This is best exemplified in customer service, where companies should be meeting (and exceeding) expectations to keep retention high. However, this line of thinking is also true when it comes to the customer journey.
The customer journey is increasingly impacted by search and mobile. Over 81% of eCommerce shoppers research online before making a big purchase and mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time during Q4 2016. Because of these new consumer-driven trends, Google’s search algorithm updates have shifted to benefit companies who are optimizing their sites accordingly.
However, with this move towards mobile, the challenge of converting consumers has also increased. Over Q4 2016, mobile conversion rates increased slightly to 1.55%, a paltry number compared to desktop’s much higher 4.14% conversion rate. This means companies need to optimize for mobile conversions even more than desktop conversions.
Fortunately, Trustpilot and EliteSEM have partnered up to bring you a webinar based on the newest SEO updates you need to be aware of, optimizing your site, optimizing your landing pages, and updating your search strategy to ensure you’re aligned with consumer behavior.
Check out the webinar recording below!
From Search to Purch(ase): Closing customers quickly
About Elite SEM
And so Elite SEM is an award-winning digital marketing agency and they were founded on search back in 2004. Today, they're focused on a more holistic performance driven digital marketing, with expertise spanning paid search, SEO, shopping feed and display advertising, paid social and conversion rate optimization.
Trustpilot is an online review community that's both for businesses and consumers. We have reviews for over 350,000 websites on trustpilot.com, and over 100 million online reviews.
Trustpilot was founded for two different reasons. The first, for consumers. And first and foremost, this is just to help them make better buying decisions, based off of company reviews they can find online quickly and easily. And for businesses, it's more of a SaaS platform. Trustpilot has a platform that allows businesses to easily collect reviews in a proactive way and leverage those reviews and their marketing channels to overall improve their business and grow revenue.
2017 Google updates
I think as we think about consumer behavior, the exciting thing is that the shifts have been consistent and moving very rapidly. But really, we're going to talk a lot about trends that are getting into the minds of consumers, both in terms of the way they decide to interact with content from brands. And it is very much their decision these days versus the past, and also the methods in which they're doing so.
So we're going to cover some really great ideas around how to make sure you're focused on mobile in the right way. And really thinking about the way consumers are trying to learn from other consumers in really authentic experiences on the web, to help make the best decisions possible.
Today, we're going to be covering the latest digital trends as they relate to how consumers search and land on your site. So our goal is to help you drive quality organic traffic to your site by taking advantage of the latest SEO updates. And no surprise, many of these updates focus on mobile strategy. Today, we'll be going over the latest Google algorithm updates, how to create an increasingly fast mobile experience with AMP pages, how to stand out within the search engine result pages through universal results and where we stand with HTTPS or having a secured site.
We'll begin today with the Google updates as they relate to the SEO industry. As many of you are probably aware, Google is constantly updating its algorithm and ranking factors. And these past couple months really have been no exception. Starting off with a few unofficial updates, we had the Fred update in early March. This is an unconfirmed update. A lot of webmasters buzzing on ranking changes with keyword monitoring. The SEO community believes it was related to poor quality backlinks and just spam algorithm, but again, no official word from Google on this one.
In February, we also saw an update to Google's core algorithm. When we say core algorithm, this is definitely something we like to refer to as the entire ranking algorithm, not necessarily updated just on content or just on backlinks. But in this case, we saw the change being made on content quality.
The biggest update of 2017 was the interstitial ad penalty. This is related to ads that cover a significant portion of your screen. This affects both mobile and desktop. And specifically, Google has penalized websites that are using ads that are intrusive to users.
And then last November, Google announced the change in its indexation with the announcement of the mobile first index. This is a major shift in how rankings will eventually appear. We're going to discuss this a little bit more in depth later.
We wanted to share with you all examples of interstitial ads and what they may look like. These, again, are ads that cover your entire screen on a mobile device. The first ad on the left is an example of an intrusive pop-up ad. And the second two are intrusive standalone interstitial ads. You can definitely see the difference on this. But Google again is moving away from the intrusive entire screen covering of interstitial ads.
And if you are being penalized, you're potentially notified in Google Search Console. That's a tool that you can register with Google with, to monitor website health.
So a little bit more on the mobile first indexation we mentioned earlier. And again, this announcement was made in November, that they want to go ahead and create one index that focuses on mobile content as the primary index. In November, they came out and said it was coming in the next couple months. And now we're looking like the timeline is pretty fluid. So more and more likely, we won't see this change for some time. But nonetheless, we're encouraging all of our clients to go ahead and prepare for this as if it was coming in the coming months.
