Now that we are in the new financial year, most small and medium-sized businesses are now well underway with their 2015-16 budgets. One area of your spend that deserves some serious attention is digital investment. But it can be a challenge for SMEs to work out where their resources are best spent.
At a City of Yarra Lunchbox learning workshop recently I walked small and medium sized business owners through a 5 Step Digital Health Check that they can use to review the “health” of their current digital strategy, and determine which area of their 2015-2016 digital plan needs urgent attention. When reviewing your digital strategy there are 5 areas that I believe you should focus on:
- Mobile friendliness
- Content and SEO
- Social Media
- Website design
- Conversion friendliness
Step 1 – Mobile friendliness
You have probably heard by now that Google began rolling out the update of its algorithm for mobile searches on 21 April. This update means that sites which are optimised for mobile (they look good on smartphone screens) will be favoured in search and Google will penalize sites with content that is too wide for a phone screen or text and links that are too small.
Whether or not you have noticed a difference since April 21 all the evidence out there supports the idea that you should make a serious effort to ensure your mobile site
is optimised for mobile. With recent research
indicating that mobile devices now make up more than 60% of all internet traffic in Australia, you would be neglecting a large portion of the population if you chose not to consider traffic coming to your website from mobile.
If you look at your website on your mobile phone you can probably tell straight away whether it is mobile friendly or not. But Google has created a Mobile Friendly Guide
to help you out and even a Mobile Friendly Test
which you can use to check your site’s mobile friendliness.
Step 2 – Content & SEO
To be honest I can’t emphasise enought the importance of having quality content on your website that is relevant to your target audience and addresses the current hot topics or questions on their minds and the those of the rest of the industry. I have heard said so many time by people in the know and I can’t agree enough – good content is the solid foundation to support all your other SEO efforts. I have witnessed first hand the results of creating high quality content on my clients’ websites. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
The main objective of all the major search engines is to create the best possible user experience by providing the person searching with search results containing content that answers the search query. That’s why Google, Bing, Yahoo and the others will favour content that not only contains the right keywords but provides the best answer to the user’s queries.
Search engines such as Google typicall assume that the more popular a site or page is, the more valuable the information on it must be. Google uses algorithms (mathematical equations) to determine popularity and relevance and rank the content in order of quality. These algorithms (you may have heard of recent algorithm updates such as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) are often made up of hundreds of variables or “ranking factors”. This means that there are a number of different factors that determine whether your content will rank well in search.
One of the best representations of these factors that I have come across is “The Periodic Table of SEO Success factors
” created by Search Engine Land (pictured here below). You will notice that certain factors carry more weight than others. One of the factors that carries the most weight in determining your SEO success is Content Quality. To ensure the information on your page achieves a high level of Content Quality you need offer something of real value to your audience that goes into depth about the topic at hand. Your content should give people a reason to spend more than just a few seconds reading your pages and add substantial value for the visitor when compared to other pages in search results.
Another factor that holds significant value in Google’s eyes is Content Freshness. You may have heard the saying ‘search engines love new content.’ It’s not a matter of simply adding new pages or updating pages on your website on a daily basis thinking that this will make them ‘fresh’ and therefore more likely to perform in search results.
Google has something called “Query Deserved Freshness
(QDF). What this basically means if that if there is a search that becomes popular all of a sudden compared to Google’s normal activity the search engine will apply QDF to that ‘hot’ term and check if there is any new content on that topic of interest. If there is, that fresh content gets a boost in search results.
If you happen to have the right content on the right topic when QDF is in action you can be lucky enough to find your page in the top search results for up to a number of weeks. Unfortunately that success is guaranteed long term as once the topic is less popular your page could drop back down in the search results. You can take advantage of this potential freshness boost by creating relevant content that matches the currently trending topics in your industry.
There are several ways you can do this including adding a blog or company news page, adding images and video content, updating your FAQs section regularly or simply updating outdated information on your site periodically.
So, are keywords still important? Yes, Content Words or use of keywords is still one of the key factors that contributes to your content’s success in search engine results. But rather than just stuffing as many keywords into your page as possible, it’s important in Google’s eyes to use relevant keywords naturally on the page.
