Posts about search engine optimization

What’s the Difference Between SEO and PPC?

SEO is a “free” method of driving visitors to your site, while PPC is paid promotion of your site content. Both are effective methods of search engine marketing (SEM), which refers to types of digital marketing practices that target businesses and consumers who are searching for what your site offers.

SEO vs. PPC, TL;DR Edition

PPC is a search engine marketing technique that is comparable to traditional advertising practices, in that you pay in accordance to your goals. The amount you pay will determine where, when, and how your ad shows up, similar to buying advertising space in a magazine or on a billboard. While this comparison is somewhat of an oversimplification, the basic concept is the same: if you have the money and want to reach potential customers, you’ll be able to use PPC to gain a lot of visibility. Wondering how to get on the top of the first page of Google with PPC? Pay the highest cost per click (CPC) for your target keywords and search phrases.

SEO, however, focuses on driving traffic to sites by catering to the needs of searchers. SEO cannot be accomplished by sending a check to Google, as in PPC; rather, SEO is about building sites that:

  1. deliver great content that is in line with searchers’ intent and answers their questions
  2. follow accepted standards expected by search engines, and
  3. do not intend to deceive search engines.

Wondering how to get on the top of the first page of Google with SEO? Optimize your site to be the most relevant to searchers for your target keywords and search phrases.

Common Misconceptions about SEO and PPC

SEO and PPC side by side

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to digital marketing, and for good reason – search engines, bidding, and algorithms are much more alien than familiar forms of marketing that businesses have been dealing with for decades. However, knowing the differences between SEO and PPC is key to being able to make the right choices, whether you’re pursuing your business’s digital strategy yourself, or you’re seeking a consultant or agency to give expertise.

Luckily, a little knowledge goes a long way in the digital marketing world! Here are a few common misconceptions about the different types of digital marketing that we encounter fairly regularly at Leverage, and some information that will help you make clear decisions for your business. Trust us – you don’t want to play around with decisions based on less-than-factual information gleaned from your uncle or web developer’s friend of a friend.

Misconception #1: SEO is Basically FREE MONEY.

Remember the first sentence of this article, when I said that SEO was “free”? There are quotations around that “free” for one reason: GOOD SEO is basically never free. Unless your cousin is a freelance SEO consultant willing to take on 10+ hours a week worth of pro bono work for your site, good SEO is going to take some resources. At the very least, performing good SEO will take some time and manpower, and at the most, it could require reallocating your marketing budget a bit.

Notice I keep saying GOOD SEO, not just SEO. Sure, you can find a guy living in the shadows of the internet who vows to bump your site to the first page of Google by next week for a low flat rate of $50. However, like most things that sound too good to be true, that is most likely not going to turn out well for your site. You might end up with bad SEO work that will cause your website to be penalized and require thousands of dollars of damage control work to be performed by actual experts, or you might just end up with nothing to show for the funds you invested. Do your homework and find an experienced SEO agency instead.

Misconception #2: SEO is More Effective than PPC/PPC is More Effective than SEO

So your friend tried working with an SEO consultant once, and it didn’t really bring him the huge returns he was looking for. He now runs paid ads for his site, and he gets a LOT of traffic from them. That sounds great, right? Why shouldn’t you just perform the same search engine marketing techniques and put all of your resources into PPC efforts as well?

Digital marketing, like almost every other type of promotional or marketing effort, is not a one-size-fits-all deal. Some businesses will find that their advertising money goes to waste if they pay tons of cash for PPC that drives traffic but that doesn’t result in conversions, and some businesses will find that SEO efforts just aren’t enough on their own to drive brand awareness.

The balance of PPC and SEO varies from business to business. Some businesses will find that SEO efforts bring a lot of value to their business, as they help create trust and drive qualified traffic. Other businesses find that PPC gives them a huge boost in visibility that takes their brand to the next level. Neither SEO nor PPC is wrong or bad, and neither is superior – they are simply different practices that are best leveraged off of each other.

Not sure what your business needs? We want to take a look! Learn more about how the Leverage Marketing team can dig into the details behind your business and your industry, make sense of the numbers, and draw a roadmap for success.

Misconception #3: Both SEO and PPC are a “Waste of Time, Just Get a Newspaper Ad”

You might have had someone tell you that they pursued either/both SEO and/or PPC in the past with horrific results. Maybe their site received a penalty, their ads were all disapproved within Adwords, or their consultant was less than attentive to their account. Search engine marketing must be pretty risky, right?

In the SEO and PPC world, there are always risks and bad stuff does happen sometimes – but that’s true of any marketing effort that is made without the right attention to detail. Remember when one classic American department store attempted to rebrand their entire business model, and realized that their changes actually made their store less desirable to their target market? Sure, they might have skimped on their market research and dropped the ball when it came to listening to their customers’ needs, but their epic rebranding fail doesn’t indicate that any rebranding effort made by any company is always a waste of time – it simply indicates that they didn’t take the right steps to achieve success. Look at what a legendary designer clothier’s rebranding campaign achieved – their excellent rebranding effort doubled revenues over a five year period and saved the brand’s exclusive image.

Search engine marketing techniques, like rebranding or really any other business effort, are only as successful as the team driving strategy. That’s why it is vital that you choose the right partner for SEO or PPC campaigns. Paid and non-paid digital marketing strategies are intertwined efforts, which is why finding an experienced full-service digital marketing agency to handle all the intricacies of your business is one of the best ways to ensure success. If you’re splitting your efforts or going it alone, do your research and ask yourself if you’re willing to take the risk of playing it too small in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing digital landscape.

Want more digital marketing myth-busting and guides to getting the most out of SEO and PPC for your business? Sign up for the Leverage newsletter for informative and non-annoying weekly digests today.

Enhance Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy with Leverage Learning

95% of Americans make an online purchase at least once a year, and 80% have made at least one online purchase in the past month. And, as the Washington Post recently put it, about a third of consumers now buy something online at least as often as they take out the trash (once a week). As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, it may seem like there’s never been a better time to own an ecommerce business.

