Because most marketers say that websites should be designed every 1-2 years, chances are you’re at least starting to think about the next version of your website. How do you know when the time is right for redesign? Here are three great reasons to help you evaluate the need. Reason #1: You need to be able to manage content better
If you’re keen on the inbound marketing methodology to get more leads from your website, then you have to have a content management system in place on your website.
Content management systems make it easy to update your website yourself, which will come in handy since you’ll be updating and adding content that attracts your target audiences to your website regularly.
Here are some things to look for in a content management system:
It can be designed and built in such a way where you can change about 90% of things on your website in-house.
It’s easy to use, so someone with no code knowledge can easily add or change content.
You have the option to personalize the experience based on characteristics of your visitor (HubSpot’s Content Optimization System lets you show different content based on lead status and can help you land more customers).
It needs to be SEO friendly. One advantage of HubSpot is that there’s an SEO checking tool built in out of the box.
It should allow you to easily add a blog or two.
Reason #2: You don’t know if you’re getting results (or leads)
If you don’t know how many leads you’re getting from your website or other marketing activities, it’s unlikely that the CEO will think the website is a high priority.
As we talk to B2B companies, three situations emerge:
There are no measurement tools in place, making it impossible to see if a website is generating new business leads.
There are measures in place, but the measures don’t bring real value to the organization and don’t factor into decisions that are made or marketing budget allocation.
There are measures in place, but analysis isn’t done on a regular basis.
No wonder so many CEOs at B2B companies think their websites are nothing more than a brochure! Redesigning is the best time to implement more tracking capabilities into your website. Reason #3: Your brand isn’t visible on search engines
Google your company name. Hopefully, your company website is the #1 result. If it isn’t, you’ve got trouble. But how well-optimized is your website for phrases that don’t have your company name in them?
There are over 10 billion searches on Google each month. That’s at least thousands of opportunities for your company to get found for things people are searching for every day.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t launch a website and have it show up immediately at the top of search engine rankings. Good rankings result from a sound strategy, good web development, and ongoing optimization over time.
For best results, make sure your online marketing agency pays close attention to content. Here’s how the process should work to make sure your content resonates and is optimized for search engines:
Develop detailed profiles of your ideal customers (we call these personas).
Conduct a content audit to map what’s there now, and identify gaps that your ideal customers expect to see.
Do thorough keyword research so you know what people actually search for.
Develop a content plan – an outline of the structure of your website and which audiences the pages are intended for, as well as the calls to action you’ll place on each page.
Writing content for your website is incredibly difficult and time consuming unless you have a solid framework. Consider writing copy points and letting your online marketing agency write content for you. You’ll be pleased when your company website gets more relevant visitors from search engines. Bonus tip: Budget for ongoing marketing
Your company website will never be completely optimized at re-launch. It takes ongoing effort to ensure that your website converts and meets the ever-changing needs of your ideal customers.
Don’t use all your budget on your website redesign. Save some budget for blogging, testing calls to action, landing pages and design performance tweaks to your website. Spend wisely
If you’re going to invest part of your marketing budget in your company website, you better have a plan. Like anything else, “proper planning prevents poor performance.” What problems are you facing when redesigning your website? Are there other good reasons to redesign?
Mobile continues to change the way that we search, explore, and shop, and as consumer behavior comes further into focus, there are clear opportunities for marketers to take advantage. Mobile is always on for consumers, so marketers need to make sure their mobile search strategies are reaching people in these different search contexts.
According to the Mobile Movement, a study by Google, 77% of smart phone users visit search engines. And page titles are the first thing that mobile searchers evaluate when browsing search results on their phone. The closer you can match your page titles to their search queries, then, the higher the likelihood that a user will click through to your content.
Despite its apparent simplicity, the title of a page is an important marketing tool that allows you to create content that’s optimized for internet presence, and facilitates navigation for your audience. Try not to think of a title as a feature of a page (or website), but as a property that affects the entire page by setting the tone and context of that page itself — it’s your first impression.
Here, take a look at an example of a well optimized title, and then we’ll break down the elements to replicate in your own page titles.
Optimizing your page titles for mobile search is really simple. Here’s what you should look out for:
Aim to limit your page title to only 45 characters, unlike for desktop which is 65 characters.
Position your primary keywords toward the front of the title.
