Four key digital transformation trends you must pay attention to right now

Digital transformation and speed of consumer change

Last week ClickZ Intelligence held its webinar on The What, Why and How of Digital Transformation in association with Marketo.

If you missed it, it’s now available on demand where you can listen to the high level overview from me, and actionable information from Marketo’s VP of demand generation Heidi Bullock and HeroK12’s head of marketing Bryan Lanadburu.

As a taster, I’ve summarised just a few of the key points from the webinar for you to read below…

The increasing speed of technological and consumer change creates a need for companies to act differently – or suffer the consequences

Taking a view of the long term trend over the current century and the last, it is clear that digital technologies such as smartphones are just one of a number of changes that have emerged and reached mass market adoption with an increasing speed.

Before the internet, innovations such as the telephone, refrigerator and clothes washer came to market at an accelerating pace, as shown in this chart from HBR.

Today, we are now in a situation where adoption of products and services by hundreds of millions of people can occur in a blindingly short time – the recent explosion of Pokemon Go being further evidence of this.

Established companies of all sizes are being challenged by this increasingly rapid pace as fast-moving startups with more of an eye on customer centricity than internal process adherence eat into market share.

It is this changing set of circumstances that has caused a spike in interest around the idea of digital transformation, as illustrated by this chart of search volumes from Google Trends.

Digital transformation search volume from Google Trends

Digital transformation has multiple definitions but common themes

There doesn’t exist a single, accepted definition for digital transformation, however common themes do emerge.

The first is obviously around technology. Businesses with established processes and ways of working may not be making the most of new tools that are available to grow and protect market share.

The second is around business transformation. The reason why many businesses use legacy technology and lack innovative ways of working is because they have processes, skill sets and cultures that create barriers to moving quickly. While marketing often drives and sets an agenda for digital transformation, doing so requires the buy in and support of multiple departments.

The third is around customer experience. As previously mentioned, it is too common an occurrence that companies look inward at the status quo rather than outward towards the needs of their customers. Customer centricity is an element that needs to be deeply embedded as part of any serious digital transformation effort.

Technology, techniques, teams and talent will help you win

/IMG/582/278582/marketo-logo-large-320x198In the panel discussion, Heidi Bullock from Marketo emphasised that the reason why businesses need to care about the shift to digital channels (with people now spending over eight hours per day using them) is because digital channels are where your customers are. Luckily, 93% of multinational companies are in the process of changing their business models to adapt.

These adaptation requires aligning the three areas of techniques, teams and talent, and technology. By doing so, you can start to take steps towards improving your business processes to enable your company to adapt to the speed of digital change.

You don’t have to be huge to be very successful

HeroK12 and digital transformationBrian Landaburu of HeroK12 shared his lessons at a company which has been moving in a transformative direction for only three years.

HeroK12 is a tool that is sold to schools and school districts to keep track of pupil performance and behavior. Students can be recognized in a positive way and change school culture by focusing on positives rather than just discipline.

Leading a ‘hard pivot’, Bryan has switched marketing entirely from an old way of working involving trade shows, advertising and mass media to an entirely inbound approach, having people learn about it through lightweight interactions over time delivered by Marketo. Everything was reinvented, with business processes and the product also changing.

The result is that a product which helps millions of students at thousands of schools (with thousands more software users interacting everyday on the platform) is served by a company of only 35 people and a marketing team of just four staff.

This provides an example of how an effective transformation can result in a highly efficient and brilliant experience for customers, even in industries and sectors where old ways of working can be difficult to change.

Are you dealing with the issue of digital transformation? Then make sure you come to Shift on August 30th 2016 in San Francisco. A limited number of complimentary passes are available so make sure to register your interest!

Five ways to improve your organic reach on Facebook

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-3

Organic reach on Facebook is abysmal and getting worse, thanks to the latest announcement from the social network that’s visited by more than a billion users every day.

Facebook will show more funny videos and baby pictures posted by family and friends instead of news and other marketing content from brands, businesses, and publishers.

How bad is organic engagement on Facebook? On average, engagement is somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 1%. Every once in a while, one of your posts might still get tons of organic engagement. But it’s fast becoming mission impossible.

So what’s the solution?

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to mitigate the loss from the latest Facebook newsfeed algorithm. You must raise your organic engagement rates.

Let’s meet your new weapons – the five crazy hacks that will help you do what’s said to be impossible: hack the Facebook newsfeed algorithm.

Note: Some of these hacks involve spending a little bit of money. Others are totally free. All of them are totally worth your time.

1) Preferred audience targeting

Listen up: Preferred audience targeting is a brand new Facebook feature that works just like ad targeting, but for your organic posts. That’s right, this new feature lets you target your organic updates as if they were ads, for free.

Facebook lets you target your update so only the people who are most likely to be interested in your update will see it.

Here’s where the preferred audience targeting option can be found:

This feature is so powerful because not everyone who follows your Facebook page is going to care about every single update you publish. If you want to start raising your organic engagement, you need to stop broadcasting to all of your followers and focus on those people who are most likely to engage with specific updates.

Facebook’s preferred audiences feature is pure genius for companies that have a variety of products and divisions, or that operate in multiple countries. You can narrow the targeting based on users’ interests and locations to reach the people you really want without bothering the rest of your followers.

This feature also has benefits for smaller companies and publishers. Take me for example… Preferred audience targeting allows me to decide who sees my posts – or who won’t see my post, using audience restrictions:

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-4

Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re a French clothing retailer with locations in France, Poland, and Germany. You could make it so that only French-speaking millennial females who live near your locations will see your post announcing your latest deals.

