24 04, 2018

Heat Maps & Site Search

By | 2018-05-01T07:56:42+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

Are You Listening to Your Data?

Your website users can tell you a lot about how your site is performing. Of course, they don’t necessarily make it easy.

In our previous blog post, we discussed how to directly tap into your audience by asking questions via focus groups and surveys. The benefit of engaging with your audience in these ways is the opportunity to hear firsthand what your customer base thinks.

The drawback?

Your focus group and survey participants may not always be so great at assessing their own online behavior. Or, the nice people that they are, they may be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear.

While direct responses from your website users are an excellent source of insights, you do want to make sure that what your audience tells you is reflected in their actual online behavior. There’s an old Russian proverb, often attributed to a former US President, that offers great advice: “Trust, but verify.”

The best way to do that is by taking a close look at what visitors are actually doing on your site.

Heat Maps: Pretty Data

Beacon homepage heat map

Heat map of Beacon’s homepage

Heat maps provide an extremely user-friendly method for identifying the portions of your website that receive the most attention. Instead of numbers, pie charts, columns or bars, a heat map presents user behavior data as colors on a warm-to-cool spectrum. This provides an intuitive way to interpret the information – lots of clicks equals warmer colors.

Heat maps can be used to represent any kind of data – not just website usage. But, they are particularly useful in showing where on a given webpage users click the most. And that information can be easily turned into an analysis of on-page performance.

Are people using your navigation bar as intended? Is your CTA drawing the engagement you thought it would? Are page features being overlooked or overshadowed by other content?

Combined with a scroll map, you can also see if users are reaching the content at the bottom of the page. These insights make it easy to understand why a page may not be performing up to expectations, and help you come up with a well-targeted re-design plan.

Site Search: Know What They’re Looking For

Another tool that lets you peek inside the mind of your audience is site search analysis. If you haven’t installed a site search feature on your site, you should really consider doing so soon.

Site search makes your site more convenient for many different types of users, while maintaining emphasis on your primary target audience. It allows visitors to drive their own experiences on your site by letting them find exactly the information they want to access.

Through their searches, visitors also leave behind valuable information about their intentions, desires and future behavior. Between five and 10% of all internet users rely on site search – a healthy sample size from which pertinent and actionable insights can be pulled.

Site search analysis can help you identify new, relevant keywords; content that should be added; new product ideas; or unexpected reasons people are visiting your site. It can also highlight usability or navigational issues by specifying the locations from which users initiated their search and how many pages they viewed after completing their query.

We Can Help with That:

Want to know how heat maps and site search can help your website perform better? Give us a call at (866) 708-1467, we’d be glad to talk to you about your challenges. Insights and analysis are what our Digital Marketing Services team excels at.

27 03, 2013

A Chat with Nextopia’s CEO & Founder, Sanjay Arora

By | 2016-11-18T14:12:45+00:00 March 27th, 2013|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , |

In the web solutions business, vendor partnerships are inevitable.  Good ones are essential.  And when you find good ones that provide great products or services, coupled with great support and a competitive price, you stick with them.  But there’s always one more element that I consider as well – “fit”.  By this, I mean, do they fit with your company’s personality or culture?  It’s important because you will be teaming with them on behalf of your customers.

I can wholeheartedly say that one of my favorite partnerships is with Nextopia.  From day one, they have been friendly, helpful, customer-focused and seemingly always available.  We see them regularly at trade shows and truly feel like they are an extension of the Beacon Team.  Oh – and of course, they are keenly focused on delivering a best-in-class site search product.Sanjay Arora

Recently, I chatted with Sanjay Arora from Nextopia, somewhat “interview-style”, and here’s a recap.

MDTell me a little about Nextopia, the company.

SA:  Nextopia was founded in 1999 in Toronto, Canada. Our core focus was, and always has been, search.  Whether you’re a small entrepreneur selling out of your basement or a multinational conglomerate, you need an intelligent search engine.  Since 1999, the company has continued to adapt to the ever-changing needs of both the e-tailer and the online shopper.  Our commitment to our goal shows in our customers, our work and our great employees.

 MD:  What are the main reasons that your customers use or like your product so much?

