Voice’s Impact on Local: The Knowledge Graph, SEO, Paid Search

This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of January, and you can see the rest of the series here


We know voice will play a major role in Local in 2019, as voice recognition software gets more sophisticated, “near me” searches skyrocket, and marketers wise up to where the voice-local opportunity really lies in the near future: smartphones.

In this article, let’s get more specific. Voice will affect the fundamentals of local search: the Knowledge Graph, SEO, and paid search, for example. Drawing from Street Fight lead analyst Mike Boland’s 2018 white paper on voice, I break down those changes below.

The Knowledge Graph

The evolution of the Knowledge Graph over the years actually supports the voice revolution organically. We can see the way audio search results will need to evolve to meet the needs of consumers already in the transition from desktop searches to mobile.

When desktop was the norm, Google’s famous 10 blue links were the standard on the SERPs. Nowadays, the dominant form of information Google organizes for local searchers is the Knowledge Graph: that rectangular box on the right-hand side of the screen that provides crucial info about one entity.

With voice, the Knowledge Graph, one-major-source style of delivering info to searchers will be not just helpful but indispensable. Voice search doubles down on the needs of conventional mobile search: fast and on-the-go. This means longstanding changes in Google toward providing the one key answer searchers need will dovetail nicely with voice local search.

SEO

As stated above, with voice search, there will only be one answer that matters: the top one that the voice mechanism spits out at the searcher. This could endanger the practice of SEO, as it’s harder to rank highly when ranking highly is sort of obsolete, supplanted by the imperative of being number one.

That said, SEO won’t be entirely obsolete anytime soon. First off, a large number of searches will still be performed on desktop and conventionally on mobile devices. Secondly, voice search may not entirely eat up the pie that is currently primarily shared by desktop and mobile: Some voice search, SEO expert Andrew Shotland told Mike Boland, may build incrementally on existing search query volume.

Paid Search

Google will likely implement paid search through the voice medium by allowing for ads when a business willing to pay happens to be surfaced by a voice query. More specifically, Google will look to push searchers up the funnel, sending them to other screens once they’ve been enticed by a voice query and jamming ads into those additional interfaces.

This will look different for other tech giants involved in voice search such as Amazon. The retail giant will has a direct path to monetization through voice search and will depend not on new ad presentations but on consumers’ becoming more and more comfortable with ordering through voice as they once did with one-click ordering and mobile commerce.

via: https://streetfightmag.com/2019/01/03/voices-impact-on-local-the-knowledge-graph-seo-paid-search/?mc_cid=95d5bb994d&mc_eid=9b4273079a

 

How to Master Video Marketing in Preparation for the New Year

It’s an efficient and easy way of connecting with consumers

animation

Video offers a unique opportunity to connect brands with their audiences.
Getty Images

Social media consumption is growing at breakneck speed, and consumers are increasingly demanding engaging, easily-digestible content. These two forces have combined to form the next evolution of storytelling: video. This year has effectively transformed video marketing from an optional tactic to a core business strategy. For marketers, this means that to reach your target audience and drive real business results in 2019, video needs to be a top priority.

Videos continue to usurp all other forms of media when it comes to grabbing and keeping consumers’ limited attention. On YouTube, which has over one billion users, people watch 500 million hours of video every day. What’s more, a Facebook executive recently predicted that their platform will be all video in less than five years. Apart from sheer volume, studies show that videos get more engagement than other types of posts, and video ads are two times more memorable than photos.

Needless to say, the ubiquity of video can no longer be ignored. To capitalize on this paradigm shift in consumption behaviors and expectations, brands are being challenged to look beyond traditional 30-second TV spots and create compelling digital video content.

Here are four tips to maximize the effectiveness of your video marketing campaigns.

Optimize for mobile

Considering that the majority of video ads will be viewed on smartphones, it’s important to keep the mobile experience in mind.

Our mission should be building a holistic relationship with our consumers by leveraging the unique power of videos to engage and activate consumers.

