Mobile-First SEO Planning and Strategies for Startups

Woman on mobile device looking for local listings

Startups often have issues gaining traction on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in general, so trying to make sense of the differences between desktop and mobile SEO can be painful. And, gaining real traction in search engine rankings and getting organic search traffic can feel impossible. There are so many sites that have had more time to tinker with their SEO, more time to produce high-quality content, and more time to build the links that drive the results. How do you even begin to think through your company’s SEO strategy for Mobile at that point?

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Reducing Bounce (Rate) Is The Key to Conversion Optimization

Most companies we talk to don’t have a ton of experience with conversion rate optimization and how to effect it in a positive way. Especially as a retail brand taking their products online, it can be overwhelming to understand things like traffic sources, conversion rate, exit pages, etc. And, even as we talk to startups, there are many situations where we find companies are frantically searching for a secret silver bullet to solve for increasing revenue or signups.

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Increasing your SEO opportunity by thinking outside the box

Many times, as companies, we get so laser locked in on “ranking #1” for our keywords that we lose focus on the real KPIs that matter: conversions, revenue, traffic.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen this in our SEO engagements where people are so focused on a ranking of a keyword or set of keywords. It takes a minute to get people to understand what is truly important. The true goal is never ranking #1 for something or even ranking top 10 for example. Usually, it’s generating revenue, leads, traffic, engagement, etc. Focusing on this is the most important thing, not where a specific keyword ranks.

Along with that, it’s important to think outside the box. Creating a content program or finding new traffic opportunities for the business can create new opportunities to connect with customers.

And, speaking of content, one of my favorite measurements of this was a company I worked with who was worried about blog traffic converting. Think about it this way, if you have a blog with 100 visits that converts 3% of the time but a site that only gets 10 visits and converts 30% of those visits, you’re net conversions is still 3 for each one. If your goal is converting users to paid customers, it’s important to understand your traffic sources.

Similar to rankings, it’s important not to think so narrow minded about the opportunity. Thinking broadly about topics and thinking outside of the box could present growth were the business previously didn’t have it.

Content is an amazing example because you can find so much new opportunity on your SEO efforts. Creating content for SEO purposes not only increases your traffic and long term conversion (albeit at a lower rate), but, if you’re running retargeting campaigns, you’re creating a broader audience by pixeling users that come to your blog for education.

You can also take a look at competitors and understand what they are doing to increase their SEO Opportunities. Are they creating a blog? are the growing their blog content constantly? Maybe another opportunity is creating a resource center for your customers to educate them on products, services, etc.

A company like OnDeck, for example, could create a “small business loan knowledge base” and create a resource center for all terms related to small business loans. At the same time, a company like Luxe Valet could create a “parking costs” or “valet costs” resource that shows parking costs, meter costs, or average valet rates across the U.S. and educate visitors while increasing brand reach, and possible conversions for search terms like “parking costs in los angeles”.

Again, the key here is understanding the opportunity, mapping it out, and finding ways to reach new visitors and hopefully convert them instantly or over time, using other methods like email marketing and retargeting.

Would love to hear more about how you look for SEO opportunities and think outside the box for content. Leave a comment below!

Our team has grown SEO for companies like Blue Bottle Coffee and Ticketmaster. Inquire more about our SEO services and we can help you grow as well!

Email Marketing: You’ve got subscribers, what’s next?

We’ve run into a couple instances where our clients are sitting on a large list of email addresses or are starting an email program and just want to blast everything out at once. Recently, a member of our team pointed this out to me and it was a really interesting conversion. Based on that, we thought it would be important to talk about how to get value instantly, without overwhelming yourself and your subscribers.

One step at a time.

There’s an old saying, “you need to learn to crawl before you walk”. It holds true here because before you start implementing a hundred different strategies, it’s important to find out what is working. What I mean is: start somewhere and start small.

Start with a test email, you can format it in a way you think might be the first of a Drip Marketing or CRM campaign, but, there’s no need to set up automation immediately. First, try to generate some feedback. You can do this by testing. The key is, start small and send a couple test emails to see what type of response you get.

Don’t send it to everyone!

So, speaking of starting small. If you have a list of 500 subscribers or 25,000, it doesn’t matter, sending the email to everyone can cannibalize your audience and limit your ability to test. Consider segmenting out the list if you can, and, if you can’t, just split the list out into chunks so you can do the above, test and iterate.

Generally, the biggest the list, the lower the percent of users I want to send an email to. For example, a list of 500 I would break into 25%-50% tests of 125-250 people, where as a list of 25,000 I might break out into 10% chunks. The more subscribers the more data you can extract.

