April 16, 2014

Best of the Website Success Blogs (Feb 28, 2009)

GA1
This weeks Best of the Website Success Blogs begins with a warning to make sure your Google Adwords account is linked with your Google Analytics account.  We found good posts on improving site navigation and understanding buyer motivation by analyzing keywords the use to find your site.  We follow with six key tips for organic search success, a 25-point website usability checklist, 10 Twitter Tips and the Ten Commandments of Social Media Marketing.

Pour yourself an Arizona Pomegranate Green Tea (my new fave beverage) and read this stuff!

bg Theory:
Make sure your Google Analytics & AdWords accounts are linked by March 3rd, 09

Ophir Cohen:
Linking Google Adwords and Analytics 101

Rich Page:
10 Ways to Improve Site Navigation That Your Visitors Will Love

invespBlog:
How to Understand Buyer Motivation Without Telepathy: Start With Keywords

Search Engine Guide:
Six Key Tactics for Organic Success
The basics, but always a good start.

Inside Adwords:
A Change to Our Display URL Policy

FutureNow:
Are Your Existing Customers Messing Up Your Analytics?

UserEffect:
25-Point Website Usability Checklist
A pretty good list.  I have one I have adapted over the years.  Should do a blog post on this.

ProBlogger:
How to Grow Your Blog to The Next Level With SEO
Part of a series.

Twitip:
Ten Top Twitter Tips from February

Social Media Blogster:
The 10 Commandments of Social Media Marketing

The Viral Garden:
Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs
Weekly list.  Worth a look from time to time.

Entrepreneur:
65 Indispensable Websites for Business Owners

And finally, for "hits and grins" a neat cartoon on the hubub that
erupted recently when Facebook announced a change in their terms of
service.

Do you have any recommendations?  What blogs posts do you find interesting or value? Share with us!

– Kurt Scholle

A Confused Mind Says No

Confused2
I attended the National Speakers Association Illinois Chapter meeting on Friday.  The keynote speaker, Ford Saeks, is an interesting guy.  A former juvenile delinquent, he started a painting company when he was 15, and eventually developed a product to store bikes in a garage vertically.  He owns the patent on another product that combined the bike trailors used to pull a baby with the jogging backpack.  All of that could be the subject of other blog posts.

One of the themes thruout nearly 3 hours of presentations was, "The confused mind says no."  It was probably my biggest takeaway and it reminded me of the presentation that Tim Ash did on landing pages at SES.

People are searching for solutions online.  One of the most important elements of why customers select you is what problems do you solve that people will pay you to make go away.  But, don't confuse them by distracting them from the page's primary purpose.  Readers of this blog have heard me say on more than one occasion that your online message should be about benefits, not features.  Make those apparent by using headlines, bullet lists and bold or highlighted text.

Two popular themes are helping your customer avoid pain or increase pleasure.  And those benefits can be presented in headlines that begin with "7 Keys to…" or "3 Benefits of…" or "Secrets that will…."

Use a separate web page (or even website) to promote the single benefit (avoid pain / increase pleasure) or product.  Saeks told the room full of speakers that they might need separate websites to support diverse presentation topics and at the very least, their "one sheets" should support one speech or presentation at a time.  The same applies to a menu of products or services for non-speaker websites.

Tim Ash talked about landing pages with minimal off-page links or information that did not pertain to the product or service being offered.  Landing page optimization is also about a lack of confusion.

A confused mind says no!

Saeks recommends the book, "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability" by Steve Krug.

Bonus stuff:

Saeks says there are 3 keys to successful marketing:

  • Message (Why)
  • Market (Who)
  • Methods (How)

Free offers to get prospects to opt in still work, but e-zine subscriptions are no longer effective.

Article marketing is an effective technique to build website traffic.

Testimonials are great influencers.

"Text sells, graphics create attention."

Here's to increasing your web site's ROI,

– Kurt Scholle

Annual Website Assessment (Pt 3) Links & Functionality

Loser
One of the quickest ways to lose a visitor (and a conversion) is with broken links and functions.
  When a visitor hits a dead end, your site may as well be flashing "Loser-Loser" in big red letters across the screen.  It's even worse when the broken link is a money link (purchase, donate, register) because you may have subjected your visitor to 'linkus interruptous' just when they had their wallet out.

Most website operators we know fail to test their links and functions on a regular basis, even on an annual basis, so they have no idea that site navigation or e-commerce functions are hindered.  We know of sites where the order function was not even tested when it was added to the site!

It's important to order from yourself on a regular basis, especially if you're using a 3rd party vendor.  They may have changed their process or be experiencing technical difficulties.