Deliver early because the non-linear nature of mobile means that people are consuming video content faster and more frequently than ever before. In order to capture and maintain the consumers’ attention, your videos should tell a concise story, with the message clear in the first few seconds. Messaging must also work with the sound off. Prominent branding is also a critical element of mobile video. Ensure your logo is displayed early and often, as ad recall is 60 percent higher for video ads with consistent logo placement.

If your brand is not already harnessing the vertical, full-screen view, now is the time to start using vertical ratios. In fact, according to recent research, people hold their phones vertically about 90 percent of the time. This new reality means that optimizing for a vertical screen will help your branded videos appear more natural and less obtrusive. Vertical video also takes up more space on the news feed, giving your brand more attention than a horizontal ad. Vertical video has become particularly relevant when it comes to Instagram and Snapchat stories, as this type of content is almost always viewed with the phone being held in an upright position.

Sound can help add relevance to your video ads, however, given that a lot of mobile content is consumed on mute, your core message should be clear with or without sound. Facebook specifically has created an ecosystem that doesn’t require consumers to turn the sound up. Keeping this in mind, in order to get the user to stop scrolling and fix their gaze on your content, focus on using bright colors and eye-catching movements that capture attention, not on storylines and narratives that will be lost without audio.

Leverage nanoinfluencers

Creating enough custom, mobile-optimized videos to fuel social feeds may seem like a daunting and expensive feat, but it has actually never been easier or less expensive. Video production is expanding beyond traditional agency walls, and with the rise of the gig economy in the creative industry, more naturally talented consumers are emerging as viable content creators. These consumer content creators, or nanoinfluencers, are the answer to generating authentic video ads that are cost-effective, produced at speed and proven to perform.

Explore alternative video formats

In addition to new creatives entering the market, rapid technological advancements have also led to an explosion of alternative video formats. These emerging video trends are opening the door to endless possibilities for marketers, especially those looking to reap the benefits and high-performance rates of video ads without the drawn-out production times or expensive tabs.

 

The good news? Adding even a small amount of movement to a traditional image is enough to catch a person’s eye as it auto plays in their feed.

Stop motion videos use an animation technique where objects are moved in small increments between photographed frames to create the illusion of movement when played. Stop motion allows creators enormous control over the movement and action of a scene.

Motion stills are a photo editing method that add motion to static photos and are created by cutting various elements apart and reassembling them frame-by-frame. This method can be used as a creative refresh for brands who have a lot of static assets.

Another method is using cinemagraph video, which are minor, repeated movements that play in a never-ending, seamless loop to bring traditional images to life. You might not know these videos by name, but chances are you’ve already seen one. Cinemagraphs appear to be living photographs, where most everything is still except for a few elements that have movement. This blend of still life and subtle animation creates an almost magical effect and is far more engaging than a standalone image.

Test, learn, repeat

As your brand continues to run social video ad campaigns, you’ll gain an even better idea of what creative practices work best. Remember, there is no one proven recipe for success, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different video formats and trends. The key is to track the performance metrics of each initiative and use that data to create a continuous improvement loop for future content development. Over time, you’ll find what resonates with your target audiences, and the results will follow.

In sum, when it comes to brand marketing, our scope is no longer just limited to sales. Our mission should be building a holistic relationship with our consumers by leveraging the unique power of videos to engage and activate consumers at every point along their journey. The new year will be the time that brands level-up their video marketing strategies, moving from good to great. Are you ready?

VIA: https://www.adweek.com/tv-video/how-to-master-video-marketing-in-preparation-for-the-new-year/?mc_cid=1d1e8b5bd0&mc_eid=9b4273079a

Voice’s Local Impact in 2018 and 2019

This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of January, and you can see the rest of the series here


As Amazon reports growth of over 200% YOY for holiday purchases via Alexa and as we head into the new year, it’s an opportune time to talk about the latest advances in voice and how the medium will shake up local in 2019.