So a little bit again, more about this, right now we have two search indexes, a mobile and a desktop. There's separate rankings for both. So you have mobile rankings for keywords and then desktop rankings as well. Google is in the process of moving to this mobile first indexation, where the search on desktop and mobile will be determined solely by the mobile experience. With 60% of search queries on a mobile device, this makes more and more sense to make the switch and align the search coming from mobile with the content on mobile devices.
If you have a responsive site, or a dynamic serving site, where the primary content is generally the same, and your schema markup is equivalent on both sites, there's really not too, too much to worry about. However, if you have a site configuration where your primary content is different, your mobile and desktop experience, then perhaps maybe you have a mobile site, an m.dot site, you should definitely consider making changes to your site in the coming months.
And these types of changes in moving towards a mobile optimized site may include making sure that your structured markup is included on both mobile and desktop. And structured markup here refers to schema markup, which is HTML code that you may put on the backend of your site. And this helps search engines show informative results to users.
We also want to make sure that the mobile site is completely accessible to Googlebot, and that they're able to index and crawl all pages of the site. One additional suggestion is that if you have a search console profile for your site's desktop version, and you also have a mobile site, you may want to go ahead and add and verify a mobile version of search console as well.
One thing to keep in mind, in terms of mobile, is that mobile friendly does not necessarily mean mobile optimized. The term mobile friendly gets thrown out a lot in terms of a responsive design site. However, it doesn't necessarily mean your site is optimized for smartphone users.
So Google actually has a test that you can do on the PageSpeed Insights test. It's free, it's online, and you can check out how your website appears in the eyes of Google, in terms of it being mobile friendly. However, mobile friendly again doesn't mean mobile optimized, and the move towards a mobile first index encourages you to have a mobile optimized site, again, designed with a smartphone user in mind.
Design and user experience
So responsive sites can definitely get the job done. But creating a site specifically for a mobile device means including having the proper formatting. In other words, no pinching the screen in order to zoom in, creating a super easy to use navigation, making sure your cart and forms are easy to fill out, and make it easy for users while they're on their smartphones.
So there's five key design areas as it relates to mobile search, in terms of having a mobile optimized design and increasing the mobile conversion and overall user experience. I want to run through these with you guys real quick.
The first one is homepage and site navigation. So you want to ensure that your call to actions are front and center. Your menus and navigation are short and sweet, in the sense that they're easy to read and understand. It's clear where you're going and what you're clicking on.
And you want to always make sure it's easy to get back to your homepage. If you're taking users off of your homepage to a category page or a product page, make sure they have a way back.
The next area is site search. So you want to make sure that your site search is visible, easy to find, the results being shown are relevant, and that filters are being used to improve your search results.
Next is the ability to convert. You want to make sure users have the opportunity to explore the site before committing to converting and that they can purchase as a guest and not necessarily as a registered user. That existing information can be used. So third-party payments, or forms being filled out or saved information.
We also like to recommend having click to call and make sure that it's easy to finish converting if a user switches to another device. So if they start on the smartphone and end on the iPad, you want to make sure that information goes with them.
Our fourth principle is form entry. So this means that the form is streamlined. There may be drop downs to simplify the information that needs to be inputted. There's visual calendars for dates, real-time validation so that we know that spam or bots aren't filling out forms. And that the form design is efficient. So autofill is great, progression bar, let users know that the end of the form is near.
Then lastly, we have usability and form factor. So this ensures that the entire site is really optimized for mobile and that user experience is, again, designed around a mobile device. So not pinching the screen to zoom in, you're able to expand product images and see different views. Users aren't brought to a new browser window, if they click on a call to action. This will not only help bring more organic traffic to your site, but it's going to help users convert with a seamless user experience.
A recent survey asked users their most disliked user experience when browsing on a mobile device, and surprise, surprise, waiting for slow pages to load tops the list. The others on here, encountering unplayable videos, getting redirected to the homepage, being shown interstitials are also issues that show that a site is not completely mobile optimized.
But PageSpeed is definitely something that comes up more and more with a mobile experience. And a great way around this is creating an AMP or an accelerated mobile page. It builds content that renders extremely fast, and it's a new initiative that Google is rolling out.
So a little bit more about AMP. PageSpeed is why AMP was created. Again, they were introduced in February 2016. The goal is mobile friendly content, easy to download, easy to look at. AMP now includes more than 860,000 domains, over 1.7 billion AMP pages are in the Google search index, and over 35 million pages are being added per week. So if you haven't started the conversation about AMP, it's definitely one you should be having with your team.
