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March 24, 2009

Advanced SEO Strategies: Integrating Analytics, Usability, Persuasion and Journalism

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Matt Bailey

This is a solo presentation by Matt Bailey, a member of the SES Advisory Board and president of Site Logic Marketing. Jumping right in…

At the base level, all you have are words. Words are the building blocks of communication, and it’s never more true than on your Web site. They are necessary to persuade people to take action. Mao Zedong said, “Words are like little dynamite sticks in people’s minds.” By diffusing the power of words, he was able to take control of his country. We have to do the same on our Web sites. Create a reaction in the user’s mind that says, “This site helps me find what I’m looking for.”

Communicate at a level beyond “about us”. If content can go on someone else’s site, then you need different content.

Rule 1: Call things what they are

Get rid of the corporate speak, the jargon, the branded tendencies. Realize that your consumers may not talk the same way as you. If you’re trying to widen your reach beyond the brand to people who need what you’ve got, you have to be willing to go beyond the brand.

Rule 2: Co-dependency of words

How do search engines rank Web sites? It’s the question that’s on our mind. Who are the search engines trying to satisfy? The Web site creator? No, the searcher. You have machines trying to please people. The search engines are machines that want to be real boys — the Pinocchio principle.

Start with SEO 101 — the biggest thing you can do for your rankings is optimizing the page titles. The SERP is the first marketing message a searcher will see about your company. Make sure the page title is a call to action. You have 60 characters to get your message to your user in the SERP.

Headlines, subheadings, bullet points and paragraph headers are what are used as a navigational device to find out if it’s worth reading, if it’s what we’re looking for.

Search engines are a means to an end. It’s the way that you get to your customer. Meta descriptions are used in your SERP description — this effects your marketing message. Links are the nuts and bolts of the Internet. They are critical for search engines to find your site. Give alternate text because there may be times that no images show up. You never know how your site will render so give an alternate option.

Rule 3: Context

Context is important for images. Use the alt attribute on images so that you can explain to the search engine what the image is about. Universal search means that everything is searchable and everything is rankable.

Location of words makes a difference. According to a Jacob Neilson study, 79 percent of users scan a Web page; 16 percent read word for word. Scanning is done through headlines, sub-headings, bulleted lists, paragraph headers and content arrangement. Make sure you follow understood conventions — for example, never use blue underlined text if it’s not a link. Make sure your navigation supports the content. People should be able to look at navigation and know what section they’re in.

Rule 4: Credibility

People surveyed said privacy policy, SSL, address and phone number is what makes a site credible. But when put in front of a computer, layout, typography, font size and color schemes were what they saw as factors of credibility. Most importantly, it’s about readability. Small text, scrolling, blinking, rotating, text on fire and low contrast are bad for readability.

Rule 5: Variety of words

The top 10 keywords that generate traffic actually get less traffic than the long-tail put together. The top 10 terms are just 3 percent of the traffic coming to your site. Don’t forget the long tail.

Rule 6: Performance of words

Anchor term (primary keyword):

  • 2.7 minutes average time on site
  • 46 percent of visits were less than 20 seconds
  • Term conversion rate was 2.2 percent
  • 1.8 percent conversion rate from the home page
  • 4.3 percent conversion rate from category pages

In response they de-optimized the home page. The also found that by adding the brand name to the optimization process, average time on site, visit time and conversion rates all went up. Segment your analytics by how users come into the site and you’ll figure out if something is wrong with your landing pages.

Rule 7: Branding

Searches are refined as a researcher goes along. First they look for their need, then they start adding brands. Year-long trends can help you see when people are looking for your product. There are needs at different times.

Rule 9: Clarity

(I have no idea what happened to rule number 8…)

A home page that serves as a directional is better than a destination. It should push people to where they want to go. You should have content that satisfies the need and shows that you have the answer to what they’re looking for. Committing to what your product or service can do is necessary.

Regionally there are variations of words. Verbal variations exist, too. There are many words that can be used to describe the same thing. Understand that people look for what you offer in many different ways. Writing requires that you do research into keywords to find out what people are calling what you do. Search engines are getting better at understanding context behind semantics. Search history may help to refine your search when the word means more than one thing.

This has international implications. Your product may have an accent in it, but searchers may not search with the accent. He doesn’t recommend you optimize your site for the grammatically incorrect version, but when you bid use the more searched word. Avoid euphemisms and slang.

Searcher types

  1. The sharpshooter: They want an answer right now.
  2. The shotgun searcher: They know what they want but they’re open to suggestions.
  3. The artillery searcher: For example, you were told by a doctor that you have this. As soon as you get home you hit the search engine and read everything you can.

Personality types include: the planner, the decision maker, the browser, the price shopper (no loyalty), and the last-minute shopper.

Value exchange: What you’re asking for from a visitor has to be of equal value to the searcher. Don’t ask for more info than you need. If you ask for too much, it’s not worth the user’s time right now. Make sure you’re giving value back.

Sales 101

  • Elevator pitch
  • Benefits
  • Rapport

Persuasion is based on three elements:

  1. Logic
  2. Emotion
  3. Credibility

Get more info on the blog, www.SiteLogicMarketing.com/blog.

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