Tag Archives: User Experience

mailchimp-homepage-1024x501.png

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

As all business owners who operate an ecommerce website know, it can take a while to hit full stride in terms of conversion rate.

When results are underwhelming, the first instinct might be to make big changes across the board.

What a lot companies fail to realize is that a great deal of buying decisions take place subconsciously. Design errors can seem minuscule, but have a huge impact on the bottom line.

It’s very possible there are a number of UX flaws in your layout that are turning visitors off at first glance. Here are a few things you may have overlooked in your approach.

1. Lack of visual hierarchy

Web design is about so much more than just making a platform look pretty and appealing. The bulk of the process is about adhering to goal-based functionality. Using visual elements such as color, positioning, contrast, shape, size, etc. you can strategically organize the page so users get a strong impression of how important certain components are. Basically, it’s about where you want your customers’ eyes to be drawn to.

Here is MailChimp’s homepage:

Where is the first place your eyes went? Chances are, they went to the CTA in the center of the page. The button they’ve use is slightly offset from the rest of the color scheme and the message sticks out very prominently.

Based on the goals of your landing page, the desired action should be properly conveyed on the visual hierarchy scale and jump out to the visitor.

TechWyse did a case study on how certain landing pages attract attention. Here is the original landing page they used in the experiment:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

Now, here is the landing page with a heat map of where visitors’ eyes were being drawn to:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

You’ll notice that the place with the highest engagement was the vivid red “NO FEES” sticker. The problem with this is that it draws eyes, but has no click action or conversion related goal. Therefore, visitors are being diverted from the more important parts of the page.

A tool such as Zarget will help you identify the reading and scanning patterns of visitors to your site. It can also track browser interaction with moving and dynamic elements, as opposed to heat maps based on just snapshots (like the ones Crazy Egg gives you).

When you are designing landing pages, keep in mind your overarching objective for conversion. Is it to gain sign-ups? Promote a deal? Whichever you decide, be sure your visual hierarchy invokes the desired action and navigates users to a conversion.

2. Unclear value proposition

Keep in mind, not everyone wants to be sold to immediately. Showcasing your unique selling proposition right off the bat is a good way to entice visitors to see what you have to offer.

Your value proposition is what tells customers why they should choose you as opposed to the competitors. Regardless of what you sell, this needs to be apparent almost instantly. The widespread usage of Amazon makes this concept extremely vital to the setup of ecommerce websites. Why should a customer buy from you instead of the convenient retail giants?

The harsh truth of the matter is that a lot of online businesses struggle with clearly communicating their value proposition. Follow these steps when crafting yours:

  1. Identify the need – The most important thing to convey is that you understand the customer’s primary need. The value proposition should start by recapping it.
  2. Present the solution – This is where you need to highlight the main benefits of your service.
  3. Show differentiation – This part requires a bit of finesse. Simply bashing a competitor is not the solution here. Instead, subtly address the common objections customers have within the industry and your unique way of solving them.
  4. Provide proof – Lastly, it’s safe to assume that most customers will be skeptical of your brand messaging. With this in mind, it is always a smart move to validate your claims with proven recognition. Testimonials, case studies, and success stories are a great place to start.

Here is a great example from Less Accounting­:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

Their entire homepage is devoted to expressing their value proposition. They take a common issue of the industry and spell out how they work to solve the problem. Below the fold, they show a video success story as well as the big name companies their platform is compatible with for validation.

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

A series of case studies conducted by Invesp found that a well-crafted value proposition can increase your conversion rates by 90 percent! In the vastly overpopulated ecommerce landscape, customers have no problem moving on to the next brand if your value proposition is murky.

3. Subpar checkout process

The checkout process is perhaps the most crucial piece of the ecommerce puzzle. Given that the average cart abandonment rate was 76.8 percent last year, it can be a very complicated design element to master. There is a plethora of reasons why people choose to abandon their carts:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

Basically, your goal should be to eliminate as many hoops as possible that the customer has to jump through in order to buy. Each step means another chance to reconsider. Simplicity is very important here.

Now, having 1-click checkout options like Amazon may not be viable for all ecommerce platforms. But, there are many little design tweaks you can make and elements to add that will make the process easier.

First of all, there should always be a function where the customer has the option to checkout as a guest. Most people know that registering for a website means they will be bombarded with spam.

Also, be sure it’s very obvious what is in the shopping cart, as well as the total cost with all fees included. Here is an example of a cart from Asos:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

They clearly show the total cost of the items and provide options for shipping so the user will not be hit with any unexpected extras.

Another great component to include is a progress indicator:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

Adding this to your design will make the process seem more organized with a clear funnel to a conversion.

Everything you add to your ecommerce website ultimately leads to the checkout. If this section is poorly crafted, your conversion rate will suffer. Your choice of ecommerce platform will make all the difference – a customizable one like Shopify will ensure your shopping cart has the requisite functionality, without which the best design is meaningless.

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

So while you put the best shopping cart systems in place, implement all that advice out there on how to improve your checkout process, and keep an eye on your analytics all the time to see if you’re meeting your conversion goals, how much of those 76.8% abandoned carts can you actually expect to recover?

Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics, estimated the recovery rate at 10-30% in an article for Forbes. “The amount of sales that you can recover with rates like that really adds up,” he wrote.

