3 Surefire Ways to Use Retargeting for Local Businesses
How many of your customers do you think are ready to make a purchase the first time they encounter your brand or product? The answer might surprise you. A lot of local businesses do a good job of marketing. However, many of them drop the ball when it comes to following up on their initial marketing – and that can hurt them.
Marketing isn’t a one-time encounter with a customer. It’s an ongoing effort, a way of building relationships and convincing customers that your product or service is the best option to help them solve their problems.
The Importance of Retargeting
Research shows that only a small percentage of customers convert (meaning that they make a purchase) on their first visit to a website or online store. That means that the overwhelming majority of the people who click through on an ad or social media post are not making a purchase.
How can you get those people to come back to your website? The answer is retargeting. Retargeting is a form of advertising that specifically targets people who have visited your website. For example, you might choose to target people who visited your opt-in page without signing up for your list, or people who put items in their shopping cart but didn’t complete their purchase.
It takes most customers an average of eight encounters with a brand or product before they make a purchase, especially if they encounter a new brand. That means that retargeting is your best option to connect with leads and convert them into paying – and hopefully repeat – customers.
All you need to do to put retargeting to work for you is to install a Java code on your page. The code will install a cookie that will track customer actions and allow you to follow up as needed.
Surefire Retargeting Options
The good news is that you have several options when it comes to retargeting potential customers. Here are three methods you can use.
Method #1: Facebook retargeting
One of the most popular retargeting methods around is offered by social media giant Facebook. With well over a billion users, many of whom are highly engaged and visit the site every day, Facebook is a powerful marketing tool for local businesses.
Their retargeting tools are easy to use. All you need to do is install a Facebook pixel on the page you want to use to create your audience. The pixel will track the behavior of visitors to your site and allow you to create a Custom Audience using that information. As stated above, you might decide to target people who visited your site without making a purchase.
Once the cookies are installed and you create your ad campaign, Facebook will display your ad only to the people who have your cookie on their computer. What that means is that you will pay for the people you have targeted, but you do not have to pay for anybody else. That makes Facebook retargeting a cost-effective way to build your list or increase your sales.
One option to keep in mind when using Facebook is their “Call Now” feature. This is a feature specifically for mobile users that allows them to call your business with the touch of a button. If you decide to target your ad to mobile users, the “Call Now” feature is a powerful way to connect.
Method #2: Adroll retargeting
The second method you can use to retarget offers the possibility of reaching potential customers almost anywhere they go online. Adroll is an online advertising service that offers retargeting as one of their options. Because they have access to all of the largest internet ad services, they can display ads on any one of their partner sites, giving you multiple opportunities to reach your target audience.
The basic set-up is the same as Facebook. You install a bit of Java code on your home page and specify what information you want to collect. One of the nice things about Adroll is that you can segment your list. What that means is that you have the option to target customers who have viewed specific products. For example, a customer who looked at sweaters on your website could be targeted with ad that featured one of the sweaters they viewed. It’s a more personalized way of retargeting and it can be very effective.
In addition to their general internet retargeting, Adroll also offers specific options such as retargeting on Facebook and Twitter, and retargeting mobile customers.
Method #3: Google AdWords remarketing
There is no denying the importance of Google to local businesses. While the competition for top-tier keywords can be fierce, local keywords tend to be less expensive and less competitive than general keywords. Google is the largest search engine in the world and a likely first stop for any potential customers who might visit your website. It is also a likely destination for people who leave your website without making a purchase. Google offers several ways to retarget your customers.
- Standard retargeting targets customers as they browse websites and apps that are in Google’s Display Network
- Dynamic retargeting targets customers with specific products or messages based on their browsing history with you
- Mobile retargeting targets people who have used your mobile app or website while they are using other mobile apps or websites in Google’s network
- Search retargeting targets people who have visited your site when they search for related products on Google
- Video retargeting finds your customers on YouTube, which is owned by Google, and shows them video ads before they watch a video
The nice thing about all three of these methods is that they offer you a great deal of leeway when it comes to choosing who to target – and how to target them. Retargeting best practices suggest that it is best to target customers based on specific actions they take on your website rather than using general targeting. When you remind customers that they have items in their shopping cart or that they were interested in a specific product, you greatly increase the chances that they will return to your site – and make a purchase.
