The #1 reason why position #1 doesn’t matter

As the layout of search engine results pages continues to change and evolve, columnist Rachel Lindteigen notes that being the top result may not be as important as it used to be.

 
 

The post The #1 reason why position #1 doesn’t matter appeared first on Search Engine Land.

 
 
 
 

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

How to Retain Customers Using User-Generated Content [Free Guide]

ecommerce-user-generated_content_retention.jpg

 

What if you could have your current customers sell your products for you? With user-generated content (UGC) it’s possible! User-generated content deepens your relationship with your existing customers, while leveraging their networks to help you acquire new customers. 

 

From reviews to social media, user-generated content brings a myriad of opportunities to engage with your customers. Once you’ve activated these customers, you’ll be able to tap into the social proof from their content and word of mouth marketing to their networks. 

 

We’ve partnered with Yotpo to bring you How to Retain Customers Using User-Generated Content: The Guide for Ecommerce Marketers. It covers everything that you’ll need to get started with user-generated content for your ecommerce company, including:

 
 
    • The “rules” of retention
 
    • Why word of mouth matters
 
    • How to leverage word of mouth marketing
 
    • How to deal with negative reviews
 
    • The right (and wrong) ways to ask for a review
 
    • Best practices for building a base of brand advocates
 
 

Download How to Retain Customers Using User-Generated Content: A Guide for Ecommerce Marketers to leverage your exisiting customers for customer acquisition. 

 

Amplify your retention and acquisition strategies with the power of user-generated content.

 

Subscribe to the ecommerce blog

 

8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

[Estimated read time: 14 minutes]

 

Are you guilty of living in the past? Using methods that were once tried-and-true can be alluring, but it can also prove dangerous to your search strategy. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand spells out eight old school SEO practices that you should ditch in favor of more effective and modern alternatives.

 

 

 

 

http://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective Whiteboard

 

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

 
 

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about some old school SEO practices that just don’t work anymore and things with which we should replace them.

 

Let’s start with the first one – keywords before clicks.

 

Look, I get the appeal here. The idea is that we’ve done a bunch of keyword research, now we’re doing keyword targeting, and we can see that it might be important to target multiple keywords on the same page. So FYI, “pipe smoking,” “tobacco smoking,” “very dangerous for your health,” not recommended by me or by Moz, but I thought it was a funny throwback keyword and so there you go. I do enjoy little implements even if I never use them.

 

So pipes, tobacco pipes, pipe smoking, wooden pipes, this is not going to draw anyone’s click. You might think, “But it’s good SEO, Rand. It’s good to have all my keywords in my title element. I know that’s an important part of SEO.” Not anymore. It really is not anymore an important . . . well, let’s put it this way. It’s an important part of SEO, which is subsumed by wanting to draw the clicks. The user is searching, they’re looking at the page, and what are they going to think when they see pipes tobacco, pipes, pipe smoking, wooden pipes? They have associations with that – spammy, sketchy, I don’t want to click it – and we know, as SEOs, that Google is using click signals to help documents rank over time and to help websites rank over time.

 

So if they’re judging this, you’re going to fall in the rankings, versus a title like “Art of Piping: Studying Wooden Pipes for Every Price Range.” Now, you’re not just playing off the, “Yes, I am including some keywords in there. I have ‘wooden’ and ‘pipes.’ I have ‘art of piping,’ which is maybe my brand name.” But I’m worried more about drawing the click, which is why I’m making this part of my message of “for every price range.” I’m using the word “stunning” to draw people in. I’m saying, “Our collection is not the largest but the hand-selected best. You’ll find unique pipes available nowhere else and always free, fast shipping.”

 

I’m essentially trying to create a message, like I would for an AdWords ad, that is less focused on just having the raw keywords in there and more focused on drawing the click. This is a far more effective approach that we’ve seen over the last few years. It’s probably been a good six or seven years that this has been vastly superior to this other approach.

 

Second one, heavy use of anchor text on internal links.

 

This used to be a practice that could have positive impacts on rankings. But what we’ve seen lately, especially the last few years, is that Google has discounted this and has actually even punished it where they feel like it’s inappropriate or spammy, manipulative, overdone. We talked about this a little in our internal and external linking Whiteboard Friday a couple of weeks back.

 

In this case, my suggestion would be if the internal link is in the navigation, if it’s in the footer, if it’s in a sidebar, if it’s inside content, and it is relevant and well-written and it flows well, has high usability, you’re pretty safe. However, if it has low usability, if it looks sketchy or funny, if you’re making the font small so as to hide it because it’s really for search engines and not for searchers and users, now you’re in a sketchy place. You might count on being discounted, penalized, or hurt at some point by Google.

 

Number three, pages for every keyword variant.

