seo

When you’re building a blog to bring traffic to your site, it’s the organic search traffic that makes or breaks your efforts. A blog post is an SEO landing page. It draws visitors through the graces of the search engines.

SEO landing pages are challenging, primarily because it takes time to see which of them are going to work. By publishing frequently on a blog, we get a chance to try out a wide variety of SEO landing pages. Over time, we can see which drive growing SEO traffic and which don’t.

We name our SEO landing pages based on the traffic patterns they produce. Last week, I told you about Icebergs, Eagles, Burps and Fizzes. Now I’m going to show you how to quantify these.

You can get the background in my Marketing Land column Evaluating Website Performance: I’m All About That Slope.

Conversion-Scientist-Podcast-Logo-1400x1400


A Flock of Eagles

Eagles don’t travel in flocks. However, when you have a bevy of eagles roosting on your website, the results are astounding.
Eagles are those blog posts which draw more and more traffic over time. Not all Eagles are created equal. Using the tools outlined in my column we can understand which of our posts is flapping along and which is using afterburners.

Following are the aggregated traffic of nine SEO landing pages that have begun to soar, or show signs of becoming an Eagle.

A bunch of landing pages with relatively slow individual growth can add up to some serious overall traffic.

A bunch of landing pages with relatively slow individual growth can add up to some serious overall traffic.

Of our top 25 posts, 14 are Eagles and two are Dodos, or Eagles that are slow to take off. Only eight are Burps or Burp Fizzes. Not bad.

Comparing SEO Landing Pages

We analyze blog posts based on the amount of organic traffic they bring, how quickly the organic traffic is growing, and how many subscribers they generate as measured by the conversion rate. Google Analytics offers a convenient Landing Pages report that provides the raw data for our analysis.

Here are two “Eagles.” Post A took off at a strong pace, while post B has been going for longer.

Which of these is the higher performer? The data tells us something that our eyes don’t see.

Which of these is the higher performer? The data tells us something that our eyes don’t see.

Which of these is the higher performer? The data tells us something that our eyes don’t see.

Using the SLOPE, INTERCEPT, and RSQ functions of Excel, we calculate a growth rate of 3.92% for post B and 6.30% for post A. Our confidence in the fit of the trendline for Post B is 0.81 and for Post A is 0.68. We have less confidence in Post A.

Post A seems to be flattening out, but many Eagles get new life and continue climbing. Maybe Post A will one day be an iceberg. So far, Post A has generated new subscribers at a rate more than double that of Post B.

Using Data to Guide SEO Landing Page Development

Here is a selection of SEO landing pages from The Conversion Scientist Blog and Course. I pulled this data from Google Analytics using the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Page report. We can get specific data for up to six landing pages by checking the box next to the item and clicking the Plot Rows button.

Checking the stories and clicking "Plot Rows" tells Google Analytics to export your data.

Checking the stories and clicking “Plot Rows” tells Google Analytics to export your data.

These are ranked by the conversion rate for subscribers to our conversion mini course.

Trendlines: Slope, y-intercept, and R-squared value.

Trendlines: Slope, y-intercept, and R-squared value.

For each, I’ve calculated the key values of their trendline: Slope, y-intercept, and R-squared value. From this I can define the growth rate and organic traffic pattern.

We love the post “Can Live Chat Increase Conversions?” because it has a conversion rate of 0.61% and is growing at a nice clip at 3.52%. It’s a high-converting Eagle.

What do we do about the Low-R-Squared posts?

The R-squared values tell us that the slope and intercept data is suspect. Do we just ignore these?

For these, and the others that don’t make sense (71.38% initial growth rate?), I recommend zooming in on the most recent trends.
Our “5 Elements of Persuasive Writing” post is young and had a pretty big coming out via email. So, we’ll focus on the most recent trend in the data.

Taking a snapshot of the data can improve our confidence.

Taking a snapshot of the data can improve our confidence.

Here’s what it looks like in Excel.

Graph of blog post traffic with trendline

Graph of blog post traffic with trendline

You can see that we can increase our R-squared value to .54, and the rate for the more recent data is the slope (4.4956) divided by the intercept (17.975), which is 25%. So we have a .53 confidence that the orgranic traffic is growing at 25% for this post.

The infographic “What Makes Shoppers Click?” has an R-squared value of just 0.16.

Google analytics graph of traffic for blog post

Google analytics graph of traffic for blog post

However if we look at weeks 27 through 39, we get an amazing growth rate with a high R-squared value.

Graph of traffic from "shoppers" blog post with trendline

Graph of traffic from “shoppers” blog post with trendline

For this more recent period, we see a growth rate of 34% (2.967/8.76920) and an R-squared value of 0.80.

Be Careful

If you’re not careful, you can choose your data points to tell whatever story you want it to tell. Furthermore, if you’re making decisions on too few data points, you may be making the wrong decisions.

When in doubt, choose the time frame that gives you the most data points and the most conservative results.

