19 09, 2019

Higher Ed Recruitment 101

By | 2019-09-18T09:41:55+00:00 September 19th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, SEO, Social Media|Tags: , , |

Ah, September… for those of us tired of sweating through the sweltering summer heat, this month offers a welcomed respite. It’s not quite sweater weather in much of the continental U.S., but, it’s certainly getting easier to keep your shirt perspiration-free… save for those Saturday tailgates, of course.

Designed by rawpixel.com / Freepik

For higher ed marketers, with the latest freshman class securely on campus, September brings a focus on recruiting the next set of prospective students. A new start is always nice. But, for those of you who feel that the task of recruiting is getting harder each year – you’re not imagining things.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment at American colleges and universities has declined for the eighth year in a row. This past spring saw 300,000 – or, 1.7% – less new students on U.S. campuses than the year before. The losses were even more steep the previous year.

Clearly, the competition – driven by a diminishing pool of prospects – is getting more intense. How successfully your school responds to the downshift in demand for higher education will undoubtedly influence the long-term health of your institution.

So, how can you stem the receding enrollment tide? Today, more than ever, you have to stay in front of your prospective students as much as possible in order to remain relevant throughout their decision-making process. Not only that, you have to foster positive personal connections through memorable and fun experiences.

It’s a buyer’s market out there. And, you’ve got to act like it if you are to keep your enrollment numbers up. The best way to do that is with great content marketing execution and imaginative, out-of-the-box recruiting events.

Effective Higher Ed Content Marketing

Not only are enrollment trends changing, students are changing, too. Our previous post described some of the different ways that the current generation of students – Generation Z – interacts with various forms of media. One of the most important takeaways from the piece is the need to be active across the social media landscape (not just one or two platforms) – because that’s how teens today find, and are exposed to, information.

Let’s extend that principle a bit further. Not only is a proactive content game a must, it has to be at peak form for all four quarters (pardon all the football references). What does that mean?

It means that you’ve got to be there from the start of your targets’ school selection process to the very end. You have to be there to answer questions (simple and complex), allay the myriad concerns that high schools students harbor and communicate compelling reasons why your school is the best for their specific interests. All this will help create a lasting connection between your school brand and your audience.

If your content consistently shows up when prospective students are looking into their school options or researching the college experience, you’ll stand a much better chance of winning their confidence, trust and, ultimately, a completed application.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you might have noticed a number of posts this summer describing the various aspects of content creation and management. They’re a great start to formulating your content marketing plan.

Great Content Should Lead to Great Recruiting Events 

A detailed, well-researched and tailored content marketing plan is a must. But, you can’t rely on just content to close the deal. A personal connection is often needed to reinforce the positive attitude you’ve hopefully fostered via your content outreach. That connection is easier to make when you’re able to get your prospective students on campus for some face-to-face interactions.

Content will get them there, showing them value and a good time will get them to enroll. But, remember, your target audience’s expectations are pretty high. So, you’ll need to pull some new tricks out of the bag in order to impress.

Here are a few recruiting event ideas to help:

Unique Campus Tours

I can hear it now… “A campus tour is pretty much standard.” And, of course, you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that your school’s campus tour should be just like every other school’s. Hence, the emphasis on “unique.”

There are lots of ways to make strolling through a campus fun. For one, you can forgo strolling and replace it with a cooler mode of transportation. An electric scooter or a hover board tour sounds like a lot more fun than walking.

And, you don’t always have to go high-tech or futuristic. Sometimes legacy tech, like horses, can create novel experiences. If your campus can easily accommodate it, a horseback tour of your college or university might be THE highlight of a campus visit.

Additional ideas: bikes, golf carts, roller skates.

Take Advantage of the Surrounding Community

If there’s cool stuff going on around your campus, get in on it. Parades, fairs, street/block parties, concerts, barbecue competitions… find out what’s happening on the local scene and take your prospects there. Showing them a bit of the off-campus community will make them feel more familiar with the area and give them confidence that they’ll be able to traverse their new surroundings.

Shadow a Student Ambassador

You can tell them all about your campus. Or, you can help your prospective students experience a day in the life of an enrolled student. Recruit a few freshmen or sophomores who live on-campus, pair them with visiting students and let them hang out together for 24 hours.

This would require some matching work – pairing students from the same high school or town, for example. And, it’d be best if the prospect could experience the classroom portion of the campus experience.