However, growth-focused ecommerce businesses still face plenty of challenges, especially when it comes to attracting shoppers (who may be inclined to start their search on Amazon) and converting those shoppers into paying customers.

Build Your Ecommerce Marketing Knowledge

At Leverage Marketing, we want to help online businesses address these challenges with actionable ecommerce marketing ideas. We’ve been doing this for years with our digital marketing services, and now we’re taking what we’ve learned and sharing it in a free educational email series called Leverage Learning: Ecommerce.

The goal of Leverage Learning: Ecommerce is to help online business owners find digital marketing ideas to reach more customers and increase sales. The series is broken into 11 lessons on the following subjects:


content marketing for ecommerce email preview

  1. Branding
  2. Search Engine Optimization
  3. UX Web Design
  4. Content Marketing
  5. Influencer Marketing
  6. Facebook and Instagram Marketing
  7. Paid Search Advertising
  8. Email Marketing
  9. Online Customer Service
  10. Mobile Marketing
  11. Measuring Success in Google Analytics


When you subscribe, you’ll receive a new email lesson twice a week until you’ve received the full series. The emails offer best practices for ecommerce marketing, quick tips that business owners can implement right away, and recommendations for free or low-cost tools to streamline marketing efforts.

If you’re ready to use digital marketing to drive sales for your ecommerce business, you can subscribe to our Leverage Learning: Ecommerce series by clicking here.

SEO for ecommerce email preview

And if you enjoy this series, stay tuned: we’ll be releasing our Leverage Learning: Content Marketing series next!

As always, we’d love for you to contact us if you have any questions about our Leverage Learning series or the digital marketing services we offer!

Mobile Shopping: The New Norm

We originally published this post back in 2016. Since a lot can change in the online marketing landscape in a year, we’ve updated it for 2017.

Throughout the last decade, mobile and online shopping has been on the rise, pushing brick-and-mortar businesses to compete harder for their share of consumers’ dollars. During the 2017 holiday season, eMarketer expects ecommerce sales to grow 15.8%, with total retail growth limited to 2%. The National Retail Federation (NRF) believes overall retail growth will be around 3.7-4.2% in 2017, while online retail will grow 8-12% alone. It’s clear that mobile shopping on smartphones and tablets, rather than brick and mortar shopping, is the new norm.

In the United States, consumers are increasingly using their smartphones more hours during the day for shopping, social media, and other activities. Mobile ad spending is on the rise, as marketers realize they need to target mobile consumers even more than through traditional advertising avenues. As mobile data and the online shopping industry grow, vendors and retailers will need to come up with innovative ways to target consumers.

As fewer consumers purchase laptops or rely on them as a primary device, tablets and smartphones will increasingly become the primary devices for purchasing, with 31 million US Internet users only using a mobile device to go online in 2016.

mobile online shopping

Amazon and Walmart

Comparing two retail giants—Amazon and Walmart—shows the chasm widening between online and brick-and-mortar sales. Amazon posted $82.7 billion in sales for the last 12 months, while Walmart, with its massive physical presence, only posted $12.5 billion. With ecommerce juggernauts like Amazon driving more sales through programs like Amazon Prime, online sales will continue to eclipse traditional brick-and-mortar options, and the online shopping industry will grow.

Both these companies are working hard to break into each other’s markets, with Walmart strengthening its ecommerce skills and Amazon its brick-and-mortar abilities. Walmart has purchased Amazon, however, announced its intention to purchase organic food giant Whole Foods and has been opening up retail bookstores in NYC and other locations. These two massive companies make it clear that ecommerce is the future, but brick-and-mortar isn’t dead either.

Demographics: Who Shops Mobile?

New data shows that younger buyers, especially those with smartphones, are more likely to use mobile devices for shopping compared to older consumers. In a 2016 Bronto survey of over 1000 people, 65% of adults ages 18-24 say they use their smartphones for shopping, as do 63% of those ages 25-34, and 58% of those aged 35-44, with the numbers dropping significantly as age increases. 35-44-year-old people are more likely to purchase on tablets, with younger consumers not using those devices as frequently. As age increases over 44, these numbers decline.

What these statistics suggest is that most mobile commerce growth is driven by the 18-34-year-old segment of the population, with less push from older American adults. As an increasing number of millennials accrue wealth and enter the workforce, mobile sales will continue to grow and overtake online sales from computers and eventually brick-and-mortar entirely.

Online shopping growth, especially on mobile, is a force that will only increase as the conveniences of shopping from your home and online-only deals eclipse any advantages brick-and-mortar stores retain. Millennial shoppers are pushing this evolution, and the next generation will only further it.smartphone graph new


Consumer trends suggest that mobile sales are the new norm. Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are convenient to use and able to fit in your pocket, and retailers are providing seamless app experiences for purchasing on their platforms. Tablets are also a significant part of this growth, to a lesser extent, among adults in the 35-44-year old range.

Mobile commerce growth is inevitable, and it will overtake brick-and-mortar. The only question is when. With giants like Amazon reporting close to $100 billion in annual sales and growing, retailers and advertisers must pursue solutions to engage with mobile consumers in innovative ways. While brick and mortar stores are still relevant for the foreseeable future, Walmart and similar large retailers must continue to adapt to stay in business.

At Leverage Marketing, we employ pioneering techniques to further your company’s digital marketing efforts We can help your ecommerce business create a mobile-friendly design that adapts to smartphone and tablet design. Learn more about our web design services and contact us today.

How Far Down the Search Engine Results Page Will Most People Go?

This post was originally written by one of our summer 2015 interns, Kelly Iden. Since things change pretty quickly in search engine marketing, we’ve updated and expanded the post with new stats and info.

