conference. GNIP sprung for a bunch of bikes from a local rental service that allows you to pickup bikes from standing bike racks and return them to any of their racks around the city when you are done. We all converged on a row of bikes just outside the hotel and cruised around the area, looking cool with our bright red bikes with big baskets on front. After a few pints and biking in 90+ degree heat, we were all feeling fine. A fun and unique way to close out a fun and uniqe conference.
June 30th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Hi, I’m Eric Enge with Stone Temple Consulting. I’m here at SEOmoz to do a Whiteboard Friday today. We’re a 25 person online marketing company that does consulting services for various people through the industry. What I actually want to talk about is how you get started with guest posting. There’s a lot that goes into it, and there have been some great articles on SEOmoz that really get into the details of some of the aspects of it. But I want to step back and take you from the top down to help you get started.
The first thing I want you to think about is the mindset. The mindset is really important. There’s a lot of stuff out there, guest blogging services that offer you all kinds of “sounds almost too good to be true” type options. The reality is, for the most part, they are too good to be true. Done well and done right, this is hard work, but it can bring really good returns. What I’m going to do today, I’m really going to focus on the high-
end approach to guest posting and how you get posts that are really brand building in nature. So let’s dig in a little bit further.
The first thing I want you to do is I want you to tap into your team knowledge. Get your key team members together. Get them in a conference room. Get them brainstorming. Where are the places you’d love to be covered in an article? Great place to start, because after all, some of them it might be possible.
Once you have that kind of list in your mind, the next thing to do is to actually go check and see if they take posts. They may or may not have a policy on their site. If they do, that’s a great thing to look for and can be very helpful. But sometimes they take guest posts without actually ever having been quite so overt about it. You can basically take this query here, site:targetdomain.com, whatever it is, and then put “guest post” or
“guest contributor” or “guest author.” You can try different phases, and see whether or not they’ve ever taken those kinds of guest contributions in the past. Great place to start. Hopefully that gets you off to a good start.
If that’s not enough, you can actually go to next step, which is you can try some industry search terms. You can try things like, let’s say you’re in the Tupperware business. Tupperware and then guest post and you search on that in Google. That can be very helpful in potentially bringing targets up.
These kinds of queries tend to be very noisy. You can actually do the same thing with Twitter by the way. There is a tool that somebody posted up on SEOmoz recently which is good at this. But it does tend to be very noisy. You’ll have to sift through a lot of stuff to find targets that you’ll want to deal with, but it still is worthwhile to get started if you have to go that way.
The point of all this is you’re looking for initial targets. Where the big win really comes in is when you start finding other prominent people in your industry space who are doing guest posts, because then you can follow their trails and see all the things they’re doing. That’s really the next step here that I want to lead you to.
Once you’ve found authors, first of all you’ll want to assess their prominence, because there are probably going to be a lot of spammy operators out there in your space that are doing guest posts, and you really don’t want to follow their trails and see everywhere they’ve posted because you’re going to get in the same kind of trouble that they’re eventually going to be in. But you can see where these authors have guest posted by taking the author name in double quotes, and then put “guest post” or “guest author” or “guest contributor,” those various flavors. You can then see all the places where these people have posted in the past. Wonderful way to get a long list of targets and really get your campaign off to a powerful start. To me this is really the big payoff that you’re looking for in terms of developing a good target list.
Once you have this good target list, the next thing you want to do is you want to evaluate the target quality. You want to start thinking about: Are these sites where we want to be seen? Certainly if one of your prominent competitors or a prominent pundit in the industry writes on that site, that’s a very good sign. Do they have a good readership? Is there a lot of social activity that happens from what they do at the site?
Also the types of links allowed. It used to be when people did guest posts, it was all about those free, in context links with rich anchor text. I am telling you that strategy, which may still work for some people, is really a Titanic looking for an iceberg. So you really want to focus on how you find targets which are actually a little more restrictive. It’s actually good if they allow outbound links in the body of the article. But if they’re allowing you to stuff anchor text links to yourself in the body of the article, that’s actually not good for you. The main thing you should expect when you’re working with the right kinds of targets for guest posting is you’re going to be getting attribution, byline level links, and that actually is the safest place to be in the long term for guest posting. It’s the kind of policies that you’re going to find on the most valuable sites anyway.
So those are my thoughts on guest posting for today. I’ve enjoyed doing this Whiteboard Friday for you. Have a good day.
June 28th, 2012 @ // No Comments
In this fifth article on the complexities of social media marketing, I’ll take a look at some of the techniques you can use for advertising, and some of the ways you can manage it. I covered that briefly in the previous part of this series; we’ll look at more categories this time. So let’s take a look at what the social landscape currently offers.
If you’ve missed the previous parts and would like to check them out, you can review what I wrote about Twitter apps, Facebook apps and games, URL shorteners and certain kinds of social platforms, and sites that help you tell a story, monitor your social analytics, and reach out to users willing to spread your message. For further reference, here’s a link to the amazing (and mind-boggling) infographic put up by Business Insider that shows no fewer than 28 different categories of social media marketing. Just in case you’re keeping score, I’ve covered nine of these in the previous articles, and hope to cover three more in this one.
So let’s discuss social marketing management. There are a TON of companies in this space. This category also includes social publishing platforms and social promotion platforms. Businesses offering these services include Shoutlet, Hootsuite, and Fanzila. Many of these are free services, at least at base; often, you can purchase an upgrade. Often, the free version will be enough to suit your needs. If you’re getting into social media marketing in a really big way, or if you run a large enterprise, the upgrade can be worth the relatively nominal investment. Hootsuite’s basic version offers some amazing functionality, for instance, and its Pro version is only about $10 a month.
They’re similar to stream platforms in that they let you schedule your posts in social media, but they have a lot more features. They let you engage across a lot more social networks, and include capabilities that make your life a lot easier. For example, Hootsuite has a built-in URL shortener.
