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Calls to Action are the essence of business online – ‘click here to learn more’, ‘add to your cart’, ‘donate now’, ‘download here’.  CTAs are found everywhere on the web, yet some are much more successful than others. There are mistakes to be made when asking someone to do something.  With these tips, you can ensure your CTA gets the desired result.

Be Clear and Concise With people so clearly distracted online, there is very little time to get your message across and get the desired response.  You must be clear with what you want a person to do because they aren’t going to take the time to figure it out. When you want someone to do something in live, you use action verbs – go, do, act, etcetera.  The same must be true online. Tell the viewer what you want him or her to do in a simple, straight-forward way.  It should only take two or three words to say exactly what you mean; to give direction.

Be Specific About the Gains to Be Had Why should the person do as you are asking?  What will they gain for having done so?  What sort of incentive are you offering that a competitor can’t provide.  Either as part of the link or in a description to the side, express in no uncertain terms what the person can expect upon clicking and why it is too good to miss out on.

Make it Urgent How often have you walked away from a deal because you figure the same value will be had tomorrow?  How often have you wondered if the sales will be better a week later?  If you want some to do something in the moment, you have to explain why it is an urgent matter. Consider adding the simple word ‘now’.  It’s small, but it’s powerful and gives your call to action a sense of time-sensitivity that it wouldn’t otherwise have.  Of course, there are also terms with even more enticement-factor, such as ‘while supplies last’, ‘first come, first serve,’ or ‘for a limited time only’.

Be Sure it is Seen If the point of the page is to get that person to act, then why would you hide the button or link that lets them do so?  Make it crystal clear by making it large, surrounded by open space, and starkly contrasted to the rest of the material on the page.  Additionally, be sure that people know that they can click on the button, photo or text that is meant to lead them forward.  A three-dimensional image of a button, for instance, is more likely to be clicked than a flat rectangle.

Make your CTA something that makes a person want to act and people will.

 

 

Help Me :)

Your Quick Help Guide for Semantic Markup

If you haven’t embraced the concept of Semantic Markup yet, then you are likely missing out on a lot of internet traffic.  Why?  In order to answer the question, a quick Google search of “Bananas Foster” led to the following top two results:

Which of the two are you more likely to click on?  Why?

It’s a pretty safe bet that you would click on the second link because of the image and the clear five star rating.  This is a very good picture of what semantic markup can do for you, when it is used correctly.  To make the most of it on your website, consider the following tips.

Get Help If you are not familiar with HTML code or you find the whole idea of semantic update overwhelming, then consider using a free service, like Structured Data Markup Helper to get you started.  The major benefit of sites like these is, of course, the help creating the HTML strings that you need to achieve the look of the Google search result discussed above.  The downside is that there are some limits to the types of markup that this service assists with.  Nevertheless, it can be a great place to start.

Express Your Authorship If nothing else, help your branding efforts by tying your work and your name to your photo.  This can be done with authorship markup.  Your photo or logo will appear beside your content in search results if you include the right markup on your website.  In order to do this, you will need:

  • A Google+ Profile
  • An email account hosted by your domain (this can be averted with another method of markup.  Directions can be found on Google’s Authorship page)
  • A ‘by line’ on all articles and blog posts that you author on the domain.

When these things have been accomplished, you can simply submit your email address to Google here and test the results of your markup here.

Make Your Local Business Known There are a number of markups that can be used to improve local business search result snippets.  The best bet for those trying to implement such markups, is to visit Schema.org, which lays out the appropriate Semantic Markup tags.  It is also wise for businesses operating in multiple towns or cities to make use of breadcrumb coding.  Think of this as a picture of the site structure, so users can quickly make sense of the hierarchy and get to the most relevant destination – the appropriate branch’s local site.  Markups here can help Google make sense of the map as well and will result in direct links to the subpages searchers may find more valuable.

 

 

 

Floodlight

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Semantic Markup’, it can be a confusing concept, but with a basic understanding of HTML, it can also become a highly beneficial component of your SEO strategy.

Semantic Markup: The use of specific HTML language to reinforce the meaning of the information found on a website.

Great semantic markup will help improve your click-through-rate (CTR) by as much as 15%.  Of course, CTR also weighs into overall SEO, which means that enticing users to click will ultimately lead to better search engine standings.

Snippets: the small amount of text that appears beneath every search engine result

There are a few different types of HTML markup formats for snippet creation, however, it is generally best to follow the recommendations of the search engine that you are trying to appease.  Given that, it is wise to use the Microdata format.  With these small bits of html code, you will help the search engine systems better understand the information on the page, by clearly defining names, titles, dates, and affiliations.