DIY Website Audit: How Does Your Site Measure Up?
Technology evolves quickly. The software that’s new today is dated in a few months. What we see as cutting-edge web design this week may seem antiquated by this time next year.
How Websites Have Changed
In the early days of the internet, the only connection option available was dial-up. That meant that every site out there had to be designed with speed in mind. Slow modems didn’t allow for image-heavy sites or fancy design features. Most websites were all text, and the page structures were simple too.
Over time, web designers started to use table-based layouts that enabled them to split a single page into sections, making it slightly easier for users to find the information they wanted. These layouts had their drawbacks, but they were a definite improvement over the earlier designs.
The invention of Flash marked a huge breakthrough in web design, as did the gradual speeding up of internet connections. Things like graphics and videos became commonplace. Additional technological advances include the advent of CSS and Web 2.0, both of which allowed for more sophisticated design techniques. Web sites grew, encompassing many pages and various types of content.
Today’s websites are remarkably sophisticated compared to those early sites. They allow for elegant designs and seamless user experiences.
Why Website Audits Are Important
What is a website audit, and why does it matter? An audit looks at every aspect of your website, from content and design to the user experience. It helps to determine whether your website is functioning properly. A thorough audit can enable you to find potential problems including slow load times, broken links, and other issues that may take away from your site’s usability.
Every business needs to do a website audit periodically. Think of it as a check-up for your site – its annual physical examination. Regular audits will ensure that you catch problems early, before they turn into a real problem for you or your customers.
While there are certainly companies who will audit your website for a price, you can do an audit on your own if you prefer. All you need is a clear idea of how to do it.
How to Audit Your Website
Auditing your website isn’t difficult to do, but it is meticulous, detailed work. You need to be prepared to look at every aspect of your site, from the design and content to technical things like the user experience. Here are the things you need to check.
- Load times are hugely important – in fact, research shows that most web users will navigate away from a page if it takes more than four seconds to load, or if it loads improperly. In order to properly check load times, you need to do it from a variety of devices and web browsers.
You should check it from a computer and preferably several smartphones with different operating systems. You should also check from different browsers, including Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. Time your site on each, making note of how long it takes to load. If your site is not supporting traffic from a particular browser, make note of that too.
- The next thing to check is navigability. In theory, any page on your site could be a landing page. You need to make sure that it is easy to navigate back to your home page from every page on your site. Many companies make their logo a link that will return users to the home page.
Alternatively, you can have a “Home” button that appears on the menu at the top of the page, or on the right margin. Your menu placement is important too. Users will expect to see your menu at the top of the page, either permanently displayed or as a drop-down box, or on the right side of the page. Don’t make people search for your menu. You need to check every link on your menu to make sure each one works.
- Related to navigability is the issue of links. The links on your site, whether they lead to another area of your site or to an outside site, should be clear and easy to identify. Sometimes companies make the mistakes of having their links appear in the same color as the rest of the text, which means that users will not be able to recognize a link unless their mouse is placed over it.
Your links should be a different color from your text, and you need to test each one to make sure it works. Make note of any broken links so you can fix them later.
- The user experience is another important thing to test. How easy is it to opt in to your list or to make a purchase? The experience should be seamless and intuitive.
For this part of the process, it may be helpful to ask a friend who isn’t familiar with your site to walk through a subscription or purchase, especially if you have been over it many times. The best way to tell if your site is user friendly is to have someone who has not used it give it a try. Have them make note of anything that is confusing or counterintuitive.
A thorough audit should also include a review of your content. You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your content relevant and interesting?
- Does it offer value to your customers?
- Is any of your content outdated or inaccurate?
- Is your content free of spelling and grammatical errors?
- Is your content readable, with plenty of white space, images, and other things like bulleted lists?
- Are you using different kinds of content, including text, photos, infographics, and videos?
- Is each page of your website optimized for a single keyword? Keywords aren’t as important as they used to be, but local keywords that include your geographical location are still essential if you want to rank for local search.
