Portent http://www.29diaoliang.com Digital Marketing Agency - Seattle, WA Thu, 30 Jan 2020 17:16:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 http://www.29diaoliang.com/images/2018/11/favicon.png Portent http://www.29diaoliang.com 32 32 Don’t Get Lost in the Numbers: Effectively Report on PPC Performance http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/ppc/dont-get-lost-in-the-numbers-effectively-report-on-ppc-performance.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/ppc/dont-get-lost-in-the-numbers-effectively-report-on-ppc-performance.htm#respond Thu, 30 Jan 2020 15:00:16 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52208 Reporting on paid search performance is the single most impactful element of a PPC engagement between agency and client, even more so than performance. If you’re driving great results from your paid search campaigns and blowing past your client’s goals, what good is it if you can’t effectively communicate that fact or prove it through […]

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Reporting on paid search performance is the single most impactful element of a PPC engagement between agency and client, even more so than performance. If you’re driving great results from your paid search campaigns and blowing past your client’s goals, what good is it if you can’t effectively communicate that fact or prove it through reliable reporting? Likewise, if you have a few months of poor performance, maintaining a good working relationship through quality reporting that provides insights and recommendations may be the thing that salvages it. It is vital that you report effectively.

Common Mistakes That Make for Ineffective PPC Reports

I’ve been working in paid search accounts for nearly ten years. I’ve seen—and made my fair share of—mistakes when it comes to reporting and communicating performance with clients. The following are some all-too-common practices that have destroyed engagements that need to stop happening in our industry.

Exporting a Spreadsheet and Sending it to the Client Without Any Edits

Seriously, an exported .csv file from Google Ads IS NOT A REPORT. The only time you should ever send an unedited export directly to the client is if they’re a data-savvy practitioner themselves and specifically ask for one.

Reporting on Too Many Data Points

Ever seen a graph like this?

Screenshot of a report with 10 campaigns represented by 10 different colored lines all on the same graph

Can you tell at a glance what’s going on here? Neither can I. And neither can your client. Don’t do this.

Focusing on Data Points Irrelevant to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

If your client’s goals center on revenue, your KPIs for your paid search campaigns are probably metrics like average cost per conversion, conversion rate, or return on ad spend. Your reporting should highlight these metrics and focus on them. Don’t waste time highlighting metrics like impression volume or click-through rate; if they didn’t substantially contribute to their revenue goals, they’re not going to care.

Providing No Analysis, Insight, or Context With Trends or Visuals

If your reports are just some metrics highlighted on a page, your client’s response every time will be just a slew of questions: “So what?” “Is this good?” “What happened?” “What optimizations have you made?” “What’s working?” “What needs to change?” and so forth. Don’t send reports that create more questions than they answer.

Elements of Effective PPC Reports

An effective PPC report should clearly communicate the answers to questions clients will inevitably have with any regular update. They should also do so in a way that someone “not in the room” when you’re giving your overview would be able to quickly review and clearly receive the message you want to send them. After all, your relationship with your client is directly impacted by the story around your work and performance.

One analogy you could make is with the “blank sheet of paper test” digital marketing strategists use when analyzing content on a webpage. If all a user could see was a brief headline on a blank sheet of paper, would that person know what to expect from the rest of the content on that page? That same philosophy should apply to PPC reports: if someone were to skim through your report quickly, would they be able to ascertain the narrative you want to convey to them?

In order to do this, your PPC reports need to do four things:

  1. Primarily focus on a limited set of KPIs tied directly to goals and conversions
  2. Demonstrate trends visually
  3. Provide context and valuable insight (analysis)
  4. Keep granular details (e.g., keyword-level data) secondary to the focus on KPIs

Goals

Primary KPIs must correlate with the primary goal of your client’s paid search campaigns. For example, if their goal is to drive revenue at a certain threshold, then your main KPIs should probably be revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS). Furthermore, your KPIs should be limited to a small set of metrics (between one and three). You don’t want to have the client try and focus on too many metrics and create confusion.

Visuals

Visually demonstrating trends helps ensure the story you’re trying to tell gets through to the client. It’s one thing to write out what happened last month and why in paragraph form. It’s another thing to see your set of KPIs demonstrated in an easy-to-read graph than illustrates the story you want to tell at a short glance. Having clear visuals with contextual utility that emphasize your KPIs and analysis helps minimize confusion, as well as the chance of your client walking away with another interpretation of the data you’re presenting.

Analysis

Context and insight—proper analysis—are vital as they answer key questions your client will always have, which must be routinely addressed:

  • What’s happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • Is this good or bad? Why?
  • Where do we go from here?

On top of KPIs and visuals, giving clear answers to these four questions in a concise written format will help ensure your client has minimal follow-up questions.

Secondary Details

Granular details and metrics can be helpful to a fellow PPC strategist or tactician, but shouldn’t be the primary focus of a PPC report (unless it’s a one-off request specific to a particular ask). Once you’ve finished highlighting the three key elements above for overall performance—which is what will apply to all stakeholders who may reference your report—then feel free to add secondary pages to your report which cover other details such as campaign-level data, keyword-level data, ad copy analysis, etc.

Here’s an example of the reporting we do at Portent. We use Google Data Studio to implement these four contextual elements in all of our client-facing reports:

Screenshot of a GDS report on campaign results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary details

Screenshot of a GDS report on organic landing page results across all digital channels, including goals, visuals, analysis, and secondary details

In Conclusion

Effective reporting that is easy to understand and that supports your client’s primary goals is a key component of a successful PPC campaign. To make sure you are maximizing your ability to engage your clients with PPC metrics, take a look at the reports you’re delivering now and consider the following:

  1. Are you missing any of the key elements outlined above?
  2. What do you need to adjust to ensure you’re giving yourself every chance to make your client engagements successful and profitable to both parties?
  3. Make sure you’re avoiding common mistakes that may damage your relationship with clients and include these four elements in your paid search reports.

Keeping these things in mind will set you on the right path to a successful working relationship with your clients, built on efficient and reliable reporting.

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Adding Contextual Utility to Reports Without Writing a Novel http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/adding-contextual-utility-to-reports-without-writing-a-novel.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/adding-contextual-utility-to-reports-without-writing-a-novel.htm#respond Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:00:31 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52100 Reporting can be a chore. Even with all the data automation in the world, to frame our results, we feel the need to write an executive summary and hope we touch on the why behind all the painstakingly-created charts and graphs. But sometimes, we might not be able to boil down the proper context for […]

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Reporting can be a chore. Even with all the data automation in the world, to frame our results, we feel the need to write an executive summary and hope we touch on the why behind all the painstakingly-created charts and graphs.

But sometimes, we might not be able to boil down the proper context for the client in just those few introductory paragraphs. So let’s explore some simple ways to have the data elaborate on itself.

Annotations

Annotations can be as simple as “campaign starts” with an arrow pointing to a place on the timeline.

Screenshot of a GDS line graph report that shows an arrow indicating when in the data Portent's work beganto forecasted click data for the same future time period

They can also be as simple as a caption under a point in the graph you want your client to pay attention to.

Secondary Dimensions

You have two pages in your report to address channel performance and landing page performance? Why not combine them? Adding two dimensions to one data table can frame a combination of things that lead to better performance and keeps the overall page count in your reports down.

Why not show campaign, country, and device while we’re at it?

Screenshot of a GDS report with a red box calling out the campaign, country, and device data columns

Titles and Subtitles

I’m a big fan of teeing each page in the report up with a question in the title and answering it with the subtitle and the ensuing data. In the title and subtitle, you can lay out:

  • Where you got the data
  • What baked-in comparisons exist
  • What business question you’re trying to answer with the report

Screenshot of a GDS report titled "How efficient are our paid campaigns?" and the subtitle "Last year's conversion and CPA data from all Google Ads campaigns" that answers where the data is from, and what is being compared

Benchmarks

How many of us have been in a client meeting and heard the question: “Is this performance good?”

