David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

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Archive for the ‘website conversion’ Category

Website optimization for telephone leads

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Some businesses rely on telephone leads, either as the main source of revenue or as an important means of acquiring customers.   This includes anyone from pizza and other delivery restaurants to tradesmen like home inspectors or home improvement contractors.  This includes most service sectors, too.  Are there ways to get a leg up on the competition?

Yes, and here are a few ways to do just that.  Strictly speaking, these are not SEO techniques (more like TEO – telephone optimization), but if we broaden our definition just a bit, let’s file them under SEO.

1. TITLE TAGS…  Place the phone number at the beginning of the title tag.  So if your home inspection business is targeting “Chicago home inspections” and “Chicago home inspector” as the main keywords, try this title tag:

<title>312-555-5555 Chicago home inspections by inspector Rob Penfield</title>

Why is this such a clever strategy?  Well, you should know that typically 40% of people click on the first search result…even after gazing down at lower results.  Those people who click on another search result usually do so because:

  • They are looking for multiple quotes.
  • They are doing research.
  • They tried the first result…and it sucked.
  • The first result is clearly not right (They searched for “pursuit of happiness” and they want the band, not the movie or the constitution).
  • A lower result is obviously better.

Read that last point again.  Suppose I am looking for a home inspector in Chicago, and I notice that the third result has the phone number right in the headline.  Wow!  I don’t even have to click.  I just pick up the phone and call.  I might be lazy, in a hurry, multi-tasking or just typically modern…but you have just snatched a top-spot lead without ranking #1.  Amazing.

2. DESCRIPTION TAGS…  This is a variation on the title tag.  Place the phone number in the description tag, right next to the main keywords.  The description tag is often used as the explanatory text beneath the headline for search results.  Although not as powerful as the title tag, this should help you secure some extra leads.

3. DOMAIN NAME…  I know this sounds crazy, but if telephone leads really are your bread and butter, make your telephone number your domain name.  Too crazy?  Not for 1800flowers.com.

4. PROMINENCE… Websites typically place their phone number on a “Contact us” page, or if the website is really exciting, perhaps in the footer template in small letters.  This is all fine and dandy if your market will hunt down your phone number.  But if you are trying to urge people to pick up the phone and call, try something a little bolder.  At http://www.serviceblocks.ca/ , a home renovations company, we placed the phone number in the upper right margin, with a big picture of a telephone so that it can’t be missed.  At http://www.paramount-roll.com/ we placed the phone number right in the content box, so that it would be even more obvious.  We also noticed that the most-clicked item on the home page was the “samples of our work” link (upper right), so we added the phone number to the funky slide show that visitors view at that link.  Depending upon the nature of the product, you might even want to make your telephone number flash.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA AVATAR…  Why show your face at Digg or FaceBook or Zoomit Canada, when you can be just a number.

6. USER NAME… A variation on the avatar them, if telephone leads are your bread and butter, make your telephone number your user name on social media sites and forums.

7. BACKGROUND…  Both Twitter and MySpace allow you to create custom backgrounds.  You know what to do.

8. FORUM SIGNATURES… OK, this one is obvious, but I am sure it would be even more obvious by its omission from the list.

Got some other ideas to optimize your website for telephone leads?  Please share them with us in the comments field below.

 


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Sticky SEO e-Book released

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

After a month of working on it, and at least a month of technical delays, I have finally released Sticky SEO. This groundbreaking SEO guide will help you get prepared for the wave of algorithm changes that will sweep a lot of websites right under the rug.

Yup, a storm is coming and some websites will thrive while others crumble to dust.  It’s all about user metrics and what I call the “Usefulness Algorithm”. Sticky SEO is the answer, and this is the first eBook to give useful strategies and practical tips on how to be one of the websites that will thrive.