Remember: everybody who likes your page isn’t your target market. Plenty of random people will like your page over time, but then never engage with your updates, visit your website, or buy from you.

If you can only reach 1% of your audience, you should more narrowly target the people who are truly interested in what you have to offer.

2) The unicorn detector pyramid scheme

The Unicorn Detector Pyramid Scheme is the process you can use to separate your content unicorns from the donkeys.

What is a content unicorn? Well, content becomes a unicorn when it is clearly among the top 1 to 2% of all of your content. These are your most rare and beautiful pieces of content that attract the most shares, engagement, and views.

A content donkey, on the other hand, doesn’t stand out at all. At most, it’s average. 98% of your content will be donkeys that get average engagement – again, less than 1% is the average organic engagement on Facebook, which is insanely low, right?

To raise your organic engagement rates on Facebook, you need to post fewer, but better updates. You can test out your content organically on Twitter. Here’s how it works.

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-7

Post lots of stuff on Twitter – somewhere around 20 tweets per day. But imagine that every tweet has been infected with a virus, one that will ultimately kill them without the antidote within less than 24 hours.

The only cure for these infected tweets? They need to get a significant number of retweets, clicks, likes, and replies.

Examine your top tweets in Twitter Analytics. Those tweets with the most engagement – your top 5 or 10% – have survived!

Your content that got the most engagement on Twitter is also highly likely to generate similar engagement on Facebook.

3) Post engagement ads

You can use Facebook’s Post Engagement Ads to give your posts a bit of a push. Yes, that means you’re spending a little money to “earn” some free reach in the news feed.

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-9

For example, let’s say I posted the above update only on my wall. The engagement is going to be pretty low. Maybe a few hundred people will see it.

So what happens if I spend just $20 to promote it? In this case, I paid for more than 4,400 impressions (clicks, follows, likes, etc.), but also got more than 1,000 organic engagements for free as a result.

How? Whenever someone shares your promoted post, it results in more people seeing it organically in their newsfeeds and engaging with it.

4) Add engaged followers

Did you know there’s a way you can selectively invite people who have recently engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your page? This is a valuable but little-known feature available to some (but not all) pages.

You want people who engage with you to become part of your Facebook fan base. You know these people like you and are more likely to engage with your content because they’ve done so in the past.

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-11

Here’s how you do it: Click on the names of the people who reacted to your post (liked, loved, etc.). You’ll see three types of buttons (Invite, Liked, Invited). Clicking on that Invite button will send an invitation to people who engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your business page.

Does it work? Yep. Between 15 to 20% of the people I invite to like my page are doing so.

5) Use video content

The decline of organic reach almost mirrors the rise of video on Facebook.

Users watch more than 8 billion videos every day on the social network. And these videos are generating lots of engagement.

Just look at this recent research from BuzzSumo, which examined the average total number of shares of Facebook videos:

Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-13

Facebook is doing its best to try to kill YouTube as the top platform for video. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.

Stop sharing vanilla posts that get little to no engagement. Add some video into your marketing mix! That should help improve your organic engagement because engagement begets engagement.

Facebook organic reach is pretty terrible. That’s why you should start treating your organic Facebook posts more like a paid channel, where you have to pickier and optimize to maximize engagement, in the hopes of getting more earned organic engagement.

Google launches imported call conversions

adwords number

If the internet killed the phone call, the smartphone has revived it.

While more and more business is conducted without human interaction, there are still times customers need to reach a business by phone and mobile click-to-call is on the rise.

According to data from BIA/Kelsey, calls to US businesses from smartphones will hit 162 billion in the next three years, a jump of nearly 75% since 2015.

For businesses that derive revenue in some way from those phone calls, attribution can be a challenge.

Those using adding a phone number to their Google AdWords ads or running call-only campaigns have up until now been able to track conversions in a rudimentary fashion only.

Specifically, Google’s conversion tracking has enabled advertisers to track when AdWords ads result in calls of a minimum length.

But recognizing that this offers a limited view of conversions, Google has announced imported call conversions, a new feature that allows advertisers to import call data so that they can attribute detailed conversion data, such as revenue generated, back to the calls generated by their AdWords campaigns.

As Amit Agarwal, Google’s senior product manager for Mobile Search Ads, explained:

“You can also distinguish between various types of customer actions that you may value differently. For example, the travel advertiser might assign revenue amounts to different call types like new bookings, rate requests, service calls, and customer upsells to a larger trip package.”

The data from imported call conversions can be used with Google’s target return on ad spend (ROAS), an automated bidding strategy that is designed to help advertisers realize an average return on ad spend that they specify across all of their campaigns, ad groups and keywords.

To import call conversions, advertisers must minimally supply a phone number, call start time and call length. Custom conversion events can be defined, and for each, advertisers can specify an optional conversion time, conversion value and conversion currency.

Already, Google says advertisers using imported call conversions are using the data to realize significant gains in their campaigns.

Insurance provider Nationwide, for instance, says that “since including imported call conversions into campaign optimization, we’ve been able to increase spend on top-performing, call-driving terms by nearly 3x. This has even helped us identify new keyword expansion opportunities from search queries we wouldn’t have otherwise found without increasing our investment backed by imported calls data.”

Images: three optimisation tips to help speed up your site

metallics webpage

People like fast websites and so does Google.

In fact, your website’s speed is a ranking factor in Google search engine results.

