Twin Cities Drupal Camp talk: "Change your customer's behavior with a brain-based, data-driven approach"

Change your customer's behavior

This talk was presented by our CEO, Seth Viebrock, at the 2018 Twin Cities Drupal Camp. The title of the presentation has been changed.

When we say we “optimize conversions” it doesn’t really get at the heart of what we’re doing – we’re changing customer behavior. We’re also learning about deep, emotional values that our customers possess. While there are many qualitative means to this end, there’s a ton of data that’s quicker to obtain and more readily available when we just don’t have the time, budget, or precision to delve into qualitative studies.

Whether you’re doing an evolutionary or revolutionary website redesign, or optimizing your ad traffic and SERPs, data is crucial. If it’s there, why not look at it?

Just like stereotypes can misrepresent reality, best practices can misrepresent what actually works for your particular site redesign. Be an advocate for archetypes (data-backed) over stereotypes (your own opinion). Whenever possible, favor data-informed decision making over “best practices”, egos, and the latest idea your boss dreamed up. Of course data is only as useful as the insights you draw from it, but why not look at it rather than ignore it, before spending your client’s dollars and putting your relationship with them on the line. Perfection does not exist in web design, but practicing data analysis can sure make things better.

Although this presentation is technology-agnostic, Drupal is a highly customizable, data-friendly platform, so let’s take a look at how we can use data for a better redesign, a better experience, and better KPIs and end results!

Here are some data concepts and sources we will cover, which can inform a successful redesign:

__Data-driven personas__ 

* What’s the difference between a stereotype (an inference based on personal experience) and an archetype (based on individual data points from a given demographic)? 

* What kind of data sources are available to support and build these personas? 

__Persuasive data__ 

* Your new redesign touts that this business/organization/institution can deliver a product or a set of promises…but what supporting data do you have to “prove” this to the end-users, and what does this mean when planning your data structures / content types? 

* How do you leverage and position testimonials, data-driven badges, and other “social proof”, as well as data from authority, liking, and scarcity (there are only X seats left to see this presentation!).

__User-centric, data-driven UX/Usability__ 

* The main goal of usability from your client’s perspective is more profit (or a similar KPI). How does something as simple as the prioritization of content on a page equate to profit? 

* What data exists right now that you can look at and use, without heading into a usability lab? 

* How does this data solve for the “ego problem” of web design? 

* Some of this data only takes a few minutes of your time – learn a few tips and tricks, too.

__What data do you have on the end-user?__ 

* Are there valuable opportunities for personalization of website content, even if it’s just the weather, referrer, or country of origin? Why would that matter?

__ Data-driven copywriting__

* So your client wants a website, but all websites need copy. Learn about what kind of data can inform copy-first design, even if it’s not always realistic, and at least think about what kind of data you or the client can collect to inform the usage of space on the page. 

__Analytics__ 

* Simple tricks for evaluating website performance in analytics (i.e. detecting a bug in Chrome without ever looking at the page, based on user completion of page goals), how to set your website and client up for success, and how to continuously improve.  

About the author: Seth Viebrock is Founder and CEO of Origin Eight, a Drupal and WordPress web design and digital marketing optimization agency based in Minneapolis.

Optimizing Forms: Make Them a Great Conversation

Forms

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and you’re having a nice walk in the park. A stranger approaches you, and he asks if you want a $10 gift card. Already skeptical, he pulls out a lengthy form and states that all you need to do is provide your date of birth, phone number, email, and fill out a survey in order to get the gift card. It’s crazy! Although a free gift card is tempting, he hasn’t done anything to make you trust him with sensitive information and, frankly, it isn’t worth the effort to fill out a lengthy form. You’re not going to risk providing all of that personal information for a mere $10. You wouldn’t do this in person, so why would you do it online? Although it seems crazy, I see companies do the same thing on their websites all the time. Often, forms are the first point of conversation with your customers, so you need to make sure they leave a great first impression on your prospects and you earn their trust before asking for sensitive information.

[Forms are one of the most important elements of functional web design. Our Basics of Web Design guide can help put this point in perspective.]

