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Step 8 to SEO: User Experience

Is my website intuitive and frictionless throughout?

If you’ve been following from Step One, you may remember that Step Two: Competitor Research, highlighted UEO as the new SEO. If you haven’t read it, here’s a key takeaway:

SEO is more about user experience optimization (UEO) than optimizing the search engine.

That makes user experience then, your most important focus for getting your site ranked.

And how does UEO relate to competitor research? Well first of all, discovering how to enhance, or in a worst case scenario, dredging your user’s experience up from the bottom of a mucky pond to the surface light of day, starts by watching your competitors with a keen eye.

But there’s more to it than that.

When you created your site, you didn’t create it for silent, mechanical aliens that would follow clickbait like naive school children follow Bobo the Clown. Not even close. You made it for real live people. People with different problems and pain points. People with very personal frustrations and levels of tolerance. People dotting the entire spectrum of tech savviness.

And although you know it is a rather unrealistic desire, your intention is to make every page on your site 100% accessible to everyone who lands on it. And so it should be, realistic or not.

You’ve got to get inside the head of your ideal customer and know what is going to frustrate the crap out of them and do everything you can to avoid creating that kind of experience.

Then, you’ve got to know exactly what makes them stay on your page and eventually convert and feel that it’s one of the best decisions they’ve made this year. And then you create that experience too.

Easy, right? Well, sort of.

The best way to get started is to visit as many websites in your industry as your sweet time allows and note every little thing that makes you want to stick a fork in your eye and every little thing that makes your experience feel like you’re on a first class flight with Emirates. Then compare these features to your own site.

How Do You Know What Your Customer Wants?

But once you’ve done that, how do you actually know that everything you’ve set in place to create the best user experience is actually, well, the best?

Google Analytics helps track user behaviour so you can get a deeper look at what parts of your site are keeping people engaged, and which ones are encouraging them to take a hike.

Let’s look at the specifics of what GA can track:

  • Where a user entered your site and where they left
  • Their navigation and interaction with your site  (this helps you figure out if your CTAs and internal links are in sensible locations)
  • What device they use to view your site (this helps you further optimize your site for specific devices based on popular use).

(And remember, GA is a free tool).

Now this next tip is a bit Sherlock so prepare yourself:

Ask your customer.

I know, right? It’s like telling someone to check that the TV is plugged in when it won’t turn on, but so many of us ignore the simplest way. Our complex brains like complication.

So how do ask? Check out Step Six: Reviews for tips on how to ask your customer.

What About Information Architecture?

Neil Patel tells us that at the core of the user experience is information architecture. A basic understanding of information architecture is outlined in the image below:

Source: Neil Patel

So now we’ve got the fundamentals outta the way, let’s look at a few more superficial but equally valuable components of UX.

Aesthetics

This may seem obvious but we have to ask: Does your website look nice? Is it tidy or cluttered with content and images? Are your chosen colours complementary? Does your logo actually capture the ethos of your business? Is there any possibility that it overwhelms or confuses? Remember, simple is best for any site of any business in any industry. You don’t want to make people work to buy your product or service because they won’t.

Quality and Readability of Information / Voice

A great majority of the adult population cannot read past an eighth grade level so unless your business is highly technical or you, for some reason, require a great deal of nomenclature in your content, then write for the eighth grade reader. If you can’t write, you’re not alone, and there are plenty of professional copywriters out there who can deliver some bang-up content. Choose someone who is able to capture the voice of your business and stick with that person. Using too many different writers will make the voice of your business sound less cohesive and convincing, like reading a novel where the writers change from chapter to chapter.

Now remember, and this is where it falls apart for a lot of businesses: make sure your content is well-researched, quality stuff. People can sniff out bullshit faster than our overpopulated planet can churn it out. Make your shit unique and the stuff of roses, stuff people can actually get something out of.

Extend the Learning Journey

Think of your site as a trip to the science centre. Each station should draw you in, entice you to know more, indulge in your curiosity and fascination about the way the world works. So too should your site about your product or service. Use whatever means are necessary to keep your user engaged. Include links to where they can get more information, whether that’s on your site or an affiliate’s. Use appealing images, photos, videos, or memes that support understanding, that deliver a bit of humour, that invite the reader to further question what they’ve read (and then invite them further down the learning path). In short, give them an experience.

Calls-To-Action

CTAs might be the most important part of your site––where they’re placed and how they call users to convert.

Forget the old, boring “buy”, “purchase”, or “submit”. Get creative (or trust in your content writer to do what you paid her to).

Remember––a user is a person too!

When we’re bogged down by metrics, it’s easy to forget that there are real live people behind those numbers. And what drives most people to buy?

They have some painful, nagging thorn in their side that makes them need your product to remedy their situation.

