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Four Important Tips To Optimise Your Referral Traffic

Making people to flock your site is all about balancing act. It is a lesson in time management and attention to detail. Search engine optimisation, social media, email marketing, blog and paid ads are just the tools to your destination. However, spreading messages by yourself (and your budget as well) on multiple platforms that are not actually converting is a waste of time. You need to know where your best customers are coming from and then spend dollars to get more audiences on these sites where you know you already have fans. Analysing and optimising your referral traffic is how you will make the most out of your marketing strategy and paid ads, build a dedicated fan base and find partners that will help develop your audience. Moreover, here are four important tips to optimise your referral traffic:

1. Understand the Different Kinds of Referrers

There are two types of referrals in a referrals report: referring domains and individual referrals. Both of them are important. You will want to analyse both reports to get a comprehensive understanding of your referral sources. Referral reports are the first place to look when you notice unexpected spikes in traffic, as they allows us to quickly identify the source and the context for the spike. With that knowledge in hand, you can optimise traffic and continue to grow that audience.

2. Keep Tracking on Everything

Measuring your referrals isn’t just about setting up campaigns, watching the numbers roll in, then deciding where to spend money to gain a bigger audience. You need to do some work or your data might be vague. Plus, you won’t know where to invest for your next campaign.

There is often a measurement ‘blind spot’ when tracing the saliency of your digital paid media and your website. Whether there’s a lack of measurement planning or the tracking tags are stripped from the assets, there are several causes for cloudy referral information. Not being able to identify which paid digital executions are working hardest from click-to-site conversion (vs. click-thru only) is potential revenue gone astray. Making sure that tracking codes are in place, and are firing under live testing is not a glamorous task, but well worth it.

3. Social Media Optimisation

The numbers are out and, unfortunately for most online retailers, social media isn’t a huge driver of sales. However, while social media isn’t likely to convert customers, it still offers great value for brands. Social media is an excellent way to increase quality visits, develop brand affinity and stay top of mind, which can eventually lead to conversion. That might seem like a lot of work and delayed gratification to get that one user to your end goal, but the payoff is well worth it. In the meantime, you can optimise the channels that are most effective.

With social media budgets increasing and more pressure to increase ‘earned’ value, understanding what type of social activity is acting as a traffic source can help you find opportunities for innovation. And through re-allocating small amounts of budget from your least effective source, you can enrich the social content that intentionally delivers quality visits.”

4. Discover Partner Opportunities

Tracking your referrals doesn’t just provide insight to your core audience and valuable ad spending channels, it can also help to discover potential partners who are aligned with your mission and overall goals. Over time, as new platforms emerge, your referrals are bound to change. Monitoring these new referrers and amplifying them on your own channels can help your site traffic, brand awareness and conversion rates stay strong. In all, keeping tabs on your referrals, both big and small, will point you in the right direction when it comes to efficient ad spend and time management as you cultivate an engaged digital audience and convert them into customers.

SEO: Ranking Factors in 2013 (Infographic)

Backlinks are a huge factor in helping pages rank high in Google. Good backlinks must act as the ‘most natural link profile’ possible and ‘diverse’ at the same time. In regards to social, recent research found that though social signals aren’t necessarily a factor for high rankings, the top URLs showed more social signals. When analyzing the importance of technology in high search rankings, it also revealed that site speed is a must. The relevance of keywords in the address bar is declining. Keyword domains and the factor ‘keyword in the URL’ appear to have been devalued by Google.

To find out more about the results from the study, check out the following infographic:

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Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet 2.0 from The Moz

Are you still struggling with the most appropriate SEO strategy for your company? Today, The Website Marketing Group team will share the latest version of The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet. In this free and downloadable document,  you will learn all of the important SEO code and best practices that are needed by online marketers and developers.

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You can also download the PDF file here.