The average web user won’t go past the first five listings on a search engine results page (SERP). According to a 2014 study from Advanced Web Rankings, more than 67% of all clicks on SERPs go to the top five listings. Things start to get grim when you look past those first few results. Research shows that websites on the first search engine results page receive almost 95% of web traffic, leaving only 5% for remaining search results pages.

Why Does SERP Position Matter?

Once a search engine result grabs web users’ attention, the logical next step for the user is to click through to the website to get additional information and potentially take some kind of action (such as making a purchase). Most people will click on one of the first few results because they’ve found what they’re looking for, don’t want to scroll further, are short on time, or some combination of the three.  Therefore, the higher a company’s organic search ranking, the higher the click-through rate (CTR). A July 2014 Google organic desktop search study found a 71% CTR for page one results while pages two and three have a combined CTR of just 6%. You can see just how dramatically CTR declines by position in this graph from Advanced Web Ranking, which looks at searches from June 2017:

click through rate dropoff by search engine results page position

If those stakes aren’t high enough for you, consider the fact that Google and other search engines factor in CTR when determining how to rank pages. In other words, Google will recognize a page with a high CTR as one that is valuable to readers and is more likely to push it towards the top of the SERPs. Because high click-through rates correspond with powerful organic search rankings, many companies question what it takes to reach their optimal search engine standings for their most valuable keywords. Claiming the top organic positions for relevant keywords is not an easy accomplishment, but one that many businesses worldwide compete for. As companies improve their SEO strategies and Google updates its algorithms, search engine rankings constantly shift.

What Challenges Are Organic Search Results Currently Facing?

It’s not just competitors’ organic listings that search engine marketers have to worry about. Google frequently tinkers with its SERP format, and depending on the search query, the first organic first result may be pushed below a local 3-pack, a featured snippet, or up to four text ads. The presence of ads can make a huge difference when it comes to organic CTR. For SERPs with no ads, the average CTR for the first organic result is 30%, but that drops to 17.9% when ads enter the picture.

Here’s an example of what we see at the top of the SERP when we search for “Austin hotel:”

ads on search results page

When we scroll past those ads, we see a local 3-pack before we ever get to the first organic result:

local 3 pack on search results page

When businesses compete for long-tail keywords (a keyword phrase consisting of at least three words), they may also lose real estate to Google’s relatively new featured snippet. A featured snippet is a block towards the top of the SERP that pulls a few lines and a link from a high-ranking page in an attempt to answer a searcher’s question. Here’s a very meta example:

featured snippet on search engine results page

Featured snippets can cause a major nosedive for click-through rates because in many cases, the searcher can get the information they need without ever leaving the SERP. A study from Ahrefs found that there’s approximately a 25% drop-off in CTR for the first organic result on SERPs with a featured snippet. However, in many cases, readers will click the link for a featured snippet to learn more, which can lead to a significant increase in site traffic if one of your pages gets featured.

How Can You Compete for Organic Traffic?

As it becomes increasingly challenging to rank well for industry-relevant search queries, your business needs to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that will help your site achieve SERP visibility. Here are a few examples of things to try:

  • Search for long-tail keywords with higher traffic and lower competition. The more competition there is for a keyword, the harder it will be to rank on page 1. By focusing on long-tail keywords that are specific to your business, you’ll have a better chance of getting in front of the web users who need your product or service.
  • Identify questions that your target customers are asking (and that are relevant to your business). Provide in-depth answers to those questions in blog posts or knowledge hub pages on your site and your content may end up in a featured snippet.
  • Work with a web development team to make technical improvements to your site. Improving your site speed and ensuring all your pages are mobile-friendly can give you an SEO boost.
  • Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions. Your title tag and meta description make up the preview of your content that web users while see on a SERP, so you need to make sure they provide a compelling reason to click. Incorporating a primary keyword into both the title and description can help you rank higher for relevant search queries, too.

Companies that pay attention to their search engine optimization strategies will find that in return, users will notice their website links, leading to higher click-through rates, greater visibility in the SERPs, and more customers.

Need help with your SEO strategy? Contact our digital marketing team—we can perform a site audit to help you identify opportunities for higher organic rankings.


Site Redesign SEO: How to Not Lose Your Site Traffic

Upgrading your site with a site redesign or a site migration can be a great way to take your business to the next level. However, if performed without an eye to SEO, site redesigns can also be a great way to lose site traffic, loyal customers, and new leads.

At Leverage, we often hear from prospective clients who have performed a site redesign or site migration and watched their site traffic and conversions dry up rapidly ever since.

This site’s visibility took a plunge after this site migration–while their pages were showing up for 210 search terms before the migration, they were only visible for 77 search terms the month after the launch.

It is possible to recover from a big drop in SEO visibility after a site redesign. As you can see in the graph below, the client above started ranking for even more search terms than before once we implemented an SEO recovery strategy:

However, it requires a lot of hard work and some serious professional expertise to recover from a drop in SEO visibility, and your site will take some time to get back to it’s previous level. It’s much easier to just circumvent this sticky situation entirely. By taking some steps before, during, and after launch, you can redesign your website without losing the SEO value you’ve been building up over the years.

Take Stock of What You Have

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to collect information about your current site. Analyze the site’s SEO-related performance before the site redesign or migration. Not only does this help mitigate any issues or confusion later, but it also helps you take stock of your site’s strengths and weaknesses so you can get a better idea of what your new site needs to do better.

Start by making a list of every URL on your current site. Yep, all of ‘em. This may seem like an awful and overwhelming task (especially with a large ecommerce site), but there are a number of tools that make it less of a headache, such as our SEO team’s favorite, Screaming Frog. Crawling tools like this can dig into your site and find all the URLs you forgot you had, and it can do it in about the same length of time it took you to open that Excel spreadsheet you were about to copy and paste every URL of your site onto.

Make a Redirection Plan

Once you’ve made a list of your URLs, you can create an SEO migration plan for “forwarding” them on to your new site. If you’re only changing your site’s design, this hopefully won’t be too tough a task. In this scenario, most of your URLs will likely be staying the same, so you’ll just need to take stock of the ones that you’re not planning on keeping on the new site and decide if you want to redirect them to active pages or (in the case of a page that doesn’t get any notable traffic) just let them die off.