If your site loads quickly, it’s more likely to appear when people search for your brand. This along with the knowledge that a fast site provides a better user experience (UX), means that a faster website can lead to higher conversions.

If your website isn’t loading as quickly as you’d like, it’s very likely that your images are to blame.

Here are a few common mistakes people make regarding optimising images for their website.

Images are too big

Many marketers and publishers like to use big, high-resolution images on their site, believing that these images will provide a better user experience.

The problem is that high-res images often have a very large file size, and take a long time to load, especially when there are multiple images on the same web page.

We’ve seen many publishers uploading images in the range of 2Mb to 5Mb in their blog or content posts. This image size is way too large for the web, and is one of the most common mistakes that slows down websites.

If your image is larger than 500kb, something might be wrong, and the image could be compressed.

Before you upload new images to your web page or blog post, remember these tips:

  • Before you upload any image, double-check the file size (right click the image, and choose properties)
  • Keep image files sizes below 500kb (and below 100kb if possible)
  • There are many online tools that can help you compress your images to get a smaller file size, such as io, CompressJPG, and TinyPNG.
  • If you use Photoshop to prepare your images, keep an eye on the dimensions and make sure the DPI is set to 72dpi (Image/Image Size) and remember to ‘Save for Web’ in order to control the final outputted file size.
  • Convert your images to the proper file types. In most cases, you’ll want to use JPG. However, if your image uses transparency (such as an image with a “see through” background) you’ll need to use PNG. There are some rare cases when GIF is best, but, when in doubt, always use JPG.

A specific example: An exclusive online designer footwear brand uses a lot of large banners and products images on its fashion site that dragged the Google PageSpeed score down to just 20/100.

We created a daily cron job (automated task that runs daily) to automatically resize big images down to smaller web standards, while maintaining a good quality.

In the screenshot below, we reduced the file size of an image from 1.3MB to only 142KB.

reduce page speed chart

Simply by reducing image file size, we increased the Google PageSpeed score from 20/100 to 58/100.

Auto-scaling images

Another common mistake with images, is auto-scaling large images so they display smaller than they really are.

Doing this is often more convenient for the developer and content creators, but can really slow down a website.

For example, a big photo banner in a post might also be used as a small thumbnail elsewhere on the site.

The developer, rather than creating multiple versions of the image (e.g. 1000×425 for the banner and 64×64 for a side column), uses code to auto-scale the same big image to display as a small thumbnail. So a big image is being loaded unnecessarily. This shortens development time, but the page speed pays the price.

Not to mention, auto-scaled images can end up looking distorted because they’ve been stretched with code. For example, the thumbnail below is auto-scaled from 1000×425 pixels down to 64×64 pixels, and becomes distorted.

distorted thumbnail

reduce distortion on thumbnail

Keep an eye out for times when the same image is used many times on your site. If your site requires 12 different size variations used in 12 locations (something like 25×25, 40×40, 200×200, 658×258, 56×56, 64×64, 92×92, 150×156, 110×110, 160×160, and 180×180) that’s probably too many, and you might want to limit that down to less than four.

Then create a separate image for each different size, and load the correctly-sized image version rather than auto-scaling large images to look smaller than they really are.

Lack of image caching

Even if you use proper image compression, and serve properly-scaled images, a page that’s very image-heavy can still take a long time to load. Since images are static content, a great way to speed up the load time is to use CDN caching.

Caching (pronounced “cashing”) is the process of storing data in a temporary storage area called a cache. For example, you’ve probably noticed that a website you’ve visited in the past will load more quickly than a site you’ve never been to. This is because the visited website is cached by your computer.

A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers that delivers cached content (such as images) from websites to users, based on the geographic location of the user.

For example, if you’re in New York, and you’re looking at a website from India, you can load the images from a server that’s actually in New York, rather than loading images from halfway around the world.

A site using CDN caching can deliver images and other static content much faster, especially in peak traffic time, because images are not loaded directly from the web server, but from a cached server with much faster speed.

On top of this, a CDN also helps you serve more visitors at the same time. If your site experiences a sudden or unexpected spike in traffic, a CDN can keep your site functioning effectively.

Some of our favorite CDN providers are CloudFare, Akamai CDN, Amazon CloudFront, MaxCDN, and CDN77.

Mike Le is the Co-Founder and COO of CB/I Digital, a digital agency based in New York and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Mike on Twitter or LinkedIn.

How The Telegraph’s SEO strategy led to a Brexit traffic boost

eu referendum

The EU referendum has delivered a nice traffic boost for the UK’s newspaper websites, according to ABC figures released this week.

Interest in the referendum was massive in June, and spiked on June 24th, the day after the referendum. Yes, that’s the same day that searches for ‘what is the EU?’ and ‘what does brexit mean?’ spiked.

This delivered a massive boost for newspaper sites in general, but especially The Telegraph and Guardian.

The Telegraph’s growth was bigger (up 20% month to month) than the rest, and I’m betting this was down (at least in part) to some smart SEO work from The Telegraph’s team.

Here’s the growth figures:

UK unique users, June vs May:

  • Telegraph up 20% MOM
  • Guardian up 14%
  • Mail Online, no change.
  • Sun up 5%
  • Mirror up 2.9%

Global uniques, June vs May:

  • Telegraph up 21%
  • Guardian up 9%
  • Mail Online up 5%
  • Sun up 12%
  • Mirror up 5%.

