What is SEO? Is it a technical discipline that involves auditing website structures, researching search volumes & conversion rates, assessing code and sorting out URLs? Or is it a creative process leveraging brand power, content placement, working to establish online relationships and ultimately position products in front of the right users?
Well actually, it’s both.
Legacy SEO over the last decade had an over-reliance on specific key term focus – aiming to move up a website’s visibility for a limited set of key terms. This led to conversations down the pub about ‘what’s the best key term ranking you hold in Google’…
It’s not like that anymore and those days are long behind us. SEO is about improving overall visibility of a website across a portfolio of search queries that ultimately drive traffic from relevant users – a much bigger and far more holistic view. Not only is this far more sustainable, but leads to better conversion rates and traffic levels when executed correctly.
Think of it this way: One high-value key term can generate 10,000 visits a month, but 10 more relevant and niche key terms could provide the same 10,000 visits, but have a much higher conversion rate as the queries are a lot more specific, meaning the visitor is more likely to become a customer.
Taking a marketing led approach to SEO is essential in accomplishing this task. It’s not all about being a technical wizard, but understanding searcher behaviour and trends and knowing how a solid technical foundation can contribute towards an overall goal.
Understanding website usability is a crucial aspect of a successful online marketing strategy. In this article we review some commonly held misbeliefs against our own experience with actual user research and testing.
1. Myth: Your home page is the most important page to your users
Users rarely spend very long on your home page or care about it. They are on your site to get a task done and generally this won’t be found on the home page. We are not claiming you should ignore your home page content and design. But frequently business owners obsess over their home page, when users are more concerned with specific pages deeper in the site. As a function to your users a home page usually acts as:
I recently read a very interesting blog post on an affiliate forum which prompted me to think about how the culture of our country has changed over the years.
There was a time not so long ago where using a discount or cutting out a coupon from a newspaper was a shameful admission of your less than adequate social status; to present a coupon at the checkout to get a discount on a can of baked beans was not something to be proud of.
Fast forward a few years and the combination of multiple dipped recessions and the emergence of voucher code and cashback sites has seen a dramatic change in consumer behaviour. If you now use a voucher to buy something or get a deal for dinner at half price you are considered to be a shrewd and savvy shopper. Finding out that a friend paid £25 more than you did for the same pair of shoes is now more likely to be something you brag about.
When you look at how consumer behaviour has changed towards shopping in general over the last 5 years it can be quite baffling that some advertisers still shy away from working with the discount and cashback led websites in order to grow their own business.
Data You Can’t Ignore
A recent study by Santander 123 shows just how much people are using these kinds of sites in order to ensure they are saving as much money as possible especially in these tough economic times:
Yesterday’s announcement from Facebook unveiled a new version of News Feed that is Facebook’s answer to keeping users engaged and advertisers happy, and at first glance it appears that Facebook has delivered. The changes that Facebook made will especially reward brands that know how to create engagement through compelling content – especially through visual storytelling.
The announcement comes at a time when Facebook still reigns as the king of social, but according to a recent study from PEW the social giant has been seeing decline in time spent on the network. Additionally, there’s been a movement of younger audiences to social networks like Tumblr, which is still absent of parents. Brands have also been unhappy with Facebook in recent months. Changes to the Edge Rank algorithm last year capped a brand’s organic reach at 16 percent, putting greater pressure on brands to pay for increased reach. And even those brands utilizing paid have demanded more dynamic and engaging ad units from Facebook.
Today’s news will affect brands by placing a greater emphasis on visuals and a potential to increase reach through the “Following” feed.
A Greater Emphasis on Visuals
While the News Feed update puts a greater emphasis on photos, iCrossing is already seeing an upward trend of brands publishing more photos on Facebook. However, we see few brands doing it well. Creating original content for Facebook for day-to-day publishing can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, a lot of brands struggle because they don’t have a huge content library that they can utilize. So as a workaround, we see a lot of brands using generic stock photos. Using stock photos is better than nothing, but generic images don’t help brands differentiate themselves.