I should note that Sticky SEO really is not like any other SEO book.  If you find this blog post searching for “SEO book” or SEO eBook “, and are expecting the same SEO 101, you won’t find it here.  Sticky SEO doesn’t include any of that stuff.  It’s all good – don’t stop adding relevant content and building link after link after link to your site – but this is a different, more exciting story.  This is for website owners who want to pump up their profits today and power up their rankings for tomorrow.

Here is the link:
http://www.seo-writer.com/books/sticky-seo.html

 


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Sticky SEO Imminent

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I promised a couple months ago that I would follow up the aborted series on BrowseRank with a complete ebook on the topic.  Now that ebook is imminent.  We’ll be releasing it as soon as we clear up a few server issues.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s the image of the cover…

 


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How NOT to redesign a website

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Sorry, but I just have to share this with you.  I won’t bother with the long-winded email exchange between myself, the prospect and Cindy (our designer) - I think my final email message sums it up fairly well (and hopefully fairly diplomatically): 

I understand that you have opted to have your website redesigned for $150 in India.  There are a lot of very talented technicians in India who work for very little.  I am constantly being approached by Indian web folks offering to outsource my web design, SEO, and other items.

I understand that this time you made your decision on the basis of expenditures.  If at some time you decide to choose a website designer based on the income you want it to generate for you, I hope you will look us up.

Best of luck.

Website design is not just about art. It’s about the elements on the page and how they are used to engage visitors, offer them choices, answer their questions and move them through the sales process (or the sign-up process, or the lead generation process, or whatever the goals of the website). This gentleman will most likely waste $150 and a lot of time, probably suffering a fair amount of frustration wondering what went wrong.

Cindy and I are working on preparing a couple pages on website re-design case studies, demonstrating how we have altered the various elements on the home page to help increase conversions.

 


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Offline Links Count, too!

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

This will be a short post (I hope!).  Just a few days ago I returned from some fun in New England, and I was thinking about returning into the mountains of New Hampshire or upstate New York.

So it was with more interest than usual (I didn’t rip it up) that I opened a flyer that read”VOUS venez peut-être de GAGNER un des six forfaits escapade à Lake Placid”.  This delightful and hopeful notice was followed by a website address where I could enter a code to verify that I had indeed won a package to lake Placid: www.LakePlacid/WIN .

So I did.

Or, at least, I tried.

I tried again. 

And again. 

I tried adding .php and .html and .asp … all to no avail.  many people would have given up at this point, or much earlier, but I have a stubborn streak that you really don’t want to catch from me, and finally I figured out what was wrong; they had forgotten to print the .com in the URL.  I knew what to look for, and still it took me a while.  How many people would not have known that a URL is invalid without a TLD?  How many people would have given up without even trying to fix the URL? And most importantly, how much money did the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau invest in designing and mailing these brochures that were missing four crucial characters?  It is a mistake I am sure they will not let happen again.

When building links, one of the points that even the legions of outsourcing link-builders in India will focus on is that they will make sure to post the correct URL without typos.  Your offline link-building is just as crucial.  In fact, a typo in one online link doesn’t matter too much.  A typo in a pamphlet that hundreds or thousands of people will read matters much more.

By the way, I did not win that package…but I should get an A for effort.  And if nobody else figured out the correct URL, maybe the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau will award me the prize by default and I’ll get to do some 46er trekking.

 


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BrowseRank Strategies – Quality Content

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Last week, I reported on how BrowseRank goes beyond PageRank to rank websites according to user behavior.  I won’t repeat all that here, but the bottom line is that increasingly you will need to reduce bouncebacks from your website to the search engines.  A fe days ago I offered the first in a series of strategies to employ.  I am generally moving from most obvious to least obvious, so last week I offered tips on how web site design can keep more visitors on your site.

Today, we look at an almost as obvious strategy…

STRATEGY #2 – Write website content that keeps the reader reading.

Nothing in this post is revolutionary, but all of it is necessary.