Social marketing management suites often provide a dashboard-like interface through which you can publish to just about any social network on which you maintain a profile – that’s right, you can manage multiple social profiles with these suites, all from one place. You can also engage and interact with people commenting on your posts through the dashboard. Best of all, they include built-in analytics functions so you can monitor your social media campaigns and collect data to help you understand your ROI. You can even generate reports. A number of the professional SEOs I know who specialize in social media marketing use social marketing management dashboards; once you get to a certain point, it’s difficult to keep track of your campaigns otherwise.
Let’s move on now to the topic of social advertising platforms. These include companies such as GraphEffect, Nanigans, and Efficient Frontier, recently renamed to Multi-Channel Advertising Technology. As you would expect for anything with the word “advertising” in it, these companies provide software and services for which you’ll pay real money. They cater to organizations engaged in social media marketing on a large scale.
If social marketing management companies offer the dashboard on which you can manage your own social media campaigns, social advertising platforms offer the software and the people who know how to use it for you. To give you an idea, when Efficient Frontier was purchased by Adobe, it was described by Mashable as “a company best known for helping marketers negotiate advertising on Facebook and buy search advertising.” Social advertising platforms are used by marketers with large-scale needs.
Finally, let’s discuss social ad networks. Don’t confuse these with social advertising platforms. Social ad networks include companies like RadiumOne, LifeStreet Media, and Media6Degrees. These companies provide somewhat diverse services.
For example, LifeStreet Media makes an in-app advertising solution for mobile and Facebook apps. In other words, if you’ve made an app, LifeStream helps you get it to your target audience and improve the rate at which it’s downloaded. It also offers ads within apps. As you’d expect, this is a paid service.
That’s all I have room for today. Next week, we’ll take a look at some categories of social media marketing involved in the collection of social data, and how those can help you.
June 28th, 2012 @ // No Comments
This tactic is so simple and obvious, it’s probably illegal somewhere.
Every day, the web produces millions of pieces of content. Several thousand are almost certainly of interest to folks in your niche – those who might be reading your blog or sharing the content you produce. Creating unique stories requires creativity, research and time that many in the field don’t have. But… writing the best piece, or even just a decent piece of content about an interesting topic and giving it a fantastic headline? Well, let’s just say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this one costs just pennies.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Get Informed
E.g. The other day I found a research paper from Cambridge (via Reddit) on how negative thinking adversely impacts problem-solving ability.
Step 2: Choose the Best Pieces Each Day/Week
E.g. That research paper had been written up in some small press pieces (as seen via this Google News query), but had yet to receive any major writeups, suggesting it’s a perfect target.
Step 3: Rewrite the Headline Phenomenally Well
E.g. “Stay Away from Negative Thoughts to Improve Problem-Solving Ability” could be transformed into headlines like “Scientific research suggests haters really are harming your productivity,” or “Is distraction a better problem-solving technique than deep thought?”
Step 4: Cover the Story from Your Angle
E.g. If I were writing for the marketing world, I might take an angle focusing on what gets marketers stuck in ruts, provide suggestions for distraction and draw on some of my own experiences (like those frequent ideas in the shower moments).
Many folks will presume this only works for news-focused sites or news-focused content. False! You can relate news and events to nearly anything you desire and make it function with the brand and voice you’re trying to craft. E.g. “How the Facebook IPO Will Change Commuting Patterns in the Bay Area,” “Will Rising Sea Levels Affect Your Favorite Beach Getaway?” “Dental Implants May Be a Thing of the Past Thanks to Gene Therapy,” “The Privatization of Space Flight Will Come at a Cost for Floridian Home Owners.” I’m not suggesting any of these are particularly excellent, but hopefully you can imagine how to extend the concept of headline-writing into your field.
p.s. If you’re looking for some headline advice, I particularly liked this piece on Why Gawker’s Writing Better Headlines Than the Rest of the Web and this section on Copyblogger.
Oh – and don’t miss Dan Shure’s excellent “Are Your Titles Irresistably Click-Worthy Viral?“
June 28th, 2012 @ // No Comments
A successful SEO campaign is the perfect combination of all strategies. Whether you’re working with on-page optimization, content development, social media, or link building, all of these factors contain equal value. When it comes to picking the most difficult SEO strategy, I will always give my vote to link building as this part is one of the most difficult, boring ,and time consuming strategies you can implement.
A few days back, I shared a picture of the perfect bedroom for a link builder on Facebook:
Almost perfect, despite the coffee pot missing
Yes, link building can be boring, tough, and time consuming. However, one person on the team can dive into link building and get their hands dirty to get the job done in order to produce effective and action-driven results for the business.
Many people use different tactics when it comes to link building. One of the famous and most effective techniques that almost every ethical SEO uses is to manually outreach to other webmasters and ask for a link. Although the rate of response can be low, implementing a few smart email writing tactics can actually increase the response rate.
In this post, I will discuss a few tactics that I have used in recent campaigns where I had to write good amount of manual email to a variety of influencers and bloggers to ask them for a link favor. I tried out a few different ideas and finally created a format that allowed me to write every email as personalized as possible, while saving a lot of my time.
Here I go!
The first section of an email everyone reads is the title. It is important to have a catchy title or else your email will soon be sent directly to the trash bin. Do not try to manipulate the reader by creating false title, but instead create a title that is interesting and captivating to act as a perfect lead-in for the valuable content of the email.
Some good examples of titles are:
This is an extremely important factor. Do not write a one-line email that clarifies nothing. You want to make sure your email’s content delivers the intended actions and requests in a concise, yet inclusive, manner. Similarly, do not stuff the email with tons of unnecessary information. In either case, the recipient is likely to delete your message right away without even reading it (yeah, I can see you having a déjà-vu here).
A perfect email should have, more or less, two paragraphs that describe the solid reason for writing that email.
