/ SEO

SEO in a World Where Content is King and It’s Always the Year of Mobile (Part 2 of 3)

Kevin McKernan

Middle of a cluttered open office desk
In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed SEO strategies of the past and explored the technical elements that SEO specialists need to employ to be successful. But those behind the scenes elements, while important, are only a piece of the puzzle. In the past, non-technical SEO was mostly concerned with keywords. Today, keywords still play a role, but its importance pales in comparison to newer, emerging methods.

The Non-Technical Side of SEO

There are still many visible, on-page elements that SEO specialists are focused on. You should still expect to receive recommendations on how to optimize your existing content. This would include things like better incorporation of keywords/phrases, and working to ensure each page has an appropriate level of useful, relevant content.

But you can’t just stop there.

Today, more than ever, Google is looking for websites that deliver an optimized user experience. Just as Google’s algorithm has moved towards anticipating searcher intent, so should your digital marketing strategy.

What does this mean for today’s SEO specialists? It means working with other areas of your digital marketing department to ensure the digital marketing strategy is, as a whole, focused on driving traffic to your website through relevant, useful content and promotion of that content on the appropriate channels, such as on social or email. While SEO is mainly concerned with organic traffic, these non-organic sources can help boost your authority with search engines, as they see how all visitors coming to your website are engaging.

SEO specialists also need to pay particularly close attention to metrics around organic traffic such as time on page, exit rates, bounce rates, and conversion rates to not only get a better sense of how users are entering your site, but what they are doing once they are there.

For example, let’s say, like most brands and businesses, you get the highest number of page views on your homepage, but you notice average time on page is less than 10 seconds. This could suggest a couple of things. First, it could mean that users are searching for a term or phrase related to your business, clicking on your link in the search results, and pretty instantly clicking back to the search results.

Ping ponging back and forth from the Google results page and a website suggests to Google that the user didn’t find what they were looking for…signaling the infamous Google algorithm to adjust itself in hopes of helping searchers find what they need as quickly as possible.

Of course, if you look at your pages/session metrics and see that those coming in from the homepage actually view more than one page during their session, and you see that the bounce rate (rate at which users exit from the same page they entered) for your homepage is low, it could just mean that users aren’t spending a lot of time on your homepage because they are able to quickly find the next step they need to take to get the information, or complete the purchase, they want.

Again, you have to think about searcher intent and user experience. What experience do you want visitors to have when they come to each page? Does the data support this is happening? No? Then it may be time to make an adjustment to the copy, the navigation, etc. Or it could be a more technical issue, such as a slow page load time. Keep in mind that survey’s show nearly 40% of searchers will click off a page if it doesn’t load fast enough.

This type of analysis and the actions you take based on the data you have, is a growing part of the new way to approach SEO.

What’s coming next for SEO? We’ll tackle that question in Part 3 of our series.

/ SEO

SEO in a World Where Content is King and It’s Always the Year of Mobile (Part 1 of 3)

Kevin McKernan

Group at deskHow can I improve my SEO? If you asked this question in 2009, the answer would be “keywords and rankings”. If you asked this question in 2011, the answer would be “meta data and keywords.” But if you’re asking this question today, you’re really asking the wrong question.

Today, businesses and brands should be less concerned with improving SEO. Why? Because SEO has moved beyond just considering search engines. And because of this, the question you should really be asking is: How can SEO help improve my user experience and guide my strategy in a way that allows me to provide something useful to my audience?

SEO Strategies of the Past

SEO used to be easy. Or if nothing else, at least more straight forward. There was a time when it was all about keywords and rankings. Put a keyword on your website enough times and your ranking would improve. The best part was, Google Analytics gave us complete access to the keywords searchers were using to find our websites. Meaning we could take those keywords, stuff them on more pages, and just like that, we were ranking higher and getting more traffic.

But let’s be honest. This type of SEO wasn’t helping anyone. Businesses and websites were getting more traffic and improving rankings, but these weren’t necessarily translating to higher conversions or higher revenue. And searchers were landing on pages that had nothing to do with what they were looking for.

To improve this, search engines (specifically, Google) began creating new algorithms that could better anticipate searcher intent. In turn, this lead to slowly phasing out access to keyword data. By 2011, marketers started to see that more and more of the keyword data they were used to seeing was moved to the “(not provided)” bucket. And today, keyword data is barely in existence, and nothing has really replaced it.

While all these changes have made the job of an SEO specialist more challenging, you have to admit, when you search for something now, the probability that you’ll find a useful page after just one query is significantly higher than it was, in say, 2009.