Continue to apply SEO best practices. That means no keyword stuffing, and maintaining a title that reads naturally.
As a bonus tip, take a look at your site’s analytics (Google Webmaster Tools offers great insight as well) to see what keywords consumers use when on mobile versus desktop. It’ll help you make good keyword decisions when titling your page.
Last year was a great year in the web analytics world. We saw awesome advancements from just about every vendor in the web analytics industry.
Some of my favorite achievements of the past 12 months were:
Google rolled out the Google Tag Manager to the masses and launched very cool functions such as auto event tracking.
The addition of demographic data in Google Analytics has led to amazing insights.
Adobe launched a new (much improved) interface to Adobe Analytics which showed how useful a web analytics solution can be when owned by a company that made its name with UI design tools.
Tag management companies such as TagMan and Tealium landed many great new customers as well as big rounds of funding.
With the start of 2014, we have more experienced web analysts out in the field than ever before and organizations are now relying (rather than hoping) upon analytics for improvements in their bottom line.
In the year ahead, I am optimistic that we will see the pace of advancement in the web analytics world accelerate. Below is my top 10 list of trends that I would love to see over the next 12 months.
1. Better Content Analysis Tools
When it comes to engagement with content (text, graphics, video, etc) most web analytics platforms show the same data – views, landing page visits, next page views, exits, goal contribution, etc. To get reporting on actual engagement with the content, analysts need to implement other tools to track engagement such as scrolling, mouse movement, zooming, and highlighting. This divide in reporting is a major challenge for content producers.
2. Multi-visit Click Paths
Unless you’re selling competitively priced pencils at auction, odds are that your visitors are looking at your site multiple times before (and after) converting. But today almost all web analytics platforms focus on reporting for a single visit. There are persistent tracking variables that can be used to show multi-visit attributes. But site owners need to see how visitors’ behaviors change as they learn more about products/services and as they start to interact with the organization offline (i.e. sales calls).
3. Physical Interaction Tracking
4. Better Video Tracking
5. Multi-domain Tracking
Many corporations big and small have multiple sites across multiple domains. Their prospects, customers, partners, employees, etc likely traverse across domains in multiple visits or possibly single visits. But today, most (not all) of the web analytics platforms don’t do a thorough job of enabling site owners to track visitors across domains. While this is not a problem for most site owners, for companies with diverse initiatives in marketing, demand generation, lead nurturing, and customer support this can cause a major gap in tracking the customer journey. In 2014, we want all major web analytics vendors to solve this tracking problem with easy to use configurations.
6. Compensate for “Not Provided”
As Google continues to encrypt more and more user search submissions we have seen the percentage of users with Not-Provided search phrases grow by over 100% across sites that we monitor in the last year. This makes measuring SEO performance and optimization very difficult. Analysts need Google to provide some sort of help with this. If not showing the exact search phrase, perhaps they can expose search phrase categories or better integration with Web Master Tools. It would be easy for tools like Google Analytics to create reports that show which search phrases generated traffic without associating the phrases with individual users. This would help site owners with SEO reporting without risking user privacy or website security.
7. Better Tools for Integration with Third Party Data
If 2013 was the year for “Big Data” then 2014 should be the year for data integration with web analytics. While platforms like Adobe Analytics and IBM CoreMetrics did a decent job at enabling analyst to integrate data from multiple sources (i.e. CRM, Call Center, Lead Nurturing) with web analytics data, most platforms are lagging in this area. This year we want to see web analytics platforms help site owners to have a more 360⁰ view of their prospects and customers by providing excellent tools for integrating data from other platforms into the web analytics environment.
8. CMS integration with Web Analytics:
The most commonly used administrative tool on most sites is the content management system. This is the area where people making site updates need information on how pages and pieces of content are performing and how visitors are interacting with the site. We are hopeful that some CMS vendors will make big improvements in 2014 by enabling plug and play integration with web analytics tools to empower their internal site owners.
9. Better Data Exports
Google made some great strides in 2013 to share Google Analytics data with other platforms and a large number of dash-boarding companies built/updated plugins for Google Analytics. But almost every other vendor in the web analytics space does an insufficient job at sharing data which makes dash-boarding and analyzing closed loop sales cycles unnecessarily difficult. We are hopeful that the other web analytics vendors will follow Googles lead this year.
