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.



Has It Has Really Been a Quarter Century?

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

Most early Internet marketers came into the online space accidentally. I was no exception. We all raised our hands at an opportune moment. We stepped off the edge into a void. For me, building a website seemed like a good way to increase the reach of a public relations client’s message. It was a good idea. It was 1995 — a quarter of a century ago. In fact, this good idea launched the second half of my marketing career, with a focus on search marketing.

Lots of Energy and Sharing

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

There were numerous search engines and directories all vying for dominance, and Google wasn’t even founded until 1998. The big names were Alta Vista, Yahoo! As the industry has matured, it has lost the edginess of the early days. Today there are monoliths that dominate the search industry.

Early on, the sharing of information was essential. The industry grew through sharing what was online in forums like Webmaster World, in person at conferences bearing titles like Search Engine Strategies (that by the title alone clearly gave the prospective attendee a clear picture of what might be learned from attending), and in the written word through numerous online and print publications. I trained to be a college professor, albeit not in technology, but I jumped at any chance to teach/share with my colleagues (and anyone who would listen) my digital marketing insights and discoveries.

It was a wonderful heady ride, but for me the carousel of speaking and traveling came to an abrupt halt five-plus years ago when I returned home from a Pubcon in Las Vegas with my arthritic knees too painful to walk through the airport. I decided to hang up my spurs and stay at my desk and write instead of speaking at conferences; to travel less and train smaller groups.

Grateful for the Opportunity

An opportunity met my decision to focus on writing when I was approached to write a search marketing regular column for Target Marketing. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to continue having my voice heard without the stress and strain of travel. I will confess that writing a regular column has often forced me to think more deeply about strategies my clients might use — a bonus. I am grateful for this opportunity.

Not Yet Over

Writing a monthly column about search marketing is an excellent discipline, but it can be a distraction. I have found myself increasingly unwilling to let it distract me from other writing tasks. So, as you may have guessed, I am signing off. I am not gone yet, for I am working on a monograph on search and have other writing projects outlined that are calling me. For now, let me say thank you once again for listening to my conference panels and reading my columns.

The Smart Way to SEO Success

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates — and the churn of the competitive landscape in your industry — may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Focus on SEO Fundamentals to Start

No surprise, the first things you should examine are the fundamentals. Your page titles and headers should be keyword rich, as should your copy. (Particularly the copy nearest the top of each page.) Meta descriptions should be informative and enticing, as they’re a key factor in encouraging clicks from the search results pages.

Alt tags — and accessibility more broadly — should also be a part of your pre-publication checklist for all content. There has been increased scrutiny on accessibility compliance over the past few years. This may require a shift in your approach to coding, design, and content. It’s not directly related to SEO success, but quite a bit of accessibility compliance best practices overlap with SEO best practices.

Technical performance counts, too. Search engines use page load speeds and other measures as factors in their rankings, knowing that how quickly a page loads contributes significantly to overall user experience.

Finally, be sure you understand your analytics data. Ask the questions that get you information you can turn into actionable insights. Get your analytics team to set up reports to include those data points on your dashboard.

Do Your Research

There’s keyword research, of course, which will tell you what language your prospects are using to find the information they want. Don’t forget that the same research can also paint a useful picture of what your prospects’ pain points are.

You should also be doing competitive research. Identify which of your competitors are having SEO success and understand what keywords and kinds of content they are producing to help them win.

Chart Your Own Path with Great Content

Once you’ve identified your most successful competition and their methods, it may make sense to zig where they’ve zagged. Carving out your own niche is often preferable to trying to unseat the incumbents. Just be sure the niche you create still serves the needs of your audience.

Then, it’s all about the quality of the content. It must be useful, actionable, and engaging. No one expects your B2B content to be as entertaining as the latest Netflix sensation, but it’s wise to remember that no matter how boring your industry, your prospects still go home at night to Netflix, Hulu, and other highly entertaining diversions.

The bar is lower for us as marketers, but only if our content helps our prospects succeed.

