February 27, 2015
Google announced yesterday they’ll be making a change to their rankings that will have “a significant impact in [their] search results.” Mobile-friendliness will be a much more important ranking factor and will affect Google searches worldwide starting April 21, 2015. Google claims that the positive outcome of this update will be that “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” This is consistent with statistics Google has previously touted:
Announcing that mobile friendliness will become a permanent part of their algorithm comes as no surprise, however Google isn’t known to give early warnings so it’s very likely that this change is going to have big effects on the search results landscape. Is your site ready?
You have less than 2 months to make sure your site is responsive and mobile-friendly or you may see a negative impact on your organic traffic. Not sure if your site is responsive? Check here with Google’s Mobile Friendly Tool. In light of this change, our responsive design and development team is taking on a limited number of accelerated projects to help our clients beat this April 21st deadline. If you’re interested in learning more about this process and how your site could benefit, contact us today.
January 23, 2015
Have you received a message in your Google Webmaster Tools inbox like the one below recently? If so, you’re not alone. Just a few days ago, Google started sending out large-scale notifications via email and Webmaster Tools, warning non-mobile-friendly sites that their pages “will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”
So just what does this mean? Historically, Google has only notified supposed “mobile-friendly” sites when they had mobile usability issues. Now, with Google sending out these warnings in such a mass scale, it seems that the mobile-friendly ranking factors they’ve been testing for the past several months might be included into the overall algorithm in the near future. This move would make responsive web design more important than ever, as your mobile rankings could eventually differ widely from your desktop rankings.
To start fixing your problems, you’ll want to follow Google’s checklist:
- Find problematic pages.
- Log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and navigate to the “Mobile Usability” section under the “Search Traffic” left-nav option.
- Here, Google will give you a breakdown of the pages they deem to have mobile usability errors and will list out the specific errors so you can work on problems individually.
- Also utilize the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool to test your site speed and usability issues on a per-page basis. Again, Google lists out errors individually and even offers a “show how to fix” option to help walk you through what needs to happen to make certain elements responsive.
- Learn more about mobile-friendly design
- Google offers a pretty expansive “Web Fundamentals” reference guide for designing responsive sites. After you’ve made a list of all of your problematic pages from Step 1, use this guide to help formulate the best strategy for your site on fixing these mobile usability issues. This reference guide has 114+ sections including: general principles, look and feel, building multi-device layouts, forms and user input, optimizing performance, and more.
- Fix mobile usability issues
- After you’ve compiled the list of pages with mobile usability errors and read up on how to fix them, start altering your site template/pages to improve their mobile usability as much as possible. After each improvement, re-test each site page with the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool and chart how your score improves. Every element you can improve will help better your score and can eventually work you back into Google’s good graces net you the “Mobile-friendly” tag for mobile searches like the screenshot below.
Now, there’s no need to panic. Lots of sites received the same warning you did and will all be working towards the same goal you are. In the meantime, you might see a small dip in your mobile rankings if Google’s overall algorithm does start taking mobile-friendly sites into account. If you fix most/all of the issues that Google highlights and move your site to fully responsive design, you will very likely qualify for the above “mobile-friendly” tag and may benefit from better rankings than competing sites that still aren’t mobile-friendly. If you have any questions about this post or would like to know more about our Responsive Design process, just let us know how we can help.
November 6, 2014
Some say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but in digital marketing land, we can all agree that it’s at least the most hectic time of the year. The holidays are upon us, which means it’s time to prepare for maxing out conversions on the most profitable days of the retail year.
Since this time can be so overwhelming, we’ve wrapped four early holiday presents for online retailers and marketers. Don’t forget to unwrap slowly and savor each gift!
1. Google has provided a handy online holiday shopping calendar.
Check out what last year’s shoppers were doing at this time of year. You’re welcome.
2. Make promotions obvious, and put them everywhere.
Customers are ready to spend money. Try not to spend a huge amount of energy on how masterfully-crafted or strategically-placed your promotions are. Unlike the rest of the year, shoppers will be looking very specifically for deals on your site, so the more obvious and ubiquitous they are, the better.