- Are you using your tags in a smart way? Your title tag, page name, H1 tag, and image tags all represent opportunities to use your keywords and make it easy for people to find your site.
Make a note of any content that needs to be rewritten, updated, or removed.
- Finally, your audit needs to look at the design elements of your site. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:
- Is your color scheme relevant to your brand and pleasing to the eye? A lot of web designers use garish colors thinking that they will attract attention. However, if your site is painful to view, people are not going to stay on the page. You need to think about how a first-time visitor will see your site.
- Are your font choices appropriate for your business and easy to read? Readability should always be your first concern when it comes to font choice. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a fancy or unusual font selectively, but the majority of your content should be in a clear, sans serif font. Most experts recommend a font size of at least 14 points for maximum readability.
- Are your images relevant and striking? You may use stock photos if you prefer, but it’s also worth considering hiring a pro to take some photos of you and your business. Most web users are pretty sophisticated and know a stock photo when they see one. Make sure that whatever pictures you choose include some human faces to personalize your company.
- How many pages do you have? Ideally, you want to have a home page, an “About Us” page, and a “Contact Us” page at the bare minimum. You should also consider adding a blog, and individual pages talking about your products or services.
- Have you included social following and sharing buttons in easy-to-find places?
As you can see, a website audit may end up taking several days to complete. You will have to be meticulous and keep track of the things you have reviewed. If you don’t have the technical know-how to fix the problems you find, remember that you can always hire a designer to correct them for you. However, platforms like WordPress make it very easy for non-designers to put together a website that will meet all of their needs.
Keep Your List Engaged After They Subscribe with These 5 Strategies
It is a must for every small business to have an email list or newsletter. Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to increase brand awareness and engage with your customers. However, it is not enough simply to have an email list and send out an occasional message.
In order to take full advantage of the power of email marketing, you need to find ways to engage the people on your list. You need to keep them interested in you and your product or service if you want to convert them into paying customers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to do that. Here are five foolproof ideas to try.
Put Value First
The first thing you can do to increase subscriber engagement is to forget about trying to sell them anything – for the most part. What do I mean by that? The fact is that very few people subscribe to a list in the hopes of being subjected to a series of hardcore sales pitches. They subscribe because they want to be informed and entertained.
Think of the way you feel when you walk into a store. Do you want a salesperson who immediately pounces on you and starts trying to convince you to buy everything in sight? Or would you prefer a low-key approach from a salesperson who might give you some information, but on the whole, lets you look around the store and come to them when you’re ready to buy? If you’re like most people, you would greatly prefer the latter experience – and so would the people who subscribe to your list.
With that in mind, keep your focus on providing value to your subscribers. Share some insights about your industry, provide them with helpful hints or tools to solve a problem they have, or make a short video demonstrating some innovative ways to use your product. It’s perfectly acceptable to include a call to action at the end, but the bulk of your message should be focused on your customer – not on you.
Draw Them in with Your Subject Line
One mistake a lot of companies make is not giving any thought to the subject line they use for their email list. The words you choose are important. You want to make it clear that your email is a newsletter if it is one, or give some indication of what readers can expect to find when they open it. Research shows that vague subject lines do not get the same open rates as specific ones, so you need to be clear.
Another thing to keep in mind is the length of your subject line. One study showed that short subject lines had the highest open rate. Your best bet is to use a short declarative sentence or a provocative question to entice people to open your email. Aim for no more than 50 characters for your subject line, including spaces – 30 characters if your primary target is mobile customers.
The final thing to remember about subject lines is that your subject line must be an accurate reflection of what readers will find in your email. Stay away from so-called clickbait headlines – your subscribers will not thank you if you promise something in your subject line and then fail to deliver on it in the email itself.
Make Careful Use of Images
What do your emails look like? Are they big blocks of impenetrable text, or are you doing what you can to make them easy to read? One of the best ways to make your newsletter readable is to use a few compelling images to break up the text. A good guideline to use is to have 70% text and 30% images. That ratio will ensure that your email will make it through most spam filters.
