All posts by rachelecermak

How to Inventory Content During a Website Migration

All change is risky. But as priorities shift, companies are acquired, and brands evolve, your online presence (aka your web ‘domain’) may need to move from its current location to somewhere new.

Assuming you have had a content creation plan supporting your website for at least one to two years, there is ‘search equity’ built up for each page. ‘Search equity’ is a relative metric used by search engines to measure how relevant your content is compared to others in your space. The more relevant your website is, the more likely your page is to rank in the top 10 results for a specific search query.

Google uses over 200 signals to determine which page in their index is the most relevant for a particular search query. Content is one of the top three ranking signals, as confirmed by Google in March 2016. During a site migration, assessing your content’s current value is critical to avoid post-launch drops in the amount of organic traffic entering your site.

As such, each web page can act as a different pathway into your website. Never delete content because it is “old.” You have already done the work to create the content – refresh it! Do not remove it outright. Search engines have indexed this content and reference it. For example, say a page on your website was the most relevant result for a query, but you delete that page during a site migration. A few hours/days after launch, a person who found your page in the search results will now reach a “404 – Page Not Found” error, resulting in a poor user experience and a quick way to disappear from the organic search results. (If you want assistance in configuring these page-to-page 301-redirects, contact us.)

What makes a page on your website valuable?

Determining what content to refresh can be challenging. As search algorithms evolve, the metrics we reference to determine a page’s importance have also changed. First, we look to page-level data, such as organic entrances and bounce rate (reported in platforms like Google Analytics for free) to determine the current strength of any given page. Second, we analyze whether the keywords triggering that page to appear in the results are generating click activity (reported in Google Search Console). If so, we determine which websites are currently linking to the page that is going to be moved. That way we can reach out to those site owners to ask them to update their link so it points to the new location of the content that is the most relevant for their site visitor.

Benchmarking Your Current State

Since keyword-level data is no longer provided by secured search engines, we must move beyond first-party analytics platforms (such as Google Analytics) for insight into what keyword resulted in a visit to the website. Instead, we reference third-party databases to gather an understanding of what the top keywords are and how they currently associate with the content to formulate a hierarchy of relevant topics, or “keyword themes.” This topical insight drives the association between current-state and the new website’s content layout (aka sitemap).

Important: If the website is being redesigned to reformat your current value proposition, differentiators, and story for the end user, we suggest conducting a “Content Gap Analysis” to assess the strength of your competitors. This equips you with the information to articulate to internal stakeholders what content will need to be written for the newly targeted end-user persona, so search engines can gather a deeper understanding of how your company fits the intent of the searcher. If you do not have personas defined yet, start there first!

Keyword Research in 2017

Purposeful content creation is the foundation of any solid SEO strategy now. A search query represents a question or an unanswered need, so the content published on your website must help your targeted persona find an answer to their specific query. At NordicClick, we begin keyword research by evaluating current site strength and how it relates to your business goals and targeted personas. This helps formulate educated insight into the customer journey.

This keyword research builds an SEO book that you can take to internal stakeholders for sign off. In a nutshell, the SEO book outlines the keyword themes your site content should prioritize, supported by details of why and how. Once this guide is agreed upon, ensure those targeted keyword themes are still supported by the new content hierarchy of the redesigned website.

New Content Creation

Now it’s time to begin creating content. When writing, try to avoid jargon or internally popular words. If you’re not using the terminology a prospect would use to describe what they’re looking for, they may not be able to find your website. This results in organic traffic decreases and the post-launch blues for you. The pages on the new site must tie to common terms or questions (outlined in the SEO book) that match what your end-user is searching to educate themselves about any available product or service offering that may help them.

Best Practices – Checklist for Content Migration During a Website Redesign

  1. Inventory current content to evaluate what pages are the strongest from an SEO perspective and must be retained in the new sitemap.
  2. Identify all 301-redirects already in place on the current website to avoid redirection chains post-launch. (Also, make sure to establish a one-to-one 301-redirect to point the current page URL to its new location on the redesigned website post-launch to signal to search engines the page moved. This helps retain any equity the old page may have had.)
  3. Establish who on the team will be responsible for updating any internal links within the current content that you have determined is migrating to the new website. These links will need to be changed to directly point to the new page location, instead of hitting a 301-redirect.
  4. Understand if the new site will allow PDFs to be indexed by search engines or not (as these may trump an HTML page’s ability to rank. PDFs are typically a dead end for the user – Ask us why!)
  5. Inventory all current equity-passing inbound links and create an outreach plan.
  6. Before launch, ensure all tracking methods are documented to allow for comparable post-launch reporting of the “before and after” impact. (Trust us – upper management will ask you how the website redesign increased revenue. Make sure pre-launch all benchmark reports are established so you can report on this.)
  7. Since Google reference’s factual databases to inform its knowledge graph results and understanding between “entities,” we recommend you update your company’s Wikipedia listing with objective information to inform Google of the relationship of any new product offerings or acquisitions that will be featured on the website post-launch.