The Guardian and Telegraph are two of the more ‘serious’ newspaper sites (The Times’ paywall means it doesn’t figure here), which in part explains how they benefitted most from a news-event related spike.

By contrast, The Sun (not a serious source of news) was one of the few sites that didn’t experience a post-Brexit lift. The spike you can see comes after the 24th, and is from the Dream Team football app, rather than anything news related.

Perhaps, given that The Sun was very pro-Brexit, to the extent of not reporting any possible negatives, web users didn’t trust it as a reliable source of information.

Indeed, when the Sun did talk about the negatives post-Brexit, readers suddenly wondered why they hadn’t been told this before.

Sun’s ABC. Post brexit was lowest PVs for 2 weeks. Spike in PVs on 26th is nearly all from Dream Team app, not site. pic.twitter.com/egGsGApN6L

— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) July 21, 2016

The Guardian’s growth

The Guardian reported its strongest month ever with more than 1 billion pages views for the first time in a calendar month, and a record 167 million monthly uniques.

In addition, thanks to content such as its live Brexit blog, itself the most popular article on the site ever, with 10m+ uniques, The Guardian enjoyed its highest day’s traffic ever.

It attracted more than 17m uniques and 77m pageviews on June 24, the day the referendum results were announced.

The Guardian does a lot of things well in terms of SEO, and there’s no doubt this contributed to these figures.

The Telegraph’s growth

The Guardian figures were impressive, but The Telegraph outstripped them in terms of month on month growth.

In charts tweeted by The Telegraph’s Director of Digital Media Malcolm Coles, we can see the Brexit effect:

And so did we pic.twitter.com/dhTVcsc12l

— Malcolm Coles (@malcolmcoles) 21 July 2016

I suspect than a strong SEO strategy has much to do with The Telegraph’s impressive performance. This strategy put it in a strong position to benefit from extra traffic around such a big news event.

It regularly has a prominent feature in Google News results, while it ranks well for key topics thanks to a well-executed strategy which includes effective internal linking and landing/hub pages for key topics.

For example, this is from a post on Mail Online’s strategy, showing how effectively the Telegraph used linking. It shows the performance of its ‘David Cameron’ page:

Telegraph-David-Cameron-consistent-performance

This page performs consistently as The Telegraph links the rest of its Cameron content back to this page, which indicates to the search engines that this is the page to show for that phrase.

6.Telegraph-David-Cameron-article-e1453731877608

This means that, instead of having several articles on the them competing against each other leading to fluctuation in search rankings, it has one dedicated hub page.

The Telegraph appears to have repeated this approach for the EU referendum, with a hub page for the issue. As I search this morning, it’s the highest-ranked newspaper site for the term.

telegrpah eu ref page

Thanks to this ground work and consistent linking, when the traffic spiked on June 24, The Telegraph was in a strong position to attract search traffic.

In addition, The Telegraph has been very smart in picking up traffic for informational searches around events like the referendum, or Euro 2016 – where the events are, the start times, where you can watch them, and so on.

For example, this page comes up for searches around the Tour de France today, providing information on stage start times, TV coverage etc.

TDF telegraph

This content provides useful information for searchers which directly answers some informational queries, but also helps to showcase the rest of the site’s cycling coverage to help it attract extra users.

It seems that this strategy has been applied across a range of news and sporting events, and is a great tactic to take advantage of ‘who, what, where’ searches.

I don’t have detailed data on where The Telegraph’s month on month growth came from, but I’m betting a smart SEO strategy enabled it to take full advantage of the extra interest in news around the Brexit vote.

M-commerce: has the mobile web finally won?

comscore_m-web_v_app_shopping_cz25

Not only are more smartphone users purchasing with their mobile devices, but more people are choosing to make those purchases via mobile web rather than via mobile apps.

These figures come from the latest European data from ComScore (July 2016), and echoes similar findings in a survey of US shoppers by Forrester (August 2015).

This underscores the imperative of striving for excellence in mobile web commerce, not just to facilitate purchases on the small device; but also to help drive onsite (instore, in-restaurant etc.) purchases – in which, we will also see, mobile web plays a critical role.

However, while web will be the route to serving the majority of your mobile customers, this does not necessarily prohibit investment in a mobile app.

Those retailers which have a sufficiently large core of extremely loyal and very regular mobile shoppers who will download, retain and use a mobile app, may be able to justify the very significant expense of developing, promoting and maintaining a separate mobile channel.

Let’s take a look at those numbers…

In Q1 2016, the proportion of smartphone users in the EU5 countries who made a purchase online was:

  • 33.8% in the UK
  • 28.3% in Italy
  • 19.2% in Germany
  • 14.5% in Spain
  • 13.5% in France

This is according to research by ComScore (July 2016). Smartphone penetration in these countries ranges from 69% in Italy to 81% in France.

In every one of these five countries, more people purchased via mobile web than mobile app.

The number of smartphone users purchasing by mobile web was only 1% higher than by app in the UK, but was 8% more in Germany, 22% more in Italy, 23% more in Spain and 25% more in France, ComScore’s data found.

The mobile customers to the website and app of Eurostar, the high-speed rail link between London and Paris or Brussels tally with ComScore’s stats.

Neil Roberts, Head of Digital at Eurostar:

“We see about 5% higher traffic on mobile web vs app – so very similar trend. Although conversion tends to be higher on the app, as you would imagine as they are more engaged having committed to download the app.”

This isn’t just a European trend

A survey of US consumers conducted by Forrester/RetailMeNot (PDF) (August 2015), found that 43% of respondents had purchased by mobile browser in the previous quarter compared to just 30% who had purchased by app.

