How do other agencies approach integrated marketing, SEO, web development and conversion rate optimisation? We asked these UK digital specialists to tell us:
Why is Search Phrase Analysis data important when planning the information architecture of a site?
Supermarkets use data to plan their store layout so that it reflects shopper needs and behaviours and the same applies to using data to inform a website’s information architecture. Both external and internal search phrase analysis are an important source of data as they can give us an insight into users’ goals within the site. When we combine that with other data such as user flows from Google Analytics, personas and market analysis we can start to paint a clearer picture of how people are using a site and the journeys they take to get where they want to go. The objective here is to understand the site from their perspective and to identify where the roadblocks in the sales funnel are and how the site can be improved. Data isn’t enough in and of itself though and that’s where the skills of a good UX and design team comes in, to build on this by using their experiences to guide design layout and navigation to create simple user journeys and clean interfaces that make it easy to find your way around the site.
From the outset of any web design project it’s important that IA is taken into account. Our design teams spend a good length of time at the start of a project getting to understand the sectors and what information visitors seek in order to prioritise the content for each section which then feeds into the wireframe and design process.
It’s definitely an important factor, depending on what the goals of the site are. If SEO is one of the most important elements, then we of course want to plan key landing pages, headings and titles around the terms people are more likely to search for (and those which have low competition / high opportunity). This isn’t the only factor of course. Planning information architecture is also highly based on user friendliness and intuition. The extent to which search analysis guides the process depends on the overall priorities.
Putting the language that your customers use at the heart of how you talk about yourself is absolutely crucial. Present the information that they seek in a way that they understand, in an order that makes sense, and in the words that they used to find you in the first place. Relevance does not stop in the search results, it needs to be a consistent theme throughout your digital content in order for your website, its contents, and your social media strategy to resonate with your customers, and to continue resonating.
Search phrase analysis is one of the quickest and most accurate consumer behaviour tests that there is. It highlights comparative demand for products and services to help you prioritise them in the information architecture. It can also help with the decision of whether to have a single product category for that product set or break it up into parent and several child categories. This in turn helps drives more traffic to the site, but also helps in better landing page optimisation for paid and social campaigns so that the user doesn’t have to filter further. This ensures that the conversion rate is maximised.
Do you run Conversion Rate Optimisation tests on old sites to find conversion killers?
Everything online is trackable, and data is only as powerful as the person analysing it and turning it into actions. Don’t just look at it, learn from it, act on it, analyse what happens next. Understanding what worked, what didn’t, and why, is fundamental to developing an effective online experience and will ensure that you get it right first time, next time! Design, test, learn, refine. Testing should never stop. The combination of judgement+data, human+tech is crucial whether designing a website, an online comms campaign, or a social media strategy.
While it’s not in our remit to build sites, it is definitely something I tend to suggest. As the saying goes – if you do not understand history you are doomed to repeat it. This is very true when building a new site or re-platforming as you could assume new will convert better than old. This may be the case, but if you don’t work out the reason that the old site didn’t convert well then often the new site will not convert as well as it could.
Often we find clients come to us seeking a re-design of their existing site because they’re already aware there’s a high number of areas the site is failing to deliver on which they’re keen to rectify. In cases like this, it’s imperative that we take on board lessons learnt and implement changes to address this in the new website. However, we will rarely recommend conducting a full CRO study before re-developing a website from the ground up. As every aspect of the site will be changing, one factor can offset another, so any A/B or multipartite tests conducted would likely need to be re-verified on the new website. As such, with budgets often a limiting factor on projects of this nature, we would rarely recommend it.
Conversion Rate Optimisation tests can be a great way of finding and fixing barriers to conversion, but we always recommend a wider assessment of the site as a whole. For example, understanding how the site flows and identifying the conversion paths is key. Without this broader understanding, it’s easy to fall into common pitfalls such as fixing an issue but not really understanding why the solution worked. Another pitfall is fixing a problem in one area of the site in a way that just shifts the problem further down the funnel. It’s also important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater with a site redesign and so we’re often looking to identify what works as much as what doesn’t. This way we can make sure that we keep all the good parts and improve those elements that don’t work.
Quite important. It’s usually good to set some KPIs and measure them against the old site. We should usually plan our site redesigns around meeting a business goal more effectively, so it’s a sensible thing to do. Like-for-like conversion rate comparison can be difficult though, as we might be attracting more / different traffic and different process flows. Therefore what we define as ‘conversion’ could change slightly. It’s good to agree on a KPI and a target at the start of the project, and understand that it might be different to what we previously measured.
What role does CRO play in web development and changes?
These days the launch of the site is often only the beginning of a long process of ongoing enhancements. Many companies, especially retailers, are engaged in a digital arms race where improvements launched by one company are quickly matched and then bettered by the competition. In this kind of environment, continuous optimisation is essential. Conversion Rate Optimisation is a key part of this, though for larger sites the challenge is often finding the biggest problems to solve first, i.e. the one that will have the most impact. Without the right combination of team skills and a CRO process in place, it’s easy to waste time fixing the small stuff rather than focusing on the issues that will deliver most ROI and impact on commercial goals. To get CRO right is very much about skilled interpretation of findings. Optimisation of the site can be broader than simple A/B or multivariate testing, and can include wider ideas and innovation around the digital strategy as a whole.