Search Engine Violations, Spam & Penalties

Last month, we posted a Periodic Table Of SEO with complete descriptions of each of good factors that may help you to get a lot of SEO juice for your website. In case you miss our previous post, here are the complete table:

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However, the table also contains some negative factors to avoid. The fact is, many people did not realise that they had violated a search engine’s rules and spamming others. On the other hand, search engines look at a variety of signals before deciding if someone deserves a harsh penalty. Today, we decide to complete our previous post with more comprehensive descriptions of the violation factors, thus you can avoid them and keep your rank steady. Here are eight bad factors that you might want to avoid:

1. Vt: “Thin” or “Shallow” Content

In February 2011, Google released its searching algorithm “Panda” update in . Panda targets what is described as “thin” or “shallow” content or content that is lacking in substance. This domain level penalty targets sites with a predominant amount of so-so content and essentially treats it similar to overt spam techniques. Today, it’s no longer a question of whether the content is simply relevant but whether it is valuable to the user.

2. Va: Ads / Top Heavy Layout

Have you ever been on a site and found it hard to find the actual content amid a slew of ads? Where’s the beef! That’s what the Page Layout algorithm was meant to address. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam described it as follows:

… we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

Often referred to as Top Heavy, this penalty is reserved for sites that frustrate the user experience by placing an over abundance of ads before content. So don’t make your users search for the content.

3. Vs: Keyword Stuffing

It’s one of the oldest spam tactics on the books. Search engines say to use words you want to be found for on your pages. This might makes people to think, “OK, I’ll give them those words over and over again! How about 100 times in a row?” The answer is no, it will not bring anything to you. “Keyword stuffing” like this could get you penalized.

How often is too often? There’s no correct answer here, but you’d really have to go to extremes to cause this penalty to kick in. It’s most likely to happen to non-SEOs who just don’t know better and might decide to paste a word many times in a row, typically at the bottom of a web page.

4. Vh: Hidden Text

Once people decide to do keyword stuffing, they will probably think, “Why don’t I hide all this text that no human wants to see?” They might make the text white, so it blends with a page’s background. In this process, they will have spammed a search engine.

Search engines don’t like anything hidden. They want to see everything that a user sees. Don’t hide text, whether it be using styles, fonts, display:none or any other means that means a typical user can’t see it.

5. Vc: Cloaking

Here is a more sophisticated hiding: “How about modifying your site, so that search engines are shown a completely different version than what humans see?”

That’s called cloaking and search engines really don’t like it. It’s one of the worst things you could do. Google’s even banned itself for cloaking for a serious reason.

While most people are unlikely to accidentally spam a search engine, the opposite is true when it comes to cloaking. That’s why it’s such a heavy penalty, if you’re caught doing it. It’s a bait and switch and seen as a deliberate attempt to manipulate search results.

6. Vp: Paid Links

Speaking of Google banning itself, it also banned Google Japan, when that division was found to be buying links for 11 months. That’s longer than JC Penney was penalized (3 months) in 2011. However, JC Penney suffered another penalty after having its paid link purchase splashed across a giant New York Times article. So did several large online florists. Overstock also got hammered via a Wall Street Journal article.

The debate over whether Google should act so aggressively against those who buy and sell links has gone on for years. The point is, in order to rank on Google, you have to follow Google’s rules, and the rules say “no buying or selling links in a way that passes on search engine ranking credit”.

If you choose to ignore Google’s rules, be prepared for a little mercy if caught. Never believe on programs that tell you they’re paid links are undetectable. They are not.

As for Bing, officially it doesn’t penalize for paid links, but it frowns on the practice.

7. Vl: Link Spam

Tempted to run around and drop links on forums and blogs, all with highly optimized anchor text (like ‘louis vuitton handbags 2013?), with the help of automated software?

If you do go ahead with  this kind of “strategy”, most of the links won’t give you the credit you were thinking they would. On top of that, you can find yourself on the sharp end of a penalty.

This penalty has been given more weight in this version of the table based on the efforts Google has made in neutralizing and penalizing link spam and, in particular, the launch of the “Penguin” update.

If you have been caught dabbling on the dark side, or if a fly-by-night “SEO” company got your site in hot water you can disavow those links on both Google and Bing in hopes of redemption and a clean start.