If you do use images, make sure that they are relevant to your content. They should be large enough for people to see clearly, but not so large that they make the email difficult to open or slow to load. Internet users are notoriously impatient and if the images take a long time to appear they may just delete your email instead of reading it.
Finally, don’t forget to use your alt image tags to good effect. If your pictures are a manageable size then the majority of your subscribers should be able to see them. However, the alt image tag will describe what is in the picture in the event that the pictures don’t load properly.
Use Smart Design Elements
The design of your email can be just as important as the content. Don’t expect that a plain text email with no formatting is going to draw people in. Instead, make sure to do the following:
- Put your company logo at the top right of the email. That way, people who open your email will know immediately who it came from.
- Make sure that the colors in your email reflect your branding. People tend to notice and respond to colors. If your website is in shades of blue and green, then use the same colors in your email.
- The width of your email should be no more than 650 pixels. If you decide to go with a two-column layout, make sure that your sidebar is on the right.
- Use a readable sans serif font. Sometimes marketers are tempted to use fancy fonts. However, keep in mind that your primary concern should be readability.
If you keep these four design tips in mind, you’ll have a highly readable and compelling newsletter.
Segment Your List
Finally, do what you can to segment your list so that the people who receive each email are those who have a genuine interest in its contents. Some companies have multiple newsletters – for example, an apparel store might send out separate newsletters for women’s and men’s clothing, or for accessories.
You can offer people the opportunity to opt-in to email for particular topics when they first sign up for your list. Alternatively, you might send them a welcome email that gives them the option to do it. Either way, you will increase engagement and your email open rate when you give subscribers some choice in terms of what they see from you.
Having an email list is important, but the key to using it successfully is to find ways to actively engage your readers. As long as you stay away from overt sales pitches and give me them an email that’s relevant, easy to read, and compelling to look at it, you will be able to keep your customers interested.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Local Marketing
When it comes to marketing, are you a sinner or a saint? Many local business owners handle their own marketing in an effort to save money. While the internet certainly makes it easy for people without a ton of experience to market their companies, a lack of knowledge can lead to mistakes that can have a significant impact on the return you get on your marketing investment.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seven deadly sins of local marketing, and what you can do to avoid them.
Sin #1: Your website doesn’t list your phone number and email address on your home page
This first sin might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed by how many companies make this mistake. You need to make it easy for people to contact you. They shouldn’t have to search your website for your contact information.
Put it front and center, and you will greatly increase the chances that the people who land on your site will reach out to you for more information if they need it. If you skip this step, you may end up losing visitors as a result.
Sin #2: You’re putting all your marketing eggs in one basket
Marketing can be a lot of work, especially if you have to keep up with multiple ads and services. However, a lot of small business owners make the mistake of sticking to one, relatively easy marketing technique and using it exclusively. For example, they may build up a following on Facebook and think they can get away with not using any other marketing methods.
Why is this a sin? Well, what happens if your audience leaves Facebook? It might seem unlikely that such a thing would happen, but it’s possible. Trends come and go. Websites that were popular yesterday are nonexistent today. You need to be thinking ahead and doing what you can to get the word out in more than one way.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time marketing, but it does mean that you need to diversify. In the example, I just gave, the person who’s using Facebook might decide to start a blog, build an email list, or even try to get an ad up on Google by bidding on a local keyword.
Sin #3: You haven’t claimed your social media pages
You don’t have to be active on every social media site out there – in fact, we’ll talk about that in a minute. What you do need to do, though, is to take a few minutes to claim your business name on all relevant sites and put up some basic information about your business. If a potential customer looks for you on Instagram, you want them to find accurate information including your address, telephone number, email contact information, and business hours. If you don’t claim your business, your leads could be looking at a page run by a stranger, someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
Sin #4: You are overusing – or underusing – social media
There is no denying that social media is an important marketing tool for every local business. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use it. Sometimes business owners tell themselves that they don’t need social media. That’s a mistake because even your most loyal customers may like to have the opportunity to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
On the flip side, some companies make the mistake of thinking that they need to be active on every social media site. The problem with this approach is that some social media sites are going to be more relevant to your business than others. For example, a company whose products cater almost exclusively to young men can probably afford not to be active on a site like Pinterest, whose users are mostly women.