At Social Media Week 2013, singer-songwriter Daria Musk sat with iCrossing’s Vice President of Marketing David Deal and Google+ Marketing Manager Caroline McCarthy. Together they discussed how social media vaulted Musk’s career to unbelievable heights. Musk and McCarthy spoke at length about how the experience shaped both Musk’s career as a musician and Google’s willingness to empower users.
Musk, once a struggling singer-songwriter, now broadcasts her music via Google+ Hangouts to more than 2.2 million friends in her Circles. She has developed her entire career off of social media, and has garnered endorsements from highly visible brands like Verizon Wireless and Taylor Guitars without a record deal (or even having an album recorded!).
Google has also greatly benefited from its collaboration with Musk. McCarthy said Google as a brand “can only go so far with telling their own story,” and that “empowering users to speak for themselves” can develop Google’s brand to new heights.
Whether it’s to promote new music or get a campaign off the ground, musicians and brands alike can benefit from this collaboration between Musk and Google. There are four key elements to look for in a successful social campaign:
- A story. Be it music or branded messaging, the most fundamental component to success is having something that can captivate an audience. A story defines you and allows your audience to relate on some level.
At iCrossing we’re always looking to new betas for the opportunities they provide – despite the initial teething issues they can sometimes have, they allow us to get in on the ground level and find new ways we can deliver efficiencies to accounts, or use new features to expand into previously unprofitable areas.
Currently remarketing allows us to target ads on the Google Display Network (GDN) based on where users have been on our clients site – for example, targeting people who visited the basket page, but ultimately did not convert. GDN ads, however, don’t generally catch users who are actively searching, but when they’re in a more passive, browsing mind-set, and performance tends to reflect this.
“Search remarketing” is something advertisers have been after for a while. Utilising user data on the SERP (search engine results page) offers an incredibly attractive proposition, with the potential for massive conversion rates with minimal wasted spend. For example, is it worth showing ads to users who have already purchased your product in the last few days, who may click an ad for navigation? It’s a tricky area, as providing users search history to advertisers would come with a host of privacy issues and potential backlash.
In late July last year we got to see Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (or, as this is paid search and we all love an acronym, RLSA). Rather than search history, this uses cookie based audience lists already used in AdWords across the GDN. Currently in beta to whitelisted advertisers, it allows us to take a standard search ad group setup, then layer an audience list over the top to determine who to show the ads to. The actual setup for RLSA is very simple, and is almost identical to setting GDN audience remarketing.
Do you aspire to be a successful marketer, or do you want to be a market maker ?
You can be a successful marketer by executing all the marketing fundamentals professionally – launching websites that reflect your brand, responding to your customers, and being present on all the right social spaces. Market makers do all those activities, but they strive to do something else: inspire people to act, to believe, and to live their lives differently. Marketers sell things; market makers change the world. One type of market maker, known as a creator, inspires action by developing products and services that reflect a personal vision, as Steve Jobs and Body Shop founder Anita Roddick did. A second type, known as a catalyst, inspires by curating and sharing ideas of other people, as exemplified by the careers of venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki and Ahmet Ertegun, who founded Atlantic Records. But you don’t need to unleash the iPad or be a best-selling author to be a market maker. You just need to develop traits such as having passion and a willingness to take some risk in your life. This point of view discusses inspirational market makers and shows you how you can act like one.
