How to use purchase intent for more effective keyword search

Keywords_Disconnect_600

If you think the lowly keyword is dead, think again. Good research can help a business position itself with the the right content to engage the audience at different points of the consumer purchase journey.

Have you experienced one or more of these problems with your SEO and PPC ads?

  • Your pages are ranking well, even at number one in the search results, but they are not getting any clicks
  • Your ads are getting a lot of impressions, but they are not getting any clicks
  • Your pages in organic search results and ads are both getting a lot of clicks, but just not converting

If you have, it is likely that there is disconnect among keywords, ads, page description and landing page content.

As more and more companies shift their digital marketing KPIs from traffic to conversions, these disconnects are huge roadblocks to business growth and need to be removed.

Why does disconnect happen?

In many cases, a disconnect is caused by these reasons:

  • Selected target keywords based on search volume (SEO & ads)
  • Used the same ad copy (ads)
  • Used the same landing page (ads)
  • Didn’t check which page is ranking for a keyword (SEO)
  • Didn’t check the organic search results to improve how the page shows up (SEO)

Basically, your SEO and paid ads have become very mechanical and perhaps even routine. You have forgotten people are your audience, and not Google or any other search engine.

If you want to succeed with SEO and paid ads, you need to understand what your audience wants, and start giving them what they are searching for.

For example, when I was searching for a pair of yoga pants, I specified a size as “petite”, and got the following results:

Sadly, all four of the paid ads failed to provide me with what I wanted on the landing page even through three of them do mention “petite” in the ad title. Also, six out of eight of the listings in Google shopping failed by not mentioning “petite” in the title. One of them did mention “petite”, but gave me a pair of fitted work pants instead of yoga pants.

In this case, 10 out of 12 advertisers tried to bait me into the site using a title that matched my search but neither the description nor the landing pages matched what I was looking for.

This happened because they didn’t care about what I wanted by understanding the intent behind my search keywords: “petite yoga pants”. They were hoping I would mindlessly click and look around.

How to use keywords to improve content for better audience engagement

1. Listen to the voice of the consumer

Keywords are great in the sense that they let you know what the audience wants. Consider keywords as an indication of the voice of consumer.

Keywords_Audience Engagement_600

In the new keyword research model, search volume is not the main focus. What you want to do is to identify the keywords used in each stage of the customer journey.

People at the beginning of the customer journey usually use big keywords with a high search volume – and are therefore unlikely to convert for a while.

While the search volume may be small, long tail keywords are important because people who use them are likely to know exactly what they want, and are probably very close to a conversion point.

2. Serve the consumer relevant content

Once you finish your keyword research, group them based on the different stages of the customer journey. The next step is to map keywords to the most relevant content on your website for SEO.

For paid ads, create a landing page with the content that meets the needs of the searcher’s intent throughout the specific stages of the customer journey. These pages are commonly referred to as ‘preferred landing pages’ (PLP). By mapping keywords to the right content, you are going to improve the ranking, click through, and the conversions.

Google has said it values websites with good usability, and by good usability, they mean that searchers can find what they want quickly on the page. It validates the importance of keyword mapping to the right content and ensures the content truly represents the intent and needs of the searcher.

The relevancy is not limited to the landing pages. The ad copies, the page title and the description for the organic search results play important parts in bringing searchers to your website. When there is not enough relevancy, disconnect occurs.

This is one of the easiest ways to increase traffic. If you haven’t looked at your organic search for critical phrases lately, do, and you might be surprised to see how poorly they represent your products and services.

Effective keyword research helps you to create compelling content that engages with the audience by providing content that satisfies their needs. Do you believe in the importance of keywords now?

Feel free to leave your comments below.

For more information, download our brand new ClickZ Intelligence Report, The Future of Customer Journey.

How to find copyright free images with Google Image Search and other resources

google image search

Whether maintaining a blog or a beloved long-running website, you will have likely run into problems with accidentally using copyrighted images.

It’s easy enough to do, there’s so much misinformation around fair-usage from country-to-country that it’s easy to assume you’ll be safe, but still end up with a huge invoice from Getty Images.

If you have fully paid-up access to an image provider or stock image library, then fantastic. But what if you’re just running a site with little-to-no revenue?

Or… what if you’re sick of seeing the same old lame stock photos of millennials taking selfies?

Images are a fantastic way to improve the readability of your posts and properly optimised images can also drive search traffic – you should definitely use them, even for the shortest articles.

Luckily there are many places you can find good quality images, which you can use for completely free.

Google image search – filter by usage rights

As I discussed in my post on optimising images for SEO, you can find unlicensed images directly on Google.

Just type your search query – today I’ll be looking for ‘cats that look like people’ because what the heck else is the internet good for…

Then click on Search Tools, then Usage Rights and select Labeled for Reuse.

google image search filter

It’s probably a good idea to then double-check that the image you’ve chosen is genuinely free to use. You can use a reverse image search like TinEye or ImageRaider to check any further usage rights.

TinEye

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr is a massive user-generated resource for photography, with many professionals and semi-professionals showcasing their work here.

You can search all the images by usage rights, and use any that are labelled with a Creative Commons licence.

You just have to make sure you give full credit and link to the Flickr profile of the person who took the photo.

There are various licences available, so make sure you double-check the details. Some photographers will only agree to their images being used for non-commercial purposes for instance.

Flickr Creative Commons

Unsplash

Unsplash images are all copyright free, you just need to credit and link to the photographer.

unsplash photography

Image by Denys Nevozhai

These are incredibly high-quality photos, so don’t be surprised if you see them crop up semi-regularly, but so far Unsplash seems to operate relatively under the radar.

Morguefile

Despite the name, Morguefile is a lovely place to visit and search for creative commons photography.

morguefile homepage

FreeImages.com

The quality is a bit more hit-and-miss on FreeImages.com, but the search is easy to use, with handy filter options, and the free-to-use and premium images are clearly separated.

free images

OpenPhoto

Again, the quality is hit and miss on OpenPhoto, but its search tool will often surface some gems.

open photo

Create your own images

Alternatively, you could just create your own graphics, charts or infographics to make your posts more appealing.

