IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition) is over for 2012.
To all who came to IRCE2012, THANKS for visiting Chicago, the local economy appreciated your visit. I appreciated your ideas and the opportunity for networking in my backyard.
Even after all these years in technology, it still amazes me to see how technology continues to move quickly in a few different directions. So while I will be highlighting some different companies I met or got reaquanted with in the near future here at SEODamian in future posts, let me share what I see were some major trends here from the show.
One of the big values I find in going to trade shows is the ability to compare and contrast different vendors in the same hour. The challenge with other solutions for comparing (trade journals, industry reviews, analyst reports) is that they often span data that makes comparisons irrelevant. They are X’s last quarter’s version compared to Y’s next quarter’s beta version. You still get the same issue at a tradeshow, but you can typically sniff out the game and get the real scoop on what the 2 companies are at today, and compare to 3 other similar solutions. Some of the key trends I saw in Internet retailing are:
- Prices are dropping. No big change there, except the rate they continue to drop. Typically not the same product at the same company, but by a new competitor creating most of the functionality of an existing solution and more for a lower price. Be it Chat and chat management (LivePerson look out, LogMeIn and others are looking to eat your lunch), survey tools, Addon’s to Magento (shopping cart platform), shipping auditing (no minimums needed here), affiiliate management, flash sales tools (keep it all in house or partner) and more.
- SaaS is the trend. The cost to distribute code to customers, and deal with your internal data center/stack complexities is too expensive for most tool creators. It is far easier for them to increase staff to keep 1 (or 2) data center up and going, then trying to guess how you (the customer) tried to make your data center secure and how you dealt with your specific legacy issues. The test bed is far easier to set up (if they are using AWS-Amazon Web Services, it is about 3 command lines to generate ‘another’ test bed). If you as a retailer can’t deal with SaaS or it’s API, look for adding at least one 0 (zero) to your cost in purchase price, and far more in TCO.
- Big data is here. Small startups need a credit card with a few dollars open on it to get a billion dollar data center (Amazon Web Services) to build ‘rock hard’ services. The cost of AWS is low enough that the ability to deal with incredible amounts of data in real-time changes what is being deployed as solutions. This shows up at the consumer level as presorted and pretargeted for their needs, not brood strokes. No longer is confirmation that a card number may be valid a real number good enough. It has to be validated that it belongs as a charge, not reported stolen and has the proper credit limit.
- The is no one stop shopping. The amount of tools to run a successful ecommerce site continues to grow. From the need to change pricing rapidly on one or all your SKU’s, to deploying across multiple channels (store, Amazon, eBay, Affiliate, traditional site, Facebook, ShopEngines) you need a collection of tools that is reminiscent of the stacks of apps in the 70′s and 80′s. The big difference, they are best not home developed, and often hosted in and out of house.
- Change is now often measured in weeks and months rather then years for software deployment. If you don’t like what you see today, what a quarter and redo your RFP (Request for Proposal). But monitor the products and community reaction in the meantime.
There was a lot more I saw, but 500 booths is hard to summarize in a few lines, so more to follow in the next posts.
This the third part of my suggestions for a site redo/site refresh. Part one is at http://seodamian.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/site-redo/
Part two is Here
The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.
Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website.
Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes recommendations a challenge. But here are some suggestions for new pages to add to the site:
- Consider creating a leadership page that lists biographies and links of the leaders. This should include high resolution and low resolution images that could be used by the press, as well as how to contact for more information.
- Create a page with links to other related sites, including Main Street Alliance, Citizen Action and other key partners.
- Create a How To Get Involved page:
- This page outline the existing resources that we have in our annoying for people to plug into.
- They should also list other ways to get involved from across the country:
- If there is a desire to create other groups throughout the state. It may also be interested in advancing across. Obviously this needs to be managed in a properly controlled so as to not create a group that fights against ourselves, but this is a great opportunity for a way to make it easier for someone further down state to create a group supporting our cause in adding legitimacy to our overall organization.
- How to donate.
- How to contribute informational material, such as:
- Other blogs,
- Blog postings,
- Letters to the editor,
- How to share our voice page:
- List of e-mail addresses and fax numbers for letter to the editor sites.
- List of suggested letter to the editor topics.