10. Data Manipulation within Web Analytics
Platforms such as Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Adobe Analytics are great at tracking visitors and then presenting the data. But the platforms do no provide much functionality in terms of manipulating the data once it has been brought into the platform. Providing tools for editing fields and values would provide web analysts with powerful Business Intelligence capabilities to fit the tracking to the organization.
This year has barely started, but I am very hopeful that it is a defining year for how organizations worldwide gain and utilize customer intelligence in the digital channel. While few organizations fully utilize the web analytics tools they have in place today, there are progressive teams pushing the limits of what website tracking can do to improve digital experiences and I am optimistic that in 2014 the industry tools are going to evolve even farther to drive the entire web industry to new heights.
One of the tenets of inbound marketing is not to annoy. So why is it that many websites are still chock full of the elements that so many visitors have bemoaned over and over? Perhaps with the sheer excitement (or terror, depending on your personality) that comes with designing your own website, all of the user experience quirks that have driven you crazy over the years escape your mind. But poor user experience can cause high page abandonment rates, low visitor-to-lead conversion rates, poor organic search listing positions, and a plain ol’ bad reputation. So we compiled a list of the 15 most annoying things we’ve seen on websites to act as a sort of guide for what not to do when designing your website. Take a look at the worst offenders!
15 Things People Hate About Your Website
1) Pop-Up Ads
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way. Pop-ups are seriously annoying. Yes, a pop-up could get you a few new email subscribers, but is that really worth all the traffic you lose when visitors abandon your site in annoyance? Convert site visitors into leads with well-written content and compelling CTAs/offers, not interruptive gimmicks.
2) Automatically Playing Multimedia Content When a Page Loads
Shhhh! I wasn’t supposed to be on this site at work! If someone’s enjoying what they thought was a silent browsing session and they’re bombarded with your theme song or a talking head on a video for which they didn’t press “play” and can’t find the button for “stop,” what do you think they’re going to do? Some might fumble for their mute button, but I can more easily locate the back button in my browser than my computer’s volume controls. Let visitors choose to play your multimedia content; don’t force it on them.
3) Disorienting Animations
You’re probably familiar with the blink test by now — the 3 seconds users have to orient themselves on any given web page before they click ‘back’ in their browser. Animations, auto-play videos, blinking and flashing paid advertisements, and other interactive entertainment may seem really cool (I’m sure it’s very well designed!) but it detracts from a visitor’s focus during those critical 3 seconds. Nix the animations, and let visitors focus on what they can do on that page with clearly written headlines and explanatory copy.
4) Generic Stock Photography
You’ve heard using images is great for your inbound marketing, so you go browsing and find this gem for your website:
Are we supposed to believe they work at your company? And are they always that delighted to collaborate over a piece of notebook paper? Show pictures of customers, real people that work at your company, your product, and your location. Or if you’re particularly design savvy, create visuals yourself that directly relate to what you do. Images are helpful if they clarify something for a visitor — generic stock photography doesn’t help visitors, so by extension, it doesn’t help you.
5) Including a ‘Contact Us’ Form in Lieu of Contact Information
A ‘Contact Us’ form may seem like an easy way to generate an opt-in email list, but it’s really the least valuable form of lead generation for you and your site visitors. It’s terribly generic, and doesn’t indicate the contact actually wants to receive ongoing communications from you — it’s more likely they have a one-time problem or request that needs to be addressed.
So let’s say they do in fact have a one-time request. There’s nothing wrong with having a “Contact Us” module on your site; but it should never be the only means of communication between you and your customers. If your visitor or customer needs help, they want it now. They don’t want to fill out a form and wait to see when, if ever, they get a response. Let people get in touch with you via email, the phone, and social media, and make that information available on your website.
6) Unintelligible ‘About Us’ Page
Does your ‘About Us’ page explain what you do in business babble, or using the words and phrases common to the general population? Let’s play a translation game using HubSpot’s ‘About Us’ page copy. Would you know what we did if our ‘About Us’ page said this (thankfully, it doesn’t)?
HubSpot assists organizations across multiple countries reduce churn by backfilling the sales pipeline with highly qualified traffic that generates leads that convert into customers with high lifetime value. We achieve this through leading-edge software that integrates all marketing channels for a synergistic view of the data that determines and prioritizes the high-value marketing activities.