To understand the effectiveness of your SEO landing pages, count up  the number of Eagles you have as compared to those that aren’t growing. Use the landing page report in Google Analytics to find out which are resulting in the most conversions. Then calculate the slope and y-intercept to understand the future potential of these pages.

For additional reading, check out this piece on landing page best practices for optimal conversion.

How does one build traffic to a blog? That’s easy. One writes. One posts. One shares.
Unfortunately, not all posts are created equal. Not all topics interest the same number of readers. And not all keyword phrases get the attention of the great granter of traffic, Google.
Having blogged since 2005 on marketing topics, from email to conversion optimization. Every post has it’s own signature when I look at it in Google Analytics. There are Eagles, Icebergs, Burps and more.
I thought I would share them with you.

How We Look at Traffic

Our subscriber list gets an email each week of with new posts. We publish new posts three times per week. We put new posts on LinkedIn and Facebook, and will generally share with on Twitter multiple times over the course of a week or two. Our most active posts will get reposted on LinkedIn.
We count on this initial outreach to drive relevant backlinks for search engine optimization. I use Referral Traffic as a proxy for backlinks. While backlinks aren’t about generating referral traffic, there is a correlation between the amount referral traffic and the number of backlinks a post has.
So, when evaluating the performance of our blog posts, I’m examining:

  1. Email traffic
  2. Social traffic
  3. Referral traffic (for backlinks)
  4. Organic traffic

With these segments, I look at the Google Analytics Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report for individual posts that rank high in traffic generated, and go back more than a year.

The Google Analytics Landing Pages report can be used to isolate the most visited entry pages on the blog.

The Google Analytics Landing Pages report can be used to isolate the most visited entry pages on the blog.

Separating Social Referrals from Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

First of all, Google Analytics seems to include social referrals in it’s “Referral Traffic” filter. I want to look at social separately, so I created a filter based on the social networks that send traffic to us.
^t\.co|facebook\.com|twitter|pinterest|disqus|linkedin|
lnkd\.in|quora|plus.*\.google\.com|digg|netvibes|
scoop\.it|slideshare|instapaper|
meetup\.com|paper\.li|stumbleupon

The difference between Referral and non-social Referral Traffic-Graph-Arrows

This article shows that Google’s “Referral Traffic” advanced segment includes social referrals.

The Kinds of Posts You Find in Analytics

Every post is unique. Each has its own signature in analytics. However, there are some common themes I’ve seen in the data and I’m going to share them with you here.

The Burp

The Burp is a post that gets all of it’s juice from email and social media. There is a spike of activity followed by near “silence,” if you can say visits make a sound.
These are topics that may have been interesting to people when shoved into their inbox or social media timeline, but didn’t grab the attention of the search engines.

Burps are the most unsatisfying of all blog posts.

Burps are the most unsatisfying of all blog posts.


Burps can be blamed on poor search optimization, poor choice of keywords or just boring content. The post shown above had a nice email spike and got some referral traffic. But the referrals didn’t seed organic visitors like some. See below.

The Burp and Fizz

A variation of the Burp is the “Burp and Fizz.” This traffic pattern burps when email and social sharing are being done. Then it sizzles with search traffic – just a little – over time.

Strong email, social traffic and referral traffic resulted in only a rumbling of organic visits.

Strong email, social traffic and referral traffic resulted in only a rumbling of organic visits.


Only a small amount of organic traffic emerged from this post.

Only a small amount of organic traffic emerged from this post.


These may be long-tail topics, or the small amount of search traffic may be driven by less-relevant backlinks.

The Iceberg

Like its frozen namesake, the iceberg is massive and floats through your analytics, slowly melting over time. In our case, the iceberg has been one our most visited post since it was published in March of 2011. It has generated a large volume of search traffic, decreasing slowly.
Icebergs can be misleading. In our case, email is not how potential prospects find us, so traffic to this post is largely poor quality from a lead generation standpoint. As more visitors come to this post, our conversion rates drop.

This Iceberg generated a great deal of traffic, but is slowly melting over time.

This Iceberg generated a great deal of traffic, but is slowly melting over time.


We can see the influence of key backlinks here in driving search relevance. A new resurgence in traffic came after a swelling of referral traffic. A little investigation showed that the post was featured in January of 2014 on the Crazy Egg Blog.

Beach Ball at a Concert

Sometimes a post just won’t fly without frequent support. Here’s a topic – Generating Mobile Phone Calls from the Web – that looked like it was going to iceberg on us (see below). However, every couple of months we did a presentation on the topic of mobile and generating phone calls from the web.

This topic kept trying to die, but was buoyed by presentations and publication on other sites.

This topic kept trying to die, but was buoyed by presentations and publication on other sites.


Each presentation included being mentioned in blog posts and online show marketing. So, we got new life from each, like popping a beach ball back into the air at a concert.

The Celebrity Curve

This post mentioned SEO celebrity, Rand Fishkin.

This post mentioned SEO celebrity, Rand Fishkin.


