Category Archives: Search Engine Optimization

6 Best Tips for Creating Evergreen Content

At some point during your research to find better ways to improve the performance of your content, whether it is for a blog, company website, or as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have likely encountered the term “evergreen content.” This is not a new term and has been used for over half a decade to describe content that stays relevant over time. The more staying power your content has in terms of relevance to searchers, the more evergreen it is.

To expand the explanation a bit more, evergreen content is engaging, useful, and topically relevant for an extended period of time. If someone uses a search engine to find information about a specific subject today and a year from now and both receive the same result, that content is evergreen. The longer your content can stay visible in search results and relevant to search queries, the more evergreen it is.

As the internet becomes increasingly saturated with a variety of content pertaining to similar topics, it becomes more important for marketers and content creators to produce content that has the most potential for long-term importance to online searchers and surfers.

Create content for beginners. You might be tempted to think that technically advanced, in-depth content would be more appropriate as a candidate for being evergreen. In reality, the opposite is true. Most of the people who use search engines to find information are relatively new to a particular subject and are expanding their knowledge. The individuals who seek out technical content usually have a source location in mind, and they often avoid search engines unless they are performing a cursory search without a specific data acquisition goal in mind. There are also far more people new to a certain subject using search engines on a regular and recurring basis than there are people who want material on advanced subject matter.

Avoid making assumptions with your phrasing and terminology. Because the majority of your readers will be those who are only now familiarizing themselves with a specific topic, you should anticipate their lack of in-depth knowledge and write accordingly. Technical jargon or industry-specific phrasing should be left out unless absolutely necessary and, if it is necessary, make sure the average reader understands what the words or phrases mean.

Use outbound links cautiously. Many writers who provide online content, especially bloggers, are often tempted to include outbound links to reference and source material. This is usually done to give the reader more information about a subject or establish more authority for facts, figures, and other data provided in the content. Problems can arise, however, when you have included links to external web pages that have shuffled off their mortal (internet) coil and been removed or disabled for one reason or another. A “page not found” error is much worse than not including a link at all.

Strive to be the only source of information for your topic. If competition exists for your content that prevents you from being the only source of information about your subject, you need to make sure your content is the definitive source. One of the key factors in creating evergreen content is that you are publishing something that people will want to read today, tomorrow, and years from now (if possible). This means your content should be the most complete, authoritative, and definitive resource for those who want to know more about the subject.

Focus on one specific subject. The more singular your subject, the more definitive your content can be in terms of delivering the most useful information to your readers. When you try to cover several subjects in one piece of content, the end result is usually a disjointed jumble of thoughts that lack a cohesive connection or strong purpose. When choosing your subject, narrow it down to as finite a point as possible. For example, rather than writing about divorce, you could write about divorce and child custody. Rather than writing about divorce and child custody, you could write about how to help children cope with the divorce and custody process. If your topic is as specific as it can be, this gives you a limited range within which you can write, which means your content will have the best opportunity to become a definitive source of material.

Avoid including information that can “date” your content. Dated content automatically creates a shelf life for the material, meaning it will expire when more updated content becomes available. This includes “top ten” lists of any information for a specific year, data relating to current trends (which are called “current” trends because they, too, have a shelf life), breaking news, future speculation that can be proven wrong, or event-specific content. Undated content remains viable and useful when the following year rolls around or the newest batch of trends makes an appearance.

Now that you know several key tips regarding what makes (or breaks) evergreen content, you may be wondering what type of content performs best in the evergreen arena. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for the type of content that will always find relevance to a significant audience regardless of the passage of time. Some content formats, however, do tend to find themselves staying relevant and useful long after their author has clicked the “publish” button. This includes:

  • Tutorials and how-to content
  • Historical information and “origin” content
  • Curated resource lists (“top ten” content with long-term relevance)
  • Informational posts or encyclopedic content (“ultimate resource” or “complete guide”)
  • Single FAQ industry-specific content (pick one frequently asked question and thoroughly answer it)

Once you have become more adept at creating content that is designed to be evergreen, you will find it easier to adjust attributes of your writing more toward longevity and relevance over time. As you move forward with the creation of evergreen content, you can even go back over old material to see if anything can be re-purposed and turned into content that can stand the test of time.

The development and growth of a portfolio filled with evergreen content only ensures that your material will continue to appear in search results, providing more traffic, visibility, and popularity for your blog or other online content.

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27 SEO Strategies to Keep Your Content Competitive

Many things can be measured in terms of days, weeks, months, or even years.  The constantly evolving nature of the Internet, however, demands a more accelerated time frame, where things are measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.  What may be popular, trending, or successful right now could become a distant memory tomorrow.

This continual ebb and flow in the online world requires that online marketers and website designers perform site optimization in a way that ensures as much longevity as possible – despite the fact that all too often, the words “longevity” and “online” generally don’t complement each other very well.

For the most part, SEO has consisted of three primary methods: (1) continuing to use SEO that has worked in the past (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), (2) integrating strategies that are overlooked and underutilized in an attempt to create a fresh perspective with content that is rarely seen, and (3) leaping ahead of the herd by employing innovative techniques that have not been time-tested or vetted through other means.