Sporting Events 

College sporting events are like nothing else. There’s no way to not feel school spirit when you’re in the midst of the student section during a football or basketball game. You can bet it’s an experience your prospective student won’t soon forget.

Just keep in mind, whether it’s horseback rides or hoopin’, the goal isn’t the novelty – it’s to foster a real connection between your prospective students and your campus community.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Content

Is your content marketing plan driving the results you need? If you’re not sure, Beacon’s content strategists can help. Request a complimentary website audit today.

9 07, 2019

4 Ways to Leverage Your Faculty For Awesome Web Content

By | 2019-07-09T09:15:01+00:00 July 9th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, SEO|Tags: , , , |

two people in conversationHave your friends or family members ever surprised you with great insight into a decision you were making or problem you were trying to solve? Maybe someone helped you with great advice on the best neighborhood for your home purchase or pushed you to chase the next challenge in your career.

It happens to me all the time. And, aside from maybe having to reluctantly relinquish the “know-it-all” crown to a friend or close relative, the results are almost always  positive.

Sometimes, the knowledge or resources you seek can be surprisingly close to you. That can definitely be the case if you’re struggling to find exciting, fresh content ideas for your higher ed website.

Keeping a college site appealing to a young, digitally fluent audience is challenging work. And, sometimes it’s easy to fall in the trap of pushing out glitzy, thin content that’s perhaps too tailor-made for social media shares.

But, catering to your prospective students doesn’t need to be kitschy or insincere. And you really don’t need influencers to be dropping your school’s name in order to communicate relevance.

Again, sometimes the things we need the most are right under our noses – we just have to know to look for them. For higher ed websites, that means not overlooking your faculty members as inspiration for, or sources of, awesome, interesting, engaging content.

Faculty… Great Content? Really!?

Really.

First, if you’re picturing a leather-patched sweater, glasses and wood pipe type droning on and on… you’re in the wrong century.

Today, college instructors (like college marketers) have to contend with the oh-so-short attention spans of their students, who are more equipped than ever to tune them out with the help of their personal devices. The good professors have mastered the art of keeping the teenage masses interested – at least long enough to get their message across.

Odds are, every university department features at least one legend professor. She – whose classes fill up within minutes of registration opening and lectures are observed with quiet awe – is out there.

Find her. Talk to her. Better yet, get her to talk to the audience you’re most responsible for – your next freshman class.

Four Types of Faculty-inspired Content 

Once you’ve found your star faculty members, you need to decide how to best tell their stories. There are several options available as your delivery vehicles. These can be written up by the faculty member himself, a writer you have on staff or even a student. The copy just has to tell an engaging narrative that captivates the attention of your target audience.

1. Travel Post

University professors travel. Some of them travel quite a bit. From academic conferences and research expeditions to sabbaticals, they get to experience lots of cool places and do many interesting things (and not always academic in nature, either).

Travel is inherently interesting. Write-ups featuring exotic or extraordinary locations and tales of adventure are bound to earn a bevy of clicks on your university blog or even homepage.

2. Research Write-up

This may seem like a boring proposition. Then again, there are lots of very interesting research areas that resonate with rising college freshmen interests: space exploration, new transportation technology, virtual reality, robotics, social sciences… the list is rather endless.

The trick with research write-ups/updates is to gear them to a lay audience and leave out the technical jargon. This may require the skills of an experienced writer.

3. Opinion 

Using their academic training and expertise, university professors are able to provide fact-based perspectives on many issues captured in today’s headlines. In fact, major media organizations solicit such observations from respected sources. Though opinion pieces can at times be perceived as somewhat controversial, they are a great method for correcting misconceptions held by the public at large or misrepresentations of reported information.

Publishing opinion articles by your faculty members can signal to prospective students that your school stays on the cutting edge of public interests. And, of course, they also boost the reputation of the academic.

4. Spotlight

Faculty spotlights are an excellent way to communicate the strength of a particular academic department, recognize the contribution or achievements of a rising star academician and/or bring to life instructors with an outsized reputation. Spotlights should not be treated as career sum-ups – or worse, obituaries. Care should be given to presenting a narrative that will resonate with a wide range of audiences.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Content

Need some help planning and managing your school’s website content? Let Beacon’s experienced content strategists help. Request a complimentary website audit today.