Good compared to what? Their past performance or the performance of their competitors? In either case, as consultants, we should provide the answers and have them available quickly.

Screenshot of a GDS report that includes the benchmark CTR for the campaigns at the bottom of the data, for quick reference

Ratios

Our clients’ conversions were up 20% over last month. Great! But was that just because they spent more money? Or just because they got more traffic? Or did we really drive higher conversion rates? Add the ratios alongside volume to have it there in case the question comes up.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows the click-through rate next to the number of clicks

Cost

Like it or not, we live in an ROI-focused time. Never leave Cost Per metrics off of your report! Cost Per Everything: Impression, Click, Lead, Sale. If the client is going to have to answer to their CFO for how much they’re spending on customer acquisition, give them Cost Per every step of the acquisition funnel.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows three cost metrics side by side: CPM, CPC, and CPA

Trendlines and Forecasts

We can’t predict the future, but there are several forecasting models that come pretty darn close. These forecasts can help clients estimate results, which makes it easier for them to write our campaigns and marketing costs into their budgets.

Screenshot of a GDS report that shows actual click data for a time period next to forecasted click data for the same future time period

Context, Not Writing

If we can’t figure out how to provide the context in our reports without writing a novel of an executive summary every month, we’re gonna spend an awful lot of time writing summaries and answering questions. So try some of these to create contextual utility in the data visualizations you already provide. And if all else fails, change the chart type! Switch your pie chart back to a simple table and add several more metrics. Never settle on a visualization that can’t explain itself.

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8 Google Analytics Reports You Need to Pay More Attention To http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/8-google-analytics-reports-you-need-to-pay-more-attention-to.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/8-google-analytics-reports-you-need-to-pay-more-attention-to.htm#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2020 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52131 I celebrated my eighth anniversary at Portent earlier this month. A couple of us reminisced about my job interview that was held in a server storage closet. We’ve come a long way since then, and my role here has changed quite a bit as well. Something that hasn’t changed is my ability to dive into […]

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I celebrated my eighth anniversary at Portent earlier this month. A couple of us reminisced about my job interview that was held in a server storage closet. We’ve come a long way since then, and my role here has changed quite a bit as well.

Something that hasn’t changed is my ability to dive into Google Analytics, dig around, understand the numbers, and derive actionable next steps for strategy and tactics. I learned how to do that early on in my career here, and the skill set has stuck ever since.

In my opinion, the ability to do so is the most foundational technical skill that a digital marketer can hold, and making sure I stay agile in GA is one of the reasons I still work day-to-day with a long-time client of ours.

If you’re not jumping into your data regularly to pull insights and build actionable next steps, it’s time to level up. With a properly configured GA property, all of this information is free, and the ability to use it appropriately can provide you with insights to help your organization make monumental KPI improvements.

The following GA reports are well-known and well-used (I hope). I consider these top-level reports:

  • Acquisition – All Traffic – Channels
  • Acquisition – All Traffic – Source/Medium
  • Acquisition – Google Ads – Campaigns
  • Acquisition – Search Console – Landing Pages
  • Behavior – Overview
  • Conversions – Goals – Overview
  • Conversions – Ecommerce – Overview

If you’re diving into those reports on a regular basis, that’s a solid start. But when you’re ready to dig a little deeper, here’s where you should go next.

Quick note: none of these reports utilize custom or user-defined variables. And while using custom variables is great, this post focuses on what’s already provided in GA out of the box. Every report outlined below is available in standard Google Analytics property Analytics.

1. Audience – Geo – Location

Find Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion metrics broken down by location.

Screenshot of a geo report in GA that displays performance by state

Quickly view metrics by country, state, and city to see where performance soars and struggles. Consider how to adjust your budget, strategy, and tactics based on regional performance.

2. Audience – Technology – Browser & OS

This report shares Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion metrics across several technology-related primary dimensions.

Discover performance broken down by browser type, operating system used, and screen size. It’s amazing how much performance can vary across these dimensions.

Pulling insights here can be impactful when it comes time to address strategy around design and development. Yes, data should be considered when website design and development decisions are made; here’s one place to get that data.

3. Audience – Mobile – Overview

This tab isn’t just for mobile-traffic learning. Find Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion metrics broken down by device category.

See how traffic performs differently from users using a desktop, mobile device, or tablet. Consideration around which device types are most commonly accessing your site should fuel strategy for your next campaign or initiative.

Screenshot of a device category report in GA that displays performance by tablet, mobile, or desktop

This information can be incredibly valuable when designing and optimizing PPC campaigns or planning your next website redesign.

4. Acquisition – Google Ads – Search Queries

This tab will only be useful for marketers utilizing Google Ads and those who have their account linked to their Google Analytics property.

Discover which queries users are searching for to trigger impressions and clicks of your paid ad.

Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion insights here should inform your paid search strategy, but can also influence SEO direction.

5. Acquisition – Google Ads – Hour of Day

Discover Google Ads performance broken down by the hour of the day and the day of the week that your campaigns run.

Based on insights dug up here, build custom ad schedules in your campaigns to boost spending when performance is best and pull back your budget to save money during low conversion periods.

6. Behavior – Site Content – Exit Pages

Identify which pages most commonly result in a user leaving your site.

Information here might highlight critical pages in your conversion funnel. If exit rates are high on conversion path pages, think about how the content and layout of that page should change to create a more frictionless experience to conversion.

Screenshot of a report in GA that shows the number of exits each page had

7. Behavior – Site Speed – Page Timings

Locate pages with slow load times.

This report will compare individual pages on your site to your site’s average page load time. While it’s not the best report to provide you with overall site speed performance, it can help highlight the most important pages that are lagging behind your site’s average load time.

Site speed and page load time are core factors to Google’s algorithm and studies have time and time again shown that a faster site leads to higher conversion rates.

8. Conversions – Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths

Discover the touchpoints needed by a single user along the path to conversion.

This report breaks down source and medium pathing to provide a story of how multiple touchpoints and visits influence a conversion on your site.

Screenshot of a top conversion paths report in GA that displays channel paths to see how touchpoints influence conversions

If you’re aligned in using an appropriate attribution model for your business, this report is a must.

Leverage Automation to Help

Automation and shortcut building is a great way to save time, but do not rely on automation to roll all of your data aggregation up for you. I guarantee you will miss something if you never dive into the numbers on your own and do some digging.

That said, consolidate and automate to help highlight performance highs and lows. Creating a custom dashboard in Google Analytics or Google Data Studio is a great place to start. Google Analytics has an automated alert capability that can be leveraged as well. Feed those alerts into Slack or straight to your inbox to further ease the burden of digging into the data every day.

Use automation to notify you of issues. Don’t rely on it to do everything for you.

As you go through your detective work in GA and set up automated reports and alerts to aid your efforts, be mindful of the parameters that your data comes with. These parameters become incredibly important to make sure that time comparisons (YoY, MoM, etc.) are valid. Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Is your data reliable and free of tracking errors?
  • Have goals and conversion points changed?
  • Do you need to account for seasonality?

When marketers are mindful of the questions above, armed with the know-how to gather insights, and have the desire to do a little detective work, the potential insights found can be substantial.

The post 8 Google Analytics Reports You Need to Pay More Attention To appeared first on Portent.