 

This is an SEO tactic that many folks are still pursuing today and that had been effective for a very long time. So the idea was basically if I have any variation of a keyword, I want a single page to target that because keyword targeting is such a precise art and technical science that I want to have the maximum capacity to target each keyword individually, even if it’s only slightly different from another one. This still worked even up to four or five years ago, and in some cases, people were sacrificing usability because they saw it still worked.

 

Nowadays, Google has gotten so smart with upgrades like Hummingbird, obviously with RankBrain last year, that they’ve taken to a much more intent- and topic-matching model. So we don’t want to do something like have four different pages, like unique hand-carved pipes, hand-carved pipes, hand-carved tobacco pipes, and hand-carved tobacco smoking pipes. By the way, these are all real searches that you’ll find in Google Suggest or AdWords. But rather than taking all of these and having a separate page for each, I want one page targeting all of them. I might try and fit these keywords intelligently into the content, the headline, maybe the title, the meta description, those kinds of things. I’m sure I can find a good combination of these. But the intent for each of these searchers is the same, so I only want one page targeting them.

 

Number four – directories, paid links, etc.

Every single one of these link building, link acquisition techniques that I’m about to mention has either been directly penalized by Google or penalized as part of an update, or we’ve seen sites get hit hard for doing it. This is dangerous stuff, and you want to stay away from all of these at this point.

 
 

Directories, well, generic directories and SEO directories for sure. Article links, especially article blasts where you can push an article in and there’s no editorial review. Guest content, depending on the editorial practices, the board might be a little different. Press releases, Google you saw penalized some press release websites. Well, it didn’t penalize the press release website. Google said, “You know what? Your links don’t count anymore, or we’re going to discount them. We’re not going to treat them the same.”

 

Comment links, for obvious reasons, reciprocal link pages, those got penalized many years ago. Article spinners. Private link networks. You see private and network, or you see network, you should just generally run away. Private blog networks. Paid link networks. Fiverr or forum link buys.

 

You see advertised on all sorts of SEO forums especially the more aggressive, sketchy ones that a lot of folks are like, “Hey, for $99, we have this amazing package, and I’ll show you all the people whose rankings it’s increased, and they come from PageRank six,” never mind that Page Rank is totally defunct. Or worse, they use Moz. They’ll say like, “Domain authority 60-plus websites.” You know what, Moz is not perfect. Domain authority is not a perfect representation of the value you’re going to get from these things. Anyone who’s selling you links on a forum, you should be super skeptical. That’s somewhat like someone going up to your house and being like, “Hey, I got this Ferrari in the yard here. You want to buy this?” That’s my Jersey coming out.

 

Social link buys, anything like this, just say no people.

 
 

Number five, multiple microsites, separate domains, or separate domains with the same audience or topic target.

 

So this again used to be a very common SEO practice, where folks would say, “Hey, I’m going to split these up because I can get very micro targeted with my individual websites.” They were often keyword-rich domain names like woodenpipes.com, and I’ve got handmadepipes.net, and I’ve got pipesofmexico.co versus I just have artofpiping.com, not that “piping” is necessarily the right word. Then it includes all of the content from all of these. The benefit here is that this is going to gain domain authority much faster and much better, and in a far greater fashion than any of these will.

 

Let’s say that it was possible that there is no bias against the exact match domain names folks. We’re happy to link to them, and you had just as much success branding each of these and earning links to each of these, and doing content marketing on each of these as you did on this one. But you split up your efforts a third, a third, a third. Guess what would happen? These would rank about a third as well as all the content would on here, which means the content on handmadepipes.net is not benefitting from the links and content on woodenpipes.com, and that sucks. You want to combine your efforts into one domain if you possibly can. This is one of the reasons we also recommend against subdomains and microsites, because putting all of your efforts into one place has the best shot at earning you the most rankings for all of the content you create.

 

Number six, exact and partial keyword match domain names in general.

 

It’s the case like if I’m a consumer and I’m looking at domain names like woodenpipes.com, handmadepipes.net, uniquepipes.shop, hand-carved-pipes.co, the problem is that over time, over the last 15, 20 years of the Web, those types of domain names that don’t sound like real brands, that are not in our memories and don’t have positive associations with them, they’re going to draw clicks away from you and towards your competitors who sound more credible, more competent, and more branded. For that reason alone, you should avoid them.

 

It’s also that case that we’ve seen that these types of domains do much more poorly with link earning, with content marketing, with being able to have guest content accepted. People don’t trust it. The same is true for public relations and getting press mentions. The press doesn’t trust sites like these.

 

For those reasons, it’s just a barrier. Even if you thought, “Hey, there’s still keyword benefits to these,” which there is a little bit because the anchor text that comes with them, that points to the site always includes the words and phrases you’re going after. So there’s a little bit of benefit, but it’s far overwhelmed by the really frustrating speed bumps and roadblocks that you face when you have a domain like this.