You can look through our favourites here: 17 data visualisation tools. Many of these are free, and in the case of Piktochart, incredibly easy to use…

piktochart

Screenshots

If you’re writing ‘how-to-guides’ you could take screenshots of anything on your computer screen.

There’s a Chrome extension called Awesome Screenshot that allows you to take screenshots of your browser window (either partial or the whole web page) very easily, and you can annotate the image before downloading it.

Or alternatively you can just press command+shift+4 on a Mac and use its own inbuilt screenshot tool.

Will Pokémon GO become a marketing platform for local businesses?

time-v-social

Nintendo’s Pokémon Go, a free augmented reality (AR) mobile game, is on fire.

According to Similar Web, the Android version of the app was installed on more than 5% of all Android devices in the US within two days, giving it an install base larger than Tinder, the popular dating app.

And with more than 60% of US users who have downloaded the app using it daily, SimilarWeb estimates Pokémon GO’s daily active users count will surpass Twitter‘s.

What’s more: Pokémon GO players are highly engaged, spending far more time in the app than they do with some of the most popular social apps, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat.

Pokémon GO, which calls on players to hunt for the virtual creatures in the real world through an AR experience, has caused Nintendo’s stock to rise nearly 25% since its release even though it could be a while before Nintendo’s profits from the game move the needle.

But while Nintendo might not not profit significantly from the Pokémon GO craze for some time, savvy local businesses are already looking to capitalize. As Jason Evangelho, TweakTown’s VR editor, has detailed, Pokémon GO draws players to Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, real-world locations that can include local businesses.

While local businesses can’t currently elect to become Pokémon Gyms and PokéStops, some lucky enough to have found themselves on the map in the game are embracing players, a move that could allow them to convert Pokémon GO players to paying customers.

For example, when iconoCLAD, a clothing store in Salt Lake City, Utah, learned that it was home to a PokéStop, it put out a sign welcoming players and encouraging them to consider picking up some clothes in addition to their virtual pokéballs.

This caught the attention of locals, and Fox 13, a local television news station that featured the store in a news report on the Pokémon GO phenomenon.

iconoCLAD isn’t alone in embracing Pokémon GO. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas is home to multiple Pokéstops, and while Pokémon might seem like an odd fit for an art museum, Crystal Bridges didn’t hesitate to use its Pokémon GO prolificacy to promote itself.

“As general admission to Crystal Bridges is free, it will cost you nothing to visit the Museum and rack up your Pokemon captures, and you can enjoy some terrific American art as you go,” Linda Deberry, the museum’s senior copy editor and publications manager wrote on the Crystal Bridges blog.

“We only ask that you be careful and be aware of your surroundings as you do battle so you don’t inadvertently back into an artwork or trip up a fellow museumgoer.”

Future possibilities

Local businesses that are home to PokéStop can more aggressively court players thanks to an in-app purchasable Lure Module which “attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 minutes.” Combined with Pokémon GO-specific messaging and promotions, that could prove to be a valuable tool for increasing Pokémon GO foot traffic and turning it into revenue.

For local businesses that aren’t PokéStops, capitalizing on the game could be more difficult, but Pokémon GO’s commercial opportunities almost certainly won’t be lost on Nintendo and in the future, it’s possible that the company will seek to build offerings around Pokémon GO that allow local businesses to pay to become Gyms and PokéStops.

And if Pokémon GO proves to be more than a short-lived fad, it could be just the start of a wave of AR games that local businesses can tap to capture new customers and bring existing customers back through their doors.

Five reasons why you should invest in social customer service

If you’re a business in 2016, chances are that you’ve invested time and resources into maintaining a social media presence, to promote your brand and engage with consumers.

But have you made the same level of investment into providing a dedicated customer service on social media?

Many brands, despite having a social presence, aren’t investing the time and resources into providing a good customer service on those channels.

A report by NM Incite into the ‘State of Social Customer Service’ found that although nearly 1 in 3 social media users prefer to reach out to a brand via social channels instead of over the phone, only 36% of users with a customer service inquiry reported having it solved quickly and effectively.

14% of users reported the company engaging quickly but failing to solve their issue, and 10% never received a response at all.

The fact is that when brands are present on social media, users increasingly expect to be able to reach out to them there and receive an effective response.

Providing a timely and helpful response to customers is of huge benefit to a business, but failing to provide a good response or even engage with a consumer can be even more costly.

Many businesses are understandably wary of engaging with consumers on such a public forum, but social media customer service and care can be incredibly effective when handled properly, and it’s well worth your time to make sure your business does it right.

To explain why, here are five big reasons why you should be investing in social customer service.

Image by opensource.com, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

1) It’s convenient

The idea that social media provides a faster response to customer service enquiries is not necessarily true, as this can depend on the complexity of the requests, the volume, and how well-equipped a company is to deal with them. But what it does provide is convenience.

As Guy Stephens wrote in the ClickZ Intelligence Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide:

“People like to say that social is all about speed. I don’t subscribe to that view. Telephone or email are in many respects probably faster, so there has to be something more about social. I think it may well be convenience and the fact that it the channel is not owned by the company.”

Chances are high your customers already spend a lot of time on social media. Last year, GlobalWebIndex found that the average person spends a total of 1.72 hours on social networks, accounting for nearly 30% of their daily internet activities. So it makes sense to engage your customers where they already are – especially given that…

2) People expect a response – and they like to be heard

Dale Roberts reported for ClickZ back in April that response rates for brand surveys have dropped from 20% to just 2% over the past 20 years. But while customers have a limited amount of patience nowadays for being surveyed, they absolutely still want to be heard; they’re just using different channels to communicate with brands.

Research commissioned by Lithium Technologies in 2013 found that 53% of people who tweet at a brand expect a response within the hour. This figure shoots up to 72% when people have a complaint to make.

A vector graphic of a stopwatch, with the hand moving towards the '2' position.
Research by Lithium Technologies indicates that 53% of people expect a brand response on Twitter within the hour. | Image by ClkerFreeVectorImages, public domain image

When companies don’t respond to customer messages within the expected time frame, 38% of customers were found to feel more negative towards the brand, while 60% were prepared to take action to express their dissatisfaction, from denying the brand their business to publicly shaming them on social media.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however; the same study also found that when brands provide a timely response to customer concerns, 34% are likely to buy more from that company, 43% are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products, and 42% are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media.