What? Let’s translate that into the way people actually speak!
HubSpot all-in-one marketing software helps more than 6,000 companies in 45 countries attract leads and convert them into customers. A pioneer in inbound marketing, HubSpot aims to help its customers make marketing that people can actually love.
Got it, we make marketing software that helps you get leads and customers. Do a business babble check on your ‘About Us’ page to make sure you’re speaking in a language non-experts can understand. I recommend running it by a few friends and family members that don’t work in your industry for the best results.
7) SEO-Driven Copy
Remember back in the early 2000s when you went to a website and saw paragraphs and paragraphs of copy? Aside from being visually overwhelming, if you read that copy you’d find nothing more than a bunch of keyword-dense copy meant for crawlers, not humans. Unfortunately, some websites are still writing for bots, even though Google’s algorithm is far more sophisticated at determining a page’s relevancy than it was 10 years ago. In fact, now Google will ding you for these types of activities! There’s a difference between search engine optimized content and over-optimized content. Don’t write for crawlers; write for humans.
8) Not Including Social Sharing Buttons on Your Content
If you’re writing for humans, you probably have some really interesting content on your site. Content that people want to share on social media, perhaps. That’s why it’s a huge disappointment to scroll up and down looking for a “Tweet This!” button, only to realize there aren’t any social sharing buttons on your website! These buttons make social sharing easy for your readers — they don’t have to copy and paste your URL, shorten it, and compose a tweet. And easy social sharing options means your content gets more visibility, which means more site traffic, better search engine rankings, and more lead generation opportunities.
9) You Don’t Have a Blog
Perhaps I’m biased, but visiting a website without a blog is a turn off. Visitors want to learn about you, and in today’s world where consumers are performing in-depth company research on their own before ever contacting a sales person, an ‘About Us’ page isn’t enough to tell the full story. Think of it like this — the ‘About Us’ page is like your personality at a job interview, and your blog is your personality after a few drinks. After reading through a sample of blog posts over a long span of time, visitors have a much better understanding of who you are (awesome), who works at your company, what you believe, and how you’ve grown over time.
10) Titles and Content are Incongruous
If you’re an avid content creator, you know how important a well-crafted title is. Great titles are what cause people to click through in their RSS, emails, and search engines to read what you have written. But if they’re met with content that’s unrelated to the title you provided, you’ll disappoint visitors — and they’ll abandon your site. While it’s important to capture peoples’ attention in titles, make sure it isn’t misleading and your content can actually live up to what you promised you’d deliver.
11) Your Call-to-Action Copy Doesn’t Align With the Offer
Along the same lines, your call-to-action should align with what visitors receive when they redeem your offer. There’s nothing more frustrating than being promised a 50% off coupon in the call-to-action copy, only to redeem it and find there’s a caveat that says you must first spend $1,000. On select items. In-store purchases only. This is not only insulting to your visitors, but it will also kill your reputation and the conversion rates of your calls-to-action and landing pages.
12) Your Internal Linking Isn’t User-Friendly
When done correctly, internal links are helpful for readers and website alike. They point readers to other relevant information, and help you improve the organic ranking for important pages on your own website. But some websites seem to have trouble executing internal linking correctly , pointing users to irrelevant pages, linking strange phrases within the copy, and overdoing it to the point of making content unreadable.
Include internal links only to relevant pages on your website that will enhance a reader’s experience, and include that link on the anchor text that makes the most sense. Recognize that sometimes, the link that makes the most sense isn’t keyword-optimized anchor text, either, like in this example from yesterday morning’s blog post.
I thought about a way to rephrase the last sentence so the anchor text could be keyword optimized, but in the end, the “reference this ebook” text, while technically against SEO best practices, was the most user-friendly option.
( Tip: Be sure to have all links open into a new tab in your browser, not the same window. Visitors may not be done reading the content on this page, and you don’t want to navigate them away while they’re still reading!)
13) Sliders That Take Forever, and Ever, to Load
Sliders are a great way to showcase multiple images in a space-efficient manner (just check out our current homepage , for example). But there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them. If your slider loads images quickly and doesn’t require a new page to load every time a user clicks, congratulations! Your slider is not annoying. But the web is filled with sliders that, every time you click the arrow for the next image, load an entirely new web page. That can take visitors from a 0 second load time to 1, 2, 5, or more seconds as the entire webpage reloads!