Test not only that the product links work, but that the whole process is set up properly.  Go through the whole sales funnel, taking notes or screen shots along the way.  Make sure that the "success page" your visitor hits upon completion of the sale has the proper message.  Make sure that page has links to other pages on your site – don't make it a dead end.

Don't link to other site pages if you're using the success page as a landing page for an upsell.  If they accept your additional offer, there are other pages in the funnel for them to follow.  There can also be a "no thanks" link that takes them to another offer or a real "Thankyou" page with links to your site.

And by the way, the success page is an excellent opportunity for an upsell or a cross sell.  A large number of people will buy from a success page, than if you make the same offer in a followup days, weeks or months.

Present your success page offer as a bonus for new customers.  It can be very effective to use the scarcity tactic (limited time offer).  Offer a related product or service for a low price.  If you don't offer a product/service, consider offering information or membership.  Perhaps a white paper related to the product in exchange for their first name and email address so that you can make followup offers via sequential autoresponders.  Or the autoresponders can deliver tips on using the product, such as "Bi-Weekly Tips for (doing something more profitably or enjoyably)"

Sequential autoresponders are set up in advance, sometimes with weeks or months of information ready to be delivered at pre-set intervals.  Format them so that they have a standard look and feel, but often include an offer or at least a reminder of the value of your website. 

  • "Order today and take an additional 10% off"
  • "The Midwest's Leading Supplier of School Athletic Uniforms"
  • "Free Shipping on Orders of $25 or More"
  • "Serving the area since 1998"

Sign up for your own autoresponders and experience what your customers and prospects do.

The key is to get something beyond the initial sale
: an upsell or autoresponder opt-in.

Test all of the links on every page of your site.  Too many sites have broken links in their site navigation.  It's easy to get fubared links from page content.  Test links to other pages of your site, but test links to offsite pages too.  Broken outbound links are frustrating to users, but the search engines are thought to use outbound links in their ranking algorithms, and a broken link to a partner website can cause friction with that partner.

Test forms on your site
.  Make sure they ask for the correct information and make sure they results are delivered to the appropriate people.

Test your email links.  Make sure they go to current email addresses.  We see email boxes shut down when an employee leaves and there's no way to receive current inquiries.  ALWAYS have a former employee's email address forward on to their successor or manager.  You don't want to miss a message from a customer, prospect or vendor.

Website E-Mail Tip
: Do not use sales@yourwebsite.com or info@yourswebsite.com type email addresses.  Spammers know they are frequently used, so once they find URLs, they will send out bulk emails to as many 'common' email addresses as possible inlcuding common first names like John@ or Mary@. Consider using sales2009@ or info2009@ instead.  It will take the spam robots some time to find them and you may want to change them a couple of times per year.

And make the employee email address a little less common than Mary@.  Helping to avoid spam will increase their productivity and your ROI.

Dedicated to increasing your website ROI,

– Kurt Scholle

Your Baby Is Ugly – Landing Page Mini-Critiques (SES Chicago)

It turns out that I met 2 Rock Stars at SES-Chicago.  Yesterday, I reported on my takeaways from David Szetela's excellent PPC Clinic.  Today, some excellent information from Tim Ash, president of SiteTuners.com.  Tim has worked with some very large companies on landing page optimization.

Landingpageoptimizationbook
Tim is the author of the book Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions (John Wiley Press, 2008).  It is an Amazon computer & Internet best-seller.  Tim is also an in-demand public speaker and contributing columnist to publications including SearchEngineWatch and Website Magazine.

I've had his book on my Amazon shopping list for some time now, so I ordered copies for my developers and me.  I recommend that you do the same.  I promise you'll get a better ROI if you read his book!

I think you'll get improved ROI by some of these take-aways:

Tim says that most websites benefit from a simple layout consisting of a header on top (dark colors) with left-hand navigation (NAV) and white content area background.  The page background (the area behind the page) should be white.  See examples of great page layout at landingpageoptimizationbook.com or his Site Tuners website.

He recommends a maximum of 6-9 categories (NAV links) plus sub-NAV per page.

NAV should be expressed in a good, simple hierarchical manner on the left side of the pageBreadcrumbs should be used on the site.  He says interior pages should always have a Home button as part of the NAV.  (That will put to rest an argument I often get from our developers who say "Everyone knows that you click the logo to get back to the Home page."  Not everyone knows!)

Buttons should only be used for actions.  Links should only be used to access other information.  My guess is that he doesn't like java script NAV – I imagine he addresses that in the book.  All of the site that he showed as good examples had basic links in the NAV.

Conserve vertical space.  Big headers are becoming thinner, which forces content on the page up, above the fold.  Headers should always be placed above horizontal site NAV.