People don’t buy your product because it looks nice. They buy it because it solves a problem.

Maybe they don’t know they’re in pain, which is why you need to remind them, strategically, at each step of the conversion cycle and use the CTA as an opportunity to highlight, once more, how your product is going to solve their problem. Now make sure that problem-solving actually alleviates their pain rather than contribute to it.

You got this. Leave a comment and let us know what your main UX gem is.

Step 4 to SEO: On-Page SEO

Am I using Step 1’s insights for page targeting & structuring?

If you did your homework, you would have made some discoveries about how to rank for keywords.

If you haven’t already checked it out, see Step One to SEO Success: Keyword Research to find out how to get started on this critical stage.

If you’ve done your research, let’s take a look at what you’ve discovered.

Two of your major findings would have been:

  • How people are searching for your product or service offering and,
  • How your offering aligns with their queries.

Using as many tools as possible, you compiled a list of long-tail keywords. You ranked them by relevance and difficulty and then chose the ones that are most relevant and least competitive.

Right?

Great, what were they?

If you used a Venn diagram to display the results of a simple keyword investigation in the health supplements niche, it might have looked like this:

Now, what do we do with this? Let’s get to the nitty gritty…

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is essentially structuring individual web pages around target keywords with the goal of creating more traffic and achieving a higher rank.

It’s also about responding to the people who come to your page looking for answers.

One of the most obvious ways to hit on all these points is through content so let’s start there.

You could start structuring content around the keyword “gluten-free supplements for weight loss” because it is both relevant and low competition. This is a perfect jumping off point for a review of competitors’ brands (if there are any), or an article about how gluten-free supplements are hard to come by (until they stumbled across your brand of course), etc., etc.

Let’s hope you don’t just plop this juicy keyword into existing content about the benefits of supplements.

Of course you wouldn’t because you know as well as we do that it is better to start at the beginning.

Like a plant has a seed, a keyword is the crux of great content, which is still one of the top ranking factors. It’s easy to sniff out in the opening paragraph when keywords have been stuffed or simply dropped into existing content. Readers will quickly realize that your page is not going to deliver what they came looking for.

Irrelevancy makes you unreliable, and when you’re unreliable, people aren’t going to ask you for help and Google will note that and respond accordingly.

Don’t be that guy.

Make yourself trustworthy and deliver fresh new content that answers your users’ questions.

Now, let’s take a closer look at why content is king in SEO success and how to masterfully craft content around the keywords you want to rank for.

Enter RankBrain.

RankBrain is a machine-learning component of Google’s algorithm that measures dwell time (how long users are spending on your page) and click through rate (CTR), which is the total clicks divided by total impressions (read more about Google Analytics here). RankBrain then moves your page up or down the SERP depending on those two factors.

3 Techniques for Improving Rank

There are three key ways to win at RankBrain. First, optimize your titles and meta descriptions for better CTR. Second, rank for highly relevant keywords. Third, write quality content.

Sounds easy, right? They are, and they’re also dangerously easy to overlook. Each point carries some pretty heavy weight when it comes to on-page SEO so ensure you are focusing your efforts on all three.

1. Optimize titles.

The first point is so important. Time and effort are wasted on creating great content out of awesome keyword research if there is nothing to attract users to your page. A gripping title and simple, to-the-point meta descriptions are necessary. Like the department store Macy’s revolutionized the storefront window, the title and meta description can lead users right to your page, wanting more of what your virtual window promises.

2. Target relevant keywords and the people using them.

Let’s highlight the second point. You can write as much content as you want but if it’s not relevant to your offering, people are going to bounce.

The word people is strategic here. We talk a lot about the user, which makes me picture a hand on a mouse, or the reader, which makes me picture a book. But when I read the word people, I imagine a face, which directs my efforts to a person with a brain and the ability to subjectively decide what he or she is going to read and why. It makes my work more personal.

Okay, maybe not that face exactly. This one is a little closer to human (and looks a little like my grandma):

This point is, I’m not directing my efforts to the Google Machine, I’m addressing the needs of the people who ultimately determine what Google does with me. Right? This is a critical mind shift with which to lead.

3. Create quality content.

High-quality content is one of the top ranking factors. But quality is a bit of an ambiguous, static term, isn’t it? Let’s go with engaging instead; it’s a bit more active.

Content that engages draws the reader in right away with a hook phrase that is both relevant and interesting. It keeps the reader wanting more by providing useful bits of information that are easy to absorb and answer the readers’ questions directly. It often tells a story to which the reader can relate. It also leads the reader to helpful resources that explore their query further.

Now, great content needs a bit of decoration. Something that yells out READ ME. Because let’s be honest, no one has time to fart around looking for the juiciest tidbit of meat.