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How to Hire the Right SEO Agency http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/seo/how-to-hire-the-right-seo-agency.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/seo/how-to-hire-the-right-seo-agency.htm#respond Tue, 21 Jan 2020 15:00:26 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52089 For many organizations, the work performed on their digital marketing campaigns can make the difference between success or failure for the entire business. Search engine optimization is a critical element of a well-rounded digital marketing strategy, as millions of people use search engines every day to find information, products, or answers to their questions. There […]

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For many organizations, the work performed on their digital marketing campaigns can make the difference between success or failure for the entire business. Search engine optimization is a critical element of a well-rounded digital marketing strategy, as millions of people use search engines every day to find information, products, or answers to their questions. There are more than 60,000 searches each second on Google, and most users search three to four times a day.

SEO has come a long way in recent years and is continuing to grow at an increasingly rapid rate. Keeping up with these changes, the competitive landscape, and the impact of new algorithm updates and technology provides both a challenge and an opportunity for organizations, and requires dedicated SEO support.

Why Hire an SEO Agency

Once your organization has welcomed the need for SEO (or additional SEO support), you must decide whether you want to hire someone in-house or work with an SEO agency.

There is a lot of value and advantages of hiring an in-house SEO or having an SEO team. However, some organizations do not have the support structurally or financially to do this work in-house. In these instances, hiring an agency can be a cost-effect solution for a company’s SEO needs.

Meanwhile, organizations that may already have an in-house SEO team face different challenges that can be solved by hiring an SEO agency. They may be managing a large or complex website, be low on bandwidth, or the team may be missing a key piece of expertise.

While it may seem like hiring an in-house SEO is the ideal solution, finding someone with the experience level needed can be challenging. Plus, hiring an agency can also bring in a fresh perspective and new ideas.

How to Identify an Inadequate SEO Agency

The process of finding and hiring an SEO agency can be daunting if you are not familiar with SEO yourself. There are many reputable SEO agencies out there. But there are even more bad ones, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the real deal from a total fraud. Just as hiring a bad in-house SEO can be very costly, so can working with a weak SEO agency.

Following are some of the warning signs and things to look out for to help you identify an inadequate SEO agency:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is a spammy SEO technique that targets a keyword an excessive amount of times in order to gain an unfair rank advantage in the search results. You can read more about keyword stuffing in Google’s Quality Guidelines.

The screenshot below is of an agency’s homepage, which I found on the first page of Google when I searched for “SEO Agency Seattle.” The company used the keyword “SEO agency” on its homepage a total of 60 times!

Screenshot of an SEO agency's landing page with red boxes around 12 instances of the keywords "SEO Agency"

If the agency has a page stuffed to the brim with keywords, then they’re a danger to themselves and others and should be avoided. Do you want this quality of work on your website and potentially run the risk of being negatively hit by search engine algorithm updates?

The keyword stuffing technique may work for a month or two, but it’s a faulty tactic that will land anyone with a long-term business plan in trouble.

Charges Per Link

As tempting as $10 per link may sound, those are penalty-generating links. Even if the agency charges based on the “link quality,” the quality of a link can be hard to measure, and the link may not appear for weeks or months. Selling links also means that they likely have a link network (which is very bad), or they’re naive. Either way, avoid any agency that charges per link.

Makes Promises

If an agency promises #1 rankings (or anything that seems too good to be true), RUN AWAY! If they make these promises, among many others like, “we promise 1,000 new visitors to your site next week,” or they know someone at Google and have insider knowledge around Google algorithms, then don’t work with them. As tempting as it may sound, it will hurt your organic search performance in the long run. Even if it is a “money-back guarantee,” your site’s recovery from a penalty is not guaranteed.

Automated SEO

I’m not 100% sure what agencies mean by offering “automated services,” so I won’t go too far. But anyone claiming any automated technique for SEO should make you suspicious. While there are plenty of SEO tools out there, none of them can perform an SEO analysis or optimize a site as well as a living breathing human can.

Incompetence

If the SEO agency you’re researching can’t do SEO for themselves, that’s the most evident sign you’ll be wasting your money. Simply look at the essential on-page SEO elements (title tag, meta description, and headings) and check how well they are optimized (if at all).

You can easily see all on-page elements for any webpage using Portent’s SEO Page Review Chrome extension.

Get Familiar With Black Hat SEO Tactics

While search engines are getting smarter every year, there are still many black hat and spammy tactics SEOs use to deceive search engines into ranking a page when the page does not deserve to be ranked.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with black hat SEO and spam tactics to make sure you aren’t being sold these tactics, and your agency isn’t implementing them on your site. As mentioned earlier, black hat SEO strategies may work for a little while, but they will eventually result in your website getting penalized by search engines.

Questions to Ask an SEO Agency Before Hiring

Before you begin on the journey of hiring an SEO agency, you need to have a set of questions to ask each agency, so you can accurately compare each one. You’ll also want to do your background research to familiarize yourself with each agency before you meet with them.

You can start with the standard questions like, “Have you worked in our industry before?” Most agencies will lie, but it won’t help you make the best decision. Instead, start with these questions to get the conversation started.

1. What is Your SEO Process?

If the agency can explain their SEO process in 60 seconds or less and it makes sense to you, then that’s a good sign. If they talk until your ear goes flat, or if they make no sense, then it may be best to move on from them.

It should go without saying that if the SEO process seems shady or the agency keeps many of their processes a secret, then it’s not safe to work with them.

2. What Kind of Work Will You Do on My Site?

Make sure the agency includes details on providing recommendations around technical issues, improving on-page elements, optimizing existing content, creating a content strategy, and acquiring backlinks. Bonus points if the agency talks about quick wins and long-term growth.

3. Can I See a Sample of a Recommendation Report You Give to Clients?

Look at how the agency provides SEO recommendations to their clients. Is the report easy to understand, actionable, and insightful? Or did the agency not have a report to share? If not, then it would be best to say goodbye and work with someone that knows how to provide SEO recommendations.

4. How Do You Acquire Backlinks?

Backlinks are very valuable in SEO, and it takes a lot of hard work to acquire them. It’s always a good idea to get high-quality natural backlinks rather than buying links, as mentioned earlier.

Buying backlinks is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and will very likely result in a penalty if you are caught.

If the agency you’re talking to says they don’t reveal their backlink sources, then don’t work with them. Your SEO agency should want to tell you all about the links they got you and where they came from.

Some acceptable strategies for getting backlinks are guest posting, link reclamation, content promotion, HARO queries, and creating high-quality content.

5. Do You Guarantee Results?

As I mentioned earlier, if the agency promises they will get you to rank #1, run away from them. Even if they promise first page rankings, that doesn’t mean that the traffic for those keywords they get on page one will be any good.

Instead, you will likely get the famous SEO response of, “it depends.” Which, in this case, is an acceptable answer (with hopefully some additional details).

6. How Do You Measure Success?

Everything should be around your goals. If an agency answers “rankings” and nothing else, then they are not a good fit. Stuff like “traffic” and “organic revenue” is what drives results.

Whatever the answer, that’s how the agency determines if their efforts are successful on their end. Does it align with how you define success for your investment?

If you aren’t sure how to measure the success of an SEO campaign, you can read our article on how to measure SEO performance.

7. What Kind of Reporting Do You Provide?

You will want to know what to expect from the agency each month and how they plan on reporting on their efforts, so it’s a great idea to ask for an example of their reports.

Feel free to let the agency know how in-depth you want your reports. Some people prefer high-level stuff they can share with their executives. While others wish to see the finer details. Don’t be afraid to ask for both.

8. What Significant SEO Trends Do You See Coming up in the Near Future?

For 2020, SEO agencies should be talking about zero-click searches (featured snippets), structured data, BERT and high-quality content, E-A-T, and mobile performance, just to name a few.

