Let Your Website Do the Talkin’: Optimizing Website Content

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A website with stellar content is an absolute “must-have” as part of your overall online marketing strategy. You want to do more than just provide your visitors basic information about your organization: you want to engage them and encourage them to come back again. If you subsist off of donations or sales, then your website needs to also provide a clear call to action. Additionally, you need to make sure your website content is search engine friendly. If search engines can’t find your website quickly, how will your potential visitors?

Your web content should be inviting, friendly and informative. Be straightforward and concise in your writing style and get your message across as quickly and clearly as possible. People have less patience with dense content online than they do with printed papers. Do the following to ensure a good visitor experience:

1) Write headlines that let visitors know exactly what they will find on your site.

2) Make sure visitors can easily find your navigation bar.  There should no shortage of links directing visitors to other pages on your site.

3) Don’t be overly wordy or include too much content, especially on your welcome page. The majority of web visitors are seeking specific information and will skim your website until they find it.

4) Include a search box within your website to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.

Help people find your website by optimizing your site for search engines. One way you can do this is by consistently using the same keywords on your website. Keywords are the words you believe people will most likely use to search for your website. Consider a search engine like Google as an example. If you type in “natural pet food,” then Google will show you a list of sites that include those keywords. The sites that come up first are the ones that have successfully optimized their site for those particular keywords.

Research shows that most people will click on one of the first five sites listed. The majority of us will rarely click through to a site that is listed on page three of the search results. You should carefully consider which keywords you want your website to rank for. A free online Keyword Tool by Google can help you determine which keywords you should use based on the number of times those keywords (and their variations) where searched for in the past month.  Choose keywords that are used often, but not so much that it will be impossible to compete and rank well for them. Avoid using keywords that are so specific that few people will think to use them.

Here are some additional keyword tips:

~ Use singular and plural forms of keywords

~ Use synonyms

~ Change the word order of keyword phrases

When working on your website, keep the above information in mind. Having a great website really boils down to two simple things: clear website copy and search engine optimization.

E-Newsletter Pre-Launch Checklist

jpeg-7So you have your e-newsletter written and ready to go. Congrats! But before you click send and unleash your gem to dozens, hundreds or thousands of people interested in your organization, take a minute to go over this pre-launch checklist and do the following:

1. Make sure your e-newsletter is CAN-SPAM compliant. After all the time you put into your e-newsletter, the last thing you want is for it to end up in someone’s spam folder. To avoid this, be sure to include an unsubscribe link, along with a physical address in the email. You will also need to make sure your e-newsletter is going out from an actively monitored email address from which someone can process the unsubscribe requests.

2. Consider segmenting your email list for a specific e-newsletter campaign. The more relevant content is to the individual subscriber, the more likely they are to remain on your list. Personalize the email as much as you can.

3. Check your subject line carefully. Research shows that people are more likely to open your email if it has an appealing subject line. Make sure its clear to your readers who the e-newsletter is from. Include your company name or the name of an instantly recognizable person from your organization in the “From” line.

4. Proof read your content. Is it creative and engaging? Ask yourself why anyone would care about what you wrote. If you hadn’t written it, would you find it interesting? Did you include a call to action?

5.  Test your email. Send it to yourself and a few others nearby. Make sure the text isn’t garbled, that the design looks right and that the e-newsletter arrives in your Inbox and not the spam folder.

If you’ve sailed through the checklist, then you’re ready to click send. Hopefully if you continue writing in earnest and taking a little extra time to ensure quality, your subscribers list will grow along with your business.

E-Newsletter Tip: Engage Readers with Eye-Catching Design

jpeg-6Most of your e-newsletter subscribers want attractive design in addition to great content. Images and design highlight your content and make it more appealing and readable. While some people prefer plain text emails, the majority of e-newsletters are done in eye catching HTML.

Images help to convey your overall brand message better than plain text. Images used in e-newsletters are typically in .GIF or .JPG formats and are usually saved in a hosted location. Some people will set their email to disable images in their Inbox. To account for this, just use an “alt tag” for the image. An “alt tag” is a title or additional text related to that image which will show in place of the image that was blocked. For example, if you include an image of your organization’s logo in your e-newsletter and someone receives it who can’t view images, then your “alt tag” might read “The New York Times Logo.” This is less jarring to the subscriber than something like “image1.jpg.”

