Tag: seo
Ravi Chandramouli

Content Edits with GTM? Just Say No.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) makes it easy for marketers to add and update website tags with just a few clicks, and without needing to edit website code. We’ve touted its virtues previously on this blog, including the ease by which it can be learned and launched, and of course, the fact that it’s free.

In some cases, however, the easiest path is the wrong one. The urge to make SEO changes using GTM, for example, is a trend I don’t recommend.

In the Moz blog post How to Implement SEO Changes Using Google Tag Manager, the author points out a common challenge faced by marketers of getting website changes in the development queue—specifically SEO changes. Among other solutions, he suggests using GTM to deliver custom scripting to make these changes, therefore bypassing IT or CMS restrictions.

“Tag managers are mostly used to implement off-the-shelf tags, like Google Analytics or Facebook tracking,” he writes. “A lesser-known functionality is to implement custom HTML snippets (which can include JavaScript code) … This allows us to bypass CMS restrictions and development queues, directly applying changes to things like page titles, canonical tags, and on-page content.” The author goes on to show scripting examples of how to do this with jQuery and GTM.

In the past, GTM hadn’t been considered a reliable way to make SEO changes because Google (and other search engines) couldn’t sufficiently execute JavaScript. Recently, however, there is evidence that such changes are being picked up by Google, including implementation through tag managers.

Unfortunately, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. As a technical lead, I can tell you that using a tag manager for SEO testing and content edits is very a bad practice for high traffic sites. I have witnessed firsthand how these kinds of workarounds—particularly how injecting “code” without testing it through the software development life cycle—can go terribly wrong.

Let’s consider for a moment a new site launch. The backlog for defects is a mile long until someone on the marketing team realizes they can inject scripting to the site to make a content edit with jQuery. Marketing makes that change and heads home for the weekend. Little did they know that the IT team was preparing a deployment for a critical error defect to go live that night. When IT did their release, a conflict in code on the UI ended up breaking the login screen. The IT team couldn’t find the error in their code and had to keep the site down through the weekend until it was learned that another team injected the conflicting code and the edit was rolled back.

Yeah, that happened.

Less debilitating but still problematic, adding more JavaScript and DOM manipulation can slow down page load time. Even Google’s own John Mueller doesn’t recommend using Google Tag Manager for SEO purposes. “Getting SEO reasonably right is hard enough without adding a layer of unpredictability on top,” he explained.

A Better Solution for Implementing Changes: Transparency

As in the rest of life, most problems are rooted in a lack of communication. Instead of fighting the process, try working with it. Most IT departments are open to hearing why a change is important and discussing how to best implement it. If you or a colleague wants to run a test through Optimizely, let IT and other parties who manage the site know what’s going on. All stakeholders in site management and development should have an understanding of the 3rd party tools and how they are integrated. Maybe consider creating a message board where tests can be posted, including whom to contact if anything goes wrong.

Even changing something as simple as a page title can start to cause a ripple effect of confusion. When someone starts circumventing the process, it becomes impossible for backend developers to know where changes are being made. Instead of making surface-level changes in Google Tag Manager, talk with the CMS or content team first; ask whether they can place components or tag changes inside the CMS right from the start.

Transparency, in other words, is the key.

While I’ve advocated here for marketing departments to understand the software development life cycle, equally important is helping the IT department understand the importance of speed to market as well as how marketing tools can help free up their time and resources, so they can focus on higher priority tickets.

Instead of band-aiding the site with quick fixes, aim for a joint understanding of website responsibilities and coordination. Your site and all the teams involved will be better for it.

Key Takeaways

  • Using a tag manager for SEO testing and content edits is not a best practice and can wreak havoc on high traffic sites
  • Even changing something as simple as a page title can start to cause a ripple effect of confusion. When someone starts circumventing the process, it becomes impossible for backend developers to know where changes are being made
  • Adding more JavaScript and DOM manipulation can slow down page load time
  • Instead of fighting the process, try working with it— most IT departments are open to hearing why a change is important and discussing how to best implement it
  • Instead of band-aiding the site with quick fixes, aim for a joint understanding of website responsibilities and coordination
Tag: seo
D'lynne Plummer

6 Tips for Writing Persuasive Website Copy

Persuasion. By definition, it’s a symbolic process whereby people try to convince other people to change their mind or choose a particular course of action in an atmosphere of free choice. Of course, if you’re a marketer, you’re more than familiar with the process of persuasion—it’s the essence of what you do.