Street Fight’s Mike Boland explained in a white paper on the topic this year that there’s a number of misconceptions regarding how voice will play out in local search and commerce, and there’s plenty of research out there to illuminate where the medium is really headed. Below, I outline some key insights about voice as brands and SMBs alike make plans to tackle it in the months to come.

Where’s Voice Happening? 

Though Amazon’s Echo devices are a novelty, voice will primarily impact search in on-the-go use cases. Consumers will naturally turn to voice in cases where typing out a query is inconvenient or dangerous, meaning mobile will be the go-to channel, with newcomer channels like connected cars entering the game as well.

Due to the relatively high utility of mobile for voice queries, media tech consultancy Activate predicts that smart devices will actually decline in sales by 2020, as consumers turn to improved voice interfaces on the devices they already lug around 24/7: their smartphones. For the effect improved smartphones will have on in-home smart devices, think of the decline of standalone GPS for cars.

This means brick-and-mortars should optimize for mobile, paying particularly close attention to the growing “near me” searches.

What Will Optimizing for On-the-go Voice Search Entail?

Marketers will need to be specific to reach on-the-go customers with specific queries that currently yield unhelpfully vague or off-the-mark responses from smartphones. The key is to create great content, as Collin Holmes wrote in Street Fight earlier this year.

Suppose, as Holmes did, that someone cruising along a highway asks for the best vanilla soy latte near her. Surfacing your business as a top result for this query—and being a top result will matter more than ever, as the phone may only convey the top result, or the searcher may hit the top result quickly so as not to stare at her phone while driving—will require creating content that allows Google to recognize this specific offering on your business’ menu. Smart businesses are getting active on Google Posts and the Knowledge Panel to get out in front of this need for increased specificity.

Which Company Will Dominate the Voice Ecosystem?

As I began to suggest just above, the main company for which to optimize will be Google, which stands above its big tech rivals thanks to a massive pool of data on locations and smartphone users and has a strong hold on the global smartphone market to boot. That means optimizing for Google’s search channels should be top of mind.

That said, there are wild cards and specific verticals where other companies hold strong hands. Amazon can be expected to take the lead on product search, and the intersection of AR and voice could present opportunities for innovation from the likes of Facebook, Yelp, and Waze. This is something to come, called audio AR, that Mike Boland discusses in his white paper and will break down as AR evolves going forward.

When it comes to voice and AR’s impact on local, we’re just getting started.

via: https://streetfightmag.com/2018/12/27/voices-local-impact-in-2018-and-2019/?doing_wp_cron=1545928555.4471600055694580078125&mc_cid=b5dec0edd6&mc_eid=9b4273079a

Google emphasizes ‘Message this business’ in new local search test

Take notice, Google is testing a more prominent look for the messaging feature in the local search results. Is your business ready to manage text messages from your customers?

Google

Here is the normal interface. Those not in the test will instead see a “message” icon next to the call, directions, web site, and other call-to-action icons.

google messaging

Why it matters. If Google does roll out the new interface to promote the messaging feature in the local panel, and  a lot of businesses begin using it, then customers might expect that your business use it as well. Maintaining and managing messaging within Google My Business can be done using the new Google My Business app, via the Google My Business web portal or via your phone’s text messaging app. It can add a new opportunity for you to get more business, but at the same time, add more workload to your already busy work day.

Via: Search Engine Land

TLDR; Google has reduced the visibility of posts in both mobile and desktop search while simultaneously increasing their reach by now showing them (at least some of the time) in Google Maps.

At the end of September, Google upended the visibility of Posts on both the desktop and mobile. On the desktop posts have been moved to the bottom of the Knowledge Panel. These days that often means below the fold.

On mobile, Posts were moved from the Overview panel to the organic results below the Knowledge Panel. The Posts tab remains in the mobile KP.

In both cases Posts have become quite a bit less visible to searchers. Nate Somsen of Big Leap kindly shared some analytics that clearly shows the significant drop in click though rates after this change. Nate noted that this past August they had just started seeing sizable gains by going to a Coupon post and while not all of those gains were lost, many were.

desktop search

Certainly for businesses that need to get the consumer to their website to consider a Post successful this change will likely lead to a   significant traffic loss.