CRO is all about the aggregation of marginal gains; the little one-percentages that add up to the cumulative increase in conversion. Sometimes there will be a major change to be made, and when this happens, test it just as you would the smaller changes. Look at historic data so that any ‘big ticket’ CRO changes allow for environmental influences to your traffic’s behaviour – seasonal, economic, and political – to ensure your testing is informed. Did you have an advertising campaign running this time last year but you’re not running one now? Strip that out of the data so you can really look at the impact – positive or negative – of the changes, big or small, as you make them.
ABT, always be testing. The days of a website being ‘complete’ have been over for a long time, and to maintain and improve your position in the marketplace it is essential to keep CRO at the core of your web development activity. Testing before development helps reduce the development queue and gets around the HIPO decision being implemented consistently. It also helps reduce the impact of a change that could affect your conversion rate detrimentally.
Why plan a traffic acquisition strategy from the ground up?
We don’t get involved with this directly ourselves and tend to operate on a recommendation basis to other agencies who appear the best fit for the business in question. Our area of expertise is focused around web design and development, that’s what we’re great at, and we don’t want to dilute our offering by spreading ourselves too thin.
Where is your audience? Where are your competitors’ audiences? What are they talking about? What do you want them to talk about? What content do you need to produce to have an effect? Any effect? ‘Engagement’ is an over-used word in digital, what you’re really looking for is a reaction; in order to capture traffic, and drive them to your website, your Instagram account, or your YT channel. To share your content with their friends, or to simply watch a video and feel something, that’s the game. In order to be shared, your content has to mean something to your audience and that’s where to start. Ask the simple questions. The answers will get the client on board with whatever comes next because your strategy will be grounded in what the audience wants, not what you or your client thinks they want.
It sounds obvious but there is no point in building a great site that no one finds, just as there is no point in driving lots of traffic to a poor site that fails to convert. Ultimately traffic acquisition and the site itself are both part of the same user journey, and so should be planned to work together from the get go. The brand messaging that powers a campaign should be reflected within the site. The site should also match what the brand wants to say with what the user is looking to achieve. Understanding the mix of paid, owned and earned media can influence a number of factors on the site such as the overall content strategy and information architecture as well as user journeys. All this helps us to understand more about a user’s context when using the site. It can also help us see where a user is in the buying process e.g. research vs. purchase. With this broader understanding we can look to design a user experience to reflects all this. Increasingly, clients are working with specialist agencies or teams who focus on one area of the digital mix – be it platform, traffic, social and so on. As a result, agencies are getting better at collaborating and learning to speak the same language, albeit with a slightly different accent at times.
A lot of the time we get introduced near the launch of the site rather than during the initial planning phases. This can result in a lot of additional work needing to be done to the platform to get it ready for traffic generation. Building it in from the ground up not only saves money but maximizes performance and minimizes the impact of losing current traffic – especially if a large segment of that is coming from SEO. It also helps frame the user journey in that a category or product page template could be by far the most visited landing page template. There is often a lot of emphasis on the home page and onwards user journey, when in fact 9 times out of 10 it is a lot more complex than that.
Do you implement best practice SEO elements from the start or after?
When it comes to on-site SEO, we aim to make sure all of our sites are delivered following SEO best practices. Our team always aim to be one of the first to implement fresh changes in the industry, such as HTTPS everywhere which recently came about.
While we don’t build sites, building the elements from the ground up is always preferential. We work with partner agencies to ensure they have the blueprint of a compliant site and constantly check the staging environment to ensure that the site matches the search engines’ expectations.
There’s a lot more to building a site that is properly optimised for SEO than there was previously and as a result, it needs to be thought of as an integral part of the design process. As a digital commerce agency we want to deliver the best ROI from the site for our clients and so want to get this right from the start. We don’t see it as anything other than good practice and prefer to work with specialists to ensure their needs are met.
Get it right first time. You wouldn’t build a house, move in, and then ask the developers to install the electrics and central heating. Sure you’ll have a house, and it will look great on the surface, but for the first few months it will be cold and dark and no-one will come and visit.
What are your thoughts on a silo approach versus an integrated omni-channel approach in digital marketing?
Your other channels probably ought to be aligned with what you’re doing on the site. I.e. rather than pointing to the home page, your communications should direct the user to specific landing pages. This involves planning the site around how the marketing guys are going to do it. We’ve always found that when the different disciplines work together in a omni-channel approach, the clients end up with the best results. Happy clients are good news for everyone involved!
Consumers don’t live in silos, nor do they care about platforms or operating systems. Instead they are busy, complex and often irrational and so a silo approach to marketing simply doesn’t make sense. As the omni-channel environment matures, marketing needs to reflect this blended style of online behaviour and so an integrated strategy is essential.
‘Integrated omni-channel’ means right place, right time, right message. Good marketing is about communication, obviously. Ticking the boxes to ensure you appear in the right place at the point of relevance should be a given, what happens next is not. Customers are asking: can I find the most relevant information to meet my need / answer my question? Does their website work? Are they on social media? What do other people think of them / their product or service? So what? What next? Real value lies in changing people’s attitudes and their behaviours, so that your business, product, or service is memorable – remarkable even – and interesting enough, good enough, relevant enough, to be shared. An integrated, omni-channel approach to online marketing will take you beyond being a one-hit wonder, to being talked about, recommended, and building an audience who won’t just know what you do, but why you do it, why you’re best at it, and why they’ll choose you next time.
From my perspective a silo approach is not only short sighted, it simply doesn’t work. For a brand to be successful in the current competitive climate, integration is key. The customer needs to experience a seamless journey from acquisition to conversion. They couldn’t care less about channels, they only care about the experience.
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