- Links to Existing letters to editor that are either pro or con that we are asking others to comment on appropriately to increase the visibility as well as to link back to our site. This creates an action page for members to check back to on a regular basis. This also creates a focal point where key talking points can be shared in an easy to digest format.
- A calendar page. This could list past events as well as future events and again is a good way of creating credibility both within Google and by the press by showing how active we are and how often were meeting both as a entire organization as well as subgroups. Ideally, this would contain not only press releases, press briefings, but also key events from the national organization, key votes and commission committee sessions of important legislation, historical reminders of progressive accomplishments. Overlaying the legislative calendars would be a great way to help show a more clear focus of our agenda and intent.
These are more individual pages, again depending on the amount of commitment to website, that can be helpful in acheiving a variety of goals from:
- increased traffic,
- more links on the web,
- greater press communication
- increased membership
- increased involvement of membership
- greater understanding of our legislative leaders
What pages do you feel should be on this site?
A client asked ‘I am ranked well on my keyword search term, but I am not getting many calls for my service – what gives?’
In the years of working with businesses even before the Internet, one of the biggest issue I have found, is that many businesses do not understand their solutions from their customers perspective. They look at their business from the supplier/seller side. They try to sell the best drill, forgetting that customers want to buy holes. They sell the best shoes, forgetting that customers are buying a fun run, or how to win the marathon, or how to get a date. It has been a problem for so many businesses that 95% will never celebrate their 5th birthday So how to translate this wisdom into Internet sales?
Create a more complete keyword list
Understand your ranking well may be in the wrong category. The customer IS searching for the right term, if you are not ranked well in that term it is your issue, not the customer’s. This is another place where the customer is always right. So a few questions and suggestions:
- Make a list of all the different keyword search terms your perspective customers would be searching for you .
- Then take some time, ask some friends and double your list of keyword phrases.
- Now call your best 2 customers, ask them how they would search for your product or service.
- Then feed it into Google’s keyword suggestion tool – https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Now you have a list of keywords phrases. This usually is a much longer list than most businesses start with. This is part of what you hire experts for – to develop this list. The trend is to use longer phrases, as the shorter ones are usually more generic as each year passes. The short ones are more competitive, even if they get more traffic. But start with the longer ones, as they are usually easier to rank higher on, and also often incorporate the shorter phrases.
Now optimize each page of your site for a different phrase.
Are there any geographical indicators in your keyword phrases? If so, then think like your customers and consider that they consider themselves the center of the universe, not you and your business. They are probably searching from their home, not your business as the center. If your business is technically located in Warrenville, then cover the surrounding area. This is especially important if you are located in a suburban area where one town blends into the next town at the end of a strip mall and many customers many not even know where the town lines are. If you are in a larger city, don’t forget to refer to the city and the neighborhood names. Again focus on your customers location, more then yours. So optimize or add text that indicates you serve them -
Serving the Western DuPage lllinois area including: Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, and Boilingbrook for dental patients like you for over 10 years. Supporting the Lisle Lions Football team and the Naperville Hockey Booster club.
Change this up on the different pages (but be truthful of course – lies will kill you more then poor rankings). You can put a tag line at the bottom of each page, you can have different descriptions in your description and TITLE tags, you can describe your location with ALT tags on the photos of your location, you can talk about your staff and the towns they live in. All of these help Google and your clients understand that your business is in their neighborhood.
Of course you need to optimize your titles to include your keyword search phrases in a way that attracts your customers to want to click on your site. If you were looking at these page titles on a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page), which would you click on?
- About Us
- About Joe’s Lawn Service
- Joe’s Lawn Service
- Joe’s Lawn, Kingwood
- Kingwood TX’s best Lawn and Garden Maintenance service keeping your yard sharp, and your pocket book full since 1998.
Who are you more interested in considering – you or your customers?
Once you have these in place, make sure you have Google Analytics or some way to measure your traffic to determine if the problem is – not enough people getting to your site, or not enough people taking action on your site. Without numbers, it becomes very easy to solve the wrong problem. Especially if the real problem is harder to solve.
Once you have these (the various other suggestions and strategies for website optimization) in place, make sure you have Google Analytics or some way to measure your traffic to determine if the problem is – not enough people getting to your site, or not enough people taking action on your site.