The first thing to keep in mind when designing forms is to ensure that they are not visually overwhelming. You should only ask your users for the information that is absolutely necessary because you want to make sure there aren’t too many fields in the form. If you need extra information for marketing, you should try to find it out in a different way, especially if this is the prospect’s first point of contact with your business. If the nature of your business requires you to have a lot of fields in the form, you can test splitting up the form into multiple steps, so that there aren’t too many fields on one page. Another advantage to the multi-step approach is that user information can be saved in sections as prospects fill out the form even if they don’t complete it. Also, you should group related information within the form together. By grouping related information together, visitors can make sense of the information being asked of them, it allows for scanning, and it makes the form less overwhelming. In addition, you can use whitespace to your advantage. Whitespace can reduce clutter and be used for grouping and increasing readability. Furthermore, you should leave personal details for later. You shouldn’t ask for things like birthdays, payment details, and phone numbers right out of the gate. Finally, you should always test multiple form structures to see what works best. Depending on your business, one-step or multi-step could be better.

Another part of your forms that you need to take a close look at are your field labels. They should be clear and unambiguous. Also, you should clearly indicate if all the fields are required. If some of the fields are optional, you should mark the optional fields or indicate the required fields with an asterisk. If the data you are asking for is complex or sensitive, you should include help text. There are a few ways you can consider displaying the help text. It can always be visible next to your fields, it can be revealed when clicking an "i" next to a field, or it can be displayed dynamically. However, you should avoid in-field labels for a few reasons. In-field labels strain users short-term memory, keep users from checking their work once they complete the form, annoy those who navigate with the keyboard because text disappears, and occasionally, users have to manually delete the placeholder text. For those reasons, you should stay away from using in-field labels.

You also want to ensure that you have a clear call to action on your forms. Your call to action should be clear and distinguished from the rest of the form. Thus, you should remove all distractions. Your call to action should look like a button or, at the very least, it should be obvious that it is clickable. You should also include text on the button that clearly indicates what happens when users click it, like "Pay Securely" or "Apply Now." Additionally, if you have a secondary call to action, the primary call to action should be larger and a different color than the secondary option. Another way you can use call to action buttons is by greying out the button until all of the required fields are completed. If you are using a multi-step form, you can consider including a progress bar at the top of the form. The progress bar provides transparency to users on how long the form is, gives them a clear sense of direction, and also motivates users to complete the form.

When dealing with user errors in forms, you should do everything you can to prevent errors from happening in the first place. You can use help text to tell users how forms should be filled out to prevent most errors. However, some errors are inevitable, and you should display your error messages in an optimal fashion. Your error messages should be helpful, informative, and clear. They should be rendered in language that you would use when speaking with a person, so you should avoid using jargon or technical speak. You should also ensure that they stand out against the form fields. It’s best that you display them in-line with the fields. If you display them at the top of the page, it will require users to scroll up and down which may generate unnecessary frustration with the form. It’s also usually best to display errors as users fill out the form. If you wait until form submission to display errors, this can be overwhelming, make the errors seem more serious than they actually are, and users may not know which fields the errors apply to. However, if you display the errors as users fill out the form, you can clearly mark which field the error applies too, prevent build-up of multiple errors, and display them in a clean format. You can also use positive reinforcement and display a checkmark next to the field when a user fills it out successfully. This will yield a more enjoyable experience than using negative reinforcement. When instituting field validation, it’s best to start with lenient rules and then make the rules stricter as you learn more from testing how your prospects fill out the form.

Another important part of your forms to optimize for is accessibility. Inaccessible sites lose tons of money, so you should ensure that your forms are accessible. Thus, you should make sure you use readable fonts and make sure your labels, help texts and input boxes are large enough on all types of screens. Also, you should not replace help text with icons. Finally, you should avoid captchas. If you need to verify humanity, you can use email verification.

You may have noticed a trend with these tips for form optimization. It’s important to continuously test all parts of your forms to ensure you have the best form design for your business and target customers. This may seem like a lot for a seemingly small part of your business, but it’s necessary. If you understand the value in form optimization but need some help to ensure the work gets done, send us a note. We’re happy to help!

An Optimizer's Guide to Life: A Mindset that Transcends Digital Marketing

Mindset

We all have those days. You wake up, go through your morning ritual, go to work, and do the typical tasks of the day. It’s almost the same thing you did yesterday, and you have a constant feeling of déjà vu. It feels like you’re going through the day on autopilot, and the monotony is killing you. You may feel like making some big changes in your life, but you also might have been burned by taking risks in the past. Because change is scary, you keep going through the motions even though things are just alright the way they are, but not really great. However, you don’t have to live your life that way. By continuously making small changes in your daily habits, you can slowly attain the lifestyle you have always wanted without taking huge risks. We follow the same approach with our clients, but this is a mindset that transcends digital marketing.