If you’re changing your domain name, things will be a little trickier, and you’ll need to coordinate your web redesign team with an experienced SEO consultant or two to ensure that nothing goes awry when redirecting one domain to another.

Monitor the Vitals

If you’re not tracking your site with an analytics platform and technical monitoring tools such as Google Search Console, you’re probably going to miss some big stuff when your site transitions. Having a good grasp of your site’s current SEO performance is critical to surviving a site redesign.

You’ll want to use your analytics and site usage data to identify the most important pieces of your site. You can see what pages users most often enter your site through and identify pages that are linked to from other places on the web. These entry points are critical for your site, and you’ll need to have a plan for ensuring their preservation and their functionality upon launch. You don’t want one of your site’s “front doors” to lead to this ugly thing, do you?

“That’s annoying. I’m going to their competitor’s site.” -your customers, probably

You’ll also want to use these types of tools to monitor and identify problems that inevitably pop up when launching a new site, such as broken links and search engine crawl problems. By setting up basic SEO tools before a site redesign or migration and monitoring them before and after launch, you can rest easier knowing all the cogs are turning.

Bring in the Experts

Oftentimes, preserving SEO value during site redesigns or site migrations is just too important a task to wing it and hope for the best. When it comes to SEO, taking a gamble on site redesign can be a fatal choice that buries your site under pages of search results and hides it from hundreds or thousands of customers. That’s why it’s often a good idea to bring in the professionals to ensure that things go smoothly.

However, not every team is the right fit for a smooth and SEO-friendly site redesign. Many web development teams are lacking in the type of SEO expertise that you’ll need to ensure that your site retains its value, but choosing an agency that doesn’t perform a lot of web design tasks may not be the best equipped to provide the kind of site you’re looking for. Start your search by asking the right questions to identify consultants that have the right stuff.

Not to toot our own horn, but Leverage Marketing is pretty good at performing SEO-friendly site redesigns and migrations. Check out what the guru of our SEO department has to say about site transitions, or learn more about our SEO services today. Not ready to take the jump? Subscribe to our newsletter for more digital marketing goodness today.

3 Simple B2B SEO Strategies for Beginners

If you have a B2B company, SEO might not currently be your number one priority. Maybe your product or service is highly specialized, your resources are few, or you’ve always relied on traditional marketing channels to bring in regular leads.

However, if you’re not implementing any sort of B2B SEO strategy, your business is probably missing out on a lot of potential customers. While following best practices for B2B SEO may seem daunting, it is worth the effort. We’ve written before about how search engines have changed the way we seek out valid information, and have discussed how mobile technology will continue to drive our interest in getting our questions answered while on the go. And with 61% of B2B decision makers beginning the buying process with an online search, sites that don’t rank well are missing out on internet users who are getting ready to become leads. These customers are actively looking for someone to give their business to, and a coordinated B2B SEO strategy helps them find their way into your inbox.

Luckily, B2B SEO doesn’t have to be a massive drain on your resources. Following a few B2B SEO best practices can take your site a long way, and reaching out to SEO experts is a great way to get the most out of your efforts. To get your B2B SEO strategy off on the right foot, use the following tips to your business’ advantage.

Create Awareness & Visibility

Growing your B2B company with SEO means you’ll need to find ways to drive more traffic onto your site. From an organic search perspective, this means that you want the links leading to your site to shine and draw clicks from the searchers who see them. A simple way to do this is by customizing your page title tags and meta descriptions to convey important information and draw the customer in. Increasing your click-through rate (the percentage of people who click on your site’s link off of the search results page) communicates meaning and trustworthiness to search engines, who reward sites with high click-through rates with high rankings on results pages.

To write these titles and descriptions effectively for B2B SEO, you’ll want to see your business from your customer’s point of view. What role does the searcher perform at their company? How deep is their knowledge of what you offer? What is important to them? If the buyer isn’t someone who would know much about your highly technical product, draw their click by courting their priorities (such as price or customer service), and use basic language that doesn’t leave them confused. Conversely, if your buyers tend to focus on the features of what you offer and like to ask nitty-gritty questions when considering a sale, use language that conveys your company’s expertise and knowledge on the details.

You’ll also want to consider what the customer is looking for when they perform a search. Ask yourself what each page “answers” for the customer; in other words, what phrase would a customer type into the search bar and find this page helpful in their search results? Check out the “Searches Related To ___” section at the bottom of search result pages for more ideas on what customers are looking for when they’re seeking out your offering. Work those key search phrases into your titles and descriptions to match the searcher’s intent with your content.

screenshot of Searches Related To B2B Business

Leverage Existing Assets

Many B2B companies have content assets such as blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, recorded webinars, or podcasts. Maybe you’ve been using these assets to help inform customers on vital industry updates, or educate them prior to a sale. Maybe you’ve even pursued some promotional efforts with these assets. Luckily for your time and wallet, leveraging these existing pieces can add a lot to a B2B SEO strategy.

First, assess how visitors access this material on your site. Is it buried in a sub-sub-sub-sub-category page, or locked behind a paywall? If visitors and search engine crawling mechanisms can’t easily read or access your content, it’s a missed opportunity to seize a little more space on search result pages by answering searcher questions with your content. Consider leaving some of your content accessible to all visitors to ensure indexation and drive traffic. Having content exclusively for subscribers or customers is a great lead generation tactic, but leaving some pieces open is a B2B SEO best practice for driving customers to your site and gaining essential trust.

content hub on B2B website

Example of an effective content hub on a B2B website

Another aspect to consider: Are your assets original content that your team wrote, or is it mostly recycled or copied information from other resources? You don’t want search engines to crawl your content and deem it identical to other pieces across the web—there’s a good chance yours won’t compete with the original pieces very well, and your site could even see penalties. Focus on creating original content and editing or removing duplicates from your site.