3. Don’t neglect the entire conversion funnel.
This is one mistake that is easy to make. So much time is spent on strategizing and creating holiday creative that thoroughly checking the entire conversion funnel is often overlooked.
Remember: most online retailers will have deals, including your competitors. This is a time when you’re more vulnerable than ever to losing a customer to the competition if the entire process from landing on the site to checking out isn’t a smooth ride. Checkout forms can and do have bugs. Editing a shopping cart should be as easy as tossing an item out of the cart at a department store. Are your most profitable items the easiest to find on product listing pages? Walk through the whole process dozens of times on your site, and have others do it, too. You could be missing some key opportunities to secure transactions.
4. Turn these would be one-time shoppers into lifetime customers.
Your store is worth more than a 50% Cyber Monday discount. This is a good time to reflect on what value you bring to a customer. Why should they not only love that jacket they got for 50% off on your site, but also love you? We’re existing in a time when the online shopping landscape is dominated by some key players like Amazon, so online retailers are looking at how to carve their own space by forming relationships and community with their customers.
Your customer service should be the absolute best, and not just because you want to use it as a trust value on your site.
Your site should be a hub of activity. Infuse personality and community into your site to a level that is appropriate for your audience. Social media helps gain a following, but you’re going to make the money on your website. Bring the community there.
Create a story, and invite customers to be a part of it. Many shoppers today crave authenticity and entertainment. You have a chance to reach them at this level and be their peer. It’s so easy to throw some products up on a website, but how do you make those products so relevant to your customer that they have no choice but to buy and come back?
There you have it: four gifts from Delegator to you this holiday season. It’s time to see this holiday season differently from the past. You know the opportunity is there. We’d be happy to come on the ride with you if any help is needed, but if not, happy holidays, and may the coupon codes be used aplenty.
September 4, 2014
Delegator.com is proud of the fact that we’re from Chattanooga. Although our client list has an international reach, we are excited to live, work, and play in Chattanooga, and enjoy working with companies who feel the same way.
The Chattanooga Maker Faire represents exactly what we love about this city: The hand-made, do-it-yourself attitude that has made our mid sized city one of the most exciting and vibrant places to live. It seems that articles are being written about us nearly every day, highlighting the cool tech movement we’ve got going on.
The Heart of Maker Faire
Maker Faire can be described as “the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.”
We’ll definitely be present at the Maker Faire Chattanooga, which is taking place October 11th at the First Tennessee Pavilion. This event will be the culmination of a fantastic StartUp Week planned for our city. If the the quality of applications to exhibit reflects on the quality of the event, this event is going to be a seriously awesome.
If you are a local maker and are looking for resources to help you get started on some awesome new projects, here are a few:
For more information about the event, click here. For information about Startup Week Chattanooga, click here.
August 21, 2014
Dynamic Remarketing gives advertisers the unique ability to remarket with banner ads that showcase the exact products the potential customer viewed. The caveat, as with all remarketing, is of course that the potential customer had to visit your site in the first place. The potential for this new type of remarketing is huge, and we encourage you to test a Dynamic Remarketing campaign against your existing Remarketing campaigns to see what works best for you or your clients.
As we started setting these campaigns up for our clients (and followed Google’s setup guide here), we ran into a few snags with the automatically generated lists created by Google. Upon further review, and a phone call or two to our Google reps, we now create our own lists through Google Analytics and do not rely on the accuracy of Google’s pre-populated lists for a couple of reasons:
- They didn’t work.
- When they did work, we tested their lists vs. ones that we created, and the list sizes were wildly different (and much smaller when created by Google).
How To Build Your Initial Lists
For each of these remarketing lists you build in Analytics, make sure to check the radio button “Create my own remarketing type using Segments.”
1. Pageview>1; Did Not Checkout
Our first list is essentially an “All Site Visitors” list but a little more targeted. First of all, we want to make sure they didn’t bounce right away, and second, we want to make sure they didn’t check out. To ensure they didn’t bounce, we set the Pageview to >1, and to ensure they didn’t checkout, set your Transactions to equal 0.