A good rule of thumb is to find out where your customers are, either by creating a customer profile or polling your customers, and be active on the sites where they are most likely to spend their time. On the other sites, you can simply claim your page as mentioned above.
Sin #5: You’re not managing your reviews
Online reviews are hugely important for local businesses. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google make it easy for people who frequent your business to post reviews of it. Research shows that over 80% of all consumers rely on online reviews prior to making a purchase, yet many local business owners don’t do everything they can to ensure that their reviews are helping them.
The first thing you need to do is claim your business listing on all local review sites. Customers can leave reviews even if a business hasn’t created a listing, so if you haven’t checked, you may be surprised to see how many reviews you have. You should check your existing profile to make sure all relevant information, including your contact information, hours, and prices, are correct.
The second thing to do is come up with a system for responding to reviews. It’s a good idea to monitor your accounts. You can reply to positive reviews with a simple thank you, but negative reviews require a bit more finesse. The most successful responses are those that remain positive. Try to take the conversation offline if you can, and do whatever you need to do to resolve the situation.
Sin #6: You’re not staying true to your brand
Everything you do online reflects on your brand. If you have more than one person posting on your behalf, whether it’s on your blog, website, or social media, you need to have a clearly-defined strategy that ensures that everything related to your company reflects your brand. That means that your colors and fonts should reflect your logo. However, it also means that the tone of what you post needs to be true to your brand’s personality.
Creating a customer profile can help identify your core customers, and you can tailor your brand to them. Look at some big companies such as Red Bull and Rolls Royce to get an idea of what I mean by tone. Red Bull uses brash, hip language that reflects their brand and audience; while Rolls Royce uses elevated language that speaks to their core customers.
Sin #7: You’re not monitoring your company name
Your online reputation consists of more than the things that you post for your company. You also have to keep in mind things like reviews, social media mentions, and more. Many local business owners think that if they control the content they release, they’re doing everything they can to maintain a stellar reputation. That’s simply not true.
An easy fix for this solution is to use monitoring software like Trackur to keep an eye on what people are saying about your company. Positive statements and comments may not require much response, although it’s not a bad idea to chime in when you can. Negative statements and comments give you an opportunity to set the record straight. The bigger effort you make to track mentions of your company, the more likely it is that your reputation will be an accurate reflection of you and your brand.
These seven sins are not the only mistakes made by local companies when it comes to marketing, but they are potentially the most harmful. Fortunately, they are all easy to rectify. If you recognize any of these mistakes from your own marketing efforts, take the simple steps necessary to fix them – and be a marketing saint, not a sinner.
Smart and Easy Ways to Increase Home Page Conversions
Are conversions on your home page lagging behind your expectations? There is an art to designing a high-converting home page, and a lot of small businesses simply don’t give the content and appearance of their website enough attention.
The good news is that there are some very simple things you can do to increase your conversions without having to spend a ton of time and money.
- The first thing you need to consider is the quality of the images on your home page. A page that’s densely packed with text is not going to be appealing to the majority of internet users. On the other hand, a page that mixes text with effective images is far more likely to convert. A great image is one that accurately reflects your product or industry. If you can afford it, the best option is to hire a photographer to take pictures of your business and employees. However, if budget is a concern, don’t be afraid to use stock photos as long as they are unique and not cheesy. Stay away from anything that is obviously a stock photo and go for images that are striking and appealing. Also, you should strongly consider using pictures of people’s faces, which tend to draw customers in.
- Use strong marketing copy that focuses on the things that are most important to your customers. When people search for a keyword, they are really asking a question – and most often, they are asking about a problem that they want to solve. When your home page uses language that plays to your visitors’ emotions, it can trigger a powerful response – one that’s very effective in terms of increasing conversions. There’s an old advertising trope that says that using fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) helps drive sales. The most effective home pages don’t market openly in fear. Instead, they focus on a user’s problem (which may be making them feel one of those three emotions), empathize with it, and then offer a concrete solution.
- Make sure that your value proposition is clear. What are you offering, and why should people be interested? It’s not enough to have well-written copy. You need a strong headline that will immediately put visitors to your site in the proper frame of mind.