Convert Site Traffic

example of B2B pop-up download offer

B2B SEO is just as much about generating qualified leads as it is about driving traffic to a site. If an SEO campaign was driving tons of traffic but none of those visitors were converting, the value of SEO to that site just wouldn’t be that high. Furthermore, search engines like to see that visitors stay and engage with a site, rather than bounce off quickly, and sites with good visitor engagement also tend to see ranking boosts.

For an SEO campaign for a business-to-business company to really pack a punch, consider pursuing conversion rate optimization tactics to get conversions from as many qualified visitors as possible. This can be accomplished in several different ways, and the more metrics you can examine, the more complete of a picture you’ll get about your users and their experience on your site. Some basic conversion rate optimization techniques you can try are:

  • A/B testing with a tool such as Optimizely to tweak site your design with different call to action buttons or copy
  • Examining Google Analytics to identify common exit pages (viewers’ last page before leaving your site) and pages with high bounce rates (pages that viewers land on and exit quickly) to determine if there are any trouble spots where your site is losing viewers
  • Adding SEO-friendly pop-up boxes via tools such as OptinMonster that encourage microconversions (such as newsletter signups) and help you turn casual readers into relationships, leads, and eventually customers

If you’re ready to supercharge your B2B SEO strategy, it’s time to get in touch with an agency that understands the B2B world and its unique SEO needs. At Leverage Marketing, we know the ins and outs of B2B lead generation and are motivated to drive the qualified leads you’re looking for. Check out our SEO services today, or sign up for our newsletter for regular doses of digital marketing knowledge right in your inbox.

How to Build a High-Quality Landing Page that Converts

When considering top landing page designs, most industry experts will tell you that every landing page is unique and has its own requirements. They’ll tell you that landing page elements will differ depending on whether you’re promoting a service or a product, and what that service or product does will also change what’s on the landing page.

Yes, of course, every landing page will differ. Landing page best practices dictate that each page should provide unique value to consumers. That’s absolutely true.

But there are nine essentials to a perfect landing page that nearly every one ought to feature. Include the following nine elements on your landing pages to tap into the deepest parts of marketing psychology and help your consumers learn why your product or service is the ultimate.

Essential Elements of the Landing Page Format

Each item includes a description underneath the mock landing page below.

To describe the elements of high-converting landing pages, we have created a fictional robot butler that specializes in cooking breakfast. We’ve optimized a landing page to solve a problem for consumers searching for phrases such as “no time for breakfast” or “robot that cooks.”

high quality landing page example using constructicon malcom robot

Information-Rich Heading – 1

Your heading, styled using the <h1> and </h1> HTML tags, should:

  • Summarize the purpose of your product or service
  • Capture attention with witty or clever copy

Your heading is the first thing the customer will see and will determine whether he or she stays to look at the rest of your landing page or bounces. Aim to sell your product or service in less than six words.

Visual Media – 2

Not every customer is a reader, so to appeal to the visual type (almost everyone), add large visual media to your landing page format that’s easy on the eyes. Images, animations, and videos should:

  • Demonstrate the action or purpose of your product or service
  • Evoke an emotion that will provide inspiration to continue down the landing page

Keep your visual media compressed but beautiful. Use tools like TinyPNG after resizing your images and animations to their appropriate size. This way, your landing page loads fast and doesn’t keep your customer waiting.

Explanation – 3

As the consumer scrolls down the page, he or she is building an understanding of your product or service and determining its value step-by-step. The explanation is your opportunity to influence the consumer’s thoughts and build onto the skeleton provided by your headline and visuals.

A good landing page explanation should:

  • Offer hard facts about your product or service
  • Highlight what makes your product or service different than that of your competitors

Before you begin explaining the benefits of using what you provide to customers, make sure they have all the information they need to apply benefits to real features you offer.

Benefits – 4

The benefits section of a high-converting landing page takes the raw facts about your product or service and shows the customer how those apply to his or her problem.

A successful benefits section should:

  • Concisely list how your features help
  • Begin the process of convincing the consumer that your offering is superior

Negative Impact (Problem) – 5

One of the most poignant elements of a good landing page is an appeal to emotion that stems from a problem the consumer is having. We can address the problem and its toll on the happiness of the consumer by identifying a negative issue that calls an unpleasant response.

The negative impact should:

  • Help consumers recall the problem for which they are seeking a solution
  • Stir the consumer’s emotions and concerns so you can appropriately address them

The purpose of the negative impact is not to upset the consumer. It is only to make him or her aware of the problem for which you are providing the solution.

Positive Impact (Solution) – 6

Pull your consumer back from the negative and introduce a positive solution in your landing page copy. Use language that conjures thoughts of pleasure and happiness.

The positive impact should:

  • Remind customers that your product or service is a viable solution to their problem
  • Restore emotions to a level at which consumers are prepared to purchase

The positive impact makes you look like a hero. After presenting the problem and your unique solution, most customers will be ready to dive into what you offer.

Testimonials – 7

Best practices for landing page conversion dictate that your customers have to trust you. Even if they love your product or service and are convinced that your solution is perfect, there is still a threat of loss.

Too-good-to-be-true merchandise and high-expectation, low-value service exist in droves in the real world. You need the backing of pleased customers to convince those with a lot to lose that they have nothing to worry about.

You can do so with testimonials, which can come in text, image, or video format. Testimonials should:

  • Provide real insight from actual customers about your past performance
  • Build undeniable trust with your potential customers

Contact Info – 8

Don’t forget! Your customers can’t get in touch with you to ask questions or request service without the essential contact info. Your contact info should:

  • Include a sales or service email address for corresponding directly with customers, a working phone number, and the address of your headquarters
  • Be easy to find – phone numbers at the top of the page are well-loved by customers, as are email addresses.

Make sure your logo is easy to find as well so that new customers begin building an image of your company’s brand and what they offer.