8. Vd: Piracy / DMCA Takedowns

The “Pirate” update targeted sites infringing on copyright law. Under pressure from the Recording Industry Associate of America (RIAA), Hollywood powerhouses and governments, Google began to penalize sites who received a large number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) “takedown” requests.

It’s unlikely that most sites will have to deal with these issues, but you should handle any DMCA takedown notifications that show up in your Google Webmaster Tools account.

The EMD Update: Like Panda & Penguin, Expect Further Refreshes To Come

The Google "Slap" is back again - Google new algorithm changes are aiming to filter low quality Exact Matched Domains sites

Google new search algorithm changes - EMD Update

Last week, Google announced the EMD Update, a new filter that tries to ensure that low-quality sites don’t rise high in Google’s search results simply because they have search terms in their domain names. Similar to other filters like Panda, Google says EMD will be updated on a periodic basis. Those hit by it may escape the next EMD update, while others not hit this time could get caught up in the future.

How Periodic Updates Work: The Panda Example

Google has several filters that it updates periodically, that is from time-to-time. The Panda Update is the best example of this periodic nature and the impact it can have on publishers.

Panda works by effectively sifting all the sites that Google knows about on the web through a filter. Those deemed having too much poor quality content get trapped by Panda, which in turn means they may no longer rank as well as in the past. Those that slip through the filter have “escaped” Panda and see no ranking decrease. In fact, they might gain as they move higher into spots vacated by those Panda has dropped.

Since the filter isn’t perfect, Google keeps trying to improve it. Roughly each month, it sifts all the pages its knows about through an updated Panda filter. This might catch pages that weren’t caught before. It might also free pages that may have been caught by mistake.

Importantly, sites themselves get a chance to escape Panda each time the filter is used based on their own attempts to improve. Those that have dropped much poor quality content might find themselves no longer being trapped. Each new release of Panda is chance for a fresh start.

There are two articles from the past that I highly recommend reading to understand this more. One’s even a picture, an infographic:

  • Infographic: The Google Panda Update, One Year Later
  • Why Google Panda Is More A Ranking Factor Than Algorithm Update

How The EMD Update Works

How does this apply to the EMD Update? First, EMD gets its name because it targets “exact match domains,” which are domains that exactly match the search terms that they hope to be found for.

One common misconception is that EMD means that sites with search terms in their domain names no longer will rank as well as in the past. I’ve not seen evidence of this so far, and it’s certainly not what Google said.

Google specifically said EMD was designed to go after poor quality sites that also have exact match domain names. If you do a search for “google,” you still find plenty of Google web sites that all have “google” in the domain name. EMD didn’t wipe them out because those sites are deemed to have quality content.

Is that Google just favoring itself? I wouldn’t say so. After all, it didn’t wipe out:

  • Cars.com for “cars”
  • Usedcars.com for “used cars”
  • Cheaptickets.com for “cheap tickets”
  • Movies.com for “movies”
  • Skylightbooks.com for “books”

Instead, EMD is more likely hitting domains like online-computer-training-schools.com, which is a made-up example but hopefully gets the point across. It’s a fairly generic name with lots of keywords in it but no real brand recognition.

Domains like this are often purchased by someone hoping that just having all the words they want to be found for (“online computer training schools”) will help them rank well. It’s true that there’s a small degree of boost to sites for having search terms in their domains with Google, in general. A very small degree.

But such sites also often lacked any really quality content. They were purchased or created in hopes of an easy win, and there’s often no real investment in building them up with decent information or into an actual destination, a site that people would go to directly, not a site they’d just happen upon through a search result.

Some of them lack content at all (are “parked”) or have content that’s taken from other sites (“scraped”). Google already went after parked domains last December (and made a mistake in classifying some sites as parked in April). It’s already been going after scrapers with Panda and other efforts.

EMD seems targeted after low-quality sites that are “in between” these two things, perhaps sites that have content that doesn’t appear scraped because it has been “spun” using software to rewrite the material automatically.