I did one of my live Instagraph while Rand Fishkin was presenting at Business of Software 2014. Rand is well known in our industry as the founder of MOZ and it’s various products.
Our email list gravitated to his name, which you can see in the orange line below. His our social channels responded with less enthusiasm. However, we were on the search engines’ radars for his name, at least until his next thing became more relevant.
Celebrity posts offer short-lived organic traffic.

Celebrity posts offer short-lived organic traffic.


Celebrity is a fickle master, even when creating content.
[sitepromo]

The Eagle

These are the posts you write for. You seed them with some email and social media attention, and then they spread their wings, riding the winds of the search engines. [pullquote]The Eagles are the posts that your blog is built on.[/pullquote]

This post took on a life of its own thanks to the search engines.

This post took on a life of its own thanks to the search engines.


Eagle posts take flight and drive organic traffic to your site.

Eagle posts take flight and drive organic traffic to your site.


It’s hard to tell what causes Eagles to soar. Some enjoy early social traffic. Others get early referral traffic. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to jump starting an Eagle post. However, most of our Eagle posts are not on conversion-related keywords, but focus on Adwords, Facebook, Live Chat, and Exit-intent Popovers to name a few.

The Blue Bird

It’s unclear how a blue bird post gets started. There’s little support in the way of email, social or backlinks. Yet, it nonetheless finds an updraft and takes flight.
 

Even with little help from email and social outreach, some posts will fly. We call these Blue Birds.

Even with little help from email and social outreach, some posts will fly. We call these Blue Birds.


A blue bird is just a gift of the search engines.

Dodo Bird

This form of post takes a while to get off the ground, but soon evolves into a workhorse.

It took a while, but this post eventually caught on with search traffic.

It took a while, but this post eventually caught on with search traffic.


For some reason this post didn’t take off for months, and it’s unclear what got it going some seven months after it was published. Who are we to argue. This looked like a classic Burp Fizz post for most if that time.

Identifying Blog Posts that Drive Organic Traffic

The signatures you use to grade your blog posts may vary from ours, though this approach has proven to be very effective for the business.
You need to take a long-term approach to content. It’s never obvious when a Burp Fizz is going to turn into a Dodo Bird.
When you understand what makes Eagles, Blue Birds and even Dodos soar; when you understand the impact of icebergs on your reports; when you can see the impact of celebrities on your traffic, then you can select the right mix of content to grow your site.
[signature]

Search engine algorithms are evolving at higher paces than ever before. The frequent updates to these algorithms – especially Google’s search algorithm updates – have made it harder to “game” the system using Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This has forced companies to bring at least one SEO specialist on board in order to gain and keep high rankings for their websites in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
At the same time, advances in data-collection tools has made conversion rate optimization (CRO) one of the highest returns on the marketing investment (ROI). Ironically, CRO is one of the most underused activities in the marketing department.
This paradox becomes apparent once you consider that obtaining the click that brings someone to your website is only the first step toward converting the visitor into a paying customer. From this perspective, CRO carries the burden of managing the entire user interaction, as opposed to SEO, which arguably only brings the visitor to the “front door.”

SEO and CRO Are Meant to Work Hand-in-Hand

With SEO, the basic point of focus is the webpage. In conversion optimization, the central concept is a PPC ad and a matched landing page. Nevertheless, the principles of search engine and conversion rate optimization are undeniably compatible. In fact, here are a few fundamentals that apply to both SEO and CRO:

  • A conversion optimized page will prove user friendly and more likely to receive inbound links and referrals, thus improving SEO.
  • Having clear and relevant headlines, as opposed to excessively creative ones, will improve both SEO and CRO.
  • Using clear content hierarchy with proper heading tags will help with SEO and keep focus on the progression of the message, which will help with conversion.
  • A conversion optimized page should be using plenty of relevant keywords that match what visitors are searching for.
  • Replacing complex presentations with digestible pieces of content will improve your SEO and conversion rate.
  • Search engines will favor pages that are updated frequently. Keeping layouts and content fresh will prove beneficial for both SEO and CRO.
  • Pages that focus on a single topic or product achieve better search engine rankings and improve conversion rate.

SEO Factors Inform CRO Efforts

The SEO field has been revolving around the standards imposed by search engines, especially Google’s ranking factors. Some of these are documented by Google, some are relatively obvious, others are not confirmed, and some sit at the brink of speculation or wishful thinking.
Since SEO revolves around ranking factors, which basically dictate the actions and tools needed in this field, it’s only natural that the SEO insights most relevant to CRO are rooted in these ranking factors.

