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Back to Basics in 2015: SEO, Siloing and Metrics to Boost Your Online Business in the Year Ahead Submitted by Martin Michaels for Lead Pages December 30, 2014 With gifts unwrapped and a few extra pounds on your frame from the holidays, it’s time to make those thoughtful resolutions to carry you and your business through 2015. Setting goals is important, but they need to be realistic ones. According to a University of Scranton School of Psychology study, only eight percent (eight percent!) of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. While that gym membership may be collecting dust by June, creating robust, organic growth for your business doesn’t have to be as agonizing as running that “who am I kidding?” 5K you talked about training for. Growth for a new business – or an existing one – often begins by getting back to basics and starting the year off on the right foot.

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(Photo credit: …So here it is, the back to basics tips, tricks, and know-how to get started, or make critical adjustments to your businesses’ online presence in 2015, and beyond. While not a tell-all comprehensive guide, we’ll cover some key topics including:    

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keywords Bounce rate Exit rate Site structure and “siloing”

To begin, let’s talk about some broad themes that will be helpful when breaking down some more nuanced points.

Google still sets the rules of the game

It’s clear that Google has more or less conquered the Internet. In an era when all other search engines – Yahoo, Bing, and others – enjoy a combined 32 percent market share in the U.S.1, it’s clear that Google, the multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley giant, continues to reign king by capturing more than two-thirds of Internet searches. This is important not just for the casual Internet user, but also for the small business owner trying to cultivate a brand and increase online traffic in a hypercompetitive market.

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It goes without saying that online presence is of paramount importance in the digital age, but what does this mean for the small business owner who wants to seriously compete for market share but doesn’t have the bankroll or the advanced marketing know-how of larger competitors? If you own your own business, one of the most important – yet surprisingly overlooked strategies – requires adapting your web presence to Google. This will improve your ability to attract customers and you don’t need a Masters in Marketing or IT to grasp the basic methods Google uses to determine ranking.


Quite simply, Google became the best because of its ability to deliver the best possible search results for its users. Other search engines perform well, but Google was the originator and continues to do it best according to many industry experts. The Website Promoter blog elaborates further, “Google revolutionized search engines. They revolutionized them by creating a product that returned vastly superior search results for the types of things people were actually looking for online. How did they do it? They did it by creating a new algorithm that changed the way websites were analyzed. Instead of relying on just what the original content of a webpage said about it, they began looking at the links that point back at the webpage.”

Search engine optimization All this to say that web pages are not created equal and are not judged equally. Not by a long shot. Content and linking matter immensely, and Google has developed a sophisticated method for analyzing web sites and ranking them according to what an internet user is searching for. Toward that end, the first factor that separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to website ranking is good copy that integrates relevant keywords in a logical way. In this sense, “spammy” repetitive language and redundant tag-lines, (think, “Better call Saul!) are most undesirable.

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Better call Saul! The sleazy lawyer who represented Walter White in the popular AMC television show, Breaking Bad, typifies the unscrupulous criminal defense attorney and is exactly what not to do when it comes to advertising. Okay, avoiding the methods of Saul Goodman’s advertising may seem obvious, but it’s easy to slide into the hackneyed, “spammy” phrases that lack the quality content capable of attracting new customers to your business. Furthermore, Google meticulously analyzes page content and warns against common webspam techniques in a Wedmaster Central Blog Post, writing: “We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings. The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the ‘good guys’ making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded.” To create its rankings, Google uses advanced programs known as “spiders” that crawl through the Internet carefully reading, analyzing and separating quality content from spam.

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This contrasts sharply to the not so distant past when the website that stuffed the most relevant words often won the battle for ranking. For example, a divorce attorney in St. Louis who had a site with the most mentions of “St. Louis, divorce, and attorney” would have a more favorable ranking, surpassing even some sites with more thoughtful, wellwritten content.

Things have changed drastically, and it may make sense to occasionally ask yourself:  

Do my keywords make sense? Do my headlines and calls to action have the feel of a late night commercial advertising weight loss miracles?

Even established sites that perform fairly well occasionally need a tune up. Toward that end, starting 2015 with a quick check of your existing site could be quite beneficial. Remember, keep your messages and calls to action sharp, and avoid the methods of Saul Goodman (unless that’s your shtick). Finding the right keywords for your website shouldn’t be a blind game of darts. Google’s Keyword Planner Tool can help you find relevant keywords for your site. Remember to study and understand what people are actually searching for, not what you think they are searching for. By using the most commonly searched words, you can better understand your customers and drive traffic to your site. (More on the importance of statistics a little later!) Additionally, brevity and clarity are usually quite important. A call to action is necessary and shouldn’t be avoided, but be careful of over-saturation. One or two clear calls to action per page should suffice. If you feel the need for more, consider linking to a contact page or order form. In short, readability matters and it’s important to find a balance between SEO-keyword integration and thoughtful copy that clearly conveys the appropriate messages to your customers. If you don’t have a background in writing marketing content, it’s probably worth hiring a professional. A modest investment in a writer’s services now could pay major dividends in the future. Not only will potential customers enjoy the accessible, friendly and professional tone of well-written copy, it will help when it comes to search engine ranking as well.