4. Obsolete website theme

First impressions are everything in ecommerce. What is your first thought when you see this one?

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

If your website looks like it was designed back in the 90’s, consumers can easily jump to conclusions like a) you’re no longer in business, and b) your website won’t keep their valuable information secure. Both will cost you credibility and turn potential buyers away in droves.

Additionally, outdated websites do not typically fare well in the search rankings. Google updates their search algorithms hundreds of times a year, and values user experience over most other ranking factors. Rohan Ayyar, my fellow Search Engine Watch columnist and SEO guru, has this to say:

“It’s common knowledge that Google conducts frequent usability studies and scores of experiments to improve their own products. That’s how serious they are about UX. Your website will sink rapidly down the SERPs if you continue to ignore usability.”

Fixing your web design with a UX-first approach will require a bit of market research. Take a look at your competitor’s websites to get an impression of what is par for the course. Also, be sure you are keeping up with the latest trends in web design.

For example, simplistic homepages that do away with text heavy content are being used more often these days to serve as a powerful introduction to a website. Here is Vera Wang’s homepage:

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

The main focus of the landing page is a captivating video used for the first impression, rather than a wall of text leading to product listings.

Ultimately, if your website appears outdated, you are leaving money on the table. No matter how great your content is, visitors will be turned off at first glance. However, using conventional web design standards and practices doesn’t mean you have to conform to the latest design trends or adapt your layout to it.

Jeffrey Eisenberg, CEO of BuyerLegends.com, summed it up best when he advised webmasters to make their sites focus on “persuasion” instead of “conversion”:

“The ability to achieve truly dramatic improvements in conversion rates still requires a shift in conventional thinking. Design teams need to understand that while the goal may be conversion, the practice must be persuasion.”

This implies designers, developers, content creators and marketers will soon wind up on the same page in the not-too-distant future. In fact, the tools to help them do that are already here.

For instance, UXPin helps business owners and marketers collaborate with their design teams to rapidly create wireframes and prototypes, from which the designers and developers can work towards a finished website that meets all the required functionality.

4 under-the-radar UX flaws that are killing your conversion rate

Over to you

Designing a website is not rocket science. However, finding the perfect balance of elements that result in a healthy conversion rate will likely take some experimentation. The key is to always be testing and optimizing.

Each ecommerce platform will require different formulas for conversions. Don’t fall prey to these common blunders.

mobile-users.png

5 UX best practices for a search engine focused website

Irrespective of your industry, you rely on your website to build trust, build relationships, provide services, and sell products.

Proper SEO will draw customers to your website, thereby improving your search rankings while UX helps a visitor to locate the needed information on your website and helps in starting a relationship with your prospective customer.

Your website visitors have specific problems, and they use search engines to find the answers they seek. Once they locate a website that answers their questions, they expect to view the answers quickly and easily.

This is why it is essential that SEO and UX complement each other to produce results. Simply put: SEO + UX = $.

It is worthless and pointless to drive traffic to your site unless that traffic is qualified. Likewise, your website design is a waste of time if you don’t have any traffic to convert.

Together, the focus of SEO and UX needs to be on the intent of your website visitors so that your business has a website that converts visitors into customers.

The strategies discussed below identify 5 UX best practices for a search engine focused website. 

#1 Responsive and mobile-optimized

If you look around any waiting room, restaurant or any other public place today, you’ll notice that most people are usually occupied with their phone. Statistics on consumer mobile usage by Smart Insights revealed that time spent on mobile devices has outgrown time spent on desktops by 51% to 42%.

96% of Smartphone users have run into websites that were not designed for mobile devices. If a mobile user arrives at your website and your site isn’t optimized for mobile, that user is five times more likely to abandon the task and bounce off your site.

Your website responsiveness should be given priority as Google has altered its algorithms to consider just how responsive your overall design is and reward mobile-optimized websites. This means that an irresponsive website will have difficulty ranking in search engine results.

With more and more people making use of mobile devices, having a responsive website is easy and a must for great UX and SEO.

#2 Optimize page speed

Google has been very clear about the impact of page speed on its search engine ranking. Google has stated on a number of occasions that it includes page speed signals in its search algorithms. This indicates that improving your website speed will yield dividends when it comes to ranking on search engine.

Slow web pages ruin customers experience because almost half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. You can obtain a clear data on your web page speed performance with Google Analytics, Page Speed, YSlow, WebPagetest or Page Speed Insights.

Slow web pages are not ideal from a UX and SEO perspective, as corroborated by Matt Cutts:

“Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.”

Below are some resources you can consult to learn how to optimize your website speed.

#3 Make use of rich snippets

A rich snippet might be an image, review, video, or even an event calendar, embedded right there in the SERP listing. The initiative, of course, is to enrich the UX and to provide additional info right in the search result page, compelling the user to click on your webpage for more information.

5 UX best practices for a search engine focused website

5 UX best practices for a search engine focused website

Website owners and marketing managers need to make use of any opportunity to lure internet searchers to click on their page instead of a competitor’s. With rich snippet, you can enhance your search results with add-ons like photos and rating, which help to draw the searcher’s eye as well as offering additional information.

With numerous paid ads, image results, and other visually interesting elements competing for attention on the search results page, rich snippets can be that unique effect that attracts the eye and wins the click.