1. Focus on User Behavior

Conversion optimization is data-driven, much like SEO. Web analytics are your greatest asset, but you will need to do additional research into user behavior. Segmentation analysis becomes quite important. Ask yourself this: “How do different segments interact with your website, and how can you optimize their particular experiences?”
The user interaction factors most likely to be useful in CRO and impact on conversion optimization are:

  • Dwell time and click backs focus on how long people spend on your page before returning to the original SERP. Session duration is also important. It measures the amount of time people spend on your site and may be used as a quality signal by Google.
    Average session duration in Google Analytics

    Average session duration in Google Analytics


    If you’re having trouble differentiating dwell time, session duration, and bounce rate, read this article published by Neil Patel on Search Engine Journal. It will clarify the topic.
  • Bounce rate is used to calculate the percentage of users who navigate away from your site after viewing a single page. Bounce rate probably cannot be a ranking factor by itself. Metrics that can’t be applied broadly, with the objective of identifying relevant and quality content, usually are not Google algorithm factors. However, bounce rate will surely influence the way you strategize for conversion, especially in creating the A/B tests fundamental to CRO.
  • Direct and repeat traffic are powerful indicators of quality for Google. They use data collected through Chrome to determine how often users visit any particular site. Pages with a lot of direct traffic are favored in SERPs, because they are much more likely to contain quality and engaging content.

2. It’s Not Just the Landing Page, It’s Also the Website

Conversion optimization extends beyond single pages, creating what we call conversion paths throughout the website. SEO dictates that breaking up content into multiple steps is usually a bad idea. CRO specialists tell us that multiple-step landing pages can convert better, by engaging respondents in a mutually productive dialogue and facilitating proper segmentation. For this reason, some form of consensus needs to be achieved in order to allow both SEO and CRO specialists to reach successful results.
Some of the site-level SEO factors most likely to influence CRO are:

  • Site Architecture and Sitemap improve your site’s relationship with Google, since they allow the engine to index your pages and more thoroughly organize your content. Make sure your website can accommodate conversion paths without messing up its logic.
  • Domain TrustRank is a very important ranking factor. TrustRank is a link analysis technique described in the famous paper Combating Web Spam with TrustRank by researchers Zoltan Gyongyi, Hector Garcia-Molina of Stanford University, and Jan Pedersen of Yahoo!. SEO by the Sea tells us more about TrustRank.
  • Google indexes SSL certificates and uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. People are reluctant when offering credit card details and other personal data over the Internet. Obtaining an SSL certificate is crucial to offering assurance to customers and letting Google know that you are running a legitimate business.
  • Mobile friendly sites rank better with Google. Even before the April 2015 “Mobile Friendly” Google algorithm update, it was not unthinkable to assume that mobile friendly sites had an advantage in searches from mobile devices. Google actually displays “Mobile friendly” tags next to mobile search results.
    Google's mobile friendly tags

    Google’s mobile friendly tags


    Also, keep in mind that Google has precise standards for evaluating what constitutes mobile friendly design. Google WebMaster Central offers details about mobile friendly requirements. To assess your website’s current mobile performance, check out this Mobile Friendly Test.

[sitepromo]

3. If Content Is King, the Webpage Is Its Kingdom

In both SEO and CRO, content is king. In SEO, this wins you links. In conversion optimization, it wins you customers. [pullquote]You should never allow technical aspects to eclipse what is truly important: compelling value propositions and meaningful brand experiences.[/pullquote]

Page-level SEO factors that will prove crucial for conversion

Using keywords correctly throughout webpages is critical when trying to improve your search engine ranking and your conversion rates as part of your online marketing strategy. Keywords must be used in:

  • URLs.
  • Title tags. Place top-performing keywords in descending order and make sure that the title tag reflects the most important keywords used on that particular page. Here are 9 best practices for optimized < title > tags (Search Engine Land).
  • Description tags. This MOZ article states, “While not important to search engine rankings, [Meta Description Tags] are extremely important in gaining user click-through from SERPs.”
  • Heading tags. The heading tag is useful in outlining whole sections of content. It impacts both the SEO and usability of websites. For information on how to use these tags, consult this article from Woorank.com.
  • The body text. Fairly distributing the keywords throughout the content is crucial. You may want your keywords to be the most frequently used elements on the page. However, do not overstuff content with keywords. Use them intelligently and always favor usability. A link or review from an established source – thanks to the quality of your content – will weigh much more than keyword density. On the other hand, keyword prominence might be an important relevancy signal. Make sure to include your keywords in snippets and in the first 100 words of your content.

A great page layout influences rankings and conversion, if not directly as a quality signal, at least by scoring in the “user friendly category.” This keeps readers coming back for more. The page layout on highest quality pages makes the main content immediately visible.
Content length. While life on- and off-line speeds up and our attention span keeps narrowing, you would expect content to get shorter in order to efficiently catch the attention of users. On the contrary, long articles rank and convert better than short ones. Review the results of an A/B testing experiment conducted by Neil Patel, demonstrating the superior efficiency of long copy.