Not rocket science, but always a good reminder! Use the intended recipient’s name while asking them for a favor, or do not expect them to reply back. The people you are writing to are busy just like you, and their to-do lists are already filled with tasks to accomplish. You better make your request sounds important, and that starts with using their name. How many times have you ignored emails addressed to ‘Hello Webmaster,’ or similar? Plenty.
Take a little step forward, do your research, search for their names, and use them! After all, it is all in the name!
If you are writing an email of 100 words or more, it is important that your first paragraph should be appealing, smart, and engaging enough to encourage your reader to happily continue their journey through the end of the message. I’ve tried different formats and ideas for emails, but what stuck best with my campaign was to dedicate the entire first paragraph to the receiver.
This may sound like a lot of work, but checking the social profiles and doing some background on your recipient can tell you an enormous amount about a person. Ultimately, this will let you to talk to him or her more comfortably.
Don’t drag, just say it!
Now that you’ve hit the second paragraph, you’ve made it to the ground floor of your email. If you are going to drag your point out a little longer, then you will probably lose the interest of the recipient. Try to be direct in the second paragraph and let the reader know what you want from him or her. Try to explain your objective in few lines and move towards the end of your note.
Now that you have done your job in describing your objective behind the email, it is time to sum it up nicely in a courteous way.
I’ve been working on improving my emails for quite some time now, and this pitch and format has worked for me almost every time. Here are a few reasons why I think this email format is sure to get you a better rate of response:
Obviously the rate of response is not likely to be 100 percent, but I have found that using this format increases the rate of response for different niches.
If you have any other formatting ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them! Please share your views in the comment section.
About the Author:
Moosa Hemani is a SEO strategist and writes about SEO and related stuff on different blogs. He recently started an SEO Blog where he shares his opinions about SEO, search engines, social, and inbound.
June 28th, 2012 @ // No Comments
It sounds like an easy question, doesn’t it? While we hear a lot about duplicate content since the Panda update(s), I’m amazed at how many people are still confused by a much more fundamental question – which URL for any given page is the canonical URL? While the idea of a canonical URL is simple enough, finding it for a large, data-driven site isn’t always so easy. This post will guide you through the process with some common cases that I see every week.
Before we dive in, let’s cover the biggest misunderstanding that people have about “pages” on their websites. When we think of a page, we often think of a physical file containing code (whether it’s static HTML or script, like a PHP file). To a crawler, a page is any unique URL that it finds. One file could theoretically generate thousands of unique URLs, and every one of those is potentially a “page” in Google’s eyes.
It’s easy to smile and nod and all agree that we understand, but let’s put it to the test. In each of the following scenarios, how many pages does Google see?
The answer is (A) 4, (B) 4, and (C) 4. In Google’s eyes, it doesn’t matter whether the pages have extensions (“.php”), the home-page is at the root (“/”) or at index.php, or even if every page is being driven off of one physical template. There are four unique URLs, and that means there are four pages. If Google can crawl them all, they’ll all be indexed (usually).
Let’s dive right into a few examples. Please note: these are just examples. I’m not recommending any of the URL structures in this post as ideal – I’m just trying to help you determine the correct canonical URL for any given situation.
I’ll start with an easy one. Many sites still use URL parameters to track visitor sessions or links from affiliates. No matter what the parameter is called or which purpose it’s used for, it creates a duplicate for every individual visitor or affiliate. Here are a few examples:
In the first two examples, the session and affiliate ID create a copy, in essence, of the main store page. In both of these cases, the proper canonical URL is simply:
The last example is a bit trickier. There, we also have a “product=” parameter that drives the product being displayed. This parameter is essential – it determines the actual content of the page. So, only the “affiliate=” parameter should be stripped out, and the canonical URL is:
This is just one of many cases where the canonical URL is NOT the root template or the URL with no parameters. Canonical URLs aren’t always short or pretty – many canonical URLs will have parameters. Again, I’m not arguing that this structure is ideal. I’m just saying that the canonical URL in this case would have to include the “product=” parameter.
Unfortunately, the word “dynamic” gets thrown around a little too freely – for the purposes of this blog post, I mean any URLs that pass variables to generate unique content. Those variables could look like traditional URL parameters or be embedded as “folders”.
A good example of the kind of URLs I’m talking about are blog post URLs. Take these four:
Again, it doesn’t matter whether the URLS have parameters or hide those parameters as virtual folders. All of these URLs use a unique value (either an ID or date) to generate a specific blog post. So what’s the canonical URL here? Obviously, if you canonicalize to “/blog”, you’re going to reduce your entire blog to one page. It’s a bit of a trick question, because the canonical URL could actually be something like this:
This is why we have such a hard time detecting the proper canonical URLs with automated tools – it really takes a deep knowledge of a site’s architecture and the builder’s intent. Don’t make assumptions based on the URL structure. You have to understand your architecture and crawl paths. If you just start stripping off URL parameters, you could cause an SEO disaster.
It might seem strange to put the home page third, but the truth is that the first two cases were probably easier. Part of the problem is that home pages naturally spin out a lot of variations:
Add in complications like secure pages (https:), and you can end up multiplying all of these variants. While this is technically true of any page, the problem tends to be more common for the home page, since it’s usually the most linked-to page (both internally and from external sites) by a large margin.
In most cases, the technically correct home-page URL is:
…but there are exceptions (such as if you secure your entire site). I don’t see the trailing slash (“/”) causing a ton of problems on home pages these days, since most browsers and crawlers add it automatically, but I think it’s still a best practice to use it.
Another common exception is if your site automatically redirects to another version of the home-page – ASP is notorious about this, and often lands visitors and bots at “index.aspx” or a similar page. While that situation isn’t ideal, you don’t want to cross signals. If the redirect is necessary, then the target of that redirect (i.e. the “index.aspx” URL) should be your canonical URL.