3) A good impression counts for a lot

So as we’ve established, your customers are already present on social media and will most likely be communicating with your brand there as well. The way you respond in that situation can make all the difference to your brand’s reputation and profile.

Social media has been a game-changer for customer service in that it makes brand-customer interactions much more public, making companies accountable for the way that they deal with customers.

This might seem daunting, but it also provides companies with a major opportunity to create a positive impression for their brand, and showcase their commitment to good customer experience.

Take British Airways, which managed to find an opportunity for humour in a customer’s complaint on Twitter, while still taking the time to address their concerns:

@mrdavidwhitley Hey David, off the top of my head it was about, 3rd June 1997. Seriously though, is there something we can help with? ^Jamie

— British Airways (@British_Airways) October 26, 2015

Customers don’t always take to social media to complain – many want to express their appreciation. It’s always nice to get the good feedback as well as the bad, and the way that you respond to it can invite more of the same.

@cruiseeditor Hi. we’re grateful for your kind comments that motivate us to perform even better. Thanks for flying Turkish.

— TK HelpDesk (@TK_HelpDesk) April 3, 2016

4) Customer service makes a huge difference to customer retention

We’ve already seen that the kind of response customers receive on social media can make a big difference to how they feel and act towards a brand. But it isn’t just about fending off a bit of negative feedback: the data shows that customer service as a whole can massively influence a customer’s choice of brand.

According to data gathered by Zendesk, 40% of customers began purchasing from a competitor brand based on its reputation for great customer service, while 85% were willing to pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior customer service experience.

On the flip side, 82% of customers were found to have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service, while 95% of customers have taken action as a result of a bad experience. Of these, 66% wanted to discourage others from buying from the company.

There’s an oft-repeated saying that retaining a customer is five times cheaper than acquiring a new one. While this has been disputed – and the exact figure is probably a lot more difficult to quantify – it’s clear that investing in a good customer experience across all channels is an extremely worthwhile business decision.

And not making efforts to provide good customer service can be genuinely costly.

A picture of an outstretched hand with a bubble floating above it. Inside the bubble is a cartoon image of a person's head and shoulders, wearing a red jacket and tie.A customer in the hand is five times cheaper than a customer in the bush. Or something like that, anyway. | Photo by geralt, public domain image

5) It can be beneficial for product research and marketing

As Matt Owen wrote in our ‘Social Customer Service: Best Practice Guide’,

“In addition to providing information, social media channels should provide an open space for customers to discuss issues they have with a product or service, and the more constructive businesses will see this as a valuable source of product feedback, which can guide their own internal focus and reduce wastage.”

Savvy brands have also found ways to turn customer feedback on social media into an opportunity to upsell products.

Take Marks and Spencer, whose social customer service representatives respond to customer questions and criticism by recommending them products that they might like, or making sure that the feedback they have is passed on to the relevant internal teams.

This makes customers feel like they are heard and that the brand values their feedback, while also making it more likely they will come back to buy a similar product, or an item which was previously out of stock, if the brand keeps the lines of communication open.

With all that in mind, there’s never been a better time to start making a dedicated investment into good social customer service, and set yourself apart from competitors who aren’t yet in the game.

And if you need any more guidance on how to give your customers the best possible experience on social, check out ClickZ Intelligence’s report ‘Social Media Customer Service: Best Practice Guide’.

14 influencer marketing essentials for SEO success

beyonce website

Influencers provide great traction with their fan base and there’s a lot of valuable SEO for brands on offer, however this is often not realised.

This is mostly because a great deal of focus is spent on merely making the successful partnership work, which often drains all resources to achieve.

But if you are an optimist and you’re determined to glean some SEO results from all partnerships then here’s a few pointers to improve the search impact of any collaboration with an influencer.

1. Influencer links

There should always be a desire for audiences to leap from an influencers site to your brand’s website. This should be instilled within all of your influencer marketing activities e.g. seeing the whole of something – the full graph, the full interview, the full video e.t.c.

Without a ‘back to mine’ attitude you can’t obtain valuable links.

By doing this you immediately start to shape audience conversions from a partnership with an influencer. This is your unique opportunity to show off the memorable aspects of your service and offering, while attempting to convert users.

For instance, intriguing hyperlinks embedded within influencer social posts are a great way to stimulate audience traffic e.g. appealing urls such as: brand.com/zoella-uncut

2. Influencer guestposts

Celebrities not so much, but webstars such as YouTube bloggers are likely to have an authoritative blog and a website that may hold valuable linkages, much to the envy of your competitors.

Agreeing some sort of exclusive asset for their own platform is clever stuff from a competition perspective especially. This is because these links may be harder to obtain and more unique to you within your marketplace.

A good example of obtaining links on an influencers website might be offering a prize signup form that they host rather than you, or behind the scenes footage, of the full photoshoot made available only on their blog.

There’s a good chance that if you write the copy for the post then you should be able to insert a priority link to terms and conditions, photographer biography, a makeup tutorial or a direct link to the original content on you (the brand’s) site.

It is always easier to get a guestpost with links in it signed off if more than one company feature. Consider who you might favour to include, partnerships like this are reciprocal so working in partnership with other brands is powerful… you have to give a little to get a lot.

deliciously ella

3. Influencer link prospects

Take a good look at your web influencers link portfolio. Are any major publishers obsessed with this particular influencer? Is there any leverage from major publishers that you can investigate?

Use invitations as a chance to broker these opportunities. But always get this through an influencer’s management first, then broker a deal that may carry some serious link juice.

followerwonk

4. Influencer fan links

It’s not just the influencer that holds their influence, as daft as it sounds there is a lot of influence from fans and fan site coverage, and the momentum can be stifling too.

Targeting the influencers fan base can initially give them an exclusive conversation to air. If need be then setup some exclusive angles for them to distribute, for examples unseen photos, a short interview Q&A or even a video message.

Let the fan base have an (agreed) leaked story so that you may push more natural syndications for free e.g. when the Eddie the Eagle film came out recently, Take That fans were actually a great source of early promotion. This is because they did the backing music to the film.