4. Build Links, Build Trust, Build Rapport

One of the driving goals of SEO is link building. Conversion optimization deals with links mostly in terms of conversion paths. Landing pages usually do not contain links themselves other than for the call to action (CTA). However, many SEO factors concerning link building can apply to CRO in crucial ways. Here are some examples:

  • The quality and word-count of the linking content make a big difference in link value. For example, receiving a link from a 2,000+ word well-written article weighs in much more than a link from a short comment or a poorly written blog post.
  • “Poisonous” anchor text pointed toward your site may be a sign of spam or a hacked site. Either way, it can hurt your ranking and your conversion rates, particularly when the anchor texts in question are stuffed with pharmaceutical keywords.
  • If there are low-quality links pointing to your landing pages, or you receive unnatural links warnings from Webmaster Tools, you can always use the Disavow Tool. It will not remove the harmful links themselves, but at least it will eliminate them from Google’s assessment of your site.
    You have the option to disavow links

    You have the option to disavow links

  • Contextual links – links placed within the content of pages – are more valuable than links found in sidebars, footers, or anywhere else on the page. So on top of the PPC ads, try getting your landing pages mentioned in relevant content on relevant websites.

5. Your Brand Needs a Social Identity to Attract and Convert

In terms of the decision to purchase, user behavior has been shifting toward a multi-source, multiple stage process over the last few years. Regardless of how persuasive your landing pages are and how well they bring customers to the realization that you have the answer to their specific needs, your brand needs to back up its claims with a healthy social media presence and an SEO effort that encompasses social factors. Here are a few of the factors that can inform CRO specialists on what needs to be done:

  • Google officially favors real brands and real businesses, with real offices and real people, so it only makes sense they would verify businesses and brands by their website and social media location data. MOZ goes even further and suggests that Google looks at whether a website is associated with a tax-paying business.
  • Brands have Facebook pages with many likes and Twitter profiles with many followers. Moreover, serious businesses have proper company Linkedin pages. Interestingly, Rand Fishkin, co-founder of MOZ, states that having many Linkedin profiles that list working for your company will improve your rankings and might actually constitute a brand signal.
  • Social media account authority weighs considerably in SERPs, especially since social media has become a major influencer of consumer behavior. This infographic published by Social Media Today shows how social media influences consumers, the types of content that deliver the most impact, and more.
A link shared on multiple accounts will be more valuable than the same link shared multiple times on one account.

A link shared on multiple accounts will be more valuable than the same link shared multiple times on one account.

Wrapping It Up

Looking ahead, experts predict a major detachment from traditional ranking factors to a much deeper analysis of perceived site value, authority, structured data, and social signals. Automation is transforming digital marketing, turning SEO and CRO into much more precise and effective fields in the process. Ideally, within this decade Google’s services and search algorithm will evolve to a level that will allow us to fully customize our proposals according to our customers’ buying cycles.

Alexander Kesler headshotAbout the Author

Alexander Kesler is the President of inSegment, a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency. He is a graduate of Babson College, where he earned a B.S. in Entrepreneurship.
Feature image licensed by Bgubitz through Creative Commons and adapted for this post.

The Conversion Function is the number of actions taken for an online property divided by the number of visits to that property.

The Conversion Rate Function

The Conversion Rate Function: Actions over Visitors


Here is where we find the solid blue line in our websites.
It runs through our sites and our landing pages. It slices our prospects’ mobile phones, their tablets and their computers.
PPC, SEO and Content Marketing-Digital Transportation

We charter the digital vehicles that carry people to our online properties.


We begin by chartering the digital transportation that will bring people in under the line, these confounding and complex people we call visitors. This is not an inexpensive undertaking.
We cajole Google with it’s menagerie of penguins, pandas and hummingbirds. We cast our banners and our ads across the internet, chasing prospects as they surf. We create the content, we share on social, and we send the emails that bring them to us.
We pay their fares promising them a trip to a place meant for them. Our place.
They arrive below our line, looking for that solution, that thing that will make them feel better, that product to adorn themselves, that moment of entertainment when they can let go.
The blue line stands as a ceiling to our visitors and they image how things might be different if they could just get up there.
Above the line.
They are always tempted by the exit, the back button, the next search.
image
It is this blue line that our visitors struggle with, which means that we as online businesses struggle with it, too.
Those tempted by the line find reason and method to climb.
For some, this might be quite easy. Others will accept the help of friends and strangers.
We create the line. We draw our blue line. Sometimes higher. Sometimes lower.
It is our duty help more of our visitors to rise above this line.
How will you help your visitors become customers?
We choose the tools that will elevate them.
Will we let them devise a system of pulleys and knots with which to climb.
Will we provide the clear steps, a little boost in their efforts.
Will we ask them to make a leap of faith and trust in their agility to spring safely above our blue line.
Will we try to make it effortless using the machinery of our websites to transport them to a fixed location, a place above the line? And what will make them take that leap, to step on, to push the button.
The vision we have for our blue line is one in which many make the journey. They come with their money in hand, ready to spend, ready to engage.
Conversion happens when visitors rise above the blue line.
We see them coming with ample intuition and a nourishing supply of common sense, all calibrated by the way we see our business, ourselves and our world.
As it turns out what we call sense isn’t that common.
These frustrating people we call visitors aren’t like us. They aren’t even like the people we know.
They come with their own rules, with their own ideas of beauty and their own sense of how things should work.
They are not here to be manipulated. They are here to be understood.
When they are not understood, they seem mesmerized by the exit, transfixed and hypnotized.
Why are so many visitors drawn to the exit?
We paid to bring them here and they, in their flagrant individuality choose not to stay.
What Quicksand does your site create for visitors?
In our hubris, we create the quicksand that will trap them. Did our navigation confuse them, do our words lack clarity, did we call them to act in the way they like to act.
We are opaque to them, and this is scary. Our very visitors fear us like a bad dream on Halloween.
Your visitors have natural fears keeping them from converting.