With all that in mind, how do you know which SEO methods to use on your own website to drive traffic, generate interest, and cultivate a base of prospects (readers, visitors, customers, etc.) that will keep coming back?  You really don’t know, and the best way to implement SEO strategies into your website design, online marketing, content writing, or other Internet-based activity is by finding out what’s out there and giving it a try.  What works for someone else may not work for you, and what has failed miserably for another site could propel yours into an unheard of dimension of popularity and success.

Here are 27 SEO strategies and techniques for you to examine, contemplate, and integrate into your website to increase your exposure and attract more interest in what you are offering, whether it’s information, ideas, products, or services:

  1. Be creative.  Never follow someone else’s lead, because you’ll always be in second place, at best.
  2. Include ALT text for every image or graphic that is contained on your site.  Images are part of the site’s content, so a description like “Luftwanstelbadtt, Germany’s oldest castle” is much more search engine pleasing than “001_39023.JPG,” and it also lets visitors know what the image is supposed to be if they have a slower-loading internet connection or the image becomes broken for some reason.
  3. Use long-tail keywords as often as you can.  By using a more specific keyword (long-tail), you are ensuring that visitors with both general and specific search terms can find your site.  (An example of a long-tail keyword would be “living on a budget as a single mother” rather than “living on a budget” or “budget living.”)
  4. Do not use deceptive anchor text with links to your site.  Google deciphers linkage and attempts to determine if the landing page a user reached is actually the one they wanted (based on the link they clicked), and if it was not, the website can be penalized.
  5. Determine your keywords, research them thoroughly, and place them naturally.  Don’t stuff keywords, don’t use keywords that aren’t relevant to the page’s data, and don’t include them in content where they don’t seem to fit.
  6. Stay away from selling links on your site.  If you do, make sure you nofollow them.  And it’s probably just a better idea not to sell them in the first place, because Google will likely change their mind on the nofollow and make it noselling.
  7. Blog often, and promote your posts through your website, social media pages, and other online outlets.  Make sure your blogs are relevant to your industry and link to pages on your site where appropriate.
  8. Do not employ page coding strategies that prevent a user from clicking/using the BACK button.  Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has an article on this and specifically refers to performing this underhanded tactic, where an advertisement-laden page is displayed instead of the previous page the user had been viewing.
  9. Establish a valuable linkfolio (“link portfolio”) by placing links back to your site on popular, reputable, and authoritative online locations.  These can be your social media sites, industry-specific directories (not “free for all” directories), through the use of affiliate marketing, and cataloging sites.
  10. Optimize your above-the-fold content for quick loading and minimal advertising.  Site visitors want their information “right now,” and if they have to wait to see it, they’ll go somewhere else in a hurry.  This tip is especially critical for mobile versions of your website (because Google seems to think that, based on user data, mobile phones can deliver information faster than the speed of NOW).
  11. Provide high quality, in-depth content.  This is straight from the search engine’s mouth.  According to Google, users are turning to search engines more often for information on a much broader scale than before, and they are seeking bigger quantities of data.
  12. Create a sitemap.  Both users and search engines like sitemaps.
  13. Don’t embed links in JavaScript and Flash plug-ins.  Search engine crawlers cannot find these links, and embedding links into a plug-in that a user may have disabled for security reasons may prevent them from finding your content.
  14. Make sure your website’s pages load quickly and accurately.  Nothing is more frustrating than waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a page to load, and when it does – it’s only half there.
  15. Avoid faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors on mobile versions of your site.  Again, from Google, regarding misdirection of links that provide a generic or main page result rather than the intended page when a mobile user clicks a specific link.
  16. Make use of keywords that are phrased in a way that real people would use them.  Don’t use “Denver residential sanitation repurposing facility” if you are a “trash recycling business for homes in Denver.”  People search for things in the way they would be said in a spoken conversation, not in a way that uses technical jargon, buzzwords, and officious-sounding titles.
  17. Make use of page titles and Meta descriptions in ways that emphasize your specific focus (via keyword insertion).  If someone is searching for “rare cat breeds” they won’t find you if your titles and descriptions say “exotic feline genus and species.”  (This is part of the “real world phrasing of keywords” tip.)
  18. Find, read, and use as many free SEO tools and resources as you can.  While a great deal of the “expert” SEO advice out there may not truly be expert, it can still be useful.  Learn all you can about SEO and use what sounds logical.
  19. Avoid duplicate content, period.  Google’s Penguin update targeted sameness in website content, and that could be anything from copying text from another site or even duplicating your own content from page to page.  Don’t do it.  You will be punished.
  20. Develop and publish resource and information-only pages on your website about industry or niche specific data.  Create something that WANTS to be shared and linked to.  Not only can this boost your status as an expert or authority figure, it can also help generate popularity via linking.
  21. Don’t include an internal link (to another page on the site) on any page on your website unless it’s important to do so.  Just because your site has 10,000 pages doesn’t mean links to all of them have to be on every page of your site.
  22. Create content for people.  The ultimate judge, jury, and executioner for your website’s content is the person who visits it, not the search engine that crawls it.  If you hold the #1 spot on Google and your content sucks, people will visit #2 or #10 or #1,000 because they are providing what the USER wants to see.
  23. Observe what your competitors are doing and learn from them.  Whether your competitors are wildly successful or flaming failures, you can learn something from what they are doing.
  24. Develop a unique and creative branding scheme to set yourself apart from the pack.  If your brand, company, content, or site is plain Jane, who is going to remember you five seconds after they leave your site?
  25. Create hyper-local content wherever possible.  If you have a target audience that is geographically restricted, capitalize on that in every way possible.
  26. Create longer content, blog posts, articles, etc.  Longer content is ranking better on Google than shorter content on the same subjects, so write more (and make sure it’s quality stuff).
  27. Make use of social signals within your site’s content.  Google is looking more and more at how users respond to a site and are taking that into consideration when it comes time to rank a site in search results.

