How to Address Technical SEO Issues to Increase Content Visibility

technical-seo-issues

[Note From Ashley: Kevin is an SEO Analyst on the team at TopRank Marketing and has done an exceptional job uncovering and fixing technical issues for our clients. This is Kevin’s first post on TopRankBlog.com and we look forward to him sharing his technical expertise on an ongoing basis with our readers.]

Websites that don’t work and are hard to navigate can be an incredibly frustrating experience for any user. If they load slowly, have broken pages, or duplicate content it can deter visitors from coming back and make it less likely that the content that you’ve worked so hard on shows up in search results.

Self-directed buyers are getting well over 50% of the way through the buying cycle based on web experience alone, which means that a technically sound website is incredibly important. Not only do some technical SEO issues hurt user experience, but a large amount of issues leads to a decrease in performance.

Technical SEO issues often impact the entire site, but there are some cases that individual pages are impacted. Ensuring that these issues are addressed will help make your content more visible to your target audience. One way to solve common technical issues is to conduct a technical SEO audit on a regular basis. Below is some information to help you navigate through a technical SEO audit.

5 Common Technical SEO Issues

There are multiple issues that you should check for while running an audit. Checking for all technical SEO issues will take quite some time depending on the size of the website. For the sake of highlighting some of the most important issues, we will focus on 5 issues which include:

  1. Response codes
  2. Duplicate content
  3. URL structure
  4. XML sitemaps
  5. Site speed

#1 – Response Codes – 404: Heading tag not found!

Let’s start with the basics – response codes. You need to have a website that can be easily used by people and crawled by search engines. If search engines are having a hard time crawling your site then it will suffer in organic performance. One area to help a search engines crawl your website is by reducing the amount of 4xx and 3xx response codes within your site. More common 4xx and 3xx response codes that we see are 404, 301, and 302 codes.

The best way to fix these response codes is to update any pages that contain the link that either responds with a 404, 301, or 302 code to a live destination page on the website. By having a direct link to a live destination page, the authority will not be lost and it will provide a better user experience. Also, updating the internal redirects will help mitigate any potential redirect chains if a page happens to be changed again, and then is redirected to a different page. Redirect chains can cause a major headache for search engines when crawling and indexing a website.

#2 – Duplicate Content – If you see double, you’re in trouble

After resolving the response codes, it’s important to look at the on-page optimization of the website. Some of these issues can be related to general SEO tactics, but they are still important when conducting an audit. One area of on-page optimization that is often prevalent is duplicate content. I’m a pretty big stickler when it comes to duplicate content. An ultimate goal of a website is to offer a solution for users, and the best way to offer a solution is to provide unique content.

To fix duplicate content is to make sure that each page as a solid amount of unique content tailored to whatever the page is about. For eCommerce sites, make sure each product has a unique description or user generated reviews to differentiate the content. For other sites, make sure to write unique content for the topic of the page. Also, make sure that your CMS isn’t creating duplicate content by correctly configuring the settings.

Eliminating duplicate content will help a website and individual pages perform better for the targeted keywords/topics. By targeting a specific topic on individual pages content marketers can provide unique content that enhances the user experience. 

#3 – URL Structure – You wouldn’t build a house without a solid foundation

Now that you have a handle on your response codes and duplicate content, it is time to dig into the URL structure of a website. The URL structure of a website can play an important part in search visibility.

URLs should be concise and keyword rich as much as possible without keyword stuffing. A good way to make sure that a URL is concise with keywords is to use a static URL over a dynamic URL. The static URL should follow the pattern of the navigation and how people navigate throughout the website. By making the URL structure follow the navigation format, you will create a hierarchy that helps search engines associate certain pages together as opposed to a flat URL structure.

There are other situations that URLs should stray away from. For example, there shouldn’t be any underscores or uppercase letters in a URL structure as search engines handle them differently.

URL structure is an important aspect of technical SEO that should be taken into account early on to reduce any potential issues over time. One thing to note, do not change the URL structure of your website for the sake of SEO. Changing the URL structure is a strategy that should only be applied when appropriate.