( Tip: If you’re using a slider in a list post, accompany the visual elements with written copy above or below the slider. Many readers are scanners, and won’t invest the time to click through every image in the slider.)
14) Using Flash
Many designers use Flash on clients’ websites, and it’s enough to make a search marketer cringe along with the site visitors. The problem with Flash is not in its limitations; I’ve seen some stunning websites created with Flash! But search engines can’t read it, so your site won’t get indexed. And another problem? Visitors are often looking for a very specific piece of information when visiting your site — if they have to wait for a 10-second visual introduction to unfold on the screen before they can find your hours of operation, you’re going to have an angry customer (or would-be customer, depending on their level of patience).
15) The Worst Offender: I Don’t Know What to Do.
This is the worst offender in my opinion — when someone lands on your site, do they know what to do? Alright, maybe they don’t like your stock photos, or perhaps they see a ‘Contact Us’ form that grinds their gears. But visitors may be able to look past those things if they can immediately see what your website does, what the value of that is, and what they should do next. Include clear headline copy, jargonless page copy that explains the value of what you do, and one clear primary call-to-action per page that shows visitors how to take the next steps — whether that’s subscribing to your blog, getting a free trial , watching a video, or any other action you hope visitors will perform on your site.
By Bryson Meunier on June 24, 2013 | .net Magazine
SEO is a shapeshifter: its current, grown-up incarnation is audience-driven, engine and user-friendly. Bryson Meunier has the details
Sure, you know about SEO. You might not be an expert, per se, but you have a good understanding of the basics: title tags, clean URLs, text-based design and so on.
Even if you’re more of an expert than most, just as often it’s what you don’t know about SEO that will hurt you.
Many webmasters found this out the hard way in February 2011, when Google’s Panda update was released. Many of these same webmasters were hit again little more than a year later, when the search giant’s Penguin update followed – targeting low-quality, spammy link-building tactics. What they thought was SEO worked for a little while, and then turned out to be less than optimal. Sites were penalised; traffic and revenue lost, and so-called ‘SEOs’ fired.
Since then there’s been a new tone in the SEO industry. Not all of us were creating low-quality content and links; but for many of those that were these two updates were a wake-up call. And for those of us who have always been focused on high-quality, relevant content and links, it was something like redemption. Our sites soared while so many fell.
This is the new normal for SEO. Yes, there are still some who call themselves SEOs but focus on manipulative tactics with short term revenue goals; yet there are also many who are part of a large and growing industry of specialists in a highly complex discipline that requires marketing, technical, and research and communication skills.
So just how big is SEO? Believe it or not, it’s bigger in the minds of Google searchers than web design. Once considered a subset of web design, searches for SEO now eclipse those of web design worldwide.
The total projected value of the North American search marketing industry (SEO and paid search) in 2013 is $26.8billion, according to industry trade organisation SEMPO, and 13 per cent of companies have SEO budgets of half a million to more than three million a year (up from 8 per cent in 2011).
Google Trends data shows that the number of searches for “web design” has declined over time – to the point where it is now eclipsed by searches for “seo”
As budgets increase, there’s more to lose, and many companies have become more risk averse – forgoing the shady tactics they may have pursued in the past.
In cutting out the garbage we start to see what SEO is really good for (and has always been good for): connecting relevant content with relevant searchers, and making content discoverable through accessibility and marketing.
For those of you who still think of SEOs as greasy algorithm-chasers in cheap suits or parents’ basements, consider the new reality.
Google Webmaster Central has many valuable reports on crawling and indexing of content, as well as who links to you and what queries your site appears for
Engines are not enemies
When I started doing SEO in-house for a Fortune 50 corporation 10 years ago, there were many in the organisation who were a little nervous about what we were doing. Nothing was against the Google guidelines … because there were no such guidelines in existence. At that time there were a few books, but SEO was largely something that was spoken of covertly, and certainly never to search engines, which, it was thought, would likely think of it as manipulation.
Today we know better. Google and Bing have both published extensive webmaster guidelines, and Google has even published a guide to SEO for beginners. In August 2011 Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, released a video statement saying that Google does not consider SEO by itself to be spam. This sentiment now appears in Google’s definition of search engine optimisation, in which it says: “Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners.”