Let’s flashback to when you were first figuring out your career path. When you were in college or even high school, people would ask you what you wanted to do when you graduated. More than likely, you had an answer because it was expected that you have a plan for what you wanted to do with your life. However, once you had an internship or started studying what you envisioned doing, you might have changed your mind. It was not enough to visualize yourself in a certain job or listen to what people told you about a career choice. You had to try it out for yourself in order to see if it was a good fit for you. Maybe it was exactly what you thought, or it might have been completely different than your expectations. Nonetheless, you had to test out different jobs until you found the right one. 

Think about the last time you decided to eat healthier. Rather than making small changes to your regular eating habits, like slowly cutting out a few unhealthy items here and there, you may have been sold on the latest and greatest life-changing diet. You probably dreaded the days leading up to the time when you started it, and while you were eating "healthy," you probably hated your life and counted the days until you were finished. That is, if you even had the dedication to see it through the end. When you completed your diet, you probably thought you deserved a special treat and slipped into your old habits again. Drastic changes sound great in theory, and it’s one of the reasons quick weight loss plans and self-proclaimed miracle drinks sound so appealing. However, a much more feasible and effective process for reaching healthy eating habits is to introduce small changes over time. 

We can apply the same logic to exercising. If you never worked out and decided to run a marathon tomorrow, the results would not be pleasant. The odds of you completing the race would be slim, and even worse, it would discourage you from wanting to work out in the future. Conversely, if you set a goal to run for a few minutes this week and a few minutes longer next week, or even tested different exercises to see what you enjoyed doing, you would slowly make gains and get into better shape.

The optimizer mindset can be applied to finding and getting good at a new hobby as well. In order to find the activities you love doing, you have to try lots of different things. Some people are musically talented, other people are gifted athletes, and some people are both. If the only hobby you ever tried was playing the guitar, your true passion could be playing baseball, but you would never know that if you only took guitar lessons. The fact of the matter is that you don’t know what you enjoy until you test it. Then, once you do find the hobbies you enjoy, you might want to get better at them. You’ll do that by testing small changes to your technique and see what helps you improve.  Everyone is unique, so you have to constantly test your approach in order to keep your craft in top shape. 

There’s a good chance that you already apply this mindset when managing people at work, but you may not think of it in the same way. If you are a good manager, then you are constantly looking for ways to maximize the performance and efficiency of your employees. When someone new starts, you might test different techniques for managing that person because no two employees are the same. You will test different management strategies and give them different projects to find what they’re good at. Once you establish a standard management style and deliverables, employees will have expectations for the job. If you drastically changed expectations overnight without giving your employees time to adjust, they would not be very happy. You would be disappointed with their performance and may have to fire some of them. Even worse, if the change was too disruptive, you may have to rebuild the entire department.

There are countless ways that you can apply the optimizer mindset to your daily life. The primary thing to remember is that you can reduce the risk associated with lifestyle changes when you introduce change in small increments. Quick, drastic changes are idealistic, but they are very risky. Big changes are possible, but they take time.  

As you may know, the digital marketing landscape has changed. We have numerous tools that enable us to apply an agile approach to digital marketing. With today’s technology, we can test small changes and measure small improvements to our websites and marketing campaigns. We no longer have to undergo complete redesigns of our websites to increase conversions and risk being burned by a drastic, expensive process. If this is all unfamiliar to you and seems a bit overwhelming, that’s ok. We can help make incremental improvements at your organization. Simply fill out our contact form, and we can help bring your organization into the future.

Digital Marketing Brain: Your website may be losing people’s attention

Digital Marketing Brain

Think about it: some guy named Joe lands on your website from an ad campaign that both interests him and aligns with his awareness, and 5 seconds later he’s gone. He was looking for a product just like the one you sell, so why would Joe leave your website so quickly? You have a beautiful website that you poured a ton of money into, highly valuable products, he clicked through an ad that interested him, costing you $5 or even $50…and now he’s gone. What percentage of your web traffic is made up of “Joes”? And if you’re paying that much for your traffic, what can you do about the Joes of the world?

Next, Jane comes by through the same channel, with the same level of awareness and interest…and she spends 60 seconds browsing around. She even visits your “contact page”, because she briefly contemplated reaching out to you. She’s looking for a company like you, and she has some questions…but you never hear from her. Why didn’t Jane contact you?