#4 – XML Sitemaps – Give Google GPS instructions to your site

Next, you need to make it easy for search engines to crawl your pages. XML sitemaps help search engines crawl and index pages throughout a specific section or the entire website. It is important to include all the pages you want indexed within the XML sitemap. XML sitemaps are typically one of the first areas of the site that is crawled. Search engines will crawl the XML sitemap looking for any pages that are new or that have been updated. I recommend building out a XML sitemap index that contains individual sitemaps for videos, images, or other types of content instead of having one mega XML sitemap contain every page.

Sometimes we’ll uncover that a website has multiple XML sitemaps that contain pages that shouldn’t be there, which results in the pages being indexed. For example, you don’t want to include a thank you page containing a download link in Google’s search index so people can download your asset without filling out the information you are looking for (i.e. email address, name, etc.). XML sitemaps are an important part of any website, and auditing the pages included should be done continually.

#5 – Site Speed – Your website needs to be as fast as an Olympic sprinter

By completing the first four items that I have covered you are already making it much easier for search engines to uncover your content. To make your website perform even better it is time to address any site speed issues to make your great content load quickly for your readers. Faster websites help provide a better user experience and can lead to better performance for organic traffic. Google and other search engines are focusing more on providing websites that can load fast. It is especially important if you are running an eCommerce website, as a slower website can lead to lower sales/revenue.

Common ways to increase website speed for pages include:

  • enabling compression
  • minifying CSS, JavaScript, and HTML
  • leveraging browser caching
  • optimizing images

There are multiple other areas to focus on to improve website speed, but I recommend starting with the areas that can be easily implemented. Addressing your website speed is a little more technical than the other issues in a technical SEO audit, so work with your developer to solve any site load issues. Making your website load quickly will help your content be found easier and offers a great user experience.

Why is a Technical SEO Audit Important?

A technical SEO audit can help outline key issues that are holding a website back. Although there are many items to check while conducting an audit, the most important part is prioritizing each issue to align with company goals and how quick the impact will be once implemented. Each website will prioritize issues differently to achieve results fast especially since some tasks will require more resources.

If you need help running a technical audit on your website, contact us for a free consultation.

Header image via Shutterstock


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Customer Co-Production: How one furniture company tested self-assembly messaging to enhance value and reduce frustration

Self-service and customer co-production of products is everywhere — customers assemble furniture themselves, follow directions on food packages to prepare meals, scan their own groceries at supermarkets and use online banking. Despite its price-lowering and customization value, co-production has a dark side, requiring effort and time from the customer and potentially causing frustration. Today, we’ll look at a study from the furniture industry comparing the effects of two marketing communication strategies to mitigate customer frustration with the co-production process.

The Study

In November 2015, Till Haumann, Pascal Grϋntϋrkϋn, Laura Marie Schons and Jan Wieseke from the Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany published the results of a field experiment with a multinational furniture company. The company sells furniture that requires co-production from the customer or, in other words, standardized, ready-to-assemble furniture that customers purchase in flat packages and assemble at home.

Depending on customers’ assembly skills, the process can be frustrating to a degree. So the scientists set out to test two ways of alleviating customers’ frustrations with the process (“co-production intensity”) by (1) enhancing the perceived value of the process and (2) reducing the perceived effort and time required in the process.

Method

The study authors asked 803 self-assembly furniture customers to fill in two Web-based surveys. Customers were assigned to experimental and control groups. Participants in the control group were not exposed to any posters, while participants in the experimental group were exposed to one of the two types of company advertising poster messaging:

  • Value-enhancing communication strategy
    • Economic value messaging: The effort the customer invests in assembly allows the company to offer lower prices
    • Relational value messaging: Assembly can be a fun, social activity involving friends or family
  • Intensity-reducing communication strategy
    • Support service messaging: Company provides a support hotline customers can call if they encounter issues with assembly
    • Full-service messaging: Company provides help through reputable, reasonably priced service partner that assembles the product for customers

The researchers asked customers about the message of the poster, to make sure they understood it.