For businesses that have been using Posts primarily for branding and SERP control the impact will be less.

The good news in this is thatPosts are now also appearing in Google Maps on both desktop and mobile searches. Previously they were only visible in a browser via direct brand search or via the Local Finder. It seems unlikely that the increased reach will make up for the decreased visibility.

Oddly Posts are only visible in Maps when you click into a listing from a keyword search and they are not visible via branded searches in Maps.

direct brand search

Several readers asked me why Google made this change. We will never really know as we can’t see what Google sees. I am sure if you ask them they would say that it’s what the searchers preferred. If you ask a Google skeptic they would suggest that Google wanted to control user behaviors and not send them off site so quickly.

I don’t really know. And it could be that both are true. One speculative thought is that Google is freeing up space in the prime territory of the Knowledge Panel for an increased use of CTA around their Reserve with Google product. We have been seeing this in more and more tests.

Regardless, at least for the next few months this appears to be the new normal and while it makes posts somewhat less valuable I still see significant value in using them.

Reference Screen shots of Post positioning before and after the change:

I wanted to share, mostly for my memory, screen shots that demonstrated the change.

Google
Previously Posts on the Desktop were located below the NAP and above Q & A & reviews
keyword search
Posts are now located at the bottom of the Knowledge Graph which puts them almost to the bottom of the page and well below the fold
Nate Somsen

Previously Posts showed in the same place in the Knowledge Panel as on the desktop, just below the NAP

desktop search

In the new layout Posts have been moved down and into the organic results. almost 3 scrolls below the first screen.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

Why Responsive Design is Dead

ED KENNEDY

The Adoption of Adaptive Design and the Rise of Progressive Web Apps

Mobile traffic is past its tipping point with roughly 52 percent of web traffic currently deriving from smartphones versus desktops – and counting. People are accessing sites and services with the expectation they will not only have the same functionality they would on desktops, but, more so today, that the sites will also use the functionality native to their devices without needing to download an app. To date, forward-thinking ecommerce companies have worked to ensure their sites were primed for mobile viewing, turning to responsive web design (RWD) as the solution. Times are changing, however, and device-specific experiences are becoming the new requirement (e.g., touch gestures, speech recognition, mobile push notifications). Responsive design that delivers one size, fits none is now being replaced with two new ways of implementing mobile experiences that are faster and provide a better customer experience: adaptive and progressive design. While adaptive design requires more coding, it offers a whole range of other prioritizing features on mobile that customers crave versus receiving a shallow, shrunk-down version of the desktop site that leaves too much to be desired.

