Posts about web design, site structure, coding, etc.

Google Reading Level

In my search to find out something new on Google today I stumbled upon Reading Level. Reading Level is an interesting feature that Google debuted in late 2010.

Reading Level is a way for a searcher to filter search results to a specific reading level. Google classifies the sites on Google.com “based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a statistical model. With this model, we can compare the words on any webpage with the words in the model to classify reading levels. We also use data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are advanced.”

Reading a bit more on the subject it seems that website builders/SEO’s are unable to update Google on what level of content the website is (beginner, intermediate or advanced).

Next I did the following ten searches on Google:

  1. Fly fishing
  2. Chemistry (2)
  3. Oxygen bleach (1)
  4. dress for success
  5. automobile maintenance schedule
  6. Wolong China Panda Preserve
  7. Cement Producers Association
  8. best practices for teaching (1)
  9. quotes about conformity (5)
  10. headphones

The number behind the query is the level that I found the first advanced search result in – no number indicates an advanced reading level did not appear on page one of my search query. As you can see, for the most part (90%) the uppermost ranking of SERPS appear to be reserved for beginner or intermediate users.

I wanted to be sure that I gave Google enough Advanced Results to choose from so I next did a search for process identification and mapping.

Although 93% of the results are identified as Advanced – Google chooses to show an intermediate reading level result for the first 3 SERPS.

What do you think? Do you think reading level has anything to do with SERP rankings? Do you think that Google chooses a lower reading level to be more relevant to what Google may believe most searchers are looking for or is it easier to optimize content for pages with beginner or intermediate level results?   We will continue to look into this phenomenon and keep you updated.

Coding Series: Part I – How To Install Google Analytics

This is the first post in what will likely be a five-part instructional series on valuable codes that can easily be installed, and if done so correctly, Google Analytics will provide substantial insight into your website traffic and your return on advertising dollars.

Google Analytics is one of Google’s free tools that allows advertisers to customize over 80 reports to track all activity on their website. Advertisers can gain key insights into what visitors do and how those actions contribute to the success of their business through these customizable reports focused on visitors, traffic sources, content, goals, and ecommerce.

Code Implementation: Google Analytics

Signing up for Google Analytics is simple and free, with four easy steps to complete before accessing a world of analytics. Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/provision/signup to get started. Once the account is set up, you can find your personal code snippet within the Profile Settings of your Google Analytics account.

To access your tracking code from Google Analytics:

  1. Log in at http://www.google.com/analytics.
  2. Select the profile from the accounts Overview page.
  3. From that profile’s Actions column, click ‘Edit.’
  4. At the top right of the ‘Main Website Profile Information’ box, click ‘Check Status.’
  5. The tracking code can be copied and pasted from the text box in the Instructions for Adding Tracking section.

Code snippet sample:

<script>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl/.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“”));
</script>
<script>
try{
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-xxxxxx-x”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}
</script>

For basic installation, copy and paste the code segment into the bottom of your content, immediately before the </body> tag of each page you are planning to track. You will need to update the “xxxx-x” in the sample above with your own Google Analytics account number.

Gauging Performance: Google AdWords with Google Analytics

In Adwords, a user’s action is labeled a “conversion,” whereas the same activity in Analytics is listed as a “goal.” In order for Google Analytics to calculate goal conversion metrics, you must create one or more goals.

Before setting up a goal, make sure you have the following requirements.

  • Name the goal: Specify a name that you will recognize when viewing the goals within your reports. Examples of names you might use include ’email sign-up’ or ‘article ABC download.’
  • Define the funnel: While funnels are optional, defining one can help you map where visitors drop off during the path to completing a goal.
  • The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics.

Setting up goals:

  1. Select the account that you’ll be creating goals for from the Overview page of Google Analytics.
  2. Find the profile for which you will be creating goals, and click ‘Edit’ under the ‘Actions’ column.
  3. Under the ‘Goals’ section, select one of the four sets to create the goal (each set contains up to five goals) and click ‘Add goal.’
  4. Enter the goal’s name so that you can quickly recognize it when viewing reports.
  5. Turn the goal ‘On’ or ‘Off.’
  6. Select the goal’s position. The pull-down menu allows you to select a goal’s position in a set so that you can control the order in which it appears from the ‘Goals’ tab in your reports.
  7. Decide which one of the three types of goals you want. This can be URL Destination, Time on Site, or Pages/Visit.
  8. Once you select the radio button for the goal type, a field for ‘Goal Details’ should appear.