CTA – 9

Follow up your testimonials with a last call to action. Avoid impersonal or threatening CTAs such as Click Here or Submit. Instead, relate on a personal level with your consumer.

An effective CTA should:

  • Tell the customer how easy it is to get started with your company
  • Reassure the customer that you’ll guide him or her through the entire process.

The Rest Is Up to You

Landing pages can include more, but usually should not include any less. You can structure your landing page to fit the flow of information better for your particular product or service, but ensure that each element is in your landing page and is easy to find.

What makes customers click through landing pages is a cohesive, uninterrupted experience that fully explains and promotes your product or service. Don’t cut corners on your landing pages, and follow best practices each time to achieve consistent, high-converting landing pages across the board.

Creating high-converting landing pages is one of our specialties at Leverage Marketing. If you’re having trouble getting conversions, try making your landing pages the Leverage way!

4 Local SEO Trends Shaping the Future of Search

Search engine optimization (SEO) evolves quickly, especially when it comes to local SEO trends. As a local business owner, it can be hard to keep up—which is why we’ve put together this guide to four local SEO updates that are shaping search in 2017.

The Rise of Voice Search

There’s no way around it: voice search (a search performed when a user speaks a voice command) is one of the biggest trends in local SEO, and businesses need to think about how to optimize web content for searchers who aren’t looking at a screen.  With the increasing popularity of virtual smartphone assistants like Siri and Cortana, as well as smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, spoken queries are becoming a common starting place for researching local businesses. In fact, Google estimates that 20% of all mobile queries are voice searches.

So, what’s the takeaway here? For one thing, local businesses and SEO analysts need to include natural language in site content and tags that mirrors the language of voice searches. Let’s say you’re trying to drive foot traffic to your Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin. You might already know that, “Where can I get Tex-Mex in Austin?” is a popular voice query. However, people may also be asking questions like:

Who has the best Tex Mex food in Austin?

Where can I get cheap Tex Mex near me?

What's the closest Tex Mex restaurant?

As people get more comfortable having casual conversations with their internet-enabled devices, local SEOs must update their strategies to focus more attention on long-tail keywords. Local businesses may also benefit from expanding their website’s FAQ content to address the common queries that consumers are asking their devices.

Sophisticated Chatbots

Chatbots are relatively new on the scene (at least when it comes to widespread adoption by small businesses). It’s hard to predict exactly how they’ll shape local SEO in 2017 and beyond, but chatbots certainly seem to fit with the shift towards more conversational search.

Microsoft’s Bing is betting big on this trend. The Google competitor is currently testing out chatbots for local Seattle restaurants. Participating restaurants have a Chat button next to their listing in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and searchers can click the option to summon up a chatbot. People can then ask the chatbot questions—such as whether the restaurant accepts credit cards or is good for large groups—and get answers faster than they might be able to just by searching the restaurant’s website and online reviews.

Bing's chatbot feature reflects local SEO trends

Bing’s chatbot opens directly on the search engine results page.

Bing plans to let businesses build their own SERP bots using their Microsoft Bot Framework. Once the bot is reviewed and approved, it will be available to display for relevant queries.

As of this writing, Google hasn’t added a chatbot feature to their SERPs. However, if Bing proves successful, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see something similar from Google in the future.

Proximity as a Ranking Factor

It’s no secret that search engines can identify a user’s approximate location (based on nearby WiFi networks and other data). What you might not know is just how granular Google can get with its geotargeted results.

A 2017 Local Search Rankings Survey from Moz found that the proximity of a searcher’s location to the point of search is the #1 ranking factor for the local pack (that box with a map and three locations that you sometimes see when searching for a local business). To put it another way, Google gives extra priority to relevant results that are geographically close to the place you’re searching from.  That means you could see different results in the local pack based on where in your city you’re searching from.

Google local pack

When I searched for “dog training Austin,” the results in the local 3-pack were relatively close to where Google placed my location.

This could be good for businesses that are trying to bring in foot traffic from a relatively small radius, but it’s not great for businesses that are trying to cast a wider net—or searchers who care about quality over proximity. For example, I’m more likely to drive a little farther than I normally would for a well-reviewed dog training service than to just pick whichever one is closest to my house.

In an article for Moz, Darren Shaw points out that Google may dial back the weight it assigns to proximity if searchers aren’t getting satisfying results. In the meantime, make sure you’re weathering this local SEO trend by claiming your listing on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List, and that you’re driving customer reviews to these sites. Shaw points out that if people don’t see what they’re looking for in the local pack, they’ll often click a link for a review site directly below it.

Yelp listing below Google's local pack

When I wanted to see more than the results in the local pack, I clicked the link to Yelp.

The Weight of Reviews and Links

If you’ve had any experience with local SEO in 2017, you know it’s a bitter fight to get your business to rank organically on the first search results page. Some searches deliver up to four ads at the top of the page, and ads are even sometimes prioritized in the local 3-pack. It’s an understatement to say that local SEO is getting more challenging.

It’s becoming more important than ever to prioritize link-building and customer reviews in your local SEO campaigns. These are two major factors that can help your site get organic traction and rank highly on the SERPs, even when you’re up against ads.

Let’s start with the link-building part of the equation. While Moz’s ranking factor survey found that physical proximity was the top ranking factor for the local pack, it also found that the quality of inbound links was the top ranking factor for local organic search (i.e. all the organic results outside of the local pack). The diversity of inbound links was the #3 most important factor, while the quantity of inbound links followed at #5.

Essentially, Google is giving a lot of SEO juice to local business sites that have been linked to by lots of high-quality websites. For example, if I owned a new bar in Austin that got coverage from high-traffic websites like Eater Austin, CultureMap, and Buzzfeed, Google’s algorithm would factor those links in when deciding where to rank my site for searches like “best new Austin bars.” As a bonus, those inbound links will drive new traffic to my site, introducing a larger audience to my business.