  1. Make sure the content is relevant.  Stay on theme.
  2. Check and double-check your grammar and spelling.  Do as I say, not as I do!  This is crucial, because if people see a spelling mistake, they will wonder, even subconsciously, if your product also has flaws.  And they might leave to conduct a new search.
  3. Make sure the content is useful.  We run a freelance writer’s service, and you would be amazed (or maybe not) at how many website owners come looking for optimized website content.  Quality?  Well, the writing has to be good (see tip #1 above), but it really doesn’t matter what we write, what message we offer, what information we include.  More important is that it is cheap.  I usually send those people over to GetAFreelancer.com.  They are missing the point.  Useless optimized content offers a very small benefit.  Useful optimized content offers so much more.
  4. Answer all the questions.  This is something that takes a little more thought.  What questions do your visitors have?  Does your content answer them?  Questions could be about you, about your policies, pricing and shipping, and about what you offer.  Those are obvious.  But what about how to use your products?  Where they can be found?  Can they be used in cold Canada or hot Mexico?  What if a person is older, younger, thinner, wider, a newbie, a pro…what about all the possible questions that every niche or subniche of your customers might have.
  5. Expanding on #4, can people easily find shipping info?  For instance, do you ship to Canada?  If I can’t find that out quickly, I won’t stick around.  Is pricing easy to find.  If I am already at the stage where I might be ready to buy, I look for pricing almost immediately.  If I can’t find it, I’ll search somewhere else.  In short, any content that your audience is likely to be searching for needs to be obvious and easy to find.
  6. If your website is an ecommerce site, do you have plenty of descriptions and suggestions of how to use each product?
  7. New and unique non-commercial content is also ideal, because that also engages a visitor.  Just make sure to read tip #1 above before creating an entertaining video or interactive game or photo gallery or top-ten list.  We recently redesigned the website of a steel-bending client, and tracked the click locations.  An amazing number of clicks were on a “samples of our work” link that is just a souped-up, funky slide show we created for them.  Yes, even an industrial website can be cool!
  8. Remember to use small paragraphs.  Huge chunks of text make people’s eyes gloss over and they subconsciously reach for the “back” button.

From a site usefulness perspective, your content needs to first an foremost include the information visitors are searching for, so that they do not bounce right back to the search engine.  Secondly, it needs to engage readers so that they stay on and make a purchase…and at least if they do bounce back to the search engine, it’s after a long visit on your site (signaling that the site was useful for them).

 


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BrowseRank Strategies – Quality Web Site Design

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

A few days ago I reported on how BrowseRank goes beyond PageRank to rank websites according to user behavior.  Modern search engines tend to rank websites by relevancy and importance, and of course their algorithms can be gamed.  The concept of BrowseRank, which I have been mentioning to clients already for two years, would add a third and almost more important measurement – usefulness.  This, too, can be gamed.  However, most of the gaming would also work to your visitor’s advantage, so the Web will be a better place for it. 

In preparation for BrowseRank and perhaps other search engine measures of website usefulness, this is the first in a series of posts that will help you make your website appear useful in the eyes of the search engines.  You will probably find that these are things you should be doing anyway to increase conversions and profits, but that is not my area of expertise, so here we will look at them from an SEO perspective.

STRATEGY #1 – Design a website that says “Quality” the minute a visitor lands there.

This might seem soooooo obvious, but it needs to be said.  As obvious as it might seem, I come daily across dozens of websites that say “Amateur” or “Crap”.  Here are a few tips to make your website look like a professional website that can be trusted.