It’s really important to understand that plenty of people have purchased exact match domains in hopes of a ranking boost and have also put in the time and effort to populate these sites with quality content. I’ve already listed some examples of this above, and there are smart “domainers” beyond this who do not park, scrape or spin but instead build a domain with a nice name into a destination, making it more valuable for a future sale.

In short, EMD domains aren’t being targeted; EMD domains with bad content are.

The Many Filters Google Uses

A mystery in all this is that Panda was already designed to punish sites for having bad content. Clearly, Panda wasn’t doing the job in the case of EMD domains, to the degree that Google had to build a completely separate EMD filter.

That means, metaphorically speaking, Google pours all the sites it knows about through a Panda strainer. After that, it pours what didn’t get caught in that strainer through the EMD filter.

In reality, it’s not a case of pouring everything through a variety of different filters all at once. Google’s running different filters at different times, such as:

  • Panda
  • Top Heavy
  • Penguin
  • Pirate
  • EMD
The Google Panda Update One Year Later

The Google Panda Update One Year Later

There are more we don’t even know about, and Google doesn’t announce most of these. But what we’ve learned more and more through Panda is the periodic nature of Google’s filters, the idea that once a filter is introduced, at some point in a few weeks or month, Google will improve that filter and sift content through it again.

To better understand how all these filters can keep the Google results “dancing,” I highly recommend reading my article from last month:

  • The Return Of The Google Dance

Recovering From EMD

Google confirmed for me this week that EMD is a periodic filter. It isn’t constantly running and looking for bad EMD domains to filter. It’s designed to be used from time-to-time to ensure that what was filtered out before should continue to be filtered. It also works to catch new things that may have been missed before.

If you were hit by EMD, and hope to recover, the advice seems to be very similar to Panda — get rid of the poor quality content. In particular, these articles below might help:

  • Your Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Panda Update. Now What?
  • Hit By Panda Update? Google Has 23 Questions To Ask Yourself To Improve
  • Lessons Learned at SMX West: Google’s Panda Update, White Hat Cloaking & Link Building
  • 5 New Tactics For SEO Post-Panda
  • Can You Dig Out Of Your Google Panda Hole By Offloading To Subdomains?
  • Yet More Tips For Diagnosing & Fixing Panda Problems
  • Google: Low PageRank & Bad Spelling May Go Hand-In-Hand; Panda, Too?

You can find more in the Panda Update section of our Search Engine Land Library. After you’ve removed the poor quality content, it’s waiting time. You’ll only see a change the next time the EMD filter is run.

When will that be? Google’s not saying, but based on the history of Panda, it’s likely to be within the next three months, and eventually it might move to a monthly basis. But it could take longer until EMD 2 hits, nor is there any guarantee it’ll ever ramp-up to a monthly refresh like Panda, nor that Google will even announce when they happen.

To complicate matters, many sites that may have thought they were hit by EMD instead might have been hit by the far bigger Panda Update 20. Google belatedly acknowledged releasing a fresh Panda update the day before EMD was launched.

My advice is that if you were never hit by Panda before — and you have a domain name you purchased in hopes of an “exact match” success — then it’s probably EMD that hit you.

Postscript: Related, a few hours after this was posted, a new Penguin Update was released. See our story, Google Penguin Update 3 Released, Impacts 0.3% Of English-Language Queries.

5 Examples of Highly Optimized Landing Pages

“Landing pages are the new direct marketing, and everyone with a website is a direct marketer.” ~Seth Godin

Landing pages are meant to convert traffic based on an intended action. This action could be subscribing to an email list or a free trial, purchasing a product, or requesting information.

In a nutshell, landing pages are designed for a specific purpose, that is to convert a visitor to complete an action.

The optimization of landing pages is a widely discussed topic in internet marketing. Marketers continue to tweak their pages in hopes of increased conversions.

What are the best practices for designing an effective landing page? I will cover some of them here and then we will look at specific examples in further detail.

Keep it simple

A landing page is designed for visitors to complete a single action. If you clutter the page with too many calls to action, you will confuse the visitor.

Avoid excess content

Users will not read through copy. They will simply skim headlines.