If you have any questions related to how to complete the steps above, please contact me!

Adwords Experiments: The Keyword Match Types Killing Your ROI

Deciding on what keywords to include in an AdWords campaign takes work. Do not screw up your ROI because keyword match type was never a priority.

Avoid Wasted Spend

After years of being in this industry it still surprises me how many AdWords accounts we inherit have all of the keywords set to broad match. And better yet – there are no negative keyword lists!

What’s the problem? When you create a campaign, Google sets keywords as broad match by default. As a result, you, the advertiser, end up spending more because your carefully thought out keyword list now triggers your ad for incredibly irrelevant search queries.

Unless resources are devoted to obsessing over the search queries report to meticulously add any irrelevant queries to a negative keyword list, the broad match type is dangerous. Thousands of dollars could be wasted on clicks from people looking for things you do not sell. If your keywords are set as “broad” and negative keyword research is not occurring, you can kiss your ROI goodbye!

Avoid Limiting Yourself

Phrase match is another popular keyword match type. This match type allows the advertiser to become more focused because the searcher must use those exact keywords in that exact order before an ad will trigger.

Trouble is Google reports that globally there are about 495 million new queries (“new” meaning never yet searched in the history of Google) each day! Expecting to capture all relevant search volumes by using solely phrase match can quickly make an account very large and unmanageable.

What Match Type is Right for Me?

There are many theories on how best to structure a campaign. While at HeroConf this year, Matthew Brown from Fathom led a session on how he does not believe in running phrase match keywords. The theory is that an exact match only keyword structure coupled with a carefully monitored broad modified match type will capture all relevant traffic. Intrigued, we decided to test Brown’s theory.

Note: Broad modified is a match type that requires the searcher to use those specific keywords but not in any particular order. These keywords have + symbols in front of each term. It is different than broad.

Test the Theory

We tested the theory via AdWords Experiments before rolling out a campaign level change. As the data below shows, we found this strategy improved ROI for our B2B clients focused on lead generation and contact form submissions.

Test Example #1

Campaigns received a 50/50 split of traffic. In the Exact Match coupled with Broad Modified keywords campaign, we reported better click through rates, improved conversion rates (because the traffic was more qualified) and ultimately a lower cost per converted click. We applied the draft and this is no longer an experiment – this has become the new standard!

Test Example #2

Within another client’s account we ran a similar test. Data is still being collected as statistical significance has not been reached, but again we see improvements over the control when the ad group structure supports exact match coupled with broad modified.

Above shows better click through rates, lower cost per click, better conversion rate, and ultimately a lower cost per converted click in the experiment compared to the control.

Walk Before You Run!

There are many things a PPC strategist must consider before deploying this type of campaign. For example…

  • Negatives must be set up at ad group levels
  • Keyword bids must make sense for the varying degrees of intent these match types carry
  • Any automated rules must be applied to both campaigns while testing to create an apples to apples comparison
  • Campaign history must be gradually accumulated during a restructure

…and so on, or you could risk poor performance due to ad rank.

Summary

During our tests we showed success for our B2B clients, but we recommend having an expert review your account before deploying massive changes such as this. Depending on your reach and budget, restructuring a campaign could have massive impact on ROI.

Curious if your campaigns could be working harder? Contact me!

B2B Blogging: Best Practices in 2016

Over the last five years, various studies have been released attempting to quantify just how critical is the human role of B2B sales reps. This is because online search behavior now informs prospects to such an extent it often leads to the buyer having more information about the company than the sales team has about the prospect in the first place [1].

To understand your product and learn more about how it could solve their business problem, your prospects can find informative content readily available through online forums, social networks, third-party research, unbiased reviews of the potential solution, as well as through what you publish on your own website. This is content they can consume before ever needing to contact your sales team.

To this point, CEB found that, on average, customers progress nearly 60% of the way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging a sales rep.* (See below)

*In a 2012 study The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing by Marketing Leadership Council in partnership with Google, over 1,500 customer contacts (decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase) for 22 large B2B organizations were surveyed. The survey revealed that the average customer had completed more the one-half of the purchase decision-making process prior to engaging a supplier sales rep direct (Figure 1)

And while SiriusDecisions stated at their 2015 Summit that interactions with B2B sales reps occur at every stage of the buyer’s journey, they, too, had agreed two years prior that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.

So in light of the statistics, how can a B2B company keep up with information-savvy prospects? The quick answer: blogging.

Why Company Blogging Matters

Whatever the percentage, it is clear prospects turn to online search as a means to find the answer to their business challenge. As such, search engine algorithms have advanced to make content marketing a deeply rooted component of search engine optimization.

Great content is no longer a luxury, but a need—especially for SEO. Because search engines favor rich content, a company website must have compelling content that can answer a prospect’s question. A search engine’s key objective is to produce relevant results to their users so that people will continue to use that engine. This means company websites with content beyond technical specs and datasheets have a better chance of ranking for educational, non-product-based search queries.

