Over the last few years, I’ve watched the search marketing industry grow from being traffic-growth focused to being conversion- and usability-oriented. In the coming years, I expect to see an even stronger focus on usability and conversion.
One thing that makes the B2B sector different from B2C is the fact that users rarely convert on the first visit due to longer sales cycles. Building a powerful B2B organic conversion machine requires a strong focus on intelligence, usability analysis and conversion optimization. A user who lands on a site the first time through search may not convert during the first session, but they may come back directly a second time and convert.
Depending on the industry, a conversion can be defined in many ways. It can be a form submission, phone call, white paper download, social media share, email list subscription, or a purchase.
Directing users to the conversion path most relevant to them and capturing the data on that second or third visit to tie it to organic search is the best way to show SEO ROI. This column will help guide you in building an organic conversion machine and gathering the data to show ROI.
Create A Culture of Measurement
Creating a “culture of measurement” within a company means collecting data via integrated technologies to monitor all activities that impact online performance. As search marketers, we already measure our performance and ROI through analytics reports.
But what about the designer who builds the user interface for the website, the developer whose work affects factors like site speed and clean markup, or the project manager who drives and manages all marketing activities?
Everyone needs to know how their work is impacting conversion and where the need exists to improve current practices.
The Tool Set
Web analytics is the most important tool in a marketer’s arsenal for monitoring website performance. Analytics will tell you all about traffic, conversion, and a wide range of other metrics. There are a lot of great tools out there including Google Analytics, Adobe SiteCatalyst, Coremetrics and Webtrends. Google Analytics and SiteCatalyst seem to be the most widely supported analytics programs out there for integrating with other technologies.
Heatmapping is another must-have technology for measuring how users are interacting with the interface. Heatmapping software shows important metrics like mouse movement, mouse clicks, attention and scroll reach. Many technologies out there now also include form analytics and other granular data. I personally prefer Clicktale for the depth of data it’s capable of as well as ease of integration with other technologies.
Email marketing software is another must for measuring performance. These technologies can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month, and should have the ability to track user behavior after the email open, click mapping, and basic email metrics like open rate and click-through-rate. Some of these technologies, like SilverPop, also have marketing automation and Web tracking capabilities which add invaluable insights to website behavior.
Call tracking is another necessity for creating a culture of measurement. If a user finds the company phone number through the website or a landing page, having that data is imperative to showing ROI — after all, many people feel more comfortable calling directly than filling out a form.
There are dozens of great technologies out there ranging from a few bucks a month to several thousands. Lower-end call tracking software like LogMyCalls allows for lead scoring and creating diverse phone numbers, while higher-end technologies like Marchex and Mongoose Metrics can separate out calls by traffic source, even getting as granular as the exact keyword used to find the site.
A/B testing software isn’t required upfront for creating a culture of measurement, but it is something worth considering in the near future. By pulling extensive data for the entire company, a multitude of actionable insights will result from the data. Instead of making changes based on opinion, A/B testing will give you the data to prove that a website or landing page change contributed to an increase in conversions.
I am a huge fan of Optimizely, myself, for its ease of use and segmentation capabilities, but there are also other great technologies out there like Visual Website Optimizer (very easy to use) and even Google Content Experiments if you don’t mind extra implementation time for a reduced cost.
Tying all these technologies together and managing them will create a developer’s nightmare (as well as weighing down site speed), so the need exists for a tag management solution. Tag management enables you to manage all your scripts in one place without requiring any development time. It also creates an agile method for executing and testing website technologies at the click of a mouse.
Much like any other technology, tag management ranges from very cheap to thousands of dollars. I personally use UberTags for its unlimited technology integration capabilities and easy-to-use interface, but there are others out there like Satellite with very advanced and automated functionality.
Convergence Of Search, Usability & Conversion
Several weeks ago, I touched on this topic a little bit with my column on integrating SEO into your navigation labeling. A website’s usability and conversion rate optimization (CRO) has a major impact on search performance, and search has a huge impact on usability and CRO. Search strategies need to be aligned with usability and site architecture in order for users to convert. Recent search engine algorithm changes have also impacted SEO best practices by rewarding sites focused on usability.
The SEO specialist should be involved in every part of the website creation and management process from start to finish, and every post-launch change. SEOs need to be involved in the URL mapping, wireframing, UX design, content hierarchy, content creation, and site architecture to ensure optimization is implemented in every aspect of the website.
On the other hand, SEOs also need to make sure they don’t recommend anything that will hurt the overall user experience or bury conversion elements. A good SEO will always place users first, search engines second.
