How to Improve Google Landing Page Experience and Ad Quality Scores

If you run a small business, transitioning from print ads in local media to Google Ads can involve a steep learning curve. When you purchase an ad in the alt-weekly people grab as they leave the grocery store or the coupon mailers that come in the mail every Tuesday, you know exactly what to expect — you know when, where, and how often your advertisement will appear.

With Google Ads, there are no guarantees. You create an ad and set a budget, but will anyone see it? This is a source of frustration for many businesses that are new to using Google Ads, and it’s one of the reasons why a lot of people end up throwing in the towel.

Today, I’m going to demystify Google Ads by explaining one of the key factors in getting Google to display your ads: Landing Page Experience.

Ad Quality Scores and Landing Page Experience

While search engine ranking algorithms are essentially a mystery, Google Ads has a little more transparency when it comes to their Ad Quality Scores. The better your score, the more often your ad will be displayed to users searching for your keyword.

Landing Page Experience is one of three important criteria Google uses to assign an Ad Quality Score. Many people agonize over finding just the right keywords and crafting the perfect copy for their Google Ads, but they spend no time working on their landing page — this is a huge mistake. Google wants to ensure that there’s congruence between your ad copy and your landing page; they also want to see that once people click through to your site, they’re not quickly leaving because they’re not finding what they need.

What Does Google Look for in a Landing Page?

If you’re struggling to get your Ad Quality Score up so more people see your ads, it’s time to take an in-depth look at your landing page. Take a step back, look at your site from the perspective of a user, and ask yourself the following questions:

Is your landing page clear?

Your landing page should be easy to read, with the information people need front-and-center. Include calls to action and be judicious with the number of links on the page — you don’t want it to be too easy for people to click away from the page and leave.

Is your landing page useful?

Remember: your landing page needs to serve your customer’s needs, not yours. You may want them to sign up for your newsletter, but what’s the benefit for them in doing so? How are you helping the user? How will following through with your call-to-action (CTA) improve their lives?

Is your landing page related to your keyword?

Your landing page should be specific, not generic. If you’re an HVAC business and you’re advertising air conditioner repair in Houston, but you’re sending people to your homepage instead of a page specifically tailored to that keyword, you’re losing business. Every additional click people need to make in order to find what they need increases your drop-off rate.

Is your website transparent?

In both search and in ads, Google is increasingly looking for transparency. They want to know who you are and why people should trust you — in other words, they want to vet your business to make sure it’s legitimate. Providing links to social media, customer reviews, and other social proof can give Google (and potential customers) confidence in your business.

Does your website load quickly?

Your landing page isn’t the place to pull your Instagram feed, have display ads, and showcase ginormous high-res images. Instead, your landing page should be streamlined. Optimize it for mobile, reduce image sizes, and remove all scripts that cause lags.

Does your website have intuitive navigation?

In addition to optimizing your landing page, you’ll also want to make sure your entire website is organized in a way that makes sense. Implementing a website taxonomy with clear page hierarchies and logical categories is also great for SEO, so it’s worth taking the time to get right.

Learn More About How to Perfect Your Google Ads Campaign

Your landing page is just one of the key factors in your Ad Quality Score.  If you’re struggling to increase your Quality Scores, then click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads checklist to help uncover areas to improve your campaigns.

How Your Landing Page Is Sabotaging Your Google Ads Success

You’ve read all the tutorials. You’ve spent countless hours poring over demographic data for targeting, crafting the perfect ad copy, and tweaking your campaign. In fact, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do — but you’re still not seeing any success with Google Ads. Does this sound familiar? If so, the problem probably isn’t with your ad campaign. Instead, look to your landing page for answers.

Here are five ways your landing page could be sabotaging your success with Google Ads.

Your Landing Page Doesn’t Match Your Ad

I’m big on the concept of congruence, which is a fancy way of saying that your ad and your landing page need to make sense together. A landing page is your opportunity to expand upon the copy in your ad. Rather than thinking of your ad and your landing page as two separate pieces, think of your ad as the synopsis or introduction to the landing page on your site.

If you own a furniture store and you’re creating an ad for bunk beds, but your landing page goes to a category page for all beds, it’s frustrating for your customer. They want to click the ad and see exactly what they came to your site for. The more they have to poke around your website to find what they need, the more likely you are to lose them in the process.

It’s also important to note that Google also wants your landing page to match your ad — they give higher quality scores to landing pages with text that is relevant to the text in the ad.

This leads us to our next mistake…

Your Homepage Is Your Landing Page

Repeat after me, “My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page.”