 

Number seven – Using CPC or Adwords’ “Competition” to determine the difficulty of ranking in organic or non-paid results

A lot of folks, when they’re doing keyword research, for some reason still have this idea that using cost per click or AdWords as competition scores can help determine the difficulty of ranking in organic, non-paid results. This is totally wrong.

 

 

So see right here, I’ve got “hand-carved pipes” and “unique wooden pipes,” and they have an AdWords CPC respectively of $3.80 and $5.50, and they have AdWords competition of medium and medium. That is in no way correlated necessarily with how difficult they’ll be to rank for in the organic results. I could find, for example, that “unique wooden pipes” is actually easier or harder than “hand-carved pipes” to rank for in the organic SEO results. This really depends on: Who’s in the competition set? What types of links do they have and social mentions do they have? How robust is their content? How much are they exciting visitors and drawing them in and serving them well? That sort of stuff is really hard to calculate here.

 

I like the keyword difficulty score that Moz uses. Some other tools have their own versions. Doctor Pete, I think, did a wonderful job of putting together a keyword difficulty score that’s relatively comprehensive and well-thought through, uses a lot of the metrics about the domain and the page authority scores, and it compensates for a lot of other things, to look at a set of search results and say, “This is probably about how hard it’s going to be,” and whether it’s harder or easier than some other keyword.

 

Number eight – Unfocused, non-strategic “linkbait”

 

Last one, some folks are still engaging in this, I think because content strategy, content marketing, and content as a whole has become a very hot topic and a point of investment. Many SEOs still invest in what I call “nonstrategic and unfocused link bait.” The idea being if I can draw links to my website, it doesn’t really matter if the content doesn’t make people very happy or if it doesn’t match and gel well with what’s on my site. So you see a lot of these types of practices on sites that have nothing to do with it. Like, “Here are seven actors who one time wore too little clothing.” That’s an extreme example, but you get the idea if you ever look at the bottom ads for a lot of content stuff. It feels like pretty much all of them say that.

 

Versus on topic link bait or what I’d call high quality content that is likely to draw in links and attention, and create a positive branding association like, “Here’s the popularity of pipes, cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and cigars in the U.S. from 1950 to today.” We’ve got the data over time and we’ve mapped that out. This is likely to earn a lot of links, press attention. People would check it out. They’d go, “Oh, when was it that electronic cigarettes started getting popular? Have pipes really fallen off? It feels like no one uses them anymore. I don’t see them in public. When was that? Why was that? Can I go over time and see that dataset?” It’s fundamentally interesting, and data journalism is, obviously, very hot right now.

 

So with these eight, hopefully you’ll be able to switch from some old school SEO techniques that don’t work so well to some new ways of thinking that will take your SEO results to a great place. And with that, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

 
 
 

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

 
 

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The Local SEO Agency’s Complete Guide to Client Discovery and Onboarding

Posted by MiriamEllis

[Estimated read time: 6 minutes]

 
 

Why proper onboarding matters

 

Imagine getting three months in on a Local SEO contract before realizing that your client’s storefront is really his cousin’s garage. From which he runs two other “legit” businesses he never mentioned. Or that he neglected to mention the reviews he bought last year. Worse yet, he doesn’t even know that buying reviews is a bad thing.

 
 

The story is equally bad if you’re diligently working to build quality unique content around a Chicago client’s business in Wicker Park but then realize their address (and customer base) is actually in neighboring Avondale.

 
 

What you don’t know will hurt you. And your clients.

 
 
 

A hallmark of the professional Local SEO department or agency is its dedication to getting off on the right foot with a new client by getting their data beautifully documented for the whole team from the start. At various times throughout the life of the contract, your teammates and staff from complementary departments will be needing to access different aspects of a client’s core NAP, known challenges, company history, and goals.

 
 

Having this information clearly recorded in shareable media is the key to both organization and collaboration, as well as being the best preventative measure against costly data-oriented mistakes. Clear and consistent data play vital roles in Local SEO. Information must not only be gathered, but carefully verified with the client.

 
 

This article will offer you a working Client Discovery Questionnaire, an Initial Discovery Phone Call Script, and a useful Location Data Spreadsheet that will be easy for any customer to fill out and for you to then use to get those listings up to date. You’re about to take your client discovery process to awesome new heights!

 
 

Why agencies don’t always get onboarding right

 

Lack of a clearly delineated, step-by-step onboarding process increases the potential for human error. Your agency’s Local SEO manager may be having allergies on Monday and simply forget to ask your new client if they have more than one website, if they’ve ever purchased reviews, or if they have direct access to their Google My Business listings. Or they could have that information and forget to share it when they jump to a new agency.