SA:  There are MANY reasons to use Nextopia, but if we had to pick, we’d have to divide this list into two:

  1. Developers love us because of the ease of implementation. Due to the fact that there are so many different platforms and so many different developer styles, a solution needs to be very flexible and very easy to customize.  Our product integrates very easy with all platforms so all developers are able to work with it.
  2. Website owners love us because of our results!  Nextopia makes it easy for their customers to find and buy their products.  Best of all, our tool is very affordable for any size of business.  We have over 1,500 customers who understand how an intelligent search leads to a positive ROI.

MD:  What do you see as the most important feature(s) of a site search product? 

SA:  Relevant results!  You can add many bells and whistles to a search results page, in terms of filters, sort options, quick views, compare features, etc, but if you’re not delivering relevant results, you’re not best serving the customer.  The key is to understand shoppers and their shopping habits.  In the Nextopia Control Panel, the merchant can customize results to meet the specific needs of their shoppers and target certain demographics.  Knowing your customers and catering to their needs increases repeat business, which accounts for 42% of all online business.

MD:  Anything you want to share about the Beacon-Nextopia partnership?Nextopia Logo

SA:  Nextopia and Beacon have been working together on various site search and navigation projects over the last 2 years.  It’s a natural fit because of Beacon’s expertise in the eCommerce world, and Nextopia’s expertise in the site search industry. When a Beacon customer is looking for an upgraded search solution, they are able to integrate Nextopia quickly and easily.  Plus we really like the people at Beacon, they’re very creative and a fun group to work with and we think our clients will enjoy working with them as well.

MD:  What’s on the horizon for site search?

SA:  Search will always evolve because consumers are always evolving.  They’re getting smarter, more efficient, and less patient.  If they can’t instantly find what they’re looking for, they’re simply going to move on…and we don’t blame them.  So speed and relevancy is always on the forefront.

There will also be a push for better data. We want to work closely with our customers, developers, and the industry as a whole, and teach them how to correctly collect data so it can be optimized in a way that makes it so easy for any consumer to find and purchase any product.  The websites with good attribute data, which allow customers to refine their search to the precise item(s) they’re looking for, will win out over sites with poor data every time.

Nextopia’s biggest initiatives over the next year will be focusing on conversion optimization.  For an internet retailer there is no bigger statistic than visitor to buyer ratio, so we’re designing even more tools to make the merchandiser’s job easier and more profitable.  Bottom line is that an intelligent search engine can alter a website into a tool that provides highly measurable returns.

MD:  I like where site search is going – conversion optimization, analytics and insights – which are also at the heart of Beacon’s digital marketing services.  So I’m sure there will be much more for us to talk about going forward.  Keep up the good work and see you at IRCE!

20 03, 2013

Why Google Custom Search Engine is a Great Choice

By | 2017-07-20T14:13:01+00:00 March 20th, 2013|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

UPDATE: The information in this post was updated on July 20, 2017. Please read the updated version HERE.

There are many third-party search engines you can choose from for your website. Some third-party installations and upkeep are more involved than others. Some offer free limited search capabilities and others are paid with extra features. These all depend on what your needs are for the website.

To help narrow it down, Google has provided an easy way to search your site, be it free or paid with custom search. The free version comes with Google ads that relate to your site, but not limited in other areas like other third-party search engines. If you have a tax-exempt business website according to Google’s guidelines, you have the option to turn off the ads. The paid search is also very affordable and allows you to turn off the ads.

You can customize the whole search experience and everything needed through the Google Custom Search engine site. It requires very minimal setup to your website with simple copy and paste code. With Google hosting the search engine, you don’t have to setup any background files or plugins on your own web server and maintain it.

It works well for search engine optimization and your website rankings, since it gives the ability to work with Google Analytics. You can see what people are searching for on your website to help improve or update it and get maximum results.

Check out the Google Custom Search.

28 12, 2009

Podcast interview with Shaun Ryan, SLI Systems’ CEO

By | 2017-02-23T17:29:31+00:00 December 28th, 2009|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , |

You never know how the final version of an interview will turn out, but I thought this turned out pretty good. We cover a lot of information about eCommerce, search engine marketing and site search that many readers may find informative. Enjoy!