I’ve reviewed countless Google Ads accounts that were making this mistake and it was costing them hundreds to even thousands per month. If you’re advertising a service, your ad should go directly to a landing page focusing on that particular service; if you’re advertising a special deal or promo code, your ad should go directly to a landing page explaining how customers can take advantage of it.

To further expand on a point from above, you simply can’t expect potential customers or clients to find what they need. People are busy, impatient, and they don’t want to do the work. Hold their hands and guide them to the actions you want them to take. Create unique landing pages customized to all of your ads. Is it a bit of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

Visitors Are Met With a Wall of Text

There are some boilerplate landing pages out there that are heavy on text, with a “Buy Now” button placed between every other paragraph. These are old school, but you still see them around occasionally and even businesses that don’t use these templates often borrow from the concept.

People aren’t interested in reading a dissertation about your product, service, or offer. That’s not how you make a sale. Instead, use bullet points, headings, and short paragraphs. Incorporate images and graphics and have a good headline that is congruent with your ad copy.

Your copy should be clear and concise—your landing page isn’t the place to write bloated SEO-style text that uses a lot of words to say very little. Keep it snappy and include calls to action.

It Loads Slowly

This one is self-explanatory so there’s not much more to add here. Google hates slow sites and so do consumers. Audit your site speed and replace or eliminate any code or plugins that are causing lags. People aren’t going to sit around waiting for your site to load — they’ll just click the back button and try another site instead. This is especially true for mobile, which leads to…

Your Site Isn’t Optimized for Mobile

It’s 2020. Smartphones have been around for a long time now. There’s no excuse not to have a site that’s optimized for mobile. These days, there are people who do virtually all of their internet searches on their phones. If your site requires a lot of pinching, zooming in, scrolling to the side to read long lines of text that don’t fit on the screen, etc., not only are people not going to bother, it also sends a message that your business is behind the times.

Want More Help With Your Google Ads Campaigns?

Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads Checklist.

Use Your Ideal Customer Avatar to Boost Google Ads Performance

There are a lot of components involved in a successful Google Ads campaign, but there’s one overarching theme that connects most of them: thinking like your customer.

There are a lot of components involved in a successful Google Ads campaign, but there’s one overarching theme that connects most of them: thinking like your customer. Many small business owners who do their own marketing are simply too attached to what they do to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. An ideal customer avatar can help.

What Is an Ideal Customer Avatar?

An ideal customer avatar — also known as an ideal customer persona or profile — is a hypothetical person who would purchase your goods or services. You may have one or a few, depending on your business, but you don’t want to have too many — the key word here is “ideal.” Avatars are quite granular, which helps you really get in the mindset of your customer. To start creating an avatar, think about your customer’s:

  • Basic demographics (age, sex, location, marital status)
  • Income bracket
  • Education level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Occupation
  • Household size

This is all useful, but next, we’re really going to dig deep. Here’s where you think about the mindset of your customer and go beyond the numbers and stats. Ask yourself:

  • Why do they need your product or service? How will purchasing your product or service improve their lives?
  • What are your customer’s goals?
  • What are your customer’s core values?
  • What challenges do they face? What are their pain points?
  • What would they be searching for on Google that would lead them to your business? (This question will also help you decide which keywords to target.)

To really help you connect with potential customers, you can take this a step further an write a profile of your avatar in narrative form.

Using an Ideal Customer Avatar for Google Ads

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with Google Ads is to market what you think the benefits of your product or service are. When you do this, you can easily fall into the trap of being too vague and assuming that the very existence of your business is compelling enough to drive sales.

When your Google Ads aren’t customized to your ideal customer, it’s just like launching a campaign with no parameters in place. Throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks is never good marketing — it’s all about targeting the right customer.

Take the ideal customer avatar you created and think about what would prompt them to click through to your website and make a purchase. Go back to those questions we asked earlier and use them to create customized ad copy. Tell them how your business:

  • Will make their lives better.
  • Will help them meet their goals.
  • Fits in with their values.
  • Will help them overcome their challenges.
  • Is what they’ve been looking for.

Use your most compelling call to action in your Google Ad; keep it short, punchy, clear, and direct. Then, build on that call to action with a custom landing page for each ad you create. The landing pages should touch on all of the points above and flesh out the CTA in your ad.

Naturally, you’ll want to take the demographics you’ve decided upon for your ideal customer avatar and use those in targeting your ads. Remember, you don’t want people clicking on your ads if they’re not going to make a purchase, so don’t be afraid to target a very small subset of Google users.