Implementation of rich snippet can be done in two ways, as follows:

Very few brands implement rich snippets, so this undoubtedly is an opportunity for your website to stand out in SERPs, enhance UX and boost click-throughs.

#4 Use sensitive navigation

According to Google, “The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important…”

When creating a new website or redesigning an existing one, you should consider your website’s navigation process. Website navigation can be used to enhance UX while being used to optimize for search engine also, you might choose between multiple pages or an infinite scroll across your web pages as seen on Inc.com and others.

Designing a sensitive navigation not only improves your website UX but if applied properly can enhance your website conversion rate also. For example, bounce rate on Time.com dropped by 15 percent after they adopted continuous scrolling.

If you have clear calls to action (CTA) working in connection with a user-friendly navigation, it will help to make it easier to drive your visitors through the goal funnels and avoid frustration for your website visitors who have to take avoidable steps to reach their final destination.

#5 Support your content with graphics

Good images in your content not only help to make your website content more attractive and informative, it also helps to create an aura essential for UX.

Images help to deliver effective ideas to the user and attract interaction, and most SEO experts will tell you the benefits of optimizing your images for search as well.

When your image and title is properly formatted with relevant keywords relevant to the content of each respective image, there will be an increased likelihood of them showing up when a related image search is carried out in search engines.

For practical tips on how to make sure your images are properly search optimized, check out Christopher Ratcliff’s guide to optimizing your images for SEO.

Conclusion

It’s easy to blend SEO and UX to enhance your website’s performance, and it’s important to recognize that these two cannot work separately anymore, at least not with the same effectiveness.

SEO will lead traffic to your site and help it attain a higher position on SERPs, however, it’s UX that will determine whether the traffic can be sustained and converted into customers.

Thus, every site trying to improve its performance through UX and SEO should offer:

  • Attractive design that focuses on accessibility
  • Relevant, quality, and Informative content
  • Optimization of text and images to please both your site users and search engines
  • Simple and effective navigation and easy to use structure
  • Clear call-to-action, around both the users’ next clicks and around the desired conversion.
t47_cisco_mobile_data_breakdown.png

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Mobile video is great. When it works.

Implemented correctly, video or audio *should not* impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device and when the play button is pressed, it needs to start quickly and work well.

Video content is top of the agenda for many brands. It is proving a great way to engage customers and visitors, but when viewed on mobile devices, particularly those on cellular connection, video (and to a lesser extent audio) should come with a health warning.

Users are increasingly impatient with slow-to-load and stalling video and will start to abandon a video after waiting just two seconds, research from UMass and Akamai shows.

This column, the first of three parts, will take a close look at how and why video affects page performance. In the second part, we’ll look at the impact of video autoplay and audio on page performance, as well as what makes a poor viewer experience (VX).

Finally, we’ll explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues to prevent users tuning out.

Video is a massive mobile data hog

The provision and consumption of video on mobile devices via web and apps is growing rapidly. Mobile video is already 60% of total mobile data traffic worldwide and is expected to be 78% by 2021 according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI).

All other elements will grow over the next five years, but their proportion of overall traffic will be less. Audio will be 5% compared with 8% today and mobile web will be 14% compared with 30% of traffic today.

Video – and audio – used wrongly or inefficiently will impact mobile user experience (UX) – or should we say: “viewer experience” (VX) or “listener experience” (LX) – massively, but not necessarily in the same way as oversized images and poor or inefficient use of JavaScript.

Images and JavaScript, as seen in previous columns, are the biggest causes of slow loading mobile web pages. As discussed below, video can still contribute to page size and therefore contribute to page load delays, particularly (it seems) where autoplay is used, as we will discuss below.

But the biggest impact on VX comes after page load when the video is slow, or fails, to start or stalls.

The two charts below are from HTTP Archive, which twice monthly records the page size and download speed of the homepages of the top 1 million sites to desktop and mobile devices, using the excellent WebPageTest.

The first chart shows the breakdown of content types by bytes – images, JavaScript, video, stylesheets, HTML and fonts – as an average of all homepages recorded on April 15, 2017.

Video is 128kB or 5.5% of the total bytes loaded (2312 kB or 2.3MB). This might appear small, until you realize that 97% of pages monitored by HTTP Archive have no video content (we examine this surprising stat below).

Pages that do have video content will therefore show a higher proportion of video content.

The second chart (captured April 15, 2017) shows the content breakdown for the homepage of the US digital agency Huge. Here video content is 727kB or 14.5% of the total bytes. The total weight of the page is 5MB, which is a homepage worthy of the company name, and, when measured, took 25.8 seconds to load on a mobile device, according to HTTP Archive.

To be fair, many agencies (digital, media, advertising et al) have surprisingly slow loading, heavy weight sites (considering the importance of digital to their businesses), though Huge is exceptionally large. A trimmer example is Young and Rubicam. On the same date the Y&R homepage took three seconds to load 783kB on a mobile device (on other dates it took nine seconds) according to HTTP Archive.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Video shouldn’t affect page load size or download speed

Implemented correctly, video (or audio) should not impact the size of the webpage or the speed that pages load on a mobile device, according to the experts.

Even when video is present on the page, to render the page, the browser only needs to load the video container, teaser image, start button etc. it doesn’t need to download the entire video (as the visitor may not want to watch it at all). Thus video and audio ought not to be a significant proportion of content recorded by HTTP Archive / WebPageTest – as we will see when we look at the most popular sites.