What happened in each of these scenarios? Joe and Jane both made largely subconscious choices about how to spend their time –– their brains decided what to do, and for the majority of the decision their brains were on autopilot. So, how do brains make choices on websites?

Another name for a “choice” a user makes on the web is a “conversion”, and the verb form of that is “to convert.” So, how could we do a better job of getting Joe and Jane to convert? The formula below gives us some insight.

C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a ©

where:
C = Probability of conversion
m = Motivation of the user
v = Clarity of the value proposition (“What’s in it for me?”)
I = Incentive to take action
f = Friction that prevents taking action
a = Anxiety present in taking action

This is a copyrighted formula from MECLABS, an independent research facility that focuses on how people make choices, that is widely used to describe how people “convert” or choose to take action. You can see that user motivation is the largest factor here – it’s the motivation that brought the user to your website in the first place. However, you can’t change a user’s motivation — all you can do is optimize the copy, visual messaging, experience, and design so that it is speaking to and aligned with with the user’s motivation in the best possible way, which, according to this formula, is the most important thing to get right.

The second most important factor is the clarity of the value proposition. It’s a difficult yet highly essential thing to get right. Think of the value proposition on your website’s homepage for example. Do you have one? Is it clear and front-and-center? It’s the text that, from the perspective of the user, answers “what’s in it for me, and why should I care?” Not only that, but it answers the question, “why should I choose you over an alternative?”

The third most important factors are incentive, friction, and anxiety. Incentives are little things push the user towards action, like “free shipping” or “discounts” or “get this item gift wrapped.” Friction is anything that psychologically or physically impacts a user’s ability to act. Examples include a bad or difficult checkout experience, long forms, forcing the user to create an account during an eCommerce checkout experience, website bugs or a bad user experience, copy that is confusing or unclear, and the like. Finally, there’s anxiety. There will always be perceived risks, costs, and benefits running through a user’s head before they complete an action, such as “Why do you need my phone number if I’m just downloading a product?” or “What happens after I give you my credit card?” or “If I fill out this contact form will I get hounded by a sales rep or will I get to talk directly to someone who has the expertise I’m looking for?”

So, we have a formula, but how do we actually do the work of optimizing conversions? Find a brief overview at our Digital Impact Optimization page.

Website analysis series: Site #2: A medical billing and practice management website

Website analysis series: Site #2: A medical billing and practice management website

An interesting case study for which I did and very quick, high-level heuristic walkthrough. I'm still not quite sure what this company does in its entirety, but I do know they have a good amount of traffic and ad spend that are being wasted. They could be making exponentially-more money from their website if they would invest time in optimization.

Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study: Iron Plane

CRO Case Study

This client came to us for a one-month trial of our DIO services.

Within one month, we increased visits to the "book a consultation" page -- the main way they capture leads -- by 619%, and decreased the homepage bounce rate by 20%!  

Now, the analysis. This is what their homepage used to look like:

Screenshot 2018-03-08 14.35.57.png

Our notes, scanning down the page:

  • Phone and email links were not clickable. 
  • Click to book an appointment...with who? Once we arrived at that page, there was no indication who you were booking with and what would happen when you booked. 
  • No About page in the main menu, yet heatmaps showed very high clicking level on the About page link in the footer.
    • Don't hide the information that users want, and don't hide who you are.
  • What is "MAGEBUTTON" in the main nav? 
  • Why are their partners more important than their portfolio? 
  • Full Service Magento eCommerce Agency + "MAGENTO SPEED OPTIMIZATION" is not a very distinguished and clear value proposition. 
    • The value proposition should answer, "Who are you, what do you do, and why should I contact you versus another Magento agency?" 
  • The "MAGENTO SPEED OPTIMIZATION" text is part of a rotating banner-like design. Research shows that this is ineffective and harms conversions – see http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
  • "View our Services" is not a unique or principle call to action here. I need more "proof" about who you are as a company and what you've done before I view your services, especially since it's already pretty clear that you do Magento. 
  • No visual cue indicating to the user that they can scroll down for more information. Heatmaps showed a lack of scrolling activity.
  • No "social proof" i.e. logos or certification badges about who they are and why they would be someone good to reach out to.

Our revision:

This is what our revision to the homepage looked like, wherein we sent 50% of the website traffic to our version and 50% to the old version.

Screenshot 2018-03-08 14.28.31.png

Note that this could definitely be reworked to be a bit more visually-appealing, but that's not the point. The point is to learn, put hard numbers behind the changes we made, and then worry about visual appeal. We have best practices we follow, but sometimes they are wrong – that's one reason why we do these A/B tests. 