Expanding Beyond Google Search Ads

When you’re ready to expand your ads beyond Google Search, then you need to expand on your customer avatar. Ask and answer questions like:

  • What publications do your customers read?
  • What podcasts do your customers listen to?
  • What types of websites are your customers visiting?
  • What other complimentary businesses are your customers buying from?
  • What products or services do your customers buy before or after purchasing from your business?

The answers to these questions will help guide your decisions about how to expand your campaigns to other ad networks like Google Display, YouTube Ads, and Facebook Ads.

Want more tips to improve your Google Ads performance? Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads checklist.

 

 

Outdated SEO Practices You Need to Avoid in 2020

SEO is constantly evolving and if you don’t keep up with the latest SEO developments, you may end up doing more harm than good. Learn which outdated SEO practices you must avoid in 2020.

Like zombies in “Dawn of the Dead,” there are some outdated SEO practices that will not die. They exist in this strange netherworld between legit SEO and blackhat tactics and they’re often marketed to small business owners who don’t know any better.

At best, these tactics are ineffective, but at worst, they can tank a site’s rankings.

Shady Backlinking Schemes

If I had a nickel for every email we get from someone wanting to share a guest post on our blog, I’d be sitting on a beach in Cabo sipping a margarita instead of writing this article. Whether it’s a collection of Tiger King memes or a snoozer of a listicle about productivity, there’s often an inconspicuous little link in there to something completely off topic.

Sometimes, the pitch is direct with an offer for cash in exchange for a link.

Google considers these unnatural links and they penalize sites for having them. That’s not to say guest posting and link outreach is a waste of time, but the way to go about doing it is to carefully select a small number of quality sites, write a useful, thoughtful post, and link organically.

Keyword Repetition

For a long time, keywords made up the biggest piece of the SEO pie and we did all kinds of crazy things to shoehorn as many keywords onto our pages as possible. Invisible text, dozens and dozens of tags on a blog post, and anything else to max out that keyphrase density.

Back in the day, there was no such thing as too many keywords. Now, it’s important to watch your keyword density and make sure you land in that sweet spot between too much and too little. The WordPress plugin, SEO Yoast, is great for helping with that — it recommends a density between 0.5% and 3.5%. More than that, and Google is increasingly likely to judge your content as keyword stuffing rather than legitimate, useful content that serves its users.

While you should forego the keyword stuffing, one thing you can do to help your page get ahead in the SERPs is use synonyms and related keywords to paint a better picture of what you’re writing about. The more you flesh out your content, the more likely Google is to rank it well.

Comment Spam

Seriously, I can’t believe I’m still writing about this. How is comment spam still a thing that happens in 2020? This is one of the outdated SEO practices that baffles me the most. It hurts my heart whenever we have a new client sign up with us who has a gazillion links on forums and comment sections left by their former SEO consultants.

Odds are, if you’re reading here, you know not to leave comment spam all over the web. But also, make sure you’re moderating your own site so that comment spam does not get published on your posts.  All those comments send a message to Google: This site is not well-moderated or maintained and probably shouldn’t rank high as a result.

Meta Keywords

There’s really not much to say here, but many small businesses who run their own websites and blogs still use the meta keywords tag for SEO. It’s been over 10 years since Google even looked at meta keywords and Bing only uses them to penalize sites (i.e., the presence of excessive meta keywords is an indication that a site is attempting to game the system and likely spammy). Always fill out the meta title and meta description fields, but skip the keywords tag.

Content for the Sake of Content

No content is better than crappy content. Don’t push out blog posts, contributed guest articles, and other content just to have something there. Quality always trumps quantity. Google’s algorithms are sophisticated and can easily detect article spinning and scraped content.

Maybe you think you know better and instead of scraping content to populate a blog, you hire someone from overseas to write posts for a few dollars a pop. Most likely these won’t pass muster with Google. They want high quality content written with authority. Spelling errors, bad grammar, and posts that are written in a way that’s hard to follow are all signs that tell Google not to send users your way.

The Bottom Line

Working in SEO is a little bit like being a doctor. You have a foundation of knowledge that will always serve you well, but if you don’t keep up with the latest developments in the field, you may end up doing more harm than good. It’s not that hard to make some changes in order to avoid these outdated SEO practices, and the sooner you do it, the better.

Want more tips to help your website rank higher in Google?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Blog Posts for Search in 2020

Google never fails to keep us on our toes. Luckily, Google is pretty clear about what they want from content and these general guidelines stay the same regardless of algorithm changes. Here are five strategies to improve blog posts for search in 2020 — and beyond.