Google Analytics is a free resource by the wonderpeople at Google. They realize that the more you improve your websites, the more people will search because they get better answers. Plus if you make money or have success with your website (readers, subscribers, callers, or however YOU clearly define a successful website), you will invest more into the web, including marketing. Hey! Google sells some marketing with GoogleAdWords (and makes a TON!). So Google has a bunch of free tools and information to improve your traffic so they can make more money.
Every time you (or anyone) goes to a webpage, you send a request to the server of the webpage or webhost server for something – the text, an image, some flash, a sound file – whatever. In order to keep it all straight, there is also ‘who requested the info’ (so the webhost knows who to send the answer to), where you were last (to help maintain continuity and to understand where you were), time and what you asked for. Most webhosts can keep a log of all those requests and may have some programs to take those computer geek files and make pretty charts and graphs and reports. But more and more, the simpler solution that most small, medium, and large (not many gigantic) sites are using Google Analytics. A big reason medium and large sites use Google Analytics is that those log files can get real big (larger then a DVD worth of data). So trying to handle whole file can get real cumbersome even for a fast computer. Imagine a website with the average page that has 9 photos and someone usually visits 5 pages and there are 1,000 visitors a month (or 33 visitor per day)- that is over 50,000 entries for a relatively low volume site. Imagine a speadsheet with that many rows. Google has lots of computers and hard drive space to handle that, but many office computers start to get bogged down. Oh, did I mention another big advantage – Google Analytics is FREE.
You can use Google Analytics by following the instructions at http://www.google.com/analytics/#utm_medium=et&utm_source=us-en-et-bizsol-0-biz1-all&utm_campaign=en of course you have to put the code on each page in order to get full value (just like you have to put cameras at all doors to your store to get full value from each any camera – you want to know who is visiting through all entrances).
Once you start getting your reports you can start to analyze what your visitors are doing when they get to your site:
- Are they looking at one page and leaving?
- Are they starting a shopping cart, getting frustrated and leaving?
- Are they looking at your service descriptions and then looking at the prices (and leaving)?
- Are they going straight to terms and conditions page or to the price page?
- Are they looking at the comparison page comparing the free version and the paid version without downloading either?
These are all tools to understanding what you need to do to improve your site to meet your customers needs and improve sales. Having played detective as to why your visitors are coming and going without leaving a name or credit card number, comes the creative part – Improving the website to meet the needs of your customers. If this is your business then this part should be your passion. How to serve the customer to make them Raving Fans (Ken Blanchard) and improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS). If this is not your passion – then ask your best customers what their honest reactions are to your site while watching them navigate through it the way they want to.
The TITLE tag is one of the most important part of any webpage. That is what tells your browser to put up at the top of the screen between the BluE and ‘- Internet Explorer’ or the Firefox logo and ‘-Mozilla Firefox’ or after the compass in Apple Safari . It is even in a distinct color from the rest of the browser. This is what gets listed in the tabs of your browser to help your visitor get back to your site while switching between the others sites competing for your attention. The TITLE tag is also a trusted part of what Google determines your webpage is about.
But most importantly, this is the underlined, Bold and Blue text that shows up in Google’s’ results page (SERP) – This is where you get to 1st sell your potiential visitor that they need to click on the link and come visit YOU! This text is your best chance to get a person to decide what that your site will meet their desires better then the 9 or 99 other pages listed next to it. This is where if you fail, it is pretty clear it is your fault for not meeting the needs of your potiental visitor.
So how to get your potential visitor to choose you?
- Don’t waste it. Don’t use ‘generic’ titles that are written from the perspective of the website – Home, About, Contact. There are 4.2, 4.1, 2.6 Billion pages you are competing against respectively compared to 436 Million for Fire, or 126 Million for Pizza (95% easier to rank at the top of).
- Don’t be too specific. If people are searching for your business name – ‘Smith’s Itailan Bar and Grill’, then use that. But usually they are not, they are searching for a restaurant. You potential customer probably does not know he is looking for you specifically, but what solution as a good or service that you provide. List that good or service from the customers perspective. If they know your restaurant’s name, they are a different kind of prospect. They deserve a separate page with ‘their’ own Title. That may well be the ‘Contact page’.