Here's what we did: 

  • Adjusted what we saw in our analysis above.
  • Made the hero area shorter so users would get a visual cue to scroll down the page. 
  • Added important "social proof" in the form of logos and certification badges to the hero area.
    • Normally we wouldn't clutter the hero area, but they were throwing $5,000 per month of ad traffic at the homepage, and this was an emergency that we had to turn around ASAP, and had to help the client understand how they were needlessly throwing away money down the drain.
  • Add the About page to the main nav.
  • Added more human content ("who are you?") to the About page; a form of social proof.
  • Reworked the value proposition to be more compelling and differentiating, focusing on their high level of certification (another form of social proof).
  • Changed the main CTA in the hero area to lend a greater impact the business, with more compelling copy than "view our services."
  • (Not pictured) got rid of unnecessary and unprofessional-looking content on homepage.
  • (Not pictured) Beefed up portfolio page to show images of projects rather than icons.

Results:

  • 619% increase in visits to the "Book an appointment with our CEO" page.
  • 20% increase in visits to their portfolio and case studies.
  • 20% reduction in bounce rate to the homepage.

Screenshot 2018-03-08 14.31.19.png
Screenshot 2018-03-08 14.31.26.png

     

     

    Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study: HelpSystems.com

    Conversion Rate Optimization Case Study: HelpSystems.com

    Using a scrollmap (a kind of heatmap) we found that users were not scrolling down the homepage of HelpSystems.com. Notice the major drop-off in scrolling activity denoted by the fast red-to-blue dropoff on the gradient.

    Screenshot 2018-02-19 21.03.01.png

    Further down the page were impressive client logos, constituting "social proof" – an important component in increasing trust, engagement, and key business goal attainment. 

    Screenshot 2018-02-19 21.04.29.png

    Simply moving the client logos further up on the homepage resulted in a 128% improvement in a core revenue driver – product trial downloads – which translates to thousands of dollars per year from a simple adjustment.

    This took us a few minutes to spot, then 2 weeks to run a split test, bumping up logos for 50% of the traffic. In just two weeks and a few minutes of our time, they dramatically changed their business.

    The results of this experiment are shown below:

    HelpSystems-Optimizely-Results-DIA-Screenshot.png

    This is a simple but powerful example of how important and impactful conversion rate optimization (CRO) can be.

    Risky Website Redesigns and Tanking Organic Traffic

    Tanking Organic Traffic after a Website Redesign: Why Evolutionary Redesigns are Optimal

    People buy based on emotion. A redesign can be a sexy idea, sold to you by a creative agency that knows how to wow and amaze. But, it's rarely in your best interests. Sure, sometimes you reach a point where things are so bad that you have to scrap everything and start over...but how do you know how bad is too bad?

    Radical website redesigns are modern-day one-night stands for marketers.

    The following graphs show what happened to a new client of ours earlier this year when their previous vendor launched their radical redesign.

    Organic SEO traffic tanking after website redesign

    Here's another view from SEMrush, based on number of ranking organic keywords, for mobile devices (site launched in late April): 

    Another view of website SEO traffic tanking after website redesign

    Organic traffic (SEO) was already declining. The client surely panicked, the older site was indeed quite outdated, and yes, they panicked with good reason. It's hard to stay calm in the face of tanking traffic. Panicking, and going to a vendor who played into that panic, was part of the pitfall.

    The creAtìve AgénCy elixir surely tasted good in the moment, and scrapping that outdated site surely felt like the right thing to do...but this radical act under pressure actually did more harm than good.

    The agency they chose not only massacred our client's business by improperly handling post-launch SEO planning, they created a broken user experience that is impacting commerce on the site, not to mention that the information architecture and navigation are botched, the value proposition is unclear and in bits and pieces around the entire site, and user engagement is deeply impacted by all of this as well as a slow-loading site and a fancy but not performant inter-page browsing experience that has to be devastating to conversions.  

    The new website is pretty, but it's not doing anything. It should be working hard for the client's business, but it's not.

    Yes, it is possible to do revolutionary redesigns right. But, it's hard, and requires a lot more data than most are willing to wait for and collect. And even then, you're still gambling, depending on how revolutionary you are with the extremely sensitive components of the redesign (navigation, expected user journeys, calls to action, microcopy, content, keywords, visual hierarchy, and the like).