2. Abandoned Cart
Hopefully you already have an Abandoned Cart list you can use from your general Remarketing campaign. If not, setup this list in the same way we started #1. Under the Conditions section, you’ll want to add 2 Filters.
- Page contains [enter the portion of the URL that is specific to your cart]. Example: Page contains /cart.php
- Transactions per user are = to 0.
Essentially, the user added something to their cart but did not check out.
3. Product Page View
This list gets a little complicated. If you’re lucky enough to have a site that’s URL structure contains /product/ on every product page, you’re in for an easy list build! Just set Page contains /product/ and Transactions = 0.
If you are like some of our clients, you’ll need to get a little creative. For example, we picked specific silos of the site that were the most profitable and combined them in one list, so if a user hits any of those silos or pages and products but did not check out, they’ll be included in this list.
While these three ideas are not an exhaustive list of all the things you could test and build using Google Analytics and Dynamic Remarketing, this is generally where we like to start. Once you begin getting enough data, you can start optimizing and create new tests.
Have a great list idea that isn’t mentioned above? Please share it in the comments.
June 18, 2014
With Google getting more and more proactive in trying to provide the best possible search experience, keeping your site near the top of search rankings is as hard as it’s ever been. No longer can you easily game your way to the top, especially in competitive industries where multibillion-dollar companies crowd the first page. While high quality content still remains a big piece of the puzzle, overlooking technical SEO issues can leave you spinning your wheels rather than driving your way to the top. A lot of these issues have been around for a while, but (A) they continue to be overlooked and (B) they are more important than ever with Google closing the door on ways to game the system. Without further adieu, here are our top 10 SEO problems and how to solve them.
(1) Overlooking 301 redirect best practices
Search engines consider http://www.example.com and http://example.com to be two different websites. If your site has been linked to from other sites using a mixture of the two URLs you can be effectively splitting your ranking potential in half. The screenshot below, from Open Site Explorer, highlights this as the www version of the site has 143 unique root domains with links pointed towards it while the non-www version has 75.
Choose the domain you prefer (www or non-www) and implement a 301 redirect rule on all instances of the other, pointing that redirect to the one you choose, to consolidate all of your ranking potential.
(2) Duplicate Content
Similar to the first point, search engines have a harder time knowing which pages on your site deserve to rank if you have a lot of duplicate content. This duplicate content can stem from common CMS functionalities, most frequently from sorting parameters. This is an issue because search engines only have a finite amount of time to crawl your site on a regular basis, and too many duplicate content pages can cause them to weigh your pages less ideally than if you were serving just one “clean” version of a page.
Avoiding duplicate content is always going to depend on the CMS used and a variety of other factors, but one of the most common methods of telling search engines which page you want to rank is to have a <rel=canonical> link on all of the duplicate pages that point towards the page you do want to rank. As a general rule of thumb, every unique page should only be accessible under one URL. Alternatively, there are some cases where you would be better off using 301 redirects or excluding certain site pages via the robots.txt, but be sure to do your research first.
(3) Not Helping Search Engines
Again, search engines only have a fixed amount of time to crawl sites on the web. Helping them efficiently crawl your site ensures that all of your important pages get indexed. One common mistake is not having a robots.txt file for the site to identify which sections of your site you DON’T want the search engines crawling. An even bigger mistake is not having a sitemap.xml file, which helps show the search engines which pages on your site are the most important and which should be crawled most frequently.
Be sure to include a hand-built robots.txt file on the root of your server that includes pages/sections of your site that you don’t want appearing in search results. Also on the root of your server, be sure to include a curated sitemap.xml file that helps outline all the unique pages on your site. This will help Google crawl it more efficiently.
(4) Poor Meta Tag Usage
Some CMSes auto-generate page titles for you, but in many cases this is less than ideal. The <title> tag and meta description tag are two of the most important pieces of “off-page” information you can serve to search engines as it tells them how you would like your pages to show up in search results.
