How to reduce your site’s bounce rate

Bounce rate is a metric that gets a lot of press and for good reason. It often serves as a strong indicator that your website is not engaging the user, ultimately meaning that they leave a page without interacting with it (i.e. they ‘bounce’ off the page). However, like anything in SEO or digital marketing, improving your bounce rate is not a silver bullet. Yes, it should deliver results and deliver better results for other metric, but always keep in mind that the sum of all parts is far more important for an ROI-driven campaign.

For those of you who may be new to digital marketing, a “bounce” and “bounce rate” are defined by Google as:

Bounce: “a single-page session on your site”
Bounce Rate: “single-page sessions divided by all sessions”.

Google’s full explanation is actually pretty good. It goes into some detail with regard to when a high bounce rate is indicative of issues, and when it might not actually be that bad. For example, if someone is looking for a quick answer they may not be interested in further reading, in which case a high bounce rate for that particular piece of content is acceptable. On the other hand, if the page has been designed to convert customers through additional information or calls to action, then a high bounce rate may be indicative of poor performance.

User intent and value permeate everything

Simply dictating x amount of steps to reduce your site’s bounce rate will no doubt be useful to a lot of people; however, in many cases it is just as important (if not more important) to understand the why instead of merely the what.

People click on links to web pages for a reason, even though that reason might be incredibly trivial. They may just be wanting to see the rest of that intriguing clickbait picture or understand if “what he did next” was truly unbelievable. The point is that there is always a user intent, no matter how large or small. Before you start investing time addressing some of the points below, you should have a good idea of user intent. As a result you will be able to offer value to your users.

It is imperative to understand who you are trying to attract (buyer personas) and what they are trying to achieve by visiting your webpage/website. This information is not only important in helping reduce your bounce rate, but is also absolutely critical to producing marketing campaigns and website designs that achieve your goals – by helping your visitors to achieve theirs.

It’s not just ‘on-site’ factors

This is not the first time that someone has written an article on bounce rates – far from it. In fact, this article is a refresh of a previous Search Engine Watch article. However, you will likely find that many of these articles will focus on your website. Factors such as design, calls to action and menu structure rear their heads time and time again, and for good reason: they impact bounce rates and should be addressed. But this is only part of the puzzle. The user is already on your site and they have come to your site for a reason. Furthermore, it is possible that they are now browsing a particular webpage because of the marketing campaigns that you use.

You must make sure that your webpage aligns to your marketing campaigns and vice versa. They both have equal responsibility in this alignment. Both your marketing campaigns and webpages should be created with the same overarching goals (and buyer personas), but this does not guarantee that they will work together seamlessly. You should review both in conjunction. You may find that adverts are misleading in relation to the content that is on the page, or conversely, that the content of the page needs to be reformatted and upgraded in order to back up the adverts.

This exercise will pay dividends far beyond improving your bounce rate. If executed correctly, it should improve your quality score in AdWords, help to attract higher converting users via SEO, and impact the success rate of your other digital channels.

Think: user experience

Everyone uses the internet. You are reading this article on the internet; you’re probably reading it on your phone. We are all users and as such, whether we are website designers or UX/UI, we should all be able to provide feedback on our user experience.

It’s is easier said than done – especially if you have been looking at the same website for a couple of years. You can often feel flat out of ideas, but a fresh perspective is invaluable; someone with a fresh eye would be able to spot issues and recommend changes far quicker.

Perhaps you don’t have the budget to hire a designer or marketer to critique your website. Perhaps the changes will be too small to justify the expenditure of time, effort and money to bring in external help. Whatever the case, here are some onsite tips on how to improve bounce rate as a refresh.

Mobile

If you are still yet to address issues related to mobile users you better step on it. Mobile is no longer something that is on the horizon or soon to impact; it’s here and it is costing you. Google has already started rolling out its mobile first index and mobile overtook desktop in terms of internet usage in 2016.

If your website isn’t mobile responsive, or you have formatting issues on mobile, then read no further. If you take only one action from this article, then it must be: get your site mobile optimized.

Readability

You can have the greatest content in the world, but if someone leaves the page because it’s too difficult to read, then it isn’t worth much at all. Simple changes, such as increasing text size (especially for mobile) or line spacing, can have a real impact. Admittedly, we made the mistake of creating a blog that looked great when we re-launched our site last year. However, the grey text wasn’t easy to read, meaning that we had to subsequently changed the text color. This shows that just because something looks nice, it doesn’t mean that it is as functional as it could possibly be in achieving your goals.

Encourage engagement

Google states that some pages are likely to have a higher bounce rate than others owing to user intent. While this is certainly true, it is always a good idea to encourage further engagement with your website. As an example, a blog post may qualify for a higher bounce rate, but if you are invested in content marketing you will want the webpage to push users through a your defined inbound funnel.

Ensuring that there are clear calls to action to relevant content, internal linking, and a menu structure that doesn’t require a cod- breaker to decipher, will help contribute to a more positive bounce rate. In this way, addressing the initial issue of bounce rate could improve your conversion rate.

Intrusive ads should be banished

Have you ever landed on a webpage and immediately had to navigate a minefield of pop ups and adverts? How did you feel about it? Delighted or agitated?

The recently departed (from Moz) Rand Fishkin presented a very useful Whiteboard Friday on the subject. Google’s very clever, so if you can’t let go of annoying pop ups because they are delivering conversions, make sure that the user can quickly (very quickly) get back to the content they visited the page to read, view or listen to.

Load speed

This has become even more important as mobile usage has skyrocketed. We live in a impatient society, expectant of instant access. It needs little explanation therefore, that if your site is painfully slow to load you increase the risk of users bouncing. There can be multiple factors affecting load speed, but common problems are low-cost shared hosting and high-resolution images. Of course, we want our images to look as good as possible, but a 20mb image on a page is going to cause some serious distress for the user.

Design

Users are now more discerning than ever before. We are no longer operating in a world in which having a business website is a luxury – it is a necessity. In a landscape where industry competitors are likely to be increasing spend on digital, the way your brand (and content) is presented to prospects is paramount. As stated earlier, there is sometimes a balance between design and usability, but do not underestimate the impact a poorly designed website can have on your bounce rate and general performance of the website.

There are, of course, many more factors that could be discussed, assessed and improved on that would have a positive impact on your bounce rate. The truth of the matter is that addressing your user experience as a whole should positively impact your bounce rate(s). As digital marketers we can get trapped in a results-driven circle, but simply focusing on providing the very best for the user will deliver the results we are looking for.

Keyword research in 2018: adapting, managing, and maintaining visibility in Google’s increasingly intuitive SERPs

Google is changing into an increasingly intuitive and rich feature-led tool in 2018. Gone are the days of typing a phrase into the engine’s search box and simply clicking through to a high-ranked website. Today, whether it’s responding to a question in an answer box or prompting us to make a restaurant reservation after a local search on mobile, Google is increasingly trying to answer queries in the SERPs immediately, negating the need to click further.

These rich features are dominating the search landscape more and more. And they are forcing us to adapt how we maintain our visibility online and how we get users to click through.