 
 

The outcomes of disorganized onboarding can range from minor hassles to disastrous mistakes.

 
 

Minor hassles would include having to make a number of follow-up phone calls to fill in holes in a spreadsheet that could have been taken care of in a single outreach. It’s inconvenient for all teammates when they have to scramble for missing data that should have been available at the outset of the project.

 
 

Disastrous mistakes can stem from a failure to fully gauge the details and scope of a client’s holdings. Suddenly, a medium-sized project can take on gigantic proportions when the agency learns that the client actually has 10 mini-sites with duplicate content on them, or 10 duplicate GMB listings, or a series of call tracking numbers around the web.

 
 

It’s extremely disheartening to discover a mountain of work you didn’t realize would need to be undertaken, and the agency can end up having to put in extra uncompensated time or return to the client to renegotiate the contract. It also leads to client dissatisfaction.

 
 

Setting correct client expectations is completely dependent on being able to properly gauge the scope of a project, so that you can provide an appropriate timeline, quote, and projected benchmarks. In Local, that comes down to documenting core business information, identifying past and present problems, and understanding which client goals are achievable. With the right tools and effective communication, your agency will be making a very successful start to what you want to be a very successful project.

 
 

Professional client discovery made simple

 

There’s a lot you want to learn about a new client up front, but asking (and answering) all those questions right away can be grueling. Not to mention information fatigue, which can make your client give shorter and shorter answers when they feel like they’ve spent enough time already. Meanwhile your brain reaches max capacity and you can’t use all that valuable information because you can’t remember it.

 
 

To prevent such a disaster, we recommend dividing your Local SEO discovery process into a questionnaire to nail down the basics, a follow-up phone call to help you feel out some trickier issues, and a CSV to gather the location data. And we’ve created templates to get you started…

 
 
 

Client Discovery Questionnaire

 

Use our Local SEO Client Discovery Questionnaire to understand your client’s history, current organization, and what other consultants they might also be working with. We’ve annotated each question in the Google Doc template to help you understand what you can learn and potential pitfalls to look out for.

 
 

If you want to make collecting and preserving your clients’ answers extra easy, use Google Forms to turn that questionnaire into a form like this:

 
 
 

You can even personalize the graphic, questions, and workflow to suit your brand.

 
 

Client Discovery Phone Script

 

Once you’ve received your client’s completed questionnaire and have had time to process the responses and do any necessary due diligence (like using our Check Listings tool to check how aggregators currently display their information), it’s time to follow up on the phone. Use our annotated Local SEO Client Discovery Phone Script to get you started.

 
 

local seo client discovery phone script

 
 

No form necessary this time, because you’ll be asking the client verbally. Be sure to pay attention to the client’s tone of voice as they answer and refer to the notes under each question to see what you might be in for.

 
 

Location Data CSV

 

Sometimes the hardest part of Local SEO is getting all the location info letter-perfect. Make that easier by having the client input all those details into your copy of the Location Data Spreadsheet.

 
 

local seo location data csv

 
 

Then use the File menu to download that document as a CSV.

 
 

 
 

You’ll want to proof this before uploading it to any data aggregators. If you’re working with Moz Local, the next step is an easy upload of your CSV. If you’re working with other services, you can always customize your data collection spreadsheet to meet their standards.

 
 

Keep up to date on any business moves or changes in hours by designing a data update form like this one from SEER and periodically reminding your client contact to use it.

 
 

Why mutual signals of commitment really matter

 

There are two sides to every successful client project: one half belongs to the agency and the other to the company it serves. The attention to detail your agency displays via clean, user-friendly forms and good phone sessions will signal your professionalism and commitment to doing quality work. At the same time, the willingness of the client to take the necessary time to fill out these documents and have these conversations signals their commitment to receiving value from their investment.

 
 

It’s not unusual for a new client to express some initial surprise when they realize how many questions you’re asking them to answer. Past experience may even have led them to expect half-hearted, sloppy work from other SEO agencies. But, what you want to see is a willingness on their part to share everything they can about their company with you so that you can do your best work.

 
 

Anecdotally, I’ve fully refunded the down payments of a few incoming clients who claimed they couldn’t take the time to fill out my forms, because I detected in their unwillingness a lack of genuine commitment to success. These companies have, fortunately, been the exception rather than the rule for me, and likely will be for your agency, too.

 
 

It’s my hope that, with the right forms and a commitment to having important conversations with incoming clients at the outset, the work you undertake will make your Local team top agency and client heroes!

 
 

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

8 Guidelines for Exceptional Web Design, Usability, and User Experience

 

web-design-ux-guidelines.jpg

 

When it comes to designing or re-designing a website, it can be easy to get hung up on the aesthetics. “That shade of blue just doesn’t look right …. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the logo on the right side of the screen? …. How about we put a giant animated GIF in the middle of the page?”