Digging a little deeper… Okay, a little more on the aforementioned numbers game. It goes without saying that numbers are important not just when determining your site’s performance, but also when diagnosing problems and making crucial changes that can boost sales. Many are intimidated when it comes to researching and attempting to understand data about site performance. Trust a B-minus Math student…it’s not as difficult as you may think. Even if you don’t have the bankroll of a large company, using numbers to your advantage can give you a fighting chance. Think of this as Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics General Manager, who was able to compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox during the early 2000’s despite having just a fraction of the payroll. He wasn’t a master of voodoo; his secret was a keen eye for statistics and numbers. The same can be true of you and your business website.

Bounce rate, the number of users who leave after viewing only one page, is one of the most important numbers when attempting to understand the success or failure of any website. With users only spending an average of 10-20 seconds on any page according to a Nielson group study2, it’s crucial to give your audience a reason to stay on the page. The old newspaper adage, “if it bleeds, it leads” is a good reminder that you have to hook reader interest right away or risk losing them for good, perhaps to one of your competitors. Take a look at the articles on your blog or company website and ask:  

Is this likely to captivate an audience? Is it written with the correct audience in mind?

Perhaps 2015 is the time you want to conduct a survey, get some input from people outside your company and consider rewriting that mundane, yawn-worthy copy. Conversely, choosing an appropriate tone and attenuating a gaudy or aggressive tone can also be very helpful depending upon the product or services you’re selling.

Revisiting conversion rate Boring copy, or sites with an inappropriate tone, of course, will affect business negatively. This can be seen in a number of ways, but arguably the best illustration of a site’s performance can be seen in conversion rate. Conversion rate is the number of people who view a website, compared with the number who take the desired course of action – which is usually picking up the phone to place a call, or placing an online order. For example, a website that is viewed by 10,000 people with 1,000 of those viewers making a purchase (or taking the desired course of action) has a conversion rate of 10 percent. There is no hard-fast conversion rule or magical number that you must achieve in order to be successful. Like all of our New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to have a goal and a sense of proportion. Toward that end, you should:   

Know your current conversion rate Do some research and try to figure out where competitors stand Set a realistic goal and a plan of action for making improvements

Where to get the basic numbers Google again provides us with some user-friendly ways to gather performance statistics that don’t require a Masters in Mathematics. In Google Analytics, you can find data pertaining to conversion rate by going to Content > Site Content > Pages. Fully 2

understanding your conversion rate also requires some understanding of your exit rate and bounce rate. Exit rate pertains to each page on the site, telling you which page users decide to leave. A particularly high exit rate for a single page may be an indication of problems with the content. Since bounce rate tells us the number of users who leave after viewing only one page on a site, it’s a telling number – especially for sites with weak parent pages, headlines and linking.

Site architecture: understanding silos Yes, similar to those giant storage facilities used on farms, stacking and organizing information into logical silos determines the flow from one page to the next and has a huge impact on the user’s experience. Click on one page and the subsequent pages should be logical, clear, and easily understood. If your site is a mangled mess, or even the least bit confusing, your potential customers will likely run into the arms of your competitor. Consider the thoughtful analogy aptly described in a recent Quaraloo blog post: “You own a sporting goods store that’s having an awesome sale on fishing reels. You advertise in the newspaper, put banners on the storefront, and send out a mass email. The turnout is great! A thousand customers show up, but only ten customers are able to locate the reels on your cluttered, disorganized sales floor. The remainder [are] left alone at sea, struggling (mind the pun), and more often than not, this struggle is all it takes to make your customer head for your competitor across the street (whose fishing reels are prominently displayed in the front window). This is how e-commerce works, except it’s far easier to make a few clicks over to the competitor compared to crossing the street. If you’re making it hard for your users to take advantage of what you’re offering them, you’re essentially sending that competitor business.”3 Siloing is a way to identify grouped or related material on a website. It determines how distinct sections are divided, a major determining factor in how Google ranks websites. As a general rule of thumb it’s good to start with a broad parent page that leads logically to the subsequent child pages. For example, a site that sells cell phone cases could organize content as follows: Cell phone case brand> models> model colors> price. Here we see siloing by brand as a logical, straightforward method of organization; however, if the user has to sift through different brands on each page, or worse, is lead to 3

irrelevant pages with confusing information, there is a higher chance that he or she will leave and shop elsewhere. The visual below should help picture a basic method for designing your website.

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(Photo credit: Web Marketing Today) The reason this grouping is such a high SEO priority is because search engines award "keyword" relevancy within their index based on the page and then the rest of the site with the most supporting relevant content. If you’re designing a site, or thinking about tweaking your existing site, Bruce Clay Inc.,4 Global Marketing Solutions suggests asking yourself the following questions to improve flow and user experience:


What subject themes are currently ranking for your website?

What subject themes are legitimately relevant for your website?

How would a user search for your content (main search queries)?

How can you implement clear subject themes?

Linking parent pages to child pages is crucial. It’s also important to do some good oldfashioned homework and link to authoritative outside sources. Linking to some wellwritten, high traffic sites with quality information can help drive traffic to your site. As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Be careful not to saturate the page with too many links. There’s no hard and fast rule on this, but it’s generally not a good idea to surpass 100 links on any one page according to a post by Moz Blog.

Onward to a successful 2015! Clearly there’s a plethora of data that can be reviewed when improving your company website. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee at an established business, the road ahead in 2015 may be filled with difficult work. There’s no silver bullet or magic eight ball, but sometimes getting back to basics and taking a look at the key numbers and the proven methods will allow you to find overlooked deficiencies in your site. So while your fitness regimen may disappear with the melting snow, you’re business will hopefully flourish and grow. Here’s to obtaining those resolutions in the year ahead!

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