I found the inspiration to be a market maker from an unlikely source: Cornflakes with John Lennon, an episodic memoir written in 2009 by acclaimed rock critic Robert Hilburn. As he reflects on his career rubbing elbows with the likes of John Lennon and Bob Dylan, Hilburn explores the difference between a professional rock star and a true artist. Here is how Hilburn makes the distinction between professionals and artists: Much of what we call popular music, whatever the specific genre, results from hollow professionalism – the sound of musicians and record producers pretty much working within the conventional boundaries of the day, recycling whatever ideas and styles are most likely to sell records… The most extreme pretend pop is the whole American Idol phenomenon. The memorable artists help us explore our emotions, either through their intense originality or by looking bravely at their own deepest fears and grandest dreams. To be a true artist, he writes, “You need enormous talent, fierce ambition, an original vision, and an unyielding toughness.” Substitute the phrase “market maker” for artist, and you get what I’m driving at. I believe marketers can elevate themselves to the role of market maker by bringing our own personal imprints to what we do. Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, Anita Roddick, and Ahmet Ertegun are four shining examples.
SEO is undoubtedly a great way to get visits to your website, both in the mid and long term. However, online retailers face many obstacles when trying to improve their sales through their visibility in the SERPs.
The key elements for making your website visible, usable and useful are the following:
- A solid site architecture
- Well structured content
- Good navigation
1. User & Search Engine Experience
When a customer lands on your site, they need to be able to move around it easily to get to what they need and search engine crawlers need to be able to discover as much content as possible. An often quoted rule of thumb is that both users and search engines want to be able to reach any piece of content within 3 clicks, which is a good starting point for analysing or planning your site architecture.
2. Site Architecture
Breadcrumbs are another feature that can help a large website with their site architecture while providing users with an easy way to navigate through the site. Not only does this help the user experience, but it encourages link equity to flow through the pages, helping create a strong internal link profile. As you can see in the image, users can easily access the Homepage, category and sub category pages. When implementing site-wide breadcrumbs, it is recommended to optimise the desired anchor text.
Every year we like to take a look at the state of mobile usage around the world, what platforms dominate in each country and how this has changed over time. The last 12 months have seen some interesting changes in the mobile landscape with Android being the biggest winner and Nokia the biggest loser.
In the UK Blackberry continues to hold on for dear life as it slips from 2nd into 3rd position, dropping 11 percentage points over the last 12 months. Interestingly the UK is one of the last few markets where Blackberry holds any significant market share (Canada is another). Android is the big winner in the UK increasing its share by 10% to bump it up to second place behind market leader Apple.
In the USA Apple has strengthened its position increasing market share slightly in the past year (8% increase), while Android has remained level. Blackberry continued its decline in the US and now holds less than 2% market share.
(click for a larger image)
With 2013 set to become the year of ‘content marketing’, it’s important to ensure that your business is creating fresh, engaging and relevant content. This can seem daunting and a common misconception is that you won’t have the staff numbers or in-house expertise to create and promote engaging assets. But in reality, the beauty of digital marketing is that you have the freedom to share information regularly and immediately. Google+ is key, and getting your business active now will benefit traffic, customer engagement and SEO goals long-term. Here are 4 key tips for maximising your presence through Google+.
Synchronise your Calendars:
One of the biggest concerns for businesses venturing into social is what they will say. Combine your PR and Marketing calendars to map out a new ‘conversation’ calendar to apply across all your social profiles. Schedule competitions, highlight discussions around launches and press releases, and update followers on industry news. Include your blog content in the calendar. If your business doesn’t have one yet, now is the time. Host it on your existing site to ensure traffic drives equity to your main domain; make sure you share each post on Google+. This will help unite your marketing strategy and will ensure that you have enough substance to engage with customers and influencers on Google+.
- Connect – iCrossing U.K.
- Conecta2 – iCrossing LATAM & Spain
- Greatfinds – iCrossing U.S.
- Talblick – iCrossing Germany
- The Content Lab
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Other Blogs We Recommend
- Core Audience
- Forrester Blogs
- Google Plus Blog
- iMedia Connection
- Media Monkey
- Mobile, Social, Ambient by Rachel Pasqua
- Online Marketing Blog by Tristán Elósegui
- Search Engine Land
- The Content Lab
- The Facebook Blog
- The Official Google Blog
- Twitter Blog
- Wired Sussex
- WSJ Digits