The important thing to note about the Forrester research is consumers don’t just prefer mobile web over apps for purchases, but for almost every retail-related activity.

This includes tasks that drive in-store purchases: locating a store; reading reviews; comparing prices; finding coupons; checking product availability; redeeming coupons; and checking out an instore promotion.

However much we celebrate the growth of online retail and the mobile share thereof, we should never forget that physical stores are still the dominant retail channel. In the US, physical stores still account for 90 percent of market share, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The tricky thing is how retailers attribute/credit those the mobile web for its valuable role in driving those in-store sales. [But this fascinating topic of cross-channel attribution will have to wait for a future column].

Do retailers see more traffic from mobile web over apps?

It’s difficult to get a broad picture as many retailers are secretive about their mobile sales, and particularly about the breakdown between app and web. We can only speculate why this might be!

But if the UK’s Shop Direct is a benchmark then mobile web attracts considerably more traffic.

Shop Direct is one of mobile’s big success stories. The online-only electricals to fashion retailer concentrated on steadily building its mobile web business, before expanding into developing mobile apps.

This is a strategy that appears to be paying dividends: 59% of the retailer’s £1.8bn annual sales now comes from mobile devices (that’s smartphone and tablet).

Sam Barton, head of user experience (UX) at Shop Direct, tells ClickZ:

“The MyVery app currently makes up around 10% of our demand from mobile devices. We launched the app on iOS at the end of 2014 and on Android in July 2015. It now has over 900,000 downloads, and allows us to engage and interact with our customers in new and innovative ways.”

very_web_app_cz25

Compared with Shop Direct, UK retailers as a whole have been slower to capitalize on the m-commerce opportunity, with one third of top retailers still without an m-commerce site. But retailers do appear to prioritize mobile web over mobile app.

According to Internet Advertising Bureau, (March 2015) 64% of the top UK retailers (measured on digital ad expenditure) have a transactional mobile site, while only 32% had a transactional app.

Mike Reynolds , mobile manager, IAB UK:

“It’s not easy for a brand to get some prime real estate, in the form of an app, on someone’s phone. They have to compete with social media, gaming and news brands etc. which get more traction as they tend to be used daily and are engrained in people’s mobile behavior.”

My understating is that retail apps tend to be used as a retention tool.

This means by their nature, they will have a smaller, more loyal, audience than mobile sites, which are more discoverable through mobile search and social media.

Don’t dump your apps plans just yet

Research from Criteo (Q4 2015 Report) suggests a different story to ComScore and Forrester.

It finds that apps account for 54% of mobile sales among its clients, ahead of mobile browser 46%.

app_web_m-com_criteo_cz25

So how do we explain this apparent anomaly?

Whereas ComScore and Forrester conducted surveys of consumers, Criteo’s research is based on companies that use its digital advertising services. It is unclear if this is representative of global ecommerce sales. Some of the stats are surprisingly high, including the finding that in the UK mobile is 50% of ecommerce sales.

Leaving these reservations aside. Criteo’s stats are based on numbers of transactions rather than unique users.

If accurate, then while more people use mobile web to shop, mobile app users buy more. A lot more: Criteo believes mobile app conversion rates are not just higher than mobile web, but higher than desktop also.

So why might apps deliver better conversions than mobile web? We can speculate several possible reasons:

  • As only a retailer’s loyalist customers will download your app, these are also likely to be the biggest spenders.
  • Purchasing on a retailer’s native apps is preferable to the retailer website. Retailers will often invest more in a) developing apps to deliver better features and personalization than online; b) promoting the app; and c) will offer exclusive features, promotions, pricing and products that are not available via other channels.
  • Retailers are able to drive more repeat purchases using in-app notifications (which until recently were only available in native apps).

The problem with apps

The thing about native apps is customers can only use them if they have been downloaded to their smartphone. Research by the PEW Research Centre (November 2015) found that 77% of US smartphone users download apps, of these 30% had downloaded less than 10 apps to their handset and a further 32% had downloaded less than 20.

Many apps going unused: only 16% used more than 10 apps on a regular basis.

The following graph shows the top 25 apps in the US, according to ComScore (September 2015). There no retailers in the top 10. One, Amazon, in the top 20. Three, Amazon, eBay and Walmart in the top 25.

Some of these apps come pre-installed, but it still well illustrates the monumental challenge faced by any retailer to find its app a space on a customer’s smartphone.

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This is well illustrated by the Forrester research, which finds that 60% of recipients had two or less retailer apps on their handset (21% had none).

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Yoram Wurmser, analyst, eMarketer:

“Most people will only use an app for Amazon or their favorite retailer/s, say Sephora or Nordstrom. For most of their shopping, they’ll use the web, but the minority that use apps will be the best customers who are predisposed to buy often and with bigger baskets.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that most retailers should build an app. But if they have a dedicated customer base and a clear use case, it can make sense.”

Now let’s talk reach

For most retailers, commerce is a numbers game. Unlike publishers that earn money from ads, it doesn’t matter how long people hang-around, it’s about how many people pop in and how many products they walk away with (paid-for).

When it comes to numbers even for the biggest players, mobile web delivers lots more visitors than apps. The following ComScore (September 2015) graph isn’t commerce specific, it compares the top 1000 mobile web properties and the top mobile app properties in the US.