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.”

Why Google Going to the Dark Side Is Bad for Advertisers

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google SERP today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google search engine results page today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Google rolled out its new UX on mobile several months ago, and — in mid-January — applied the changes to desktop search. Contrary to the company’s claims that the new design “puts a site’s brand front-and-center, helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results and decide what to explore.”

But the change, in fact, blurs the user’s ability to easily differentiate ads from organic listings. These most recent changes have taken the desktop search engine results page into the dark side, for its UX exhibits “dark patterns” in how it differentiates advertising from organic results. This has a significant downside for advertisers, organic search marketers, and their audiences.

Dark Patterns

Coined by Harry Brignull, a London-based UX designer in July 2010, “dark patterns” are user interfaces that are carefully crafted to trick users into taking an action. Although the current layout places a bold “Ad” indicator next to text ads, and shows favicons next to organic brand listings, it is easy for the user scanning a search page quickly to overlook the ad notation or confuse the ad notation with the similarly placed favicons. Many users choose not to click advertisements, preferring to skim the listings for the page that most clearly suggests the answer to their search query. Savvy users know that the ad may not, in fact, deliver the most relevant page for their query and are wary of paid advertisements.

Google has made it harder for the user to rapidly differentiate, particularly on noisy desktop pages, paid ads from organic content. This new layout is not as distracting on mobile, where the small screen makes each listing stand out. The smaller screen visually reduces the clutter, forcing the user to focus on each result card.

A single search for “high heels shoes” on a desktop yields a cluttered page that includes “sponsored” shopping ads, ads (marked with bold Ad indicator), a set of accordions with “People also ask,” a map and local listings box, and finally organic results.

With all of this distraction, the user is likely to click unintentionally on a poorly differentiated ad. In the future, it will be easy for Google to slip more ads into the pages without creating user awareness of the volume of ads being served.

Why Is This Bad?

When the user cannot clearly differentiate an ad from an organic listing, the advertiser pays for clicks that are unintentional. This depletes the advertiser’s budget, without delivering sales conversions. It is too early to tell the exact levels of the unintentional clicks, but it is my clear bet that there will be a significant volume of them.

Contrary to claims, the new UX is not good for the user. It forces the user to slow down to avoid making a perhaps erroneous decision. Rather than enhancing the user experience, the user will be less satisfied with the results delivered.

For organic search marketers, the redesign makes it imperative to have a favicon that works and clearer branding in the search Titles and Descriptions — because the actual link has been visually downgraded. It is now above the Title.

It is expected that Google will continue to test new ways to demarcate ads from content, but the continued blurring of paid and organic results only really benefits Google.

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.”


Search Needs Computational Linguistics to Solve Its Problems

The increased use of mobile devices means search must learn to answer questions posed in natural language. Research and tech development at Google on natural language processing is filtering into the search results. So SEOs need to step beyond the keyword into computational linguistics.

As users have become increasingly dependent on their digital devices, they expect to search on them using more natural language to shape the queries. Search is deeply embedded in the fabric of our lives, and we expect more from it than previously.

We spend hours on our mobile devices every day and have devices that rely on natural language processing in our homes to turn the television on or entertain us. Every search is a quest, and users are constantly looking for and expect answers.

The terrain and contours of most e-commerce quests are reasonably easy to interpret, and SEOs have carefully developed methods for identifying keywords and concepts that apply to the most important quests that buyers/searchers will undertake for the products on offer.

Does this extend far enough? Not hardly.

We must stay with our consumers and develop an understanding of the challenges of search and how they are being addressed by those who build and operate search technology.

What’s Going On?

Each day, Google processes billions of searches and has publicly noted that 15% of those queries were previously unseen. This means that Google has no history of what the most relevant pages are to deliver for the query. These queries represent unfamiliar terrain, and Google has built ways to navigate this space.

What Needs to Happen?