 

However, if you’re truly trying to accomplish something with your website (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, etc.), you’ll need to focus on more than just how your website looks.

 

In a world where folks have more than a billion websites they can potentially land on, you need to make sure your website’s design is optimized for usability (how easy your website is to use) and user experience (how enjoyable interacting with your website is for actual users).

 

Download our free guide to web design here for more tips on designing a user-friendly website.

 

Now, you could spend years studying the ins and outs of usability and UX, but for the sake of giving you a jumping off point, we’ve put together the following list of helpful guidelines to apply to your next web design project.

 

8 Website Design Guidelines for an Exceptional User Experience

 

1) Simplicity

 

While the look and feel of your website is important, most visitors aren’t coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. Instead, they’re coming to your site to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.

 

Adding unnecessary design elements (i.e., elements that serve no functional purpose) to your website will only make it harder for visitors to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish.

 

From a usability and UX perspective, simplicity is your friend. And you can employ simplicity in a variety of different ways. Here are some examples:

 
 
 
    • Typefaces. The typefaces you choose should be legible at the very least. And when it comes to colors, you shouldn’t use too many. A common recommendation is to use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes.
 
    • Graphics. Only use them if they’ll help a user complete a task or perform a specific function (don’t just add graphics willy-nilly).
 
 

Here’s a great example of a simple homepage design from Rockaway Relief:

 

rockaway-relief-homepage-simple-design.png

 
 

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

 

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business-and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

 
 
    • The page focuses on the key content.
 
    • The necessary visual texture and interest is present-supporting the aesthetic-usability effect-but not at the expense of the key page content.
 

– See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/08/principles-over-standards.php#sthash.GdOvzpl1.dpuf

 
 
 

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

 

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business-and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

 
 
    • The page focuses on the key content.
 
    • The necessary visual texture and interest is present-supporting the aesthetic-usability effect-but not at the expense of the key page content.
 

– See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/08/principles-over-standards.php#sthash.GdOvzpl1.dpuf

 
 

2) Visual Hierarchy

 

Closely tied to the principle of simplicity, visual hierarchy entails arranging and organizing website elements so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first.

 

Remember, when it comes to optimizing for usability and UX, the goal is to lead visitors to complete a desired action, but in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By adjusting the position, color, or size of certain elements, you can structure your site in such a way that visitors will be drawn to those elements first. 

 

In the example below from Spotify, you can see that the “Get Spotify Free” call-to-action sits atop the visual hierarchy. For starters, it’s positioned on the left of the page (most visitors scan websites from left to right). What’s more, it’s the only element above the fold that uses that dark purple color, which naturally draws your attention.

 

spotify-visual-hierarchy.png

 

3) Navigability

 
 

Having intuitive navigation on your site is crucial for ensuring visitors can find what they’re looking for. Ideally, a visitor should be able to arrive on your site and not have to think extensively about where they should click next — moving from point A to point B should be as pain-free as possible.

 

Here are a few tips for optimizing your site’s navigation:

 
 
    • Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
 
    • Include navigation in the footer of your site.
 
    • Use breadcrumbs on every page (except for the homepage) so people are aware of their navigation trail.
 
    • Include a search box near the top of your site so visitors can search by keywords.
 
    • Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
 
    • Don’t dig too deep. In most cases, it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep. (Check out this article for more clarity around flat vs. deep navs.)
 
    • Include links within your page copy, and make it clear where those links lead to.
 
 

Another pointer: Once you’ve settled on what your site’s main (top) navigation will be, keep it consistent. The labels and location of your navigation should remain the same on each and every page of your site. Here’s an example from the InVision website:

 

InVision_Nav.png

 

InVision_Nav_Main.png

 

And this leads us to our next principle …

 

4) Consistency

 

In addition to keeping your site’s navigation consistent, the overall look and feel of your site should be consistent across all of your site’s pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas where being consistent can have a positive impact on usability and UX.

 

That’s not to say, however, that every page on your site should have the same exact layout. Instead, you should create different layouts for specific types of pages (e.g., a layout for landing pages, a layout for informational pages, etc.), and by using those layouts consistently, you’ll make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they’re likely to find on a given page.

 

In the example below, you can see that Airbnb uses the same layout for all of its “Help” pages (a common practice). Just imagine what it would be like from a visitor’s perspective if every “Help” page had its own, unique layout. (It would likely result in a lot of shoulder shrugging.)

 

help-page-airbnb.png

 

5) Accessibility

 

According to comScore, tablet internet consumption grew 30% between 2013 and 2015. Smartphone internet consumption, meanwhile, grew 78% during the same time period. The takeaway here: In order to provide a truly great user experience, your site needs to be compatible with the different devices (and operating systems, and browsers) that your visitors are using.