Sam Dutton is a Developer Advocate at Google who provides educational materials and workshops for techies in mobile video. He explains:

“Video is not a big issue for page loading, since in general video shouldn’t be part of the cost of loading a web page.

“HTTP Archive measures the bytes to load a web page, not the total bytes crossing the internet. When you load most web pages, you don’t load a video (but you do load images, HTML, CSS and JavaScript).

“Top sites are less likely than less popular sites to require video for page load since (hopefully) the top sites realize the detrimental effects on page weight and (therefore) bounce rates, etc.”

 

This is Part 1 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the next installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-26-at-22.21.11.png

6 tips for creating content to capture short attention spans

It’s not easy nowadays to win over your audience in an abundance of online content, and the short attention span of human beings isn’t making things any easier.

It’s always a challenge to make your content stand out, but this doesn’t mean that you should be discouraged from creating it.

As the average human attention span has dropped to just 8 seconds, however, how can you make content that captures your audience’s attention before it’s gone?

Learn your audience

This is the first thing that will help you beat the readers’ attention span. It is very important to understand your audience, as this will help you create more relevant content for them.

Here are some tips for understanding your audience:

  • Analyse your existing content and the response it received
  • Monitor your channels and the readers’ reactions to your content
  • Measure the time spent on your site
  • Bounce rate is another metric that indicates whether your content is appealing to your audience
  • Perform keyword analysis to devise new ideas that are relevant for your audience
  • Monitor your competitors’ content and find the gaps that you can fill in.

Focus on structure

Having well-structured content helps readers to stay longer on your page. It’s not just the quality of the content that maintains readers’ interest, but also the way you present it.

A clear and organized structure makes it less strenuous for readers to digest your content, so remember to:

  • Organize your content into paragraphs
  • Don’t create lengthy sentences that make reading harder
  • Use headings to divide up longer chunks of text
  • Use lists and bullet points to facilitate quick reading (like this!)
  • Add takeaway tips at the end of your content to help readers digest the most important parts.

Use images

As with a good content structure, images make reading a page more appealing.

From the header or feature image that offers an introduction to the topic (which may also be the image used on your social shares), to the additional images included throughout the text, images help to separate one section from another in the most engaging way.

They also help the eyes relax from a long sequence of text (which might otherwise be a little dull to read), while making it easier for the brain to process what it just read.

Moreover, images can offer additional value with the use of quotes, stats, or even tips that facilitate quick reading. These images can double as shareable content on your readers’ social feed, giving you more mileage from your content.

Don’t hold back from long-form content

You might assume that a short attention span will require an equally short piece of content for consumption. This is not always the case, as well-executed long-form content is still a valuable asset to your blog.

Provided that you’re adding value to a topic they find interesting, length should not discourage your readers from consuming your content. Remember that long-form content doesn’t have to be boring: structure and images can contribute to make the reading experience easier.

In fact, according to Orbit Media Studios, blog content is getting longer year by year. In 2016 the average blog post length was 1054 words – up from 887 words in 2015.

6 tips for creating content to capture short attention spans

This is a good reminder for all of us that there’s no need to be afraid of longer content. All you need is to focus on relevance and a good user experience to keep people engaged on the site.

Involve different types of content

If you want to appeal to a wider audience, then you might have to experiment with different types of content. There’s no need to limit your creativity to plain text, especially if you can include other formats like:

  • Infographics
  • Presentation slides
  • Video
  • Podcasts
  • GIFs

Every type of content serves its own goal, and all of them can enhance your message.

For example, if you want to turn a complicated concept into a simpler analysis, then a visually​ appealing infographic​ can be useful.

If you want to find new ways to repurpose your content, then you can turn a blog post into a presentation, a video, or a podcast.

These allow you to promote your content across new platforms and reach the right audience with the right type of content. And many of these content formats are more engaging to time-starved audiences than a text-based post.

After all, content marketing is all about being creative with your content and its distribution.

Use social proof

If you’re wondering how social proof can convince your audience to spend more time on your site, here’s an example of how it can work in practice.

We all have more chances to read the content that our friends, or our favourite influencers, share on their social feeds. This is due to the trust that we’ve built up with them, and the belief that their approval serves as the credential we need to visit a page.

This can become even more important if it’s about a page that we haven’t visited in the past.

It’s not a bad idea to build relationships with other people to ensure that our site’s content reaches more people. This way the connection becomes more genuine and there are more chances for new readers to actually pay attention to our content.

Get rid of distractions

If you want to maintain your readers’ attention while reading your content, you have to test your page for any distractions.

It’s easy for the reader’s eye to be distracted by a pop-up, a shiny sidebar, or even untidy formatting. That eye-catching banner ad might be doing its job extremely well – and it may also be competing with your content for attention.

Content success is all about focusing on the reader and the browsing experience. That’s why it’s always useful to switch sides and visit your pages from time to time as a reader.

What do you notice first?

Are you willing to spend enough time to read the content?

Is there something you need to change?

Takeaways

It’s useful to keep in mind that the shorter the attention span, the bigger the challenge to appeal to your audience.