My recent article 5 ways to make your website stand out in the SERPs went into some detail about producing content that makes the most of the opportunities Google’s increasingly rich feature-led results pages offer. But as Nicolay Stoyanov wrote in his 2016 guide to key phrase research ‘Keywords are the backbone of SEO’, I think this is still the case, even though the SERPs look very different now compared to just two years ago.

So how can we ensure our keyword research game is keeping up with Google’s evolution?

The same fundamentals

Understanding what keywords to use when optimizing your site and content is still central to improving and managing your visibility online. Search engine spiders are still crawling text and links across the internet in order to understand what content is relevant and authoritative to queries.

As they have always done, key phrases can vary in competitiveness.

Short-tail (one word) queries are likely to have a vast number of indexed pages already on Google and so it follows that the effort and budget to try and rank for them can be insurmountable. Think of terms like ‘insurance’

‘shoes’

or ‘smartphone’

SEOs generally need to think in more niche terms than that.

Medium-tail phrases (two or three words) can narrow the competition down and still see high search volumes. Long-tail phrases (four or more words) can shrink the competition even more but see lower search volumes.

Of course, longer-tail key phrases can still be massively competitive and ranking for shorter-tails can be achievable. It all depends on the sector your website is part of and the type of content your site covers. It is also important to remember that certain key phrases might be better suited to delivering traffic more than conversions, and vice versa. Locations, languages, seasons, social-cultural trends etc. can further complicate things too.

This is where keyword research comes in. It is still important. It is still a practice of understanding the competition and finding the niche. And it is still more of an art than a science.

Keyword research tools

In 2018, I still accept keyword research is more of an art than a science, but there sure is a plethora of scientific tools to help you find those best phrases.

Google itself should be the first port of call. Fire up the search engine, type in a query, and first take a note of the auto suggestions. Scroll to the foot of the SERPs and you will also find related phrases.

Other Google tools are still frequently used for SEO key phrase research:

  • Google Trends shows interest in phrases over time, interest by geography, as well as related topics and related queries
  • Google Keyword Planner shows more in-depth volume numbers, gives an indication of competition, and alerts you to the value of key phrases in PPC terms (which can be helpful even if you are working on organic ranking rather than paid visibility)
  • Google Correlate works by delivering results of what search phrases are most often searched for alongside (correlated with) the phrase you input.

There are a number of non-Google tools to assist you further. Some are free, some allow free trials and others are paid. Both Moz and SEMrush have tools you can try out for a limited time for free. Soovle and Keyword Shitter are quick, free, and quite self-explanatory. And Ubersuggest and Keywordtool.io both have their USPs too.

Adapting to the new landscape Point 1: long-tail phrases see higher value and visibility

Above we touched on the notion that contemporary keyword research is more often about seeking to discern worthwhile niche (longer) terms over short-tail (head) terms.

Not only does logic dictate that search volumes are growing for ever-longer key phrases – as more people come online, and more of us carry out searches – but the way Google displays its results is also increasingly favoring certain types of long-tail queries.

A key example are key phrases posed as a question. Tools such as Answer The Public are a great way to browse options for how a head term can be posed as a question.

Google is increasingly likely to try and answer such questions directly in the SERPs via info boxes, while it also strives to display related questions in its ‘People also ask…’ boxes.

Optimizing your content to answer a question key phrase is not only significant for users who are inputting long-tail questions. Google is also always improving its ability to intuitively display question-related search results for shorter queries – even single words.

See just how important and visible content optimized to answer questions is for the one-word query ‘doulas’:

Adapting to the new landscape Point 2: Consider local/hyperlocal/mobile queries

With the growing proliferation of mobile devices and on-the-go search engine use, more of us are inputting queries in relation to our immediate location, e.g. ‘Thai food near me’, as well as phrases that include words that are local (towns and regions) and hyperlocal (boroughs, neighborhoods, streets, landmarks).

Such key phrases are not significant for everybody. But if you have a bricks and mortar presence and want increased footfall, it’s vital. Embarking on keyword research for local and hyperlocal phrases is a good exercise in understanding how niche you can go, while still targeting valuable phrases.

Many key phrase research tools deal with volume, so you might find that your hyperlocal area is so niche that there simply isn’t enough data to receive suggestions. However, it is an art not a science.

Don’t be deterred from a hyperlocal term simply because the tools aren’t showing it. Search around on Google and its related auto-suggestions and try using the tools to research less-focused locations (e.g. your town rather than your neighborhood) to generate ideas but then substitute in the more niche location into your content.

SEO is not always about getting things exactly right first time. And there is something to be said for being the first of your competitors to target your niche.

Adapting to the new landscape Point 3: consider the fragmenting SERPs

With Google’s increasingly intuitive and rich feature-led SERPs, keyword research for SEO is more than finding the right phrases for your titles tags on your website and generating blog post ideas.

For instance, images are increasingly important to Google’s SERPs. Certain queries throw up image packs right at the top of the list, while info boxes often display images from different sites to those which are providing the text.

There are opportunities here to be visible for more competitive terms, even if it means you just have a well-optimized image in the SERPs, rather than text or a page in a notable ranking position.

But aside from images, video (YouTube) and social media posts (mainly Twitter) are also increasingly given significant real estate and high positions in the SERPs. Google trusts these domains, so it is worth thinking about the key phrases in the titles for such posts as a way to garner visibility, even if your own site might struggle against more authoritative well-funded competitors.

Grasp the opportunity

Google is always tweaking its algorithm. It is always trying to make its SERPs more useful and efficient for its users.

SEOs need to adapt. Even when fundamental techniques such as keyword research are still massively important, we need to be able to identify the opportunities within this more fragmented and intuitive landscape.

Search engine visibility has never been an exact science, though there are more accessible tools and access data than there has perhaps ever been. But if you embark on your keyword research with an understanding of the fundamentals and an open mind, visibility in 2018 is arguably more attainable than it has ever been.

How to expand search marketing reach in the slow season, part 2: Amazon Marketing Services

In part 2 of our series on how to battle the slow season and incrementally increase purchases, we dive into Amazon Marketing Services (AMS).

For those unfamiliar with AMS, it is (to put things mildly) a fast-growing ecommerce channel. If you are an ecommerce business and you are not on Amazon, chances are you are missing out on some solid incremental revenue. Whatever your reservations about selling on Amazon, it’s worth getting into – especially as you battle through the slow season. This article should serve as a handy primer for testing the water, and will cover features and limitations that may surprise you if you’re used to working mostly within AdWords.

AMS ad types

AMS offers three ad types: sponsored products, headline search ads, and product display ads:

  • Sponsored products are auction based ads that appear in search listings
  • Headline search ads appear at the very top of the page, taking a large amount of real estate
  • Product display ads appear on product detail pages

When you’re launching on AMS and testing for performance, my recommendation would be to start with sponsored products. This ad type has the most inventory available, giving your campaign the greatest reach. Additionally, multiple products can appear for one query, which allows you to dominate the results page, and it has an extremely native look and feel.