Search engine optimization is not some mythical concept that gets bandied about by attendees at technology conventions.  It is a method of making your website as attractive to potential visitors as possible, getting them interested in what you have to offer, engaged in your content, and coming back for more.  The secondary goal of SEO is to make Google happy.  No website will likely ever reach THAT goal.

Making Branding Work: 27 Top Tips

Now that we have defined what a brand is, let’s move on to how to make a brand work for you and how to market your business in such a way that capitalizes on your brand, improves your branding capabilities, and increases your market exposure and visibility.

Here are 27 tips for making branding work for you and your company:

  1. Cater to your target market’s wants, not their needs.  Wants establish an emotional connection that goes beyond simple need, and it is how you can create a personal relationship with your customers and keep them coming back time and again.
  2. Create a mission statement that puts in words what the focus, aim, goal, or future direction of your company is, and the value your business can provide to consumers.
  3. Purchase your own domain name (if you haven’t already), and make sure the domain name has something to do with your company.  Make sure the name is as short as possible, easy to spell, and doesn’t have punctuation in the name (i.e., hyphens, underscores, etc.).
  4. If your company participates in local or regional events, trade shows, exhibits, fairs, or similar public activities, make sure you include a calendar on your website that tells people where you will be and when.  Invite the public to attend and visit you at the event.
  5. Create a periodic newsletter available via e-mail and distribute it to subscribers.  Make sure you included ample information about your company, products, services, or other industry information specific to your brand.
  6. Create an opportunity for human connection by telling your company’s story, thus making it become a tangible construct rather than a vague concept in your prospects’ minds.
  7. Create a memorable tagline that conveys what your company does in as few words as possible.
  8. Make sure your company has a great name.  Also make sure your company name doesn’t invoke images of other companies or have any negative associations with the word or words used for the name.  (You wouldn’t want to call a luxury cruise ship – or a communications company – the Titanic, would you?)
  9. Provide content on your primary website that is strictly informational – no marketing, promoting, or selling involved.  Do this on a regular (at least once a week) basis.
  10. Put your customers first.  Yes, you are here to make money but without your client base, you have no income.
  11. Ask for help when (if) you need it.  Tackling branding and marketing schemes on your own can be daunting and you may not be up to the task simply due to lack of knowledge or experience.  This can be a fatal mistake, so if you find yourself treading water to stay afloat, make use of the variety of diverse professional services out there that can help you position your brand, market your company, and increase your revenue.
  12. When you provide informational material on your primary website (see #9), make sure it demonstrates your authority and expertise in your industry or niche.
  13. Establish a blog and make regular posts that focus on your company’s industry, products, or services.  (Make sure you add a new entry to your blog at least 3 times a week, if not more.)
  14. Do not follow the crowd.  Be different and stand out from your competitors.
  15. Develop a great logo for your company, and make sure it doesn’t resemble anyone else’s in any way that could cause brand confusion.
  16. Put your company’s logo, brand name, products, and services on as many social networking sites as possible.  Make sure you update your social media sites regularly and keep your content changing to reach out to different types of consumers.
  17. Be consistent with how you advertise and market your brand image.  If you have a dozen different logos, taglines, slogans, and other means of associating with your company, that only creates confusion.  Find one and stick with it.
  18. Make sure your promotional efforts don’t appear to be “used car salesman slick-pitches.”  You want your marketing to demonstrate your value, not emphasize your greed.
  19. Be accessible.  Provide your company’s physical address, and include a phone number where the phone is answered by a living human rather than a recorded message.  Not being able to connect with a company is extremely frustrating and has turned many customers away from businesses that are stand-offish.
  20. Offer something for free.  Whether you offer a “gift with purchase” or free do-it-yourself instructions, make sure you give something to your target market at no cost at all.  (This is a great way to get otherwise uninterested people to sample what your company does.)
  21. Determine what you are REALLY selling to your target market.  Someone once said that people don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes.  What are your customers buying from you?  Figure that out and then determine how to reinforce your brand by tying in what you sell with what you are.
  22. Be committed to your company, products, services, ideas, goals, and mission.  If your heart isn’t in your business, you’ve already failed.
  23. If you have a restricted target audience (elderly, female, geographically limited, truck-driving, married, cat-loving, etc.), make sure your company’s image and marketing efforts specifically focus on that audience.
  24. Know your competition.  Study what your competitors do and how well they do it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is  not a phrase you want to apply to your competition because what you don’t know CAN hurt you through their successful efforts versus your failure to be aware of their strategies.
  25. Make every customer feel like they are receiving VIP treatment.  By giving them a “special” or “exclusive” experience, you’ve turned them into a customer for life.
  26. If you are changing your branding scheme, do not implement it in pieces.  This creates confusion.  Roll out your new branding package when you are able to do so for all aspects of your business.
  27. Make sure your company, logo, and brand are associated with a “face.”  This can be you, another employee, your pet, a mascot, a fictional creation, or whatever you choose – but develop a visual personality to go with your branding package.