- Don’t be coy about your product. You are offering a product or service that you want people to buy, and that should be clear from your home page. It’s one thing to focus on selling the sizzle and not the steak – but remember that there is no sizzle without the steak. Your home page should not leave visitors to your site in doubt about what you sell or the service you provide. You don’t have to provide all the details on the home page, but you do need to show people what it is you sell. If you don’t, they may very well end up navigating away.
- Collect leads using an easy opt-in form. Marketing wisdom says that most users require between seven and ten exposures to a brand or product before they make a purchase online. In practical terms, that means that the overwhelming majority of visitors to your site will not make a purchase on their first visit. One way to mitigate that effect is to have a simple opt-in form that allows you to collect user email addresses – and follow up with them to increase your brand recognition. Your opt-in form should be extremely short, asking for no more than an email address and a name.
- Create an appealing and valuable lead magnet to convince people to opt in to your list. Many companies use the promise of a freebie to get potential leads to hand over their email addresses. For example, a short eBook, email series, or course can be a good way to entice users to join your list. Not only will it allow you to collect email addresses, but giving away a valuable item for free also builds something called reciprocity – a cognitive bias that greatly increases the chances that customers will buy from you. The free item creates a sense of obligation in the same way that doing a favor for someone in person does.
- Make sure you have a compelling and effective email series to send to people after they opt in. Every email you send is an opportunity to provide value and increase your authority, as well as building brand recognition.
- Make good use of testimonials and social proof. 80% of all internet users say that they read reviews before making a purchase. If you aren’t including testimonials and social proof in the form of trust symbols, you could very well be missing out on conversions as a result. Remember, a first-time visitor to your site knows very little about your company. Seeing enthusiastic testimonials and reviews and other trust symbols can be a very effective way of increasing your authority and overriding the objections that a user might have to opting in or making a purchase.
- Consider adding a video to your home page. Videos are very popular – in fact, they are the most popular kind of online content. When you add an interesting and relevant video to your home page, you encourage people to spend time there, listening and watching. If your product or service lends itself to demonstration, a video is a great way to highlight what you’re selling. Even highly technical products can benefit from certain types of video, such as a white board video. The best way to incorporate video is to let users decide whether to play the video or not. Videos that play automatically can be off-putting and distracting.
- Add social following buttons to your home page. New users to your site may not make a purchase on their first visit, and they might not even give you their email address. However, following you on social media is a risk-free way for them to learn more about your company and products. Why not make it as easy as possible for them to do so?
- Test everything on your home page to optimize it fully. Every element of your website needs to shine if you want to maximize your conversions. Split testing, which is also known as A-B testing, is the best way to do it. Using a split-testing software like Optimizely, test each element of your website individually. The software splits your traffic, sending half to your original page, and half to the page with the new element you are testing, such as a headline or call to action. After the test has run long enough to get you a statistically significant result, you can switch to the new option if it results in better conversions and then move on to testing the next one.
Increasing conversions on your home page doesn’t have to be difficult. The most important thing you can do is to look at it from the standpoint of your ideal customer.
What problem do they want solved, and what do they hope to see on your home page? If you tailor your home page to meet those needs, the conversions will follow.
The 5 Most Essential Factors to Ranking on the First Page of Google in 2016
Where does your business appear on Google when potential customers search for your chosen keywords? If you’re not at the top – or near the top – it can be frustrating. There is plenty of evidence to show that very few users venture beyond the first page of results when they do a Google search. In fact, they’re more likely to refine their search than to move on to the next page.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help your website rank on the first page in 2016. Here are the top five.
#1: Worry more about authority than keywords
It’s still important to use keywords in your web content, but the days when high keyword density was the key to ranking on Google are long gone. In fact, your keyword placement is not nearly as important as the overall authority of your site. Google’s algorithms are very sophisticated, and they no longer rely on keywords in a title or H1 tag to determine if a page is worth visiting. Rather, they focus on contextual meaning and look for expected words to rank pages.