Authorship: Google’s effort to connect author with content in search results

One of the greatest ways that Semantic Markup can help you improve CTR, and adorn snippets, is with the use of Google Authorship.  By including blog URLs in the Google+ profile ‘Contributor to’ section and pasting the query string <a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Google</a> as a link on your website, you can ensure that your face shows up next to the content that you create in search results.  Pictures draw attention, give written material a perceived credibility, and arouse curiosity that can make a person click on the link.

Testimonials

The ability to showcase reviews in a location as public as Google search results is pretty powerful.  With the right Sementic Markup, you can alert Google to the fact that you have testimonials on a website and these can be included with the snippets seen by Google searchers.

Breadcrumbs: Additional links seen by Search Engine users beneath the primary search result link.  Breadcrumbs are used to make sense of a domain hierarchy.

Google search bots are not perfect and can often fail to detect the breadcrumb code written into a website.  Markups can be useful in ensuring that the breadcrumbs are detected and included in the snippet.

Semantic Markup can be a major benefit to your website, improving the way that the public views its worth when it first appears to them as a search result.  With the added bits of information, there can be enough to entice a greater number of people to click on through to your precious content.

 

 

 

Smart Phone Icon

After spending hours upon hours to design a wonderfully enticing website, there is no feeling worse than that which comes with discovering that the mobile version leaves a lot to be desired.  Just because a website operates on mobile devices doesn’t mean that it is accomplishing the task set out for it.

Function over Fluff aesthetics play a big part in how a desktop website is perceived, but it is not such an important matter when it comes to the mobile environment.  Generally, those using mobile devices to surf the web are doing so with a definite purpose in mind and, let’s face it, the screens (though growing in dimension with every passing year) are not large enough to compliment busy designs.  Function is the most important aspect in this arena and it better run smoothly, because if you thought desktop web surfers had a short attention span, you will be blown away by mobile surfers.  If they can’t find what they want right away or have difficulty with a site poorly fit to the screen size, they move on.

Know What the Consumer Wants If you are going to be successful in the mobile environment, you need to know why the consumer is going to visit your site.  Is it to shop?  If so, be sure that the menu is clear cut, headings are short enough to fit the screen size, and a search bar is available.  If the most frequent use of your website is for the purpose of finding contact information, then don’t hide it. If the attraction is your content, then make the most recent entries visible with photo or video thumbnails on the landing page.

Avoid an Excess of Text and Images With function being the primary concern, you will want to be sure that you are confusing matters with an excess of tiny, difficult to read text and slow-to-load images.  On landing pages, images should be kept to thumbnail size and only used when necessary (i.e. on retail sites).

Consider an M-Dot In addition to a different design, a mobile site should have a slightly different url.  That is to say that the mobile search engines love sites that start with ‘m.’, as in ‘mobile version of the website’. So, www.cnn.com becomes m.cnn.com.

As always, the most important element of achieving SEO greatness is tracking and responding.  Monitor your efforts and the resulting feedback and adjust your methods, as needed, to ensure that your level of success continues to follow an upward path.

 

 

Teamwork 1

Social media users are either tiring of the mass chaos of general posting or are simply searching for something better catered to their interests… either way, there is a shift in social networking trends toward niches.  What is a niche social network?  Think about websites like Allrecipes.com.  This site is obviously catering to a specific interest, but it also has a significant social aspect about it.

Of course, Allrecipes is not the only site out there that is catering to such a specific subpopulation.  There are many of this niche sites rising in esteem on the World Wide Web.  For instance, there is Kaboodle for “deal finders”, Ravely for knitters and crocheters, Imeem for music lovers, and Flixster for movie aficionados.

So, what’s so great about niche social networking?  Such a crazy question you ask.  Think about it; these sites have already found your niche market and have presented those individuals on a silver platter, so all you have to do is reach out and say ‘here I am’ and you will have a huge new customer base.  Well, it might not be that simple, but the truth of the matter is, this trend has certainly won over marketers.  There are billions of users of sites like Facebook and Twitter. You aren’t just competing ask direct competitors for exposure.  It’s the equivalent of trying to be heard in a room of two hundred screaming people, without a microphone.  Niche networks remove a lot of the chaos and bring together groups centered around a common interest.  There is no need to worry that people don’t want what you have to offer when speaking to an audience already pledging their love of the subject.

Many of these networks are significantly less developed than Twitter and Facebook, so the names may not be popping up in the headlines regularly, but they certainly aren’t impossible to find.  A quick google search of “social network for ______” (you fill in the blank) will undoubtedly return some sites of interest.  For many industries that are multiple networks already formed.  For others, the growth is barely off the ground floor.  Either way, there are benefits to be enjoyed for those willing to make the most of it.