 

At a high-level, this means investing in a website structure that is highly flexible — like responsive design. With a responsive site, content is automatically resized and reshuffled to fit the dimensions of whichever device a visitor happens to be using. (HubSpot Marketing customers: Using built-in responsive design, HubSpot content built on the COS is automatically optimized for visitors from any device.)

 

responsive_design_2-2.jpg

 

At a lower level, improving accessibility can be as simple as adding alt-text to all of your images (so visitors who can’t see images in their browsers can still understand what’s on the page).

 

Ultimately, it’s more important that your website provides a great experience across different platforms as opposed to having to it look identical across those platforms. And that can mean adhering to platform-specific design conventions instead of trying to squeeze in unique elements that users of that platform might not be familiar with.

 

This leads us to our next principle …

 

6) Conventionality

 

There are certain web design conventions which, over the years, internet users have become increasingly familiar with. Such conventions include:

 
 
    • Having the main navigation be at the top (or left side) of a page
 
    • Having a logo at the top left (or center) of a page
 
    • Having that logo be clickable so it always brings a visitor back to the homepage
 
    • Having links change color/appearance when you hover over them
 
 

While it might be tempting to throw all such design conventions out the window for the sake of being completely original or unique, this would (likely) be a mistake. It’d be akin to putting a car’s steering wheel in the backseat, which is to say: it would confuse people.

 

In order to provide the best experience possible for your site’s visitors, take advantage of the fact that you already know what types of web experiences they’re familiar with. You can use this information to make your site easier for visitors to navigate.

 

One of the most common examples of conventionality in web design: Using a shopping cart icon on an ecommerce site:

 

shopping-cart-icons.png

 

In the image above, you can see (from left to right) shopping cart icons from Amazon, Wayfair, and Best Buy.

 

7) Credibility

 

Ultimately, using web design conventions — design elements and strategies that visitors are already familiar with — can help give your site more credibility. And if you’re striving to build a site that provides the best user experience possible, credibility (a.k.a. the amount of trust your site conveys) can go a long way.

 

One of the best ways to improve your site’s credibility is to be clear and honest about the product/service you’re selling on the site. Don’t make visitors have to dig through dozens of pages to find out what it is you actually do. Instead, be up front about it, and dedicate some real estate to explaining the value behind what you do.

 

Another credibility tip: Have a pricing page. While it can be tempting to force people to contact you in order for them to learn more about pricing, having prices listed clearly on your site can definitely make your business seem more trustworthy and legitimate. Here’s an example of a great pricing page from the Box website:

 

pricing-page-box.png

 

8) User-Centricity

 

At the end of the day, usability and user experience hinge on the preferences of the end users. (After all, if you’re not designing for them … who are you designing for?)

 

So while the principles detailed in this list are a great starting point, the real key to improving the design of your site is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and make changes based on what you’ve learned. 

 

Here are a few user testing tools to get you started:

 
 
    • Crazy EggUse this tool to track multiple domains under one account and uncover insights about your site’s performance using four different intelligence tools — heat map, scroll map, overlay, and confetti.
 
    • Loop11. Use this tool to easily create usability tests — even if you don’t have any HTML experience. 
 
 
 

(Read this for even more helpful tools.)

 

According to Vitamin T, 68% of visitors fail to convert because they don’t think you care about their experience. So as a final bit of usability/UX wisdom, start caring more! Put yourself into the shoes of your site’s visitors and keep them in mind every step of the way.

 

What other principles do you think make for exceptional website design and usability?

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

 
 

 

 

free introduction to growth-driven web design

 
 

introduction to growth-driven web design

 
 

Measuring Content: You’re Doing it Wrong

Posted by MatthewBarby

[Estimated read time: 10 minutes]

 
 

The traditional ways of measuring the success or failure of content are broken. We can’t just rely on metrics like the number of pageviews/visits or bounce rate to determine whether what we’re creating has performed well.

 
 

“The primary thing we look for with news is impact, not traffic,” says Jonah Peretti, Founder of BuzzFeed. One of the ways that BuzzFeed have mastered this is with the development of their proprietary analytics platform, POUND.

 
 

POUND enables BuzzFeed to predict the potential reach of a story based on its content, understand how effective specific promotions are based on the downstream sharing and traffic, and power A/B tests – and that’s just a few examples.

 
 

Just because you’ve managed to get more eyeballs onto your content doesn’t mean it’s actually achieved anything. If that were the case then I’d just take a few hundred dollars and buy some paid StumbleUpon traffic every time.

 
 

Yeah, I’d generate traffic, but it’s highly unlikely to result in me achieving some of my actual business goals. Not only that, but I’d have no real indication of whether my content was satisfying the needs of my visitors.