Google never fails to keep us on our toes. Just when we think we’ve perfected our content creation strategies, an algorithm update happens and everything is upended. Luckily, Google is pretty clear about what they want from content and these general guidelines stay the same regardless of algorithm changes. Here are five strategies to improve blog posts for search in 2020 — and beyond.

1. Write for Humans

Repeat after me: Google is not your audience. Many of us who work in SEO fall into the habit of writing for Google and not for people. If you construct your blog posts based on a checklist of what you think Google wants to see, it leaves them subject to all those algorithm changes we so dread.

Write for your reader. (And yes, you should have readers.) What do readers want? First, they want topics they’re interested in — this happens to work out well for SEO because people search Google for these same topics. They also want expertise about these topics. Maybe the business you’re creating content for doesn’t have time to write their own blog posts, but they should at least be reviewed for accuracy and noted as such in the post; this alone will set your content apart from the rest.

Finally, people want engaging writing. If you or a member of your team can’t write your blog content due to time constraints/resources, don’t outsource your blog writing to the lowest bidder. We all know these types of posts when we see them — 1000 words that say nothing at all and add nothing to the conversation. When someone lands upon a post like that and quickly leaves, your bounce rate goes up.

Don’t think Google doesn’t notice when you’re not meeting users’ needs.

2. Choose the Right Keywords — and Don’t Overdo It

This connects with the last point, as writing that attempts to stuff in as many keywords as possible isn’t engaging or easy to read. In fact, it can be quite cringe-worthy and, unfortunately, it’s often the standard when it comes to SEO writing. If you’re using WordPress, then you can use a tool like the SEO Yoast plugin to review your keyword ratios, which can help you find the right balance.

Don’t shoehorn unnatural keywords into your copy. You might be targeting “sparkly cowboy hats Nashville,” but insert an “in” in there so it sounds natural.

3. Make Content Skimmable

People don’t read the Internet the same way they read a book. Instead, they skim the content they’re reading. Google skims too, so setting up blog posts to be skimmable is a win-win proposition.

Skimmable means:

  • No giant walls of text
  • Small paragraphs
  • Using relevant images
  • Bullet points (yep, just like this)
  • Using headings and subheadings logically

Let’s talk about that last point. The value of a compelling headline should be no surprise. But remember the humans we’re writing for — headlines should make sense and add order to a post, not a sense of chaos. Using an <h2> tag every few sentences makes it harder to skim, not easier. Headings should tell Google what’s most important; when you use too many, you’re telling Google everything is important.

4. Put the Topic in Context

Rather than repeating keywords, build a robust web of related keywords in your content. In your blog post about sparkly cowboy hats in Nashville, perhaps write about sparkly cowboy boots too. Maybe even bedazzled jean jackets and rhinestone cowboys!

What if Sparkly Cowboy Hats was the name of a country band, though? Well, then you’re going to build that web of keywords differently. You’ll pepper your post with words like music, country, album, gig, guitar, singer. How does Google know the difference between sparkly cowboy hats and Sparkly Cowboy Hats? It’s in the context.

To use a more serious example that I often fall back on, think about contract law. Contract law could be a class in law school. Or it could be a practice area at a law firm. “Contract law” is an important keyword, but it’s the supporting, related keywords that really tell Google what the page is about.

5. Optimize Outside of the Copy

If you’re writing copy for readers, then the page title, meta description, and alt tags are where you can go to town (within reason) and optimize for Google.

Remember, though, Google wants alt tags that are written for people with visual impairments who use screen readers. They’re not a place to shove all your keywords; instead, use a keyword in the context of a description of what the image depicts. Metadata should also reflect what your blog post is actually about rather than attempting a bait-and-switch.

I’m not going to promise that following these guidelines will leave you completely immune to every upcoming algorithm change, but these simple-to-apply strategies will improve your blog posts for search and for your audience.. If anything, 2020 has already taught us to expect the unexpected. That said, if you create solid content for real people rather than jumping on every SEO trend you see, it usually pays off in the end.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

4 Takeaways From Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines Every Marketer Should Know

Google employs a massive team of quality raters across the globe to help it assess its search results. The data Google gathers from these raters is used to improve algorithms, ensuring that only the most useful and relevant pages show up in the first page of search results. But why does this matter to marketers?

Google employs a massive team of quality raters across the globe to help it assess its search results. The data Google gathers from its search quality raters is used to improve algorithms, ensuring that only the most useful and relevant pages show up in the first page of search results.

Why is this important?