Where possible, handwrite your meta title and meta description for every page on your site. Keep meta titles under 65 characters and meta descriptions under 150 characters to avoid truncation. The title tag is an ideal place for the keyword(s) you want a given page to rank for. Think of the meta description as a headline. Try to convince a browser to click on your site rather than a competing site in the search results.
(5) Disorganized URL Structure
Presenting a clean URL structure to the search engines is very important. Search engines will look at your URLs to see how you silo off sections of the site. A search engine can follow that www.example.com/widgets/3-inch/heavy-duty/blue-widgets is a page about 3″ heavy duty blue widgets. Some CMSes don’t present such clean URLs out of the box, such as the screenshot below, but having them is very beneficial to SEO.
You should always aim for URLs that a reader can look at and know exactly what type of page they are on. This is the best recommendation on how to restructure bad URLs that will help both the user as well as search engines. How to get there depends on the CMS at hand and can be an arduous task to fix. When migrating an entire site from “ugly” to “clean” URLs, one-to-one 301 redirect mapping of the almost the entire site is usually needed to ensure that minimal SEO value is lost.
(6) Poor Use of Local Search Data & Structured Markup
One, or rather, two big missed opportunities are sites who don’t take advantage of Local Search Data or Structured Data Markup. In 2014, Google started recognizing local search intent better than ever and sites that ensure that they have a presence on all the local search data providers such as Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Bing, YellowPages, etc… can see boosts in local searches within their immediate city scope. Also, taking advantage of Structured Data markup can qualify certain sites for “Authorship” in Google search results which can show a picture beside the link, giving users a more enticing reason to click. There are dozens of kind of schema markup as well for products, breadcrumbs, publisher, local business, and more.
Ensure that you go out and claim all the major local search listings you can for your site, with specific respect to the free “big name” ones. Where relevant, look into all the kinds of Schema markup that could be implemented on your site to help differentiate your site in the search results when compared to competitors.
(7) Shady Link Building
One big issue that some sites still run into is buying links from some SEO companies. In 2011, Google start cracking down on what they consider unnatural linking practices with specific respect to sites that accumulate lots of “artificial” links and are simply trying to game the search engines to be ranked higher. This was known as the “Penguin” algorithm update. They also took a strong stance against sites that repost low-quality content from other sites – known as the “Panda” algorithm. Both of these algorithms are still updated with great regularity.
Only link to sites where it is natural to do so and vice versa. You should never have to pay for a link unless it is a sponsored-type link. If this is the case, the link should include the rel=nofollow attribute or else this also risks setting off a red flag to Google. Buying X number of links from SEO companies is usually a very bad practice that will likely lead to eventual penalization in search engines as well. See the screenshot above? You don’t wanna be that guy.
(8) Broken Links/404
A “broken link” is a hyperlink that points to a page that is no longer active (also known as a 404 page). There are few things more frustrating than finding a resource you need only to follow the link and find out the resource no longer exists. Search engines recognize this and will downgrade rankings of sites that accumulate large amounts of internal 404 links.
Avoid this by keeping an eye on 404s that Google finds on your site within Google Webmaster Tools. Do regular “housecleaning” on your site to ensure you keep this number of 404s to a minimum, implementing 301 redirects when moving resource from one URL to another, or combining heavily similar pages.
(9) Slow Site Speed
The speed at which pages load for your visitors may be so slow that they abandon your pages, or circle back and click another search result. Having site pages render quickly provides a good user experience while the opposite can cause visitors to leave. If your site speed proves to heavily affect the experience of your mobile visitors, Google will weigh that when serving your site in mobile search engine result pages.
Regularly monitor your average site load speeds in Google Analytics and also run your site through the Google Page Speed Tool. Follow the recommendations provided to help increase your overall and mobile site speeds.
(10) Quality On-Page Content
At the end of the day, one of the main ranking factors remains on-page content. If your page about blue widgets only has 100 unique words of content but a competitor’s page about blue widgets has over 3,000 unique words of content, the search engines will almost always give more algorithmic weight to the site with more quality, unique content – all other things equal.