 
 

The scary thing is that the majority of content marketing campaigns are measured this way. I hear statements like “it’s too difficult to measure the performance of individual pieces of content” far too often. The reality is that it’s pretty easy to measure content marketing campaigns on a micro level – a lot of the time people don’t want to do it.

 
 

Engagement over entrances

 

Within any commercial content marketing campaign that you’re running, measurement should be business goal-centric. By that I mean that you should be determining the overall success of your campaign based on the achievement of core business goals.

 
 

If your primary business goal is to generate 300 leads each month from the content that you’re publishing, you’ll need to have a reporting mechanism in place to track this information.

 
 

On a more micro-level, you’ll want to be tracking and using engagement metrics to enable you to influence the achievement of your business goals. In my opinion, all content campaigns should have robust, engagement-driven reporting behind them.

 
 

Total Time Reading (TTR)

 

One metric that Medium uses, which I think adds a lot more value than pageviews, is “Total Time Reading (TTR).” This is a cumulative metric that quantifies the total number of minutes spent reading a piece of content. For example, if I had 10 visitors to one of my blog articles and they each stayed reading the article for 1 minute each, the total reading time would be 10 minutes.

 
 

“We measure every user interaction with every post. Most of this is done by periodically recording scroll positions. We pipe this data into our data warehouse, where offline processing aggregates the time spent reading (or our best guess of it): we infer when a reader started reading, when they paused, and when they stopped altogether. The methodology allows us to correct for periods of inactivity (such as having a post open in a different tab, walking the dog, or checking your phone).” (source)

 
 

The reason why this is more powerful than just pageviews is because it takes into account how engaged your readers are to give a more accurate representation of its visibility. You could have an article with 1,000 pageviews that has a greater TTR than one with 10,000 pageviews.

 
 

Scroll depth & time on page

 

A related and simpler metric to acquire is the average time on page (available within Google Analytics). The average time spent on your webpage will give a general indication of how long your visitors are staying on the page. Combining this with ‘scroll depth‘ (i.e. how far down the page has a visitor scrolled) will help paint a better picture of how ‘engaged’ your visitors are. You’ll be able to get the answer to the following:

 
 

“How much of this article are my visitors actually reading?”

 
 

“Is the length of my content putting visitors off?”

 
 

“Are my readers remaining on the page for a long time?”

 
 

Having the answers to these questions is really important when it comes to determining which types of content are resonating more with your visitors.

 
 

Social Lift

 

BuzzFeed’s “Social Lift” metric is a particularly good way of understanding the ‘virality’ of your content (you can see this when you publish a post to BuzzFeed). BuzzFeed calculates “Social Lift” as follows:

 
 

((Social Views)/(Seed Views)+1)

 
 

Social Views: Traffic that’s come from outside BuzzFeed; for example, referral traffic, email, social media, etc.

 
 

Seed Views: Owned traffic that’s come from within the BuzzFeed platform; e.g. from appearing in BuzzFeed’s newsfeed.

 
 

BuzzFeed Social Lift

 
 

This is a great metric to use when you’re a platform publisher as it helps separate out traffic that’s coming from outside of the properties that you own, thus determining its “viral potential.”

 
 

There are ways to use this kind of approach within your own content marketing campaigns (without being a huge publisher platform) to help get a better idea of its “viral potential.”

 
 

One simple calculation can just involve the following:

 
 

((social shares)/(pageviews)+1)

 
 

This simple stat can be used to determine which content is likely to perform better on social media, and as a result it will enable you to prioritize certain content over others for paid social promotion. The higher the score, the higher its “viral potential.” This is exactly what BuzzFeed does to understand which pieces of content they should put more weight behind from a very early stage.

 
 

You can even take this to the next level by replacing pageviews with TTR to get a more representative view of engagement to sharing behavior.

 
 

The bottom line

 

Alongside predicting “viral potential” and “TTR,” you’ll want to know how your content is performing against your bottom line. For most businesses, that’s the main reason why they’re creating content.

 
 

This isn’t always easy and a lot of people get this wrong by looking for a silver bullet that doesn’t exist. Every sales process is different, but let’s look at the typical process that we have at HubSpot for our free CRM product:

 
 
 
    1. Visitor comes through to our blog content from organic search.
 
    1. Visitor clicks on a CTA within the blog post.
 
    1. Visitor downloads a gated offer in exchange for their email address and other data.
 
    1. Prospect goes into a nurturing workflow.
 
    1. Prospect goes through to a BOFU landing page and signs up to the CRM.
 
    1. Registered user activates and invites in members of their team.
 
 

This is a simple process, but it can still be tricky sometimes to get a dollar value on each piece of content we produce. To do this, you’ve got to understand what the value of a visitor is, and this is done by working backwards through the process.