25 06, 2019

Higher Ed Content Analysis: Stay Current with Recruitment

By | 2019-06-25T15:11:39+00:00 June 25th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, SEO|Tags: , , |

“The early bird gets the worm.”  – English proverb

The battle for higher ed students starts early. If you harbor hopes of success for the upcoming recruiting year, the summer months are the best time to fine-tune your game plan.

For higher ed staff tasked with maintaining your school’s website, that means assessing how well your website content is geared to your most important audience – your prospective students.

As with anything else, you have to know what you’re doing well and where a little tinkering could improve the final product. Below, we’ll take a look at the different kinds of content required to meet the needs of you prospective students, and how to decide if a particular page or section deserves to remain on your school’s site.

graphic of man looking at paper with sad, happy and neutral faces

Great Content for Recruiting

Before you can tailor content to any audience, you have to know the  motivations and interests of its members. Luckily, there’s lots of good information out there with respect to how prospective college students make decisions.

A 2017 Survey of Admitted Students by consulting company Eduventures, for example, assessed the responses of more than 90,000 college-bound high school students nationwide. The study found that over 70% of respondents cited at least one of these six factors in their final decision-making process:

  • Feeling of fit
  • Academic quality and reputation
  • Availability of desired program
  • Affordability
  • Cost of attending
  • Job opportunities for graduates

A successful higher ed site incorporates these interest points into the user experience of prospective students. Of course, these are just the broad strokes, best used as guidelines to structuring prospective student user journeys. That said, be sure to identify the pages that do not speak to any of the above interest areas. These pages are sure to require your attention.

In addition to answering common questions that your prospects have about your school, your website also has to be engaging. Great sites provide rich graphics, captive page elements and well-positioned and articulate calls-to-actions.

A key part of your assessment will be determining if current page elements and features do enough to drive interaction and goal completion.

What else is needed for great recruiting content?

Considering that attending a college is often a family decision and that the financial responsibilities typically fall on parents, you may consider adding, expanding or updating a section of your site devoted to the families of your prospective students.

The end goal is to increase application submissions. Winning over the parents can go a long way to helping you reach that goal.

Five star rating on a tabletContent That’s Working

So, how do you identify what content works?

In a post earlier this month, we explored key website user engagement metrics in the Google Analytics platform. An analysis of user data for the pages aimed at your prospective students will tell you how well they’re performing.

In a January blog post, we also discussed how a content audit can help optimize the performance of your higher ed site. Conducting regular audits will help you identify the pages that are regularly hitting their marks. A content audit can also help you zero in on information that your users want but are not getting on your site.

These insights reveal the traits that move the needle for your users and guide content development efforts in the future.

What to Do With Content That Isn’t Working

Ok. So, we’ve found the content that works. We’ve even identified content holes we might have that need to be filled with new copy. But, what do we do with the pages that don’t perform to expectation?

It really comes down to whether a given page maintains the potential to meet your recruitment-oriented needs, or whether the page’s intended purpose no longer provides any strategic value.

Signs for "waste" and "recycling"Ultimately, pages that no longer serve a purpose should be relegated to the archives. On the other hand, a page that corresponds to a prospective student interest but is lagging on key engagement metrics should be analyzed further.

There are many reasons why good content fails to perform. It’s helpful to combine GA data with a practical look at how users are intended to reach and interact with the page.

Is the copy too far down the page, past the point where most users scroll? Are there clear CTAs leading to the page from content in earlier stages of the user journey? Is the page ranking in search results?

If you find that you haven’t done everything to set the page up for success, corrective measures could still be applied to rescue the page. That’s an important finding – one that can save content and web development costs. Identify the fixes that could improve the page and note them in your content inventory database for implementation in the following stage.

Beacon Knows Content Strategy

Need some help with your content audit? Beacon is here for you. Our team of content gurus is ready to assist with your content strategy. Request a complimentary audit today.

15 01, 2019

Could Your Higher Ed Website Stand to Lose Some Weight?

By | 2019-01-29T08:52:20+00:00 January 15th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Google Analytics, Higher Education, SEO|Tags: , , , |

Happy New Year, everyone! How are you doing with your resolutions?

Ok, ok… put down the pitchforks. This is a safe space.

Every year, as the calendar turns, Americans rush to empower themselves to do those things that we find difficult. One of the most popular resolutions, year after year, is the commitment to get in shape. Come January, gyms swell with new members, even if the new recruits only stick around through March.