In a remarkable show of transparency, Google actually makes its search quality rater guidelines available to the general public. That’s right, the same company whose make-or-break algorithm updates are cloaked in secrecy shares nearly 170 pages detailing exactly what their search quality raters are instructed to do. While quality raters do not directly influence search engine results pages (SERPs) or a site’s ranking, we can look at this document to determine what Google wants from a website — and what they don’t want, too.

The Quality of Some Pages Matters More Than Others

“Your Money or Your Life” sounds like an especially grim gameshow, but it’s the term Google uses for pages with higher stakes than others: pages that can impact a user’s happiness, health, finances, or safety. These pages are held to a search quality higher standard than other types of content.

The takeaway here is that if the site you run or perform SEO for is in one of these categories, you’re going to have to mind your Ps and Qs. Per Google’s quality rater guidelines, Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages include:

  • News and Current Events
  • Civics, Government, and Law
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Health and Safety
  • Groups of People (i.e., information about racial, ethnic, and social groups that could be potentially used to discriminate)

There’s also an Other category, in which raters are instructed to use their own discretion — these include nutrition, housing information, job search topics, and education. Recent algorithm changes have been hitting sites hard for proving themselves unreliable through the YMYL lens. Alternative medicine, for example, was seriously downgraded in the SERPs last fall, with science-based health sites including articles vetted by medical professionals taking their place.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

Remember Google Plus? It may have proven completely worthless, but it did give us insight into Google’s shift in focus to evaluating not just the content on the page, but the person or people creating it. E-A-T matters across the board, but not surprisingly, it matters more for YMYL sites. E-A-T means:

  • An article about Multiple Sclerosis should be written or reviewed by a physician or nurse, not someone touting a vegan diet as a cure.
  • News articles should be written by a journalist using proper grammar and come from a legitimate website, not a mysterious .news domain of unknown origin.
  • Science content should come from people or organizations with experience in the field and reflect scientific consensus. (Sorry, flat-earth enthusiasts.)
  • Financial, legal, home remodeling, and parenting topics must also be well-researched and written by trustworthy sources.

Even content on hobbies should be written by people with expertise. In short, Google is raising the bar in order to eliminate content farms. It also impacts those of us in the SEO field, who often use freelance writers to create a wide variety of content for an even wider variety of clients. It’s important to have your clients read and vet anything produced by a ghostwriter before it gets posted so it bolsters your client’s E-A-T score, rather than harming it.

Reputation and customer reviews are two other factors that are weighed when determining E-A-T—anyone offering professional services should send out reminders to clients asking them to write reviews because Google instructs its quality raters to look at these, which means that Google’s algorithms are also looking at these factors.

Supplementary Information Is Important

Related to this last point, search quality raters also are told to visit other pages on a website in order to make their evaluations. Transparency is critical here — an “About Us” page should not be vague, but crystal clear about the business being run and the team behind it. There should be a contact page on every website — and it should have actual contact information, not just a form to fill out.

This, too, is weighed differently for YMYL pages. Per Google’s search quality rater guidelines:

“If a store or financial transaction website just has an email address and physical address, it may be difficult to get help if there are issues with the transaction.”

The takeaway here is that even email and a physical address may not be enough to satisfy Google in some circumstances. You (or your client) should be comfortable putting it all out there if they have a YMYL page and they want to rank well in the SERPs.

Content (Is Still) King

Content is king. It is still king. It will always be king.

Ultimately, Google’s goal has been the same since it began: to make money. And how does Google make money? By delivering users the best content to meet their needs. The days of hiring people in far-flung places to write a garbled blog post about conveyor belts for $5 are over. SEO isn’t about tricks; it’s not about gaming the system.

Many people in our field spend a lot of time fretting about algorithms and jump on every SEO trend they read about. The danger in this is that as soon as you start implementing some shiny new strategy, Google catches on and adjusts its algorithm and the rankings plummet. You start feeling like a hamster on a wheel, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Read Google’s search quality rater guidelines and see what they look for and do those things. Without good content, none of the other SEO techniques you use will matter.

The Bottom Line

What does Google want in a website? High-quality content from reliable sources. Accuracy matters, but so does the quality of writing. User experience should be good, sites should be viewable and usable on mobile, and if a website has ads, they should not render a site unusable. Take a step back and evaluate each page on a site and ask yourself if you’d find it helpful before you release it into the world.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

 

How Marketers Can Craft Content With Search Intent in Mind

Keywords, of course, still matter. They will always matter. Some might even argue they matter most — they are the foundation for much of what we do in SEO. But the rise of search intent represents a sea change in how we think about keywords.

If you’re my age, you remember the bad old days of the Internet. Remember the flashing banner ads, animated GIFs, and website visitor counters? Back in the ’90s, the Internet was pretty ugly, because the technology was in its infancy.