Finally, be very careful about situation #5 – in that case, as I discussed in the first section of this post, the “index.php” code template is actually driving other pages with unique content. Canonicalizing that to the root or to “index.php” could collapse your site to one page in the Google index. That particular scenario is rare these days, but some CMS systems still use it.
In some ways, product pages are a lot like the blog-post pages in Case #2, except moreso. You can naturally end up with a lot of variations on an e-commerce site, including:
If you have a URL like #3, then that’s going to be your canonical URL for the product in most cases (especially #1-#3). If you don’t, then work up the list. In other words, if you have #3, use it; if not, use if not #2, use #1. You have to work with the structure you have.
URLs #4-#6 are a bit trickier. Something like the currency selector in #4 can be very complicated and depends on how those selections are implemented (user selection vs. IP-based geo-location, for example). For Google’s purposes, you would typically want them to use the dominant price for the site’s audience and canonical to the main product URL (#1-#3, depending on the site architecture). Indexing every price variant, unless you have multiple domains, is just going to make your content look thinner.
With #5 and #6, the URL indicates a product variant, let’s say a T-shirt that comes in different colors and sizes. This situation depends a lot on the structure and scope of the content. Technically, your T-shirt in red/large is unique, and yet that page could look “thin” in Google’s eyes. If you have a variant or two for a handful of products, it’s no big deal. If every product has 50 possible combinations, then I think you need to seriously consider canonicalization.
Now, the ugliest case of them all – internal search pages. This is a double-edged sword, since Google isn’t a fan of search-within-search (their results landing on your results) in general and these pages tend to spin out of control. Here are some examples:
The list, unfortunately, could go on and on. While it’s natural to think that the canonical version should be #1-#3 (depending on your URL structure, just like in Case #4), the trouble is pagination. Pages 2 and beyond of your topic search may appear thin, in some cases, but they return unique results and aren’t technically duplicates. Google’s solutions have changed over time, and their advice can be frustrating, but they currently say to use the rel=prev/next tags. Put simply, these tags tell Google that the pages are part of a series.
In cases like #5-#6, Google recommends you use rel=prev/next for the pagination but then a canonical tag for the “page=2” version (to collapse the sorts and filters). Implementing this properly is very complicated and well beyond the scope of this post, but the main point is that you should not canonicalize all of your search pages to page 1. Adam Audette has an excellent post on pagination that demonstrates just how tricky this topic is.
Finally, an important reminder – the most important canonical signal is usually your internal links. If you use the canonical tag to point to one version of a URL, but then every internal link uses a different version, you’re sending a mixed signal and using the tag as a band-aid. The canonical URL should actually be canonical in practice – use it consistently. If you’re an outside SEO coming into a new site, make sure you understand the crawl paths first, before you go and add a bunch of tags. Don’t create a mess on top of a mess.
June 28th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Content marketing is the process of publishing content that helps to engage or entertain a prospect and then move them into the sales funnel. Content marketing isn’t necessarily new, however, over the last few years it has become more popular with all types of online marketers mostly because of the engagement it creates and the ROI that it generates for businesses of all sizes.
Kapost and Eloqua recently put together and published a study on the cost and ROI of content marketing in which they share some very eye opening statistics that should catch the attention of all types of marketers, online and offline. Content marketing, when executed over a long period of time (36+ months) yields three times as many leads, dollar for dollar, when compared to paid search. The reasoning for this is because once you have built your own audience and community, you don’t have to pay for it anymore and your ROI goes through the roof (as seen in the image below).
The problem for most businesses is, that content marketing is super expensive and it is really hard to justify the expense today for a return in three years. In the study mentioned above, it is estimated that in order to run a full fledged content marketing operation (in-house) that you are looking at a $12,000 expense per month for mid sized businesses and a $33,000 expense per month for large businesses. Depending on the scope of work, you can dramatically cut those costs by probably 40-50% by hiring an agency to help you with your content marketing efforts, however, it’s still a pretty penny to engage in this form of marketing.
From those who have chosen to engage in content marketing, there is no dispute that it was money well spent, however, since this form of marketing does require a pretty heavy “up-front” investment, it is often times very difficult to get buy-in from upper management/executive team or whomever the decision makers are. Because of this, I’ve pulled together some of the best in the industry to share with us what they feel should be key talking points when pitching an executive and trying to secure budget for such a strategy. There are some amazing ideas and concepts being shared here, so take good notes!
Deciding where to publish your content is a key element in any content strategy. If you publish it on your site, you own the content and control its uptime and visibility. If you publish on a partner site, social media, profile, etc. you risk changes to the platform, downtime; and sometimes, assigning ownership of your content to the site owner.
You should balance the publishing of content in areas where you have control while promoting it through channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any other distribution channel.
Generating and curating quality content is more valuable to users and therefore the search engines crawl, index, and rank your content that others find useful. A company blog is a great place to publish on a regular basis.
Since Google’s Panda algorithm started rolling in 2011, Google has been promoting pages that are crawlable, unique, and credible. A few of these updates specifically targeted pages with too many ads above-the-fold and templated page architecture. This is reason enough to invest in content creation and curation that goes beyond the content you can read on hundreds of other pages on the web.
Putting together a dashboard of metrics for executives is critical in getting approval for a new content creation campaign.
This gives them a few things:
User conversion is another great reason to consider a content strategy. In an effort to convert more visitors into your funnel, a focused effort on content turns more of your visitors into leads/sales.
Micro-conversions include converting readers into blog or newsletter subscribers social media friends. Collecting user information is a great way to convert transient readers into fans.
You can focus on driving more traffic to your site or converting more visitors. Or both. Whatever you decide, content is the source of both attraction and conversion when it’s well defined and well promoted.