Avoid excess clutter. Oft times, less is more with landing pages. Clear, concise calls to action and a good amount of white-space can be very effective at drawing the eye to the intended action. Clean and simple is the name of the game.

Color Usage

The use of appropriate colors can greatly enhance your conversion rates. Colors create an emotional response while drawing the eye to a specific location. Use a pop of color for your “call to action” buttons. They should jump off the page.

For an in-depth look at color in web design, check out this informative article: Color Theory for Designers

Testimonials

Testimonials will convey to the visitor that your product is worth buying.

Be careful not to overdo the testimonials. One or two should suffice. If possible, brands and logos work best, either alone or accompanied by a review. People are skeptical. If you post a testimonial by a “Beth Smith”, they might think it was your trusted aunt helping you out. Establish authenticity with your testimonials in any way you can. Videos will work as well.

Consistency

From start to finish, your sales funnel should be relevant and consistent. If you are sending people to a landing page via an advertisement, the landing page should speak the same message as your ad and include similar colors and fonts. If you are advertising a free 7 day trial, this information should be listed on your landing page. If the messaging is even the slightest bit inconsistent, you will lose potential leads.

Testing

A landing page should undergo A/B testing. With this type of testing, you measure response rates based on different versions of a control. For example, your first landing page will act as your control. You would then test one variable at a time (e.g. a different banner, button, image, etc.) by changing an element and seeing how your audience responds. Successful testing will give you the optimal landing page for your target audience.

Above the fold

“Above the fold” of a web page simply refers to the area a visitor views without scrolling down. Your landing page should include the most important information as well as the “call to action” button above the fold. People should never have to scroll down to view the “meat” of the landing page.

Below are 5 examples of great landing page designs:

1. GMAC Mortgage

 

Landing Page Design Gmac Mortgage

Gmac Mortgage

In this example, GMAC Mortgage is using the color “blue” well, which is normally associated with trust and financial institutions. There is a lot of white-space and the “call to action” buttons are in a color that draws the eye to them since the orange is a good contrast to the blue and white. The “call to action” buttons are strategically placed on the top and bottom of the page and the benefits are highlighted as well.

2. Strawberry Jam

 

Landing Page Design Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

I wanted to highlight the simple design of this landing page. The arrow points to the email entry field and the top of the page highlights the logos of clients who use the service. Though most of the information is above the fold, if you scroll down, the page explains what it is about. The page is very creative and extremely well-thought out.

3. Bondsy

 

Landing Page Design Bondsy

Bondsy

This landing page is simplistic and highly effective. The headline captures your attention and appeals to the audience. The word “used goods” is highlighted for a reason, while “Craigslist” and “Ebay” are underlined for a purpose as well. It sets a precedent and leaves you hanging until you enter your email address. As an avid Craigslist seller, I was compelled to enter my email address after seeing this page.

4. Debt Free 123

 

Landing Page Design Debt Free 123

Debt Free 123

This landing page is a great example of what a strong image can convey. People who are looking for debt solutions are most likely frustrated and depressed and have children to parent. This landing page is appealing to a specific demographic and portraying the emotions of a happy family to lead visitors to its intended action. The logo is also very effective and the headline grabs interest. The green arrow on top of the entries section draws the eye to the right place. The eye is immediately drawn to the green and red colors due to the strategic muted background colors.

Tip: Know your demographic and who you are targeting. Use this information to aid you in choosing the right images, colors, etc.

5. Hooked on Phonics

 

Landing Page Design Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics

This landing page is my favorite of the five. The colors are very strategic and there are many effective elements. It includes a guarantee which makes visitors feel safe as well as a customer satisfaction seal (seals emit a feeling of trust). It also targets the audience with the image and includes a video which is another effective tool to keep people on the page. Videos can explain the benefits of a product or service in a more visual, interactive format.  There is also a visual representation of what you will expect to receive when you fill out the form. Every element on this page has a purpose.

What methods have you used to optimize your landing pages? Do you like any of these landing pages?  Do not hesitate to contact us.