SEO was also in its infancy. To rank high in the search results, simply repeat the same keyword over and over again. Eventually, Google joined the search game and its algorithm used off-page factors, like backlinks. Unfortunately, the focus on keywords was ingrained in the minds of webmasters, SEO consultants, and small businesses. So keyword stuffing persists to this day.

Keywords, of course, still matter. They will always matter. Some might even argue they matter most — they are the foundation for much of what we do in SEO. But the rise of search intent represents a sea change in how we think about keywords.

What Is Search Intent?

Traditionally, search engines focused on what people were searching for. Now, many more factors are at play—how they search (mobile, desktop, or voice) and why they search matter too. Search intent is about understanding why someone is searching for something and what information they’re looking for.

Targeting Keyphrases vs. Targeting Intent

When someone searches for “contract law,” what is the user searching for? It could be a class in law school; it could be a resource for attorneys or laypeople about the ins and outs of contracts. Odds are, though, that it’s not a search for an attorney to hire. That kind of search would be more likely phrased as “contract lawyer” or  “contract lawyer austin tx.” If you’re an attorney optimizing a services page for the term “contract law,” then you’re not helping the user find what they need.

By targeting intent, we give Google contextual clues to better match their users’ queries. Optimizing for intent isn’t about repetition and stuffing the same, or slight variations of, keywords onto a page ad nauseam. Instead, it involves building rich, high-quality content with related keywords, context, and concepts. By meeting users’ needs better, we reduce bounce rate, and in turn, drive more leads and sales.

Types of Search Intent

Google’s rater guidelines define three types of search intent, although other sources sometimes list a fourth (more on that below). Searches can be:

  • Navigational, where the intent is to find a specific website or page on a website. (Examples: “gmail login,” “facebook”)
  • Transactional, in which the user’s intent is to purchase a product or service. (Examples: “purchase iPhone,” “contract lawyer austin tx”
  • Informational, when a user is researching a topic or needs information. (Examples: “president of Canada,” “list of federal holidays”)

Commercial investigation is sometimes cited as another type of search intent; this type of search probably falls under informational, as its focus is finding information about a product before making a purchase, but it has the potential to convert, so it may also be categorized as a transactional search.

How to Use Search Intent to Match the Needs of Users

When we perform on-page optimizations for search intent for our clients, we add context to a page’s content to match the intent of the user:

  • For a transactional search, we use words like “buy” and “purchase,” or for a service, we use words like “hire” and “consultation.” This tells Google that the page is not informational or navigational.
  • A blog article or FAQ is often used to target informational searches. Tutorial and question-and-answer formats do particularly well. Instead of targeting one specific keyword, build rich content with a web of related keywords. For example, in a blog post about tonsillectomies, phrases like “sore throat,” “recovery,” “ear nose throat doctor,” “adenoids,” and “coblation” all add context to the page.
  • Robust branding is the best way to boost a client’s ranking for navigational searches. Business information, including address, business hours, and services offered, should be readily available on the site.
  • For commercial investigation, include words like “best” and “review,” or add product comparison charts and rankings.

It’s important to note that, as search has shifted away from simple keyword optimization to search intent, it means that not every page on a website needs to include a 500-word wall of text. For a blog post targeting someone researching a particular topic? Absolutely. For a product page on an e-commerce site? Focus more on conversion tactics, like adding big “Buy” buttons, shipping information, product specs, and customer reviews.

In the early days of search engines, beating a competitor’s ranking was a matter of mentioning a keyword 10 times if they mentioned it five. Now, the goal is to meet users’ needs better. When researching competitors, note what their sites are missing. This works particularly well for informational pages. If, for example, you’re adding a blog post about litigation to a contract law attorney’s website and their competitors also have blog posts about litigation, but none of them have details about what occurs during a trial, adding that information to the post can help you rise to the top of the SERPs.

We shake our fists at the sky whenever Google makes changes to how it ranks websites, but the focus on intent is actually a beautiful thing. Unlike those old website visitor counters that you could hit refresh on repeatedly, it’s hard to game the system when it comes to search intent — that’s good news for users, for us, and for our clients.

Want more tips to improve your SEO? Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

3 Google Analytics Tips for E-Commerce

There’s a lot more to Google Analytics than looking at basic traffic metrics. These tips will help you make improvements to drive more e-commerce sales from your different marketing channels. 

Many businesses using Google Analytics are only scratching the surface of what Google Analytics can do. By not taking advantage of the platform’s more powerful features, they lose out on getting a lot of valuable insights about their marketing and how to make the most of their budgets.