Don’t expect agencies to go down the list of trends to impress you, but ask which trends will be most relevant to your organization. This question helps you know which agencies have a pulse on the SEO landscape, and they know how to leverage it to benefit your organic performance.

This is, of course, just a partial list of questions you should ask before hiring an agency. The bottom line is that you have to use common sense. SEO is not supposed to provide instant results and guarantee #1 rankings on Google. The SEO agency you hire should be trustworthy, a good teacher that shares knowledge and empowers their clients, and someone you can have a positive relationship with.

Getting The Most Out of Your SEO Agency

Begin with a clear understanding of what you’re looking for from an SEO agency and include all stakeholders in the process. By the end of the rigorous process of interviewing numerous SEO agencies, there will hopefully be a unanimous decision on the best agency for your organization.

Once you are ready to hire the agency, make sure your stakeholders all know what is expected of them. A good SEO agency will tell you everything they will need from you to be successful. Take this input from them seriously.

Without internal adoption, you will likely see minimal improvements, if any, at all. And trust me, we have seen this more times than we can count.

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How You Can Run A/B Tests on Low-Traffic Sites http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/how-you-can-run-a-b-tests-on-low-traffic-sites.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/how-you-can-run-a-b-tests-on-low-traffic-sites.htm#respond Thu, 16 Jan 2020 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52104 You may have heard that A/B testing isn’t a viable approach for sites that don’t have enough traffic. Or that to reach statistical significance in a timely manner, you need to have thousands of visitors a day. I’m here to tell you that those days of A/B testing FOMO for your low-traffic site are over! […]

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You may have heard that A/B testing isn’t a viable approach for sites that don’t have enough traffic. Or that to reach statistical significance in a timely manner, you need to have thousands of visitors a day.

I’m here to tell you that those days of A/B testing FOMO for your low-traffic site are over! Having low traffic is no longer a barrier to optimize your site or learn about your users.

In this article, we discuss different tactics on how you can run A/B tests on your site and reach statistical significance without waiting for hundreds of days. We’ll also look at some alternative strategies that can help achieve the same thing as A/B testing: a better-optimized website.

Note: These tactics also apply to low-traffic pages. Maybe your site overall gets a ton of traffic, but there’s a specific page you’d like to optimize that doesn’t get nearly as much.

Tactics for Successful A/B Testing on Low-Traffic Sites

First, let’s define the term “low-traffic.” If your site or page has a few hundred visits a day or less, that would be considered “low-traffic.” Alright, now we can jump in.

Make Big Changes

The higher the MDE (Minimum Detectable Effect) of your proposed variation, the less time that will be needed to reach significance. The MDE, in simple terms, is how impactful you think the variation will be on the conversion rate.

Most A/B test duration calculators will include this field when deciding how long to run your test. See the screenshot below from VWO’s A/B Split & Multivariate Test Duration Calculator as an example.

Screenshot of VWO's A/B test duration calculator
Courtesy of VWO

This metric is pretty much asking you, “How much difference do you anticipate the results to be for the variation compared to the original?” The more differences that exist in the variation versus the original, the higher this number should be.

This is one of the most common and impactful tactics for testing on low-traffic sites: creating a variation that is vastly different from the original. On high-traffic sites, you can test CTA button copy or small elements one at a time. With low-traffic sites, you don’t have that luxury.

You’ll want to make big changes to the page, or changes that you would anticipate to have a big difference in user behavior. Alternatively, you can make a bunch of small changes. The more design or copy changes you make to the page, the higher you can expect that MDE to be.

Jay Lee, Experimentation Program Strategist & Web Analytics Consultant at Microsoft, outlines some “big changes” you can apply to your experience:

“For low-traffic sites, it’s all about making larger changes that will allow you to observe a difference. For example – changing up pricing, offers, etc. Those make big differences.”

VWO explains how to determine what a “big change” looks like for your site:

“Understand their [your user’s] concerns. Know what primary factors they consider before taking an action on your site. For a funky clothing site which targets teenage and college students, pricing and free shipping can be very important. For a luxury-clothing brand that focuses on high-end celebrities, 1-day shipping guarantee or exclusive collection section on the site might be high-impact.”

Some examples of “big changes” include:

  • Reformatting the layout of the page
  • Changing up the pricing
  • Changing the offer or the “value-add” of the page
  • Using a completely different creative approach

Michael Wiegand, Director of Analytics at Portent, gives a great guideline for determining what a “big change” looks like:

“What I’d focus on would be things that capture the eye in the first split seconds a user sees the page: Headlines, Hero Images, CTA Buttons. If you can’t squint your eyes and notice the thing you’re testing, even with few variations, it probably isn’t going to be effective on a low-traffic site.”

Alternatively, if you aren’t sure what “big change” can take place, you can make a bulk amount of small changes. In this case, you can be more narrow in your optimization ideas. The only drawback here, as is the case with any A/B test where you make more than one change, is that you won’t know which change led to any performance difference.

You will always be balancing “optimizing” and “learning” when it comes to Conversion Rate Optimization. But there are other ways for low traffic sites to get more of those “learnings” without running an A/B test, which we outline later in the article under “Recommended Alternatives to A/B Testing.”

Use Fewer Variations

If you have a high-traffic website, we recommend always testing more than one variation against the original. Unfortunately, for low-traffic sites, we recommend the opposite.

It’s tempting to test all the different optimization ideas you have to solve a single problem. But with every variation you add to your test, the time to reach statistical significance also increases.

As we will touch on later, you can utilize usability testing to determine which variation to move forward with. While this might cost you some extra resources, it will save you much more time compared to running the test with all of the variations.

Test High-Funnel KPIs

These are also known as “micro conversions.”

One factor when plugging those metrics into A/B testing duration calculators is the existing conversion rate. The higher this conversion rate is, the less time you will need to reach significance.

The lower in the funnel you go, the lower conversion rates get. Alternatively, as you go higher in the funnel, those conversion rates increase. Therefore, by running tests that are targeting higher-funnel KPIs, you will more likely be able to reach significance in a timely manner.

Illustration of the sales funnel with a "higher conversion rate" callout at the top and "lower conversion rate" callout at the bottom

The best example here is for e-commerce. Beyond “add-to-cart” and “checkout complete” KPIs, look at the micro conversions that naturally come before that. This can include things like product searches, product detail page views, or other engagement metrics that happen well before an end purchase or conversion.

If you can determine the current conversion rates for these higher-funnel KPIs and their impact on the end conversion, you can still calculate the potential impact of your tests on the end conversion.

For example, if you know the conversion rate of users who view a product page and you also know the rate of people who view a product page then make a purchase, then you can directly anticipate the impact your test will have on the bottom line. In this case, the end conversion would be a secondary KPI you’ll want to measure.

Use Different Statistical Measurement Methods

Reaching statistical significance isn’t the only signal of your variation outperforming the original, especially when you are looking to reach that 99% mark.

When you don’t have the luxury of large sample sizes to get there, you will have to treat these methods more as “guidelines” than hard-to-follow rules.

For example, Optimizely gives you the option to lower the statistical significance level in which it would declare a winner. So if you wanted to reach about 70% or 80% significance, you would require a much smaller sample size versus going for 99%.

Bhavik Patel, Head of Conversion at Teletext Holidays and Founder of CRAP Talks, describes the type of approach you should take in regards to A/B testing on low-traffic sites:

“You’ve got to level the playing field by taking risks on tests which are bolder, loosen the reins on the statistical rigor of your analysis and not be afraid to cut your tests short (you need the traffic and don’t have time to “wait and see”).”

For the more statistically-savvy testers, you can use a completely different statistical measurement method when calculating significance for small sample sizes. There are arguments for different methods, but the ones we recommend are below (I’ve linked to calculators for each one for you):

Another tactic to get around statistical significance is to use confidence intervals to determine a winner.