Step 3 – Social Media
Having a strong social media strategy is cruicial to your overall digital strategy for a number of reasons. Social media not only represents a fabulous way to connect with customers and potential customers in a highly engaging manner, it is also a great channel we can use to share our content, and drive more traffic to our website.
One of the many factors that contributes to a high ranking in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) is the number of backlinks your websites receives. Google has recently started looking at social signals such as Tweets, Facebook posts, +1s and other kinds of social media posts when they evaluate your site’s backlinks, meaning that social media and SEO can work hand in hand to give your website the link backs it needs and you don’t need to rely as heavily on traditional linkbuilding techniques
You may have noticed when looking at Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors above that Social Reputation and Social Shares. Google will rank your content and website higher if it views you as a credible source. As well as considering how many people link back to your website, Google examines your social media influence when determing your credibility. You social media influence is assessed based on how relevant your content is to your brand, how many people your are able able reach with the content you share in your social networks and how influential the people engaging with your content are.
Google is constantly making it easier for everyone to connect with businesses online. You may have noticed that for some more well know brands such as McDonalds Google is now displaying links to their social media profiles in their desktop search results.
Even if you aren’t overly concerned with SEO, you should include Social Media in your overall digital strategy. Customers expect to be able to interact with brands now in whichever social media network they spend their time. Rather than attempting to establish a presence on every single platform, it is a better investment of your resources to find out where your target audience spends most of their time online and reach out to them using that same network. Once you have done that you can use that platform to share your content with your fans and followers, and this will attract more visitors to your blog or other parts of your website.
By building online communities consisting of people in your target market you get a better understanding of what your audience wants, and can better service their needs as a result. You also give them the opportunity to reach out to you using the channel that they prefer and you may find that some people feel much more comfortable connecting with you initially via Facebook message or a comment on Instagram that picking up the phone and calling you or filling out a contact us form. They may want to simply get to know your brand first and build that trust with your before actually considering your products and services.
Step 4 – Website Design
suggests that web design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrusting a brand. Elements that affect the trust or mistrust of website include:
- Busy or complex layouts
- Pop-up advertisements and flamboyant ads
- Small print that’s hard to read
- Boring web design/lack of colour
- Slow website intros and load times
When embarking on a design for your website, you also need to have a good understanding of who your target audience is and ensure that your design appeals to the preferences of this profile customer. For example, if your target audience is tween (aged roughly between 9 – 14) girls you should think about the colours that appeal to girls of this age and attempt to make your design look young and fun. Tween fashion brand Supré
uses a lot of pink in their web designs along with stars, hearts and kissing lips and fun fonts. They understand their customer and want she is looking for when she comes to their online store.
The ideal website design is visually engaging, represents current industry trends, and is user-centric. Our custom web designs at AWD encompass all of these elements and also tick two other important boxes – SEO & Conversion optimisation. It’s not enough for your website to look amazing and trendy. If people can’t find your site or if your visitors are leaving your website without purchasing anything, filling in a contact us form, or doing whatever it is you want them to once they get there – then all the time and effort you have committed to achieving a winning design is for nothing.
When investing in a new or improved design for your website you should also consider our first step in the digital health checklist – is your site mobile-friendly ? There is no point spending loads of money on a design that looks stunning on a desktop computer but isn’t optmised for mobile so looks awful and is impossible to navigate on a smartphone.
Step 5 – Conversion friendliness
As I mentioned earlier, if your website looks attractive but isn’t converting, you simply aren’t going to get a good return on your web investment. You should work out firstly what it is that you want visitors to your website to do once they arrive. You may want them to call you for more information, sign up for your newsletter, take advantage of a promotion, or start shopping in your online store. It is essential that your website makes it as easy as possible for visitors to take actions that benefit both them and your business. By using a data-driven approach, we help clients turn their bouncers into browsers and browsers into buyers. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) removes the obstacles between a potential customer and the action they have come to your site to take. By making your visitors’ onsite experience simply and easy and making your website intuitive, you can improve your conversion rate significantly.
There are many other things that are important to the online success of small and medium sized businesses. But this is certainly a good place to start. If you have any questions or comments about this list I would love to hear from you. Give me a call on 1300 855 651 or send me an email at [email protected]
. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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