Covering every aspect of Google Analytics would require an e-book. So in this article, I’ll walk through three steps to get you started and more familiar with Google Analytics.

1. Base Your Website Objectives on Specific Business Needs

You can use Google Analytics to measure how well your website performs in helping you hit your company’s target KPIs. Do not rely on the defaults set up in Google Analytics. Those are meant to cover a broad range of companies, and some of them are not applicable to your business needs.

Instead, take the time to define the important KPIs that your website should be hitting. For example, in addition to online sales, is your goal to generate quote requests for larger/bulk orders? Is another goal to collect email addresses by offering a free report? Where do visitors need to go on your website if they are interested in your products or services?

As you think through these goals, you’ll start to identify conversions that you need to set up in the Google Analytics admin area. This is a critical step that will allow you to monitor the performance of all of your different marketing channels. For example, if your goal is to generate quote requests, then you’ll need to set up a conversion to measure quote requests. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to run reports to see how many quote requests were generated from SEO vs. Google Ads vs. Facebook, or any other marketing channel you’re using.

We also recommend using the audience reporting views to see if your website visitors are actually your ideal customers. You can create customized segments for tracking important demographic points, like age, gender, and location.

Reviewing the information on your visitors may give your more perspective. Maybe your company needs to change its marketing strategy or website layout to resonate more with your target market.

2. Use E-Commerce Tracking

Google Analytics offers a feature called Enhanced E-Commerce. You should see it when setting up your Google Analytics account. Here are a few ways you can use the feature to get a better understanding of the customer journey through your website and shopping portal.

  1. You can track the shopping and checkout behavior of each visitor to your site. That includes product page-views, shopping cart additions and removals, abandoned items, and completed transactions.
  2. You can view metrics, like revenue generated, average transaction quantity, conversion rates for specific products, and how quickly products get added to a shopping cart. You can see what point a customer loses interest in the shopping experience. That lets you focus on tactics that keep them engaged and encourage them to complete a purchase.
  3. You can measure the success of various internal and external marketing efforts meant to encourage shopping and checkouts by visitors. For example, you can see whether the new product banner put up increased conversion rates.

The various reports give you a clear view of the path customers take as they shop on your website.

3. Sync Google Analytics With Your E-Commerce Platform

Many e-commerce platforms, like Shopify, have the ability to quickly sync with Google Analytics. This can save you and your team a lot of time and frustration trying to set everything up manually.

For example, the e-commerce analytics reporting mentioned above requires knowledge of Javascript, if you want to set it up yourself. Always check with the support team for your e-commerce platform to see if they have already synced up with Google Analytics. If they have, then you could be set up in a matter of minutes.

Look Beyond Surface Data

There’s a lot more to Google Analytics than looking at basic traffic metrics. These tips should allow you to gain a better understanding of where you can make improvements to drive more e-commerce sales from your different marketing channels.

  • First, identify your business goals and set up conversions in the Google Analytics admin area.
  • Second, set up enhanced e-commerce analytics either manually or by syncing your e-commerce platform with Google Analytics.
  • And third, review all the e-commerce reports to see which marketing channels can be improved to increase your sales.

Want more tips on how to use Google Analytics? Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.”

 

SEO in 2020: 3 Trends Marketers Can’t Ignore in the New Year

SEO requires a long-term mindset, and sometimes it’s better to ignore the daily noise and shiny new SEO objects. Of course, there are some trends you can’t ignore, and in this article I’ll highlight three important ones that will impact your SEO efforts in 2020.

Keeping up with changing SEO practices can seem challenging, because every day there’s news about a new tweak to the search engine algorithm, a new must-have tool, or some new technique to be mastered. SEO in 2020 will require knowledge of these three trends.

Just remember that SEO requires a long-term mindset, and sometimes it’s better to ignore the daily noise and shiny new SEO objects. Of course, there are some trends you can’t ignore, and in this article I’ll highlight the important ones that will impact your SEO efforts in 2020.

1. Use UX Design Principles to Improve Your Mobile SERP Rankings

Combining UX with the best SEO practices gives businesses a powerful combination to work with, when it comes to the mobile experience. SEO helps put your information in front of visitors when they are looking for the services you offer. Using UX design principles in the layout of your mobile site encourages visitors to “stick” on your site, rather than bounce.

Some ideas to keep in mind when it comes to UX include rearranging the site structure for more straightforward navigation, making the design clean and simple, and putting the essential information about the user’s interest above the fold. That means it should be front-and-center, as soon as they navigate to your mobile site.