Traditionally, marketing campaigns are about renting someone else’s audience: the marketer goes to media (who has the audience) and pays to have their message displayed to that audience. Content marketing turns this on its head. Now, you get to own your own audience and over time, owning versus renting is much more cost-effective. In fact, a recent eBook on the ROI of Content Marketing finds that Content Marketing is more than 3 times more effective than the most productive traditional channel (SEM).
This is a sea change for marketing. Marketers who do not develop content marketing programs now will soon find that they cannot compete in acquiring customers.
To me there are two very important content marketing factors you should address when making your pitch to management. First, traditional media is much like renting. When your campaign is over, it’s over. However, the content you create and distribute on the web might be out there for people to discover for many years to come. Second, content marketing can be done at much lower cash cost and with much lower risk on a campaign-by-campaign basis. So it’s easier to test and focus on your target market.
From my point of view when you are making a pitch to an executive the most important thing you should address is ROI. If you want X dollars from a company, you better be able to show them how you are going to make them Y dollars as well as how long it is going to take before you make them the Y dollars.
And when you tell them how much you are going to make them, don’t just show them a number, but break down every little aspect so they can get a good understanding of what you are exactly doing and how that will make them more money.
In my opinion, the biggest value that needs to be conveyed during a content marketing pitch is the long-term benefit the client will gain through increased traffic flow and SERP improvements due to successful campaigns. If content marketing campaigns are properly and regularly executed the client will be able to see a clear ROI within weeks and their content marketing pieces can then become true assets for them that can be used in a variety of ways over the lifetime of their business, not simply as a one-time link bait tactic.
The other element that should not be missed during a pitch is the additional gain the client gets from coupling successful content marketing campaigns with their focused SEO, PPC, and other marketing channels. You can get a lot more out of those dedicated budgets by coupling successful content marketing campaigns with those efforts.
From my point of view it’s about making a business case – not in promising some kind of magic ROI. Content marketing is inherently an innovative new process for most organizations – and so by definition is new. That said, the key is to build a case for WHY this new process may help solve a business goal. It might be SEO improvement, more leads, better leads, a more efficient funnel, or simply a decrease of customer service costs.
A content-driven strategy can be applied to a lot of different types of marketing goals – but it’s not without some risk and, certainly, fine-tuning over time. Ultimately, I find one of the best ways is to identify a particularly “ripe” part of the funnel to approach first. It might be your biggest pain point — or one that is new — but identify some tactic (let’s say building leads through pay-per-click) and then applying a content marketing process on top of it to see if we can improve those results. If you can, then use that savings to try another tactic – and then another. Slowly build an economic model that makes a content-driven strategy make sense.
Content (all media, from written to video to tools) is the final frontier and the only way forward. It’s how I’ve built my business and I’ve always believed that it can work for others. Turning content marketing into a service has been a sticking point for me though at my current size (a handful of contractors), primarily in the area of extracting expertise at scale, on schedule and then promoting it effectively. Your writers and promoters have to “go native” too and speak the language, otherwise you’ll flop. That said, I think selling ginormous, multi-year content marketing contracts upwards requires connecting the content up to existing business objectives and looking at “audience growth” (subscribers + followers, etc) as THE primary contributor to these objectives.
I find that content marketing achieves amazing returns when an entire company is bought into its importance and participate in its success. The process of achieving organizational buy in for content marketing starts at the top. From my perspective, the single most important factor to discuss when pitching content marketing to executives is that content marketing is the foundation of most forms of internet marketing. Without a content marketing focus, all marketing channels will suffer and achieve lower returns.
The highest ROI internet marketing channels, including SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and most forms of paid advertising, all market great content that answers customer questions, solves their problems, entertains, and leads them down the sales funnel. Our experience has shown that when an organization really understands and grasps the importance of content marketing, all internet marketing channels have significant boosts in performance. For example, a recent study of over 1,000 marketing professionals has shown that content marketing is the single most effective form of SEO. It’s the same story for most channels. As we like to say, content leads.
Every website requires its own content marketing strategy. This will drive traffic to your site and keep visitors on your site longer. Every written word needs to benefit the reader and be entertaining.
We have found the best results have been obtained by researching where your customers are online. What websites do they frequent? What news sources and blogs do they respect? Once you have this information, build a relationship with those sites, and gain permission to post articles that are interesting and valuable. Then, make sure your site has strong, engaging content that is relevant to the articles linking
to you on the news and blog sites.
We have seen websites receive large spikes of traffic, new leads and revenue through content marketing, especially when you find the delicate balance of providing value and a call to action.
Every day, consumers are bombarded with branded ads and messages that are interrupting their web experience. Instead of focusing on promotion, brands need to invest in publishing to earn the audience they’re pursuing. When you produce extraordinary content that compels people to share, the result is an engaged community, which leads to more traffic, mentions, links and conversions. But content marketing isn’t easy and it isn’t a short-term campaign; it requires an investment in time and resources. Smart marketers understand the value of gaining a consumer’s trust and interest before asking them to buy.
In order to get executive buy in on content marketing, they first need to have a clear understanding of their goals, and their goals need to align with what content marketing is actually good at doing. Content marketing is great for many things including link building, thought leadership positioning, increasing brand loyalty, increasing social engagement, and lots more, but it isn’t typically a tactic that results in direct conversions or sales. When you can get an executive to understand that they can build brand loyalty, increase their rankings, and increase traffic and social engagement all by creating something cool and fun that their audience or customers will love, it is generally a pretty easy sell.
The most important thing in your pitch for content marketing to executives is the value of developing content for your site. This is easier said than done, but the key is to get a test approved. Start small. With one client we picked on an area of the site and developed 150 word blurbs for each major category page (maybe 20 pages). We then tracked the results in ranking changes (something execs refuse to stop looking at) and presented the results to top brass and other business departments. The results of having the case study paired with education helped fuel over $35,000 in content creation budget.