Who can use AMP? Really anyone. Publishers, content, e-commerce. AMP is available really for any type of website. Why does it exist? Again, the pages are designed to load extremely quickly. AMP pages are a stripped down form of HTML. They're designed to be super lightweight, and have critical designs load super quickly.
For an e-commerce example, we have eBay who was one of the first adopters to get on board with this. So this is an example of women's wetsuits, how it looks in the search engine result page on the left. And on the right page is an example of how their category product page looks. Again, they have a pretty high page speed for this, because they're using an AMP page.
Now the question I'm sure most of you are dying to ask, will AMP boost my ranking? Right now, the answer is no, it's not a ranking factor in Google's algorithm, but speed definitely, definitely matters. So the value of an AMP page is basically decided off of your user interaction. The page loads quicker, users may be more inclined to stay on your site longer or convert.
And then the increase in page speed is measured in terms of improving the experience for the user on a mobile device. So AMP offers that ability to potentially have more users see and reach your content on a mobile device.
And then lastly, is AMP free? I want to mention that the cost for an AMP page may vary. It may require an outside developer, it may be something your in-house team can do. Or if you're on WordPress, it may be as simple as a WordPress plugin. It's definitely dependent on the CMS and your resources as well.
Another big opportunity that our clients are buzzing about this year are universal results. We're going to go into a little bit more about those. But these are the organic content blocks that Google shows at the top of a page, depending on your search query.
So when a user asks a question in Google search, Google might show the search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search result page. And this is a featured snippet block, includes a summary of your answer taken directly from the webpage. So the goal is to deliver the best result as quickly as possible. So the user may not even have to click on your website to find out an answer to their search query.
Featured snippets appear in a variety of forms. So these include the knowledge graph, instant answer, people also asked. So these are related searches or related questions in the search queries, news, images and video. And again, each of these is extracted from the on page content of a website. So if you want to show up in a universal result, you have to have the content on your website to do so.
So a couple of examples to go through. The one on the left is an example of a bulleted list from the search query where to go on spring break. This is pulled from StudentCity. They aren't necessarily number one ranking in the search engine result page. But they have this content on page, so Google's able to pull it and show it to the user.
The one on the right is an example of an instant answer and image for the search query, when is spring break? So here, it's from Wikipedia. Again, they may not necessarily be number one in ranking, but Google pulls the information from the website as it deems appropriate.
So there's a few best practices to help appear more often as a universal result and have Google recognize your site. The first is think about direct questions that your audience may be interested in.
So for instance, if you're a hotel group, a section on spring break may be relevant to your users. Things like, what are your spring break policies? When is spring break? What is the minimum age to make spring reservations and so on may be questions you want to include on your website.
Next is provide an answer to these questions. It sounds simple, but if you don't have the answer, there's no way for Google to pull this.
Next, is follow SEO best practices. So we don't want to overly optimize and keyword stuff, we still want to focus on content and keeping it natural. But using things like header tags, h1s, h2s, that can help provide more context on a page and signal to Google that your keywords and your usage of content is related to a specific search query.
And then finally, add that relevant and high quality content onto your site. Keep it related to the specific topic that you're creating content around. Google more and more understands related terms, semantic vocabulary. So adding those terms related to your targeted keywords are going to help you expand your keywords up, and potentially be recognized for additional universal results.
And then lastly, our last area of discussion today is HTTPS, or secure hypertext transfer protocol. And this is all about having a secure version of your site.
Google is working towards a fully secured web. What does that mean? It means that they're aiming to have every website secure under HTTPS. According to a global signed survey, 84% of users would abandon their purchase if data was sent over an insecure connection. So Google's emphasis on calling the move to HTTPS imperative in 2017, signals that it's a good indication that if you don't start making the move to a secure site, you could be left behind in the coming year.
A couple of benefits of a secured site. One, it;s much, much safer, your data is encrypted, it's secure. Likewise, you'll also probably see a small ranking boost to HTTPS URLs. Interestingly enough, 40% of Google's page one rankings are HTTPS. So more and more, Google is favoring the move to this fully secure web.
HTTPS also protects the user and adds that layer of trust as users understand that when they see HTTPS, and they see that lock signal on a site, that there's a security factor involved. Google Chrome, so Google's browser is actually now labeling HTTP sites as insecure, warning users of the potential risk of their data not being secured across the web. So with a ton of users using Chrome, this could definitely come into as a factor if you haven't made the switch in the coming month.