Do not let a focus on logos and flashy advertising overwhelm the information your visitor wants. Make sure the font is large enough to be read without straining. Finally, optimize (AKA, resize) images so that they do not impact your mobile site speed. Your visitor does not want to watch a spinning icon for ages while your pictures struggle to load.

2. Capture User Attention Using Snippets

Zero-click searches have taken off over the past few years. Featured snippets and rich snippets on the front pages of Google make it possible for a user to have their question answered without having to click anything. In 2020, focus on making this new trend work for your business.

Optimize your website information by making it appear as featured snippets or rich snippets. Featured snippets are results that show up as a block of information at the top of SERPs, and rich snippets are enhancements to search engine listings, like business reviews, ratings, product prices, etc.

To get your webpage information to appear as a featured snippet or rich snippet, you should add structured data. Structured data is code that you can add to your website that tells search engines like Google exactly what is on your webpage. For example, you can use structured data to specify business reviews and ratings and product prices, as mentioned above. You can also use structured data to specify your business location, which helps with local SEO.

Long story short, add structured data to your site to improve your SEO in 2020.

3. Make Security a Priority When It Comes to Collecting Visitor Info

One of the hottest topics in 2019 was security, and this trend is not going away in 2020. Everyone is concerned about data security.

Many businesses fail to realize that attacks from hackers have an impact on how search engine bots access a website. Assaults on your site cause it to slow down and even prevents your page from showing up in search engines like Google. Visitors instead get a 404-error page, because the search engine can’t reference your page.

Monitoring for attacks, data theft by automated web scrapers, and other cybersecurity issues should be considered as part of your SEO strategy for 2020.

Summary of the 3 Important SEO Trends in 2020

SEO and UX are merging and both need to be considered, especially with your mobile website. Featured snippets and rich snippets continue to gain traction on Google’s first page and that means businesses must add structured data to their websites. Last but not least, website security should be a top priority in 2020, if it’s not already.

Want more tips to improve your SEO? Click here to grab a copy of my “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

 

 

3 Tips for Search Engine Optimization on a Budget

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

Getting the Most for Your Money

Let’s go over some ways that companies can make their sites SEO-friendly, without breaking the bank.

1. Get the Architecture Right

If you are going to spend money anywhere, make sure some of it goes toward building a quality website. It should have a clean design, an intuitive navigation experience, and be accessible to search engines. Menus, content, and other information should be organized in a way that makes sense and is easy to find. There are plenty of SEO-savvy developers capable of providing a new website or revamping your existing one for a reasonable price.

Google and Bing both offer free webmaster guidelines that businesses can use as a guide to creating search-friendly websites. They are an excellent resource for businesses, even if they are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of technical SEO.

2. Small Details Matter

With SEO, small details can make all of the difference in your rankings.

Here are some cost-effective ways of upgrading your website’s SEO.

  • Page Titles — Google uses the page title (aka, Title tag, or <title> in HTML) as a shortcut to know what the page is about. Think of it like the chapter name in a textbook. Include the most relevant keyword(s) you’re trying to rank for in the title so that Google knows the page is 100% relevant to those search phrases.
  • Meta Descriptions — Take the time to fill in the meta descriptions for your website content. Search engines like Google will use this as the excerpt below the hyperlink to your website. A clean, precise description can be the difference-maker in getting a visitor to click through to your site.
  • Header Tags — No one likes reading big walls of text. You could have the most amazing, enlightening content on your web pages, but no one is going to read it without proper formatting. Headers and subheaders are vital in making content easier to read and absorb. Search engines also use the headers to better understand what the page is about, so make sure to include variations of your target keywords in your page headers.

3. Use Free SEO Tools

What better way to understand how Google views SEO than by using the tools it provides? Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) gives you incredible insight into your SEO, all for free! Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to evaluate your website speed and identify opportunities to improve. Plus, with Google’s move to a mobile-first Index, you’ll want to take the Mobile-Friendly Test and fix any issues right away.

For a more advanced analysis, I highly recommend the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You’ll be able to quickly review all the pages on your website to identify issues with your page titles, descriptions, headers, and even broken links.

Final Thoughts on SEO on a Budget

Businesses can use a variety of resources to improve their SEO without breaking their budget. Improving the architecture of a website is a great place to start, because a poorly structured site will be very difficult to rank high in Google.

And pay attention to the details. Make sure your page titles, descriptions, and headers are all optimized for search engines.

Lastly, take advantage of the free tools and resources available online. Just because they are free, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. In fact, many of the tools mentioned above are as good or even better than the paid options.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”