Per Optimizely, a confidence interval (or “difference” interval) shows you the range of values that likely contains the actual (absolute) difference between the conversion rates that would show up if you were to implement that variation.

The article goes on to explain, “A useful and easy risk analysis that you can do with a difference interval is to report best case, worst case, and middle ground estimates of predicted lift by reading the upper endpoint, lower endpoint, and center of the difference interval, respectively.”

Below is a screenshot from Google Optimize of a test we ran for a client’s landing page headline. The highlighted region represents the confidence intervals. None of these tests have reached 99% significance, but you can see the range for the last three variations’ confidence interval is much higher than the original. Even though we didn’t reach significance, we could potentially call this test in favor of those variations based off of these confidence intervals.

Screenshot of a test run in Google Optimize with a callout box around the confidence intervals data

Another way to get around waiting on statistical significance is to measure your test by sessions and not by users. The majority of the A/B testing calculators and tools out there (i.e., Optimizely and VWO) measure significance based on unique visitors. This means that the test treats each person as a participant in the sample group.

If you open this metric up to sessions, it will include instances where the same user visits the experiment two or more times. This strategy increases your sample size and reduces the time to reach statistical significance.

This approach is more appropriate for experiments that would only impact a user’s behavior within a single session versus their entire experience on the site. Therefore, some of those big changes we referred to before may not be applicable in this scenario.

Recommended Alternatives to A/B Testing

These recommendations can benefit all conversion rate optimizers out there, regardless of how much traffic comes to your site. They just happen to be great alternatives if you don’t have the traffic to test a specific optimization idea you have.

User Research

Moderated and unmoderated user tests are great ways to understand the “why” behind a person’s decision making. Have them navigate the experience you want to optimize and narrate their thoughts as they go through it. You only need five to eight participants to start to identify any patterns that would help improve on-site experience.

Design surveys are another beneficial approach to learning how you can improve your site’s experience. Simply present your page to a panel of users and ask them prodding questions such as, “What’s missing? What’s distracting? Is there anything we could add here that would help you make a decision?”

Design preference tests are similar to design surveys, except you are showing them multiple options and asking which one they prefer. This is where you can decide which variation to use if you are stuck on choosing from a group of them.

Some tools we use at Portent for user research include:

User research has proven to be one of the most powerful tactics when coming up with ideas to optimize website experiences.

In 2019, Portent’s A/B tests that were aiming to solve a problem that was discovered through user research had a winning rate of 80.4%. For comparison, the average winning rate for all A/B tests was 60%. This highlights the idea that tests derived from user research projects have a higher chance of improving your experience, versus only using other methods in isolation, such as data or heuristic analyses.

Heuristic Analysis

A heuristic analysis is when someone reviews a page and makes recommendations on how to improve the experience through user experience (UX) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) principles or best practices.

But you don’t need to be an expert to do this.

Alex Abell, Conversion Optimization Expert and Founder of Lunchpool, provides two different approaches you can follow to perform your own heuristic evaluation:

“For low traffic websites, one of the most useful techniques I’ve found is to employ the use of heuristic analysis to make sweeping changes to the site. We call this a “radical redesign.” Two of the most popular heuristics to use are that of MarketingExperiments.com (C = 4M + 3V + 2(I – F) – 2A ) and WiderFunnel’s LIFT methodology. Although these formulas look complex, they are really just a mental shortcut that allows you to systematically look at your website through the eyes of your potential customer.”

In Summary

Having low traffic is no longer a barrier to optimize your site or learn about how your users engage with it. Some tactics for successful A/B testing on low-traffic sites include:

  • Make big changes
  • Use fewer variations
  • Test high-funnel KPIs (micro-conversions)
  • Use different statistical measurement methods
      • Use statistical significance as a “guide” 
      • Use different measurement calculations
      • Use confidence intervals
      • Measure by sessions instead of users

There are also some great alternatives to A/B testing, which can benefit all conversion rate optimizers out there regardless of how much traffic you get to your site. You can try things such as:

  • User Research
    • User testing
    • Design surveys
    • Design preference tests
  • Heuristic Analysis
    • Follow UX and CRO principles
    • MarketingExperiments formula
    • WiderFunnel’s LIFT methodology

The two goals of A/B testing are to optimize your website’s performance and learn more about your users.

Referencing the tactics in this article will empower your (or your client’s) low-traffic site to achieve both of these goals. No more FOMO for low traffic sites. Get out there and start testing!

The post How You Can Run A/B Tests on Low-Traffic Sites appeared first on Portent.

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New Instagram Features are Making it Easier to Shop In-app http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/social-media/instagram-making-app-based-shopping-easier.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/social-media/instagram-making-app-based-shopping-easier.htm#respond Tue, 14 Jan 2020 15:00:34 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=43383 Updated 1/14/20 to include current information and new features. If you’re already running social advertising, you know that Facebook Ads Manager makes it easy to repurpose creative intended for Facebook directly to Instagram by simply selecting a story or feed placement. But as Instagram becomes more of a discovery tool for shoppers, there is a […]

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Updated 1/14/20 to include current information and new features.

If you’re already running social advertising, you know that Facebook Ads Manager makes it easy to repurpose creative intended for Facebook directly to Instagram by simply selecting a story or feed placement. But as Instagram becomes more of a discovery tool for shoppers, there is a massive opportunity for e-commerce brands to drive sales beyond promoted posts or stories.

In an effort to further establish itself as a destination for inspiration-based purchases, Instagram has not only made available paid ad placements more engaging, they’ve found more ways to let brands of all sizes showcase their products organically with conversions in mind.

Features like Instagram story links have been around since 2017, but availability is limited to business accounts with 10,000 followers or more. Enter: Shopping in Stories.

In September 2018, Instagram formally rolled out Shopping in Stories, which started as a limited beta in June of that year. As a result, brands large and small can tag products available in their Facebook catalog in organic stories in-app using shopping stickers. In turn, users can tap the sticker during the story experience and see the price and item description, or head directly to the product page. If you’re interested in learning more about Facebook catalogs, check out this post on Catalog Management Best Practices for Social Media.

Shopping in Instagram Stories
Image Courtesy of Instagram

Shopping in Explore, which also launched in summer 2018, utilizes “topic channels” and personalizes categories of interest unique to each user on their explore page. Shopping in Explore leverages the Instagram algorithm to show users shoppable posts by brands they follow, alongside non-shopping content served based on your other browsing habits.

Shopping from Instagram Explore
Image Courtesy of Instagram

Fast forward to March of 2019, when Instagram rolled out Checkout, an in-app shopping feature that allows users to purchase items without ever leaving the ‘gram. By tapping on a product tag in a shopping post, shoppers are directed to a product page with a “Checkout on Instagram” CTA. You can select options like size or color, proceed to payment, and then seamlessly return to scrolling.

Three screenshots showing how Instagram Checkout works as an in-app shopping feature
Image Courtesy of Instagram

This provides another revenue path for brands that are looking to drive conversions online. It’s important to note, though, that this level of consumer accessibility comes at a price. TechCrunch confirmed via Instagram that there is a “selling fee” at the merchant’s expense “to help fund programs and products that help make checkout possible, as well as offset transaction-related expenses.”

Long before Checkout launched, business owners have been selling their products from the app. Even without advertising dollars, creators have used well-curated feeds and influencer marketing to develop their brands and sell merchandise to their followers. This is especially true in the world of streetwear, where scarcity has become a commodity for brands and consumers alike.

As Instagram notes, “Once unconventional strategies, including creator collaborations and limited releases, are now being adopted by fashion, beauty and luxury brands.”