An example of this that we have right now is around 20,000 subscribers that we’ve split into an email sent to 5% at first, then two 10% segments to be sent the following 1-2 weeks. From there, based on the data, we will be able to learn about how our customers are responding to the emails being sent and can adjust the program going forward.

In many cases, you won’t have to do more than a couple tests on larger lists to find what you want. The key is not generating a ton of unsubscribes, having a really low open rate, or worse, report to spam.

Figure out your benchmarks

Along with not breaking anything, you’ll be able to benchmark some data. As an example, with open rates, when sending out your first email, you can test a couple subject lines and iterate on that with a second email. Once you find a good industry acceptable or higher open rate, you can then put that line in the sand and use that as a subject line for future emails.

You can do the same with templates, content, and design by iterating through your emails and understanding the click through rate and engagement with them.

The key is, again, finding your benchmarks and iterating through them.

Once you take these basic steps into account for an existing list or a new list your starting to build on your email marketing program, you can be way more effective. Also, you’ll find yourself to be way more efficient when iterating through campaigns because testing methods will be nailed down.

Holistic Content Marketing Helps All Marketing Channels

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Content is king. We’ve been hearing this for years, and, to this day it is still the truth. But, the type of content and mediums to promote it have been different and can vary. But, while I was working with one of our clients on marketing strategy, I realized how important it can be to their business.

I like to think about things holistically and how each channel helps each other. I’ve proven this method to work really well when put to use with clients, companies I’ve started, and/or advised. As an example, just creating an infographic doesn’t mean it’s going to drive traffic and awareness. But if you know people are searching for the information included, that bloggers want to use that content, etc. it could drive more than you even expected.

Having a holistic plan and more than just a single use for your content can be a huge win for the company. There are many ways this can work. If you’re an e-commerce company or retail business moving online, this can go a long way in terms of driving down your blended CPA.

As an example, you could be a retail or e-commerce company that sells a variety of name brands or major brands. You might be thinking of how to educate the customer on why they should be Gucci shoes over something like Steve Madden. You might want to do something like”Why high end brands are more cost effective than cheap ones in the long run.” (or something a long those lines). While putting the content together you could do some industry research about the longevity of a pair of high end shoes vs. a pair of cheap ones. Doing a full study and putting a few charts together would really help educate the customer.

What this also does is creates a relatable and personal feeling for your brand to the online shopper. Writing that post tells them you’re looking out for their best interest. Educating the customer here is really the goal and hopefully this post achieves that with the data and facts you’ve provided.

Along with educating the customer, they might have needed that last tip to just convert them to a new customer. Reading the content might have made them go “okay, im sold, I’m here, where do i buy them.” Another thing, assuming they aren’t ready to purchase just then would be to browse the site for more content or more products, to really validate the brand. Whatever the case, you’re providing a resource customers are interested in. Along with customers, bloggers and journalists could be interested in this, promoting this content could lead to multiple people writing about it citing your content.

They might not only be interested in it, they might actively be search for this. For example, I might be googling “steve madden vs gucci pricing” or many long tail variations of this. I might be really concerned about spending $500 on a pair of shoes vs. $79 and not truly understand the difference in the craftsmanship and quality. After understanding this, the customer could be sold (as mentioned above). The great part is, by creating this post, you’ve driven organic search traffic to your site and now you might have possibly converted that customer.

Okay fine, that might be a perfect world scenario, but, that isn’t the only way to convert them. There are two other methods that could potentially lead to a customer buying from you in a more cost efficient manner.

One of those is methods is retargeting. You just got a new user to visit your site through search traffic, them clicking a link in facebook, or a blog post that cites your content. Again, the key here is now this piece of content is already being used in many ways. But, now you’ve got a visitor to your site, that’s being retargeted and will be reminded of your products. Converting this customer over time will be way more cost effective than paying for Adwords or Facebook ad clicks. (that’s not to say we don’t want you to do them, we highly recommend it as well.)

Finally using this content to help email marketing efforts is just another method to help drive new conversions, as well as repeat revenue from existing customers. The first and simplistic thing you can do is have an email / newsletter sign up on your site. The person that came to the site might be so interested in the insightful piece of content you created that they might be interested in more content from you. Also, if they get to site and they find the content interesting but don’t take any action, you can have a modal window (aka pop up) appear on the site that could catch their attention, a service like Picreel will achieve this for you. Here is an example of how we’ve used it on David Kind‘s Blog (p.s. they are one of my favorite companies!):

picreel-signup-david-kind

Now that they have signed up, you can continue to market to them over email through a welcome series, newsletter series, and continue to promote content, the brands, offers, etc. from your company.