As a copywriter, persuasion is my livelihood. The content I craft must encourage people to choose action over inertia—to click, buy, register, share or submit information when it is in fact easier to do none of the above. Laziness, by the way, is tough competition!

No matter your industry or business, it’s likely your website plays an important role in turning prospects into customers. It’s the canvas on which you present your best attempts to influence, cajole, persuade and ultimately convert. The design of your site plays a critical role in that effort—from overall user experience to the quality of images and the placement of calls to action. But your website copy can also make or break your success. There is a reason they say “content is king” (or, as I like to say, Queen).

With that in mind, here are six of my top tips for writing website copy that converts.

#1. Don’t bury the lede.
As a customer, one of my biggest pet peeves is landing on a home page that doesn’t actually say what the company does. As a copywriter, it bothers me even more—such a missed opportunity! Why the mystery? Spell it out. Don’t make visitors scroll to the bottom or, worse, travel to the About Us page to actually find out what you do. There’s a good chance they’ll just go back to their search results page if you make them work that hard. On interior pages that require even more content, think like a journalist (not a novelist) and get to your point right away. (And yes, it’s spelled lede!)

#2. Write enticing, specific headlines.
Headlines are a bit of an art. On a website, they are immensely important because, as much as it breaks this writer’s heart, people don’t read, they skim. People read web pages like animals forage for food. Not a pretty picture, but it’s the truth. Headlines help people know they’re in the right place while they’re foraging. And if they are enticing headlines, well, people might even read what’s under them! Techniques that work include:

  • Peppering headlines with action and/or emotional words, particularly at the beginning and/or the end of the headline.
  • Encouraging people to act now. It sounds like a gimmick, but people are inclined to believe that time is always running out.
  • Forming the headline as a question—did you know we are biological programmed to answer questions when we’re asked them? (See what I did there?)
  • Consider length. Don’t make a headline so long that SERPs will truncate it, but too short and it probably means you didn’t make an impact. Try for about six words.
  • Consider SEO. If your headlines are coded as h2 tags on your site (as they should be in most cases), then putting a keyword or two in there wouldn’t kill you.
  • Offer value with “learn how” and “how to” language. Headlines that imply that readers will learn something do very well. Despite our inherent laziness, we love self-actualization.
  • See what the robots say about your headline. Am I a huge fan of AI taking over my job? No. But the headline analyzer at Co-Schedule is useful, even if only to prompt us to take the headlines we write more seriously. Try it out.

#3. Make copy easy to scan, but don’t skimp on substance.
Remember our foraging animals from above? Content should be laid out in digestible little pieces. Make your copy easy to skim by:

  • Keeping paragraphs short (3-4 sentences).
  • Using bullets (aim for six or fewer—don’t get carried away).
  • Embracing headlines and subheadlines.
  • Varying point size.
  • Employing lists whenever you can, which help move people through content one step at a time.

All this being said, rich content does better than skimpy copy. On pages that are meant to convey details, descriptions or important information, make sure you deliver. Of course, you’ll want to reduce redundancy and verbosity, but you also should take the words necessary to be clear and deliver the message.

#4. Establish your own voice.
Not every brand is well suited for a cheeky, conversational voice, but it’s unlikely your consumers will warm up to a stiff and formal tone. Err on the side of humanizing your content with a little personality or shifting to a first and second person voice (address the reader as “you”). Taking the time to establish your brand’s voice is worth the effort, and it starts with understanding the voice of your audience. Create a series of personas and work to craft a voice that resonates across all of them.

Have fun, but whatever you do, don’t be patronizing. This new trend where buttons like “Sign Me Up” sit opposed to “Nah, Nevermind, I Don’t Want To Save Money” or “Nope, I Don’t Like Fabulous Things” has to stop. Want a far better example of voice? Check out how Tio Gazpacho infuses an upbeat Latin flair with just the right amount of “Spanglish.”