Above all else when you are marketing your company to the public, never – ever – settle for “good enough.”  Once you decide that your efforts are “good enough,” you’ve committed your company to the grave and are just waiting for it to expire.  Aim high – higher than you think you can go – and then constantly and consistently do everything you can to achieve those aims.

43 Lead Generation Tips To Boost Conversion Rates

If you have an online marketplace, one of your biggest concerns is how to generate leads that will convert to sales.  Don’t deny it, because if you did – you’d be lying.  The existence of an online marketplace means that you’re interested in making money, and money comes from good leads that turn into good customers.

So how do you get people to visit your site, learn about what you’re selling, and buy it?  Oh, and it doesn’t matter whether you are selling information, ideas, products, or services – you are still marketing something and you still want someone to pay for it.  Generating leads isn’t as simple as creating your site or landing page and watching the dollars come rolling in.  You do have to work for it.

Here are 43 tips for online lead generation that will help you get traffic to your site:

  1. Use engaging, valuable, original, and informative content on your landing pages.
  2. Be creative and specific with your calls to action.  (“Click here” or “contact us” are SO boring; use relevant anchor text so you can boost your SEO.)
  3. Your landing page has about 5 seconds to keep your visitors’ interest.  Make those seconds count.
  4. Don’t put anything above the fold that isn’t vitally important to what you are offering (whether you are offering a product or service for sale, a newsletter to sign up for, a publication to download, or something else entirely).
  5. Give your landing pages short and high-impact headlines that snatch a visitor’s attention.
  6. Don’t ask visitors to BUY anything; tell them how what you’re offering can help them solve a problem, meet a need, or accomplish a goal.
  7. It’s not about you, it’s about your site visitors.  Keep yourself out of the equation.
  8. Prove your credibility.  (Don’t ask me how – that’s for another blog at another time!)
  9. ALWAYS have a landing page for whatever you are marketing.
  10. Avoid generalities (“it’s the best”) and be specific about why yours is better than your competitors.  Consumers already know that companies think their products and services are ‘the best’ – so you need to dig deeper and specify what, exactly, about your offering is superior to that of your competition.
  11. Provide content (articles, information, etc.) on your site that have nothing to do with selling at all.  This content should focus instead on letting people know that you are an expert in your industry or that you are the most knowledgeable about the product, service, or idea you’re marketing.
  12. If you ask people to fill out a form, give them a good reason why they should.
  13. Your landing pages should be very minimalist.  Avoid any links, information, or content that is not 100% focused on convincing the visitor that they need to take action NOW to obtain what you’re trying to give them.
  14. Do not use descriptive words for your products or services that are already overused.
  15. Do not use technical jargon or industry buzzwords.  The average person will not understand them and will therefore not understand what’s so great about what you are offering.
  16. If people fill out a form, reward them for it.  This can be with a discount, promotional offer, free newsletter, or anything of some ‘value’ that makes it worth your visitors’ time to complete your form.
  17. Locate sites that offer products or services that would enhance yours if paired together and arrange a mutually beneficial linking strategy.
  18. Do not hide your calls to action in your web page design; they are meant to stand out, so make sure they do.
  19. Less is more when it comes to landing page design.  Really.  Less is more.  Start chanting that.
  20. Monitor the ways in which people reach your site (referrals, direct URLs, search engines, etc.) and capitalize on those methods.
  21. Create landing page keywords that are extremely specific to what you are offering.  Long-tail keywords work most effectively for this strategy because they narrow down the pool of searchers to those that have a focused and specific interest in your offer.
  22. Use keywords that are designed with “real world” usage in mind.  Make sure your keywords reflect how people enter words and phrases into a search engine.  In other words, select keywords and phrases based on ‘conversational’ choices rather than ‘algorithm’ choices.
  23. Never link your calls to action to your home page.  Your CTAs need to go to very specific landing pages that contain very specific offers.
  24. Create a blog, post to it regularly, and link back to your landing pages where appropriate.
  25. Be chatty about the benefits of what you are marketing.  If your product or service has several fantastic features that totally set it apart from the competition, say so.  Be specific.  (But don’t include your greatness when it’s the same as your competitions’ greatness.)
  26. If you can do so, let your visitors know how many other people have downloaded, purchased, obtained, or contracted the products or services you are selling.  If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t they?
  27. Use your blog to increase your credibility as an authority or expert on what you’re selling.  (This builds trust and trust makes sales.)
  28. Sign up for as many quality affiliate marketing programs you can find.
  29. Create something that is the “first and only” and let people know you’ve got it and they can get it, too.  Exclusivity is a great motivator for many potential consumers.
  30. Use e-mail as a marketing method (but don’t spam!).
  31. Offer things that are exclusive, rare, or in high demand.  This ties in slightly with #29 in that exclusivity can motivate people to engage with your calls to action and/or enter your marketing funnel simply to have something that no one else does (or that everybody else wants, in the case of ‘high demand’ offerings).
  32. When you do create engagement through an online form or sign-up page, redirect the visitor to a “thank you” page and add more information on that page than just your appreciation (put more CTAs, product data, freebies, etc. on it).
  33. Make use of “free” in what you offer – free trials, free subscriptions, free newsletters, etc.
  34. To compel a more timely decision, add “limited time” to your offers.  Along with creating offers that are in high demand or exclusively available to a select few, a time limit can inspire action for some people simply because they do not want to miss out on something.
  35. Use multi-staged calls to action.  People go through different stages when they are contemplating a purchase, and if you multi-stage your CTAs, you are progressively directing their decision closer and closer toward a final YES.  This strategy can also help you overcome those indecisive consumers who fall out of a sales funnel, abandon a shopping cart, or simply choose not to make a choice until they have been pulled farther along toward the action you want them to take.
  36. Place calls to action everywhere you can (but don’t make them “used car salesman” obvious or make your web page look like a carnival freak show), and definitely put them above the fold.  For how NOT to place CTAs, visit Ling’s Cars (and prepare for bleeding eyes).
  37. Don’t use deception between what your call to action says the visitor will be seeing on the landing page and what they actually see.  This will instantly destroy your credibility.
  38. Include social sharing links so people will spread the word.  With social media playing a significant role in the online lives of many people these days, providing social sharing options allows you to obtain greater visibility and audience saturation simply through ‘word of mouth’ advertising.
  39. Don’t offer more than ONE thing on each landing page.  Restricting your landing page content to a single subject or offering will ensure that your visitor’s focus is on exactly what you want it to be on; also, if you present too many pieces of information at one time, it’s very likely that your visitors will make no choice at all.
  40. Keep your online forms short and sweet.  The more information people have to give, the less likely they are to give it.  (See #12 and #16 for more tips about online forms.)
  41. Don’t use the default SUBMIT button for forms; make it creative and make it specific to what they are going to get when they do complete the form and submit their data.
  42. Add customer testimonials and references when and where you can.  These types of information let your visitors know that other people have already taken advantage of your offering(s) and are glad they did.
  43. Test your different methods of acquiring leads frequently and discard those that aren’t working favorably.  Regular testing of your lead generation methods will help you redistribute those that work well, refine those that seem to be missing something, and either completely revamp or remove those that aren’t generating leads at all.