If you do decide to make the move to HTTPS, there's a couple things to keep in mind. First, it's like a mini site migration. You're changing all of your URL. So you may see a temporary fluctuation in site ranking during this time. It may last up to a month or two. But we do fully expect your site rankings and sessions to rebound after Google understands that you just made the move to HTTPS.
Also, we recommend 301 redirecting all of your HTTP URLs to their HTTPS version. This way, Google understands, again, that this is the new version of your site, everything is secure. So HTTP URLs also include XML sitemaps, and any type of page on site.
Lastly, you'll want to set up a Google Search Console profile for your new HTTPS version. You won't have to switch anything with Google Analytics, that profile will stay the same. But we definitely recommend capturing the HTTPS information in a Google Search Console, so you can continue to measure and monitor your site's health.
The importance of trust and authority
I think trust has mattered even more than ever before on the internet, in terms of people seeking out information, and really looking to make decisions. We're going to talk a bit about how consumers have carved their own way and really taken control of how they interact with information to decide on their own terms and at their own pace and what we as marketers can do to be in the right place at the right time.
So the notion of credibility certainly has always been so important. I think brands and businesses have always made a point wherever they could to publicly share any certifications, any badges of trust, in terms of being able to feel good about putting a credit card into their website, or feel good about the overall experience of working with them.
The data has been showing and consumer behavior is really rapidly going towards, these are things that now are being sought out. So while brands have always had the opportunity to display this, and we certainly think that should not stop, these are, in some cases, table stakes for certain types of businesses. It's really important to understand that consumers are seeking out information, seeking out validation and ways that they can identify trustworthiness, but they're doing it in ways that maybe brands haven't thought of before.
So the notion of reviews, and reviews really cover a lot of areas, there are service level reviews that are very much just about a business itself, and what it's like to work with that business and its respective services. And then there are product reviews that are much more specifically about an actual product that someone may buy, try, use.
Reviews in general really are being consumed at the highest rate we've seen. And this is again, not just being found when they're on a website where reviews may be present. But as we think about where people are consuming these reviews, search engines have been growing rapidly.
So review related search terms. That can be a product or a brand name with a review modifier, in terms of how people are searching on the web, have been really rapidly growing. And people really understand now that this is a way that consumers can talk to consumers. And the smart brands that are focusing on how they can capture their consumer sentiment and feedback, realize this is a great way to represent their brand, but let the other customers do the talking for them.
This is something we keep a close eye on. And it's been really interesting to see how people are moving off of the websites and going into the search engines to find information about decisions they're looking to make.
Reviews can affect buying behavior and if I even pull it back a step, even just decision-making behavior. But right now, the stats back it up. 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That's really, really powerful. Most of that comes from them finding these reviews on their own terms, and not necessarily feeling like something's been fed to them, but that they've discovered it themselves, based on the criteria of their search.
People really look to their peer set to understand what was the experience of working with this brand? And this can come down to a product and what it was like to use it for the first time or the only time. We see that research gets heavier as people are making higher gravity decisions. So anything that might require more due diligence, might just be a bigger decision process around a service, something to do with your health, your wealth, your career, your family, your finances.
Lots of research is getting done. And people want to hear from their peer sets to understand what it's like to interact with a brand and what the experience was like.
So we've we spent the first part of this discussion really focusing on I think some great ways to make sure that we are marketing our content to the engines and making sure that we are being found and rewarded with good visibility. I think we want to talk a bit about the notion of consumer reviews as content that's generated from the masses and where you can actually leverage that in search. How do we make sure that we're improving our visibility channels, and making sure that it's popping up at the right time in moments of decision?
So rich snippets and proper schema markup has been really powerful for businesses to make sure that they can call out important product information, or even just relevant information about their business to start showing up in more visibility, higher visibility zones and organic search. This is accentuated not just by getting some of these great copy blocks that can appear, but also the stars that come along with them.
So consumer reviews are really an interesting way to get, for review related terms about your brand, making sure that you have a really good, again, third-party validated user piece of content about what it's like to work with your brand at the moment of decision. If people are typing in review related search terms about your brand, more than likely they're towards the end of the decision-making funnel and they're looking to either validate a decision they're ready to make, or help them go off course because they don't find what they're looking for.
Rich snippets are really a great way to stand out. And some of the data shows that when stars appear, there's upwards of a 40% increase in click through rate for the brands that are showing the stars.