Still, because of a few spammers who call themselves SEOs, SEOs in general have the reputation of being charlatans, and have been portrayed as such on television shows such as The Good Wife and Dexter.
“SEO has unfortunately got a bad rap, and it’s due mainly to questionable SEO practitioners who perpetuate the ‘snake oil’ stereotype by making customers believe there’s some magic ‘black box’ that ‘tricks’ the search engines,” says Gord Hotchkiss, chief strategy officer for Montreal-based Mediative and regular columnist for Search Insider. Hotchkiss, and the other experts I reach out to for this article, explain that SEO is simply about getting relevant content indexed, and making sure it’s visible to the search engines.
All of the veteran SEOs that I speak to understand why SEO still has the reputation in some circles of being snake oil. But they insist that it has, at this point, become much more mainstream and credible.
Vanessa Fox of Nine by Blue created this searcher persona in order to connect audience goals with relevant content from the business
Rand Fishkin, founder of Seattle-based SEO software company SEOMoz, discusses with me a few of his favourite reasons for SEO being something other than snake oil, including that “SEOmoz itself has more than 2million monthly visits, nearly all from web marketers looking to learn more about the practice. And our software, which bills monthly, has more than 18,000 subscribers as of today. If SEO were just snake oil, I strongly suspect folks would stop paying.”
SEO, in its legitimate form, is now a more accepted part of the web design process, and in many organisations is finally getting a seat at the table when it comes to designing professional, search engine-friendly web sites.
A process, not a project
In my decade-plus doing enterprise SEO there have been many instances in which the SEO team is brought in after the website is already complete, and told to magically make it search engine friendly. This isn’t ideal. As Google says in its guide to SEO: “If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better.”
The really competitive sites that I’ve worked with over the years understand this, and integrate SEO into every stage of their planning process, from information architecture to content strategy to design, development, launch and post-launch.
A lot of web designers and developers are hesitant about integrating SEO further into the process, because doing so effectively produces extra work. But the rewards can be great, reminds Vanessa Fox, founder and CEO of Nine by Blue and author of Marketing in the Age of Google. “Organisations are losing 1) tremendous insight into their customers and potential customers if they don’t take advantage of the free search data that’s available from the millions of searches we do each day; 2) the opportunity to reach a significantly larger audience through being visible in search results.”
Would you put the Mona Lisa in a closet? Would you spend hours cooking Beef Wellington, and as it emerges perfect from the oven throw it in the trash? Then why would you build a website without considering how it will be found?
There’s another reason for making SEO a priority in the web design process, advises Hotchkiss – “it forces you to create a better website! Good SEO optimisation should be baked into your information architecture. It will force you to think about common content themes. It requires you to consider how all digital assets (such as videos and user-generated content) will be integrated into the overall user experience. It helps eliminate user experience dead ends such as gratuitious Flash interfaces and, my personal pet peeve, content locked in PDFs. It extends your perception of your online footprint beyond the bounds of your website, including things like social media. It will also instil a healthy rigour when it comes to thinking about how your site links together. Good SEO practices means a better user experience.”
Resolution Media’s ClearTarget Behavioral Analysis takes keyword research to another level by harnessing the power of big data and automation to create actionable searcher personas
From my experience, more organisations than ever are learning these lessons, and are no longer thinking of SEO as a project, but as an ongoing process that ensures a website will be as visible in search as possible. This is good for web design because it gives it a larger audience, but also good for business.
It’s not just about links: emerging SEO trends
While many commentators have claimed that SEO is dead since it began around 1997, the truth is that it doesn’t die; it evolves with the search engines. While SEO is constantly evolving, at the moment it seems focused on mobility, utility, the audience and automation, among other things.
One of these trends is the dissolving distinction between SEO, user experience and content strategy. In one recent Webmaster Tools YouTube video, Matt Cutts even suggested that those looking to change the name might consider “searcher experience optimisation” to differentiate from the snake oil variety of SEO.
Some, such as Vanessa Fox, have suggested that SEO need not proceed as a separate activity from UX and content strategy: “I think that both disciplines should incorporate best practices from search rather than thinking of it as something tacked on later,” she says. “Particularly, the data available from search is extremely valuable. Also, understanding that many visitors begin with a major search engine and that any page of the site can therefore become the home page of the site can shift how we look at both page design and content.”