If you have a thriving subscriber list, then you may want to consider working with a graphic designer for maximum design quality. Keep in mind though that a good graphic designer does not necessary translate into a good email designer.

If you decide to hire a graphic designer, make sure you’re working with someone who has experience with email design and is familiar with the different limitations of email clients. A reader who is using Outlook 2007, which has its own way of showing images, may become frustrated that your images are showing up poorly and decide to unsubscribe. A good designer will design the e-newsletter to be visually appealing while driving your target audience to dig further into the content

Content is King: Content Tips for Creative & Engaging E-Newsletters

An e-newsletter is a fun way to build community for your organization. If you have creative and engaging content that keeps your subscribers caring, then your e-newsletter will be worth the time, energy and money that Content newsgoes into it. With so many other tasks to deal with in the workplace however, many people struggle to come up with solid content for a monthly e-newsletter. Here are a few tried and true tips to help you keep fresh interesting content flowing:

  1. Keep a folder on your computer just for e-newsletter ideas. When you see a relevant news article or have a sudden idea pop into your read, save the information in a word document and put it in your folder with a few quick notes. Ask others in your organization to keep a folder of their own or email you when they see something they think might be interesting. This will take some of the pressure of you and ensure a diversity of topics.
  2. Develop back up content. If you have an idea that will be relevant pretty much anytime, then write it down when you have a little free time and are feeling creative. You can draw from your reserve in a pinch when running out of time and struggling for content.
  3. Sign up for a few e-newsletters from others in your industry. Consider the type of content they include, and think about whether it interests you. Gauging your own reactions will help you get an idea of how your readers feel about your e-newsletter. Imitate your favorite e-newsletter and try to improve upon its weaknesses.
  4. Check blogs and use search engines to figure out which topics in your industry are generating the most coverage. Look up your own organization to see what people online are saying about you, and address those topics.

Once you begin brainstorming ideas, you’ll see what a huge range of topics you can cover in your e-newsletter. In your e-newsletter you can:

– Identify a problem/solution scenario

– Provide a list of “top tips”

– Write a review

– Explore educational content

– Create a survey

– Recommend events

– Make a list of useful resources and links

– Feature an interview

Your subscribers have handed over their email address in the hopes of hearing something useful and interesting from you, so don’t disappoint them. Take pride in your writing and have fun with it! If you enjoyed writing your e-newsletter, your readers will probably enjoy reading it.

Don’t be Junk Mail: Understanding and Improving your Email Campaigns

jpeg-1Nearly 20% of email marketers don’t track their email marketing campaigns, meaning they have no way of knowing how effective they are. Just a little time reviewing and analyzing the metrics of your email or e-newsletter campaigns will help you to see if you’re reaching your clients effectively.

Here are a few basic terms you should know:

  • Delivery Rate: The delivery rate is the total number of emails delivered to an inbox. Delivery rate percentages are determined by comparing the total number of emails that bounced (undeliverable) with the number of emails sent.  For example, spam filters or an out of date email address can cause an email to be bounced. You can reduce the chances of having your email bounce by asking subscribers to white-list your email.
  • Open rate: The open rate is the percentage of total delivered emails that were actually opened.  It’s an important number to be aware of, as you might suddenly find that your open rate has been going down without jpeg-2your knowledge. Industry research estimates the average open rate to be 30%. If your rate is lower than this, you may want to evaluate the effectiveness and content of  your emails.
  • Click-Through Rate: The click-through rate tracks the number of times a link in your email was actually clicked on by a subscriber. JupiterResearch estimates that the average click-through rate is about 12%. If you keep your content relevant, direct and targeted, you should manage to keep a good number of people interested.
  • Unsubscribe Rate: This is the number people who choose to unsubscribe from your email or e-newsletter. This rate is determined by dividing the total number of unsubscribes by the total number of delivered emails. Your unsubscribe rate is  often an overall indicator of email list health or freshness. If you are using a list of emails older than six months, then you may experience a high unsubscribe rate because the list is out of date. If the list is fresh and full of recent email subscribers and you are still experiencing a high unsubscribe rate, then you should review the relevancy of your content.

Reviewing and understanding these numbers is an integral part of determining the effectiveness of your campaign. Tracking your email campaign will help improve your business and keep you out of the spam box.