Here’s a great example from Google on how to set the value of a goal:

“The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics. A good way to value a goal is to evaluate how often the visitors who reach the goal become customers. If, for example, your sales team can close 10% of people who request to be contacted, and your average transaction is $500, you might assign $50 (i.e. 10% of $500) to your “Contact Me” goal. In contrast, if only 1% of mailing list signups result in a sale, you might only assign $5 to your “email sign-up” goal.”

Defining funnels:

After entering goal information, define a funnel if you’ve selected a ‘URL Destination’ goal type:

  1. Click ‘Yes, create a funnel for this goal.’
  2. Enter the ‘URL’ of the first page of your conversion funnel. This page should be one that is common to all users working their way towards your goal.
  3. Enter a ‘Name’ for this step.
  4. If this step is a ‘Required step’ in the conversion process, select the checkbox to the right of the step. If this checkbox is selected, users reaching your goal page without traveling through this funnel page will not be counted as conversions.
  5. Continue entering goal steps until your funnel has been completely defined. You may enter up to 10 funnel steps or as few as a single step.
  6. Click ‘Save Changes’ to create this goal and funnel.

Linking your AdWords account to Google Analytics will allow you to take advantage of extensive reporting options. It will also enable you to spot further ad opportunities by viewing AdWords conversions alongside Analytics goal/transactions. You can obtain detailed tracking information by creating customized statistics that will allow you to calculate return on investment.

To link:

  1. Add your AdWords username to your Analytics account as an Account Admin.
  2. In AdWords, select Reporting tab and choose ‘Google Analytics.’
  3. Select ‘I already have a Google Analytics account.’
  4. From the Existing Google Analytics Account drop-down menu, select the name of the Analytics account.
  5. Then, select ‘Link Accounts.’

Google Analytics is a smart web analytics solution that enables you to analyze website performance, gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, and create better-performing advertisements. To find out more visit: http://www.google.com/analytics/. If you have any other questions about the functionality of Google Analytics or how to install the code, please feel free to contact us or follow up with your Leverage Marketing account manager.

Improve Your Site’s Checkout Process

It can be an expensive and time consuming process to lead prospective customers to your website, so I am in agreement with Google that making your website work well should be one of your main objectives to help people buy your products.

Ads that customers click on should have products or features displayed clearly on the landing page.  It should not take the customer 3 clicks to figure out that indeed you are offering free shipping for the next 24 hours for all online orders.

  • Link ads to the right page,
  • Mirror your ad title, and
  • Ensure selling points are visible.

Make sure that if a customer clicks into your website that they can clearly navigate through your site.  Make it easy for your customer to find what they are looking for and also to go back should they have the need.

  • Make product/service categories visible,
  • Use easy-to-understand terms, and
  • Highlight where to go next.

This is a good use of Google Analytics, to ensure that you can see where customers are falling off of the buying process.

A customer should only have to go to their wallet to get their credit card number to make a purchase on your website.  If your site requires a user enter a password or other information that may not be readily available – you may lose the opportunity to make the sell.

  • Don’t ask for unnecessary details,
  • Show a status bar throughout the check out process.
  • Expedite the process, and
  • Avoid distractions such as in shopping cart advertising.

Google also lists some common questions that customers want answered before they place an order on your site.  Make sure you have answered them.

  1. Can I return this item within x amount of days?
  2. Can I review my order before I confirm the purchase?
  3. Can I easily contact support or customer service if something goes wrong?
  4. If I hit the next button, will I be billed?
  5. If I hit the next button, will I be able to make a revision still?
  6. What is the total price with shipping to my address?
  7. How many days before I get my item delivered?
  8. Is this site secure, can I trust you with my credit card details?
  9. What payment types other than credit card do you accept?
  10. VERY important for travel/hotel sites – If I’m only making a booking, how much is due now and how much is due later?

Google should definitely be applauded for making the great data available above for all to view, but just like with any new venture it is still a good idea to have marketing guru’s on your side to ensure that the tips and tactics Google shares above and at make your website work – are applicable to your businesses unique situation.

Google Removes PageRank in Webmaster Tools

Google uses more than 200 signals, including their patented PageRank algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important and shown to a user first.  Many business owners have thus become aware of their own PageRank and some may incorrectly believe that PageRank is THE metric that must be improved when vying for higher organic listings.  In October, Google removed this PageRank from their Webmaster toolkit.