I hope that this has helped and has given you some ideas and talking points when presenting such a campaign to a decision maker. I wanted to give a big thanks to everyone who participated in this post. I know you’re busy and your participation is greatly appreciated by all. If you have any other tips or recommendations, we would love to hear them in the comments section.
June 26th, 2012 @ // No Comments
More than one third of the languages currently spoken on this planet may become extinct in the next 100 years. Google is partnering with the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity in an attempt to save thousands of languages in at least some form. It’s called the Endangered Language Project, and for anyone who cares about words and ideas, it’s worth a look.
You can check out the Endangered Language Project at its web site. Personally, I had no idea that more than 7,000 languages are spoken throughout the world – and more than 3,000 could die in just three or four generations. That’s really sad. Any translator will tell you that there are some words that don’t translate well between languages. Every language reflects the culture that uses it; an entire perspective on the world and what’s important is woven into the words that people use. Every time we lose a language, we lose a point of view…forever.
On its website, the Endangered Languages Project expresses this fact even more strongly. “The disappearance of a language means the loss of valuable scientific and cultural information, comparable to the loss of a species,” it notes. Google and the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity hope to reverse or at least slow down this loss. The collaborative project is trying to develop a comprehensive database of at-risk languages that includes important statistics, high quality audio recordings of language samples, and more.
Users can browse the site either by using the search engine in the upper right hand corner or clicking on the world map. Colored dots reveal locations where endangered languages are spoken; a language can be “at risk,” “endangered,” “severely endangered,” or “vitality unknown.” There are apparently levels within these main four; for example, on the page for each language, you might find terms like “threatened” or “critically endangered” (that last was used for a language that had only a few elderly speakers). Some languages listed might have a million or more native speakers; others may have thirty or less.
Clicking on the dots on the world map brings up the name of the language; click on the name brings you to a page about the language that includes the number of native speakers worldwide, language meta data (such as other names it goes by, its classification, variants, etc). You might also learn the language’s “context of usage,” which will let you know where it is used and how much support there is for its continued usage. If available, you may also hear audio or see video of the language being spoken. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a few songs in the endangered language as well. Or you might find a botanist explaining how certain plants are used in that culture (the Koro language features such samples).
As you’d expect for a collaborative project, it’s set up so that others can contribute samples; Google may be overseeing it to start with, but hopes to put it entirely into the hands of linguistic experts, educational organizations, and others with an interest in preserving endangered languages. You can check out Google’s blog post for more information about this project.
June 26th, 2012 @ // No Comments
There have been multiple articles that have discussed the value and opportunities that content marketing brings to SEO – from organically building external links and ranking for more long tail keywords, to establishing a community and building brand awareness. As the SEO industry slowly moves away from manual linkbuilding and adapts a more long-term and forward-thinking approach (whether it be forced as a result of recent aggressive Google algorithm updates or because as an industry, we’re starting to seek a sustainable methodology to establish authority), the challenge is in figuring out how to set up a proper framework that would help our community develop a content strategy for all websites.
Image courtesy of SEOmoz
The goal of this post is to show the SEO community how to start thinking about how to develop a cohesive and integrated long-term content strategy (and not just one-off linkbait pieces). It won’t be easy and definitely will not result in immediate returns, but if the goal is to build a sustainable and authoritative site in the long-term, the upfront costs can be justified. To show you the steps of how to create a content strategy, I’ve chosen what might be a seemingly “boring” industry (and an industry I knew very little about prior to writing this post), tires, to demonstrate how a content strategy is possible for all industries and all sites, and how a little research can go a long way.
Image courtesy of Distilled
As an industry, we already have a very good idea of how people in general use the Internet. However, if I were to do a content strategy specifically tailored around the tire industry, I would want to understand how the core demographic for tires is utilizing the Internet.
For example, the type of questions we want to learn about tire shoppers could be:
We also want to understand what the industry landscape looks like.
And more about your specific tire company.
As well as, what does your current customer base look like?
All this information helps you as an SEO garner a much deeper understanding about the tire business, which will be fundamentally important in determining the type of content to produce.
Following the background research on the tire industry, it’s also worth speaking directly to individuals who you know are very knowledgeable about the tire industry – their insight can ultimately help you develop different personas to target. Let’s say hypothetically, you own a tire company and through this research realized that street racers was a target demographic you could develop content for. Through the research, you’ve learned that the majority of street racers are:
You want to start locating and having conversations with people who fit this demographic or, at the very least, have access and knowledge about this demographic. This will provide you with the type of insight that will help you develop content street racers would be interested in or will provide you with the opportunity to interact and potentially, influence street racers.
The second element of the project requires conducting an in-depth competitive analysis on the competitors and seek answers to the following questions:
It’s also worth ensuring that your own site’s metrics and analytics tracking is properly set up, which can be used to measure growth, traffic, and conversions.
Tire Industry Example:
For instance, in the tire industry, it’s clear that the dominant player in the industry is Tire Rack.
What has been Tire Rack’s competitive advantage?
Many of these articles talk about Tire Rack’s video driving tests. For example, their Winter/Snow vs. All-Season vs. Summer Tires video has generated over 440,000 views. Their YouTube channel has over 1,000+ subscribers and over 2 million views.
They also have a back story, an army veteran who opened up shop in 1979 and made customer service/educating consumers his number one priority. The family-owned business now has 3 generations working at the shop. On top of it all, their price points are competitive with all major tire retailers.
However, it appears that the site targets the general consumer, meaning there is opportunity for other tire sites to develop content around different target personas, such as speed racers or truckers to name a few.
Using all of the above research, determine how you would differentiate your site from your competitors.
Image Courtesy of SEOmoz
At the same time, you also must consider the internal resources that you have access to – what type of content could you more easily create based on the resources you have available? The reality is that often times, dependencies are involved – whether it be departmental approval for different forms of content or budget constraints. These all need to be taken into consideration when compiling a long-term content strategy.