The mobile web audience is 2.5 times bigger and growing faster than apps.

comscore_mweb_apps_cz25

Action

The ComScore and Forrester research shows that customers are not just willing to use their smartphones to purchase but they are more likely to do so by mobile web than mobile app.

This underscores the imperative of striving for excellence in mobile web commerce, not just to facilitate purchases on the small device; but also to help drive onsite (instore, in-restaurant etc.) purchases.

Your competitive edge and route to better conversions will be delivering a mobile-first, user-centric m-commerce site that harnesses the best of the native app with all the accessibility and versatility of the mobile web.

Barbara Ballard, director of research, Radius:

“Don’t skimp on features for mobile web – people won’t want to download an app just to buy.”

Read the entire report here: DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning

Why your content and SEO strategy need to be joined up

copy blog

There are some sites creating useful or interesting content, that are being let down by a lack of attention to SEO.

In yesterday’s #semrushchat there was such an example, a site offering copywriting services, but one that seemingly needed to pay more attention to SEO.

The site was kreativ forditas, and had submitted itself for review by the semrushchat participants. I’m not going to detail the whole review, but a few SEO-related issues were flagged:

Q2: Out of the top 3 issues we have detected with our Site Audit tool, which one should they fix ASAP? #semrushchat pic.twitter.com/zsdLD24bcG

— SEMrush (@semrush) 20 July 2016

Some are quite easy to fix. For example, meta-descriptions can be added retrospectively and, though it’s not a ranking signal, it should help CTR.

The internal linking issue intrigued me, as the site had nofollowed 103 internal links, which just seems an odd thing to do.

Looking at the site in more detail, it seems that at least some of the nofollowed internal links were to pages such as login pages, which don’t necessarily represent a missed opportunity.

However, though the site had some interesting content around the practice of copywriting – content which should help it attract its target audience, and to help lift other pages on the site, it appears to have been created without much thought for SEO.

The site offers content creation, content critique and copywriting services. You would think the obvious think to do would be to link from these articles to the sales pages on the site, thus helping them rank for target terms.

Indeed, a well-executed content strategy would use internal linking to consistently link to, for example, the copywriting sales page on the site in every mention of the keyword. This would give a strong signal to search engines that that page should be returned for searches on the term.

Instead, very few of the articles have links at all, and those that do are generally linking to other articles. This means that most of the blog content on the site is doing very little to support the sales pages.

Of course, some of this content may attract visitors to the site, but it’s doing very little to help the site’s search visibility.

Another example of this is Millets, which I looked at in a recent post on optimising for searches around festival products – clothing, essential gear, tents etc.

Its search performance is inconsistent, in part because it doesn’t use the content it creates to help with search visibility.

It has created some useful content around festivals, but isn’t linking to its product or category pages to help them perform more effectively for these searches.

All Millets needs to do is to link consistently from the content to the landing pages to help them rank more effectively and consistently for target keywords.

millets blog

It’s another example of a content strategy which hasn’t considered SEO enough. As I wrote in an older post, content marketing and SEO can work together very effectively.

Content creation helps to achieve search goals, while an eye on SEO helps the content to perform more effectively and reach a wider audience.

However, creating content in isolation without considering search simply means it’s unlikely to perform as well as it could.

What are the most common on-page SEO issues and how to fix them?

alt-text example in wordpress

Appearing in the top organic listings of Google is increasingly like pouring a gallon of milk into a shot glass.

And the shot glass is already full of adverts, a bunch of maps, a broadsheet newspaper, a lengthy opinion piece about Taylor Swift and an Argos catalogue.

And oh look, now you’ve got milk all over the kitchen counter, but everyone’s just ignoring it as they’re too busy looking into the shot glass because all the information they need is right there.

So what can you do, apart from fetching a mop and bucket, stop wasting so much milk and learning to unpack bizarre opening metaphors?

Well it may surprise you to learn that many website owners are still struggling with basic SEO techniques. These are the technical, on-page habits that are easily addressable and take very little time to action, but can make a heck of a difference to your overall search ranking.

Excelling at these basic SEO skills can therefore put you ahead of the competition.

But which of the on-page techniques are still not being implemented correctly and what can you learn from this?

SEMrush has collected anonymous data on 100,000 websites and 450 million pages to determine the top SEO issues and it has published its results in this huge stat-filled infographic, which we’ll also republish at the bottom of this article.

But for now, here are the most common on-page, technical SEO issues that website owners are experiencing, along with links to our own guidance for addressing these issues.

Top 11 most common SEO issues

1. Duplicate content

According to SEMrush, 50% of analyzed web pages face duplicate content issues.

Although there isn’t a specific penalty against duplicate content, the problem arises when your similar webpages begin cannibalising each other for the same search positions and Google ends up filtering one at the expense of another, and this may not necessarily be the page you want to aee ranking.

This is where the rel=canonical attribute can help, by letting Google know exactly which duplicate page to rank.

For more information on this, check out: how and when to use canonical.

2. Missing alt tags and broken images

The research reveals that 45% of sites have images with missing alt tags and another 10% have broken images.

Alt tags are a way to accurately describe your images to search engines to make sure they’re indexed properly in image search, and therefore bring some extra traffic to your site.

Broken images can cause the same issues as broken links by providing a poor user experience. One way to avoid this is to make sure you’re hosting images within your own media library, not on a third-party image host.

For more information, check out our guide on how to optimise your images for SEO.

3. Title tag issues

Title tags are used to tell search engines and visitors what any given page on your site is about in the most concise and accurate way possible.

title tag in browser

SEMrush found that 35% of sites have duplicate title tags, 15% have too much text in the tag, 8% are missing them and 4% don’t provide enough text.