But First, The Four Approaches

Before going further, it will be helpful to first understand the differences between mobile themes, responsive web design (RWD), adaptive web design (AWD) and progressive web apps (PWA). Mobile Themes These are responsible for the mobile-dedicated sites of the world – or m-dot. They are easy to add to existing desktop experiences, but each change to the site requires both mobile and desktop updates. What’s more, Google frowns upon serving two different experiences as its crawlers must essentially read two sites because the content and code of mobile themes are separate. Enter: responsive web design. Responsive “Responsive design is client-side, meaning the whole page is delivered to the device browser (the client), and the browser then changes how the page appears in relation to the dimensions of the browser window.” ~ Garrett Goodman of The Huffington Post The positives of RWD are often stated in that the sites are easy to maintain, and they provide a consistent experience across devices. On the other hand, one channel typically suffers. If mobile first, for example, then the desktop does not look quite right. If desktop first, then mobile is overloaded. Still, there is unified content and code, which minimizes the resource burden of catering to both desktop and mobile users. Adaptive “Let’s use an adjustable lamp as a real-world example: responsive design is when you flick the switch, and the lamp responds by turning on the light. Adaptive design is when you’re able to adjust/adapt the lamp so that you can see better. “If a website doesn’t respond to your interaction, it’s not very responsive, and if it isn’t able to adapt to its surroundings (i.e. the device screen), it’s not very adaptive. Both of these can significantly impact the UX.” ~ Daniel Schwarz of Sitepoint The positives of AWD are often under-stated in that it delivers a device-specific experience and it improves website performance (think speed, load times). AWD is not without its negatives though in that enterprises must manage separate code branches, which can add time to development and site updates – even though it uses a single content repository – still very much better than dedicated mobile sites. The content and code are both unified. Now, the mobile experience for both the end-user and the organization hosting the site itself, is becoming more mature. Progressive “PWAs enable companies (and the designers and developers they employ) to deploy their digital creations natively (on iOS or Android for example) and on the mobile/desktop Web itself, taking advantage of both channels, and the benefits of both channels – again, simultaneously.” ~ Peter Prestipino, Website Magazine Progressive web aps are user experiences that have the reach of the web, and the web reaches three times as many people as native apps. There is not a retailer alive who does not want to reach more people. Once they reach them, the users are presented with an app-like experience, using features of phone and browser to enhance mobile web experience – and quicker than other design options allow. Like each of the design approaches mentioned here, PWAs do have their downfalls in that organizations need to manage separate code branches. Managing separate code branches can add time to development and site updates, but PWAs use a single content repository so it is still faster than updating mobile themes. Progression from Desktop to Progressive Web Apps Capture1 Why It’s Time to Move on from Responsive Web Design While responsive web design is the de-facto mobile design approach these days, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Responsive sites send the entire website to a mobile device, which does nothing for user experience. This is called client-side (browser-side) rendering where a mobile browser is doing all the work. Adaptive Design is server-side rendering where the website decides which page elements to send to each browser and at what levels of quality. For consumers, one size also does not fit all. Desktop does not fit mobile, mobile does not fit desktop. And desktop first does not prioritize mobile navigation or features. See Apple’s example below: Capture2 On the left, the desktop navigation makes sense for the product browser. On the right, the mobile navigation is now what the person is used to.  Mobile first doesn’t create a great browse experience on desktop either. Check out the Lyko.se example below where the desktop navigation is hidden and not optimized for the device. Capture3 With the risk of redundancy, again, one size just does not fit all. Mobile first or desktop first means some experience will be second and customers are shopping on multiple devices in a continuous journey between devices. If retailers do not give the right experience in the context of the device someone is using, they will lose that customer engagement. Both approaches, however, do not allow merchants to prioritize features or navigation for the user’s need. The few positives are that responsive design is a dramatic improvement from mobile themes or rendering desktop and it is easy to maintain. Why Adaptive and Progressive makes sense now Technology is improving all the time and underlying technology is getting better and better to support adaptive and progressive approaches. Adaptive has not been discussed as much as responsive because the front-end code technologies were not as good, mobile was not as important as it is now, and responsive was so much better than desktop rendering that it was seen as a natural evolution. AWD has, however, so many positives from front-end development approaches that make it easier to maintain, front-end development approaches that make it faster, a single URL structure for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes (which is why many organizations started using RWD in the first place) and platforms that provide a mobile view for editors that can be integrated to an adaptive mobile strategy. Still, the rising star in the game is progressive web apps. Google is creating these apps to drive ad spend over Apple’s advocacy for native apps. Apple and Google are in a bit of a tussle over mobile experience that will affect ecommerce sales. Google is likely to win because of its higher market share of smartphones globally. This is going to lead to less mobile applications being developed for brands and retailers and more app-like experiences being developed for browsers. Progressive web apps are changing how retailers and brands can create stand out ecommerce experiences online. With progressive web apps many wins are possible. They use stored customer data in the mobile browser like shipping addresses and credit card details, which allows for seamless checkout without loading separate pages. Using progressive web apps, retailers are also able to create fun experiences that behave like apps without developing mobile apps. Paper Planes World is a great example of this, it uses a phones accelerometer (motion sensor) to allow users to ‘launch’ a paper airplane around the world virtually to other site visitors, catch a plane and see the stamps other users added to it. Is AWD or PWAs for Me? With times changing and technology evolving, consumer-savvy retailers would be right to ask if adaptive and responsive are right for their business. First, think of the margin. If device-specific features and experiences are important to the user experience and if users switch device during the journey, these new features are probably worth it. About the Author Ed Kennedy is the senior director of commerce at Episerver, a global software company offering Web content management, digital commerce, and digital marketing, through the Episerver Digital Experience Cloud™ software platform. via: https://www.websitemagazine.com/blog/why-responsive-design-is-dead