As a result, the Reminders for Product Launches feature went into beta in September 2019. Thanks to product launch stickers in Stories and a product launch tag option in-feed, users can set reminders for a new drop, preview details, and make a purchase once it becomes available.

Two screenshots showing how mobile reminders for product launches work
Image Courtesy of Instagram

In preparation for the holiday advertising season, Facebook gifted advertisers with templates to create vertical, full-sized assets for the Stories placement across Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.

With 500 million users posting to their stories daily, Instagram Stories have become a significant outlet for brands to engage with users and drive conversions. With the rollout of the templates, Facebook has given advertisers the chance to strengthen their creative and remain competitive in a space dominated by large retailers.

Screenshot showing how to use Instagram story advertising templates
Image Courtesy of Instagram

With a steady stream of product updates under their belt, it’s clear e-commerce will remain a top focus for Instagram. In fact, many of the major updates in 2018 came on the heels of news that Instagram may be launching a standalone shopping app. Now that 2020 is here, it’s hard to say if and when that app could become a reality. In the meantime, however, Instagram is working to keep itself a destination for shoppers and advertisers alike.

The post New Instagram Features are Making it Easier to Shop In-app appeared first on Portent.

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Where to Start Diversifying Your Traffic in Today’s Digital Landscape http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/internet-marketing/where-to-start-diversifying-your-traffic-in-todays-digital-landscape.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/internet-marketing/where-to-start-diversifying-your-traffic-in-todays-digital-landscape.htm#comments Thu, 19 Dec 2019 15:00:20 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52034 Google has always presented businesses with unprecedented opportunities to start, sustain, and grow online. It’s also created an unhealthy dependence on the product set for many companies. Shifts in Google search result pages are shrinking the opportunities to earn organic traffic. Everyone is talking about it, including some of the top contributors in our industry. […]

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Google has always presented businesses with unprecedented opportunities to start, sustain, and grow online. It’s also created an unhealthy dependence on the product set for many companies.

Shifts in Google search result pages are shrinking the opportunities to earn organic traffic.

Everyone is talking about it, including some of the top contributors in our industry.

Google continues to make changes designed to boost ad revenue, direct users to Google-owned properties, and fulfill searchers’ needs without leaving a SERP. That means fewer opportunities for digital marketers to earn organic traffic from Google.

No, this isn’t another “SEO is dead” post.

Organic search is still a strong traffic source and should be a core component of your long-term strategy. But you need to adjust your strategy if you’re reliant on Google’s organic traffic.
None of the strategies shared here are new or trendsetting, in my opinion. They do level up to solid marketing, though. It’s not about algorithms or quick wins to boost your quarterly bottom line; it’s about diversifying your traffic to create stability when change comes (and yes, change will continue to come from Google).

Let’s dive in.

Ramp Up Your Paid Budget

Whether we monitor the shifts that are changing Google’s SERPs, react to the disappearance of organic social reach, or account for the improvements brought to programmatic from AI, it’s time to increase your paid media budget.

With fewer opportunities for organic traffic, we’re recommending brands significantly bump up their paid budgets for the coming year across our agency’s book of business.

On the paid search side, Google is constantly testing and tweaking its search network ad formatting and SERP coverage. Early 2018 marked the end of the right rail and the introduction of the four-unit, top of the results page. It must be working for their bottom line; Q3 revenue from Google search ads was up 16% year over year as advertisers are tapping into Google’s ad product set with larger budgets than before.

As organic listings continue to get knocked down, paying to play (even on your branded keywords) is essential.

The decrease in organic social reach has been more than well documented over the past few years. With Instagram’s feed changes this year and closer integration with Facebook, we see their ad platform driving more demand from marketers (especially on the B2C side) to stay relevant on the platform.

On the display and programmatic front, we’re placing a higher focus on filling the top of the funnel than ever before. Effectively building top-of-funnel users ready to engage with your brand for the first time provides the opportunity to create carefully segmented remarketing lists. While the influx of traffic shouldn’t drive conversions immediately, your remarketing campaigns should be able to drive mid-funnel and purchase-decision conversions depending on the industry you’re in.

Building an appropriate attribution model for your top and mid-funnel-focused campaigns is key to understanding the value your driving from your paid efforts.

Provide Value for Free

Provide as much value as you can with no strings attached. Gasp!

Hear me out. What if you actually gave your audience a reason to consume content on your site without expecting something in return?

Find a way to provide something useful and valuable.

It could be something innovative that users can’t find elsewhere, something interactive to engage them with your brand, or a piece of content that fulfills an immediate need and creates a moment of clarity for them.

Be useful for free. (Asking for an email address is not a free transaction.)

Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles features an interactive map that allows visitors to learn where the company’s product supplies come from. The information is available to anyone who visits the site, without having to provide anything to access it.

Screenshot of Patagonia's Footprint Chronicles Page

It’s informative. It’s unique. And it drives affinity for the brand. It also has nearly 2,800 backlinks.

There’s a reason why 10x content is a thing.

It’s tough to put a direct ROI on efforts like this. Please don’t try and do it.

When done right, good things happen. Brand affinity grows, opportunities for link building pop up, shares spread organically throughout social platforms, and referral traffic consistently builds your acquisition funnel. When done right, the results can be immense.

If your plan is to continue putting out high volume, low value (be honest with yourself) content, time to change it up.

Find Your Influencers

Get ready to continue buying attention.

Finding influencers that resonate with your brand may be as important as ever. As younger generations depend more on the personalities they trust over brand names and value propositions, the importance of identifying and partnering with influencers is growing.

Think about the demographics of your customers. Research shows how variably different generations lean on influencers in their purchase decision.

We’ve seen massive success in this space when executed with precision, and it all starts by picking the right influencers.

Finding influencers doesn’t have to result in buying promotion from trendy “Instagram Celebrities”. Some of the best success we’ve seen came from highly targeted, low volume-producing influencers. Think quality, not quantity.

We’ve also found success in this space with podcast advertising.

On the long list of emerging tactics and trends in the digital space, podcast advertising blends digital ad buying with influencer marketing. With ad inventory levels growing and the market around pricing beginning to solidify, podcast advertising opportunities offer advertisers a diverse set of promotion opportunities. Podcast advertising techniques are solidifying as well, creating a viable medium for many advertisers to tap into for the first time.

Take Advantage of the Traffic You’re Already Getting

While the three topics covered focus on finding ways to drive more traffic, we’re recommending brands focus more of their time and budget on optimizing website experience to drive the bottom line.

Yes, detailed plans need to be made and carried out on how to acquire traffic. But don’t forget about the traffic you’re already getting.

While you can find countless definitions for UX and CRO in the digital marketing space, we look at it as the work required to decrease friction on the journey to a conversion point.

Focus on experience-driving factors like site speed, removing unnecessary content, and accounting for elements of influence to build trust throughout your funnel.

If done right, the immediate results can bring big changes to your conversion metrics without adding more traffic.

Don’t Get Carried Away

I mentioned earlier that this isn’t an “SEO is dead” post.

SEO certainly isn’t dead, and your digital strategy should continue to find ways to effectively grow your organic presence.

There are still a lot of opportunities for organic search to thrive in your digital marketing initiatives. But be wary if you’re too dependent on that particular avenue for revenue-driving traffic, you may only be a few algorithm or SERP layout changes away from a place where your singular traffic source runs flat.

The post Where to Start Diversifying Your Traffic in Today’s Digital Landscape appeared first on Portent.