What is PageRank:

In Laymans/Googles Terms – PageRank reflected Google’s view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. PageRank also considered the importance of each page that casted a vote, as votes from some pages were considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.

Google’s newly released position on page rank is: We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.

If you are so inclined, an in-depth mathematical computation for page rank can be found online.

What are Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Webmaster Tools provides webmasters with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google. GWT allow webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites through organic search.

PageRank is still shown within Google Toolbar, so you can still view this metric. Page Rank within Google Toolbar sends the URLs of pages that opted-in searchers visit to display the importance ranking that Google assigns to a page.

This goes to show that what you see in Google Toolbar and what Google actually uses are two different things when it comes to indexing your site.

8 Seconds for Your First Impression

Visitors decide within 8 seconds if they will stay on your site or if they will hit the back button.  Statistics show that 50% of users leave a website within seconds of coming to the site.  If you utilize SEO and PPC – you have either worked hard or paid to get that traffic to your site and it makes sense to try to lower your bounce rate as soon and as much as possible.

If you have a bounce rate above 70% – one of the first places you should focus on is your website.   Focusing on optimizing your site can help in lowering the rate in which customers leave your site without interacting with it.  A few ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Place important information & images above the fold.  Above the fold information is what a user can see without scrolling down the screen.  In addition, users typically scan in an F-shape, looking at information above the fold first.
  2. Is your phone number visible?  Customers may not want to call you right away or even at all, but this information is important to have readily visible.  These policies help customers have peace of mind when shopping or viewing information on your site.
  3. Clean up big blocks of text into easy-to-read statements. Make sure your sites copy is easily readable and keep paragraphs short. Bullets are a great way of sharing a great deal of information, in an easily digested format.
  4. Make sure any links are clearly links and if any text is underlined – make sure it is linked.
  5. Make sure the user can clearly determine what to do next.  Having clear ‘calls to action’ can also help to increase your conversion ratios.
  6. Include your businesses privacy and return policies, web security buttons and any client testimonials you have approval to share.

We will take a look at other important aspects of optimizing your website later this week, but keep in mind optimizing your website for increased conversions shouldn’t be an afterthought.  It can often take weeks or even months of A/B or Multi-Variate testing to get the right copy above the fold, with the right image and call to action.

How to Track 2nd and 3rd Tier Engines in Google Analytics

One of the biggest hesitations that any advertiser has about joining 2nd and 3rd tier engines is tracking quality of traffic.  This is a valid concern as any smart advertiser will focus on traffic quality and not quantity.  While implementing the search engine’s conversion tracking is best practice, it can be very frustrating and time consuming.   This is mainly due to having multiple interfaces tracking data, no insights on engagement metrics and the fact that too much conversion tracking on a page can weigh it down.  So what is the best and quickest way for you to track 2nd and 3rd tier engines and get all the data you need to make educated decisions? Google Analytics Tracking….

Google Analytics has made huge strides in becoming the best FREE platform for tracking all your on-site analytics.  If you have GA implemented on your site, you can use URL parameters to segment the data from each engine, referral and email marketing effort that you are currently using.  What is great about GA is that, once parameters are in place, you are able to track all conversion numbers in one place, get engagement / e-commerce statistics from ALL online efforts and not worry about having ten different conversion tags on your thank you page.  So how do you create the URL parameters needed for tracking all these efforts? The Google URL Builder tool:

https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

By entering in the information that is requested on Google’s URL builder, then taking the tracking parameter it generates, you can start tracking new efforts immediately.  This will save you and your web developer tons of stress and implementation time.  The main lesson is that don’t let conversion tracking prevent you from testing new engines, if you have Google Analytics in place you can get all the relevant data you need to see if new efforts are paying off…

20 Tips to Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment

If you have a shopping cart you should be concerened about abandon rates.  You are paying good money to get people to your site you should find out why some leave and don’t buy anything after filling up a shopping cart.

Here is a good article that gives 20 Tips to Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment

Choosing a Domain Name

Below are some general rules you should follow when creating a domain name. These aren’t hard-and-fast and this list is certainly not exhaustive, but rather some things to keep in mind when you’re registering a domain name.

Try to get a .com.

    The public has been conditioned to think of websites as being .com’s.  If you don’t get a .com you will probably lose some traffic to the person that owns the same domain you have but has the .com.