Here’s how you can fix all these issues: How to write title tags for SEO.

4. Meta descriptions

The meta description is the short paragraph of text placed in the HTML of a webpage that describes its content. The meta description will then appear under your page’s URL in the search results.

guide to primavera sound 2016 Google Search

The SEMrush research reveals that 30% of sites have duplicate meta descriptions and 25% of sites have no meta descriptions at all.

Here’s a guide on dealing with this problem: How to write meta descriptions for SEO.

5. Broken internal and external links

The research showed that 35% of sites had broken internal links that returned bad HTTP status codes (70% of which return a 4xx page not found code).

A further 25% of sites had broken external links, which can seriously impair your website’s authority.

You can learn how to check for crawl errors in our guide to Google Search Console and you can also read our best practice guide to internal linking for help.

6. Low text-to-HTML ratio

The research showed a warning of ‘low text-to-HTML ratio’ on 28% of sites analyzed.

According to SEMrush, this means that these sites contain proportionally more back-end HTML code rather than text that people can actually read. They recommend an acceptable lower limit beginning from 20%.

Here’s a thorough checklist of things to help lower your ratio according to Woorank:

  • Remove huge white spaces
  • Avoid lots of tabs
  • Remove comments in the code
  • Avoid tables.
  • Use CSS for styling and formatting
  • Resize your images
  • Remove any unnecessary images
  • Only use Javascript if required
  • Keep the size of your page under 300kb
  • Remove any hidden text that is not visible to people
  • Your page must always have some amount of plain text. Include easily readable – text with quality user information

7. H1 tag issues

It’s important to know the difference between H1 tags and title tags. The title tag appears in search results, whereas the H1 tag (normally your headline) is what visitors see on the page.

Of the sites analyzed, 20% had multiple H1 tags, 20% were missing H1 tags, and 15% had duplicate information in their title tag and H1.

You should ordinarily only use one H1 tag per web page and break up articles with plenty of h2 tags.

8. Low word count

Increasingly Google is ranking more in-depth articles over what it considers thin content. Of the websites crawled, 18% had a low word count on some pages.

Here’s a guide to evergreen content that can help you create nice in-depth webpages that sit at the top of Google and stay there.

9. Too many on-page links

The research reveals that 15% of sites have too many on-page links on some pages.

Having a maximum number of links on a page isn’t a problem as such, but cramming a page with unnatural links definitely is. After all, a cluttered page full of links can be a bad user experience, especially on mobile.

As SEMrush states, good SEO means having a natural link profile that includes relevant high quality links. Carry out a link audit for every page and get rid of the links that don’t provide any value to your readers or your SEO strategy.

10. Incorrect language declaration

SEMrush has found that 12% of websites have failed to include a language declaration stating the default language of the text in the page.

Language declaration is useful for translation and page display, and ensures that people using text-to-speech converters hear your content read in the correct dialect of their native language.

You can easily amend this in the International Targeting section of Search Console.

11. Temporary redirects

The research shows that 10% of websites analyzed contain temporary redirects.

According to SEMrush, a 302 redirect can cause search engines to continue to index an outdated page while ignoring the page you are redirecting it to.

Although Google’s John Mueller has stated its algorithm does not penalize for 302 redirects and the index will eventually treat a 302 as a 301 if it remains long enough.

But it is worth keeping in mind that a temporary 302 redirect won’t pass any link authority on to your preferred page, but a permanent 301 redirect will, so it’s best to avoid them.

And finally, here is the promised infographic from SEMrush…

11 most common SEO issues infographic

Five simple user experience tweaks for better conversion

hy-lock website

Sometimes the functionality and user experience (UX) on a website can make or break a business.

Things like mobile optimization or page load-time are talked about so often in the SEO world purely because a user will have no hesitation leaving if they are not having a positive experience on your website. It’s that simple.

That being said, not all “good” websites are created equal.

The more research that is done on user experience, the more we learn about optimizing for better conversion results, and the more we realize that user experience is more than just a fast site that seems simple to use.

Five tweaks that improve user experience

GoodUI.org constructed a project on user experience and has developed 75 “good ideas” that produce amazing results when it comes to UX.

All the data has come from real websites and brands/businesses that have decided to share their data for project analysis on user experience. Reading some of their tips was like finding gold.

After looking over their ideas, along with other recent research, below is a list of five user experience tweaks that you can make to see better conversions because of improved user experience that so many are still missing:

1) Optimize the “repetition” of call-to-action buttons

One of the most impressive discoveries has been in regards to repetitive layouts with CTA (call-to-action) buttons.

The only thing that was changed in these tests from a control page was an additional CTA button at the bottom of the page as well as the top of the page.

In the data set that GoodUI developed, this was shown to have an 84% median effect for conversion on product pages. So, rather than just having the CTA button that you want users to click at the top of the page, add and additional CTA at the bottom and you are much more likely to see results.

The screenshot below shows the study‘s results:

2) Social testimonials = business descriptions and content

User engagement is a huge part of ranking organically, so the more you can get people talking about your brand in a positive way, the better it is for your SEO. Why not use this to your advantage?

One of the best ways that you can improve user experience is to use social testimonials on your site rather than solely providing descriptions that you have written.

Testimonials have been proven to help conversions because users feel as though they can trust the experience of others. This one tweak can make a substantial difference for how your brand is perceived.