Speaking of that newsletter, the blog post you created, we’re coming back to it here because you might have customers that didn’t know the difference or would be interested in it. Or people who have signed up to the newsletter or welcome series that have yet to convert. You can highlight this content (or any other content you create, for that matter) within this newsletter and yet again use it to you drive a new conversion or repeat revenue from existing customers.

Finally, using services like Taboola or Outbrain, you can use this content and promote it using low cost advertising on a variety of content sites that might be relevant to your brand. An example of this is companies like Harry’s or Dollar Shave Club, who I see all the time when I’m reading about one of my beloved Chicago Sports teams. Here’s an example of how they use the ads to drive customer awareness and also new customer acquisition:

dollar-shave-club-harrys-taboola-ads

With all the methods we just listed above, you just drove down your blended CPA. All of this was done with one single piece of content used across various channels and mediums.

Now, I know that was a lot to cover, but, think about it. The possibilities are endless with content. So you should be mapping it out and creating an entire content strategy for your business and not just creating blog posts for the sake of creating them. Think about all the different ways you can use this content to drive new traffic, new users, new conversions, new leads, etc.

Visible Factors is always here to help when you need a Content Marketing Strategy for your company. And, we’d love to hear your thoughts about content marketing below in the comments.

Top 5 Conversion Metrics: How and what to track

Obviously conversion metrics can vary from company to company, but, overall there are metrics that are always important to track. Understanding where traffic is coming from and whether it’s converting will help you make better decisions about where to invest resources and dollars. At the end of the day knowing those metrics help you build and grow your business.

Knowing this, we’ve built a list of give metrics that we are always tracking, in no particular order:

1. Conversions (including conversion/tracking pixels)

I’ve walked into many situations where conversion/tracking pixels are incorrectly installed, tracking incorrectly, and in some cases counting multiple conversions per conversion. (i.e. pixel is firing >1 time for every time someone completes a transaction). These issues can lead to a complete misunderstanding of your traffic and how it’s actually doing.

Fixing conversion pixels gives you a really solid foundation. Our team usually won’t start spending money on online advertising until this foundation is solid. This usually gets some of our client partners upset because, as startups, they want to move as fast as possible, but, we’re pretty adamant about this.

Most ad channels will have documentation on how to install pixels. For example, Google has an entire guide to setting up tracking for adwords and Facebook has document on setting up their new “Facebook pixel” for tracking and conversions. (this is different from previously used conversion pixels which will be switched out in mid 2016).

Once you have this set up correctly, you can effectively understand metrics on a per ad channel basis. Furthermore, having funnels tracked across the board will give you info on all of your traffic sources.

2. Traffic Sources

While you’re building traffic to the top of funnel, you need to understand that traffic. You’re going to want to drive traffic from a variety of sources at first to see what works and what doesn’t. I tend to mix into give major channels:

– Direct & Brand: This is a mix of direct visitors and people searching for terms around your brand. For example, if someone was searching google for “visible factors” we would bucket this into direct & brand.

– Organic Search: Organic search traffic, or SEO, can be extremely important to almost every business. Understanding people that come to your site based on content, services, or products offered will help you understand your user/customer better.

– Paid Search: I keep paid and organic search separate because of the intent. Usually people clicking on the ads having a higher intent of conversion. Also, if you get a lot of blog traffic, organic search traffic might not convert as high as paid search.

– Online Advertising: I tend to bucket social ads, retargeting and direct display advertising in a different bucket than paid search as well. Again, the intent and targeting is different. In many cases, because of the targeting, our reporting will differentiate display and social because of our goals.

An example of this could be us using Facebook ads to target individuals who are interested in fashion brands so we can get them to like or convert on a client’s brand. On the flip side, we might use display advertising to increase visibility and qualitative metrics around the brand to get people to discover them. Increasing brand metrics won’t convert as high as a paid search or even paid social visitor, but, what it will do is provide an impression or someone that will pick up a retargeting pixel and convert that way.

3. Bounce Rate (per source)

Understanding Bounce Rate by traffic source is something that can help you understand your traffic better. By understanding your traffic sources and the intent of each, it better helps you understand how to speak to them. Also, differentiating different sources like organic search and organic search from a blog will help you diagnose concerns about your traffic. Blog traffic will not convert at as high a rate as direct commerce traffic and will have a higher bounce rate. A simple example of this is something I’ve seen before, a high bounce rate on a site from a single traffic source because of a mandatory email gate. Removing the mandatory email gate reduced the bounce rate, we were still able to collect email addresses and conversion rate went up. Win, win, win.