    How many times have you seen radical redesigns on Amazon.com? 

    You don't see them, because they do evolutionary redesigns – continuous, incremental improvements along the way.

    Evolutionary website redesign

    Image source

    If you're feeling like sexy will win, it's an urgent need, and will appease your management team, then just reskin what you have as a first step. Design is incredibly important in instilling trust, and yes, good design – no, great design – is extremely important. It effects conversions and website engagement, and thus your business profits. Then, make incremental improvements from there.

    Another way to think of it visually is this:

    Origin Eight approach to continuous incremental improvement

    This is a good cost/benefit results visualization of the concept as well: 

    Origin Eight approach to continuous incremental improvement

    This is difficult stuff to grasp, but indeed a very powerful concept. We coined the term Digital Impact Optimization™ for this idea that "incremental improvements can lead to exponential demand", and also the idea that "redesigns don't have to suck, especially if you consistently keep up your optimization game" – but the following is also true:

    Incremental improvements can save you from exponential losses.

    It's not a new concept in its entirety, but how we incorporate it into a full-picture offering and analysis is. Here's a diagram of how we see it:

    Digital Impact Optimization

     

    Learn more about Our Approach

     

     

    Should I redesign my website?

    Should I redesign my website? If you can avoid it, don't

    There tends to be an all-or-nothing approach driven into our heads about web redesigns – either you redesign the whole thing, or you don't. 

    • What about refreshing the design of the homepage?
    • Are you even telling a story when visitors get to your site? Sometimes you need a copy refresh more than a redesign.
    • Does someone know what you do within the first few seconds of visiting your site, or is that message stuck in a website slider that has already lost their attention?

    These are just a few of the questions that can determine whether your site needs to be scrapped, or if ongoing optimization would be a better route.

    Radical redesigns are risky. Redesigns often change page structure, URLs (which need to be redirected), content, layout and design. They are not truly based on data since dramatic design decisions are often made that cannot be tested and are instead based on the designer's intuition. Besides having SEO and traffic impacts, these dramatic decisions can affect conversion rates, or how often users on your site perform valuable activities, such as filling out the contact form, clicking on the "buy" button on a product, eCommerce check-out, donating, etc.

    A radical redesign is better when:

    • Your rate of return for optimizing is severely diminished.
    • You're running on an unsupported platform, the vendor lock-in is too great and costly, or the technology is outdated (i.e. Flash).
    • The design is awful site-wide, affecting your brand. However, this too can often be brought up to better standards without scrapping the site entirely and migrating to a totally new website.
    • There's not much traffic, and digital impact analysis reveals too many problems that just aren't worth gradual optimization.

    Digital Impact Optimization, an evolutionary model, is a better route to follow whenever possible. Don't let yourself be sold into a redesign just because you're frustrated – sometimes, there is hope for the current site, and its very existence, analytics and traffic are more valuable than you think.

    Seth

    In no particular order... Seth has built websites for famous artists like Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, led a team as CTO at a social network startup company, presented at Stanford and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation Conference on an EEG study in consciousness, travelled to Tokyo for data center network security assessments, worked on world-class e-commerce software as a software engineer, and provided Drupal expertise for Estee Lauder and their many international brands.

    Team

    Drupal SEO Series: Increase Your Conversion Rates With These Pro Marketing Tips

    Drupal SEO Series

    Now that more consumers than ever are going online to get information about products and services, search engines have become the new gatekeeper, your website the new storefront and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) something akin to a next generation salesman. To reach online audiences, you not only need to sell what you do, but make it easy for people to find you. The good news: there are many proven techniques and online tools that you can capitalize on now, and we’re going to go through 7 key SEO strategies in this blog post:

    1. Why Relevance Matters
    2. Anticipating Customer Needs
    3. Social Media’s Impact On SEO
    4. The 7-Second Rule
    5. Optimizing Your Drupal Site For Google
    6. Landing Pages
    7. Preventing SEO Problems

    Drupal websites already give the organizations that use them an edge over the competition because of their built-in SEO tools, such as faster pages, an advanced taxonomy and tagging system, superior naming conventions and many accessibility features. These tools help increase your page ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP): the page you see after entering text into a browser when conducting an organic search. Most organic searches today use Google’s search engine and, as we discuss below, Drupal makes available several modules to simplify integration with Google services, such as Google Translate and Google Analytics.

    In this blog post, we’re going to go over some foundational and more advanced SEO approaches to help your organization stay ahead of the curve and become an online authority in your field.