Create Visual Stories with Google’s New AMP Format

PETE PRESTIPINO

The “stories” style format has captured the attention of the Web. Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter – pretty much every major platform is adopting the approach – and now you can add one more to the list.

ampstory-image1

Google recently announced the launch of the AMP Story Format and it has marketers and designers on the edge of their virtual seats. 

Those familiar with similar “stories” formats at platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are those that will likely be most eager to adopt the AMP-endable format from Google. Publishers are essentially able to build image, video and animation heavy stories for the mobile experience that users on mobile devices can easily swipe throgh.

Google has partnered and is launching with the usual suspects including CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post. Like all of AMP, this is an open-source project (there’s no tooling available either) so publishers are on their own for development.

It’s actually quite simple to get started with creating an AMP story – at least for those with a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, etc. Google provides in-depth tutorials and guidance on working with the format, too, but let the following serve as a quick overview of how an AMP Story would come together.

amp_story_parts

The basic components of an AMP story are individual pages. Those pages are composed of individual layers that contain both basic HTML and AMP elements. Here’s how the code hierarchy might work for the story format:

amp-story-tag-hierarchy2

When executed well from a design and content perspective, the “story” format in general will be appealing to users and could drive significant increases in interaction for publisehrs. Coupled with Google’s support of the approach, it will make the approach that much more appealing to publishers.

Initially, however, expect adoption of the new format to be rather slow. As content management systems start to support it (either natively or through an integration), that will most certainly change. Now, whether Google continues to support the format, is another question entirely.

via: https://www.websitemagazine.com/blog/create-visual-stories-with-google-s-new-amp-format

Persuading Prospects Before the Buy Button

MARTIN GREIF

For many companies, conversion rate optimization occurs exclusively between a product detail page visit and the time a visitor checks out. That is a very dangerous mindset, however, because it fails to take the early and middle stages of the customer journey into account. 

Before users settle in to compare prices on different sites, they have a whole host of actions and places to visit. These early stage actions are a great way to acquire greater brand equity, a wider audience who can convert later on, and trust from those who are nearing the point when they can convert (but are not quite there yet).

Those who win this early stage get a leg up on the late-game-only companies on multiple fronts:

+ It becomes easier for users to click on an actual buy button if they have received good value from a company before. One of the seven principles of influence is reciprocity, and only companies that have bothered with the early stage can expect it from visitors

+ The “all stages” companies have a steady flow of people who can replace those who have already made a purchase, ensuring the well does not dry up

Before the final purchase conversion happens, it is necessary to optimize all the pre-conversion that happens along the way.

Decide on a Model for the Customer Journey

Models for customer journey stages can be powerful as they provide the entire company the same verbiage to use and follow. Some people use AIDA or Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action as a model, and that may be useful even though it misses out on everything that happens after the purchase.

Others use some type of combination between the discovery phase, the evaluation phase, the purchase phase, and the support phase. The exact terms do not matter too much, as long as marketers have a way to tell someone something akin to “that is not a keyword search people will conduct at the discovery phase, that is a purchase phase term.”