The first survey asked participants about their general attitude toward assembling furniture and demographic information. Participants who purchased and assembled a piece of furniture after the first survey then filled out a second survey, asking about their satisfaction with the process.

 

Results

Haumann and colleagues found, as expected, that the more customers felt like assembling the product was effortful, exhausting, demanding, time-consuming and costly in terms of time and effort, the less they were satisfied with the co-production process.

However, customers who viewed economic and relational value-enhancing posters conveying the messages that self-service assembly allows the company to provide lower prices, and that assembly can be fun if shared with family or friends, felt more satisfied with the assembly process, compared to customers in the control group who didn’t view any posters.

Similarly, customers who viewed the intensity-reducing support service poster were more satisfied with the assembly process compared to customers in the control group who didn’t view any posters.

The intensity-reducing full-service offer poster did not have a significant effect on customer satisfaction, possibly because using this offer would involve additional cost for the customer.

Summary

Asking customers to engage in co-production can be risky. Customers can perceive co-production as costly in terms of time and effort, and this reduces their satisfaction. However, marketers can use value-enhancing and intensity-reducing communication strategies to increase customer satisfaction with co-production.

Marketers can communicate the economic (price-lowering) and relational (socializing) benefits of co-production to increase customer satisfaction. Communicating that customers can call a support helpline if they experience difficulties also increases customer satisfaction with co-production.

You might also like

Engaging Customers in Coproduction Processes: How Value-Enhancing and Intensity-Reducing Communication Strategies Mitigate the Negative Effects of Coproduction Intensity (from the American Marketing Association)

The Baskerville Experiment: Font and its influence on our perception of truth

Co-creation: The next realization of value-based marketing

Ways of Engaging Consumers in Co-production (By Michael Etgar, Technology Innovation Management Review) 

Lead Nurturing: Content-focused strategy leads to 74% lift in leads for Precor

One of the most useful tools in the marketer’s workshop is content marketing. If utilized well, this strategy can turn even casual site visitors into potential prospects. However, how do you ensure that the right content makes its way in front of the right audience? That was one of the challenges Stephen Bruner, Marketing Manager, Vertical Markets, Precor, faced when he and his team sought to overhaul Precor’s nurture strategy and email tools.

Precor is a manufacturer of fitness equipment and caters to a global audience. It’s also the second largest industry manufacturer in the United States. The brand is owned by the multi-million dollar company Amer Sports, which is based in Finland.

During his presentation at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Bruner presented on how he and his team combined the lead nurture cycle with the CRM (customer relationship management), implemented a marketing automation effort and better utilized content marketing to reach the right audience. According to Stephen, content is an essential tool for lead nurturing.

“So this is my favorite part, right? Which is once we have the delivery mechanism, we’ve got the dynamic layer, then it comes to how do we nurture them and what do we do?” he said.

Stephen broke the buyer’s funnel down into four parts and listed the content Precor implemented at each step:

  • Top of the funnel: Buyer’s guide and infographics
  • Middle: Whitepapers (research)
  • Low: Service level interaction
  • Client: Customer service information

According to Stephen, “We wanted to put the customer’s interest first and say, ‘Let’s not confuse the customer. Let’s make sure that … during this period of time where the customer is an opportunity within our CRM system that they can have a one-on-one conversation with Sales.’”

“Once the sale closes, then we start the process over again,” he said.

By developing and utilizing this content, strategically suppressing potential buyers from receiving new marketing communication once they enter the quoting process and using strategic times, such as installation dates and known reorder dates, to restart the communication cycle with the customer, the Precor team has achieved some impressive results, including:

  • 74% increase in raw leads (by integrating behavioral approaches)
  • 3x the engagement from the previous year
  • 67% increase in MQL to SQL velocity

Watch the below video excerpt from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to learn how Stephen refined Precor’s lead nurturing process using content as well as the challenges behind this effort.