For example, it used to be that if you wanted to rank for a keyword such as “Best Legal Services” you’d have to use that keyword three or four times in strategic places to have a chance of ranking. Now, if you talk about competent legal representation, Google can tell that your page is relevant to the keyword even if you don’t use it more than a couple of times in your article.
#2: Pay attention to bounce rates and the time spent on your page
Another surprising SEO development for 2016 has to do with an evaluation of whether your page is providing visitors with what they need. In addition to crawling your page for keywords and context, Google also pays attention to what people do after they leave your page as a way of determining if your page is an authoritative one or a waste of time.
For example, if a visitor searches one of your keywords and clicks on your page, Google looks at how long they stay. A visit of several minutes might indicate that a user is engaged with the content on your page and has found what they want. However, if they spend several minutes on your site, return to their list of search results via the dreaded back button, and click on another site instead, it’s a good sign that your site did not offer what they needed.
If you have a high bounce rate, a good way to improve your search ranking in 2016 is to make sure that your site provides the answers to the questions implied by your chosen keywords.
#3: Optimize your website for mobile users
In 2015, mobile searches on Google outpaced computer searches – and that trend is likely to continue. Google has placed a great deal of importance on mobile search as evidenced by their Mobilegeddon mobile-friendly update in early 2015. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, now is the time to get on board.
Fortunately, most businesses can switch to mobile-friendly or (ideally) mobile-adaptive sites with little trouble. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching the template you use for your site. For example, if you have a WordPress site, they have a huge library of templates available, many of which are mobile-adaptive. You may have to do some fine-tuning of your site to make a new template work, but it’s worth the work to get it done.
The beauty of mobile-adaptive sites is that they work by configuring to the specific mobile device being used. Mobile customers tend to be an impatient bunch, and they are unlikely to wait for a slow-loading page or scroll horizontally to read your content. If you take the time to optimize your site for mobile users, it can do more than anything else to improve your search ranking in 2016.
#4: Stay away from content that’s too short
It wasn’t that long ago that blog posts of 250 to 500 words were considered the norm. Short and snappy was the rule of the day, and the assumption that people wanted short content led to a glut of short articles that were light on value and meaning.
That has all changed. Truthfully, the trend toward lengthy web content has been happening for a while, but this year it has really become the rule rather than the exception. Research shows that web users are far more likely to engage with content that’s in the 1,000-1,500 word range than with short articles.
Why? Because they want valuable information, and – with rare exception – it’s hard to convey that in just a few hundred words. Of course you can offer a top 10 list that’s only 500 words long, but you’re not going to be able to explain why items are on the list as well as you would if you wrote a longer article or blog post.
The reason that Google is placing so much emphasis on length is that they want to make sure they are sending people to pages designed for humans, not search algorithms. If you’re worried about publishing long content, remember that you can make it more readable by breaking it up with subheadings and images.
#5: Make sure the user experience is front and center
In a way, this last point is a summary of everything that has come before it. Each one of the above points comes back to one thing: user experience. Old-school SEO focused on tricking Google’s algorithms – to the point where many websites were far friendlier to computers than they were to human beings.
More and more, Google is concerned about ensuring that their search results are leading users to sites that answer their questions. They want users to feel good about the search experience, something that’s unlikely to happen if they end up on a site that’s not mobile friendly, or is packed with keywords but contains no real value.
There are many things you can do to test the user experience on your site, including split-testing individual components on your page. However, the best thing you can do is to do what you can to answer key questions that are implied by your chosen keywords, and make sure that your site is easily viewable by any user, on any device.
Ranking on the first page of Google is always a challenge. Regardless of your niche, you will be facing some fierce competition. It might sound odd to say this, but the best way to rank is to forget about trying to rank. Don’t worry about algorithms and SEO tricks. Instead, focus on making your site a place where potential customers can find exactly what they need. If you do that, the search rank will follow.
DIY SEO Audit in 10 Steps
Whether you manage your own website or you have a webmaster team dedicated to search engine optimization and online marketing, a website audit can be useful. It will uncover SEO mistakes and help ensure that proper SEO techniques are being used, throughout your website.