I think just talking about third-party validation overall is also a really interesting shift in how consumers are looking for reviews and experiences in working with a brand. Historically, and today, brands do a great job of posting client testimonials or customer testimonials, putting content on their site, on their domain.
Consumers, as I said earlier, and as evidenced by the increase in search terms that are happening in the search engines for review related content, they want to find out from a third party what this business is all about. So this is again, a way to make sure that the visibility above the fold for your respective brand and review related content that people are searching for is as buttoned up as possible.
Most brands, unfortunately, not even necessarily have a bad story about working with them, they really more often have an incomplete story on page one of Google, when people are looking to find out more about them. It's really important to understand what is the best way to serve up third-party validated content, and make sure that it's visible and easy to digest when people are looking for you?
And product reviews, if we go a step deeper, product reviews are a really great way to achieve some SEO visibility and punch. Certainly the ability to get your stars and your overall score visible to call yourselves out. But then also increase the clicks that come to your product review pages.
This is a way to call out not just the brand, but obviously the key parts of your site that you're trying to drive most traffic to. There's a lot to learn in terms of the overall traffic patterns that start to develop across different products and categories of your website.
So if we think about some of the area we just covered, we talked a lot about getting found and filling the top of the funnel, and lots of time, effort, work, money, sweat goes into that. How do we make sure that we're being found at the moment of search? Whether people were looking for us specifically or didn't know they were looking for us, but they found us, because we've gotten to the right places.
How to increase conversions post-SEO, and leverage reviews in the process
As we get them closer to on site and the experience that we intend them to go through there, there's also a lot of areas that if we don't button ourselves up, we're going to have fall off, we're going to have bounce. We'll talk a bit now about how to increase conversions post-SEO, and how to leverage reviews in the process.
So if we think about shopping cart abandonment alone, approximately 75% of online carts get ditched. That's painful. There's lots of different ways to make sure that people are on a right path to increase conversion. There's lots of really cool tech out there to make sure that we hit those people quickly once they've left.
But there are really great ways that you can actually leverage things like third-party content, a review from a consumer at points of decision and moments of decision on your website. So these are some nice examples. We have some of the traditional badges. We have some star ratings and aggregated scores, and even a snippet from a review.
The key is understanding what path are you really trying to drive people through on your site? And again, whether it's a purchase or even a request for more information, what is the conversion path? And if you start to look and see where people may be falling off or bouncing, how do we make sure that we try to get one of these really interesting moments of credibility as close to that as possible?
And there's really cool ways to test this, we can split test and understand what's working. Position on page, obviously, thinking about mobile as well as desktop. But these are really great ways to make sure you get one last shot to convert somebody, versus where they might bounce otherwise.
And social proof, obviously can't be ignored as well. This is a great way to continue to bring what consumers are saying about you into where your advocates are, or whether they're new customers or longtime customers. How do we make sure that we amplify that back out at these moments where people are finding your brand through the different channels, or on different parts of your website that have been dedicated for this?
But there's a lot of opportunity and a lot of real estate on all of our websites that is frankly going unused or used maybe not as optimally as it can. This is great content that, rather than your marketing team I guess reinventing the wheel or trying to think about how to speak about your brand, you can actually take the way your customers already talk about you and plug it into key parts of your site and your social channels to increase conversion.
I think in some of the studies we've seen and research we do, personalization is really being well received by consumers. Now that most people know that it's a thing, so to speak, they actually appreciate it and it is impacting their search and the way that they're converting on traffic.
I think the real key here, again, is making sure that you understand who your customers are. And you gather that by gathering their feedback, by really tracking their behavior, trying to stay out of their way and learn from them along the way. And that also provides great data that should go back into your personalization efforts.
So if we think about some key takeaways, again, we really covered the sides of the coin and making sure that we're marketing to human behavior and also to the behavior of the search engines. First and foremost, really that distinction of that mobile first SEO strategy. Make sure that you have all the boxes checked, and that you're focusing on understanding, most consumers are consuming everything mobile at a rapid rate. Do you have everything set up properly to be found?
HTTPS is a must. I think it's going to be even more critical by the day.
Trust signals and badges and just making sure that you're able to get things like third-party validation and what the rest of the world is saying about your brand as visible as possible. Consumers are really seeking this out on their own terms. How do you make sure to easily find where it's happening and put it into high traffic areas?
And social proof. Continue to make sure that you are optimizing this channel and getting good examples of your brand, where people are trying to find out more about you, conversion rates are waiting to be skyrocketing.
If you'd like to learn more about the importance of customer experience for SEO, check out the article below.