Getting the Most From Your Analytics Data: Are You Reaching Your Target Audience?

jpeg-4Collecting data and gathering information is only valuable if you match this data with tangible outcomes and goals. Identify key goals for your website, then use your analytics data to determine if these goals are being met. Common goals might include:

>> Increasing the number of registrations or member sign-ups

>> Increasing the number of downloads for free or paid products

>> Increasing the number of views for key pages

>> Increasing the number of returning visitors

One of Google Analytics’ best features is that it allows you to run a variety of reports that are relevant to your website. You can filter reports for any number of variables to cross-analyze your data. For example, you can compare how much time a new visitor is spending on your site compared to a returning visitor.

Once you have settled in on your goals, you can work on optimizing your site for those goals and use your analytics data to see if your efforts are bringing you closer to the desired result. Often your website is one of the biggest connections to your target audience, and its only logical to check up on its health and progress.

If you need a little kickstart with Google Analytics, try reading the Google Analytics User Guide. You also might want to check out Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics blog. Kaushik wrote the bestselling book “Web Analytics – An Hour a Day” and maintains an up to date blog with useful analytics information.

Occam’s Razor: Web Analytics Blog

How Well is Your Website Working for You? Understanding Google Analytics Data

jpeg-3You already know that Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for helping you work on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google Analytics allows you to track trends over time.

For example, if you make a major change to the content of your website, then you will be able to use Google Analytics to compare visitor behavior before and after the change. Knowing how the change effects your visitors will help you determine whether or not the change you made is effective.

In this post, we’ll go over the different types of data Google Analytics provides you and what that means for your website. Here are a few of the most important kinds of data Google Analytics will show you:

  • Bounce rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on a page on your site and then immediately leave without penetrating your site any further. A high bounce rate (over 50%) might mean visitors didn’t find the content of that page compelling enough to keep them exploring the site. Keep in mind that a bounce rate can vary depending on what type of site you have or what type of content is included on the landing page. For example, many people visit a blog just to quickly read the most recent post. This isn’t necessarily bad.
  • How people reached your site: Your analytics data will tell you which visitors found you directly by typing in your URL, which were referred to you by another site, and which found you through a search engine.
  • Direct traffic, or default traffic, includes visitors who typed in your web address or who used a bookmark.
  • Referral traffic consists of visitors who came to your site from an outside link: an affiliate link, a directory, or maybe from a link you posted on your Twitter or LinkedIn. Google Analytics will tell you what site the referral visitor came from so you can know which sites are giving you the most traffic.
  • Search engine visitors are those who used a major search engine to find your site or who clicked through a linked post as part of a paid search campaign. As Google Analytics will tell you which search engine the visitor used, then you are able to analyze this data along with the keywords used in their search to find out which search engines are working best for you and why.
  • Traffic from Keywords: Analyzing the keywords visitors used to find your site and looking at your bounce rate can give you some idea of what your visitors were expecting to find on your site. A high bounce rate can indicate that you have not met their expectations for the keywords they used in the search engine. Knowing this would help you to find new keywords for your website and to optimize your site better to meet visitor expectations.

Using the data from Google Analytics will help you to better understand your visitors and ensure that they’re getting what they want from your site.

Google Analytics: The Free Key to Better Search Engine Optimization

jpegIf you’re trying to bring more traffic to your website (and who isn’t?), then you’ve begun to dabble in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While daunting at first, SEO can be made much easier with Google Analytics, a free tool that allows you to learn more about your website visitors.

Google Analytics is a handy program that allows you to learn more about your website visitors. You can use Google Analytics to find out where your website visitors came from, the keywords they used to search for you, how long they were on your site (to the second!), how many pages they visited and more. This invaluable and easy to use tool will help you streamline your SEO and online marketing strategies.

To install Google Analytics onto your website, go to the Google Analytics website and open a free account. You will receive an html code to put on your website – it’ll just take your web designer a few minutes to insert the code. Data will become available to you in 24 hours or less once the code has been put on your site.

You may already be getting statistics from your web designer or hosting company, but with Google Analytics you can see in depth data for yourself in just seconds. Google Analytics will give you charts and graphs which will enable you to view the statistics of your website traffic.

You can begin optimizing your website within weeks of installing analytics. If you pay careful attention to the data you receive, you can make smart, efficient changes that will increase traffic to your site.

If you’re using multiple SEO techniques, chances are you don’t really know which ones are effective and which ones aren’t. With Google Analytics you can see exactly which of your online efforts are bringing in the best results, allowing you to focus your energy on the methods that work. If you are ready to try out Google Analytics or just want to see an example of how it works, visit their website here.