Cross-channel insights and other best practices

When working on your initial campaign, do your homework before you launch. Leverage cross-channel insights to identify your best performers; think about what keywords work the best in paid search and use those.

You should also think carefully about the products you want to choose to test. They should be among your top performers for search and your Amazon organic listings (keeping star ratings and reviews in mind). Additionally, as you structure things, it is best to organize campaigns by tight-knit groupings of keywords. This will help you to better understand the intent of each group of keywords and will enable smarter budgeting moves according to overall performance.

Of course, there is post-launch optimization to consider. As you launch and gather data, make sure you are optimizing campaigns by actively scrubbing for irrelevant queries and poor performers, as well as re-examining bids of your best performers.

Platform quirks

Amazon is huge, but it’s still relatively new, which means you need to brace yourself for some less-than-optimal conditions in the interface. These include:

  • The user interface unfortunately isn’t as friendly as AdWords. You can’t customize your views at all, so you can’t change the columns, group things together, or view consolidated account-wide data
  • Once you name your campaigns, you are stuck with them. It is important, therefore, to truly think through your overall structure, as well as plan for how you may want to scale your account and build out additional campaigns
  • Query-level management is even more important than it is in AdWords, because Amazon offers no other levers to pull on: no device trends, no demographics to bid up on, etc.
  • There is limited visibility into the competitive landscape, i.e. no impression share data. To combat this:
    • Pay close attention to Headline Search Ad Win Rates – you want to be at least over 50% for your top-priority keywords, and as high as possible on any branded terms
    • You should use your own reporting tools/Excel to track correlations between impression volume and bids, because the AMS UI won’t give you any data about how much room there is to scale further.

That said, don’t let these idiosyncrasies turn you off; if you are an etailer and aren’t using AMS (for whatever reason), it’s definitely worth exploring during your slow season, when you’re most in need of extra traffic and revenue.

The next article in this series will explore the possibilities for advertising on Yahoo Gemini.

The best alternative keyword research tools

Keyword research is an integral part of any search engine optimization strategy – and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Keyword research takes up a significant chunk of time, and this is the case for many marketers, website owners and content creators. But it is something that has been expanding outward toward small and medium business owners as well, as having a fully optimized website is a necessity in running a company with any kind of online presence.

In the past, it was a matter of putting in the leg work – often for hours a day – to find the best keyword strategy. Today it is much simpler as more tools have been developed to make the job much faster and easier than ever before. Unfortunately, many of those tools are costly and over budget for anyone but enterprise level brands.

To keep things more affordable you can use alternative tools – often several to compensate – that are low cost, or even completely free. Here are some keyword research tools that you won’t believe don’t cost a cent.

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest can be used for both content research (and to help surpass any idea blocks) and keyword research tool. By entering a phrase or keyword, choosing the medium (i.e. web, images, Yahoo) and language preference, the platform will give you a list of related searches, along with search volume, CPC, and rate of competition by percentage.

For example, searching for “content marketing” gives 913 results with an overall volume of 18,100, a CPC of $23.25, and a competition rate of 0.58. Scrolling down gives you a breakdown of all the variants and how that changes, such as “affiliate ads” having a volume of 140, CPC of $4.70, and a competition rate of 0.36.

The tool requires no login and, unlike Keyword Planner (which shows a range), it shows the actual search volume and competition level.

Google Correlate

Everyone knows about Google Keyword Planner and probably uses it, as it is the most accurate keyword tool on the web if your aim is to target Google search.

However, you may not have heard about Google Correlate, which is a very helpful and effective tool that works by taking searches and correlating them with trends happening both on the web and out in the real world. It establishes patterns that you might have never realized existed, and even lets you compare based on time period – both long and short term.

Keyword.Guru

Do you want to know what is popular on all major search engines, and not just Google? Keyword.Guru is a great tool that takes live searches and lets you know the moment you start typing what suggestions it has, so you can see what people are searching for at any given time.

There aren’t any real metrics, but not everyone likes to deal with numbers. This tool is less technical than some, but more accessible if you just want to see what searches are most common without all the associated information, which can be overwhelming to even seasoned keyword researchers.

Soovle

Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, Wikipedia, and YouTube: what do they have in common? Soovle covers all of them, which makes it easier to get a good grasp of what is going on through multiple channels.

Being able to search YouTube for video content, Wikipedia for educational articles, and Amazon for sales info is especially helpful for getting a broader glimpse of the current state of search on the web. Soovle doesn’t generate any numbers for each keyword, but lets you quickly get a general idea of what interests your audience across a range of channels.

Akin to Keyword.Guru, it does it on the same page and with live search updates.

Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool

Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool allows you to dig into auto-suggest results from Bing, Amazon and YouTube. It was created by SEOchat and uses core terms to build a wider circle of phrases for use.

It is simple to use, easy to read and very fast to search. You can run a second or third bulk suggest and compare, then export your results or only specific ones based on how you click.

Bonus: Awesome freemium tools

Serpstat

Serpstat is a growth-hacking tool, and an effective at that. It has paid versions starting at $19 per month, allowing you to graduate to new levels as your business grows. However, there is also a free version that works with different iterations of Google based on country.

Serpstat calculates keyword difficulty for each search query, shows “special elements” (which inform us on search intent) and social media domains ranking for each term, and offers advanced filters to dig deep into each keyword list. It is also one of the few tools that also works on Yandex.

The graphs that are generated are simple bar graphs that effectively break things down and make it easy to understand at a glance.

WordStream

WordStream has a freemium model and its full featured tool is around $260 per month with a discount option to pay annually. However, it also has a free, limited version that I like to use because it allows you to specify industry if you wish.

That makes it a little bit easier if the key phrase you are working with it more general and could apply to unrelated fields. You can also specify based on country, which is great if you don’t want to automatically target a US audience (something that many tools do since it is the largest Google market).

Do you have a tool you feel deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.

Consumers lose trust in businesses with inaccurate NAP

Over the years we’ve seen the importance of the humble business listing change. While citations were once considered key link sources and their accuracy a contributing ranking factor for local search, today their impact has waned somewhat.

However, as Moz’s most recent Local Search Ranking Factors survey found, NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) details in business listings and online directories are still considered fourth most important for ranking in the local pack and fifth most important in localized organic rankings.

But not everything is about rankings: accurate citations are still a foundation tactic for any business, as they increase online visibility by placing businesses in the listings and directories in which potential customers are looking for them.

That’s if they are accurate. What happens if they’re not?

Recent research by BrightLocal, in the Local Citations Trust Report 2018, sought to answer this question by polling 1000 US consumers on how they feel and behave when they come across inaccurate business information online.

Consumers lose trust in businesses with incorrect or inconsistent NAP information

Today, trust in business and institutions in the US is at an all-time low, and it’s the responsibility of every business owner to make a difference in any way they can – even if it’s something as seemingly small as ensuring business name, location, and contact number information are reliable and consistent online.

According to the BrightLocal research, 80% of respondents felt that seeing incorrect or inconsistent contact details and/or business names online would make them lose trust in a business. With consumer trust in business being such a critical part of the buyer’s journey, this is obviously of great concern.