This doesn’t mean that your content can’t win your audience over. All you have to is to keep in mind some tips for making it more appealing:

  • Use a short and descriptive headline
  • Create a clear structure
  • Include images to separate blocks of text
  • Experiment with different types of content
  • Consider the use of social proof to build trust with the audience
  • Be as relevant as possible
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of quality content – whether long or short-form.
slideshare-992x1024.png

7 quick ways to use content marketing to boost search ranking

Content marketing can be very effective in increasing traffic, generating leads, enabling sales – and contributing to SEO. So how can businesses use it to improve their search rankings?

When done well, content marketing can contribute to boosting a site’s position in search rankings.

Although this may not seem like the most obvious benefit to a successful content marketing strategy, it’s an effect that no business can ignore.

Here’s how to take advantage of your site’s content to rank higher in the SERPs.

1. Create fresh content

A site can never have enough content. There is always an opportunity to create new pieces of content, and the newness – or ‘freshness’ – of content is also one of Google’s ranking signals.

Content freshness as a ranking factor is not just judged by the publication date of the page, but can also include:

  • updates to the content
  • new pages
  • an increasing number of links towards a page
  • an increased level of traffic reaching the page

These criteria show that older posts can still be valuable, especially if they offer an in-depth analysis on a topic, are evergreen, or have been regularly updated to keep them relevant. Which leads us on to…

2. Repurpose old content

There’s no reason to ignore the older content you’ve published in the past, especially if it still gains a significant amount of traffic.

As content marketing evolves, it is more beneficial to go beyond the written posts to new formats that allow you to broaden your value.

That’s why repurposing content can help you analyse a topic in more detail, by allowing you to create multiple types of content without losing their value or becoming repetitive. This saves you time spent coming up with new content ideas, and also gives you a regular supply of fresh, valuable content to boost your ranking.

Going beyond blog posts, here are other types of content you could create from your older material:

  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • E-books
  • Lists
  • How-to posts
  • Podcasts
  • Guides
  • Presentation

Your target audience might be more receptive for example to infographics rather than a blog post, or you may discover that you can achieve higher conversion rates through a presentation rather than a podcast.

Every content type serves its own goal and as every audience has different needs, experimentation can be very useful, until you discover which formats work best for your business.

3. Test headlines

A headline is usually the first thing we notice when accessing a search engine, and this reminds us that a headline should be:

  • valuable
  • relevant
  • simple
  • appealing

It may seem as if some of these points contradict each other, but the trick is in striking a balance between informativeness and length, or relevance and complexity.

Keywords can also be used as part of a headline, and this requires further planning on finding the best way to be SEO-friendly without sacrificing the flow of the headline.

Moreover, there’s a thin line between a click-worthy headline and clickbait, which is why it’s important to bear value to the reader in mind when creating a headline.

CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer is a very useful tool that can help you explore all the possible ways to improve your headline. Once you add your suggested headline, you receive a quick analysis, along with a score and tips on how to improve it.

7 quick ways to use content marketing to boost search ranking

4. Create visual content

Although visual content can be considered part of our earlier point on the importance of testing new content types, it deserves a special mention for its powers of grabbing the user’s attention.

Visual content has become very popular on the internet due to our own ability to process an image faster than any written text. This wins the first impression and it can be very powerful within the context of a page.

Previously used mostly to accompany written content, visual content has reached the stage where it’s now considered a form of content in its own right, standing on its own to increase awareness, engagement and leads.

On top of this, it can be optimized for search, offering a new opportunity for a business to stand out from its competitors via images and videos. The optimization of your visual content can lead to surprisingly positive results, provided that you follow a series of small steps that ensure that they are SEO-friendly.

7 quick ways to use content marketing to boost search ranking

Keep in mind, search crawlers cannot “read” images, only the text that accompanies them. This means that it’s important to focus on:

  • Image title (don’t upload an image with a filename 4fogowr.jpg, but rather rename it to something more relevant, e.g. contentforseoguide.jpg
  • Alt tags (the tags that describe the image for screen reader users, or if the image fails to load)
  • Image size (large images affect a page’s load time, which can have a negative effect on your search ranking)

5. Choose the right keywords

Keyword research can turn into a useful ally, especially if you bear in mind that you don’t always need to target the most obvious keywords.

Targeting highly sought-after keywords can make it harder for you to rank higher in search, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t become an authority on a topic by using different phrases for the same concept.

How about picking words and phrases that are less competitive but still high in rankings? Find the keywords that best suit your content, and think outside the box when deciding on the focus keywords you want to target.

6. Create link-worthy content

Link building helps your content reach a broader audience, increasing both your site’s visibility and its authority. Moreover, it can grow your search traffic, as the number of unique domains linking to your site helps search engines understand whether your content is informative enough to rank higher in the SERP.

Not all links are equal, as high-authority sites contribute more heavily in this regard. This means you should aim for more reputable mentions – but without snubbing any lesser sites that might link to you, as it all adds up. It’s easier for a source to link to your content if it’s authentic, interesting and well-researched, so always aim for quality over quantity.

It is useful to come up with a link building strategy that will help other sources discover your content and feature it if they find it relevant enough for their target audience – without losing sight of the need to create valuable content, of course.

7. Discover the connection between content and user experience

What’s the connection between content and user experience and how does that affect your rankings? We’ve talked about user experience and SEO in the past, and come to the conclusion that the more usable and readable your content, the more it is likely to boost your search ranking.