#5. Meet the reader where they’re at.
It was hard enough to get the user to your site in the first place—don’t blow it by scattering information all over your site. In his spectacular online CXL Institute course, Fundamentals of Persuasive Websites, Paul Boag says your customers’ questions are best answered throughout the site, where the questions are most likely to surface—not on an FAQ page. When was the last time you went to an FAQ page and got just what you needed? Yeah, me too. Be gone, FAQ.

#6. Put a call to action on every page … and test them.
You can court the girl all you want, but eventually you have to ask her out. (Ok, I’m old fashioned.) Don’t let a page go by without finding a way to engage your audience. These calls to action should correspond directly to what’s on the page, and they should follow the content to which they relate. Yes, I said follow. It’s a myth that buttons “above the fold” convert better in all scenarios. And supposedly the right side of the screen is a poor placement for calls to action, since readers spend more time on the left. But you don’t have to take it from me—button placement and copy are super fun to test, and the results might surprise you.

For one of Smart Panda’s hotel clients, for example, we ran an A/B experiment that pitted five buttons against one another, each with variable calls to action:

A: Reserve (the control)
B: Start Your Reservation (the assumption)
C: Make Your Reservation
D: Reserve Your Room
E: Book Your Room

The winner? E! Book your room. But the pandas weren’t done. They iterated on that test by pitting Book Your Room against a slightly more descriptive alternative, Check Availability. The latter won by a long lead and, when implemented, increased room reservations by $30,000 per month. (You can read more about A/B testing in this whitepaper.)

There are many more tips I could offer, but perhaps the most important message to leave you with is to be authentic. Take the time to understand what makes your brand better and different and speak like a human (not a robot) about those features and benefits. Don’t assume you know more than you do about your consumer—Netflix is convinced I like science fiction and can’t seem to stop telling me how much I enjoy it. But do try to talk to your audience like actual people who at the very moment they are on your site are much more likely to do nothing than something. Persuade and entice them with thoughtful, original copy.

Key Takeaways

  • Avoid mystery, go for clarity. Don’t skip the opportunity to define your company immediately on the home page—and don’t bury the lede.
  • Write enticing, specific headlines punctuated with action words. Try framing headlines as questions.
  • Make copy easy to scan, but not skimpy. How copy is formatted makes a big difference in how likely it is to be read and absorbed.
  • Establish your own voice. Time spent finding your brand’s personality is not wasted.
  • Forego the FAQ page. Answers should be found everywhere throughout your site on relevant pages.
  • Put a call to action on every page, and test variations of the button copy.

 

Tag: seo
Shamir Duverseau

10 Tips for Website “Redesigns” in 2018

It’s the start of a new year, which means everyone is making their resolutions—and already breaking them, too. To be honest, I am not a fan of resolutions. While I applaud the intent to set goals and meet them, the data shows that making one-time resolutions, for most of us, doesn’t work.

As a digital marketer, you and your team might also have resolutions for your company. The first quarter is a busy time for implementing new strategies, and for some this includes a website redesign. Some more honesty here: I’m as a big a fan of website redesigns as I am of resolutions. Not because redesigns aren’t (sometimes) warranted, but because too many companies think of a redesign as a one-time fix and not an ongoing and incremental process. It’s why only 9% of Americans meet their weight-loss resolutions—quick fixes don’t work. Creating new patterns and standards, however, do. It’s like reaching for carrot sticks instead of cookies.

If your site isn’t nimble enough to withstand incremental changes based on the data its (hopefully) collecting, then by all means, redesign it! Sometimes the only way to make a site deliver the results you want is to throw out the old and bring in the new.

Because you’ve already heard enough from me today, I asked our Smart Panda team to weigh in on website redesign, each from their own areas of expertise–from strategy and planning to database management and development. Here are 10 of their top tips for website redesigns … and for establishing new habits for a better site for years to come.