Of course, this is only an issue if businesses are actually uploading inaccurate information to online directories.

Thirty percent found inaccurate business information online

If you thought inaccurate citation data wasn’t a problem, think again. Not only have 30% of consumers found inaccurate business information online in the last 12 months, but a shocking 36% have also ended up calling incorrect phone numbers for businesses as a result of this inaccurate information. Add to this the fact that 22% of respondents went to the trouble of visiting a business only to find it was not located where online information suggested it was, and you start to see a troubling picture of lost business.

These experiences aren’t just confined to incorrect NAP, though. Nearly one quarter of consumers have visited a business too early or too late owing to incorrect opening times displayed online. Ultimately, this means that businesses with inaccurate citation data are likely to be missing out on a great deal of custom.

Let’s say a consumer has found a business’ address online and gone to that location, only to find the business is nowhere to be seen. What happens next?

Forty-one percent would not use a business if they couldn’t find it straight away

Although it’s encouraging to see that 59% of people would persist in their search for a business if they couldn’t find it – either by calling or looking elsewhere online for the address, many aren’t quite so patient.

Almost one third (29%) of consumers said they would try to find another business online or nearby, and 12% would give up completely. Obviously, the likelihood of the latter, more extreme reaction is down to how necessary the need for the business was, and also how far the consumer had to travel, but this data still suggests that businesses with inaccurate citations data online risk losing out.

As the research found, 22% have visited an incorrect address, and with only 29% of these people seeking out an alternative business, we can get an idea of how much business is being lost to competitors as a result of inaccurate location data.

Just imagine: you do all that great work and spend all your marketing budget encouraging someone to use your business, and you succeed, only to lose out to a local rival owing to something as simple as inaccurate citation data. Marketers tend to be very good at looking at the big picture, but it’s little details like this that result in lost business, even when marketing activity has otherwise succeeded.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that men answering this question seemed to be far more likely to give up their search for a business completely. Eighteen percent of those who identified as male in the survey said they would abandon their search. We live in a far more fast-paced world than ever before and immediate gratification is paramount, so I’d strongly recommend that businesses with a primarily male customer base get their citations in order, lest they face the lost custom of a frustrated customer.

Ninety-three percent of consumers are frustrated to find incorrect information in online directories

Frustration is an unpredictable emotion that can result in a range of reactions depending on the state and personality of the person experiencing it. As we’ve seen, once frustrated by incorrect business information, consumers could calmly persist with contacting the business (providing the contact number is accurate), look for another business, or quit their search entirely.

The BrightLocal research found that a huge 93% of consumers agree that finding incorrect information in online directories “frustrates” them. These are consumers with a strong intent to buy, as they’ve already searched for a business like yours and picked yours due to any number of factors. Even if they do choose to use your business after all, their first experience with it involves frustration. If you’re providing incorrect or inaccurate information online, you’re going to have to hope that your product or service is spectacular to avoid an overall negative experience.

Sixty-eight percent of consumers would stop using a local business after finding incorrect information online

After ploughing through incorrect information and coming up empty-handed, almost 70% of consumers said they would stop using a business as a result. This includes the quite literal cessation of business use due to not being able to find or call them, as well as deciding not to use a business because of diminished trust caused by inaccurate online information.

Businesses must have accurate and consistent citations to avoid losing customers

If you run a business or manage a client with incorrect business listings information, you are at high risk of missing out on swathes of new customers.

All your marketing, visibility, and brand awareness efforts are for naught if potential customers can’t find your business. You risk frustrating them, and in some cases completely wasting their time. First impressions are paramount, and creating accurate citations is one of the most important ways to ensure you’re building consumer trust from the off. If not, then I’m sure your competitor in the next neighborhood would be happy to take the business.

Google’s mobile-first index: six actions to identify risks and maximize ranking opportunities

Google’s mobile-first index is here, causing fresh uncertainty about potential SEO impacts – but there are a number of proactive steps to take to manage risk and maximize ranking opportunities.

Rather than passively wait to feel the impact of the shift to mobile-first indexation, we advise companies to take six specific actions to prepare for opportunities and protect site performance as the mobile-first index is rolled out throughout 2018.

Brands that have been prioritizing mobile performance shouldn’t experience a negative impact from the mobile-first index, but an honest and systematic re-evaluation is required. Companies who have allowed the mobile and desktop experience to diverge over the years will likely experience change – rankings could be lost (or gained) as a result of the switch.

Before diving in and making changes to prepare for the mobile-first index, we recommend running a full audit of current desktop and mobile rankings in all the regions your company does business in, along with top performing pages.

Tracking this performance over time, any losses or gains in keyword visibility should be clear to see – along with potential causes. Across the six actions below the common thread is Google’s determination to provide accurate answers to users, in the channel that is used most frequently – mobile.

Keeping that at the heart of your SEO strategy and things should be fine – but having a plan certainly helps.

Identify risks

  • Action one go mobile-responsive

Even today, too few marketers and SEO professionals meaningfully differentiate between responsive, mobile-friendly and standalone mobile sites – but that difference will become especially important in 2018.
A responsive website adjusts (or responds) based on user activity and the device used. Typical features of a responsive site include minimal navigation, images optimized for mobile and content that shifts seamlessly according to the size of the display.

In comparison, a mobile-friendly design is often anything-but mobile-friendly, attempting to show content on a mobile device as they do on a desktop, and so give users the frustrating experience of having to manually zoom in, or squint at small fonts.

Finally, some brands still operate standalone mobile sites, completely separate from the desktop experience. With responsive and mobile-friendly sites, there shouldn’t be any difference in content from a desktop version of a site.

However, a mobile-friendly site may be disproportionately skewed towards the desktop experience with an impact on factors like mobile site speed, navigation and general usability – and these are all areas of concern when considering how Google evaluates quality in 2018.

With a separate mobile site, marketers need to make sure that the mobile version contains everything (useful) that your desktop site does which could be a lot of work depending on your mobile strategy so far.

For some brands still lingering with standalone mobile sites, the shift to the mobile-first index may be the nudge needed to move to a fully responsive approach to the site.

Whether you operate responsive, mobile-friendly or a standalone mobile site, the first action we recommend is to identify any differences and either add to or completely overhaul the mobile sites you manage.

While desktop site continue will factor into rankings as a secondary consideration (and it is vanishingly unlikely that longstanding sites with many well-earned rankings will be wiped off the SERPS) making sure the mobile experience contains all the relevant content of the desktop experience – including all structured data/meta description/alt text/schema – is an important protective step.

  • Action twooptimize site speed versus competitors

The mobile-first index flips previous logic – when 80% of evaluations about rankings were based on desktop crawling and indexing, site speed considerations were less of a concern.

However, as Google crawls mobile sites while mimicking (a not-very-good) mobile connection, slow performance, elements that struggle to load and broken links will quickly use up crawl equity and indicate that your site is less efficient at delivering the answers that users want relative to your competitors.

In addition to Google tools, we regularly use platforms like GTMetrix, Pingdom, DareBoost and WebPageTest.org to get a complete view of speed issues.