Now let’s take a look at customer reviews. There are plenty of SEO benefits when it comes to reviews:

  1. When a star-based ranking appears alongside a listing on the SERPs, it helps searchers make a snap decision about whether they’re interested in the business or not.
  2. Reviews give you unique, user-generated content for your site.
  3. Analyzing the language in reviews can help you decide what long-tail keywords to target.
  4. Google prioritizes businesses with 4+ star reviews when delivering results for “best x in city” searches.
best boutique hotels in Austin search results in local pack

The local pack results for “best boutique hotels in Austin” all have an average rating of over 4.5 stars.

What all this boils down to is that outreach needs to be a major part of your local SEO strategy for 2017. You should be reaching out to local bloggers and journalists to earn more coverage and inbound links, and you should be reaching out to past customers or clients to ask for their honest reviews. Don’t underestimate how much of a boost you could get in the search engine rankings by focusing on third-party content.

At Leverage Marketing, we have a lot to say about local SEO trends—more than we could fit in one blog post. If you’d like to talk to us about local SEO strategies for your business, contact us now.

5 Actionable SEO Tips for Ecommerce Websites

If you’re in the online retailing industry, you have a lot of tasks on your plate. When you’re juggling everything from marketing to fulfillment to customer service, optimizing your ecommerce site for SEO reasons may be getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. However, following a few ecommerce SEO best practices can be a big help in growing the number of orders you’re shipping out each day.

Read on for 5 actionable ways to step up your ecommerce site’s SEO strategy.

Simplify Your Site’s Structure

Ever browsed a site in search of a product and found yourself increasingly frustrated as you click link after link to reach your goal? We’ve all experienced this type of annoyance while online shopping, or even while choosing a restaurant. If it’s hard to get where you’re going, you’ll probably just go somewhere else. Even search engines feel this way–the deeper within the site that pages are hidden, the more time it will take for search engines to properly index your site.

When it comes to SEO for ecommerce sites, the best way to avoid this problem is to create the “flattest” site structure possible. Create a diagram of your current site structure to get a clearer view of the way your pages are organized. If some of your products are buried under six layers of subcategories or are only accessible through links on other product pages, you might want to consider having an ecommerce SEO expert audit your site structure and create a restructuring plan.

Make a Plan for Managing Old Product Pages

When you stop selling a product, it may seem easiest just to remove it from its category and delete its page. However, this isn’t a best practice for ecommerce SEO or good for users. The deleted page may have links that lead to that URL, and it may hold value on the search engine results page that brings in valuable customers. Why waste all that traffic?

Instead of completely deleting old product pages, give them a forwarding address by setting 301 redirects. This is a simple task if you’re using a platform like WordPress, as you can install a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects to help you “forward” old pages to relevant URLs that are still in use on your site.

Don’t squander a good link with an error message.

Watch Out for Duplicate Content

Many ecommerce companies have a wide range of products and not a lot of time to write unique descriptions for each of them. Sometimes, online retailers use the manufacturer’s product descriptions or reuse bits and pieces of content on different product pages. However, this isn’t the wisest choice when it comes to ecommerce SEO.

While it can be a time-consuming process, it is worth your while to audit your product content for originality as well as user experience. Think about what potential customers are typing into the search bar when they’re looking for your item and make sure you include those search terms in the descriptive content. Check to see that each page’s content brings value to the customer as well as to the search engine that crawls it.

Add Product Reviews

You may be surprised to see this suggestion on a list of ecommerce SEO tips, but product reviews matter in the SEO world, too! If your site isn’t currently making use of product reviews, it’s time to consider it for both your customers’ and search engines’ sake. Product reviews help your site accumulate more content and avoid the duplicate content issues mentioned above, and having reviews accessible is a great way to show off your great products and encourage quicker conversions.

Reviews generate a lot of original content, help your customers convert, and help you find out how to improve–what’s not to love?

Step Up Your Security Efforts

Both search engines and your customers care about security, and so should you. Sites that use HTTPS encryption rather than simply HTTP are becoming increasingly common, and retailers without HTTPS are likely to fall behind the curve soon if they haven’t already. Google has announced that their algorithm uses HTTPS as a ranking signal, meaning that it prefers to reward higher rankings to sites that are secured with HTTPS. Over time, making the switch could make a big difference in the SEO successes of your ecommerce site. If you haven’t already, make the switch sooner rather than later.

On a similar note, displaying badges of security and safety on highly visible places of your site (such as near the “Add to Cart” button) is a good way to assure customers that your business won’t rip them off or otherwise cause problems. For a safety-conscious consumer, this can make all the difference between a conversion and a bounce.

Looking for more tips on how to get the most out of your ecommerce site? Subscribe to the Leverage Marketing newsletter for a regular dose of digital marketing info, or get in touch with our team to find out how we help businesses grow with the help of our expert ecommerce SEO knowledge.

4 Wedding Industry Insiders Share Their Digital Marketing Strategies

As someone who recently got engaged, I’ve realized there’s a lot I have to learn about wedding planning. And as a content marketer, I’ve noticed that wedding businesses are great at reaching me while I’m doing research online. From sponsored posts about wedding day survival kits on Facebook to the promoted wedding dress Pins I keep seeing on Pinterest, brands are everywhere.

To get a better understanding of how wedding businesses are capitalizing on digital marketing, I reached out to the following four wedding industry professionals:

  • Kaleigh Wiese, founder of MéldeenWiese founded luxury stationary company Méldeen in 2009. Méldeen creates custom save-the-dates, wedding invitations, ceremony programs, thank you cards, and more. In 2016, Wiese introduced PIXEL by Méldeen, a custom Snapchat filter design service.
  • Stephanie Padovani, co-founder of Book More BridesPadovani and her husband, Jeff, started Book More Brides as a part-time project that played to their shared interest in marketing. Their consulting business, which helps wedding entrepreneurs increase leads and revenue, now grosses over six figures a year.
  • Ariel Meadow Stallings, founder of Offbeat BrideStallings launched her Offbeat Bride site in 2007 to promote her book about nontraditional weddings. The website gained popularity thanks to its focus on inclusivity and empowerment and now averages more than 1 million visits per month.
  • Jennifer Stein, co-founder and Editor in Chief of Destination I DoStein was inspired to help start Destination I Do in 2004 when she was planning her own destination wedding and realized there weren’t any magazines covering the subject. Destination I Do is now an international magazine with digital components, including a blog and online planning tools.