Your visitors have natural fears.


Are we lurking behind our website, ready to pounce, to steal from them or, worse, to make them feel stupid and incompetent?
Do we fear being known for who we really are? For it is the unknown that allows our visitors imaginations to run to places we did not expect them to go.
How are we dealing with this complexity?
For this is a complex problem.
How high will we set our line? What distance must these lost souls cover to find their solution?
What have we provided them? Why should they put their fears aside? How will we transport them above the line?
For it is their journey from below the blue line that tells us who they are and who we should be for them.
I’m pleased to be exploring these questions over three days at Digital Elite Camp in Tallinn, Estonia.
Estonia via Google Earth
If you aren’t planning to be in Tallinn, you should follow us from right where you are. We’re going to be exploring some fun and helpful stuff.
[sitepromo]
[signature]

This is a guest post by Craig Andrews.
Sorry, no salacious stories about sons killing their father and sleeping with their mother. But in Oedipus Rex, Sophocles had insights about Internet Marketing more than 2 millennia before the internet. The play’s hero had a tragic flaw that plagues all of us. It is our Internet Marketing Oedipus Complex.
[pullquote position=”right”]“My poor children, I know why you have come— I am not ignorant of what you yearn for.” – Oedipus Rex, Sophocles[/pullquote]
The Greek tragedy opens with Oedipus, the King, telling the people he knows the source of their pain. It turns out that he is the source of their pain.
At some point, we all approach our internet visitors the same way Oedipus approached the Thebans. We are absolutely convinced we know why our website visitors have come and what they yearn for. But if we don’t continually test and challenge our assumptions, we are just as guilty as Oedipus.

The Origin of Our Complex

We are passionate about our business and our customers. We invest time in serving and understanding our customers. When this makes us over confident, we can miss important insights. Even in looking at our website analytics, we can find data that confirms what we believed. This “confirmation bias” can cause us to quit scouring data when we find the data that supports our hypothesis. We must press further.
As an example, a client was convinced their customers wouldn’t visit the website using mobile phones. Yet 5 months after launching a new site, 1/3rd of their website conversions were from mobile phones. In another instance, we saw sustained double-digit organic traffic growth and assumed it was due to Google.
Turns out Google traffic was dropping while traffic from other search engines was rising. Haunted by the words of Oedipus – “I know why you have come” – I was wrong. Continuing with the wrong assumption without correction would have resulted in additional lost traffic from the world’s largest search engine.

No Fate But What We Make

Oedipus thought his ruin was the product of fate. We should not. Rather, we must continually test and challenge our assumptions.
In the digital world, every customer touch offers an opportunity to learn more:

        

  • Website visits, email campaigns & pay-per-click advertising all enable you to study customer behavior
  •     

  • Free analytics tools provide extensive demographic data and even a degree of psychographic data (interests & hobbies)
  •     

  • The technology customers use to access your site provides valuable insight into your customers’ context and experience

Don’t Gouge Your Eyes Out!

“You don’t know whether something will work until you test it. And you cannot predict test results based on past experience.” – Eugene Schwartz, author of Break-through Advertising
Take action and put a plan in place. Effective plans should include 2 types of testing: testing a new hypothesis and challenging an existing belief.

New Hypothesis Challenge an Existing Belief
The call to action isn’t clear The increased conversion rate is because of recent changes
Item X is causing friction & will be corrected by doing Y Our website visitors prefer using PCs
Site Navigation isn’t clear Most of our mobile visitors use iPhones
Our visitors don’t identify with a specific graphic Our website visitors are in a specific demographic
Our current graphic isn’t objectionable, but distracts from the conversion Our visitors are looking for bargains

New hypothesis testing is familiar – it’s classic conversion optimization. But testing to continually challenge existing beliefs is what really helps to avert our Internet Marketing Oedipus Complex. Our existing beliefs, held too tightly, can get us in deep trouble.
Our team recently improved a client’s home page bounce rate 10%. Immediately, conversions started shooting through the roof. Initially we thought the changes to the home page were an overwhelming success. It seemed logical. Change followed by success, right? We chose to challenge our belief. After digging into the analytics, we discovered a few things:

        

  • Indeed, reducing the bounce rate improved site conversions
  •     

  • Only about half of the increased conversions were attributable to the home page changes
  •     

  • A different high volume landing page (Page “R”) had also seen an increased conversion rate
  •     

  • No changes had been made to the other page (Page “R”)
  •     

  • The increased conversion rate on the 2nd page (Page “R”) appeared to be seasonal

We found our answer in analytics under Behavior=>Site Content => Landing Pages. This lets us track conversion rates based on the first page visited on the site.

