By Sheila Hall, Principal, Insight Analytique
What have you been doing with your website, your SEO, your social media, that worked for your business years ago but may no longer be effective – did you stay informed of changes, or did you miss the memo? The scope of this article is not to cover every change, but to make you aware of some bigger ones and provide resources to read further.
Website, SEO, and Social Media Have Changed Over the Years
There are so many things that have changed for your website, for Search Engine (read: Google, Bing) Optimization (SEO), for social media in the last ten, the last five, or even two years. The really unfortunate thing is that you’re busy with your business, so you depend on professionals who are supposed to know what to do to guide you, but there are still those who are giving poor advice – advice that may well have been fine before, but now can even get you penalized by Google, Facebook, and others, including your own prospects and customers.
Website Design and User Friendliness (UX)
Sometimes, website design ends up being prioritized before ease of use, or designing so that a website visitor will be able to use your website intuitively. Things need to just make sense, according to what your visitors are used to seeing and so they may easily find what they need, or to perform a task, such as a purchase, on your site. Teo Yu Siang writes about best website design practices on The Interaction Design Foundation’s blog that “not all clever designs are good designs, especially when they create accessibility, discoverability or usability problems.”
Pretty and flashy and the latest new thing might even win you a design award, but that doesn’t translate into conversions – to your visitors signing up for your newsletter, becoming a member, contacting you, purchasing a product, or visiting more of your content – whatever it is that is your goal for your website. Of course, you can design a site so that is both attractive and easy to use, and this may perform even better. Just be sure to keep your visitor in mind at all times.
A great way to begin thinking about your website visitor is to really look at the tasks your they might perform on your site. Develop a list of tasks people may perform and how they might like to go about their task, such as a purchase. Your website structure should simplify the task for your visitor to do what they would like, and in the way they would like. This is far more likely to convert people who are visiting into prospects and into customers and into people who actually contact you and who come back to your site again and again.
As Matt Nelson writes about Google penalties on Kissmetrics, practices such as slow speed, keyword-stuffed, hidden, or duplicate content, leaving too many internal 404’s (error pages), or too much advertising on the page can all lead to lower page rankings from the widely-used search engine, or even no listing at all.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Algorithms
Optimizing your website, articles, product pages, and more to be sure you have the best chance of showing up on the first page of Google or Bing page rankings, has been important for years. Does your site show up on the first page when someone searches for you, for a business that provides what you do, or more about a problem that your business or product solves? As you likely already know, your page rank is highly important in helping visitors to find your company’s site or content.
In the early years, people could figure out how to game the system. The “keywords” people were using to search for what they wanted would be stuffed into pages to get the Google “Bots” to highly rank a page. The links to a web page would show that others found the content valuable and would bring traffic, one way a page was judged and ranked, so people would even pay to have links to their site listed on other sites, even just “link farms”, in order to rank higher. Now “click bait” is found on other web pages to get visitors to click and go to a web page that may have just a small paragraph of content, usually useless and unhelpful, along with a large portion of advertising and, yes, more “click bait.”
Google, not to be outsmarted, would figure out where the weaknesses and loopholes were and update their search algorithm (computational formula with given set of rules), or develop an additional algorithm, to address each issue. Hubspot has created an infographic with a history of Google algorithm updates and the main issues they were to address.
One by one, each algorithm has put a big stop to the rewards of “Black Hat” SEO practices. Websites that ranked very highly in years past have been penalized by dropping precipitously in the page rankings, or even by not being listed at all, costing thousands in advertising dollars.
What to do now? Rand Fishkin writes about old school SEO practices that are no longer effective, and why. Concentrate on creating a site that is truly helpful to your site visitors. Of course you should pay attention to keywords, links, and page rankings, but develop content that serves your visitors, rather than putting energy into trying to trick the system.
Social Media – Organic versus Paid
Social media has come and gone in a flash as a way to very “inexpensively” attract people to your company’s page, products, and content. Not so inexpensive anymore, with employee positions dedicated to managing the various social media platforms you believe your company should be present on – and you should be present and engaging “organically” on social media, depending on the size of your company, your goals, your resources. But the focus has changed.
Active users of social media have long since begun to ignore the spammy posts of many companies, continuously extolling the benefits of their wonderful products, services, and glorious company culture. You might even be penalized by Facebook and others for too much posting about your own company on other pages. The algorithms (there’s that word again) on social media platforms have changed to increase the exposure for “paid” advertisers’ posts, as well as to increase the number of posts that a social media user will see in their “feed” that actually relate to them and that they have shown to be of interest to them.
Kevin Shively writes on Simply Measured about the difference between organic social media, before and now with the inclusion of paid ads, that “Tactics are more ethical. Quality is higher. Content is more engaging. It has to be, otherwise it fails and we never see it.”
To continually spend money on the time and team members to post organically when you are just simply not going to get the exposure that you used to is not necessarily a good use of your resources, as argued by Avinash Kaushik in “Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic)” on his blog, Occam’s Razor. What’s your opportunity cost here? Instead, Avinash suggests having a good look at your engagement levels for all of your marketing efforts and spending more on those areas where you get the best ROI, including your company’s email subscribers and perhaps a paid advertising campaign on social.
If dropping all organic seems a stretch too far, weigh the measurement of your return on investment (ROI) in organic social media against the return you receive on your branding. Perhaps you’ll find you should concentrate your social media efforts in engagement that brings your business greater brand awareness, or affirms you as an industry authority, when using organic social media.
These are just a few of the things that you might come across when deciding on your digital marketing strategy, such as website design, SEO, and social media. Something may have worked gloriously ten, or even five years ago – they just don’t any longer. We need to stay abreast of changes and what is working now, as no one wants to waste time and money and opportunity on strategies that are no longer working.
Please send along your examples, or let me know what other topics you would like to read more about. Send to Sheila@insightanalytique.com.