Whatever model organizations land on is probably fine, as long as three conditions are present:

+ The phases of the model are not company-centric, they are user-centric. (So, that means top/mid/bottom of the funnel is out of the question as a customer journey model.) It helps to think about user intent rather than the company’s sales funnel for these types of tools

+ Most people in the company understand the phases and can use them for day-to-day decision-making

+ The research, content generation, and calls-to-action (CTAs) are targeted to phases in the model

Think About the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Even before users land on a website, they can have an experience with the brand. To enhance the chances of them actually engaging, those aiming to optimize the conversion process can do a few things:

+ If you are in an industry where rich snippets can be used, do that and enhance the look of search result listings

+ Match the browser page title and meta description to the phase of the journey—if there is a common research phrase in a particular industry, educational page should say something in the title that indicates it is an answer to the question the user is asking

Those responsible for these efforts will know they are doing well when the education-level pages are receiving good click-through rates and driving significant traffic to the website.

Make Educational Content Really Good

Educational pages should match user intent. For instance, if people are looking for battery life on different digital cameras, educational page cannot be a list of battery grips; it has to actually discuss battery life on different cameras.

Do not force late-stage-intent on an early stage visitor; it is not going to work. Instead, provide the information that visitors need for that stage, build authority as users engage with the brand, and provide avenues for two scenarios:

+ For users who are ready in the moment include a callto- action for the next stage in the funnel

+ For those who are not ready provide a “return” vehicle to a site, like an un-gated PDF with more comprehensive information

It will be obvious progress is being made when the educational pages get users to return at a decent rate, and when businesses start seeing a significant number of users download assets meant to drive them back to the web site.

This link back to the web site from the assets should, of course, have campaign parameters. That will enable those optimizing the digital experience to isolate visits from educational efforts of this nature, judge the success rate of the specific assets, and make adjustments as necessary.

Use the Entire Site to Persuade Visitor — Not Just the Product Details Page

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion and all-round trusted name in the persuasion game, says there are seven ways to influence your visitors to perform actions: liking (using verbiage and image selection to match a visitor’s taste), social proof (showing how many times the company has helped someone with a problem), consistency (encouraging smaller, micro-conversion actions), authority (showing badges of large organizations that trust your expertise), reciprocity (giving something away to establish gratitude), unity (showing that you are part of a user’s group) and scarcity (showing that the stock is limited).

Of those seven principles, only scarcity is exclusive to the product details page. The rest should be used across an entire website to make a company’s persuasion game effective.

Businesses will notice that these general persuasion techniques are working when people take pre-conversion actions across the site, so make sure to track the smaller conversions the site has including return rate for those who have seen non-product pages, PDF downloads, form fills or visits.

Putting It All Together

Remember, do not ask for the sale before providing what the user needs.

Businesses can have excellent products and airtight security but still lose out on the sale if they get greedy and only focus on late-stage visitors.

Make sure to optimize the site’s pre-conversion tasks as well. By the time a significant chunk of users get to the product details page, they should be primed to act. That’s the job of non-product content: to make the little persuasion arguments that a business is worth transacting with.

When organizations think about early stage visitors, research their tasks and create content designed to answer their questions, and create actions that will take them to the next stage in the customer journey, they persuade more visitors to act on their site. Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners (host of Digital Growth Unleashed) where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for its broad customer base.

Persuading Prospects Before the Buy Button

MARTIN GREIF

For many companies, conversion rate optimization occurs exclusively between a product detail page visit and the time a visitor checks out. That is a very dangerous mindset, however, because it fails to take the early and middle stages of the customer journey into account. 

Before users settle in to compare prices on different sites, they have a whole host of actions and places to visit. These early stage actions are a great way to acquire greater brand equity, a wider audience who can convert later on, and trust from those who are nearing the point when they can convert (but are not quite there yet).

Those who win this early stage get a leg up on the late-game-only companies on multiple fronts:

+ It becomes easier for users to click on an actual buy button if they have received good value from a company before. One of the seven principles of influence is reciprocity, and only companies that have bothered with the early stage can expect it from visitors

+ The “all stages” companies have a steady flow of people who can replace those who have already made a purchase, ensuring the well does not dry up

Before the final purchase conversion happens, it is necessary to optimize all the pre-conversion that happens along the way.