If you want one of the simplest ways to potentially improve your ranking, plan to continually revisit top pages of your site to revise and expand on the content every few months. As long as it’s high quality, the more content the better. Every time new pages are launched, be sure they include plenty of content that’s helpful for your users and describes the product/service in question. Always write for your visitors, not the search engines. Avoid intentional keyword spamming just to try and rank higher.
Any big technical SEO issues you deal with regularly that weren’t mentioned on our list? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!
April 4, 2014
“How long should I run my experiment?” asks a ridiculously high number of online marketing managers. Typically, the answer to this question is more complicated than most want to hear. It may be a buzz phrase by now, but the goal with any experiment is to reach statistical significance–not simply to run an experiment for a pre-determined period of time. When measuring some AdWords metrics for a “winner,” it can be difficult to determine when statistical significance has been reached, especially with the limitations of the AdWords Experiments feature.
For any AdWords managers who are very hands-on with their accounts and want to verify statistically significant results, Delegator has provided the AdWords Statistical Significance Calculator. Whether you’re testing ad copy, different landing pages, or any assortment of variables that can be separated into “Group A” and “Group B,” this calculator allows you to work on actionable data alone.
Example: I am testing two separate landing pages with the exact same ad copy to see which page leads to the most conversions. I’ve been running my experiment for one week, and I have gathered this data so far:
Landing Page 1
- Clicks: 958
- Goal Completions: 33
Landing Page 2
- Clicks: 1,014
- Goal Completions: 45
Using the calculator, the results for my experiment are not significant, so I must either run my test longer or try a different test that may be more conclusive.
With any test, Delegator encourages running for at least one entire week since shopping and browsing patterns can vary by day of the week. After one full week, the calculator will let you know whether your data is conclusive enough for you to act on it.
Yes, this calculator is designed specifically for AdWords account managers, but the functionality can work on any data you collect about your website through any channel. For additional testing ideas or help managing your account, give us a shout.
March 13, 2014
So you’ve built out a new website or landing page, and you’re excited to show it to the world. Your colleagues, friends, and family think that your new creation is awesome – and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You’re thinking that you might be ready to launch..
DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER WITHOUT USER TESTING!
Here at Delegator, we preach the gospel of thorough and unbiased user testing. In fact, we have distilled our approach to using a singular partner (most of the time) that we really enjoy working with, because they have a great platform: UserTesting.com.
Simply signing up for their service, however, isn’t enough to get you the actionable data you need to properly optimize your new site.
Here are four best practices that will allow you to user test efficiently and effectively:
Get involved in, first hand, user testing videos AND analysis sessions:
User testing is one of the most important pre-launch protocols. If you are a decision maker, there is no substitute for first hand consumption of user testing content. If you pass the task off through multiple degrees of separation, you are opening yourself up to multiple layers of bias. Instead, consume the user tests first hand to see for yourself EXACTLY how people interact with your site.
Do not make definitive conclusions based on just a couple of user tests:
Although you may feel that a random user test is providing you with a goldmine of actionable data, temper your eagerness to make changes with the understanding that one or two tests are not statistically significant relative to hundreds of site visitors. If multiple users tests start revealing similar faults or potential enhancements, AND your team agrees with said faults, you should probably feel safe making that change.
Find the right balance between instruction specificity and freedom:
Unless you want your user tester to be floundering around the site with no clear direction, be specific in dictating to the tester who they are, and what their goal is. Don’t, however, instruct them on every step they need to take to reach the goal. You want your user tester to best emulate your actual customers. You, unfortunately, won’t be able to instruct each customer on how to use your website step by step, so take that into account during your UserTesting.com session setup.
Use the convenient annotations feature of UserTesting.com for efficient & effective sharing:
You’ll want to share the user testing intel with your team members. Since the tests are delivered in the form of a narrated video and can often be quite long, take a pass through the videos and annotate the important revelations. This way, other team members can quickly scan the video and watch the important parts where your tester might be stumbling, or (hopefully) completing tasks with ease.
Delegator is an official partner of UserTesting.com and can help you set your account up, work through your testing, and analyze the tests to form actionable recommendations. Contact us here if you would like to learn more!