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CCPA: Online Privacy Comes Stateside http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/ccpa-online-privacy-comes-stateside.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/analytics/ccpa-online-privacy-comes-stateside.htm#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2019 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52021 NOTE: we are not lawyers. Please talk to your legal counsel before proceeding with compliance measures. In May of 2018, Europe grappled with online privacy with the implementation of GDPR. With a lot of gray areas around how US-based businesses should comply with GDPR and how enforceable the law was here, we instructed our clients […]

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NOTE: we are not lawyers. Please talk to your legal counsel before proceeding with compliance measures.

In May of 2018, Europe grappled with online privacy with the implementation of GDPR. With a lot of gray areas around how US-based businesses should comply with GDPR and how enforceable the law was here, we instructed our clients to consult their legal counsel on the matter and provided some free tools to aid in compliance.

Now the online privacy legislation battle has arrived on our shores, with several states either considering or actively having passed bills. California – the world’s 5th largest economy – passed a bill called CCPA in 2019, and it’ll go into law on January 1st, 2020. Other states weighing similarly-written bills at the time of this post going live include New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and North Dakota.

Key Differences in CCPA vs. GDPR

The critical difference between these domestic laws and GDPR seems to be regarding opt-in and opt-out policies. The European law requires explicit opt-in for the firing of any cookies or other data collection, but our US laws only need notification of cookies and a clear pathway to opt-out functionality.

Aside from that distinction, the concepts of “right to delete” and “right to access” any data collected by a website are all present in each state’s legislation, as well as broad definitions of what constitutes Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In some ways, bills like CCPA are more stringent than GDPR in their wording because they extend their PII definitions to “households” and not just “individuals.”

Unlike GDPR, where the likelihood of an EU citizen triggering any complaints against businesses that operate solely in the US was relatively low, CCPA and its domestic clones will have much broader implications for all companies doing business across state lines. As more states consider these laws in isolation, the likelihood that a federal privacy law will emerge is high.

Paid Solutions for Complying with CCPA

So how should businesses comply with the coming onslaught of domestic online privacy laws? There are several ways. Here at Portent, our parent company has chosen to buy a tool called OneTrust. It offers a variety of ways to present notification banners and gives compliance officers at an organization full control over how privacy policy information and corresponding opt-out functionality is shared. The tool starts at $30/month per domain, which is pretty expensive for smaller and mid-sized businesses with control over many unique web properties.

Free Solutions for Complying with CCPA

Other vendors like Osano, that we mentioned in our GDPR cookie banner response last year, have a free solution. But it’s less robust in how you can word the cookie banner and how it can be applied to compliance for certain laws. It’s also limited to a maximum of 7,500 consent views per month, which won’t work for sites with tens of thousands of visitors monthly.

How to Set Up Osano for CCPA Compliance

If you don’t have the budget for a bells-and-whistles solution like OneTrust, here’s a quick step-by-step to configure Osano to help comply with some of the new domestic privacy laws for free.

  1. Get an account. Signup for free on their plans page.Screenshot of Osano's plans and pricing page
  2. Configure the domain you want the banner to appear on and link to your privacy policy.Screenshot showing how to link to your company's privacy policy in Osano
  3. Choose a compliance type from the dropdown and style the banner visually using hex colors.Screenshot of Osano visual stying page showing how to select a compliance type from the drop down.
  4. Assign a category to your tracking scripts and then click “Get Code” to get the Osano script that enables the banner.Screenshot showing how to add a script category in Osana

Online Privacy Going Forward

We can’t predict the future to understand if all these laws will pass, but we can prepare based on what we know about CCPA in the present. Expect more states and countries to pass similar laws and that cookie banners will be the new normal across the internet!

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Balancing SEO and Accessibility: Images, Videos, and Typography http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/seo/balancing-seo-and-accessibility-images-videos-and-typography.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/seo/balancing-seo-and-accessibility-images-videos-and-typography.htm#respond Tue, 17 Dec 2019 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=52001 When asked by a less digital-savvy acquaintance, “What do you do?” I usually answer by saying, “Connecting people and businesses.” Typically, that is what we do. In SEO, our job is to strategize and tweak our clients’ content to make it what searchers are looking for, so they click and convert—whether that is a newsletter […]

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When asked by a less digital-savvy acquaintance, “What do you do?” I usually answer by saying, “Connecting people and businesses.” Typically, that is what we do. In SEO, our job is to strategize and tweak our clients’ content to make it what searchers are looking for, so they click and convert—whether that is a newsletter sign up or SAAS purchase. But getting people to reach your content is just one part of the puzzle; they also have to understand it. Like longtail bottom of funnel keywords, it isn’t about the search volume alone. It is about giving those people the best experience on your website, thus increasing their likelihood to convert.

We’ve already covered accessible content and how to get started making your site accessible in previous posts. In this one, we will examine different SEO tactics benefitting accessibility, including images, typography (yes it matters), and schema.

Note: WCAG standards change. W3C is working on WCAG 2.2 at the time this article was written.

Images

Accessibility compliance conflicts with the tangible benefits of Image SEO. So, how do we balance the competing needs of business and usability? The requirements for each type of image are different. And as you may have read in the Accessible Web Content: The Quick Start Guide mentioned earlier, not all images should have an alt text.

Determining Image Purpose

Understanding an image’s purpose dictates which requirements apply. Images for links or buttons are classified as functional images for accessibility.

Screenshot of Ulta.com homepage with red arrow pointing to the checkout bag image in the top right of the navigation
www.ulta.com

On the other hand, if the image conveys information, then its purpose is informative.

Accessible word list of what to use and avoid to increase accessibility and inclusion of disabilities
Learn more about accessible language in Travis McKnight’s post.

Additionally, decorative images don’t convey information and are not considered functional.

Screenshot showing a decorative image used to advertise a case study on Portent.com
www.29diaoliang.com

Long story short: An image should have an alt tag unless it is decorative. You can ask yourself these questions to determine your image’s purpose:

  • Is the image conveying information and not captioned? Informational
  • Does the image act as a button or link? Functional
  • Does the image convey emotion? Informational
  • Is this image contributing to understanding the page’s topic? Informational
  • Is the image doing none of the above? Most likely decorative.

Still can’t decide which image type you are dealing with? W3’s alt Decision Tree provides an overview of how to categorize your images.

It is important to keep in mind that there still exists some gray area around image accessibility. The difference between an emotionally-informative image and “eye candy” decorative imagery is subjective. Ultimately, it is the author’s determination and the image’s context that impacts its purpose.

More Than Alt Tags

Image SEO doesn’t only include alt tags. I’ll touch on the basics here, but if you would like to learn more, I recommend Ahref’s article on image SEO.

In addition to making sure you have the appropriate alt tags for your images, there are other things to consider when it comes to images and SEO:

  • Descriptive file name
  • Format matches usage
  • Compressed file size
  • Sized for its usage
  • EXIF data
  • Structured data

Video

Crawlable transcripts and closed-captioning are quick accessibility wins and benefit SEO. Let’s not forget about video schema markup, too! Why pass up an opportunity to increase your video’s ability to appear in SERPs? Don’t answer that; it’s rhetorical.

Video accessibility covers closed-captioning, transcription, and audio descriptions for visual-only videos. Transcripts and audio descriptions should be available for users to download with the video. You will have to decide whether you want to outsource this work or do it yourself. Sites such as Amara.org offer free tools for the DIY set. Many closed-captioning services have the closed-caption transcript available as well. If you don’t have the time or resources to do this yourself, services such as the Rev can handle transcribing for you.

Typography

Should SEO care about fonts for accessibility? Yes. Accessible typography is a deep topic, particularly for website design.

If your copy is difficult for your site visitors to see and read, no matter how good it is, it will be ineffective. And readability affects bounce rate, reading depth, and time on page; all of these things are important SEO factors.