In addition, content on a company’s website must speak to the various audiences visiting the site. A study conducted by Google and HIMSS Analytics specific to the healthcare vertical found that over half of hospital administrators used online resources as part of the research and purchase decision making process, but that many different titles or job roles influenced the purchase decision.

Hospital Decision Makers Study conducted by Google and HIMSS Analytics

As the chart above underscores, to move a prospect successfully through the buyer journey, content must be geared toward the various influencers who will eventually inform the key decision makers.

The company blog is the recommended and ideal location on a website to publish less technical, yet educational content. It can act as point of entry for prospects beginning their search for educational information to solve their business challenge and/or need.

Whether your company already has a blog or you’re just getting started, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind to be successful in this endeavor.

Define the Audience

Buyer Personas

Before the creation of a blog begins, the author must have a clear idea of who they are writing to. Research characteristics of your target audience to create a few very specific buyer personas. Get to know these buyer personas to understand their relative level of web savviness, their role at their company, as well as the level of purchase decision authority they may have. Getting to know your buyer personas helps shape the tone and terminology to use in the blog.

Content Calendar & Keyword Focus

After the target keywords have been approved, priority is typically given to those terms the website is not yet ranking for. This happens when search engines have not yet indexed your content as related to the target keyword, so a new page must be written. Creating a content calendar means setting a priority level for these keyword targets, which then determines its date stamp for publication on the blog.

Plan to publish a blog piece one to two times each month. We recommend starting with the most important keyword the website is not currently ranking for and making that the first content calendar topic. Different teams can contribute to this; blogging is not just for the marketing department! Employ subject matter experts within the organization to develop rich blog content and have marketing apply the finishing touch to ensure consistency.

Structure Elements

Connect your blog posts to other pages on your site to tell a more complete story. Optimize blog topics to target keywords other pages are not ranking well for in the search engines, then incorporate internal links within the blog to point to deeper pages throughout your website. In this way, you can effectively move prospects through your site to great content, and hopefully further down the decision funnel.

Headline

Use the blog headline to grab a reader’s attention by targeting a key pain point or question. Focus on benefits for the reader and relate the headline to the target keyword outlined in the content calendar. Limit headlines to 70 characters and include the target keyword at the beginning if possible.

Body Copy

The blog post itself should stay closely related to the keyword target for topical consistency. The post should be about 400 to 600 words long. It is not recommended to repeat the same keyword over and over again. Rather, explaining the concept in a “human way” by using synonyms and natural language is a must.

As you may have noticed, search engines now feature “quick answers” within the search results page if the indexed content effectively answers a commonly asked question. An example of this is shown below.

Appearing as the quick answer lends credibility to the brand and the domain. This placement on the search results page can also increase organic traffic to the site because the quick answer appears at the top of the page even if your web page itself ranks lower in the results.

Formatting

Remember to include sub-headers every 150 to 200 words to break up text and increase readability. Use bulleted lists to quickly convey key points. Apply bold font formatting to distinguish important takeaways or unique selling propositions.

Images

Place at least one or two related images within the blog to break up paragraphs and improve the scannability of the page. Remember to include a short three to five word ALT tag when adding the image to the blog. ALT tags help indicate what the image is about for people using screen readers and for search engines crawling the website.

Internal Linking

Help site visitors understand the connection between the various products or solutions your company offers by including links within the body copy. These links should flow naturally within the text; limit one link per 200 words to avoid looking like a potential “spam” page to search engines.

  • Product / Solution Pages: Linking to product or solution pages within the blog helps readers understand where they could navigate if interested in learning more.
  • Lead Generation Pages: Most blog topics will likely be tied to a campaign and have related lead generation assets. The blog should work to explain why someone would want to learn more about the solution. It should include a call to action linking to a lead gen page (one that includes a form) so the site visitor is presented a next step and has the opportunity to download the related content offer.
  • Non-Gated Assets: Not every site visitor is ready to become a lead. They may, however, be interested in related non-gated assets, such as videos or infographics. Each blog should link to at least one of these “free” assets if available.
  • Series Posts: If publishing a blog as part of a series, always include links to the previous post(s). If the reader lands on “part two” of a blog that also mentions the author’s prior post, it improves the user experience to include a link to part one so the reader can easily start at the beginning of the series.

Summary

Regardless of the report you read, one thing is certain: the Internet has changed how we make our decisions. Producing easily scannable, consumable, educational content is a must for any B2B company, and a blog is the perfect platform to do so. Inbound marketing efforts can drive a prospect from consideration to decision—and yes, your sales team does still matter. Still, it doesn’t hurt to answer the common questions prospects have by dedicating resources to develop educational, informative content – empowering prospects to know they made the right choice! They are going to look online anyway, so it is to your advantage to be the one to provide helpful answers where and when your prospects are looking for them.

Still not sure what your prospects are interested in? Contact me!