Optimize Your Search Snippets
In the past, SEOs were primarily focused on driving traffic by stuffing keywords in URLs, title tags and META descriptions. Today’s search engine algorithms no longer reward sites for these practices. A good search snippet should include keywords but should also make sense for the user.
A good title tag should be descriptive of the content behind the click. Focus on long tail keywords, and don’t place as much emphasis on exact match. If you have to change the order of the keywords inside the keyword phrase or throw in a preposition for it to make more sense to a user, do it!
Don’t be afraid to include words that don’t drive traffic, because adding industry words next to keywords will help searchers determine if the listing is relevant enough for them. Some people may argue this theory, but the ultimate goal of any search marketer should be to drive only highly relevant users that will convert.
Don’t forget to add a branded term to the end of the title tag. Some may argue that you will already get the clicks from branded search. On the other hand, many people will search for a branded term and the name of a product. Adding a branded term will direct them to the product or service page they are specifically looking for rather than the homepage, which will create less work and navigation for users. Brand identity also goes a long way in conversion, so it’s important for users to see your brand before clicking on the listing.
URLs hold more than just search value. The URL also gives searchers a good idea of what the page talks about. Follow the best practices for SEO with URLs and include keywords, but also make sure the entire URL path is a descriptive progression of the page behind the listing, and make sure it paints a picture as to where on the site the user will land.
If a user is interested in industrial automation and works in the oil & gas industry, they will be more likely to click on a search listing with a URL displaying /industries/oil-gas/industrial-automation rather than one displaying /services/industrial-automation.
Although META descriptions no longer hold any SEO value, users still read them to determine the relevance of a listing. Old practices taught us to make these “salesy” with action words and keywords. In the B2C world, that still holds true.
But in the B2B world, the user most likely won’t convert on the first visit, so calls-to-action, sales words and product features won’t effectively entice them to click. Your descriptions should be descriptive of the content on the page so they don’t feel misled when they click through. Including a branded term is also important for building brand identity.
I can’t stress this last point enough: make sure you implement microdata. Microdata will enhance your search snippets and greatly increase the likelihood a user will click on it. Your search listings will also stand out above all the other listings in search results.
Build Content Around User Needs & Behavior
Content is king in today’s SEM world, and that’s something nobody will argue with. Over time, user needs and demands will increase on your website. You may notice highly relevant keywords being used in site searches and organic searches that your company offers but doesn’t have any content for. Closely monitor these trends and develop content as users demand it.
Also pay attention to contact form submissions and calls. If users are coming up with common questions that they aren’t getting answers to from the website, build a page for it. Once you build and optimize pages for such questions, build thought leadership around the topic and make it readily available on those new pages.
Search engines are used by people to answer questions. By providing answers to those questions and becoming the authority on the topic, you will capture the traffic from those users and have the thought leadership to convert them into customers.
Another great concept to further enhance this topic is one that very few sites are using yet – personalized content. Suppose you were a manufacturer of widgets, and there were a few other manufacturers of widgets in the industry space. If you were looking for ways to improve your widget manufacturing process, you may look for companies that help improve these processes.
Now, imagine landing on a site for a company that fulfills this need. After clicking around on the site a little bit, the sidebars, content and calls-to-action may lead you to content like “read this case study on how we helped company xyz improve their widget manufacturing process” and “call us today to learn how we can help improve your widget manufacturing process.”
Personalized content is the wave of the future with conversion optimization, and technologies like SilverPop and DemandBase enable these capabilities.
Assess The Conversion Funnel At Every Step
Now that you have all the technologies and methodologies put in place to fully measure and ramp up your search and conversion efforts, you need to assess your conversion funnels. The organic conversion funnel consists of five points to monitor: organic rankings, click-throughs, sticks, engaged users, and the conversion itself.
The funnel starts with the search listing, so make sure your organic rankings remain competitive and your listings are enticing. Make small adjustments over time to keep your rankings.
Once the user clicks on your listing, make sure the content delivered matches their inquiry. Closely monitor bounce rates to make sure users are sticking instead of bouncing right off. If your bounce rate goes up, your keyword strategy may not be in line with what users are looking for.
Next, monitor user engagement. Are they navigating though the site, spending ample time on pages, or interacting with the pages?
Last, watch your conversions. When the users are engaged on the site, are they actually converting?
Keep in mind, users rarely convert on the first visit in the B2B world, so use the technologies and intelligence defined in the culture of measurement section above to see if they are converting on that second or third visit.
If you notice drop-offs in the organic conversion funnel, make small and quick changes to address the issue. Make sure all changes are backed by data rather than opinion. When in doubt, always A/B test. No changes should ever be made permanent without testing first.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.