This is the first issue of our newsletter for 2016 and so we’d like to wish you a happy and prosperous year ahead.
The start of a new year is usually a good time to review what’s been and to plan for what’s to come, and so we’d like to contribute to this process with a review of best practice for search engine marketing.
From our regular client management as well as training courses we run, there are some key essentials required – what we’d suggest are the ‘3 pillars’ of any website marketing activity using search engines (and in particular, Google).
We’ve outlined below some of the key things that you should have in place, or be considering as part of your online marketing activity, and why they are important for your business.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.
On to this month’s edition…
SEO Essentials for a Website
Every website should have the basics for SEO – search engine optimisation – in place, particularly as there are many things that can be controlled by the website owner and implemented reasonably easily.
Although some search markets can be very competitive and challenging, having a good SEO structure will enable a website to maximise the opportunities to rank on the first page of results for as many terms as possible. So, the key things to consider are:
- Search term research – identify what your potential customers are searching for across many different variations. Use the Google search suggestions as a starter, but the AdWords Keyword Tool for more in-depth insights, and build a list of good, relevant search terms including the most popular, common terms, as well as the wide variety of ‘long tail’ terms that can provide many opportunities to reach your search market.
- Using terms on the website – from the list of search phrases you can then write keyword focused and attention grabbing title tags and description metatags for each page of your website, as well as coordinate the page content to target the same phrases in a prominent way that’s not too repetitive.
- Creating internal links – external links, or backlinks, to your website are important but can be hard to achieve, so make use of your own internal website links as a first stage, linking suitable content together to help engage users and also target search terms in the anchor text of the links.
- Using Google Search Console – every website owner should have a GSC account in place (previously known as Webmaster Tools). It’s a free service and enables a communication channel with Google, as well as providing help and insights to ensure your website gets the best experience with Google, plus you get access to the excellent Search Analytics report and links reports.
- Using Google My Business – this is essential for any local business but just as important for any business to ensure that their company details and ‘owned’ and up to date on Google / Maps. Claiming and verifying a listing is important, as well as ensuring it’s 100% complete, uses some suitable content and category groups for the business, and attracts some good reviews to help ranking positions.
Paid Search Marketing Objectives
Using paid search ads is always an option for websites to improve or expand their coverage in the search results and to target core search terms to drive more visits to a website. However, whether it’s Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or another form of paid advertising, every business should have an objective for the ad spend, and a way of measuring that.
Paid search advertising can be a very cost effective way of getting interested prospects onto a website, and it can become one of the primary sources of traffic for a website. However, it can also be an expensive exercise, especially in markets that are seeing more advertisers bid on terms, so having clear objectives and a way to measure them is essential, such as:
- Online sales – an easy one to track and a clear objective for an online store, with sales and transaction value providing an excellent and measurable way of proving if the ad spend is working, or where spend can be cut or increased to get the best results.
- Online enquiries – any online forms are also a measurable way of identifying good responses from a search advertising campaign, whether it’s an online form or a clickable email link, these can be measured and a cost per lead identified.
- Phone enquiries – this becomes harder to track where the action happens ‘offline’, but any business where calls are a key response mechanism should use a call tracking service, even with Google’s basic call extensions in AdWords. There can also be ways of tracking related signals from a website, such as clicks on the number from a mobile device, or views of a contact page.
- File downloads – maybe a key metric involves downloads of a PDF document or order form, or even clicks off to an external site like your business’s Facebook page. Using event tracking provides more flexibility in tracking actions on a website that you want visitors to take, and combining these with conversion goals is a great way to track the effectiveness of your marketing activity.
- User engagement – for some websites where content is key (such as blogs or news websites) it can help to track user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, pages viewed, time on site, or repeat visits to gauge the success of a marketing campaign at getting the ‘right sort of people’ onto your site, and use these as measurable objectives and goals.
Insights from Google Analytics
The third essential element for any search marketing campaign is to understand what’s happening, both with the quality of visitors coming to the site, but also how the website performs in converting these visitors to the required conversion objectives.
Any website analytics package would be good for this, but as most websites use Google Analytics these days (and it is an excellent free tool for this purpose) then we are covering the use of this here. Some of the main reports and tools to use would be:
- Key metrics – tracking the trends with such key metrics such as sessions and users, as well as new v returning visitors, is a core focus. Also user engagement based on bounce rate trends, time on site, pages viewed and, ultimately, goal conversions all help to indicate the success or otherwise of your marketing activity.
- Trends – this is an important way of looking at data, rather than just as a snapshot for one time period. Trends in data, such as month or month, or year on year, provide better insights into what’s working well – or not – and how recent changes or testing programmes are working.
- Secondary dimensions – within most data tables in Google Analytics, there is the option to add a secondary dimension, or to break down the initial line of data into more detail by another set of criteria. This can be a great way of gaining more detail and insights about a report when looking for answers.
- Segments – probably the best tool in Analytics is Advanced Segments, available above most report tables, which provides the ability to isolate data or compare two or more datasets for a particular group of visitors to the website. Also good for better insights and to delve into small, specific groups of users via the default or custom built segments.
- Custom reports – to access more advanced data insights, custom reports provide the ability to build your own data tables and combine these with secondary dimensions or segments to view data tables not available through the standard menu options. Gaining insights by hour, or day of the week, for example, or monthly trends for the past 12 months, are just a few ways that custom reports can be used to understand more about your marketing and your website.
We hope you find the above summaries useful and a good checklist to compare how your search engine marketing is set up ready for 2016. If you’re not using some of these options, but should, please get them ready as some of the main cornerstones for the coming year to help give your online business a greater advantage.
And, as usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.