5. Researching influencer SEO

Followerwonk, Facebook Search queries, Buzzsumo and Twitter search are very useful in the first instance for finding influencers. But these tools equally help to support the argument yay or nay as to whether an influencer is able to create the best traction on the best platforms for your audience.

Facebook’s audience is saturating, YouTube’s is going that way, Twitter’s is going youthful, Linkedin’s going older pic.twitter.com/cCR4cEpHoQ

— Mat D. Wright (@Matdwright) February 21, 2014

If your target audience is older then you are unlikely to capitalise on an influencers with a large following on Instagram.

That’s the great thing about influencers, they come in all shapes and sizes and in all manor of conceptual interests e.g. another brand in another category, like HSBC and the UK government who created content about Brompton bicycles.

brompton bikes

If you are after American women interested in furniture and in their 30s then find interior influencers on Pinterest. Start small, you don’t necessarily need a huge webstar, you might utilise three.

6. Stay authentic

Audiences generally don’t celebrate brands as much as they do people. It is therefore more powerful to piggyback, even engineer, the celebration of an influencer’s achievements and align your products to these achievements. In doing so you may easily create the alignments that draw the right audiences.

Celebrate the influencer, give influencers further encouragement. Don’t do a You-You-Yawn.

The 7 factors to increasing your odds of making authoritative natural content syndications https://t.co/dnkIjTupdj pic.twitter.com/dBdThjhY2M

— Mat D. Wright (@Matdwright) November 16, 2015

7. The influencer’s longtail

Every influencer and celebrity has a long-tail of searches that tend to be fairly formulaic and at times low competition and high traffic. Interviews, height, hair tutorials, workouts, makeups. They all count towards authority.

Think about how you can integrate these quickly and more readily e.g. record an interview with a dictaphone and complement this with a photo or two.

cat long tail gif from moz

Image credit: https://moz.com/blog/diving-for-pearls-guide-long-tail-keywords-next-level

8. Involve the link sources

Can a component of what you’re doing channel the questions that fans ask? Can you utilise this as a way to gain followers, for people to stay up-to-date with what’s unfolding? It’s down to preparation of questions from an influencers top fans with the most clout.

If you want to improve the virality and word of mouth (pre and post an influencer feature) then improve the relations between those who can guarantee large volumes of natural syndication. This will boost your ROI.

9. Product fillers

There are many things a celebrity or influencer simply will not agree to. In order to combat this it is worth filming the extras that you might need in order compensate or, importantly, massage into your content to add emphasis to things that influencers simply would not be able to achieve e.g. wearing swimwear – hire a model, skateboarding – get a pro skater for foreground shots.

10. Influencer T&Cs

Can you publish content that contains talent on social media? Can you feature portraits of them in printed press, will they allow you to feature their voiceover alongside product imagery in commerce, can you feature their testimonial in TV ads, radio, banner ads etc.?

Write a list of the things you are looking for and make sure their agent has signed these off. Is there a way to sweeten your deal by offering them more spots to promote their own interests?

Agents are very good at monetising these extras so bartering is essential here. Evaluate each one based on the ROI.

11. Recoup costs and repeat

A lot of work that includes talent can be potentially recouped by promoting their new YouTube channel, book, headphones, theatre appearance, app launch, movie, TV show, etc. Looking out for these contra promotions could save you a lot of money and add even more coverage e.g. can you be a partner to the theatre production?

Thinking creatively might lead to greater coverage and link authority. This is because there are more topics at the core and reasons for people to share, promote and provide coverage for.

Giving someone the leg up that they need can often guarantee the right target audience and audience interest. Radio and daytime TV often uses this to fill their programming more effectively.

12. Social traction

Yeeks, seriously? Years ago brands like Burberry were pioneering the influence of their own staff, urging all staff to tweet whatever new advertisement went live. Today this is common practice (or should be).

A step further than this though is to allow more staff to actually involve themselves in the campaign as cameo roles. Word spreads quickly when someone encourages others to spot them in a new video.

messi selfie

13. Evergreen SEO

Ultimately getting a celebrity to do something new and interesting is the most attractive both for them and you.

However, doing something well and taking the dryness out of a topic, then adding value with your influencer can shape the long term ambitions of this collaboration e.g. will the content you’re making become the most impressive ‘how to guide’ for a really competitive search?

Will your content partnership be the most memorable approach to an evergreen search?

14. Charity authority

You’re missing a trick if you haven’t thought about charity involvement, a lot of the very top authorities have a charitable interest. Think this through because the associations are stronger if you can actually do something with true meaning and value.

The right charity partnership is hard to broker but if you meet their credentials and you feel strongly about the charity then think about this for the long term as an opportunity to do something bigger than you intended.

SEO Checklist/Summary

  • Create a full proof reason to go on and visit content on your own website (see point 1),
  • Always attempt to broker a deal that includes content you have wrote on their blog or website (point 2),
  • Survey your influencers link portfolio for key partnership opportunities (point 3),
  • Don’t forget fan sites carry authority too (point 4/8),
  • Influencers might be best identified by looking at your audience’s key platforms (point 5),
  • Can you help to promote something in tandem, this may make your proposition more relevant? (point 6/11),
  • Don’t forget to cover off an influencers long-tail of searches (point 7),
  • Get everything in writing or you might be in for a bigger billing (point 9),
  • Supplement what an influencer won’t do to strengthen communications (point 10),
  • Factor in some sort of user generated content (UGC) to improve virality/WOM (point 12)
  • Take aim at evergreens to get the maximum long term influence (point 12)

Matt Wright is a SEO freelancer for independent publishers, start-ups, agencies and blue chip businesses and a contributor to Search Engine Watch. You can see Mark’s SEO freelance portfolio here or connect with him on Twitter: @Matdwright.

Seven ways to make your boring product page sizzle

UsabilityHub

I have some bad news: you’re probably missing out on a lot of sales. Why? Because your product page is not effective enough.

Boring product pages are pretty rampant with online storefronts that don’t have a billion-dollar corporate brand behind them.

Small to medium businesses, especially local brick and mortars with online shopping carts, are losing potential customers… not because of their products (which may be awesome) but because of the way they present them.

These seven tips will help you turn your dud of a product page into one that sizzles.