You might also like

MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — Reserve your seat today

Gain access to 14 free sessions from MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015

B2B Marketing: 74% lift in leads from email segmentation, content marketing and tool consolidation [MarketingSherpa full session replay]

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015: Top takeaways and strategies from experts and marketers in the field [MarketingSherpa article]

The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation: MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 replay [From the MarketingSherpa blog]

Essential Skills for Modern Marketers

Modern Marketing Skills

Recently I gave a goals, vision, mission presentation internally at our agency and an important part of it centered around the marketing skills needed individually and collectively to reach our goals.

The basic analysis of the published skills of our own team in preparation for my presentation revealed we have a collective 700+ skills listed across nearly 30 marketers. While that is quite a robust array of skills, it is my belief that we can always do better.

The fast pace and changing nature of our industry is not for the faint of heart or for those that subscribe to mediocrity. What seemed advanced in marketing skills a few years ago has become 101 level today.

In fact, a lot of digital marketing is becoming commoditized with experienced practitioners having access to pretty much the same blogs, conferences and training, professional networks, tools and resources. The cost to access some of these resources is a factor, but the ability to plan and execute is an even greater differentiator.

Executing marketing at a competitive level means skills that operate at a high level. What are those skills? What differentiates high performing marketers? What are the differences between client side marketing skills and the skills marketing consultants should have?

For marketing consultants, it’s essential to have the right strategic and tactical skills, but soft skills really make the difference in level of service delivered:

  1. Speak Agency and Client
  2. Goals Focused
  3. Understand Strategy vs. Tactics
  4. Ability to Listen and Empathize
  5. Skilled at Prioritization and Delegation
  6. Ability to Work With Cross-Functional Teams
  7. Professionalism
  8. Effectively Communicate Good News and Bad

Tactical Marketing Skills: I’ve talked a lot at conferences about necessary skills for modern marketers that want to make the most out of the rising tide in content marketing. This is especially a focus as disciplines converge between PR and Marketing, SEO and Social, Content and Advertising.

Digital Marketing Skills

There will always be a need for strategic generalists and tactical specialists when it comes to marketing skills. From the ability to dig through customer data to identify segments to creating integrated, multi-channel content programs to ongoing performance measurement and optimization, I think the bar is higher for what constitutes essential content marketing skills.

Of course, while content is the kingdom in marketing, there are many other channels and areas of focus from the skills needed for the various marketing technologies and growing areas like predictive analytics to specific channels like mobile.

3.1 million marketers LinkedIn

LinkedIn (client) recently published the results of a new study “What LinkedIn Data Reveals About Modern Marketers” that offers a number of interesting insights about the stated and in-demand skills for modern marketers.

It turns out there’s quite a difference between the most often stated skills and the skills that are in demand by companies hiring marketers:

The five most common skills lists by marketers in 2015 in their LinkedIn profiles are:

  1. Social Media Marketing
  2. Digital & Online Marketing / Strategy
  3. Marketing Event Management
  4. Market Research & Insights
  5. Database and Direct Marketing

The top five skills that are currently most in-demand are:

  1. SEO/SEM Marketing
  2. Digital & Online Marketing
  3. Marketing Campaign Management
  4. Channel Marketing
  5. Marketing Demand Generation

I think it’s generally true that most people over-index on “social media” skills since so many people who use social networks consider that as qualification as the ability to market on social networks. What’s remarkable to me is that SEO isn’t anywhere in the top 5 of stated skills, yet it’s the number one skill in demand.

Whether you agree with the specific marketing skills needed or not, there’s no arguing that attention to individual and the collective skills of your marketing organization (internal or agency) need to be optimized on an ongoing basis.

At TopRank Marketing, we’re assessing our collective skills from a variety of fronts from surveys and interviews to program performance reviews to comparisons with research from what LinkedIn recently published. But especially, we’re looking at the common sense insights that come from a focus on continuous improvement.

What top marketing skills would you add to the list above? What key skills do you think are needed to succeed in 2016?


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Essential Skills for Modern Marketers | http://www.toprankblog.com

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