Méldeen: Using Analytics to Reach Wedding Planners

For Kaleigh Wiese, success in digital marketing is all about focusing on the right audience. Because of Méldeen’s price points and minimums, Wiese has found that wedding planners are her best customers (although she gets some direct inquiries from engaged couples, too).  Wiese has a few major strategies for getting Méldeen in front of wedding planners:

  1. Research the keywords and hashtags wedding planners use when searching for inspiration.

  2. Explore relevant search terms that are getting more volume (e.g. foil, letterpress). Capitalize on those concepts in Pinterest content before they reach peak popularity (and saturation). Use Promoted Pins for high-value, relevant content.

  3. Use Google Analytics to identify where the most traffic is coming from and focus paid campaigns on those geographic locations.

Bonus Tip: Wiese also pointed out that digital marketing strategies can help with networking—something that’s especially important for a wedding business that works with other wedding professionals. When using Instagram, Wiese says that she always tries “to tag all vendors involved in the day-of event.” It’s something that not a lot of wedding vendors think to do, but tagging one another on social media helps to build network connections and leverage credibility with potential customers.

Book More Brides: Capturing Leads with Hot-Button Content

Stephanie Padovani isn’t afraid to speak her mind when it comes to writing content for Book More Brides. She shared the following recipe for attracting clients (in her case, wedding professionals):

  1. Identify a controversial topic your target clients get really worked up about.

  2. Write an article that proves the arguments for your prospects and makes them look good.

  3. Promote the article to your target audience and encourage sharing and republishing.

Padovani explained to me how she did this with one of her blog posts: 10 Things Couples Need to Know About the Wedding Industry That the Media Will Never Tell You. She wrote this post in response to common headlines that talk about “wedding markups” and “getting taken advantage of” when planning a wedding. In her article, she explains why those accusations are mostly false and how much behind-the-scenes work goes into being a wedding professional.

In addition to publishing the post on the Book More Brides blog, Padovani shared it with her email list and social media audience, encouraging readers to republish it and spread the word. In a few days, the post had received 3,000 page views and over 3,500 Facebook engagements and Tweets. To date, the post has received over 24,000 unique page views.

After getting the ideal audience to the site, Padovani recommends using multiple opt-in offers to generate leads. For example, the Book More Brides blog prominently displays an email template that visitors can download after they submit their email address.

Offbeat Bride: Listening to the Online Community

Ariel Meadow Stallings launched the Offbeat Bride website in 2007 as a way to promote her book (Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides), and since then the site has become an active online community and collaborative blog with well over a million readers per month. As the site has grown, the Offbeat Bride brand has evolved to reach a wider audience. In an interview on her site, Ariel said:

“My initial target readership was super weird people planning super weird weddings…It became clear within a year that the majority of my readership was not actually all that weird, nor were they especially tech-savvy. The majority were brides planning what initially appeared to be relatively traditional weddings, looking for creative and unique ideas to make the weddings feel personal.”

Stallings often gets ideas for content that will resonate with her audience by going straight to that community of readers. Until 2015, Offbeat Bride had a private online forum with members who were “super vocal, super engaged, and highly invested.” Stallings sometimes sourced content directly from forum members and followed discussions to get an idea of what issues were most popular with her readership. While the forum is no longer online, Stallings now uses native insights from Facebook and Instagram to listen to the Offbeat Bride community. When she and her staff develop content, the focus generally remains on material “that’s positive but also provocative, relevant to consumers as well as industry readers.”

Destination I Do: Adapting to Changing Landscapes

Destination I Do began as both a print and online magazine, and while the publication still includes both traditional print and online components, its marketing strategy has evolved to meet the needs of today’s readers. Co-founder Jennifer Stein told me that because so many engaged couples rely on online and mobile content when planning their weddings, Destination I Do has invested in increasing visibility and providing a great user experience. Stein noted:

“We invest marketing dollars in Instagram to generate a genuine engagement with our readers as well as leveraging idea inspiration platforms such as Pinterest. We also put our budget in areas like Facebook, Google AdWords, and SEO [strategies] to drive traffic directly to our site. Data is only one piece of the puzzle. Our goal isn’t just to get unique visitors on our site to bring product awareness, it’s to engage with our readers so that they can experience a helpful conversation with us.”

Stein and the rest of the team at Destination I Do are most interested in targeting a niche audience of engaged couples who are planning a destination wedding and honeymoon. Stein said that because a destination wedding is such a big moment (and one that requires a lot of planning), “we do our best to provide partner products, inspiration, and content that will help [couples] with that process and, in the end, make it fun and stress-free.”

Takeaways for the Wedding Industry

Although the four wedding professionals I spoke to are all targeting different audiences, I noticed a few similar strategies:

  • Pay attention to what your target audience is talking about in wedding forums, blog comment sections, and social media posts. This will help you develop content that effectively engages that audience.
  • Use Google Analytics (and other data collection tools) to get a better understanding of your site visitors’ behavior and interests. You may find that your site is appealing to different segments than you originally thought.
  • While search engine optimization is important, it’s equally important to optimize your wedding business website for your visitors. Provide the inspiration and information that will be most useful to your audience, whether they’re planning their wedding or assisting with the planning for someone else.

Are you a wedding business owner with an online presence? Let us know what digital marketing strategies have worked for you in the comments. And if you have any questions about how you can increase your traffic and conversions, don’t hesitate to contact Leverage Marketing directly.