January seems to be THE months to shed those extra pounds that have accumulated throughout the previous 11. But, as we’re all collectively and diligently keeping our minds on our waistlines, I thought I’d shift our focus just a tad… to overweight websites.

Did you know that your higher ed website is also prone to unhealthy weight gain? It’s true.

The digital “weight” is the content that your website hosts. Your site can’t function without content, just like a human body cannot survive without food. But, too much content, wrong content or old content can prove to be counterproductive to the goal of maintaining a vibrant, inviting and healthy website.

Thankfully, keeping your site in peak digital condition does not require a gym membership. What you will need, however, is a good model of what you want your site to be, an objective analysis of your current site as is, and a plan of action to get you to your goals.

Step One: Define Good Content

What is good content? That’s not a philosophical or a rhetorical question. It has a real answer. It’s just that that answer can be complicated and completely unique to your site.

When they choose to pay attention, people learn through personal experiences which foods work best for fueling their bodies. You may notice an extra energy in the mornings whenever you add fruit to your breakfast cereal. Or, you might feel more creative and productive in your afternoon meetings after you have a healthy smoothie for lunch, instead of the generic burger value meal.

But, what works for you, may not work for someone else.

Same with your website content. Content that performs well on another website may not deliver the same results on your site. You can’t replace those learning experiences that define what “good” is for you.

Define good content by identifying the goals that you are trying to accomplish. Is it to improve engagement? Are you trying to share knowledge? Increase conversion? Describe the ideal attributes of content for each goal.

Then, compile a short list of your top-performing content and analyze what makes those pieces work. What value does a particular page provide to your target audience? What needs are being met? Is anything relevant being left out?

At the end of this process, you’ll have a fairly good working concept of “good content” for your site.

Step Two: Audit Your Content

Once you decide what good content is, you can evaluate your site for what you’re missing, what you have too much of, and what is no longer needed. Dig in and become an expert on your website content.

Begin with a content inventory to identify all the pieces of content currently live on your site. This will help you break down your content into different categories.  At Beacon, we like Screaming Frog for these types of audits.

Once you have your list, you can segment your content any number of ways: content type (blog, landing page, toaster message), format (text, video, pic), user journey stages (awareness, consideration, conversion), etc. Include as much information and data – metadata (meta descriptions, title tags), content length, social shares, posting date, etc – as possible.

Next, add performance data for each piece of content. Google Analytics can help you identify the pages and content that attract the most visitors and drive engagement.

And finally, assess each piece of content by the goals you established. Focus your attention on content that does not accomplish any goals and leave the content that already meets your criteria alone. Once this is complete, you’ll need to decide what to do with each piece of content individually.

Step Three: Prune Your Content

This is where some of your content will meet its end.

After you’ve split out the good content from the bad, you’ll need to evaluate whether the sub-optimal content is worthy of efforts to update and improve it. Keep in mind that not all of your content can or should be salvaged.

That said, many pieces of content can be improved or re-purposed. Just because a page is not attracting a lot of visitors or driving goal completions doesn’t make it useless. A new angle, better keywords or a more sophisticated use of keywords, improved structure or a more optimized CTA can all rescue copy from the digital waste bin.

The resources and bandwidth that you have at your disposal will affect what can and should be salvaged. You may only have the ability to work on a limited number of pages. Make an action plan to improve the content with the most potential to meet your website goals.

The remaining pieces of content are the excess fat that should be trimmed.

Beacon Knows Content Strategy

Pruning your website content can be a big job. Beacon can help. Our content experts can provide valuable advice and help you come up with a strategic plan of action. Give us a call.

20 03, 2018

SEO for Higher Ed: 3 Steps to Increase Enrollment

By | 2018-03-20T09:36:17+00:00 March 20th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Of all the ways to market to prospective students, the most cost efficient may be SEO. Optimizing for organic search doesn’t require the monthly cash outlay that PPC does (although you want to be doing that, too). And improving your ranking in search engines can improve brand recognition and produce actual recruiting leads.

If you focus on these three elements of SEO, you can increase enrollment and your website search rankings. It all starts with effectively targeting keywords that pay.