- Don’t be too general, there are 327 Million restaurants sites listed on Google. Of course they are all over the world, and all types of quality and cost. Some of the sites are not even about specific restaurants, but related to restaurants – including goods and services for restaurants. If your customers are looking for you, they won’t be looking for your vendors selling your restaurant cleaning supplies. Typically this is where you want to get geographical – Naperville Restaurant limits the selection to 1.7 million pages. Again, another reduction by 95% in competition. But you may need to limit yourself down some more – Naperville Pizza Restaurant – cuts the pages down to 63,000 – again cutting your competition by another 95%. Balancing 2 and 3 can be a challenge – the key is to look at how your visitor will look for you. The perspective is from your visitor’s search box, not from your business or web design
- Sell your site. This is where the advertising industry earned their living for decades. How to write quick headlines that attracted you to read their ad further, in a short compelling fashion. If you had the following titles which would you click on:
- Joe’s Bar And Grill, Downers Grove
- Downers Grove’s restaurant for dining-Joe’s Bar and Grill
- Downers Grove’s best restaurant for casual dining-Joe’s Bar and Grill with nightly chicken dinner specials ranked by Zagat’s review
The third one tells a story like any good headline should, while at the same time giving the search engine the information it needs to place it well for your visitors search terms on Google.
Now that you are on the right track on how to craft a TITLE tag, perform some searches from a visitors perspective for your site. Look at the different Titles and see what catches your eye as well as what communicates that the page is what you are looking for. Search similar topics on Google and Bing to see how effective Title tags are constructed. Take some time to learn what is most effective at drawing you to click on a link. This will help you learn how others are looking at your Title tag.
When you are crafting your Title tag, take some time and even consider soliciting some feedback as to what best attracts someone to your site.
Once you have crafted your Title tag to meet these criteria, consider testing – try different titles every 2-4 weeks and see what creates the most traffic based on your Google Analytics (free) or whatever tool you use to track your sites traffic.
How did you craft your Title tags and what did you learn along the way?
There is a whole sub-specialty of copywriting for search engine optimization. That is, writing the text of a page so it specifically ranks higher in search engines.
One way to look at trying to meet ‘both’ audiences of Search engine and your visitors, is to clearly write the objective being met by each page. If that is not clear, at least to yourself, then it probably will not be clear to your visitors. The search engines will have a better chance of getting it wrong as well.
One of the big challenges many web designers have is looking at the site from a visitor perspective. It becomes too easy to focus on the bells and whistles, the hits and graphics. The old saying -’ the customer is always right’ still applies here and in essence is the golden rule.
Sometimes the visitor perspective is taken, but only from the point of view of someone looking at the entire site, as if each visitor is going to do a formal audit of the site. But the truth is, most visitors pass judgement in seconds of when they 1st see anything on your site. And part of the challange (and great benefit) of the web is that you have a vast number of doors to your site. Not just your front door. So you cannot just make your entry way/lobby beautiful. Your fire exit, your sliding door, the door to the inside of the mall, the side door, the dock door, the hatch to the roof – all those entrances need to look inviting and well designed as entry ways to your business or site.
The easiest way to accomplish that is to look at each page as a stand alone site. Does each page convey a clear sense of purpose to the visitor, and allow them to continue on to the rest of the site? Does the page make sense by itself, or is like turning to page 72 of an Agatha Christie mystery? Does this page answer a question or does it seem like the middle of an index without the title INDEX at the top? Does the page provide details or does it feel like you dropped onto page 916 of the federal statutes?
If you can create a breadcrumb trail (list of pages that naturally would lead you to this page from the front door/home page), that is great. But you still need enough context on the page to make sense. This will also let the search engines make sense of the page as well.
When you are laying out your site (possibly doing a wireframe or other methodology to be covered in other posts), be sure to define what is the objective of each page. Then review the pages after they are created to see if they met those objectives. Try to minimize the objectives for each page – do not try to ‘stuff’ too much into each page. And ask an independent party to review each page to see if they consider it meeting the pages objectives. Then after all page objectives have been met, test to see if you have met the site’s objectives.
An objective that may often be forgotten on many pages is – speak in the visitors language. Most people are not looking for blackwater remediation, they are looking for sewer backup flood cleanup. Most people are not looking for polyamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAMs) they are looking for nanoparticles. Speak in the language of your visitors and the search engines will understand your site in the language of your visitors.
Finally, see if your copy meets the overall objectives of your site. It is hard to work in a vacuum, so use Google analytics and real visitors to find out how your site is really viewed.