The Technical Side of SEO

Because of old school, “black hat” tactics of the past, SEO specialists often get a bad rap as the “keyword stuffers” of the digital marketing world. But today, many SEO specialists are focused on the more technical elements involved in SEO, things that the user doesn’t even necessarily see make it easier for search engines to understand your website, thus increasing the chance your page will rank. This would include things like:

  • Creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Being mindful of your page load speed and ensuring your site doesn’t take more than 2 seconds to load.
  • Making sure your robots.txt isn’t blocking important pages from search engine bots.
  • Properly redirecting old pages using a 301, which will transfer most of the page’s authority over to the new URL.
  • Making sure your page structure can be easily crawled, meaning you are properly using header tags (h1, h2, h3) logically and correctly.
  • Using title tags and meta descriptions that accurately describe the contents of each page of your website.

Other behind-the-scenes technical elements include incorporating proper schema structure, which essentially just helps search engines, such as Google, better crawl your page for a potential searcher. The better Google can read your site, and understand the content on a particular page, the more likely it is to show it to a potential searcher.

But what about the non-technical side of SEO? Are keyword optimizations still necessary? Or has SEO completely moved behind the scenes? We’ll explore these questions in Part 2 of this series.

/ Pierry Software

Connections 2016: All About the Journey (and Fabio)

Kevin McKernan

Pierry Software Staff at CNX16Connections is always a crazy, but exciting week. This year, the main theme of the conference seemed to be all about the journey.

But when I say Journey, I don’t just mean the customer journey. This year, speakers like Congressman John Lewis of Georgia and Good Morning America news anchor Robin Roberts spoke about the importance of reflecting on the personal journeys we all take in life.

Even though we know Connections is all about marketing, it was nice to take a break to think about things beyond the marketing world.  Congressman Lewis shared powerful stories about his experience fighting discrimination in the South and working with Dr. Martin Luther King, as well as the impact events like the walk from Selma to Montgomery and Bloody Sunday had on his personal journey, and how these events shaped the path he took to reach his goals.

In keeping with the theme, Robin Roberts shared a powerful message about the paths we take to reach our dreams. As a girl, Roberts had dreamed of competing at Wimbledon, and despite never making it to the court, she still feels her dream came true, as she did in fact get to attend Wimbledon during her time as a sports reporter. Her advice? Don’t be disappointed in the path, because sometimes you’re able to reach what you want, but just in a way you didn’t expect it.

One thing I didn’t expect in my personal journey during Connections was to run into Fabio.IMG_1663 forWP

But we can’t forget the other star of the show this year—Journey Builder, a tool from Salesforce Marketing Cloud that gives marketers the capability to create personalized, relevant customer journeys.

Marketing messages are all around us—on TV, on the radio, in magazines, on social media, in your inbox, on your smartphone, and of course, online. In other words, there’s a lot of noise. The best way to cut through it all? Make marketing personal by sending your prospects and customers on a journey that is shaped around their preferences, needs, and wants.

This is exactly the topic we tackled during our breakout session—Journey Builder: Build Your Own Adventure. The main takeaway? Determine your goal and use that as the guiding light for your journey. Because technology is great, but without the right strategy, all the technology in the world won’t be much help.

If you’re getting started with Journey Builder, here are a few steps to keep in mind:

1. Consider the goal. Again, customer journeys are all about the goal. So make sure each journey you create starts with this step.

Ex: Convert a first time customer into a long-term, loyal customer who recommends and raves about your products.

2. Consider the entry event. What does a customer or prospect need to do in order to be entered into a journey?

Ex: Customer makes a first-time purchase.

3. Consider the event timing. When the entry event (or any subsequent events occur) what duration of time will you wait to move them to the next step in the journey?

Ex: Customer makes a first-time purchase and a week later receives a promotion code for their next purchase. And the journey continues…

Think about all the steps someone could take with that initial event, and decide what messages, as well as what channels, will be used if and until they complete their journey. Finally, the content of your message needs to have a clear, single focus—one that is concerned only with moving your customers through the journey at hand.

Technology is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a customer journey. Like most digital marketing efforts, there’s a lot of strategy work you need to do in advance to get the most out of it.

Want to learn more about how to strategize your customer journey? Download the presentation slides here. And don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help building your own customer journeys.

If you attended Connections this year, I hope you found it as informative and inspiring as I did. And we hope to see everyone next June at Connections 2017 in Chicago!

/ Pierry Gives Back

Pierry Employees Give Back: Touch Football Game to Benefit the Alzheimer’s Association

Kevin McKernan

Helping Hand
Blondes vs. Brunettes. This battle has been raging for centuries. But on June 25th, 2016 at 11:00 A.M. at the University of Denver, Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium, blondes and brunettes will turn their longstanding rivalry into a battle for good and raise money to support the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s Disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. As the 6th leading cause of death, it kills more people in the U.S. each year than breast and prostate cancer combined. And anyone who has watched a loved one progress through this disease knows what a long, heartbreaking battle it can be.

That’s why a group of professional women founded Blondes vs. Brunettes® (BvB), an event designed to raise awareness, and funds for combatting Alzheimer’s. BvB takes place in more than 35 cities across the country each year, and has raised more than $3 million since its inaugural game in 2005.