1. Mind your load time

According to KISSMetrics, if your page takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of users will leave the website. Dead serious… three seconds!

That’s how important your landing page load time is. Here are a few easy ways to improve your site performance:

  • Analyze what slows your page down: Here’s a good tool for that.
  • Stick with a reliable host. You may want to keep an eye on the industry stats to select a hosting company with the best uptime stats
  • Here are a few generic tips on improving your site speed to improve conversions. If your ecommerce site runs on WordPress, stick with a good theme. Here are a few recommended ones.

2. Do the “first impressions” test

Besides telling you how important performance is, the importance of a fast-loading page tells you something else: customers react immediately to your site.

You should conduct a series of “First Impressions” tests. This is when you employ a handful of people to look at your site for a set number of seconds (no more than 10), and then ask for their first impressions.

This should include both a set of questions (What was your first impression of the design?; Would you buy the product on the page?; Would you go to other products on the site advertised on the page?; etc.), and space for them to write down what they thought.

Compare these impressions and you will start to get a very useful picture of what does and doesn’t work on your product pages.

UsabilityHub is a good way to run a five-second test to see what your visitors’ first impression is when they land on your page.

Another option to try is TryMyUI which offers “impression testing”: the user is shown the landing page for about 15 seconds, and then answers four basic questions:

  • Say three words that you remember from the site, or that you would use to describe the site.
  • What is this website about?
  • What services and/or products are offered on this site, and for whom?
  • What is the feel of this site? (e.g. professional, fun, small-company, corporate?)

3. Make your CTAs impossible to ignore

You don’t put a CTA on a product page in the same way that you would another website section. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have them.

A large, bright and impossible to miss shopping cart button that instructs people to put things into their cart is mandatory. It encourages them to do so, even when just browsing.

Other CTAs to include are sharing with friends, and getting emails on similar products in the future. If there is a promotion going on, be sure to add a pop-up or shopping cart notice about adding any other products to meet the requirements (i.e. “Add another $15 to your shopping cart to get free shipping on this order!”)

Abdullahi Muhammed, founder of Oxygenmat, has put together an awesome list on writing your product page copy which can get you inspired to create a catchy CTA (as well as improve your overall product descriptions).

Bannersnack is a great way to design your CTA button and matching banners. They have just launched their banner creator which is very easy to use!

BannerSnack

Their online editor has got really advanced giving you free templates, stock images, varied templates and design ideas and even social media graphics.

4. Use multiple, expandable images

This is a must for galleries now. You should have multiple images available for users to get an idea of what your products look like. But you should also give them the option of zooming in and taking a closer look to the details.

A good rule of thumb is to use multiple photos in different settings. Two should be a basic product stock image for each side, one should be the product being used by a model in the real world, and a useful one could be the dimensions placed against a drawn figure for scale.

Product images

These images should be expanded for detail by giving a movable cursor box when you hover over each one.

5. Eliminate distractions

You don’t want a ton of distractions getting in the way of your product. This is a mistake many big companies make when they design their pages. There is just too much there to take the focus away from what they are trying to sell.

Minimize the content on the page. Create tabs to hide product features, specs and reviews until the customer decides to read them. Keep your descriptions short and simple, with only the relevant information.

6. Place product recommendations away from the main product

When you go to Amazon you will notice that recommended products are on the page, but under the details of the product. You don’t have to skim too far, but it isn’t seen immediately. That offers enough distance not to distract, while still encouraging connected products they may want to buy at the same time.

In a slideshow near the bottom of the product description is another list of products they might want to check out. All of this is useful, and presented in a way that doesn’t distract from the main product.

product recommendations

7. Prominently feature customer ratings

Customer ratings are important for most people when deciding whether or not to buy. You should keep your rankings front and center, but away from the primary product description. So near the title of the product you can have the star rank, with the number of reviews that have been written. It provides immediate context.

Yotpo is a great tool to collect and publicize those reviews. They make it easier for your customers leave their reviews, integrate that content into your site and make it each and fun share those reviews on social media for more exposure.

yotpo

Just be sure the actual reviews are set away from the description, in their own tab. Sure, you could go with the Amazon design and have them listen on the bottom of the page. But that tends to look clunky and weaken the design as a whole. Having a section hidden until clicked is going to look better in most situations.

Make that product page shine!

Making a hot, well designed product page isn’t difficult. It just needs some tweaking to follow by the tried and true layout.

Have some tips? Share them in the comments!

For more information on this topic, see our Ecommerce Checkout Best Practice Guide.

For more reports, including guides on mobile commerce, customer experience, and social customer service, head to ClickZ Intelligence.

Six ways Pinterest is becoming serious about visual search

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

Pinterest is transforming into a powerful visual search engine and its latest features hint of a promising future.

Pinterest isn’t new in the social media industry, but there was always a feeling that it’s underperforming, compared to its potential, especially in the ecommerce world.

This may change soon, as it is focusing even more on its search functionality and more specifically, on its effective visual search.

More than 2 billion searches are conducted every month on Pinterest, with people looking for inspiration, customised to everyone’s unique taste and interests.

Personalisation and recommendation

Pinterest is building on ‘idea search’ and it’s proud of its recommendation tool, based on the users’ searches and interests. Pinterest stresses that recommendations are not powered by robots as “Pinterest is powered by people and the ideas they hand select.”

Its search function allows users to find exactly what they are looking for, while the recommendations predict the users’ next clicks, depending on similar searches.

This helps users create new keyword matches, by adding new words to the initial search, reaching for the perfect match in fewer clicks than expected.

As Pinterest users love searching for new products, decoration ideas, inspiration, graphics, a powerful recommendation makes the searching experience more effective and thus, more appealing.

Guided search

Guided search isn’t new on Pinterest, but it was probably the turning point for the platform it years ago, when it began realising how search may be crucial for its growth.

Search guides allowed users to continue jumping from one result to another, in a logical sequence that kept bringing them closer to the exact match, making the discovery mode more useful and engaging.

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

This meant a user could find a product even without searching for it directly, with Pinterest improving the personalisation to favour both users and brands.

Improved personalisation led to better search results and this eventually increased the engagement, as users realised that browsing is becoming both interesting and practical when looking for new products or ideas.