Keep the length of your domain down.

    The longer your domain is the harder it is for people to remember. Try to keep it under 3 words and 15 characters. If you use 3 words make sure one of the words is very short. The reason for this is that people are lazy and will just go type in something shorter in Google. Also don’t forget you’re probably going to be using this domain in print on cards and promotional material, so the shorter it is, the less room it will take up on your printed materials. Before you buy a domain type it out and print it and see what it looks like in print. Another big reason for shorter domains is that if you plan to do pay per click advertising a shorter domain name will give you more text on your display url. You only have space for 35 characters in PPC and it is a very common practice to add extra text after your display URL to get more text in to your ad. I like to put stuff like /Free_Shipping after the domain or /Brand on ads that I create.  If you have a really long domain name you’re not going to have this option even if you remove the www from the front of the display URL.

Keep your domain name Phonetic.

    This means that when it is spoken out loud the spelling should be obvious. No silent V’s or weird foreign spellings unless you are targeting a foreign market where that is common. This is especially important if you plan on doing any radio or TV ads. Even if you don’t plan on doing any radio or TV ads your going to be telling people about your website and more than likely you will be using it as your email address.

Google One Box Searches

You may have noticed in the last few years Google has added extra results like map, news, products and others. This is what is called a one box search. Meaning you don’t have to go to google maps or google news to do a search. You just go to www.google.com and do a search and Google will decided to give you relavant results from these other services. When marketing a website online you want to make sure you show up on search engines when people type in relavant keywords. It is important to know how to be listed as many times on the page as you can.

When a search is made on google most people only think about SEO and PPC. Don’t forget about Google’s other services:

  • Google News – You can get in here by issuing a press release. You can distribute them through sites like www.prweb.com and donate at least $200.
  • Google Local – Sign up with Google local. This will show up when people type in local searches that include your zip code or city name. It helps to have an address that is closest to the center of the city.
  • Google Books – If you have published a book or paper you can submit it to Google books. Searches that include the term “book” now show results from Google books.
  • Google Images – some searches return pictures. Be descriptive with your picture names. Use alt text. Link to your pictures with anchor text.
  • Google Products – formally known as froogle. You can upload products, real estate, and all kinds of things to Google products. Sometimes Google will show Products from this database.

This is all very new and you should keep an eye on the different Google verticals, trying to use them all.

Any time a search is made, any one of these services can be served up on the search engine result page (SERP).  Sign up for each one and optimize your content so it appears on all results pages.

Exit click metrics

What you quickly learn in internet advertising is that an audience’s attention span is very low, and always fleeting. Even if you’re successful in making a conversion with a customer they’ll quickly leave your site right after. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; depending on the exit path they take and what industry your company is in, some of those exits can be measured and intuitively applied as a goal in your advertising campaign.

There are a few different types of exits a visitor can take. First, there are the oh-so-good exit clicks. These happen when visitors exit your site through links you have provided on your Web site, or when they reach the end page or thank you page after a conversion. Providing external links on your Web site may just be a natural way your company does business or the link will provide extra incentive to make an action on your own Web site. Measuring these exit clicks can be a basis for parts of your campaign, and they can be measured either by implementing a redirecting link or a Java script on the link. Depending on your business, a higher amount of exit clicks could potentially be better.
Another exit path is called the exit rate or exit percentage, where a visitor closes the browser with your Web site loaded or navigates away from the Web site via the URL bar, a search bar or their bookmarks.

The last and ugliest of the exits is called the bounce rate, more known as the stepchild of exit paths that no one wishes to have. Bounce rates occur when the visitor clicks the “back” button from your Web site, which amounts to a lost conversion opportunity after they’ve landed on your page. What’s worse is that for search marketers, when the visitor hits the “back” button, they’re right back to the search engines results page where there are a plethora of other competitor’s Web sites with the opportunity to steal your conversion. Ouch indeed.

Another reason why measuring exit clicks may be important is to measure the success of click arbitrage on a Web site. Click arbitrage is when a publisher buys paid search ads to direct to their landing page, and then have similar contextual ads on their own page that bid for a slightly higher price. Here, one would naturally want a 100 percent exit click rate.

Measuring exit clicks is often overlooked, yet can be very beneficial to a company if applied correctly to their marketing campaign. Although it certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely something worth looking into.

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