 
 

The first question to answer is, “what’s the lifetime value (LTV) of an activated user?” In other words, “how much will this customer spend in their lifetime with us?”

 
 

For e-commerce businesses, you should be able to get this information by analyzing historical sales data to understand the average order value that someone makes and multiply that by the average number of orders an individual will make with you in their lifetime.

 
 

For the purposes of this example, let’s say each of our activated CRM users has an LTV of $100. It’s now time to work backwards from that figure (all the below figures are theoretical)…

 
 

Question 1: “What’s the conversion rate of new CRM activations from our email workflow(s)?”

 
 

Answer 1: “5%”

 
 

Question 2: “How many people download our gated offers after coming through to the blog content?”

 
 

Answer 2: “3%”

 
 

Knowing this would help me to start putting a monetary value against each visitor to the blog content, as well as each lead (someone that downloads a gated offer).

 
 

Let’s say we generate 500,000 visitors to our blog content each month. Using the average conversion rates from above, we’d convert 15,000 of those into email leads. From there we’d nurture 750 of them into activated CRM users. Multiply that by the LTV of a CRM user ($100) and we’ve got $75,000 (again, these figures are all just made up).

 
 

Using this final figure of $75,000, we could work backwards to understand the value of a single visitor to our blog content:

 
 

((75,000)/(500,000))

 
 

Single Visitor Value: $0.15

 
 

We can do the same for email leads using the following calculation:

 
 

(($75,000)/(15,000))

 
 

Individual Lead Value: $5.00

 
 

Knowing these figures will help you be able to determine the bottom-line value of each of your pieces of content, as well as calculating a rough return on investment (ROI) figure.

 
 

Let’s say one of the blog posts we’re creating to encourage CRM signups generated 500 new email leads; we’d see a $2,500 return. We could then go and evaluate the cost of producing that blog post (let’s say it takes 6 hours at $100 per hour – $600) to calculate a ROI figure of 316%.

 
 

ROI in its simplest form is calculated as:

 
 

(((($return)-($investment))/($investment))*100)

 
 

You don’t necessarily need to follow these figures religiously when it comes to content performance on a broader level, especially when you consider that some content just doesn’t have the primary goal of lead generation. That said, for the content that does have this goal, it makes sense to pay attention to this.

 
 

The link between engagement and ROI

 

So far I’ve talked about two very different forms of measurement:

 
 
 
    1. Engagement
 
    1. Return on investment
 
 

What you’ll want to avoid is actually thinking about these as isolated variables. Return on investment metrics (for example, lead conversion rate) are heavily influenced by engagement metrics, such as TTR.

 
 

The key is to understand exactly which engagement metrics have the greatest impact on your ROI. This way you can use engagement metrics to form the basis of your optimization tests in order to make the biggest impact on your bottom line.

 
 

Let’s take the following scenario that I faced within my own blog as an example…

 
 

The average length of the content across my website is around 5,000 words. Some of my content way surpasses 10,000 words in length, taking an estimated hour to read (my recent SEO tips guide is a perfect example of this). As a result, the bounce rate on my content is quite high, especially from mobile visitors.

 
 

Keeping people engaged within a 10,000-word article when they haven’t got a lot of time on their hands is a challenge. Needless to say, it makes it even more difficult to ensure my CTAs (aimed at newsletter subscriptions) stand out.

 
 

From some testing, I found that adding my CTAs closer to the top of my content was helping to improve conversion rates. The main issue I needed to tackle was how to keep people on the page for longer, even when they’re in a hurry.

 
 

To do this, I worked on the following solution: give visitors a concise summary of the blog post that takes under 30 seconds to read. Once they’ve read this, show them a CTA that will give them something to read in more detail in their own time.

 
 

All this involved was the addition of a “Summary” button at the top of my blog post that, when clicked, hides the content and displays a short summary with a custom CTA.

 
 

Showing Custom Summaries

 
 

This has not only helped to reduce the number of people bouncing from my long-form content, but it also increased the number of subscribers generated from my content whilst improving user experience at the same time (which is pretty rare).

 
 

I’ve thought that more of you might find this quite a useful feature on your own websites, so I packaged it up as a free WordPress plugin that you can download here.

 
 

Final thoughts

 

The above example is just one example of a way to impact the ROI of your content by improving engagement. My advice is to get a robust measurement process in place so that you’re able to first of all identify opportunities, and then go through with experiments to take advantage of the opportunity.

 
 

More than anything, I’d recommend that you take a step back and re-evaluate the way that you’re measuring your content campaigns to see if what you’re doing really aligns with the fundamental goals of your business. You can invest in endless tools that help you measure things better, but if core metrics that you’re looking for are wrong, then this is all for nothing.

 
 

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