What’s more, guided search is helping users understand how Pinterest’s new search function works, encouraging them to make more descriptive searches in order to discover exact matches.

And of course, there’s the case when users start exploring a search without having a specific pin in mind, which makes the next clicks more spontaneous, with Pinterest offering numerous options of further discovery with its suggestions.

Visual search through existing pins

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

Pinterest introduced a way that you can discover any product that is depicted in an existing pin, by zooming on it and exploring all the similar related pins.

Let’s say that you click on a pin showing a living room. If you like the specific lamp and you wish you could find a similar one, you just zoom-in on it and all of a sudden, you discover on the right side of your screen all the relevant pins that look similar to the particular lamp.

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

This is extremely useful both for users looking for specific products, even buying them directly through the similar pins, but also for the actual retailers who have now found a new way to promote their products, by completely relying on personalisation and a targeted (and engaged) audience.

As you know that the specific user is interested in the specific lamp, your company can increase the sales of its product directly, by ensuring that it features all its products on Pinterest, in order to help users discover them.

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

According to Pinterest, there are already 130 million visual searches that take place every month, with furniture, home decor and style ideas being the most popular ones.

Pinterest may not be the first tool that recognises products to find similar results, but this function makes it extremely powerful, especially when combined with an audience that can easily become hooked to the platform after a while, with a purchase intent that many sites would admire.

Image search meets the real world

Pinterest is not planning to rest upon its laurels, on the contrary, it seems to have bigger plans regarding visual search.

It was less than a month ago when it announced the arrival of a new camera search technology which will help pinners find the product they are looking for in the real world. A photo snap of an object will be enough to showcase similar recommendations on Pinterest, making the purchase of any product easier.

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

This technology will take its visual search experience to the next level, hoping to maximise its commercial appeal, while brands will probably be excited to blend the real-world shopping experience with the relevant pins on Pinterest.

Local results

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

Pinterest is also trying to favour local results, by creating pins that feature maps, by blending the location with Foursquare, while it also hopes that users will start discovering all the possibilities the platform may offer for the planning of their next trip.

These improvements on local search results led to three times more local ideas searched in the past year, while this also leads to further results which come twice as fast, helping everyone spot new places and options that are relevant to the initial search.

Six ways Pinterest becomes serious about (visual) search

Growing ad revenue – approaching search marketers

Pinterest is still struggling to monetise its whole experience, at least to the extent that we were expecting, and that’s what has led to several recent changes, including the idea to offer keyword-based ad buys to search marketers.

Its search inventory is now available to advertisers, which will favour both its revenue, but also the marketers looking for more specific results, in an extremely targeted audience.

What’s more, Pinterest has also collaborated with Acxiom and Epsilon to allow advertisers to combine their data with the platform’s, in order to buy specific target audiences, in a similar way that Facebook does.

These are helping search marketers and brands to connect with their audience and reach them in new and more personalised way, which will make their messages more relevant and the conversion easier.

What’s next?

Pinterest is hoping to increase its ecommerce features in the near future and it’s time for brands and advertisers to start understanding its potential, along with the engaged audience that is ready to proceed to a purchase by the time the ideal product is found.

It’s not easy yet for Pinterest to monetise its presence, but these recent features and the idea of focusing on visual search may help take it to the next level.

Is an internal linking strategy paying off for Mail Online?

kylie-jenner-entertainthis

Combining hub pages for key topics with well-planned internal linking can be a very effective strategy to secure consistent search rankings for target keywords.

It’s become an essential tactic for publishers and others, especially when you are regularlycreating content around a particular topic.

The risk of producing a lot of content around the same topic is that you can end up with multiple pages which have similar keywords which compete against each other in Google for the same search terms.

For example, USA Today has ten different articles ranking for the term ‘Kylie Jenner’ during a six month period last year. As each new one comes along, it battles with the existing article, with the end result being a very inconsistent search performance.

The answer to this problem is to decide on a page that you want your site to rank for a given keyword or phrase, and concentrate on that. This hub, category or landing page (however you want to describe it) can then be the page that ranks for the term.

Sites can then consistently link to that page from new articles on the topic, eventually creating a useful resource, and one that stands a better chance of gaining high rankings than lots of individual pages.

One such example is the BBC’s Euro 2016 category page. Here it is:

It’s a repository for all of the site’s content around the tournament, and it ranks consistently.

It should also be noted that the groundwork for this was carried out well in advance of the start of Euro 2016 in early June so that, when the spike in interest around the term happened, the BBC was in position to attract plenty of traffic.

This is the BBC’s search rankings for the term ‘Euro 2016′ for the five months up to the start of the tournament. Nice and consistent.

BBC-UK-consistent

This well planned use of hub pages along with consistent internal linking can really pay off. In the BBC’s case, it has ensured that its Euro 2016 page is in a great position to capitalise in increased interest from searchers around the tournament.

Of course, other factors have to be in place too. The BBC is an authority site with some excellent content and a formidable number of backlinks. Effective linking and theming will help any site, but other factors have to be in place to achieve high rankings for competitive search terms.

That said, it should not be beyond major publishers to profit from this strategy, and the example I’m going to use here is Mail Online. It is, by some accounts, the most visited English-language newspaper site on the web. Make of that what you will.

Mail Online and internal linking

Mail Online, until late last year, hadn’t been implementing a hub page / internal linking strategy at all.

We know this thanks to Dan Barker (@danbarker on Twitter) who pointed this out. He estimates that Mail started this strategy around October 25 last year.

Mail Online creates and publishes huge quantities of articles about celebrities and news. While each new article performs relatively well in search, they do so for a limited time only. So the article becomes old and search positions drop until the original article is usurped by a new article, and so on. This is where the proper strategy can help.

As we can see from the example below for the term ‘chelsea news’, ranking was inconsistent until early November 2015.

The chart shows search results for this term across the entire Daily Mail domain.

Chelsea news search performance

The consistent results post-November are for this hub page, which collates all the articles around that term.

Essentially, Mail Online has sent clear signals to Google, through (relatively) consistent internal linking, that this is the page it wants to rank for the term in question.

The hub page had existed before, but without the right linking strategy to promote it. Here we can see the difference in performance before and after the Mail improved its linking strategy.