Finally, define your goals – is it to develop content for your target audience? The integration of different marketing teams to build value? Develop a deeper understanding of your target audience? Become an authority in a specific space? All of the above?
What is the vision for investing this much effort/budget/time?
Tire Industry Example:
Let’s say I wanted to target the street racer demographic. Based on my understanding of the target demographic, street racers would likely be interested in:
Image courtesy of YouTube
I’ve included links to the best examples I could find. Clearly videos are a huge hit and have an enormous audience, but there isn’t a single channel dominating street racing videos. The street racing forum is relatively active and I honestly could not find good examples of comparison charts on different racing tires or even a single linkworthy site of street racing resources. Clearly, there is an opportunity for a company who might be interested in targeting the street racing demographic to become the online authority of street racing.
Before investing the time and budget to create a piece of content, first properly outreach and make sure that there is an audience who is willing to share this piece of content. Ideally this would be to sites that have the same audience/personas that you are trying to target. Take a look at social media for potential engagement opportunities (please read and apply Wil Reynold’s “Stalking for Links”), search industry news, and reading the content that your competitors are creating.
Tire Industry Example:
If I were targeting the street racer demographic, I’d be very involved on the street racer forum, as well as other car forums that are active. Though this is a long-term strategy, ultimately, building relationships with these individuals is worthwhile.
Image courtesy of Honda-Tech
I’d also build relationships with street racers who have a large following on Twitter for the very same reason.
Image Courtesy of Followerwonk
Through investing in these relationships, not only will you be able to build relationships with influencers, you’ll also gain a big picture understanding of the common questions street racers ask and thus, have insider knowledge of the type of content that will prove to be successful in helping to build your own following.
Now that we’ve conducted the market research for our industry, identified target personas, determined the type of content we could create, and initiated relationships with potential prospects that would share our content, the next step is to create the actual content.
We have to:
Once outreach has been conducted on the content piece, we want to take the time to properly evaluate the metrics and draw conclusions. Overtime, you can measure a variety of metrics like:
Based on the results of the content piece, the next steps are to iterate, test, and repeat with the purpose of ultimately building a following and a brand.
The purpose of this post was to help you develop a long-term content strategy framework for your site. The reality is that there is no “boring” industry and all industries have the ability to build a passionate community because ultimately, the Internet has become a source for all forms of knowledge. The difficulty is in finding these individuals, reaching out to them, and building content that they would read, enjoy, and share. The value of placing emphasis on long-term returns is that at some point, it doesn’t matter what the next Google update looks like, if your site saw a change in rankings, or even how many external backlinks you’ve built. What matters, is that you’ve built something that has garnered a loyal following, a dedicated community, and something you can be proud of.
June 26th, 2012 @ // No Comments
You are missing out on extra sales! So, my awesome team at SEOgadget have crafted up a handy infographic for you on how get started in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO, and that’s “optimisation” over here in the UK) to get the best ROI from your hard earned traffic.
We’ve developed and applied this methodology to help struggling businesses out of financially difficult situations all the way to adding hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue, per day, to become some of our largest clients.
We believe there are two paths to Conversion Rate Optimization. When we see companies fail in CRO, it’s because they’ve adopted random testing, guesswork, “best practice” changes and most fundamentally, they’ve chosen to avoid proper testing. We call this the bad path (queue Darth Vader’s Death March Theme…).
To get good at driving real change, you’ve got to define a CRO methodology. The real trick to improving your conversion is pretty simple: identify, and target the core barriers to conversion and then, scientifically test the changes. This is the good path (queue The Star Wars Force Theme) and the path that we advocate for all inbound marketers to follow…
Check out our beautiful step-by-step guide in glorious technicolor. Would you like to see it in even more super-glorious HTML-O-Vision?
a data-cke-saved-href=”https://seogadget.co.uk/conversion-rate-optimisation/” href=”https://seogadget.co.uk/conversion-rate-optimisation/”img data-cke-saved-src=”http://cdnext.seomoz.org/1340399351_2d1692d14db762fffc739ecb426a5b4f.jpg” src=”http://cdnext.seomoz.org/1340399351_2d1692d14db762fffc739ecb426a5b4f.jpg” alt=”The SEOGadget guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation – Infographic” title=”The SEOGadget guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation – Infographic” width=”630″ //abr/a data-cke-saved-href=”http://seogadget.co.uk/conversion-rate-optimisation/” href=”http://seogadget.co.uk/conversion-rate-optimisation/”A CRO infographic by SEOgadget.co.uk/a, read the a data-cke-saved-href=”http://www.seomoz.org/blog/seogadget-guide-conversion-rate-optimization” href=”http://www.seomoz.org/blog/seogadget-guide-conversion-rate-optimization”full guide on SEOmoz/a
Just think of CRO as detective work. It’s a lot like using a fine comb to pick off the weak points in your site’s conversion funnel, while building on its strengths. At the heart of conversion rate optimization is the notion of removing barriers to conversion. These are the forces stopping your site from converting visitors into sales.
Barriers to conversion can include usability errors, weak persuasive techniques and often, page relevancy issues. By learning about your customer’s objections – “barriers to conversion” you’re addressing the real reasons why people don’t convert. The most important part: CRO is a scientific process of diagnosis, hypothesis and testing. Why bother guessing when there are tools to really help you learn about your customers?
Let’s say you own a store on the high street. You’re keen to increase your sales, so you paint the front door a different colour. That’ll improve things, right? Of course not! You’re not addressing the real reasons why customers aren’t buying your stuff.
The same applies to websites, changing the colour of your buttons will have no effect if people find your website lacking in credibility. Targeting the root cause with security logos and social proof (for example, reviews, accreditations, and association) is a much better solution.