    1. Why Relevance Matters

    Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo rank content based on an evolving set of criteria. So webmasters and marketers need to be nimble in order to keep pace with the ever-changing SEO landscape. That said, one of the most important things to bear in mind when thinking about strategies to optimize your website content is: relevance. This cannot be understated. The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google’s web crawlers have grown wise to many black hat practice and spammy pages are getting pushed way down the SERP list.

    Tip 1#:

    Find a key phrase or a selection of keywords that accurately represent your brand and that aren’t used by so many other sites that yours gets lost in the noise. Long-tail keywords can be especially useful here when you’re working on distinguishing your brand and capturing a niche market.

    Tip#2:

    Google’s indexing robots look for keywords used frequently in blocks of content that contain full sentences and proper grammar for the given language. So repeat your key phrase and keywords throughout your site, but do so using quality, focused content on landing pages, blog posts, customer reviews, etc. And don’t overuse keywords, as that can hurt your ranking.

    Tip #3:

    Relevant keywords and long-tail keywords can only go so far if your content isn’t up to snuff. Spend time filling your site with quality content – whether in the form of information about your product or service, blog posts, feature stories, press material and landing pages that link to your main site. Readers may find your page because of your exceptional SEO strategies, but they won’t stay long if they don’t find what they’re looking for. And because Google favors websites with fewer bounce rates – more on this in the next section – having quality content can have a significant impact on your page ranking.

    2. Anticipating Customer Needs

    Quality content is essential for SEO and converting customers. You increase your chances of both when you remove hurdles that could prevent customers from making the next click along their path to a purchasing decision. But, what’s the best way to strategize the flow of content on your site?

    Here’s where having a firm grasp of your audience is particularly useful. Ask yourself:

    • What kind of content does your audience need at each stage of their decision-making process?
    • How can you walk you customer down the path to conversion?
    • Are there other mediums you can use to diversify your content, such as blogs, videos, audio, social media, etc.?

    Let’s say, for example, that you sell ice cream and you know the vast majority of your customers just want to buy ice cream when they visit your site. You might try:

    • Having information about how to buy your product front-and-center on your homepage,
    • Featuring testimonials from happy customers below your main body content and
    • Including videos about making toppings for ice cream in a sidebar.

    Once a visitor moves onto purchasing your ice cream, you could then include information about the ice cream accessories your company also sells.

    Google looks at bounce rates when determining its SERP ranking. So if someone goes to your site, then almost immediately clicks the back button on his or her web browser and clicks on a another result on the search results page, Google might assume that your website doesn’t contain quality content and could lower your SERP ranking. The simple solution? Fill your site with quality, relevant content that meets your audience’s needs throughout their decision-making process.

    3. Social Media’s Impact on SEO

    Organizations wanting to boost your SEO should consider incorporating social media networks into your portfolio. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. can help you reach your targeted audience and increase the likelihood of organic search hits.

    To give you a sense of just how big social networking sites have become, in early 2017 Facebook had upwards of 1.86 billion monthly active users. Similarly, WhatsApp had 1 billion, Instagram had 600 million and Twitter had 317 million. According to Statista, social media users worldwide almost doubled from 1.22 billion in 2011 to over 2.3 billion in 2016. And that number, they predict, will increase to over 2.9 billion by 2020.   

    But what does this have to do with SEO? Simply put, getting your content on Facebook can increase your search page ranking. That’s because, as of 2010, Google crawlers started indexing Facebook posts and adding them to their SERPs. They did the same for Twitter posts in 2011. So diversify your content!

    Think of it this way, if your organization has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat account, you’ve just increased the number of pages that can be used to engage your audience. Make these into authoritative pages and link them to your website and you’ve just increased your site’s SEO. It’s that simple.

    4. The 7-Second Rule

    A good test to see if you’re content is going to succeed is the 7-second rule. When you visit your site, if you can’t see the most important information about your company in 7 seconds, you’re going to lose customers. The reality is that the human attention span dropped to 8 seconds in 2015 (from 12 seconds in 2000). Because of that, your website needs to give your audience the information it needs before they click away to the next shiny object.

    Although it’s not clear if visitor time, or the time people spend on your website, improves your SERP ranking on Google, what we do know is that anything you can do to edge your site above the competition, while staying true to your brand and company goals, is probably not a bad idea. Optimizing your website for increased visitor time could do a lot to increase your bottom line when visitors become invested in your brand and start sharing information about your amazing organization and opening their checkbooks to support what you do.