When I land on a page, the first thing I do is cut the fat. I quickly scroll through the content to see if anything jumps out. What do I notice?

Three things, mainly: Images/videos, length, and headers.

We love images. They’re the eye candy that break up the text.

Length is often a good sign that a chunky chunk of content is going to feed me what I’m looking for.

Headers offer a place to start if I’m looking to pinpoint specific information. If the headers aren’t relevant to what I’m looking for (i.e., they don’t match my keyword query) then bouncy-bounce I go back to SERP and right into RankBrain’s time-out chair.

Rand Fishkin outlines seven elements of an optimized webpage. They are less quantitative than the SEO methods of yesteryear that called for specific keyword placement so they may seem a little loosey-goosey. But they’re not.

Qualitative strategies take center stage as the algorithms that assess relevance increase in complexity.

So, what makes a page brilliantly optimized according to Fishkin and Logical Mix?

  1. Offers uniquely valuable content and images
  2. Provides excellent user experience
  3. Targets specific keywords
  4. Easily shared through social networks
  5. Optimized for every device
  6. Accessible to crawlers
  7. Includes authorship, rich snippets, metadata, and schema

Fishkin created this genius, though mythical, perfectly optimized page, highlighting his seven factors, mentioned earlier:

Pretty cool, right? I’d love to land on more web pages like this: perfectly structured to answer my question and oh so pretty.

So there you have it. On-page SEO is actually a bit fun. Maybe not as fun as the keyword research it took to get here, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

What is the main takeaway?

Remember, you’re doing this for a living, breathing human being (or several thousand if you’re doing it right). Not a doll, not an ape (though possibly some monkey brains). Google is a machine, and although we want to please the machine, we’re still the ones ultimately in control… for now.

Appeal to your customer and find out how you can deliver what they want through super-duper on-page SEO.

When you’re structuring your pages, always keep this in mind:

People have questions. Be that place where the answers are.

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Logical Mix

Feature photo credit: The Freedom Chase

Time to Upgrade

KEEP YOUR WEBSITE UPDATED

So you have a website; while that is a great start to having a successful search engine marketing platform for your business, having that and only that won’t quite cut it to increase your overall business revenue and customers. Almost every business has a website, in fact, according to the latest version of Business 2012; seventy-eight percent of businesses have a website, over two-thirds.  Now the question to ask is this: What makes a website flourish? What are the main tools and necessary steps one needs to take to ensure that they are hosting a fast moving and highly visited website? Fortunately, the answer is neither difficult nor complex, but rather business savvy – keep you and your company updated. Websites are a social platform built to inform potential customers and current customers what you are offering and why they should be interested in what you provide. However, it is not going to be effective if your latest and greatest deals, promotions, and products were from last month or perhaps even last year. Keeping your online presence updated secures repeat website visitors; just as repeat customers are profitable and desired for your business, so are repeat website visitors. If a previous customer has enjoyed your product and would like more information on what else you may offer or promotions you are holding, instead of calling, they are much more likely to visit your website. Now, just as it is essential to have a well laid out and well managed website, keeping this information fresh with new displays, pictures, and text is important to having a repeat internet visitor.

In addition, if your website is being featured on a search engine, you’re main goal is to have it appear on the first page of Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. If your website isn’t being frequently updated, these search engines will automatically assume that your site is not achieving a high number of hits and this can be extremely detrimental to your overall marketing scheme.  Just as important as it is for a business to have a website, it is even more important to have it being updated on a continuous basis with fresh new layouts and information to keep your customers wanting more. An even better marketing idea is to have an email subscription page set up on your website to invite your customers to receive weekly emails from your company providing them with the latest deals your business has to offer. Not only does this keep your business committed to updating on a weekly basis at minimum, but you’re directly hitting and targeting customers at a personal level. It is vital for the success of your business to have a visible online presence in this day and age where online media is being used as a primary tool for advertising. It’s crucial that your business is doing everything to promote yourself online, and by keeping your website stocked with new information on a regular basis, your customers will feel that your website can be the one stop shop to finding what they are looking for and need. So rather than focusing all your time and effort into plastering your windows with your special promotions, open your internet browser and begin with informing everyone there. It may take time to get used to as you may feel as though you are throwing information into a web of space (no pun intended), that space is built up of your customers, and even though they are not visible and you are not watching them drive by, their online presence is immense, and reaching that should be the ultimate goal for your business.
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Logical Mix

Build A User Friendly Website

When you are building or editing your website always make sure it is user friendly. There is nothing more wasteful than having an online customer surf onto your website and they have no clue what the “call to action” is. They will leave fast and worse, with a bad impression about your company. For sake of not being mean, we won’t link to any website examples.

You all have seen websites where you have no clue what they are trying to convey or achieve. Don’t fall into that category.

Read more