So, here’s how we do it at the GadgetPlex:
Setup your funnels and analyse the points where your users enter, until the point they exit. Try to identify the “missing links” or barriers to conversion. Find out where they abandon and create benchmarks for improvement. Tools such as Google Analytics, Omniture and Kissmetrics are great for creating conversion funnels. If you rely on phone conversions then tracking phone calls is pretty important. Tools such as Adinsight and Mongoose Metrics are pretty comprehensive at phone tracking.
Find out what’s actually happening when people land on your site, analyse what they do, what keywords they discovered you for and where they land. Obviously, tools such as Google Analytics are great at telling you this, but think about digging deeper. What browsers are your visitors using? What screen resolutions are most popular?
Usability tools such as ClickTale are also great for funnels and their form analytics reveal where users drop off along your forms. CrazyEgg is another simple and effective tool that we use for click density analysis. Usability testing tools such as Usertesting and Whatusersdo are a great way to see videos of people using your site and where they hit conversion barriers. Ethnio is handy at recruiting your own site visitors to participate in usability tasks.
To identify barriers to conversion, you’ve got to build up a profile of people’s objections and opinions.
Tools such as Kissinsights (Bought out by Catchfree, who are awesome), Pop-Survey, Kampyle are really good for page level surveys and pretty simple to setup. Live chat tools such Olark and LivePerson are useful for dealing with user problems instantly. Other survey tools such as 4Q survey, Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo are really useful at discovering what your users are saying.
When it comes to using these tools we’ve found that all you really need is one question. Allow users to really express themselves by asking them an open-ended question. Acquire their email address (optional) for those that want their feedback to be responded to. Collecting an email address and promising a follow up really improves response rates, which allows you solve any objections early on.
If we know our target then the objective becomes easier. Study your website and understand your customers.
Speak to sales staff to learn the likely barriers they face when they sell and use the site. Your sales team deal with customers every day and uncover objections and seek to solve them in order to close the deal. The first time we did this we were surprised at just how useful this can be for exposing problems on your site.
Become a secret shopper and create scenarios i.e. rude customer vs. extremely polite vs. technically challenging – test how your staff deal with each scenario.
Finally, try actually phoning your own customer service number and see what happens. Test your customer services aggressively, as they can be the difference between retention and people going to your competitors. A 5% increase in retention can have an uplift of around 25 – 85% in profitability (Treytl 2002).
It’s all about wheeling and dealing, discovering those hidden gems within your company and using them to grow sales.
When you apply for a job and have to send a CV or fill out an application, the employer knows nothing about you other than what is on that piece of paper or application (unless they’ve checked you out on Facebook). If you don’t sell yourself and mention all of your achievements, they won’t easily learn about you. The same rule applies for websites.
If you have loads of testimonials and expert reviews but don’t shout about it, then how will your potential customers know? Treat your website users like they’re the employer and impress them, tell them why they should buy, making the value proposition crystal clear.
Study your website carefully and consider what you’re missing. For example, showing expert reviews, customer reviews, testimonials, or even taking the time to build a community (just look at SEOmoz for inspiration).
Prospecting is really about selling your site to your users and using clever mechanisms to grow conversion rate and sales.
There are so many ways to strengthen your AOV, which Fabian covered beautifully in this blog post.
As an AOV strategy, bundles work amazingly and it doesn’t even matter if you’re not strictly a retailer. Look at Unbounce for inspiration. They offer conversion bundles on their products joined with offerings from other companies which is a clever technique to offer a cost saving and acquire additional sales.
(Unbounce use “conversion bundles” as way to boost AOV and get more leads)
SEOmoz have a Pro Perks store (check it out).
Not all competition is competition, strategic partnerships can be a great way to grow and gain maximum exposure especially for start-ups.
As soon as you’ve got a plan, list and prioritise the main conversion killers and derive solutions on how to fix it and increase conversion.
We use tools such as Balsamiq and Cacoo to wireframe the solutions and then prepare hypotheses for testing. Test scientifically, the most important thing to take away from testing is to learn what works and what doesn’t and to keep building structurally to increase conversion rate. No guesswork!
We love this quote because it really captures what testing is all about, forget about guesswork, opinion and egos (think: HIPPO) and instead, test your variations accurately.
We primarily use Google Website Optimiser (which is now becoming content experiments) and Visual Website Optimiser. There’s loads of split testing and multivariate software. But remember: it’s not the testing tool that increases your conversion it’s the ideas you put into it.
What we’ve learnt is don’t test too many things, instead create a clear structured hypothesis. Attach CrazyEgg or ClickTale to your variations to monitor the difference in click density and interaction between your pages. If you’re optimising forms then applying ClickTale to your variation pages is really useful.
Try running page level surveys on the variations and original page, ask the same question, and monitor the difference. Always test your variations in multiple browsers. Browsershots are pretty good for this. For mobile testing we use Mobile Moxie’s excellent phone emulator, which is really handy at testing across different phone operating systems and platforms.
Review your test, analyse the analytics, click density and form analytics (ClickTale) and compare it to the original page, check the difference.
Tracking AOV and revenue is so important when testing. Structure your follow up tests and build on your success, or failure. Failure doesn’t always mean the test was wrong, it means the original is doing something really well, so learn and iterate. Apply your winning test candidates to other pages on the site (we always like to test these usually via a multi-page multivariate test), and then consider applying your learnings to other media channels such as magazines, adverts and brochure ware.
Repeat the process and keep building successful tests. Each time you test and find winning variations, you build up a portfolio of increases. Conversion rate optimization is an iterative process, which builds on the success of the previous test.
Follow this methodology and it will be extremely hard not to increase your site conversion. That’s how to get more happy customers and more happy customers equals more bang for your buck.
I hope you enjoyed our epic guide! Do check out the full HTML version of our infographic – and, in the meantime I’d love to hear how you’re working CRO into the inbound marketing process! I’d like to say a special thanks to Fabian for his hard work on making sure this post happened, follow him on Twitter here!