Google Announces Significant Changes

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Web developer team. Pay heed

As a marketer who uses email, you know as well as I do, your campaigns do not stand alone. Without proper support from your website—and throughout your organization—email campaigns will produce disappointing results. With that said, Google’s recent announcement of impending significant changes affects us as much as our Webdeveloper team. Pay heed.

In short, Google’s announcement focuses on two primary points—both of which are designed to acknowledge the mobile-device and app trends and provide suitable content to the device user. The purpose of this new release is:

  1. Google will return more mobile-friendly websites in search results.
  2. Google will return more relevant app content in search results when a signed-in user has the app installed.

To date, Google has checked websites for mobile compatibility, and if you are the webmaster, provided you with an email to keep you abreast of potential concerns and how you might address those issues—a fairly passive, observer-type approach.

With this announcement, beginning on 21 April, Google is apparently poised to take a harder line and relegate non-mobile websites to the far reaches of results—which will not affect direct links you’ve embedded in your campaign, but will most certainly affect future searches your constituents perform to revisit your site or to find additional information.

Does this have a real, measurable impact on you? Most certainly.

We recently ran a campaign where we checked the websites of thousands of our subscribers, leads and clients and were astonished to find only around 30 percent of them have properly functioning mobile websites, and less than 1 percent have a mobile app. The campaign was designed to highlight the experience of their clients when visiting their website and encourage them to purchase Web-development or app-development services. We included a screenshot of an iPhone 6 and on the phone’s screen we displayed an actual view of their site.

If this 30 percent suddenly shifts to the top of search results, imagine what this could do to your rankings if you do not have a mobile site. Assuming you’ve implemented a good SEO strategy, and are enjoying a top-ranking website, you will now have 30 companies displayed before you. With typical search-results pages showing the top ten companies, this means you have been relegated from page one to perhaps page three or even four.

With these changes, mobile sites—and landing and squeeze pages—have gone from important to critical. Your site and all campaign pages must provide sufficient depth to answer questions visitors may have beyond what the campaign provides or questions return visitors have—and in a format appropriate to the visitor’s device.

Updating your site doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re using WordPress, there are plug-ins that you can add to your current theme in order to present the site in a mobile format. One I’ve used and had a good experience with is WP Touch.

If you have an HTML site, things become a bit more difficult, but not unmanageable. You might consider switching your site to a WordPress site with a mobile theme, which would negate the need to add a third-party plug-in to convert the site. Another option would be to post a new site specifically for your mobile users, and use javascript or an .htaccess file to detect what device your visitor is using and then send them to the appropriate site.

You do need to think beyond your website, no matter which option you choose. This affects landing pages, squeeze pages and microsites as well.

In other words, if you’re not mobile, you may not be relevant.

When to Squeeze

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should:

  • Provide a clear, concise path to becoming a customer.
  • Enable them to become customers.
  • Resolve any concerns they may have about becoming customers.

Let’s cover the basics:

A “landing page” is a web page, either on your site or hosted within your ESP or other site, that details the offer of your call to action (CTA). A landing page provides the visitor with several or numerous information sources or paths to engagement. For instance, you might link to white papers and videos that support your message (see Figure 1 int he media player at right), provide social media icons for connecting, or even reviewing options for feedback. In short, there is no limit to the amount of information you may include on a landing page—but more is not always better.

When more is not better, a squeeze page provides an ideal solution. A “squeeze page” is a Web page with a singular focus on the conversion (see Figure 2). Similarly designed to a landing page, it is without the myriad options one might find on a targeted landing page. On this page you’ll have no social icons, no links to your website, and only one option for engagement. As a mnemonic, think of a squeeze page as putting the squeeze on the visitor to do just one thing: complete the call to action referenced in your email.

Landing and squeeze pages provide you with ample opportunities for A/B and multivariate testing. Creating multiple versions of your pages, you can test messaging, buttons, images, color, formats (responsive or static) and much more. What’s more, combined with analytics monitoring, you can discern who’s visiting, for how long, what they did, where they go and so much more.

We have many clients who at the outset were performing some marketing (either direct mail or email), but in most cases were sending recipients to their home page—and without benefit of a tracking URL. There are two primary reasons you should never, never send your marketing traffic to your home page, 1) your home page should provide information appropriate for your general audience and, as such, does not specifically engage the marketing-message recipient; and 2) it is difficult or impossible to discern—even through analytics—which visitors came to your home page through other promotions, and which specifically visited your home page after having received your marketing campaign. These analytics are critical to understanding the behavior of your recipients, so don’t miss this opportunity to collect it, analyze it and act on it.

As you design your landing or squeeze page, use your email or direct mail piece as the guideline. Be sure you are directing clickthroughs to a page using the same art, same messaging and consistent branding. This similarity of design is comforting to the visitor and ensures they’ve come to the right place. Given they found the design of the email compelling enough to click, why spoil the moment? You already found what works, give them more.

If, however, you find that you’re simply not getting the conversions you expected, check the number of visitors first. You must have visits to gain conversions. If not, back up and take a closer look at the initial engagement and consider first things first. No matter how wonderfully written, artfully designed, and programmatically perfect a landing or squeeze page is, if your message does not drive your recipient to visit the page, your conversion rate will suffer. Ensure your message drives the visit before you give angst an audience over conversion disappointments.

If number of visits is within your acceptable range (but when is it ever enough?), work on the other players within your campaign, such as:

  • Form length
  • Form questions
  • Button design and placement
  • Text content
  • Links
  • Downloads
  • Supporting resources
  • Design
  • Programming errors

All of these elements can and should be tested and tracked through A/B and multivariate testing combined with analytics and heat-mapping. Using landing and squeeze pages makes this testing process easier and more reliable than trying to root through or make drastic changes to your site’s home page.

Taking this discussion just one step further, if a landing page simply doesn’t provide you adequate real estate, consider a “microsite,” a series of linked landing pages that spotlights your offer.

Sometimes integrated email means the integrated components within your campaign and rather than the components of the initiative. As you develop your emails, think beyond the inbox and give consideration to the end-to-end experience and what you can provide to your visitor in order to attain that elusive conversion.