Google’s SEO Starter Guide defines tactics to help search engines and webmasters display relevant content
At the same time, Fox – and all of the other SEOs I asked – recognise that content strategy and usability, while essential for reputable SEO, need technical and other elements from SEO to be useful as a way of getting incremental search engine traffic.
“When SEO is done the right way, usability and content is a huge part of the plan,” opines Eric Enge, founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based Stone Temple Consulting and co-author of The Art of SEO. “This is something that the snake-oil SEO people don’t worry about. For long-term success as a web publisher, the use must come first. However, for success as a business, you need to do more.”
With this concentration on content strategy and usability comes a focus on the audience as well. For Hotchkiss, this is a shift from word-matching to utility, and follows the search engines’ own evolution. “Today, good SEO is about making sure that when a prospect uses a word (or words) to search for something, you match that as best as possible,” he says. “But in the future, SEO will be about ensuring that when your prospect wants something, you deliver it. It may not be content. It may be a movie ticket, a hotel booking, a restaurant reservation or a downloaded TV show.”
A change in analysis
Delivering on this promise frequently requires a new type of analysis. In the past, marketers have done keyword research to uncover keywords as proxies for user intent. In Marketing in the Age of Google, Vanessa Fox describes the process of creating searcher personas that get beyond simple keyword matching and search volume exercises. And still others, such as iCrossing’s Core Audience and Resolution Media’s ClearTarget try to understand characteristics of audiences, including but not limited to the keywords that they use.
For some businesses, mobility will not change user intent. For example, news is not going to be rewritten for a separate platform, as Karen McGrane and other adaptive content advocates frequently point out. However, for some businesses it does; and if marketers want to get the most traffic and conversions from the mobile platform (in other words, be optimised for) the devil is in the detail, and understanding potential differences between mobile and desktop audiences is key.
There are technical considerations as well, which make a type of SEO geared towards these differences – what is commonly called mobile SEO – what it is. Many people in the SEO world, as with their counterparts in the design world, believe that responsive design is the answer to these differences – and Google stated a preference for responsive design in June. However, as I said in issue 232 of .net, responsive design is not always best for the user, and Google wouldn’t prefer it in those cases. If mobile and desktop search behaviour is significantly different, Google supports using dynamic serving or switchboard tags as well.
Matt Cutts is one of the most popular personalities in SEO. As Google’s head of webspam, his blog has been required reading for SEOs since 2005
Cindy Krum, CEO of Denver-based mobile marketing agency Mobile Moxie and author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers Wherever They Are agrees that responsive design is one of many solutions for mobile SEO. “I have been recommending a mixed solution for most of my clients,” she says, “leveraging responsive design when it makes sense, and special mobile-only landing pages when keywords or use-cases cannot be appropriately addressed with a responsive design approach.“
Tools of the trade
Another big shift in SEO has been the introduction of more automation to the process. SEO software has been around as long as SEO has (remember WebPosition Gold?), but the breadth of tools and level of sophistication has increased considerably in the last year or two.
Now there are tools to help you optimise the long-tail through semantic relevance (BloomReach), reporting tools (Conductor, BrightEdge, SEOMoz)), link building tools (Ontolo, Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO) and more, all geared toward automating aspects of the SEO process (see our top 20).
When this happens, inevitably someone in the press will claim that the tool will allow you to fire your redundant SEO; but none of the SEO experts or software providers I talk to agree. “Great SEO starts with human beings who are creative, tenacious, and empathetic to the needs of searchers,” says Fishkin. “No software can ever automate those processes.”
There are other trends in SEO that are important, among them the integration of social signals into ranking algorithms and SEO that is not just text-based, but about understanding and optimising images and videos – perhaps eventually for wearable computing purposes (Google Glass, for example). All in all, legitimate SEO has evolved with the search engines – and it continues to do so. As I’ve said, understanding and applying this new information requires a new type of SEO practitioner, and a different kind of user-focused SEO. The next time someone tells you something different, you now have the knowledge to set them straight.
www.resolutionmedia.com Bryson Meunier is the director of content solutions at Resolution Media, Omnicom’s search agency. He is a primary architect of ClearTarget digital behaviour analysis.