Particularly for international sites, testing mobile speed from different locations and comparing these measurements to those of your key competitors will help establish practical targets to aim for. Although Google frequently mentions a target page speed of under three seconds as being ideal, in practical reality and SEO terms, aiming to be better than your competitors should be enough.

Like with SEO in general, speed optimization is similar to an old joke – ‘you don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.’

As ever, the quickest wins in terms of speed are usually to be found in reducing image and video size, managing JavaScript and other moving elements, minimizing tracking codes and scripts and doing what you can to reduce any slowdown caused by bolt-ons like booking and payment platforms.

The challenge for SEO professionals is to identify elements like these that can be improved without too much damage to the brand experience or taking away content useful for users.

  • Action threeoptimize the customer journey

Understanding the intent of site visitors and reducing barriers from their first click in the SERPS to the information they are looking for should result in positive user experiences – and minimize the risk that comes from a site experience that causes confusion, fruitless clicking around and pushes customers away.

Although there’s some fuzziness about quite how Google interprets the quality of a user’s visit – and how it rewards that quality in terms of rankings – we advise researching the different types of mobile journeys your customers take in a systematic way and making them more efficient.

Though much ‘best practice’ SEO advice has in the past been based around engagement and keeping visitors on the site, we all know that site visitors often stick around because they’re being frustrated by unclear navigation and a poor approach to customer journey planning.

Users are more impatient of poor customer journeys on mobile – and we must anticipate that Google will feel the same too. Though helping visitors to get the answers they seek more quickly may actually decrease dwell time, we’re confident that Google and other search engines will differentiate between a short visit and a swift return to the SERPS, and a short visit that successfully ends the user’s search.

Evaluating bounce rates and the success of the mobile user journey using heat-mapping tools like Hotjar or user research panels like Peek User Testing will bring in objective data to answer whether your visitors are engaged and loving your content, or hitting barriers and getting increasingly annoyed.

In the mobile-index era, we predict that this annoyance will have a greater impact on rankings – and so is a risk to be managed carefully.

Maximising opportunities

While taking steps to understand your assets and protect your rankings is important, the shift to the mobile-first index is also a big opportunity to get ahead of competitors who are less prepared. Knowing that others will be slow to react really gives an extra incentive to put real effort into SEO strategies that will positively differentiate your brand from competitors.

  • Action four prioritize content formatting that excels on mobile.

A lot of content marketing (such as infographics, interactive microsites, mega pages and even video, depending on the platform) produced by brands still display poorly on mobile devices.

Taking a mobile-first mindset and prioritizing everyday content and content marketing assets that work particularly well on mobile devices will resonate best with both customers and search engines. Fortunately, there are a lot of methodologies that can be used to provide depth of content that is engaging and easily navigable on mobile.

One of the biggest changes is the resurgence of expandable content areas like tabs, accordions and other filters. Use filters to hide content not relevant to a visitor’s specific query, tabs that reveal further information when clicked and accordions that expand the page are all familiar to site visitors – and allow for a single web page to be seamlessly used in multiple ways by multiple audiences.

While these have been seen by Google and other search engines as a potentially sneaky way to cram in content to a page, Google is on record as stating that content that is hidden to make a mobile site more efficient and speedier to explore will be taken into full consideration.

While competitors may have a responsive or mobile-friendly site and feel that this is enough preparation, many will likely still take a desktop-first mindset, creating overloaded pages that are tedious to wade through on mobile devices.

Thinking with a customer and mobile-first mindset to arrange content that can be skimmed easily through logical headings, bolding of main points and pull-out quotes, numbered lists, bullet-points and more will support mobile visitors and and differentiate from competitors while allowing search engine bots to crawl effectively.

  • Action fiveevaluate AMP and progressive web apps

Again capitalizing on the slowness of competitors, the move to the mobile-first index means a re-evaluation of progressive web apps and accelerated mobile pages could bring up big opportunities.

As a recap, Accelerated Mobile Pages allow web pages to load especially quickly by loading page elements asynchronously and removing out elements of JavaScript that cause delays.

AMP templates are easily applied in the code with well-established procedures to provide the speedy AMP version to search engines, with the slower (but perhaps more visual) non-AMP still being recognized for ranking purposes with a canonical tag.

Progressive Web Apps use browser feature detection to give a fast, app-like experience that can be loaded from a mobile home screen or simply visited with a direct link. Websites that have a lot of moving parts and a lot of returning traffic, for example in e-commerce or other transactional sites, are the most well suited for Progressive Web Apps as they can massively streamline the user experience.

In both cases, although implementation is comparatively straightforward, you can bet that a minority of companies in your industry will have a systematic approach to using these technologies.

Being fast, being relevant and being right are key watchwords for future mobile-first SEO and using technologies that help speed, indexation and the user experience is a positive and proactive step.

Action sixidentify competitors to beat

As discussed, not every competitor will be thinking systematically about the mobile-first index, or the changing nature of SEO in general. That opens up the possibility that by being faster and more focused, some previously difficult to rank for keywords will become more obtainable.

Using your business and industry knowledge, we advise clients to identify competitors who have rankings ahead of your own that may be less responsive to change, and underprepared for the mobile-first index.

Building these target keywords into your mobile strategy and wider SEO strategy – including off-site SEO and link earning – should result in some strong opportunities.

Conclusion – manage risk, capitalize on opportunities

For some, the mobile-first index won’t result in anything transformational – if you’ve been following best practice for years and your main competitors have been doing likewise there probably won’t be any game-changing shifts.

However, in any period of uncertainty there are opportunities to take advantage of and risks to manage – and in competitive SEO niches, taking every chance to get ahead is important.

Whatever your starting point – the mobile-first index is the new normal in SEO, and now is the time to get to grips with the challenge – and potential.

Why campaign structure is the killer competitive advantage

When pitching to new clients, business is rarely won based on the ability to tactically execute. It’s usually talking about how we will use data, or be able to deliver better than our competitors with whatever the latest thing might be.

There is nothing wrong with that approach, as you would expect that any agency worth their salt would know best practices. However, all too often best practices are overlooked. The most effective change that can be made when taking over a new campaign–and even after managing for a while–is revisiting campaign structure. This might be the most basic detail of all, but it is critically important.

Google rewards relevancy

As you know, Google changed the game when it introduced Quality Score into the bidding equation, and this remains a huge factor today. If you consider that you can’t control the number of advertisers in the auction, and you can’t stop someone from having deeper pockets than you, then how can you beat them? Quality Score.

Quality Score is heavily tied to campaign structure. The way in which keywords in the same ad groups are related to one another and follow a common structure is paramount. This may feel like a lot of extra work to create more ad groups when the differences do not seem substantial, but the pay-off is worth it. For example, if you are a retailer and you are putting all shirts in one ad group, you should consider breaking them down into specific types (sweatshirts, t-shirts, tank tops, etc.). Also, by sending keywords to their specific landing pages, you also increase relevancy, which is rewarded with higher quality scores.