February 4, 2014
2013 was easily the biggest year ever for Google AdWords, both from a financial standpoint as well as expanding and adding new features. Once a service that started with a trial of just 350 users, AdWords offers a platform where advertisers can set up a campaign and have their ads shown to millions of highly targeted searchers worldwide within a few short hours.
As we march on into 2014, it’s worth keeping a close eye on how AdWords continues to affect the way we search and find things both on our computers as well as our mobile devices.
Here are 12 interesting Google AdWords facts and trends from 2013:
- In 2013, Google officially surpassed $50 billion in total advertising revenue. This comprised 85% of their total revenues for 2013.
- Of that $50 billion in ad revenue, Google reported $12.9 billion in net income for 2013.
- Total paid clicks on Google and Google Display Network sites were up 31% over the year prior and 13% over the third quarter of 2013.
- The most expensive keywords in Google AdWords continue to be insurance and lawyer related with keywords like “mesothelioma lawyers” now costing advertisers well over $200/click.
- Smartphones and tablets combined for 32% of paid search clicks in Q4 2013 and accounted for 25% of paid search spending.
- On Christmas Day an estimated 45% of Google searches worldwide occurred on a smartphone or tablet. This was the highest mobile traffic share day in 2013.
- 85% of desktop clicks on Google AdWords ads are incremental. That is, when ads are paused only 15% of searches, on average, will still find their way to your site.
- On average, the top 3 AdWords spots take 41.1% of the total clicks on a given results page. This includes both paid and organic results.
- The average click through rate for an AdWords ad in the first position is just over 7%.
- Once free, spending on Google’s Product Listing Ads increased 72% in 2013. Retailers who ran both PLAs and AdWords text ads generated 42% of their non-branded traffic from PLAs.
- Google removed over 350 million bad ads from AdWords and the Google Display Network in 2013 – a 59% increase versus 2012.
- Google rolled out over 1,000 changes to the AdWords ecosystem in 2013. Some of the most important updates include Enhanced Campaigns, an updated Ad Rank algorithm, and a wider variety of remarketing options.
- An estimated $52 million of Google AdWords spend in the US was wasted on click fraud in just the first six months of 2013.
- An estimated 40+% of clicks on AdWords ads originating from China ultimately get classified suspected click fraud. Indonesia and Iraq sometimes display rates of over 60%!
Last updated: April 17, 2014
January 17, 2014
January 22, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Apple’s iconic Macintosh ad, directed by Ridley Scott, and aired during Super Bowl XVIII. To commemorate this occasion, here’s a never before seen, original home recording of the ad, as it first appeared, watched and recorded by our CEO as a kid.
Two unexpected things happened on that day 30 years ago. One was seeing the Los Angeles Raiders’ Marcus Allen, Howie Long, and Lyle Alzado roll over the Washington Redskins’ Joe Theismann, Art Monk and John Riggins. The game was announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden (coach of the Super-Bowl champ Oakland Raiders), and the upset was so surprising, and such a beat-down, that the day was called “Black Sunday”.
The other unexpected event occurred as I was eating my Beefaroni about midway through the 3rd quarter. The broadcast cut to a commercial, the screen momentarily went dark, and what aired next became part of marketing and tech history.
For some reason I was recording it all on a VCR, most likely because our new VCR (VHS, not Beta, featuring an innovative blue blinking “12:00AM” indicator) was the coolest thing in the world at the time besides my Atari 2600, so I was likely recording everything on TV.
In any case, for all you Apple lovers and haters, we dug through our old tapes, digitized them, and zeroed in on the iconic ad, nestled within a little Super Bowl context, for your enjoyment, love and hate.
It features Ridley Scott as director, Anya Major as the hammer-thrower, and a likely IBM as Big Brother (later replaced by Microsoft, later the NSA). Many consider it an advertising masterpiece and watershed event. Steve Jobs was fired a year later.
(NOTE: the Apple 1984 add starts at :09. We wanted you to see it as it happened, in context.)