One of the biggest things to consider when marketing online is that your leads do not always come from the same source.  One person may come directly from a referral link on another industry-specific website while a different person may arrive at your landing page because they used certain words in a search engine query.  Make your lead generation techniques as diverse and varied as the people who will be finding you, and always – always – give them quality, information, relevancy, and appealing content FIRST.

Above or Below the Fold?

You have figured out a way to get traffic to your website or landing pages through online lead generation, now you need to find that magic formula that will provide you with through-the-roof conversion rates.  Guess what?  There is no magic formula. 

Converting visitors – even those that are highly qualified leads – is part of your overall marketing strategy that, like everything else, requires effort.

If only it were as easy as putting a particular phrase on your landing page or making a “buy now” button a certain color, and everyone who saw it would instantly be compelling to buy, buy, buy.  There are aspects of your website design that can be instantly compelling, but the results they achieve are usually in regard to instantly compelling your visitors to continue reading your content or move along to another site that is more appealing, engaging, or interesting than yours.

Statistically, when an internet surfer reaches your landing page, you have about 4 to 7 seconds to keep them on that page.  What this means in the most basic and logical sense is that your “above the fold” content has to be out-of-this-world.  If the first few pieces of content on your page don’t immediately grab their attention, your visitors will quickly lose interest.  This applies even if they are targeted prospects or qualified leads.  People using the Internet to obtain information or make purchases still make decisions that are measured in seconds, because of the immediacy that the Internet provides.

But does a call to action above the fold really make that much of a difference in conversion rates?  Some Internet bloggers and so-called experts claim that above-the-fold content has no bearing on conversion rates, while others will vehemently insist that if your important content and calls to action are not above the fold, you’re losing leads, prospects, and sales with every passing second.

In an article titled The “Above the Fold” Myth Debunked, Eugen Oprea discusses some specific examples where CTAs were placed below the fold and resulted in increased conversion rates.  He claims that the fold doesn’t matter because people know how to scroll.  Yes, and people know how to stop at stop signs, not beat their wives and children, avoid using illicit drugs, eat healthy, balance their checkbooks, flush the toilet when they’re finished going to the bathroom, wash their hands before eating, and stay below the posted speed limit when driving, but that doesn’t mean they do it.