7 quick ways to use content marketing to boost search ranking

A Google-friendly website is valuable, appealing, and functional. Your readers should not struggle with reading or accessing your content, and search engines expect the same from each page they crawl.

The quality of content extends in this case to the page and how it helps the user experience with minimal effort. For example, have you tested the load time? Are your images hurting your site’s speed? Is your content too difficult to understood from your audience? Is your structure helpful both for your readers and for search engines?

Overview

The main aim of your content should still be to provide value and relevance for your target audience, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be slightly more SEO-focused.

As the ultimate goal is to get more readers to your pages, an improved ranking on SERPs can help you tap into a new audience that will appreciate your content.

There’s no need to obsess over SEO throughout the whole content creation process, but getting into the SEO mindset can offer useful insights into how to make your content more effective from now on.

5244508.gif

10 Common User Experience Pet Peeves by @@joshuacmccoy

Making a great first impression with your website can mean all the difference on whether you will hold a big lead list or nothing but a big bounce rate. Learn what you may be doing wrong and what you must look for to make that important first visit impression.

The post 10 Common User Experience Pet Peeves by @@joshuacmccoy appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Linkbuilding-1.gif

Building your SEO strategy in 2017: what’s most important?

If you’re wondering what factors to consider as you build your SEO strategy for 2017, links are still the top-ranking factor for Google’s algorithm with content close behind. And high CTR is still at the core of the rankings pack as well.

Earlier this year, Andrey Lipattsev, a Google Search Quality Senior Strategist, fielded questions about the top ranking factors for Google. Lipattsev said, “I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”

Recent Study Put Links to the Ranking Factor Test

A recent study by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting put links to the ranking factor test. And links emerged as powerful as ever.

Previous research by Moz and Searchmetrics found a high correlation when comparing high SEO rankings and external links. However, data from other ranking factors were close behind links.

For example, the Moz study found the number of external links to be rated at 0.30, but the Moz authority rated at 0.28, and the page authority at 0.37.

How could links be so vital to SEO efforts and not have a significant statistical edge on other ranking factors? Enge wanted to know why, and he found that the Moz and Searchmetrics studies used commercial search terms, and evaluated each SERP individually.

“Based on consultations with a couple of experts (Paul Berger and Per Enge), I did a different type of calculation, based on the Quadratic Mean,” Enge explained.

Different varieties of search terms were also employed in the Stone Temple Consulting study. Long tail commercial terms, commercial terms, and informational keywords were used to test the power of links.

The results of the new study certainly matched Google’s announcement, crowning links king of ranking. Links per ranking URL rated at 0.39 with domain and page rating far behind at 0.27.

Links are Still Powerful Amid Hundreds of Google Ranking Factors

Did you know Google uses around 200 ranking factors to rank websites? This may be a lot for SEOs to take in all at once. However, focusing on links is still best practice.

Several digital marketing firms compiled hundreds of Google ranking factors, and they may be useful to your SEO efforts, says Entrepreneur contributor Eric Siu.

“While it can be worthwhile for business owners to be at least familiar with some of the topics here, this infographic can be a valuable resource to share with those on your team who are managing your site’s day-to-day SEO operation.”

In fact, out of those 200 ranking factors in Google’s ranking algorithm, three of the most essential encompass links.

  1. The number of external links you receive is important. Some of the top SEOs say external links are simply invaluable to your ranking power, according to Moz.
  2. Anchor text of external links affects ranking. Links with SEO focused anchor text needs to be relevant to the target page.
  3. The links need to be of good authority. For example, your links need to be from a reputable news source or academic journal.

Links have always been a valuable aspect of an SEOs strategy, and many SEO agencies focus on building relevant links to get first page search results on Google.

Building Relevant Links is an Important Ranking Practice

Building links is certainly an essential SEO practice, but Google is still dealing with the manipulation of SERPs via economically minded marketers. However, your link building strategy needs to encompass relevancy, according to Search Engine Land.

Incorporating relevance and trustworthiness into your link building strategy is an essential part of your ranking efforts. The first step in this strategy is to identify resources and publications for inbound links.

Here are two key aspects to incorporate into your link building strategy, according to the best SEO practices of 2016 by Forbes.

  • Identify respectable links. When searching for respectable links ask yourself: Do people trust this site? Does this site use citations? Is the site refined? Is the site a household name?
  • Focus on relevancy in links. In order to optimize rankings, SEOs need to find relevant links within the industry they are marketing. Match content and links up as perfectly as possible to keep rankings moving in a positive direction.

Link building is important, and it may be as essential as ever, according to Google’s announcement. And SEOs still need to combine links with powerful content too.

Google Identifies CTR and User Experience as Major Ranking Factors

Links and content are certainly at the top of your SEO strategy. However, Google identified CTR and user experience as major ranking factors. Increasing one will certainly increase the other as well.

Google utilizes CTR data to indicate a sites ranking value, according to Google engineer Paul Haahr. Haahr also added that Google runs A/B tests with SERPs. This could increase or decrease a site’s ranking by a few spots, and has no relevancy to links or SEO.

Essentially, the higher CTR you have, and the more user experience your site receives, the higher the Google rankings.