Chelsea landing page Mail Online

The charts above (all charts are from PI Datametrics btw) shows performance up to January 2016, but we can also see how it performed in the last six months.

The chart below shows the Daily Mail’s Chelsea landing page performance for the term ‘Chelsea news’.

mail 2016 1

Since January, there have only been 26 URL changes, and a lot steadier performance. The visibility for this page has improved as a result by 33.28% and this URL is visible for 98.1% of the time.

The chart below shows the hub / landing page’s performance. It’s mainly consistent, but shows that for the odd day or two, the page wasn’t visible.

mail 2016 2

This landing page hasn’t beaten its previous ranking of number five on Google.

The reason? Inconsistent linking. For maximum effectiveness, all mentions of the term on new articles should be linked back to the hub page. If this is not implemented, then newer pages can end up competing with the hub page for rankings. This is why it was visible for 98.1%, not 100% of the period shown.

Here’s another example, for the search term ‘David Cameron’. As the British PM (though not for much longer) he obviously attracts a lot of searches and mentions in the news.

This is the Daily Mail domain view for ‘David Cameron’. As with ‘chelsea news’, performance is inconsistent until November 2015.

1. Entire Daily Mail view for the search term David Cameron

After November, the Mail is linking to a landing /hub page more consistently (maybe the result of a staff training day on SEO?) and it has led to steadier rankings.

Here’s one example. It’s easy enough to implement.

4. New David Cameron article internal linking

However, as was the case with the previous example term, inconsistent linking means that Mail Online isn’t getting the full benefit.

Here’s a recent article mentioning David Cameron. No internal links.

mail 2016 3

Here’s the view of the David Cameron landing page for the past (almost) 12 months.

There’s been an increased number of URL changes, as newer pages compete with the hub page, but the overall visibility of this URL has improved and the ranking has increased by two positions.

Thanks to the EU referendum, there has obviously been a lot more content produced about David Cameron recently. Had the Mail linked consistently back to the landing page, this content would have been a lot more visible.

mail 2016 4

In summary: could do better

These examples show how effective the use of linking and hub pages can be, and demonstrate its value, especially for sites that produce a lot of content around the same themes.

They also demonstrate how quickly sites can achieve results with this strategy. However, consistent implementation is key for maximum effect.

That said, we can see how effective this strategy can be. When applied consistently across a range of popular terms, the result is higher and steadier rankings, putting the site in a position to attract more search traffic.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

A featured snippet for the search query, "Why is my internet so slow", featuring an answer from Lifehacker at the top of search results.

Rebecca here, filling in for Christopher this week – and yes, these are some nice, roomy shoes I’m standing in, thanks for asking.

I don’t have any witty comments to make about the current state of UK politics, so let’s dive straight into the search-related news you might have missed while you were outside cloud-gazing, collecting butterflies, or (if you’re British) making the most of the fact that we can still travel freely between other EU countries…

As usual, Google is where it’s at this week, with news that HTTPS websites account for a third of search results on page one, an increase in the number of search results that receive a Quick Answer Box, and does Google’s newest acquisition mean it’s finding new ways to watch us all creepily?

Google is increasing the number of queries that receive a Quick Answer box

Jim Yu reported for Search Engine Watch this week on the fact that the portion of Google search results which received a Quick Answer box has increased from just over 20% in December 2014 to more than 30% in May 2016.

A Quick Answer, also known as a featured snippet, is when Google pulls content from a trusted, high-ranking website that will directly answer a user’s query and places it at the top of the SERP so that they can find the information they need without having to click through to another site. It can be an awesome way to dominate the SERP without having to fight for the top position.

Jim looked at the impact that Google Quick Answers have on brands, and broke down the three-step framework for getting your content into a quick answer box. So now you can win the game without even playing it, too!

Why should you use featured snippets? “It lets you win the game without playing” @STATRob #BrightonSEO

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) April 22, 2016

30% of Google search results are HTTPS websites

A new study from Moz has revealed that more than 30% of websites on page one of Google search use the HTTPS protocol. We know that HTTPS has been a “lightweight ranking signal” for Google since 2014, and the data that Moz has been tracking bears that information out.

Christopher Ratcliff looked at how the share of Google search results on page one that use HTTPS has climbed from an initially tiny fraction in August 2014 to a significant share of the results.

As Christopher put it,

“The results are definitely enough to give SEOs pause for thought when it comes to considering whether to switch their sites to a secure protocol.”

Mobile searches on Google have now exceeded desktop – how has the landscape of search changed?

Jason Tabeling looked at how the landscape of search has changed now that, for the first time ever, mobile searches on Google have exceeded desktop. “To account for this massive shift, Google has made some of the most drastic changes to search results in years,” including removing right-hand side ads and adding a fourth paid listing above organic search results, causing mobile results to be filled with ads.

A screenshot of Google mobile search results for "car insurance", showing two paid ads which together take up the entire screen.

Jason broke down the data on the number of times paid ads, shopping results or local listings appear in search results and evaluated how the information should affect your search strategy.

Google acquires image recognition startup Moodstocks

Google announced yesterday that it has acquired Moodstocks, a French startup specialising in machine-learning-based image recognition technology for smartphones.

As the International Business Times reported,

“Following the acquisition, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, the Moodstocks team will join Google’s R&D team in Paris where they will continue to “build great image recognition tools within Google”.”

Between the Twitter acquisition of Magic Pony two weeks ago and Amazon’s acquisition of AI startup Orbeus in April, it seems that visual processing and machine learning is where it’s at for major tech companies.

The Sun gave a particularly hysterical take on this development by announcing that Google had revealed plans to put “eyes in machines” and that “campaigners” had urged Britons to “cover up cameras on smartphones and computers”. Er… that sounds a little impractical.

A photograph of a poster (said to be from one of the Google cafeterias) reading "GOOGLE IS WATCHING YOU" with "Google" being the Google logo. The logo also has two eyes in the Os.Photo by Patrick Barry, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

But in all seriousness, this latest addition to Google’s R&D department could be the first step towards giving Google the capability to identify and run a search for objects in the physical world, à la CamFind.

And if Google really is watching me, well, maybe it’ll finally be able to tell me where I left my keys.