The majority of people searching for something on the internet determine their interest in a page by what is visible on the screen when the page loads, meaning what they see “above the fold.”  Just because someone CAN scroll definitely does not mean that they WILL scroll (and more often than not, they don’t).

Eugen Oprea’s article also refers to what he calls “the cloud box,” that annoying floating advertisement that follows you down the side (or middle, even worse!) of the page when you DO decide to scroll for a second or two.  He claims this is wildly successful in terms of getting more leads and generating more interest.  In my opinion, it is wildly off-putting because it’s just more crap in the page that I have to look at while I’m trying to look at the content I came to the page for.

Eugen’s article page also displays a “sign up” window of some kind at some point during your viewing, and it is incredibly deceptive – there are no “X” boxes in the corners or a “no thanks” button or any apparent way to get rid of the window without signing up for whatever it was pitching…I didn’t bother reading it…but if you click outside the window, it goes away; good thing, too, ’cause when it appeared I was ready to “X” the entire browser tab to get rid of it.

KISSmetrics, a respected source for all things SEO and marketing related, also claims that calls to action above the fold have no bearing on conversion rates.  However, unlike Eugen Oprea, they qualify this statement by saying that placing your call to action above the fold is irrelevant IF your content is totally awesome (i.e., appealing enough to make the site visitor want to continue reading below the fold).  KISSmetrics actually claims that the fold has no bearing at all on conversions, whether CTAs are above or below it.

A study to determine fold placement for CTA success reported that long-copy content detailing the value and benefits of what is being marketed to the site visitor is actually what makes or breaks the visitor’s decision to stay on the page, keep reading below the fold, and activate a call to action at the bottom of the page.

An Unbounce study on landing page call-to-action placement determined that there are actually several different ways you can locate a CTA on your landing page and they can have varying effects on conversion depending on how you lead your site visitor to the finish line.  (They are, however, also advocates of the “people WILL scroll” school of thought, despite the fact that studies have determined that less than 20% of site visitors will scroll.)

Despite these examples that claim either that the fold doesn’t matter or that below the fold calls to action are either just as successful or more successful than above the fold CTAs, other industry and marketing analysts say otherwise.  An older article on DemandGenReport.com says that above-the-fold CTAs increase conversion rates exponentially.  A Boostability article says that a call to action is a “must have” for content above the fold to generate more leads and conversions.

There are many, many more examples of marketing articles and information that support above-the-fold calls to action as the most appropriate location to generate better leads and increase your conversion rates.  Ultimately, the choice of placement is left in your hands.  Regardless of whether you decide to go above or below the fold with your calls to action, always make sure you have high quality, original, and appealing content to attract and keep your visitors’ attention.  If you lose that, you’ve already lost the potential conversion, no matter what you are marketing.

The Paradox of Choice: Real or Not?

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less is a book by psychologist, Barry Schwartz.  In a nutshell, the book discusses why and how multiple options create stress, confusion, and a lack of decision-making ability on the part of consumers.  The first part of this post deals with real-world scenarios.  For the section on how the Paradox of Choice relates to online buying decisions and the effect it has on digital commerce, skip ahead to the section titled The Paradox of Choice and Online Commerce.

In a supposedly world-renowned, researcher-curated economic study where many different types of jams were offered to customers for sampling prior to making a purchase, people faced with so many decisions ultimately ended up not making a decision at all.  They felt stressed out and confused over the large variety of options, weren’t sure which single flavor to pick, and didn’t pick anything at all.  (Also known and referred to as The Jelly Experiment.)

There are supporters and detractors to the applicability of the Paradox of Choice when applied to consumer purchasing decisions.

In an online article titled More is More: Why the Paradox of Choice Might Be a Myth, The Atlantic Magazine presents a debunking of Schwartz’ theory.  They claim that in “several studies” attempting to replicate the results of The Jelly Experiment, the end result was that offering lots of extra choices made no difference either way.  The Atlantic’s article also claims that offering a single-option actually produces the results that Schwartz is claiming via the Paradox of Choice.

To demonstrate how one option creates a “no sales at all” result, The Atlantic cited Williams-Sonoma and how they nearly doubled sales of their $279 bread maker.  At one time, the $279 bread maker was the only one being sold by Williams-Sonoma, and they were not really generating noteworthy sales on the item.  They introduced a $429 bread maker and sales of the lower-priced version almost doubled (and practically no one purchased the $429 one).

Daniel Mochon penned a single-option aversion paper for the Journal of Consumer Behavior.  Mochon claims that when consumers are faced with a “take it or leave it” option consisting of one particular brand or item, they become more interested in shopping around for comparisons to make sure they are getting the best product, best deal, and best option.  Conversely, when they are presented with 20 different flavors or brands of potato chips, for example, the numerous options actually heighten distinctions and give us a greater and more confident sense of surety when making a final purchasing decision.

Mochon’s explanation for this is that by offering a much wider range of options, we are actually giving the consumer the impression that they have explored every possible option (on the shelf in front of them), and are making the best possible decision based on their ability to make comparisons on-the-fly.