A study on CTR by Moz found that, “The more your pages beat the expected organic CTR for a given position, the more likely you are to appear in prominent organic positions.”

Rankings and CTR are certainly codependent. Keeping visitors on your site is one important element in the Google ranking equation. Here are a few tips to optimize your CTR and user experience.

  • Bucket brigades. Using bucket brigades is one great SEO strategy to increase user experience, according to Backlinko. These are simply words and phrases that keep people engaged.
  • Better content title and descriptions. Emphasizing fast results is what Google is all about, and your content title and description need to reflect that. Giving Google browsers the sense of speedy information will increase your CTR.
  • More value in your subheadings. Including benefits in your subheadings will also enhance your CTR and user experience. A more powerful subheading will intrigue your audience to stick around and see what the content has to offer.

Your 2017 Strategy: What Else?

Knowing that you must continue with outreach, content, and CTR optimization as your foundation, what else should you consider for your 2017 strategy? A Forbes article describes three steps to jumpstart site traffic in 2017: Real Time Videos, Augmented Reality Gaming, and Google Penguin.

If you keep your site safe from Penguin while focusing on building a real time video strategy with an augmented reality component, watch your site’s visibility sky rocket! It’s time to combine the old with the new to have your best year ever!

crate-checkout-guest.png

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

Completing a web form online takes time and effort. This effort can be minimised by structuring the form well, and giving it a flow which will make it easier for customers. 

Indeed, every action a user takes within checkout carries a cost. This is sometimes referred to as an ‘interaction cost’.

Every interaction your user has with your checkout carries a cost. This can be physical, in terms of a click or keypress, or mental, where a user has to remember a piece of information, or a cost to you, in terms of storing the information given. The goal in your checkout design should be to minimise the ‘Interaction Cost’ as much as possible.

ClickZ and fospha will be hosting a webinar on this topic, How to optimize your forms for maximum success, on 15th November. We also have a free white paper to download: A Marketer’s Guide to Form Optimisation.

Here’s a selection of tips to improve the structure and process of your checkout…

1. Design for the most common scenarios first

Most transactions will be straightforward, with the person placing the order being the same person it’s shipped to. They’re using their card, and the billing and shipping addresses are the same.

The focus should be to make this process as easy as possible as a first priority, designing overrides for edge cases  later.

2. Use data to decide on structure

Analytics will help you to prioritise form elements. If you’re redesigning an existing checkout, then you should have data from this.

For example, you could prioritise the most popular payment options or, if customers tend to order infrequently or seasonally, then it can be a good option to push guest checkout and reduce the prominence of the login / sign up option.

3. Ask one question per page or section

When designing your checkout form, it’s better to start from a multi-page design first.

Each page should ask a single question of the user. This doesn’t mean one field per page, but the topic of the question. For example, Lowe’s has a section for address details, one for shipping options, one for payment:

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

Asking one question per page helps the user understand what they’re being asked, helps them focus, is easier to navigate on a mobile device, and assists with validation and error recovery.

4. Plan for edge cases

This is any scenario that happens infrequently.  It could be a stock out event, or requirement for the user to change shipping method based on delivery address.

Edge cases often require the user to go back one or more pages in the checkout. You should be analysing the percentage and volume of these cases within your analytics platform, as changes in audience can often require changes in your checkout.

5. Show form progression clearly

Progress indication is vital within a checkout. It informs the user which tasks they have completed and what is left to do.

Within a single-page checkout, progression can be indicated by scroll-length, as well as descriptive and visible section headings.

In a multi-page checkout, this can be indicated by a progress bar, showing the number of pages, with brief headings indicating content.

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

6. Indicate field length

Correct field length provides a visual clue to the user regarding the amount of information required. For example, showing a shortened postcode field, or CV2 field, tells the user than only a handful or characters or numbers are needed.

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

7. Use appropriate field types

Field type indicators are hints to the browser of the type of information that is being required. For example, you can prompt mobile browsers to show a numeric keyboard for a card number, rather than the standard alphanumeric keyboard.

Doing so lowers the interaction cost for the user to switch from one keyboard type to another.

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

8. Provide field hints to help users

Sometimes, it is necessary to prompt the user as to what information a field is asking for, for example, a strong password or a CV2 number.

Field hints can take the form of an inline text placeholder, an annotation, or in some cases, a graphic.

How to minimise the interaction cost of your web forms

9. Use auto-parsing and formatting

Some fields, such as phone number and credit card, can be auto formatted to help the user check if they have entered the correct information.

For example, you can enter a space or dash after each set of four numbers entered in the credit card number field of your payment form.

10. Make sure you’re tracking form errors

Ultimately, once your checkout is launched, you will wish to analyse its performance, and optimise it appropriately.

It’s important to note that before you can run form analysis tools on your checkout, it must be coded correctly.

You can sign up for the form optimization webinar here. It takes place on 15th November. 

how-1.jpg

Are you asking for too much information on web forms?

Long web forms can deter customers, and one way to reduce the workload is to remove unnecessary fields and questions.

Your customers will understand that a certain amount of information is required – to complete a transaction, to register etc.

However, it’s important to realise the drawbacks of being seen to ask too much of users. These are:

  • Too many fields / pages in a form will lead a certain amount of users to abandon the process, costing lost sales and leads.
  • People will also drop out if they encounter questions which they consider irrelevant. For example, they may wonder why their date of birth is needed to order a kettle.
  • Even if people complete the form, if it felt like hard work to them, they may be less likely to make repeat purchases.