  1. Get a professional design that looks at least somewhat modern and in a style that suits your products and target audience.
  2. Lose the square corners.  Some corners are OK, but if your design is based on boxes, it looks like a basement job.
  3. No Adsense-type ads.  Yuck! Honestly, that is the biggest sign of a low-quality website.  A run of Adsense across the bottom is not bad, but the more prominent the PPC ads the cheaper the site appears.  By the way, ads are OK.  The more they look like content or part of the website, the better.  Adsense style ads just look cheap.
  4. Keep it clean.  Clutter looks as bad on a website as it looks here on my desk.  (But I don’t have a webcam to display this disaster to the world, so don’t display a mess on your website!)
  5. Make sure your web pages look good in various browsers and in various screen resolutions.  If 70% of people see a superb website and the other 30% see garbled images and text, they will bounce back to the search engine … which tells the engine that your website is not very useful (and it isn’t if it can’t easily be read by 30% of searchers).
  6. Make sure your website is available, which means good hosting.  I am never shy about recommending Phastnet web hosting.  This blog is hosted there and I have been migrating my sites to them over the years because of the five-star service I get when I need it.
  7. Make sure your code is working properly.  Seeing a PHP error makes the site look broken.  I don’t buy from someone who might be selling me broken goods.
  8. Avoid overly flashy design.  If your visuals call attention to themselves and distract from your message, you will lose people.
  9. Avoid automatic audio playing.  I can guarantee you that 99% of people browsing from a cubicle, as well as others in shared space, will zip back to the search engine in no time flat.  That sends a pretty bad signal to the search engines.
  10. Nix the cover page, especially one that shows a slide show on start-up.  And if you think people can easily scroll to the bottom to click the “skip intro”, it’s easier still to click the “back” button and choose a new website that does not place a barrier to its visitors.

Those are my top 10 web design tips for helping visitors see quality in your website.  Please feel free to add to this list in the comments below. Following these tips is not enough to make them stay on your website, but at least they won’t leave because the design scares them away.  In future “episodes”, I will share with you some additional strategies to help the search engines view your website as “useful”.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that we have some top quality SEO web designers on our team.  :-)  

 


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Are you blocking your customers?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Those of you who have followed by brilliant insights and incoherent ramblings will know that I draw inspiration for the virtual world from the real world.  Today, I would like to offer a few real world situations that bear on how your website performs.

Yesterday late afternoon, by twisting my schedule around, I was able to pick up my $250.  A Japanese client sent me the money via Western Union.  It’s a piddly amount, especially since the largest part of it goes to one of our writers.  Let me emphasize this…it is not the kind of money that one wants to put any effort into collecting.  Got that?  One does not want to have to go to the bank, only to be told they can’t access the money.  One does not want to have to go to the Western Union website, only to be told there is no money waiting.  One does not want to have to call Western Union only to have a recorded voice tell you that there is money waiting…but with no instructions on how to access it.  One does not want to discover that the only way to receive the money is to drive 40 minutes into the big city, show ID, fill in a form, then drive 40 minutes back.  For $1,000,000, sure.  For a portion of $250, no way!  Never mind the time it cost, just the wear and tear on the car ate up any income we would have made on the transaction. But it’s not the amount of money.  It’s the barrier that Western Union puts up, making sure that we will never accept Western Union as payment again.

But Western Union is not the only name brand to place up barriers.  The Pizza Pizza store where I take the girls on gymnastics nights locks their bathrooms.  To get access, one must ask for the key from behind the counter.  This can take a few minutes if the guy behind the counter is busy putting pizzas in the over, sometimes beyond even our ear shot.  And by the time you get the key… “Sorry, Daddy.  It’s too late.  I don’t think I need a toilet anymore.”

And what about Giant Tiger, a store that, like Pizza Pizza, also caters to young families with kids.  I suppose an amateur videographer could have made his first hit comedy following me around the store as I desperately searched for someone who could unlock the bathroom for my daughter.  But… “Sorry, Daddy.  It’s too late.  I don’t think I need a toilet any more.

Take a look at your website.  Is it easy to use? Do you make it easy for people to compare prices and understand your services?  Do you make them go through the whole shopping cart hassle just to get information they need to decide whether to buy (like shipping costs or even whether you ship to their country)?  Do you have the tools they need when they are on  your website, perhaps links to reviews and testimonials, weather conditions, etc?  Or do you keep the bathrooms locked so that customers keep focused on the merchandise on the shelves?