Home Page Page “T” Page “R”
Conversion Rate Improvement 48% -8% 39%
% of Total Site Traffic(as a landing page) 57% 15% 28%
Percent of total Conversions(as a landing page) 26% 44% 31%

Our focus was on the Home Page and Page “T” but ignoring Page “R”. Again, it seemed logical. The Home Page receives more than half of the site traffic and one of our home page changes directed traffic to Page “T.” Our confirmation bias initially led us to ignore the 39% improvement on Page “R” where we have a significant number of conversions. But without changes Page “R” seems to be seasonal.

Now We Know (More) Why They Have Come

This discovery put a finer point on what we reported to the client. Instead of promising the client continued conversions at the new rate, we showed them how some of the higher conversion rate would be seasonal. Now the client is happy because they have permanent changes that increased the conversion rate. They also have realistic expectations for the future.
As a conversion optimizer, we now have a new hypothesis to test. There may some seasonal surge in this one category. We record that and study it next season. If it is indeed a seasonal surge, then we can tune the website and email campaigns for this newly discovered seasonality, giving the client a strategic advantage they didn’t have before.
This is the power of challenging existing assumptions. In addition to perfecting our view of reality, it opens new opportunities. With these new opportunities, we can find new and innovative ways to increase conversions in our digital media channels.

Do you yearn for success?

When Oedipus discovered the reality of the situation, he gouged his eyes out so he wouldn’t have to see it. To be effective, we can’t fear the truth. We must pursue understanding even if it results in abandoning a strongly held belief that we want to remain true. That means we need to:

        

  • Commit to a thoughtful, structured and methodical process of testing
  •     

  • Regularly compile a list of hypotheses and rank them
  •     

  • Regularly identify currently held beliefs and rank them
  •     

  • Perform systematic testing on these hypotheses and beliefs
  •     

  • Always learn from each and every test – especially if the test appears to be a failure

When Oedipus proclaimed he knew what the Thebans yearned for, he was speaking from his gut and intuition. Intuition is a useful tool, but let’s let the data proclaim what our website visitors are yearning for. By avoiding our Internet Marketing Oedipus Complex we lay the path to greater insights and greater profitability.

About the Author

Craig Andrews is the Principal Ally and founder of internet marketing agency allies4me. Andrews brings extensive scientific and marketing expertise to allies4me. Over the last 25 years, his experience has spanned search engine optimization, internet marketing software, biomedical and semiconductors. Andrews is backed by a team of marketing allies who support start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
In recent years, clients have been seeking guidance from allies4me on Social Media strategies. Rather than jumping on the latest hype, Andrews sought to understand Social Media through solid metrics across large data sets. The result is an unconventional and insightful approach to Social Media. Testing and data driven decisions advise all areas of allies4me work. Solid metrics and disciplined parsing of data is where allies4me clients find results.
You can connect with Craig Andrews on Google+ and LinkedInYou can find allies4me on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.
 
For more information about testing hypotheses that convert, check out the latest Conversion Scientist’s Podcast,  “Writing Test Hypotheses That Make You Money”.
[signature]
[sitepromo]

frankenstein-labWe all know the recipe for  success: Reach and Frequency. To grow your business, marketing needs to reach more people more often. Translation: “Work harder.” The modern marketer is responsible for

  • Imagining the content
  • Developing the content
  • Reaching potential prospects frequently with it
  • Collecting the leads
  • Qualifying them Getting them to sales Maintaining all of the metrics to justify the ROI

As marketers, we need some little monsters handling the details or we will drown in the effort. Marketo just launched a Demand Generation Success Center that shows marketers how to become digital Dr. Frankensteins.

From Drip to Drive

The Marketo resource center provides advice on how to automate the many things that marketers must get done. They don’t just toe the party line.
For example, I believe that marketers should move from “drip” campaigns that “nurture” prospects, to high-impact educational campaigns that drive prospects to engage with you. The new resource center has some brilliant recommendations from me.

  1. Treat leads as customers. They purchased with their contact information.
  2. Make them experts at solving the problems they have.
  3. Wow them with your helpfulness or entertainment value.
  4. Invite them to “buy” more.
  5. Treat them like adults. Don’t be afraid to be controversial.

This is all easier said than done, and exactly that’s why you need to install little monsters like Marketo.
Visit the Demand Generation Success Center. Extend your reach, turn up your frequency, and still have time to develop killer cascading content.
Brian Massey

My daughter was complaining about the ellipsis (also known as the “…”) and how it could be a very unhelpful bit of punctuation. As a teenager, she is quite astute at finding things to complain about.
The ellipsis, she contends, requires the reader to fill in the thought hinted at by the little trio of dots. This is not fair (another frequent teenagerism).
It struck me that I deal every day with landing pages that ask their visitors to fill in the gaps. I thought that these sites were like …coms.
This was the inspiration for 3 Parts Of A Complete B2B Search Landing Page, my new column on Search Engine Land.