    Some important questions to ask when assessing your website’s readability:

    • Is your biggest selling feature front-and-center?
    • Does the information provided clearly explain what your organization does and the benefit to customers?
    • Is important information easy to read off mobile and desktop screens?
    • Does your messaging use clear and engaging language?
    • Does your sidebar, header and footer content entice your visitors to get more information?

    Try this out…

    Ask someone who doesn’t know your brand to look at your homepage for a maximum of 7 seconds and then describe your organization and your value proposition in a few sentences. If they get it wrong, you know you have some more work to do. If they get it right, give them a high five.

    5. Optimizing You Drupal Site For Google

    Google is currently the top-ranked search engine globally. This means that being at the top of your SEO game will, for the most part, require playing by Google’s rules.

    Here’s what you should know…

    Each year, Google changes its search algorithm: the criteria Google’s web crawlers use to index and rank pages, somewhere between 500 to 600 times. Most of these changes will be minor tweaks that shouldn’t affect how your website’s pages are indexed and where you land on Google’s results page. However, sometimes Google rolls out major changes that can have a big impact on how it ranks websites and the order it lists them on the results page, which can greatly impact the visibility of your site and your click-through rate. For example, Google’s AdWords update of 2016 saw right-column ads replaced with four top block ads for many commercial searches, which pushed down organic search results lower on the results page. Also in 2016, Google updated its mobile-friendly ranking to further reward websites with mobile first or responsive design, and further penalize sites that lacked a mobile-friendly platform.

    Why does Drupal excel?

    Drupal 8’s built-in mobile- and tablet-friendly responsive design makes it a leader in the CMS field. Here are a few other ways Drupal sites are optimally positioned to meet Google’s search algorithm:

    • Fully responsive design in core (Drupal 8 only)
    • Built-in page translation with Content Translation to reach broader audiences (Drupal 8 only)
    • Drupal SEO Checklist creates a to-do list of modules and tasks to amp up your website’s SEO capabilities
    • Drupal SEO Tools gives you a dashboard filled with SEO information and tips tailored to meet your SEO needs
    • Fix any URL/link problems with Global Redirect, Link Checker, Pathauto and Path Redirect 
    • Drupal knows the importance of optimizing for Google and is compatible with Google Analytics, integrate that with Google Search Console for even more SEO power
    • Send a sitemap of your website directly to search engines with XML Sitemap
    • The H1 and H2 tags on your taxonomy term page are extremely important for SEO; Taxonomy Title lets you control your titles

     

    [Choosing the right CMS is vital in terms of how your website will perform. For a more in-depth analysis of how to go about making this decision, please visit our post Choosing the Best CMS for Your Website]

     

    Word to the wise…

    In early 2017, Google started cracking down on sites that have aggressive pop-ups and interstitials, such as advertisements or information request pages that appear before a website’s homepage, because they believe this could negatively impact a mobile user’s experience. Google penalizes pages with aggressive pop-ups by pushing them down the SERP ranking. Don’t get caught with aggressive interstitial-itis! For the sake of your page ranking, get familiar with Google’s guidelines for interstitials.

    6. Landing Pages

    Landing pages, or pages with information that has a targeted focus, give you the ability to make maximum use of long-tail keywords and individual keywords that Google’s indexing robots look for when ranking pages. By tailoring your landing page keywords towards a specific audience, you increase the likelihood that your site will be placed near the top of the list for organic searches using these terms. In addition, pages that optimize the experience of your visitors get fewer bounces and, as mentioned in Section 2 of this blog, that’s a good thing for your SERP ranking.

    Landing pages should have a clear, focused message and call to action. While sometimes used as a jumping point to another webpage, such as your organization’s main page, you’ll improve your SEO if you give your audience a complete experience on the landing page. There’s a chance that the person visiting your landing page hasn’t made their purchasing decision already, so providing information about other products or services they might be interested in can also increase your conversion rate.

    7. Preventing SEO Problems

    Lastly, it’s important to get a customized solution to meet your SEO goals. You could be faced with a world of problems and endless headaches if your Drupal website isn’t designed to fit the requirements of the platform. Drupal is a powerful, versatile CMS with endless opportunities to connect you with effective SEO tools and functionality. Working with a development team that does it right the first time can dramatically increase your chance of success.  

    Need help optimizing your Drupal site? Contact Origin Eight for a free consultation: 612-276-5880 or leave details on our contact page