Step One: Organic Search Optimization

Perform a complete review of your title tags and meta descriptions to make sure you’re taking full advantage of target keywords. Google has recently increased the size of their search descriptions, meaning that you should do the same. Meta descriptions can be as long as 300 words so review yours to make sure you’ve taken advantage of this additional real estate.

Review your H1 and H2 headlines to make sure they’re keyword rich as well. Keywords should also be present within the body of your content. Finally, make sure your content links to other relevant pages within your site.

Step Two: Optimize forms and applications

Short attention spans require short forms. This is not an indictment of this generation of student. It’s simply an acknowledgement that we absorb information in smaller bites these days. Ask as little as you can to get the prospect to hit the submit button.

Consider a multi-step form process. Research indicates that when prospects are confronted by two short forms, they often feel less encumbered by the number of questions. Split test to tweak your message and maximize response. Form optimization is perhaps the most direct way you can influence conversions.

Step Three: Content Marketing – blog posts and social media

Creating meaningful content can be labor intensive. However, compelling content is perhaps the most sure-fire way of engaging the target audience and getting results – and not just soft stats.  We’re talking applications, here. Good content will give you a boost in the short and long term, so long as it is a consistent, ongoing exercise. Stop creating new content and you’ll fade into obscurity.

Whether this new content consists of testimonials, interviews with alumni or a campus survival guide from current students, make it timely and authentic, not salesy. This type of content is highly shareable. Develop a sound social media content strategy to maximize the visibility of this new content. It’s your chance to engage potential students who may have questions. Get back to them in real time. Be responsive.

Speaking of Responsive….

I’m assuming that by now your college or university website is responsive, enabling potential students to access your information on any device. If not, this supersedes everything above.

Still have questions?

Email me or speak with a member of our SEO team at 336-447-3379. Let’s discuss your website and enrollment goals. Together, let’s figure out how your website can help your recruiting efforts and meet your expectations.

 

13 02, 2018

The New Search Console: What You Need to Know

By | 2018-02-12T08:33:43+00:00 February 13th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

Google has released a beta version of a new Search Console experience to a limited number of users. Keeping up to date with new features is imperative for those who wish to adequately monitor indexing status and optimize the visibility of their websites.

The OLD Search Console

Google Search Console offers invaluable insight into how people are finding their websites. Search Console allows webmasters the opportunity to monitor and resolve technical website issues.

On average, Google changes its algorithm at least once a day. Granted, most of these updates are small and are geared towards weeding out spam and low quality content. However, recent updates have been more geared towards, featured snippets, job listings, chrome HTTPS warnings and more.

Due to the frequency of industry updates, Search Console needed a significant overhaul.

Get to Know the NEW Search Console

A short time ago, Google started a gradual roll out of the new version of Search Console. Scratch that. It isn’t just a new version. Search Console has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. This time ‘round, the report is purposefully focused on making it easier for users to identify and fix possible issues.

The most significant differences include Search Performance, Index Coverage, AMP Status, and (for those who post job listings on their site) a Job Posting report. Let’s briefly discuss each and the ways in which they can directly impact you and your website.

The New Search Console’s Index Coverage

The Index Coverage Report provides detailed information on who well Google is indexing the pages on your site.  Page status is reported in any of these four categories; “valid”, “error”, “warning”, and “informational/excluded”.  Here’s the best part. Google has done their best to present errors in a transparent way. Simply click on any URL listed with an error and you’ll be given links to the appropriate diagnostic tools to remedy the issue. And, the user can download or export the information should it require a deeper look.

Search Performance Report Gives You More

Similar to the previous Search Analytics report, the Search Performance report in the new Search Console shows you how often your site appears in search. But, now you get 16 months of data. Get info on clicks, click through rate, and average position.

New AMP Status report in Google Console

This too, is a report designed to help the webmaster identify and fix issues that relate to AMP pages. This report not only identifies URLs with issues, it’s a one-stop repair shop. It tells the user what’s wrong and lets you fix it.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! You can test it, too. One can only assume that Google will be placing more and more weight behind AMP pages. They’re actively encouraging website owners to address AMP issues by making it extremely easy to do so.

More Emphasis on Job Postings

In the summer of 2017, Google launched Google for Jobs as well as new mark-up specifically for job postings. It’s fair to say that they see gold in them there hills. The emphasis on job postings continues with the Job Postings report. Not only can one check to verify that job postings are indexed correctly, but data is available on your job listing results, too.