While all of this explains the Paradox of Choice and how real or effective it is in real-world examples where consumers can see, touch, taste, and smell the options being presented to them, how does it affect online purchasing decisions?

The Paradox of Choice and Online Commerce

Real-world applications for determining how many options are simply too many can be made easily via a kiosk, sample counter, or simple survey.  Determining whether or not the Paradox of Choice is real in online commerce, however, is another thing entirely.  Companies may not have the time, staff, and budget to spend untold hours performing market research before coming to a conclusion on the best way to market, display, and sell their wares on the internet.  This means that, in most cases, a refinement of shopping options or marketing strategies is done on an as-needed or on-the-fly basis, when one particular method isn’t working and gets modified or replaced by an alternate method.

According to a Smart Insights article on the Paradox of Choice:

Less really is more when it comes to your customer’s satisfaction.

The study of how and why people make decisions, especially as those decisions relate to consumer purchasing, is not a new field of inquiry.  There is research dating back to the 1950s that examines whether or not the number of purchasing options impacts a consumer’s decision, and how more or less likely a consumer is to make a decision at all when faced with a greater number of selections or fewer.

A research paper published by Iyengar & Lepper in 2000 discusses When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? [PDF document] as part of a section on personality processes and individual differences.  This study begins:

On the face of it, this supposition [“the more choices, the better”] seems well supported by decades of psychological theory and research that has repeatedly demonstrated, across many domains, a link between the provision of choice and increases in intrinsic motivation, perceived control, task performance, and life satisfaction.

The Iyengar & Lepper study conducted field and laboratory research trials to evaluate choices made by potential consumers when faced with a varied number of options, as well as when faced with a different number of options that consisted of very similar and very dissimilar characteristics.  An example of the latter would be when you are faced with 20 different brands of plain potato chips of varied types (wavy, plain, kettle, salted, etc.), or 20 different flavors of chips offered by the same brand (sour cream and onion, BBQ, cheddar, wasabi, jalapeno, salt and pepper, etc.).

The conclusion reached by the Iyengar & Lepper study is that while people may initially prefer to be faced with a greater number of options (which appears to give them more power over their final decision), they often fail to choose decisively and confidently, or fail to choose at all.  A smaller number of choices produces the greatest level of post-selection satisfaction and almost always culminates in a decision being made by the consumer.

A perfect (and perfectly frightening) example of too many options can be found at the website for Ling’s Cars.  A word of warning – before you open the page, turn down your computer speakers.  There is quite literally so much information on the home page that you simply don’t know where to look or click first and, if you are like so many other people, you choose instead to just click away from the website altogether.

Some marketing experts recommend that you design an online landing page with some information and options for your visitor, but not too many.  The blog over at Kissmetrics provides The Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page.  There are many other experts, however, that would disagree with Kissmetrics’ opinion.

Those dissenting experts mentioned above hold the opinion that a landing page should display nothing more than what serves the page’s purpose.  The purpose of the page is to get your visitor to buy something.  There should be no navigation links, options, menus, calls to action, write-ups, or anything superfluous on the page that does not say (literally and figuratively) “buy me now.”

This ‘less is more’ theory is certainly in line with some aspects of the Paradox of Choice, but oversimplifying a landing page by giving your visitor only one option that consists of spending money may be just as much of a deterrent as the carnival of the grotesque at Ling’s Cars.

If you do simplify your options to the point of having no options at all other than the one most beneficial to your business, you need to make sure it is as much of a no-brainer non-choice as possible.  Make it impossible for your visitor to walk away from what you are offering.

Conclusion

Finding out what makes consumers tick – and what makes them click – is an endeavor that will continue to occupy the minds of market researchers, digital marketers, business owners, and other professionals for some time to come.  There are plenty of great resources for guiding you in the process of getting clicks and conversions, so make sure you do your own research, too.  Pay attention to your analytics, perform testing on content and CTAs, and keep fine-tuning your marketing strategies until you have ones that work best for your business.

Creating Ideal Blog Content – Is That Possible?

When it comes to publishing great content online, there are no hard and fast rules that need to be followed.  Instead, you can find a variety of guides that offer suggestions for creating content that is optimized to achieve the best search engine positioning and retain the attention of your readers as much as possible.

There are a few key qualities of ‘ideal content’ that do, however, tend to be – as much as anything can be – written in stone when it comes to what you should or should not do to churn out appealing (to search engines and searchers) content.  This article is specifically tailored toward blog content rather than online articles, white papers, reviews, or other information because blogs offer their author more latitude in terms of what, when, why, and how they can be written and published.

Some of the semi-immutable qualities of good (or great) blog posts follow commonly accepted ‘rules’ for characteristics such as:

  • content length
  • subject line
  • call to action
  • salesmanship
  • originality
  • singular subject matter

Content Length

When blogging first became popular on the internet, most blog posts were 200 to 500 words.  Anything over 500 words was considered by experts and amateurs alike to be too wordy to hold the attention of site visitors and blog readers.  Beyond that, there was no guidance provided on whether or not a ‘too short’ blog could equally detract from the appeal of your personal or professional blog content.  There still remains scant definitive information but you can put together a reasonable facsimile of what is considered ‘ideal’ based on historical content performance statistics.