4. Return Visitors & Retention

Retention and re-engagement are important because it can dramatically drive down your customer acquisition costs. You can track this by looking at cohorts of users over periods of time. If you have some questions about this, check out Andrew Chen’s post on Cohorts and Revisit Rates.

5. Customer Acquisition Cost

Ultimately, this is the metric that is most important because, whether your selling a product, offering a service, or a content/social product, you need to understand the cost of acquiring customers and users. I usually like to have a CPA view that looks at traffic sources separately, per ad channel, and/or a blended CPA. Once you have this type of view you can understand how effective your marketing efforts are.

This isn’t the comprehensive list, these are just 5 things I think are important to consider. For paid marketing specifically, I like looking at ROAS and ROI to understand profitability of campaigns. Ultimately, we want to turn our client ad dollars into a profit. And, for social/content channels and growth, we like to look at cohort usage deeper.

Overall, as I mentioned initially, every company is different and it’s important to recognize what  metrics are the most important for you to track. Defining this really drives how you look at the items I mentioned and how you track them specifically.

Let us know what metrics are your top conversion metrics below in the comments. And, check out how we can help with Online Advertising Consulting.

Implementing SEO basics that can increase traffic dramatically

At most large organizations, doing just the basics can help you out tremendously, the value of your domain itself is huge. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can implement the basics and just walk away, SEO is still a holistic process that is important to continuously follow up on. At the same time, it still means that you need to nail the basics, and if you do, it will pay off in spades!

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Save Time Guest Blogging, List Away

If you are doing SEO of any form, you’ll know one of the biggest and most important challenges is finding links. A quick and easy way that I recommend to companies that I work for or with is to guest blog on various sites. It’s even better when you know about a site like Ranker, where it’s extremely easy to create content and links that not only have an SEO benefit, but also, a traffic benefit to your site.

I’ve watched Ranker create a fun and easy platform for the creation of lists of all times, from The 10 wackiest lawsuits ever filed to Top Celebrity Homes on the Market in LA. It’s been great watching it grow as a product and having used it, I know how quick and painless it is to create lists of all types that will not only create links to external sites but also generate referral traffic. Also, each post has a link to your twitter account, so, it’s also a great way to get an increased following on social.

Ranker is a site about lists – all kinds of lists – that launched in August 2009 and now has well over 2 million monthly uniques. The best part is there is no one to reach out to at another website to sell them on being a guest author, it’s completely UGC. Basically, just create an account, start posting, and start promoting the content. And, we all know how easy it is to create a top 10 list that’s somewhat relevant to your site, anyone can do that, even my 1 year old nephew. ?

Obviously like anywhere and anything else having to do with content on the web, if you create a list that sucks, it’s not going to get much play. But, create an awesome list like Top 10 Celebrities Who Have Had Weight Loss Surgery and next thing you know, you’ve got powerful pages linking back to your domain from an external site. Again, it’s not just that, but, if it’s an amazing list and the team notices it, you’re likely going to get a good amount of referral traffic as well.

It’s super easy to make a list. You name your list, have the option to choose a category (or you can do an open-ended list), and build your list using a Netflix-esque drag-and-drop-with-autosuggest interface. If your list is in a category (like People, or TV, or Companies), the items you add to your list will likely already be in Ranker’s database with preloaded images.

Even if you have content that doesn’t fit nicely into their existing categories that gets lost in the algorithmic shuffle, interesting lists and effing amazing lists usually do fine regardless. So, if you have something like <a href=”http://www my sources.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller” onclick=”__gaTracker(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://www.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller’, ‘9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses’);” target=”_blank”>9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses, even if there isn’t a “plastic surgery” category, you can do what this guy did and use the “people” category instead to give it that extra boost. ?

The way you get back links

There is a “site:” field in Ranker’s list editing screen where you can add a backlink with anchor text without even having to know any HTML. The link is high up enough on the page – right below the title of the post and to the right of your Ranker username. The links are dofollowed and are prominent enough that they can drive some traffic to your site, of course, you still need to have great content to get clicks. The other positive is if other viewers of the list have a site, tumblr, etc. it’s possible to get second order effects of linking from them as well. aka more seo goodness.