Making a Case for Accessibility

In-house, agency, or freelance, if you have been advocating for making improvements to your online content for accessibility, there is a good chance your recommendations have hit roadblocks. Navigating multiple stakeholders, limited development resources, time, accessibility complexity, and opaque ROI are some of the common reasons companies have been reluctant to implement WCAG.

Audience size and spending power are two compelling data points to get buy-in. According to data from the American Institutes for Research, 22 million working-age adults in the US have a disability. These same working-age adults also own $21 million in discretionary funds. These numbers will increase as our tech-savvy generations age. Not making your content or products accessible is leaving money on the table.

Ensuring customers can find and reach your content is core to SEO. No one converts on unreachable pages or content. Treat accessibility the same way; pages should be navigable by a screen reader or keyboard commands. Readability, alt-tags, and schema aren’t new concepts. If they aren’t already, incorporate them into your routine!

No one wants to be the person responsible for an ADA lawsuit.

Interested in helping make the web accessible? The A11Y Project community is working to make web accessibility easier.

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How to Write Accessible Website Content http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-write-accessible-website-content.htm http://www.29diaoliang.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-to-write-accessible-website-content.htm#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:00:57 +0000 http://www.29diaoliang.com/?p=51750 Web accessibility standards improve how users interact with your website and ensure everybody has an equal experience. Accessible content, as defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, equalizes the playing field for users with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. Online accessibility also achieves a lot more than assisting […]

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Web accessibility standards improve how users interact with your website and ensure everybody has an equal experience. Accessible content, as defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, equalizes the playing field for users with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.

Online accessibility also achieves a lot more than assisting users who have disabilities. Accessible content also adds descriptive labels to CTAs and buttons, improves the site’s foundational SEO, promotes inclusive design and content layout, and helps people who use digital voice assistants, which are estimated to be in 8 billion devices by 2023.

There are three levels of web accessibility adherence, which provide flexibility based on your situation, user base, and goals.

A: 25 criteria, minimal impact on site design and structure.

AA: A-level requirements, plus 13 additional criteria. Moderate impact on site design and layout, specifically around legibility (color contrast, font type and size, image presentation).

AAA: Strict adherence to all WCAG guidelines. Significant impact on site design and layout. It is often used only by government agencies.

We recommend your website at least be A-level compliant and strive for AA-level. To learn more about each level and what you need to do to achieve them, read our developer’s guide to accessibility.

The technical details of web accessibility are only part of the equation to provide a seamless user experience and make your content easy to understand and engage with. Your users are the variables that determine what accessibility level you need, and how you should create your content.

Below are four concepts and associated techniques to improve user inclusion alongside the technical website accessibility guidelines.

1. Put Yourself in Your User’s Shoes

If you’re not accustomed to making accessible content, empathy can be an often overlooked aspect of content layout and design. When you plan a new landing page, app, call-to-action, interactive component, or blog post, consider when and how users will interact with the content. Use empathy scenarios or an inclusive design empathy generator, as seen in the image below, to broaden your perspective so you don’t forget crucial design elements and accidentally isolate users.

Illustration of a line drawing figure with the caption "Charlie has laryngitis and is in a car."
Charlie is sick and can’t speak, use talk-to-text, or voice commands. Image courtesy of http://maya-benari.com/empathy-maker/

Let’s imagine you operate a reservation-only restaurant. A user, Charlie, wants to make reservations for this evening. Unfortunately, she has laryngitis and can’t talk on the phone or speak loud enough for her digital assistant to make the reservation on her behalf. If your website doesn’t have a chat function or the option to make reservations via text, you’re likely going to lose Charlie’s business. The scenario holds true with users who are mute, deaf, or socially anxious, too.

2. Use Inclusive Language

How you say things holds equal weight to what you say. Certain words, phrases, or expressions can isolate, intimidate, and aggravate users. Although inclusive language isn’t directly related to WCAG accessibility standards, using phrases that reflect respect and dignity makes your copy friendly and welcoming.

Phrases that patronize, reflect bias, or include negative and derogatory terms, influence users’ impressions, attitudes, and actions. To avoid upsetting users or establishing negative associations with your brand, write copy that is neutral, accurate, and references groups with the terms they identify with.

Accessible word list of what to use and avoid to increase accessibility and inclusion of disabilities

For example, “wheelchair user” is the commonly accepted vernacular for somebody who uses a wheelchair. Phrases like wheelchair-bound or handicapped are disparaging and often inaccurate, as many wheelchair users can leave their chairs for short time spurts.

Inclusive language also avoids technical jargon, slang, or undefined abbreviations. The rule of thumb is to define any lesser-known concepts immediately after the first use and define lesser-known acronyms or abbreviations before first use.

What terms you define depends on who your audience is and how intimately they know your industry and brand.

For example, if your users are U.S.-based, you can get away with not defining NASA. But you should identify its European counterpart, the European Space Agency (ESA), and include any shorthand you’ll use for that organization in parenthesis.

3. Create Descriptive Functions and Labels

Best practices for web design, content strategy, and online accessibility require anchor text, interactive site components, and CTAs to give users explicit expectations of what will happen if they click on a link or button.

This transparency empowers users by removing ambiguity, and it enables users who rely on e-readers or other assistive technology to accurately interact with your website’s content.

Regardless of how somebody accesses your site, they should be able to easily identify labels, images, CTAs, and form functionality. And elements for interactive content, like a form field, should have labels that are implicitly or explicitly associated with each function.

Imagine you have a visually-impaired user with an e-reader who is trying to submit their information via your website’s contact form. If you use the ambiguous CTA label “Submit,” the user may get confused about what part of the form they’re submitting. Is it one entry field or the whole form? If your company has multiple customer service departments, your user might also be worried if their form is being sent to the correct people.

However, the labels “Submit Request” or “Submit Technical Support Ticket” are descriptive and tell the user exactly what action they’re taking.

The Blank Sheet of Paper test is a good method to measure if your labels are descriptive enough and eliminate room for interpretation.

Here’s the test: If you wrote the label on a piece of otherwise blank paper and showed it to a stranger, would they understand what you are talking about? Is it descriptive enough that they would understand the context and have reasonable expectations about what action will happen?

4. Transcribe and Caption Videos and Podcasts

Video and podcast transcripts are great for SEO, and they’re necessary for good WCAG 2.1 levels A and AA adherence.

On the SEO side, search engines index transcripts easier than video or audio, which lets your content rank for related keywords. It’s also significantly easier for other people to link to a transcript than a video by itself. Your outreach campaigns benefit, too, because people are more likely to link to a quote via text than note a specific time in a video or audio file.

Moz, via its Whiteboard Friday series, is the industry leader at using transcripts for SEO and accessibility purposes. We recommend exploring the Whiteboard Friday category for best practice examples.

From an accessibility standpoint, transcripts benefit a wide range of users who engage with your content. This user base includes:

  • People who are deaf or hearing-impaired
  • Users with time constraints
  • Users in either a noisy or quiet environment, where audio can’t be heard or it’s a disruption
  • Non-native speakers
  • Bandwidth-limited users who may not have the ability to download the whole video or podcast

The second usability and WCAG accessibility consideration is to include in-sync subtitles or closed captioning for all videos. YouTube has a great guide that provides tips for creating a transcript file, and then teaches you how to upload that file to a YouTube video.

Although transcripts can be time-consuming for lengthy videos, they’re a necessary element to providing a good user experience and optimal content accessibility.

A Worthy Investment

Making your website accessible tackles a lot more than simple web design. Accessible content affects every user, and excellent accessibility is good content strategy. By implementing WCAG level A or AA standards, you’re committing to providing users the most inclusive experience you can muster. That effort sets your website apart from any competitor that doesn’t abide by the same commitment to a great, accessible user experience.

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