Tip 1: Decide on a Model for the Customer Journey

Models for customer journey stages can be powerful as they provide the entire company the same verbiage to use and follow. Some people use AIDA or Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action as a model, and that may be useful even though it misses out on everything that happens after the purchase.

Others use some type of combination between the discovery phase, the evaluation phase, the purchase phase, and the support phase. The exact terms do not matter too much, as long as marketers have a way to tell someone something akin to “that is not a keyword search people will conduct at the discovery phase, that is a purchase phase term.”

Whatever model organizations land on is probably fine, as long as three conditions are present:

+ The phases of the model are not company-centric, they are user-centric. (So, that means top/mid/bottom of the funnel is out of the question as a customer journey model.) It helps to think about user intent rather than the company’s sales funnel for these types of tools

+ Most people in the company understand the phases and can use them for day-to-day decision-making

+ The research, content generation, and calls-to-action (CTAs) are targeted to phases in the model

Tip 2: Think About the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Even before users land on a website, they can have an experience with the brand. To enhance the chances of them actually engaging, those aiming to optimize the conversion process can do a few things:

+ If you are in an industry where rich snippets can be used, do that and enhance the look of search result listings

+ Match the browser page title and meta description to the phase of the journey—if there is a common research phrase in a particular industry, educational page should say something in the title that indicates it is an answer to the question the user is asking

Those responsible for these efforts will know they are doing well when the education-level pages are receiving good click-through rates and driving significant traffic to the website.

Tip 3: Make Educational Content Really Good

Educational pages should match user intent. For instance, if people are looking for battery life on different digital cameras, educational page cannot be a list of battery grips; it has to actually discuss battery life on different cameras.

Do not force late-stage-intent on an early stage visitor; it is not going to work. Instead, provide the information that visitors need for that stage, build authority as users engage with the brand, and provide avenues for two scenarios:

+ For users who are ready in the moment include a callto- action for the next stage in the funnel

+ For those who are not ready provide a “return” vehicle to a site, like an un-gated PDF with more comprehensive information

It will be obvious progress is being made when the educational pages get users to return at a decent rate, and when businesses start seeing a significant number of users download assets meant to drive them back to the web site.

This link back to the web site from the assets should, of course, have campaign parameters. That will enable those optimizing the digital experience to isolate visits from educational efforts of this nature, judge the success rate of the specific assets, and make adjustments as necessary.

Tip 4: Use the Entire Site to Persuade Visitor — Not Just the Product Details Page

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion and all-round trusted name in the persuasion game, says there are seven ways to influence your visitors to perform actions: liking (using verbiage and image selection to match a visitor’s taste), social proof (showing how many times the company has helped someone with a problem), consistency (encouraging smaller, micro-conversion actions), authority (showing badges of large organizations that trust your expertise), reciprocity (giving something away to establish gratitude), unity (showing that you are part of a user’s group) and scarcity (showing that the stock is limited).

Of those seven principles, only scarcity is exclusive to the product details page. The rest should be used across an entire website to make a company’s persuasion game effective.

Businesses will notice that these general persuasion techniques are working when people take pre-conversion actions across the site, so make sure to track the smaller conversions the site has including return rate for those who have seen non-product pages, PDF downloads, form fills or visits.

Tip 5: Putting It All Together

Remember, do not ask for the sale before providing what the user needs.

Businesses can have excellent products and airtight security but still lose out on the sale if they get greedy and only focus on late-stage visitors.

Make sure to optimize the site’s pre-conversion tasks as well. By the time a significant chunk of users get to the product details page, they should be primed to act. That’s the job of non-product content: to make the little persuasion arguments that a business is worth transacting with.

When organizations think about early stage visitors, research their tasks and create content designed to answer their questions, and create actions that will take them to the next stage in the customer journey, they persuade more visitors to act on their site. Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners (host of Digital Growth Unleashed) where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for its broad customer base.