Note that the “site:” link is somewhat hidden in Ranker’s list edit platform – you can find it on the right side of the page to the right of the area where you describe your list. As an added bonus, you also get to put links on your Ranker profile page which is automatically generated – a good opportunity for either a slightly different anchor text term, or an entirely separate link (and if you have a Twitter or a Facebook fan page they have a link slot for that as well).

Spam gets filtered out

If you’re worried about this becoming another shitty seo wasteland like squidoo used solely for backlinks, try throwing up a page with just a single link up and see if you can find it without going directly to the URL. Ranker has built some pretty intelligent algorithms that hide obviously-spam or clearly rushed content pretty quickly – while your post won’t be removed, it also won’t be linked to on many pages. Again, if you have shitty or no content, it’s worthless, just like anything else on the web.

So if you take a few minutes, put together a decently interesting list, give it an intro with a few sentences (this is another area you can use for promotional copy), add tags so it appears in more places on Ranker, etc, your post could get thousands of views and be a strong addition to your social media arsenal. You can also add videos or images without having to wrestle with embed codes. Ranker has a direct search portal into YouTube and an image API. I also highly recommend posting your list in “Blog View” (this is not the default view) unless you make a really long list. And title your list something clickable.

If you create a decent piece of content, odds are it will get views and rise in Ranker’s algorithmic content blocks, and perhaps Ranker’s editors will tweet it or add it to their Facebook stream. The better it does, the more search juice the post will have, and thus pass back to your site

(Disclaimer: I am an advisor for Ranker, and, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because the site was a lot clunkier about a year ago, and, the traffic has gone up more than 10x. Also, while it seems like agenda pushing of my own, how many other guest blogging opportunities come with 2+ million uniques on quantcast. I’ve used it myself and I know others that have done so successfully as well (see above links), if nothing else, for the traffic benefit alone.)

Should I use the Canonical Tag or 301 Redirect to change domains?

At SMX West, Adam Audette mentioned that he had some success with the canonical tag and that in some cases he noticed that the canonical tag had been much more effective. It stuck in my head for a few months and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to test this out. Also, at SMX West, I talked about some of the gains that we saw because of finally implementing the canonical tag the right way. Trust me, it took a few tries to get it right!

As it turns out, I’ve been moving my personal blog to the Visible Factors blog and added a thoughts section on tonyadam.com, just to separate things a bit. (I know, that itself was a lot to digest!). But, before I 301 redirected the entire /blog/ section, I realized, “Oh! Perfect opportunity to test out the canonical tag.” So, I took two articles and implemented a cross domain canonical tag on one and a standard 301 redirect on the other. And, I was honestly shocked at the results. The test included two posts that I get a decent amount of traffic for. tweeting the post, and updating the posts in wordpress, basically, with the intention of forcing a crawl.

Cross Domain Canonical Tag vs. 301 Redirect Test:

For the cross domain canonical tag test, I took my post on Keyword Research and wanted to add the canonical tag for the post on visiblefactors.com. The 301 redirect test was based on my post on determining business development opportunities and I added a 301 redirect to the .htaccess file on tonyadam.com to permanently redirect that post. At that time, I went through the test, step by step.

Implementation of Canonical Tag and 301 redirect:

Cross Domain Canonical Tag:

I also implemented a 301 redirect on tonyadam.com:

redirect 301 /blog/508-find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/ http://visiblefactors.com/blog/2010/03/17/find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/

As of Saturday here was the rankings in SERPs:

SEO Keyword Research:

Business Development Opportunities:

Then I updated the posts in WordPress and posted a tweet on Saturday:

Tweet for canonical tag test:

Tweet for 301 redirect test:

Finally, as of Wednesday morning, here were the results in SERPs:

SEO Keyword Research:

Business Development (as of today):

Which should I implement?:

As you can see, the test proved Adam’s comments at SMX West about the canonical tag seeming like it was more effective instantly. The post on keyword research was updated in SERPs and seems to be more effective at updated the SERPs instantly. If that’s your goal, I would use the cross domain canonical tag implementation to get that done. It seems like it is the clear cut winner as the other post still hasn’t updated in the SERPs.

At the same time, I’ll be implementing a 301 redirect because I want my entire blog directory to be moved for all traffic to get redirected, etc. The test has shown me though that the cross-domain canonical tag is extremely effective. Especially in situation where you have identical content on two domains and you’d like to condense equity, but, both sites still need to stay up.

I’ll be running larger tests if possible over the next couple months and if possible share these results, but, if you’ve seen examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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