The increased use of mobile devices that encourage the use of natural language means search must learn to answer questions posed in natural language. Current research and technology development at Google on natural language processing is filtering into the search results. SEOs need to step beyond the keyword into — are you ready — the arcane science of computational linguistics.

Computational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field that studies language from a computational perspective. Computational linguists build statistical or rule-based models and approaches to linguistic problems, such as natural language and search. The huge computational power available today has opened the door for rapid advances in the last five years. It is time for SEOs to integrate some of these learnings into their SEO practice.

Improving Natural Language Search

In October 2019, Google announced that it would be launching worldwide the BERT algorithm. BERT, short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. Training and tuning are very important steps in developing working search algorithms. (For more on the science, see this Google blog.)

Google expects this improved model to impact 10% of all searches. It will be particularly helpful for improving queries written or spoken in natural, conversational language.

Some savvy searchers search in keyword-ese, putting long strings of disconnected words together in their queries. By keyword stuffing their query, they hope to get better results.

My own research has shown that the most frequent queries are multiple nouns strung together with an occasional adjective for refinement — long (adjective) house (noun) coat (noun). This is a simple example, but queries that are questions are much more difficult to parse. BERT will go a long way toward eliminating the need to use keyword-ese.

BERT is not to be confused with Google’s improved AI-based system of neural matching that is used to understand how words and concepts relate to one another, a super-synonym system. Combine BERT with the other advances, and we can surely expect better quality results.

Search, as a Study, Is Not Static

SEOs need to learn as much as they can about these technologies. Although it seems — at first blush — that we cannot optimize for it, we can create better content that reacts better to the new technology, watch our performance metrics to see how much and if we are improving, and then make more changes as needed. Now, isn’t that optimizing?

An SEO Consultant’s 4-Point SEO Holiday Wish List for Santa

This year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving and the rush to the end of the year are upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for it is filled with good cheer, good eats, and no expectation that gifts will be exchanged.

In the past at Thanksgiving, I have written about gratitude. But this year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list:

  • Make all of my clients’ sites super-speedy
  • Teach all of my client teams how to write unique, valuable content — faster
  • Make all client structured data instantly accurate, complete, and error-free
  • Fix all mobile search/usability problems, immediately

Why Is This My Wish List?

Although each of these wishes are for client sites, this is, in fact, a selfish wish list. Fast sites are still the gold standard — table stakes for good SEO results. If Santa will supercharge all of my client sites, then the other SEO tactics that I recommend will have a firm and fast base to run from. It is foolish, read borderline delusional, to assume that a slow or marginally fast site is going to deliver a successful search optimization project.

Content Team Challenges Grow

Today, the message that high-quality content is an SEO must-have has finally seeped deeper into organizations, beyond just the SEO team. As the understanding the impact of content on SEO results grows, it is this SEO’s expectation that content teams will be tasked with creating more and more high-quality content. To meet the demand, content development teams will need to create more content, faster. This wish benefits the SEO consultant and the client.

Structured Data — A Key to Stronger Results

Structured data provide information that search engines can use to understand a site’s content and provide the best search results possible. Adding Schema markup to the HTML improves the way a page displays in search results pages (SERPs) by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. The rich results give searchers cues that a page may, in fact, address what they are searching. Clearer signals will result in improved results, but the structured data vocabulary is still evolving. My wish for instant, accurate, complete, and error-free structured data for client sites is a wish for an easier path.

Unaddressed Mobile Problems Are a Brake on Results

Mobile is firmly entrenched as the device of choice for a growing majority of searchers. To deny the importance of mobile is to fly in the face of reality. If a site has mobile issues that are flagged by Google’s Search Console, then it is fair to say that these will act as a brake on the search optimization program’s results. Mobile errors are — to use a sports metaphor — the equivalent of unforced errors. Quickly fixing mobile search/usability problems limits the damage; hence, my wish.

Perhaps, if you believe in Santa, you may get your wishes granted. I know Santa will bring me these four little wishes, because I’ve been very good this year. Maybe?