The difference between the real world and the Internet is that in the real world, the audience is somewhat captive.  To go from the back of the Giant Tiger store to another similar store requires a big effort.  To go from your website to a similar website requires just a few clicks.  If your website doesn’t take care of the customer, somebody else’s will.

 


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Yahoo and web design quality

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

A recent patent application by Yahoo makes it clear that it has plans to look at the quality of a web page in terms of layout and design as part of its ranking algorithm.  Careful – I did not say that it does or it will, just that it has plans.Yahoo’s reasoning is solid.  A web page that is full of clutter, where it’s hard to find where to go, if not a page that will please the searcher.  And Yahoo, like all search engines, wants to please the searcher.In its patent application, Yahoo lists 52 elements it might consider when deciding whether a web page is cluttered or not.

  • Total number of links
  • Total number of words
  • Total number of images (non-ad images)
  • Image area above the fold (non-ad images)
  • Dimensions of page
  • Page area (total)
  • Page length
  • Total number of tables
  • Maximum table columns (per table)
  • Maximum table rows (per table)
  • Total rows
  • Total columns
  • Total cells
  • Average cell padding (per table)
  • Average cell spacing (per table)
  • Dimensions of fold
  • Fold area
  • Location of center of fold relative to center of page
  • Total number of font sizes used for links
  • Total number of font sizes used for headings
  • Total number of font sizes used for body text
  • Total number of font sizes
  • Presence of “tiny” text
  • Total number of colors (excluding ads)
  • Alignment of page elements
  • Average page luminosity
  • Fixed vs. relative page width
  • Page weight (proxy for load time)
  • Total number of ads
  • Total ad area
  • Area of individual ads
  • Area of largest ad above the fold
  • Largest ad area
  • Total area of ads above the fold
  • Page space allocated to ads
  • Total number of external ads above the fold
  • Total number of external ads below the fold
  • Total number of external ads
  • Total number of internal ads above the fold
  • Total number of internal ads below the fold
  • Total number of internal ads
  • Number of sponsored link ads above the fold
  • Number of sponsored link ads below the fold
  • Total number of sponsored link ads
  • Number of image ads above the fold
  • Number of image ads below the fold
  • Total number of image ads
  • Number of text ads above the fold
  • Number of text ads below the fold
  • Total number of text ads
  • Position of ads on page

 This is actually a superb website review checklist.  Go through your website and see how it stacks up on most of these items.  Keep in mind that there are reasons you might want to violate some of these principles, but in general you would want your website to meet most of these criteria in order to please your visitors and convert them into customers.  And soon, you might also please Yahoo.

 


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Don’t Waste “Useless” Traffic

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Not everybody has this happy problem, but many websites get traffic they cannot use because it serves only a narrow spectrum of people who arrive from a broader search.  People do a search for a broad search, such as “marketing gimmicks” at Google or Yahoo, find your web page about a very specific marketing gimmick for real estate agents, discover that the website does not address their needs to market beauty products or metal bending or accounting, and they go.

Wait.  Stop.  Where do they go?  Back to the search engine?  No, no, no, no. 

From an SEO perspective, you don’t want to send the search engines the message that your page was a poor choice to rank well for the search term “marketing gimmicks”.  If that happens, the search engines might just demote your rank, and you will love the good prospects with the “useless” traffic.  We have no evidence that the search engines are factoring bounceback data into their algorithms, but we do know they are capable and have an interest in doing so.   It’s coming.

Of more immediate concern is all that hard-earned traffic that could be buying something from you is just leaving without spending a penny.  What a shame!  In a case like that, it would be worth having a very prominent affiliate link to a website that sells a broader marketing package with a text like “More Surefire marketing Gimmicks Here”. The result would be to convert some of the “useless” traffic, and to both reduce the bounceback rates and increase the bounceback lag time of those who do go back to Google.
 

 


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