Over the years, the ‘desirable length’ of blog posts increased to 500 to 800 words, and then later to 1,000 words or more.  Some content analysts and SEO experts have even recommended that the ideal blog length exceed 2,000 words.

Longer articles are typically well-researched with plenty of data to back them up. They serve as credible sources to journalists and bloggers that link back to the article as a source. Rather than a quick summary with one statistic, a long article takes the time to explain why and flesh out ideas. The credibility of the website that publishes the article mixed with the link juice given from other sites referencing it brings the post to the top of search engines.

Longer blog content does perform better in search results, especially now that search engines have become more intuitive in interpreting what the blog is about and whether or not it will be helpful to the searcher based on their input query.  Despite search engine performance, however, long content does not necessarily fare well with your audience – mostly because they lose attention quickly.

Ultimately, your readers should be the ones to whom you are writing your content, not Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Dogpile, or some other search engine.  Content that is popular among readers will eventually rise to the top based on clicks, referrals, sharing, and back links.  This means that your content should be exactly how long it needs to be in order for you to get your point across and conclude your message effectively.  If you do so in 200 words, that’s your ‘ideal’ length.  If it takes you 20,000 words, perhaps you should write a book.  Just kidding!  Write for your audience and give them everything they need to know – in 200 or 2,000 (or 20,000) words.

Subject Line

According to many experts, the subject line is the single most important piece of your blog post.  If you don’t attract attention with the subject line, you won’t draw in the readers needed to examine your useful and engaging content and then share it with others (thus adding to your popularity and appeal factor with search engines).

An important factor in creating subject lines is that they be accurate in describing what your visitors will find within the blog’s content itself.  False and misleading titles simply to get clicks will quickly find themselves lost the internet shuffle, even if the content itself might have been otherwise useful or applicable (despite the improper title).

You can find some good advice on creating blog titles that catch your audience’s attention and motivate them to click their way into your content to find out more.

Call To Action

Should a blog simply be an informational piece of content or should it also pitch a service or product?  This section ties in with the Salesmanship section below. Most blogging analysts recommend that you avoid peppering your blog with CTAs because that isn’t the purpose or point of your blog.

A blog is an informal and more personal way to educate and inform your audience.  It gives you a platform upon which you can introduce your brand, business, or personality without the stuffy ‘rules’ required of more professional means of communication.  You can develop a unique style and tone that appeals to your readers, and it helps you establish authority in your market, niche, or industry.

For those reasons (and more), you should avoid CTAs in your blog unless they are necessary or if you are using them in a way that does not employ salesmanship (other than in a very subtle way).  If the blog is a longer write-up or review of a product or service you offer, feel free to add a CTA encouraging readers to learn more on the product’s page.  Don’t, however, make your blog post look like a carnival of advertising just to try to get people to click income-producing links on your website.

Salesmanship

Salesmanship should be left out of blog posts.  Blogs are primarily to educate and inform your audience, and they won’t be educated if your blog consists of sales language and links to buy, buy, buy whatever it is you are selling.  Use your blog platform to establish yourself as an authority in your industry so people will want to buy from you.

Provide in-depth information about products or services, as well as tips or tricks for making them more effective or efficient, and entice consumers to seek you out for information and offerings.  Provide a face, voice, and style in your content that appeals to your audience and encourages them to spend more time with your blogs learning more about you and your company.  Don’t sell to them.  Online consumers are already bombarded with advertising no matter where they go on the internet – so leave it out of your blogs.

Originality

Original content is appealing content, simply because of the fact that no one has seen it yet.  The more original your content, the more appealing it will be to your target audience.  Provide them with new insights on a topic, new ways to do things, more efficient ways to think about problems or solutions to those problems.  Give them something they haven’t seen yet, and they will come back again and again to see more of your content.

If you are rehashing an old idea or modifying content that has already made the internet rounds, make sure you present it in a fresh and interesting way.  Don’t simply copy and paste other content and hope that it will impress your site visitors.  Even if you are offering a curated list of information, make sure you add your own style and unique voice to your writing.  There are many blogs online today that draw a crowd simply because the writer is appealing – not the content itself.

Singular Subject Matter

Practically all experts on blogging recommend that your blog posts focus on one specific subject (per post), rather than bouncing around from topic to topic within the content.  By writing about one topic at a time, you will be better able to provide rich and informative content to your readers that keeps their attention, keeps them reading, and brings them back to your blog in the future.

If you are struggling to come up with a subject for your content, check out a Blog Title Generator by IMPACT Branding & Design.  The top of the generator page has a ‘blog about’ line that can be refreshed to provide you with a subject for your content, then you can use the title generator to find simple and focused titles for your blog posts.  (ShoutMeLoud also offers a list of title generators and blog analyzers that you may find helpful, as well.)

When you provide blog content that does get a lot of attention and finds itself passed around quite a bit, capitalize on that and create more content around that subject.  If you have a specific audience for your blogs, spend some time finding out what they want from you – and give it to them.  One of the best ways to attract and keep your audience is to know who they are.