ClickZ and fospha will be hosting a webinar on this topic, How to optimize your forms for maximum success, on 15th November. We also have a free white paper to download: A Marketer’s Guide to Form Optimisation.

In the meantime, let’s take look at how much information is too much information.

The Question Protocol

How do you decide which fields are necessary and which can be left out? For this, the Question Protocol, (as explained by Lovehoney’s Matt Curry in our recent Ecommerce Checkout guide) is very useful.

It’s a way to decide which fields are actually important to the process, and which are unnecessary. It also has the benefit of keeping company politics away from decision making.

For every question you ask during checkout, ask the following:

  • Why does the business need this information?
  • Who uses the information and what for?
  • Which users need to provide the information?
  • How will the business check that the information is accurate?
  • How will the business keep the information up to date?

Matt adds a follow-up question: How frequently is the information provided by users? If people aren’t bothering to complete a particular form field, then why include it?

An example of this is the field many sites still use, asking people where they heard about the business in the first place.

Yes, this may have been useful to the marketing department so they can tie a visit into a particular press or TV campaign.

However, most of the answers to such questions can now be found in analytics. If a customer came from an email campaign, or through search, then the figures are there to see.

Moreover, and especially when presented in long drop-downs as above, users will frequently ignore this field. Or, if forced to complete it, they may not take it seriously. I tend to pick the first answer just to get past it.

All of which means that the information may not actually be useful in the end anyway.

Other examples of unnecessary form fields include date of birth and gender. These are not required to complete checkout, though they may be of use to the marketing department.

ASOS, for example, asks for a date of birth. It does at least explain why, providing an incentive for people.

Are you asking for too much information on web forms?

Perhaps this works for ASOS. It could be that the marketing benefits of such information outweigh the potential abandonments. However, businesses should be aware of the risks when adding extra fields to checkout.

You can sign up for the form optimization webinar here. It takes place on 15th November. 

confused1-1024x534.png

How to make longer web forms easier for users

Some web forms have to be longer than normal. While an ecommerce site can limit the user entry to an email, delivery address and payment details, some sites need more information.

For example, forms on travel and financial websites have to be longer than most by necessity.

Long forms like this can be off-putting for users as they can give the impression that the process is going to be time-consuming.

For example, 13% of users abandon bookings on travel websites because the booking process is too long or overcomplicated.

So how can forms be made more palatable for users?

The look and feel of the form

It can be about the customer’s perception of the form. If it looks like hard work, people will assume it is. This is one of the reasons why some websites use one-page or accordion checkouts, as even though they require the same amount of information as other sites, they can seem like less work.

One way to do this is by breaking up the form into more manageable segments. For example, Confused.com requires a lot of information for a car quote – job details, no-claims details, previous claims etc – but it does help to make it seem less work by breaking it up into sections.

Remove any unnecessary fields

One way to reduce form length, as previously mentioned, is to remove any unnecessary fields. Ask whether the information you need is really necessary to complete the process.

For example, the ‘how did you hear about us?’ fields in some web forms are just extra work for many. I doubt whether many people even take them seriously. Besides, analytics and other customer data sources should help you find the answer to this question.

How to make longer web forms easier for users

Make data entry easier

There are ways to make things easier for users, simply by designing the forms more effectively.

Here, Confused.com opts for buttons rather than drop-downs for most fields. Also, on the occupation question, rather than making me choose from a list of job titles, it suggests roles as I type. This saves a lot of time.

How to make longer web forms easier for users

Add shortcuts where possible

Small touches like allowing users to use delivery address details as their billing details help, and are now commonplace. Postcode lookup tools can also save time entering full addresses.

In-line validation

Well-implemented form validation assures that customers can correct any errors as they go along.

This saves time, as well as the frustration that results when customers attempt to move on to the next stage of the form, only to find they have errors to correct.

Here, HSBC presents a tick to confirm that some fields have been entered correctly, and clearly highlights those that need attention. (Taken from the Mapa Research guide to financial forms).

How to make longer web forms easier for users

Show time estimates for form completion

Some forms provide an estimate of the time it will take to complete a form.

It could be argued that this will deter some, but I think it’s good to be upfront and give users an accurate estimate.

Here, Lloyd’s provides an estimate before customers embark on its forms. (thanks again to Mapa).

How to make longer web forms easier for users How to make longer web forms easier for users

Save user details if they abandon

Where possible, saving user details already entered can really help. Perhaps they could save it to come back to later, or in case users bail out during the form.

Here, Confused.com tempts me back to the form I’ve abandoned with an email reminder. It also reassures me that it’ll only take five minutes.

How to make longer web forms easier for users

Think about mobile

Mobiles are increasingly used for travel bookings, so sites need to cater well for mobile users, making forms readable, and adapting to the user’s device of choice.

Here, Hotels.com ensures that a) the calendar tool is easy to use (a common issue on mobile) and b) adapts for the kind of information required, so it shows the numerical keyboard for card entry (note that it also offers card scan for greater convenience).

How to make longer web forms easier for usersHow to make longer web forms easier for users

Our new Marketer’s Guide to Form Optimisation, produced in association with Fospha, is free to download.