Excerpt:

A Landing Page Is A Complete Sentence

Your B2B search traffic should not be asked to fill in the blanks like a sentence that ends in an ellipsis. You may introduce confusion, insecurity, distress, or uncertainty.
Your home page is often guilty of asking the visitor to figure out what lies between their search and your solution.
A landing page or microsite offers a complete sentence.
There are three main parts to a sentence,and your landing pages should contain them all. Every sentence should have the following form:

You should do a specific thing to get an answer to your immediate questions.

Read the entire article or…
[bookpromo]
[signature]

PPC Help: Improving your Landing Page | Trada

Sep 28, 2011 08:39 pm
I’ll say it again: If your SEM company isn’t INSISTING on helping you with landing pages; if they are satisfied to pick any page on your site as a destination for your expensive PPC marketing; then you are being taken to the cleaners.
Most of what you need to know is right here in this article. Contact me if you still have questions.
Tags: PPC help landing page landing pages
read more
Like PPC Help: Improving your Landing Page | Trada on Facebook share on Google Buzz share on Twitter

How To Implement Rel=Author

Sep 28, 2011 10:36 am
Google+ is affecting search rankings for authors on the web, so we need to make sure we’re playing the game. This article from @AjKohn of tells us how to establish ourselves as the masters of our content in the eyes of Google using the “rel” attribute in our links.
Tags: google seo rel=author google+ author
read more
Like How To Implement Rel=Author on Facebook share on Google Buzz share on Twitter

Fiber One Sparks Up Boomer Love With Cheech and Chong | ClickZ

Sep 26, 2011 05:35 pm
It is always tough to market to a specific target. Here Fiber One is clearly targeting boomers, and a particular brand of boomer. No doubt this will hurt their sales to conservative families. There will be some backlash. But, we all must be creating content for more and more specific markets, and walking away from the others if we’re going to grow our businesses. Hat tip to Fiber One: may your bravery be rewarded with sales and market share.
Tags: content targeting Boomer Fiber
read more
Like Fiber One Sparks Up Boomer Love With Cheech and Chong | ClickZ on Facebook share on Google Buzz share on Twitter

Language, context and conversions: thoughtful prose from the pros | SEO Copywriting

Sep 26, 2011 03:19 pm
“The Internet isn’t passive. When you search online, you plan to do something:  buy, learn, play, find.  As soon as you go to Google, Yahoo or Bing, you’re on the hunt.”
There are those among us who have a true command of words and their use. I marvel at them. It is a power that is critical to persuasion, conversion and selling. Gabriella Sannino clearly sees it as a power to help people solve their problems. What better brand experience can you deliver than to help someone find answers to their questions?
Tags: writing copy seo conversion
read more
Like Language, context and conversions: thoughtful prose from the pros | SEO Copywriting on Facebook share on Google Buzz share on Twitter

extraspace-inetIt’s happening in every industry as we speak. Decision makers are looking at information that tells them how the Internet is impacting their business and their industry.
It may be happening in your office.
A decision is going to be made:
a) To continue with business as usual
b) To commit to the Internet as a crucial part of the future of the business
Those businesses that choose a) may not be here in 24 months. Those that choose b) may not either, but if they are they will be the leader in their space.
In my Search Engine Land column 5 Ways to Jump Ahead in Your Industry, I outline the characteristics of a testing company, like Zappos or Amazon. These are the characteristics that can result in astonishing growth and amazing profitability. They include:

        

  1. Accept The Internet As A Lever

  2.     

  3. Develop A Testing Culture

  4.     

  5. Invest Where It Counts

  6.     

  7. Know Your Numbers

  8.     

  9. Take A Non-Commodity Approach

It is no small feat to accomplish these, but those that do will enjoy a lead in their industry that will be hard to usurp by competitors.

Thanks to Extra Space Management for sharing their results with us at the Phone Smart Unconference Hawaii.

Every site has one visitor in common: Googlebot. Googlebot is an unusual visitor that few of us understand.
If you follow The Conversion Scientist, you know that a failure to understand your visitor is conversion suicide.
So how do we get copywriters, designers, developers and marketers to configure their site for this powerful king-maker visitor? The same way we do this for our human visitors: We personify them.
My Search Engine Land column “Building Empathy for Googlebot” this month is a persona profile of Googlebot, and any site should be able to use this to their advantage.
Put it somewhere everyone on the Web team can see it; print posters, put it up on Basecamp, add it to your war room.
It should go right next to your other personas. Don’t have any? Contact us and we’ll help you understand if personas will move your online business forward.
Here’s an excerpt:

Recommended Strategies

  • Do not attempt to sell Googlebot anything or invite him to join your email list.
  • Change content frequently. Googlebot loves blogs.
  • Don’t attempt to contact Googlebot or Google support.
  • Use video. Googlebot seems to like video, even though he can’t understand it.
  • Create content that makes other sites link to you.
  • Link to sites that have words similar to yours.
  • Put transcripts of videos on the page.

Contact Brian Massey