Tag Archives: calls to action

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.

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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.