Niche social networking has been listed one of the top trends of 2014, so if you haven’t started searching for the one best suited to your company yet, you are wasting precious time.

Optical Microscope 1A/B testing is an invaluable tool for website owners. If you don’t test it, you can improve. Do your visitors respond to this type of graphic or that? Does the red CTA generate for click-throughs than the green? Does integrating social prove increase CTRs? If you have it on your site, you can – and should – test it! Google’s Content Experiments is a tool that allows you to do just that.

What is Content Experiments?

This Google tool allows you to test up to 10 versions of a landing page to determine which specific changes yield the biggest improvements in conversion rates. It’s not straight A/B, then, which compares two versions, and it’s not multivariate, in which you test various combinations of different onpage elements. Instead, you can test up to 10 versions with separate URLs.

Improving Conversion Rates

The following tips will help you use Content Experiments to boost your conversion rates:

  • Focus on a goal. Do you want to increase opt-ins for newsletter subscriptions by 10%? Do you want to increase sales by 15% Whatever your goal, clearly define it. Make sure it is reasonable and achievable, or testing will only frustrate you.
  • Even though you can test up to 10 versions of your landing pages, target one feature at a time. Why? Because you won’t know which specific element is the one either attracting visitors or increasing bounce rates. You could, for instance, test your CTA. The versions remain much the same except for the CTAs. Test the call to action copy, the color, the style of the button. When you have your data, move on to the next critical element.
  • Analyze your traffic and decide on a timeframe. In general, the lower your daily traffic, the longer you should run your tests. Say you have a few hundred hits per day: take a week or so to collect data. Send the majority of your traffic to the test site to accelerate the process.
  • Optimise Ads. Google now allows AdSense users to use Content Experiments to optimise ads. You can experiment with placement and size to determine where you’re getting the most bang for your advertising buck.

Google provides a host of free tools for webmasters; this is one you definitely want to take advantage of.

Shaking Hands

Engaging content. Relevant content. Interesting content. Entertain. Instruct. Convert. In the hustle and bustle of designing and populating a website with all of this great SEO- and content marketing- gold, it can be easy to forget the building blocks of a great site. A solid About Us page is essential – but how do you craft one that not only gives visitors an accurate sense of who you are but encourages them to delve deeper into your website and trust you to fill their needs with your products or services.

  1. Tell them who you are. Why did you start your business? Why should visitors give credence to what you say? What’s your background? Don’t recreate your CV – but do tell an interesting story about who you are and why you’re here.
  2. Tell them what you can do for them. Scratch the itch. What brought the visitor to your page in the first place? As Simon Sineck says, “start with the why.” Describe the challenge or problem, and then segue into how you are the solution. It’s all about demonstrating value for them.
  3. Add social proof. Testimonials, positive mentions is respected publications or media, quotes, how many downloads, etc. can add to your credibility. You never want to pat yourself too hard on the back, but you can let others do a little for you.
  4. Bullet your credentials and accomplishments. Increased sales by 200% for one client? Have an MBA from Harvard? Great. Add it to a concise list. Skip the superlatives and stick with the facts. While we’re on the subject, keep paragraphs short and streamlined. Break up big chunks of text, and engage the reader visually.
  5. Include a professional photograph. This allows visitors to put a face to the name and business, building credibility. Conversion rates, by the way, are higher for pages with photos of real people. Don’t scrimp! No selfies; use a pro.
  6. Test your About page. Have a friend, coworker, or another trusted associate read your About page and then quiz him: does it explain, clearly and simply, who you are, what you do, where, how, and when? Think like a journalist: what information does your audience absolutely need?
  7. Keyword optimise. People are searching for you, or at least for what you do. Help them out, and reinforce your credibility, with targeted keywords. Remember, browsers conduct long-tail, question-based queries, so remember that when crafting your text. Include optimised headlines and subheadings.

The About page is one of the most visited on your website. With these tips, you can ensure it’s one of the strongest as well.

ClickWhether you want your audience to sign up for a newsletter, download a whitepaper, subscribe to your blog, or complete another call to action, you need compelling, attention-grabbing copy. How do you persuade your visitors to take the next step?