In Conclusion

Google has continued to work towards their goal of producing the best user experience – period. Thanks to Google’s updates to Search Console, webmasters can stay on top of these changes to align their online strategy with Google’s core values.

 

15 01, 2018

Mobile-First Indexing & the Rear View Mirror

By | 2018-01-18T12:26:17+00:00 January 15th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Google is all about improving the user experience.  Lately, that means adapting to the changing methods through which users consume online information. In other words, Google will be moving towards mobile-first indexing.

What does it mean for your online business? What do you need to do – if anything – to ensure that you’re out in front of this change? So that you don’t get caught in the competition’s rear view mirror, let’s discuss what’s meant by the term “mobile-first indexing” and the ways in which we can address it head on.

What is mobile-first indexing, exactly?

Up until now, Google had indexed pages with a nod toward desktop first. Going forward, your rankings will be based upon the mobile version of your site first and foremost. Don’t confuse this with a mobile-only index. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll still rank. However, your rankings may be adversely affected by the change. Conversely, those who present a rich, improved mobile experience, will likely see better rankings for mobile as well as desktop versions of their website.

 How quickly will mobile-first indexing be implemented?

We’re told that Google will roll this change out very slowly. This stands to reason as no one wants to see a seismic shift of any kind in the online business landscape. And, if your customers’ mobile experience is similar to that of desktop (for example, you’re already responsive), you probably won’t have to do much  to ensure that you’re ready for the change.

However, things can move faster than originally anticipated. And, with every change comes opportunity. Even if you’ve got a responsive site and you’re ranking well for primary keywords, this is a great time to check the elements that will affect your rankings once Google shifts its focus more towards mobile.

If you’ve been maintaining two sites, one for mobile and one for desktop, you may wish to consider a website redesign – a move to a single, responsive website. If this is beyond your budgetary capabilities, all is not lost. Step one is to make sure that content is consistent on both desktop and mobile versions of the site. Verify that the mobile version is crawl-able and includes the required alt tags for images. Some of the more significant things you’ll want to check include:

  • XML sitemap.: Make sure sitemaps and robots.txt files have accessible links.
  • Structured data markup on mobile and desktop.: Make sure they’re the same.
  • Metadata: Check to see that both versions are roughly the same. They don’t have to be identical, however they shouldn’t deviate in meaning.

These are just a few of the items you’ll want to address. Your best bet is to contact your digital marketing people and let them know of your concerns. They’ll know what to do. If they’re unsure, call us. We can help.

It is believed that Google will roll out this new mobile-first indexing over a period of years, not weeks or months. No need to be alarmed. However, now is the time to plan for mobile-first indexing. After all, objects may be closer than they appear.

 

13 09, 2017

Improve Your Site Search with These SEO Principles

By | 2017-09-01T09:55:13+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

While just about every e-commerce website I’ve worked with optimizes for Google search, it amazes me how many underestimate the value of effective internal site search. If you’re not dedicating some effort to improving your internal search, you’re losing business.

Conversions aren’t the only thing impacted by a properly optimized site search (although it certainly is the most important). Internal site search can provide clues that have implications across the board and help you effectively manage your bricks-and-mortar business, too.

Here’s a short list of SEO principles that, if employed, will help you get the most from your internal site search (and boost conversions!):

Set up site search tracking in Google Analytics. It’s simple and you can do this right inside your current Google Analytics account.

Step One: You need to determine the query parameter your site search is using. Simply perform a search, any search, on your site. Look at the URl of the results page and identify the designation immediately following the question mark. For the example below, I went to a popular outdoor clothing and equipment site and did so.

As you can see, it’s a “q” in this case.

search-query-parameters

Step Two: Go into your Google Analytics account and click Admin, View Settings and scroll to Site Search Settings.

google analytics search query parameters

Step Three: Under the heading Site Search Tracking, simply click the slider to the “on” position. Look for the heading Query parameter and add the character that designates a search in your URl. In this example, it was “q”. Click the Strip query parameters out of URl button and save.

This will enable you to view the terms visitors searched on your site within Google Analytics.

Add often searched query terms to your keyword research. Once you know what people are searching while on your website, you’ll not only gain insight into ways to optimize your search terms for products and/or categories but you’ll get great ideas for new products.

NoIndex your search result pages. If someone performs a generic Google search hoping for a quick answer and lands on your internal search page instead, it may not result in a good experience. Google thinks it is less likely to. That being the case, it makes sense to block them.