Google is experimenting with another use for Google Posts

The SEM Post reported this week that Google has been spotted expanding its use of Google Posts, a new(ish) feature combining elements of social publishing and rich cards, into more ‘ordinary’ search results.

Moz marketing scientist Dr. Pete Meyers originally noticed the posts appearing in search results for a charter school in New York, KIPP NYC. Google debuted the feature, which I believe still lacks an official name (but has been dubbed “Google Posts” by the search commentariat), back in March as a platform for US presidential candidates to put across their policies.

KIPP NYC

It was later seen expanding the feature to include a select handful of local businesses, and then using it to cover the I/O developer conference in May. None of these past uses of Posts show up in search results any more – and at the time of writing, KIPP’s appears to have disappeared too – making them a bit like a pop-up soapbox for select entities (and keeping us all guessing about what Google’s eventual plan is for Posts).

What’s interesting is that although the KIPP NYC posts were only just spotted in search, a scroll down their Google Posts page shows that the school has been using Google’s new feature since April. In other words, there could be any number of other lucky users or groups quietly using the platform and waiting for the hallowed spotlight of Google to finally, finally shine on them. And we wouldn’t know.

If you want a shot at joining their ranks, the waiting list is still open.

Eight key improvements from an ecommerce site relaunch

simply hammocks old mobile

Ecommerce site Simply Hammocks relaunched a few months ago, and has so far achieved some impressive results.

The changes to the site have led to higher conversion rates and a 60% year on year increase in sales in the two months since relaunch.

The site, along with other brands from The Simply Group, was acquired last year by Scott Woodhead, who has founded other successful commerce sites, such as My Glasses Club and Loving Outdoors.

It seems that Simply Hammocks needed to work to bring it up to date and to speed (literally), hence the relaunch.

Here, I’ll look at some of the changes made to the site as part of this process, and some of the early gains that have resulted.

Making the site mobile-friendly

Simply Hammocks has managed to increase mobile conversion rates from 0.06% to 2.3% by optimising for mobile.

Previously, the site wasn’t mobile-friendly at all, so mobile users had to work hard to make it through checkout.

Here’s the old version on mobile:

And the new version:

Optimising for speed

Site speed matters. It’s about providing a better user experience, which in turn helps to improve conversion rates and reduce site abandonment.

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers-4-638

(image taken from Tom Bennet’s Brighton SEO presentation)

It will also be increasingly important for SEO, as Google is looking to make page speed a factor in its next mobile algorithm update.

According toThe Simply Group co-founder Scott Woodhead:

We ran all images through minify which saved us 1.4GB in file size. We moved over to Shopify which utilises Content Delivery Network and load balancing servers so the website was faster under traffic.

We also removed unnecessary apps. One in particular was from an installed module that wasn’t being used but was loading javascript for each page from company that didn’t exist. This added 3 seconds load to every page!

In addition, the homepage banner, which used to be a 16MB images, was optimised for speed.

Social proof

Social proof can be very effective for ecommerce sites when used well. Here, Simply Hammocks has introduced pop-ups which appear to show which products other customers are buying right now.

They are relatively subtle pop-ups which don’t interrupt the user, but instead gives people a gentle nudge.

They appear roughly every five to ten seconds (at least around 10am on a Monday morning) and give the impression that:

  • People are buying from the site, which reinforces trust. If other customers are buying, then it must be OK etc…
  • People are buying at regular intervals, which creates a sense of urgency.
  • popups

    According to Scott, these pop-ups have increased conversions by 40% since implementation.

    Improved product imagery

    The importance of product images for online retailers shouldn’t be underestimated, as they form a key part of the customer’s decision on whether or not to make a purchase.

    Here, the product pages have multiple images which allow potential buyers to see the product in context, as well as more practical shots which show a close up of the material, as well as the storage bag.

    hammocks

    The site has also added some quirky imagery – you’ll see the odd tortoise or dropped ice cream on some of the product shots.

    Previously, images were mainly garden shots, meaning that the category pages were a sea of green. This made it harder to individual products to stand out.

    A focus on delivery

    Delivery is a key part of the customer experience, and shoppers increasingly expect greater convenience in terms of shipping options and speed.

    Indeed, a recent survey found that 42% of customers have higher expectations around delivery now than two years ago, with factors such as greater control a key issue.

    ecommerce delivery user expectations

    The site offers free express delivery, with all items shipped the next day. It displays the rate of next day arrivals (97%) at the top of the site as a sales driver.

    delivery hammocks

    Product page detail

    Most of these hammocks are in the £70-£250 price bracket, and naturally customers want some detailed information before committing to buy.

    To this end, there’s plenty of detail about the products, including buyer’s guides, detailed information on size and materials, as well as product videos.

    product detail

    The site also offers downloadable instruction manuals, useful for customers who may have misplaced theirs, but also a great SEO tactic, as people searching for manuals are likely to end up on this site.

    As mentioned above, the product images and variety of views also helps to make the pages more effective than before.

    An improved content strategy

    There are some who would cast doubt on the value of blogging for online retailers, but it can be very effective when done well, and I’ve seen examples where relatively niche retailers can gain an advantage.

    Content which directly addresses customer queries and concerns around products (such as how-to guides) can be very effective.

    Here’s an example, which answers a common customer question:

    hammock blog

    It’s useful content for customers, but also helps pick up search traffic. The key thing here is that this content is targeting a key audience of potential hammock buyers.

    Thanks to this content, the site ranks well for this query, and will continue to attract traffic for some time to come.

    hammock seo

    Smooth checkout

    There’s no forced registration, the checkout has been enclosed with distractions removed, and forms work well. All key factors in a successful checkout process.

    hammock checkout

    In summary

    The site is a work in progress, but some of the key issues which affect conversion have been addressed already. The site is faster, works on mobile, product pages are effective, and the checkout works as it should.

    There are more improvements planned, such as hammock buying tools, greater choice over delivery slots, and other social proof features such as showing items which are frequently purchased together.

    The improvements here offer a lesson on the areas to prioritise when redesigning ecommerce sites, as well as the potential gains which can be made.

    For more information on this topic, see our Ecommerce Checkout Best Practice Guide.

    For more reports, including guides on mobile commerce, customer experience, and social customer service, head to ClickZ Intelligence.