Ad copy and ad extensions

Linked with relevancy is the ability to write ad copy that is clearly linked to the keywords in the ad groups. Again, this might seem obvious, but it is something that many don’t take the time to appreciate. Ad copy that is more directly related to your keywords will increase relevancy and consumer response rates (i.e. CTR).

In addition, a number of ad extensions can be impacted by campaign structure. AdWords decides when these show based on 2 factors:

When the extension is expected to improve your performance
Your ad’s position and Ad Rank is high enough for extensions to show.

Ad Rank has a big ad quality component that substantiates the value of a strong campaign structure.

Campaign structure determines how settings are used

As a result of the way in which AdWords is set-up, there are certain decisions that can be made at each of the three levels (campaign, ad group, keyword). For example, geo-targeting and budgets can only be controlled at the campaign level. Ad copy is uniquely controlled at the ad group level. These levers are critical to success, and campaign structure is the way in which you ensure success can be capitalized on. For example, if you have a keyword that is high volume in an ad group with lower volume keywords, it is possible that high volume keywords are suffocating those smaller volume keywords and limiting their exposure within the campaign. A key campaign structure decision in this instance might be to break these out into their own campaigns so you can more easily control the budget.

Conclusions: you’re never done

Campaign structure is something that should be revisited again and again over time. The people who are managing a campaign change, consumer behavior changes, websites change, and AdWords evolves their policies. All these factors and many others require that the structure is revisited. I recommend that you have a strategic campaign structure review annually and ensure that it aligns with your performance and strategy.

You will of course have the urge to not spend any time thinking about campaign structure, because it can be tedious and you will assume you did a good job at the outset. However, over the course of time you will add and delete keywords, and update and test ad copy/landing pages. These decisions erode the original intent behind your strategy. Revisiting the structure will ensure that best practices are followed and, even if you don’t make any changes, reaffirm the decisions you have historically made. Campaign structure is the secret weapon that will help you beat your competition–without having to increase bids or your total budget.

GDPR: ensuring your website is secure

In the run up to the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), new data shows that 86.5% of WordPress websites in the UK are vulnerable to known hackable exploits.

With GDPR now only a month away, businesses across Europe are gearing up for what will potentially be one of the biggest shifts in data privacy laws since the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act.

Businesses will face fines of up to €20 million if they do not comply with new legislation and processes, that ultimately put users in control of who, how, and where their personal data is stored.

A key part of GDPR is the business’ responsibility to secure customer data and websites to prevent data breaches, phishing, and other forms of malicious online activity.

Estimates show that WordPress is used by 25–40% of the internet, depending on which source you read, and given its widespread popularity and usage, it is a prime target for hackers.

A recent research study conducted by cybersecurity monitoring platform CyberScanner, they scanned 93,930 WordPress websites and 9834 WooCommerce websites based in the UK and found that on average 80.7% contained at least one known, hackable exploit that can be deemed as a severe security risk.

Some of the most common known vulnerabilities scanned for included cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and SSL certificate problems.

The worst offending WordPress website had a total of 23 separate high-risk known vulnerabilities, among other medium and low risk classified exploits.

Securing your WordPress website

There are more than 100,000 known vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to extract customer data, plant crypto-mining software, or even setup hidden form fields to steal credit card information users have saved in their browsers.

There is no blanket solution to securing your WordPress website, but there are steps that all WordPress webmasters can take to secure commonly exploited areas of the platform.

Brute force attacks

Brute force attacks are a method used by hackers to obtain login information to websites, such as usernames, passwords and PINs. Typically conducted using automated software, a brute force attack generates a high volume of consecutive guesses to both the login and password field.

While having a strong password is always encouraged, it alone may not be enough to prevent a brute force attack. There are some things that you can do, however, to minimize your risk.

Customize login page URLs

Generally, the login page URL for a WordPress website is /wp-login.php or /wp-admin/, and an automated piece of software can guess this. By renaming the URL to something more unique, automated software may not be able to find the page to begin the attack in the first place.

Limit login attempts

A common feature of WordPress websites (and all websites), is the limitation of login attempts.

A number of free plugins exist (such as WP Limit Login Attempts) that enable easy implementation for webmasters and can go some way to protecting your site.

Enable two-step authentication

This is becoming more common across all web applications that require a password, and can be implemented with relative ease on a WordPress website (and through a plugin such as Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication).

This requires the user to install an application on their phone, and when they go to login on the website they will need to go to the app to get a randomly generated code to input to complete the login process.

Use SSL to encrypt data in transit

While SSL and TLS don’t wholly secure a website, they do secure user data as it travels between the user’s browser and the website server.

Again, this can be installed with relative ease through Cloudflare’s WordPress integration and its SSL offering.

Google also sees HTTPS as a basic security step that websites must take in order to protect users, and in the Chrome 70 browser websites not on HTTPS will be flagged as not secure by standard.

Securing your database

No matter how secure a website is, keeping and maintaining regular database back-ups is an essential best practice that should be part of any webmaster’s processes.

There are a number of free and premium solutions ranging from VaultPress, BlogVault, and Backup Buddy, all of which are viable options, and the chosen solution should be adequate to the business needs.

Regular housekeeping and updates

Themes and plugins are the backbone of any WordPress website, but they can easily become security threats if they’re not updated and maintained regularly.

Not updating your themes and plugins can mean serious trouble. Many hackers rely on the mere fact that people can’t be bothered to update their plugins and themes. More often than not, those hackers exploit bugs that have already been fixed.

Not updating your theme and plugins can lead to easy backdoors and exploits, as many hackers rely on the fact and look out for webmasters being lax and not updating their assets.

It’s also advised that you remove your WordPress version number, as it’s publicly visible within your source code. Some historic WordPress versions have developed a larger number of vulnerabilities than others, so this could be an advertisement for hackers to attempt a number of already known security challenges. Sururi offer a free plugin to remove the version number from your site.

How to select the best caching solution for WordPress

There is no denying that the existence of an appropriate website is justified primarily by its loading speed: the faster, the better. Forty-seven percent of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, which is quite a task to accomplish as a new website owner.

Interestingly, even a single second of delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions, and Google’s algorithms favour fast-loading websites in the form of search engine rankings. With so much at stake with regard to your website’s loading time, the pain is real. So, how does one make sure that WordPress websites are fast to load?

Caching is an efficient solution

Caching serves the purpose of creating and keeping a static version of your website and serving it to a requesting visitor when they access your website for the second time or more. It enhances your site’s user experience by swiftly presenting the static version without any delay.

This delay, otherwise, is simply caused when a visitor is trying to access a website from their browser and all the website elements such as the posts, slider, headers, CSS files, JavaScript, images, videos, etc., take their own time to get downloaded on the browser. When caching is in place, your website is ever-ready to deliver a cached/static version – quickly.

If you are new to website creation, how do you implement Caching on your website? What are the ways and means? Are their tools that can help you do it?

To start, you must test your website for its speed monitoring using tools such as:

  • Pingdom
  • StatusCake
  • Monitis
  • Uptime Robot.

These tools are a great way to figure out anything that might not be going well on your website’s backend when it comes to its loading time and similar issues. Since WordPress websites have their own share of down time owing to a number of factors, you cannot always act laid back when it comes to the performance and WordPress security of your digital property. If you would like to learn about striking a balance with your WordPress site’s security apart from its performance, you can read more here.