He's not in favor of "commercials" on a website Home page; those being the Flash animations that sometimes preceed loading of the Home page.  I'm not either, search engines have a difficult time indexing the content and many visitors don't like to wait for it to load and play.

He recommends that banner ads, if used, be placed below the header somewhere.  He does not like banners above the header.  (There are a number of standard banner sizes that can be placed below a header)  He says banners located below headers get read more than banners at the top of the page.

Landing pages should have a single purpose – 1 callout per page. (A landing page is generally considered to be destination page from a paid ad, but it's good practice to consider every page of your site as a landing page)

I was a little surprised that he said that people read web pages more or less from the upper left corner to the center of the page to the lower right corner.  I think I've seen heat maps (graphic representations of tests of visitor's eye movements on a web page) from the likes of Jacob Nielsen, no less, who describe it more as a "fuzzy F", or left to right across the top of the page and them down the left side of the page.

Preferred resolution: 1024×768 pixels (We know that from server logs)

If you use video, use small video thumbnails that pop to another page (using Ajax).  Never have video auto-play.  He's against those videos where someone walks onto the page and just starts speaking.

Good stuff!  Buy his book and profit from it.  I am really looking forward to reading it and using more of his techniques on client sites.

And plan on attending the next Search Engine Strategies conference near you!

– Kurt Scholle, the Website-ROI-Guy

I Met a Rockstar at Search Engine Strategies/Chicago

Rockstar
I attended Search Engine Strategies in Chicago yesterday.  Not a bad show and I liked some of what I saw from exhibitors, especially the Trellian keyword demo.

The highlights were 2 presentations on landing page optimization and pay-per-click strategies.  Getting people to your site and converting them to customers, donors, volunteers, advocates, partners, etc are the 2 major keys to website success and ROI.

David Szetela heads up Clix Marketing in Louisville and he conducted the Power PPC Advertising Clinic.  He presented great information and in a way that even beginners could understand, which was important because some of the attendees are working on sites with partners or vendors.  David's tips and insights will help them manage their paid campaigns.

Half way thru his presentation, I'm thinking, "This guy is good!"  The information terrific and easily understood.  Then, I learned that he really is a ROCKSTAR!  He hosts PPC Rockstars on Webmaster Radio.  You should check it out.  It's available on iTunes.  I'd suggest reading his blog too.

Let me share some of the takeaways:

Strive for only one possible action on landing pages.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) AND Pay-Per-Click used together are worth more than the sum of their parts. (10 organic links plus 60 PPC links = 100)

50% of web surfers do not type in a URL into their browser, they type the domain name into the search box. SEO and PPC can really help attract new users because so many surfers use the default search engine page when they begin searching. (We've noticed this a lot in website traffic reports.  We'll see www.thedomainname.com as one of the keywords used to find the site.)

Use a benefit or call to action in your paid search ads.  It helps improve conversion. "Free shipping!" at end of URL works better than in the headline.

He spent a lot of time discussing the use of descriptive words or
actions in the web address you show at the bottom of your ad.  If my
website development firm were selling refrigerators, the URL www.WebAsylum.com/refrigerators will convert better that www.WebAsylum.com.

Ads don't need to be in the top 10 to be profitable.  He has some running as low as 35th place that are more profitable than ads that appear higher.  A good mix of both helps the overall campaign.

Here's a tip I think he attributed to Perry Marshall.  If you keep searching on the same term in Google (sometimes a dozen times or more), Google ultimately delivers what they think are the best ads (highest quality score) for that particular keyword or phrase.

Capitalize initial letters in a domain name.  www.WebsiteROIGuy.com is better than www.websiteroiguy.com.  However, initial caps works best with American visitors and less well outside the U.S.

Landing pages should reassure visitors that they have come to the right page.  In most cases have ONE offer or callout and reduce or eliminate all off-page links.  If your ad is promoting, cooking ranges for example, you can show a selection of ranges with links to specific products.  Don't have the landing page for a "range" ad also show refrigerators.

Don't show too many products.  Additional products they are not expecting will lower conversions.

Place the action button on the lower right of the page.  That's where people expect it.

Test everything, even the caps recommendation above.  Split testing of ads and landing pages should be done frequently.  Keep what works best.

Google considers mis-spellings as unique – so bid on all mis-spellings.  One additional example was a woman who bids on the term "Christmas ornaments."   He recommended also bidding on "Christmasornaments."

David Szetela doesn't have the big hair many rockstars do and he didn't eat a live bat during the presentation, but I thought his performance was terrific.

This stuff will help your ROI.

More rockstar stuff from SES later today!

– Kurt Scholle