Never display “No Results Found”. It serves no useful purpose to you or the user. If the item they’re searching for is out of stock, consider displaying related products. If the term is completely unrelated to any of your products, serve up a list of your best selling items with a blurb that reads “We couldn’t find the item you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re interested in one of the best sellers below.”

Don’t pass up a chance to ask for a sale. Proper use and optimization of your internal site search has been done to dramatically improve, even double in some cases, conversions. A designated Google Analytics Partner since 1998, the digital marketing team at Beacon has a wealth of knowledge regarding internal site search and ways in which it can be leveraged to improve your bottom line. Questions? Email me or call a Beacon team member at 1.866.585.6350. We’re ready to discuss ways in which we can help y make your online business more profitable than ever before.

26 07, 2017

SEO & Your Redesign: Don’t Be a Flintsone

By | 2017-07-31T12:52:45+00:00 July 26th, 2017|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

If you’re reading this article on your desktop monitor, guess what. You’re a dinosaur, my friend. More than likely, there are far more people reading this article on hand held devices. Particularly those between the ages of 18 and 29*. But, since there are still holdouts like yourself, any website needs to account for this audience as well.

With that in mind, it’s time we talk about responsive website redesign. So, put those rocks down and follow me.  We’re going to cover a lot of ground in just a few words. We’ll look at some major SEO considerations with an added emphasis on mobile redesign factors.

Structured Schema Data & The Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes

A redesign is a great time to give your new website an organic visibility boost. By adding structured or schema markup, you can give search engines a little bit more help with interpreting your pages, thereby improving the quantity and quality of your traffic. Think of it as the secret handshake of Lodge brothers. You establish a familiarity on a higher level – it’s an engagement booster. And when better engagement metrics follow, so do better search rankings.

HTML tells the user’s browser how to display the information in the tag. Using a microdata format, schema markup tells the browser what the text within the tag means. There are markup types for different business categories, entertainment types, articles & review sites, products, and events. And those are just a few types of schema. You can see why schema markup is a great way to showcase your website content.

Yabba Dabba DON’T forget about page speed.

Page speed has always been important. With mobile devices, page speed is absolutely critical. Consider the numbers given earlier regarding mobile users. They’re young. Very Young. That means the average mobile user has an attention span similar to that of a common house fly.  Factor in questionable mobile connections and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. There is no such thing as too fast.

Make sure you address page speed. If you can’t get a straight answer from your design partner regarding site speed, use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to find out for yourself. It will measure mobile friendliness and compare the load times of your site on mobile and desktop. Additionally, the tool will suggest improvements. Take this handy little report and give it to your design partner.

CSS, JavaScript & The Great Gazoo

In the Jurassic days of website design (last Thursday), it wasn’t unusual to use JavaScript to ensure that your design renders as intended. Page speed was not as great a factor in the Google search algorithm as it is today and page speeds didn’t have to account for mobile use.

However, side by side analysis suggests overuse of JavaScript and CSS can be a big mistake. Recent split tests indicate that if one were to strip the JavaScript from a page and use CSS to render it instead, performance would improve. In fact, if one were to split test the JavaScript pages versus the pages not reliant on JS, the latter sees roughly 5% more organic traffic.

Like the character in the cartoon, CSS and JavaScript mean well but they they’ll likely create more problems than they solve.

They don’t use Flash down at the quarry anymore.

There are some good things about Flash. It’s great for course animations and online presentations. Now, let’s list a few of its limitations.

  • It’s not supported on iPhone.
  • Or Anything, really.
  • Google has trouble crawling and indexing it. That means lousy search visibility.
  • It isn’t easily updated. If you have very, very deep pockets, this isn’t a problem.
  • It’s proprietary so Adobe can hold you hostage.

With the changing technologies, Flash simply should not be used any longer. Flash isn’t supported on mobile devices. If your redesign partner insists on using Flash in your new redesign, run for the hills.

Bold choice, Mr. Flintstone! You’ll go far in this company.

While all of the above must be considered in your redesign efforts, it all starts with your choice of a forward-thinking design and development partner. That’s where Beacon comes in. If you have any questions regarding SEO and your upcoming redesign project, I invite you to email me or call a member of our digital marketing team at 1.855.847.5440.

*According to the Pew Research Center

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