Broadly divided into two, WordPress Caching can be determined as:

  • Browser Caching: Reducing the load on the server is a great way of optimizing your website’s speed and that is what Browser Caching does. It reduces the number of requests per page, resulting in the superpower where your website loads faster.
  • Server Caching: Used by websites that have spiked traffic rates, Server Caching is largely about when data is cached on the server itself, helping with the loading revisions.
  • The best plugins to incorporate caching onto your WordPress site

    You can choose from the following list of plugins to manage caching on your WordPress website.

  • WP Super Cache
  • Total number of downloads: 2+ million

    One of the best caching plugins in the WordPress repository, WP Super Cache is a great cache management plugin. Generating static HTML files for your WordPress website, the plugin serves cached files in three ways, which are based on speed. It employs methods like Apache mod_rewrite and a modification of your .htaccess file to serve supercached static HTML files.

  • W3 Total Cache
  • Total number of downloads: 1+ million

    Highly recommended by web hosts and developers, this plugin has continued to reign the WordPress caching market for a number of years. By employing browser caching, it renders pages quickly, which results in reduced page load time, and further garners more page views and increased time on site.

    A great plugin in itself, W3 Total Cache contributes to improvement in your site’s SEO, offers content delivery network (CDN) integration, and overall user-experience on the WordPress site.

  • WP Fastest Cache
  • Total number of downloads: 600,000+

    The plugin serves the usual caching functions, offers SSL and CDN support, allows Cache Timeout for specific pages, enable/disable cache option for mobile devices and for logged-in users. Available in over 18 languages, the plugin does not require the user to modify the .htacces file and is pretty simple to set up. However, it does not currently support WordPress Multisite, but it is hoped that the plugin developers are working towards introducing this. Also, their premium version has much more to offer.

  • Cache Enabler
  • Total number of downloads: 40,000+

    Working its way to improving the performance of your website, the Cache enabler plugin offers WordPress multisite support. Its disk cache engine is efficient and fast and the plugin can be easily setup. One of the unique features of this plugin is its ability to create two cached files: plain HTML one and gzipped (pre-compressed files). It also offers the features of clearing the cache in either a manual or an automated manner.

  • Hummingbird Page Speed Optimization
  • Total number of downloads: 10,000+

    A great speed optimization caching plugin by WPMU Dev, the Hummingbird plugin features file compression, minification and full-page, browser and Gravatar caching. It also provides performance reports for your WordPress site so that you can maintain its speed. Its scanning feature keeps a check on files that might be slowing your site and provides probable fixes.

    NOTE: While caching is great, you will also need to implement other efforts if you really want to increase your website’s speed. Some of the things that you can easily do are:

    • Invest in a reliable web hosting service and go with a hosting plan that suits the size of your business website
    • Getting a CDN service is a great way to cater to your site visitors from various geographical locations without having them to wait up a bit too long for the server to fetch your site data
    • Declutter your website’s database, uninstall plugins and themes that you no longer need
    • Always use a WordPress theme that has been optimized for speed.

    Conclusions

    Website speed matters, and caching is one of the easiest ways out there to accomplish a fast loading site. Since your site’s speed has a direct relationship with user experience and the traffic it drives in, it follows that search engine optimization also slides in. Therefore, you must direct all your efforts into making sure that your website is capable of impressing its visitors with an unmatched speed.

    Lucy Barret is an experienced Web Developer and passionate blogger, currently working at WPCodingDev.

    How to use CRO as a power boost for paid search, social ads and SEO  

    If you are doing paid search, paid social or SEO, and are not optimizing your conversions, you might be leaving money on the table.

    Here is a true story shared by Momoko Price, partner at Kantan Designs: a company was investing thousands of dollars a month into PPC campaigns but wasn’t optimizing or even tracking on-site conversions. The AdWords department was focusing on getting clicks without any insight into whether or not they were getting leads. Back-of-the-napkin calculations showed that the average cost per acquisition (CPA) was $1,100. The estimated customer lifetime value was $1200. You can do the math.

    This is an extreme case, but the truth is, if you don’t have a page that converts, you end up just paying for clicks instead of conversions. CRO can help you get more from your advertising dollars.

    How to get a higher return on paid search with CRO

    1. Use CRO to improve the landing page experience and turn more visitors into customers

    When we make the landing page more compelling and user-friendly, it lifts conversions and starts an upward spiral of success: higher conversions > lower CPA > higher return on ad spend (ROAS) > increased ad budget > increased overall revenue and profit.

    It may take a few tests to get a strong lift in conversions; it depends on how much research goes into building your test hypotheses. A legal services firm saw the positive impact of CRO in the very first test they ran on their paid search landing pages. Originally, the value proposition above the fold was not scannable and not easy to understand quickly. The CRO team at 3Q Digital created a variation that described the benefits the firm’s services clearly and concisely using the headline and a bulleted list. As a result, lead form submissions went up by 24% at 95% statistical significance.

    Control:

    Variation:

    2. Use CRO to determine the best landing pages for paid traffic

    When dedicated landing pages for search ads are not available, a lot of companies drive paid traffic to the homepage. Chris Goward’s “scent trail” metaphor shows why this might be hurting their results. Imagine: the ad promises a solution to a specific need the customer has – the “prey scent” is very strong. The customer clicks the ad and lands on the homepage that offers multiple products or services – the “scent trail” became much weaker. The customer now has to figure out how to get to the product or service they were originally interested in. This creates friction, and the risk of a bounce is very high.

    CRO can help map out an effective customer journey from ad to conversion. The good news is, you don’t always have to create new landing pages from scratch. Simply redirecting paid traffic to a different page on the website can increase conversion rates. Here is how a regional bank reaped the benefits of this approach.

    The bank was looking for a way to get more website visitors to submit a loan application. Paid search campaigns were driving people to the homepage. However, Google Analytics and Hotjar data showed that after landing on the homepage, many users instantly clicked the ‘loans’ tab in the top navigation. Our CRO team hypothesized that sending paid traffic directly to the loans page would better match the high motivation of the users and would increase conversions. It worked – with loans page as the new landing page for paid traffic, there was 51% lift in loan application submissions.

    Control – homepage:

    Variation – loans page:

    If you do have custom landing pages for search campaigns, make sure to track their post-click performance. A story shared by Momoko Price shows why it matters:

    “A client shared their PPC landing page metrics with me but hadn’t actually calculated which landing page variants were performing best past the click (they were only looking at impression-to-ad CTR, but not the landing page conversions-per-PPC click rate). After looking into it, I discovered that the highest-performing PPC ad-group was driving traffic to a *sub-optimal* landing page variant. By directing that traffic to the highest performing landing page variant, we were able to substantially lower the overall CPA.”

    3. Use CRO to increase lead quality

    With CRO, you can make informed changes to the landing pages that drive not only initial conversions, but also deeper metrics, such as sales, LTV, and ultimately profit.