Many people treat opt-in copy as an afterthought: “Oh, while you’re here, sign up for our newsletter.” In fact, this can be a big opportunity to persuade your audience to complete a desired call to action. Some tips that will help you create a message that resonates with your visitors:

  • Identify who you want to target. What is your market? This helps you determine what type of content works best for them – and how best to promote it.
  • Spend most of your time on your headline. This is, by far, the most important element of your opt-in copy. Studies show that the vast majority of visitors only read the headline – if you don’t grab them then, forget about it. Be sure to tell them what they are going to get out of the deal. In other words, why should they sign up for the newsletter/RSS feed/whitepaper? Does it have tips, advice, or guidance? Will it entertain them? Is it relevant?
  • Solve a problem or scratch an itch with your copy. What are the “pain points” of your audience? What are their concerns? What can you help them resolve? Identify the challenges your audience is likely facing, and then propose a solution. Show them what is in it for them.
  • Tell them you have the answer. Why should they believe? Are you an expert in your industry? Do you have proven systems or processes? Give your audience a reason to believe that completing that CTA will help them conquer their problem, overcome their challenge, or better position themselves for success.
  • Offer a clear CTA. Do your visitors know what you want them to do – and what they will get out of it? An ambiguous CTA, such as, “Act Now!” does not give them the information they need to make a good decision. Most will bounce right there. Instead, make sure it is simple and direct: “Sign up for our newsletter,” or “Download you free copy.” A clear CTA will increase the amount of people who opt-in.
  • Provide a short opt-in form. A good rule to remember is that the shorter your opt-in form (i.e., the less information you ask your visitors to provide) the better. You will get more people to opt-in when your forms are simple and quick.

Opt-in copy can help you turn visitors into repeat visitors, customers, and fans. While a CTA to sign up for your newsletter or an email list may sound trivial, it is one of the most important locations on your site. The best tip is to take time to craft a meaningful message that will impact visitors.

 

 

XDid the days of watching your commas, minding your semi-colons, and knowing it is “accidentally,” not “accidently,” end when you turned in your last term paper or put down the pencil? Does spelling and grammar matter to search engines, and will you be penalised for errors?

Is Spelling and Grammar a Factor in Your Ranking?

Yes, and no. And it depends. Bing’s Duane Forrester is clear with his search engine’s stance. In a blog post from February 2014, the Senior Product Manager writes:

…just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher. Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show. So we are constantly watching the quality of the content we see.

Google, too, wants to serve high-quality content. Typos and mistakes make it difficult to get through content, much less take it seriously. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, says that grammar and spelling are not among the over 200 direct signals that the search engine considers. But, he added, it can play a part in your PageRank. This is the measure of a site’s reputability, and egregious and consistent mistakes impact that.

We’re not talking about one mistake on 100 pages of great content or breaking “rules” by having sentence fragments, but rather serious misspellings and poorly constructed sentences all over the page. In addition to harming your PageRank, it can increase your bounce rate and decrease your conversion rate. Say a visitor clicks through to your site. He or she finds error after error and quickly bounces out. This is a signal to Google that your site may be of poor quality.

All of this boils down to the importance of having clean content that is as free from mistakes as possible. You’re not going to be 100% perfect. Your 3rd grade teacher may still be able to spot your errors, but for users, your content needs to “pass” the grammar and spelling test before they will engage further or consider viewing you as an authority.

Show you’re readers your a good writer!

Typewriter

With all the changes SEO has seen in recent years (or recent months…or weeks!), it’s as if it’s a whole new world. But that’s not entirely true. One old adage is truer than ever: content is king. We’ve appended “relevant,” “interesting,” and “authoritative” to that, but the sentiment is nonetheless relevant today. Because content is the center of any SEO strategy, Google Authorship is an essential tool that can help you build credibility and visibility.

Authorship: You Know You Should Do It

Maybe you haven’t yet…but you need to! Authorship allows a writer to claim his or her work, which enables search engines to find more of his or her content. This feature results in higher click-through rates, cross traffic, and better search rankings. How can you make this most of this Google feature?

Make yourself at home on Google+

Who uses Google+, you might ask? About 390 million people every month. There is no doubt it’s a force, but maybe in a different way than you might think. Google +1s are more highly correlated to search rankings than any other ranking factor. Google+ content has weight, so spend some time working on your Circles and interacting. In addition to posting relevant content, read and comment on other works.

But don’t forget about other social networks

Participate in social media platforms, including the usual suspects, like Facebook and Twitter, and Quora, which, while a bit less trodden, is an excellent networking/idea generation/content development tool.

Add the rel=”author” tag to your website

This connects your website to Google+, which allows your photo to appear in the search engine results pages. This tends to increase CTR and establishes credibility.

Network and connect

Reach out to others in your industry, especially experts or highly-regarded authorities. Comment on their work, and participate in communities which relate to your specific niche. If you can, do some guest blogging. Now, this has been controversial of late, but that’s because it’s been abused. A relevant, interesting guest post that adds value for the reader can only help the site on which it is posted and the author who has written it.

Keep writing!

Google is always hungry; keep developing high-quality content and publishing it with authorship markup.

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