Understanding the impact this disease has on so many families, I decided it was time for me to suit up and participate in my first-ever touch football game. As a former rower, I’m no stranger to hard training. But I have to tell you, this touch football game is no joke! For the past month we’ve been practicing up to two times a week to prepare. (We really want to take those brunettes down!)

We also host weekly fundraising events as a team as another way to bring awareness to the disease, while also raising funds that benefit the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter BvB game brought in more than $127,000. This year, they’re looking to exceed that number, and that’s where I need your help. Right now, my team (Blondes) is hoping to raise over $72,000. I have a personal goal to raise $600, and would love to not only hit this number, but exceed it.

The money raised at this event will help the Alzheimer’s Association provide resources and education to those living with Alzheimer’s, including patients and caregivers, as well as research for new treatments, and ultimately one day, a cure.

Interested in helping out? Please view my donation page here to contribute.

I want to thank Pierry Software for their corporate sponsorship of the BvB Denver game this year. This contribution will touch many families both in Colorado and across the U.S.

Finally, if you’re in the Denver area on June 25th, be sure to stop by and see who takes home bragging rights—blondes or brunettes!

DONATE NOW

/ Email

Evaluating Your Email Program: A Handy Checklist

Kevin McKernan

Creative professional at workYour open rates are on a consistent decline. Your click-through rates are embarrassing. And your deliverability is not what it used to be. These are the signs of an email program that is greatly in need of some help.

But that’s not the only time you should be evaluating your email program.

In fact, like most things, you don’t want to wait until you have a clear, cut and dried issue with your email program. Maybe your open rates and click-throughs are consistent. Maybe you’ve even hit some above average metrics over the last two months. Whatever your metrics say, it’s important to evaluate your email program at least once a quarter. Here’s how to get started:

Email Sending/Deliverability Best Practices

You created an email message and hit send. It’s on its way to your subscribers. Right? Not necessarily. There are a number of factors that can affect your deliverability rates. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating your sending practices:

  • Is your email program in compliance with standards for the countries subscribers are from such as CASL or CAN-SPAM?
  • Was your list build from opt-ins (as opposed to being bought or rented)?
  • Is there an obvious unsubscribe link?
  • Do you send on a regular, consistent schedule?
  • Are you using a suitable email platform to manage and maintain subscriber data?

Other sending practices to take note of include:

  • Using an email sending address on a sub-domain of the main brand domain
  • Sending a welcome email/series to new subscribers in a timely manner
  • Using Return Path or a similar service to maximize deliverability and gain insight into sender reputation
  • Having a documented testing and QA process in place that is executed for every send
  • Ensuring high deliverability by adhering to ISP standards (i.e. sending a limited amount per hour for ISPs such as AOL and Comcast).
  • Utilizing seed lists or including company employees on subscriber lists to ensure there are no issues with the actual email send
  • Subscribers are segmented and sent emails relevant to them instead of mass sending

Finally, make sure there is a clear email strategy in place with goals to measure by, as well as A/B testing opportunities to purse when developing future email sends.

Email Content Strategy

Every marketing channel should have its own corresponding content strategy—and email is no exception. Each channel also has its own tone and style. For example, the language you use in a press release is very different from a social post, which is also very different from an email.

When writing for email, make sure each send:

  • Has a clear content focus
  • Tells a story that helps to shape the brand’s personality
  • Contains relevant content with important information and main call to action (CTA) at the top
  • Contains content that supplements any images
  • Has a subject line and body content that complement each other
  • Has a subject line that entices the subscriber to open the message
  • Contains a pre-header that adds to or expands upon the subject line
  • Avoids spam words in subject line and body content
  • Includes CTAs that are descriptive and encourage interaction
  • Avoids off-brand messages or ads

Most importantly, you want to constantly monitor and test your content, whether that means trying new CTA language or creating new themes around each send.

Email Design Best Practices

How your email looks is equally as important as what it says. Here are some quick things to consider when evaluating the overall look of your sends:

  • The design uses colors and images that are consistent with the brand, while also using strong contrast for readability
  • Uses websafe fonts and high quality images
  • The email is designed for 580px to 700px width
  • The email is not excessively long requiring endless scrolling
  • Has a consistent header and footer
  • A view online or view in browser link is included
  • Provides a balance of images and text
  • Includes ALT tags for the images
  • Email is rendered or tested in variety of email clients and devices
  • Uses buttons over text-based links to make the CTA stand out

While the above may seem like a hefty list, they’re important items to consider as you grow and expand your email marketing campaign. Again, we recommend performing this evaluation every quarter. This is the best way to ensure you catch small issues before they grow into something much more difficult to bounce back from.

Not sure where to start when it comes to evaluating your email program? We can help with that. Contact Pierry Software today to learn more about our email scorecard audit, as well as our strategy services.