The main reasons for using SEO is to make your website easier for search engines to navigate, to increase your search engine rankings, and help boost the amount of traffic your website receives. If you are worried about the SEO on your website, then use these 10 steps to perform your own DIY SEO audit.
#1 Search Your Business
The first step in this DIY SEO audit is to search your own company, using Google Search. If you search specifically for your business, your website should be the first result. Look at what other references come up in the search, including customer reviews and any articles or websites that mention your company.
#2 Setup a WebmasterTools Account
If you have not already done so, set up a Google Webmaster Tools account. This will allow you access to a variety of statistics related to your search engine optimization, including security issues.
When you performed your business search, if you noticed any results that include the message “this website may be hacked”, then you may have a security problem. Take a look at the security issues section in your Webmaster Tools account, for more details.
After you have resolved your security concerns, submit a request for Google to re-evaluate the security of your website, so that the warning messages can be removed from search results for your web pages.
#3 Remove Dead Links
Using good link structure on your website helps ensure better navigation for users and for search engine crawlers. Dead links, which are links that are not active anymore, can lower your SEO and your search engine result rankings. A dead link can also cause a visitor to leave your website and go to your competition.
Use a free tool, or online resource, to check your website for dead links. These programs will scan your website, visiting every link on your website, and determining if there are any dead links. Remove any external links that go to a web page that is no longer active.
#4 Add Redirects
If you have an internal link that results in a 404 error, then consider adding a redirect. This will help ensure your visitors are still able to reach the pages on your website, when the old URL is linked on another website or comes up in a search engine result.Using a 301 redirect, you are informing search engines that the web page has been permanently moved and not deleted.
#5 Check Your Title Tags
Title tags are the default titles that appear in search engine results and at the top of the browser window when a web page is opened. Check your title tags, either using your website editor software, your databases, or whichever option you have for editing your web pages. Try to use your main keyword at the beginning of your tag. Keep your title tag to a limit of 70 characters or less, but do not make them too short.
#6 Check Meta Descriptions
After checking your title tags, check your Meta descriptions. These descriptions are also used by search engines when gathering results. Follow the same principles for writing a good title tag, but with a 155 character limit. Do not use special characters and try your best to describe your web page in a unique way.
#7 Include Image Tags
Search engines cannot “see” your images, when crawling your website. Every image on your website should include an ALT text tag. This tag will contain a short description of what the content of the image is. Limit yourself to 100 characters and use unique keywords that are relevant to the image and your web page.
This tag was originally intended to help people with browsers that cannot load images and blind people that use voice to text for reading web page content. It has now become a major SEO factor, when determining search engine rankings.
#8 Check for Mobility Issues
The use of mobile devices has increased dramatically in the past decade. More people are relying on their smart phones and tablets to browse the web. If your website is not mobile-friendly, then you could end up losing a lot of the traffic to your website. Also, Google and other search engines have begun using mobility as a factor in creating SEO scores.
Google has their own tool that you can use to check for mobility issues. After checking a web page on your site, this tool will provide you with tips and suggestions for editing your code for better mobility. You can find this tool by going to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
#9 Avoid Duplicate Content
While everyone knows that it is a bad idea to copy content from other sources, there may be occasions where you end up duplicating your own content. Whether this is due to the updating of a blog article, the creation of a second page offering similar information, or any other cause, you should let Google know which page is the preferred page.
Add Meta data containing a canonical link to the preferred page. When a search engine comes across this Meta data, they will understand that this is not a duplicate page. You will need to add this information yourself, using whichever method you normally use for editing Meta data on your website.
#10 Update Your Sitemap
Every website should have a sitemap. This is an xml file that contains links to the pages on your website. You can have separate xml files for different categories of pages on your site or a single sitemap file containing all links. If you do not already have a method of creating a sitemap, there are several free resources available online for building a free sitemap. Whenever you update a page or add a new blog article, your sitemap should be updated and submitted to search engines using Webmaster Tools.
After performing all 10 of these tasks, you should have a much better idea of your current search engine optimization. Your own DIY SEO audit is something that you should perform at least once per month, to monitor changes to your SEO and make sure that you are continuing to do everything that you can to boost traffic and increase your search engine rankings.