  1. Lisa Edwards (Account Management): Avoid the Big Bang. Redesigns can take months and years if you let them. Prioritize your requirements and get all of the mission critical items taken care of first, and then launch the site. After launch, implement a phase two—add the lower priority items from your wish list and fine tune the site based on testing results and user feedback. If you take too long redesigning a site, by the time you’re ready to launch it, the business goals, user needs, technology and industry best practices may have changed, leaving you with a new site that’s already lagging behind.
  2. Lauren Sanchez (Project Management): Time your launch. Consider when and how to launch your redesigned site. Put a plan in place for creating buzz and get users excited about the new site. Avoid launching during the holidays or near the start of another big promotion, so as to maximize benefit of the redesign.
  3. Lisa Martino (Search Engine Marketing): Slow your roll. If you have a highly-visited website, roll it out to a small percentage of traffic first, so you can gather insights. If users are lost, confused or not taking the actions you want, you can make improvements based on this data before rolling it out to the rest of the world. This is also a great opportunity to test different page designs, calls to action, or content, for example, to see what converts the best.
  4. Jessica Magyar (Project Management): Don’t skimp on project management. Assign proper stakeholders to each milestone along the way so everyone knows who is accountable for what. Establish a clear timeline at the beginning of the redesign to ensure proper progress is made. And document the scope of the redesign from the start, referring to this scope along to way to keep the team on track.
  5. Jessica Porges (Digital Analytics + Testing): Keep the end user in mind at all times. Understanding what users want from the site is key to improving usability. Base redesigns on a combination of historical data and voice-of-customer feedback—don’t assume you know what your users want or how they will behave on the new site. Map out the entire customer journey and make sure your team has a full understanding of the customer experience.
  6. Erich Andren (Solutions Architecture + Testing): Test, test and test some more. Make sure you clearly define KPIs up front so you know why you are testing and can make sure the tests and their results matter to your business. Once you have the winners and losers, you have both data-backed elements to use in the redesign and a meaningful list of what to avoid.
  7. Alex Corzo (Customer Relationship Management): Think about your database from the beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes. First, create strong value propositions with unique content and assets or loyalty programs to drive the growth of a database of prospects and customers to keep them coming back to the site. Then, design the site with elements that can be personalized based on what you have learned about your database at every interaction.
  8. Charlene Hixon (Email Marketing): Simplify signup. Make your calls to action obvious for data capture. CTAs are the single most important element of any signup page. Make sure the sign-up form (or shopping cart) itself is as efficient and easy as possible for consumers to complete. Keep your eye on form/cart abandons and continue to remove hurdles to conversion.
  9. Ravi Chandramouli (Web Development + Engineering): Consider the tech. One mistake I see all the time is companies reskinning the site for aesthetics only, while leaving legacy technology in place. On the flip side, don’t embrace a new technology trend without understanding the long term impacts this transformation will have on user experience, database management, testing and optimization, or even simple things time to load. Know what you’re getting into.
  10. Cheryl Myers (Creative): Question your motives. To echo Shamir’s introduction, unless a redesign is absolutely necessary, don’t do it. Often a site can be improved by making adjustments incrementally rather than starting over. Your consumers are human, and humans often resist change—it’s why Google’s search page, Amazon’s header bar and Facebook’s site design have remained the same for ages. So, unless your brand has been updated, you’ve had a major product change, your user experience is beyond repair, or your site is incapable of withstanding important updates, it’s probably better to keep your changes small, continuous and based on data.

As you may have gathered, we believe the success of your strategy and planning phase will likely determine the success of your new site. Gather your data and customer feedback and let those insights inform your every step. Know your customer, understand their journey and make sure the redesign is for their sake, not just about beautification or new technology.

Whether we just talked you out of a site redesign or into one, we wish you success!

Key Takeaways

  1. Website redesign for the sake of redesign is a missed opportunity—and a waste of resources
  2. If a redesign is a must, do it for the customer. Use historical data and voice-of-customer feedback to inform every step of the new design. Otherwise it’s just “sitting pretty” and delivering no ROI.
  3. Think about your launch strategically—time it right, create a buzz and roll it out to a small segment first. This gives you the opportunity to test and improve it before rolling it out to the world.
  4. Think about your database from the very beginning. Data capture is essential for nurturing and retention purposes.
  5. Resist change—because your customers resist change, too. Don’t fix things that aren’t broken. Incremental improvements, based on data, are usually better than an overhaul.