    Steven Shyne, senior CX strategist at 6D Global shares a story about an experiment that impacted both conversions and lead quality:

    “Our client, a telecom solutions provider, was debating whether or not to show pricing on the landing page. On the one hand, there was pressure from internal stakeholders and competitors to list the prices. On the other hand, the company provides customized quotes to its customers based on their business needs, and showing boilerplate pricing would go against this core value proposition. Our hypothesis was that removing pricing from the landing page would encourage prospective customers to fill out the form and request a precise quote. This would increase engagement with the sales team and improve metrics all the way through the sales funnel.

    “The variation with the pricing information removed showed a 47% increase in qualified leads. Our client is continuing to see very strong performance and we are continuing to test/optimize when, where, and if at all we show pricing, all the way from ad unit to landing page to lead qualification page.”

    Control:

    Variation:

    In summary, the connection between paid search and CRO is natural and profitable.

    Miguel Madrigal, search account lead at 3Q Digital sees CRO as a big value multiplier: “As performance marketers, there is only so much we can do on the front end. We can take the search queries, match them to keywords and ad copy, then mirror the ad copy on the landing page. If we tie these pieces together, we have done everything in our power. Working in tandem with CRO, always iterating, we can use the engagement and traffic we already have to drive better results.”

    How to get more from social ads with CRO

    There is a lot of pressure on social ads and landing pages to be both relevant and engaging. CRO can provide a valuable boost and help beat cat videos in the battle for customer attention.

    Here’s how you can use CRO to make your social ad campaigns more effective.

    1. Use CRO to create compelling ad copy and landing page copy

    Conversion research can help identify the customers’ biggest pain points, desires and objections and translate them into effective copy. Customer interviews, surveys, Exit Intent Polls, customer reviews mining, etc., are great sources of powerful messaging that speaks to customers in their own language and drives action.

    Talia Wolf, CEO at GetUplift, always uses in-depth conversion research to inform Facebook Ad and landing page copy:

    We use our emotional targeting research to optimize every step in the funnel, including social ads and social content. During a project with Fiverr last year, we worked to identify the prospects’ stage of awareness and their emotional drivers. We discovered where the customer was emotionally in the buyer journey. These insights helped us write new Facebook ad copy, choose new hero images and craft a new landing page strategy which got a 17% increase in conversion rates.”

    2. Use CRO to optimize the landing page experience for the visitors coming from social media

    Scott Olivares, growth and conversion director at Nabler, shares a story about how tailoring the landing page to social traffic helped boost engagement:

    Our client, an online university, invests heavily in social media advertising. All of the visitors from their campaigns go to landing pages made specifically for those campaigns. The lead acquisition rate was pretty bad, which made the cost per lead very high.

    “In our research, we discovered that desktop visitors had a much higher conversion rate than mobile visitors – at least double. However, mobile visitors made up about 80% of all traffic. When we looked at the landing pages, we saw that they were very text-heavy and obviously designed with desktop in mind. We came up with a new experience designed specifically for mobile visitors referred by a social media site – people who are looking for a quick endorphin boost from something funny or interesting, that doesn’t take too much effort to consume. Our new experience condensed all the content into about five single lines listing the excuses that people usually have for not going back to school. The excuses were crossed out with a plus sign next to them. Clicking the plus sign revealed why that particular excuse was no longer valid at this university.

    “This had a tremendous impact and many more mobile visitors began down the lead path. The lead start rate increased by 19% with 95% statistical significance.”

    Control: Variation:

    CRO can help you make the most of your investment in paid traffic – both search and social. If your focus is organic traffic, CRO can help on this front as well.

    How to get more from SEO with CRO

    First, the burning question: does CRO help or hurt SEO?

    Rand Fishkin from Moz has the answer:

    “The truth is, there is no conflict between the two. Here are the broad elements that factor into the page’s ranking ability:

    • keywords and on-page (content and HTML source code)
    • content quality
    • user and usage data
    • domain authority
    • page authority (individual shares and links)
    • SPAM analysis

    Changes made to the page with CRO affect just the first three factors. Nothing you’re going to do with CRO is going to have a negative effect on your domain authority, your page authority or SPAM analysis. If you are doing high-quality CRO and your conversion rate is rising, you are positively impacting two of the factors: your content quality signals and your user and usage data (with improved user experience, more people are spending time on the page, more people are engaging, Google ranks the page higher). The only factor we need to worry about is keywords and on-page. Here you just need to stick to some basic principles:

  • Put the words and phrases you are trying to rank for into HTML page title – you probably won’t be messing with your HTML page title when you are doing CRO anyway
  • Use your target words and phrases in the URL (URL doesn’t matter much for CRO)
  • Use your target words and phrases in the headline – headline does matter for CRO, but you almost certainly want to have the terms and phrases you are going after in your headline for SEO as well as CRO.
  • Long story short – there is no CRO requirement that would interfere with getting your SEO right.”

    The goal of SEO pages is providing information, building awareness and authority; however, it doesn’t mean they can’t have commercial value and generate conversions. You can use CRO to turn SEO pages into additional funnel entry points.

    Harrison DeSantis, SEO account manager at 3Q Digital, firmly believes in optimizing SEO pages for conversions: “I wish I could use CRO on every SEO account! We are putting in effort to drive traffic to these pages; I want to make sure we don’t squander it. Since SEO pages are top of the funnel, most visitors might not become customers right away, but then there are those organic visitors who are ready to convert. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to take action. Not everyone is going to do it, but everyone needs to know that they have the option to take the next step – the end game they can go back to when they are ready.”

    Here is an example of how a company used this approach and saw substantial lifts in conversions on SEO pages:

    A platform for getting psychic advice has a dozen high-ranking SEO pages. However, in the past these pages generated very few registrations – most visitors left immediately after reading the content. Conversion research showed that the next steps on SEO pages were not obvious, the visitors were not engaging with the call to action on the right rail, possibly because of “banner blindness”.

    Our CRO team ran a test placing a call to action into the body of the article, directly in the line of sight of the reader. The goal was to create interest and provide an easy opportunity to take action. The experiment was successful – the variation showed a 94% lift in registrations at 99% statistical significance.

    Control:

    Variation:

    In the follow-up test, the team focused on improving the mobile experience on SEO pages by adding a “sticky” drawer CTA with an offer relevant to the article content. The variation provided the page visitors an opportunity to enter the funnel easily at any point during their session. The variation showed a 349% lift in registrations at 99% statistical significance.

    Control: Variation:

    Conclusion

    CRO is a superpower that can help you amplify results from paid search, paid social, and SEO, and position your business to scale effectively online.

    Here is a checklist of how you can use CRO to make the most of your user acquisition dollars:

    • Use CRO to improve relevance and clarity and ease of landing page experiences for paid search campaigns.
    • Use CRO value proposition testing to create winning ad campaign copy.
    • Use CRO to determine the best pages to drive paid traffic to.
    • Use CRO to increase lead quality.
    • Use CRO to inform ad and landing page copy for paid social campaigns.
    • Use CRO to tailor landing page experience for social traffic.
    • Use CRO to drive conversions from SEO traffic.