Take for example this beautiful Xero Accounting Software testimonial page:

xero homepage

Visitors can click through videos and hear directly from other users about their experience with the product and see quotes immediately next to the video.

This is a really great way to use social testimonial rather than talking about the positive aspects of your product or service yourself.

The videos from Xero are also really high quality and show that they are committed to telling the story and perspective of their clients, which is really impressive to people who are deciding whether to give you their business.

3) Recommend products or services (over others you offer)

Have you ever been at a restaurant where something is highlighted as a staff or chef recommendation on the menu? Or perhaps you’ve come across an item that is a “popular” choice by others?

Recommending a certain product or service over an equal display has been shown to increase conversion.

When people are given too many choices they can often have a difficult time making a decision. When this situation occurs, people are often likely to turn to recommendations and are more likely to follow-through with a purchase.

If your company offers a variety of products or services this may be something you want to consider. It is an easy tweak and can really improve user experience on product pages.

user experience diagram

4) Provide fewer fields to fill out

If you want to get more people signed-up or on your mailing list, sometimes the best way to go is actually fewer fields at once.

In many cases you can eliminate fields and still get the information that you need.

Ask what is really necessary to get a visitor on your email list (it is usually just their name and email) and consider moving other question fields to another area after they are signed up.

This particular user experience tweak was shown to have a +7.6% medium effective rate. The result when altering this format (vs a control with multiple fields) was +53% more quotes with fewer fields.

women's health ad

In the example from Women’s Health magazine above, all the site asks for (at least initially) is the visitor’s email in order to get access to a 21-day workout. This is the perfect way to get people on your mailing list without bombarding them with too many fields to fill out.

5) Clean layout and fewer borders

Lastly, one of the most successful tweaks you can make is having a clean layout with fewer borders. So many sites have side bar, top bar, bottom bar options… and it can be totally overwhelming for users to navigate the site.

Remember, the goal is to direct people where they should go without all of the guesswork. Take for example the website layout below:

FCINO

The site utilizes a clean and focused format, which draws the visitor to the action they want them to take.

For example, they present a few pieces of content and then ask the user to “scroll down or die.” By doing this they can use an infinite scroll form and not require the user to have all of the information in their immediate visual field. This obviously makes things a lot clearer and intentional.

Borders compete for attention with real content—plain and simple. There is really no reason to overwhelm a user with them, and in fact, you are more likely to get a positive result from visitors in terms of conversion if you adjust to a cleaner presentation.

What do you think of these tweaks? Do you intend to implement any of these yourself? Let us know in the comments section below—we would love to hear from you!

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn.

RankBrain’s potential effect on your paid search campaigns

bluebrain-4

Just weeks ago, Google announced that it would be releasing improvements to its Dynamic Search Ads, making its targeting even more precise and relevant than before.

But one example from the announcement caught my attention: “Ads that point to a landing page about iced coffee makers will be less likely to show for less relevant searches like ‘iced coffee’.

What gave me pause here isn’t that Google is getting better at understanding queries on a small scale, but that it is doing this in alignment with Google’s understanding of your page content.

This, to me, hints at the use of Google’s RankBrain artificial intelligence, which utilizes machine learning to analyze query intent.

Previously, analysis of RankBrain has focused on how it assesses organic relevance. However, some focus should now shift over to how this AI impacts the paid portion of the search results page.

How RankBrain may effect paid search

To be clear, I don’t work at Google and thus I have no idea if RankBrain is truly behind the new targeting mechanism. That said, I would like to walk through what I believe is the most likely scenario going on here.

What makes this most interesting – as it relates to the machine learning feedback mechanism – is the process used when creating campaigns with the assistance of AdWords.

The advertiser provides the website that they want to drive traffic to, and Google then analyzes the pages and creates an ad campaign based on the perceived content on those pages. The advertiser can then adjust the campaign to fit their perceived goals.

One method used in performing these adjustments is to include negative keywords. (Negative keywords tell Google that the advertiser does not want their ads to appear for queries that include those words, phrases, or exact string of words.)

In thinking about the ways in which the use of negative keywords will impact RankBrain’s machine learning, the potential feedback from millions of advertisers with millions of pages of content should vastly improve the AI’s ability to provide more precise ad targeting.

As RankBrain learns what is and what isn’t acceptable to certain advertisers (not only at the query level but also based on site content), it becomes increasingly powerful.

What does this mean for advertisers?

It means if you haven’t already been studying SEO processes and utilizing best practices when building your landing pages, it is definitely time to start.

Creating landing pages that focus on a specific theme – and adequately communicating that theme as close to the top of the page as possible – will be even more important than ever.

As an advertiser, RankBrain effectively gives you a bit more leeway to help Google hone in on what your page is about. When you give Google a clear sense of what you are providing, it will better help you reach the right audience.

The benefits to advertisers could extend even beyond the aforementioned Dynamic Search Ads. The insight that RankBrain gleans from landing pages and associated keyword targets, determined from the initial Dynamic Search Ads data set, can reasonably be applied at a basic level to the other AdWords search auctions.

This enhanced relevancy can help advertisers reach conversion-ready queries and increase click-through rate, thus allowing for better utilization of ad spend.

My advice for advertisers is to get your landing pages RankBrain-ready:

  • Understand your audience.
  • Give your pages clear, unique themes.
  • Use alternate keyword variations throughout your copy that still relate to the page theme.

These are methods that have always been helpful to successful search advertising in the past, but they become even more important moving forward.

Kevin Gamache is Senior Search Strategist at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.