In many ways, Google has become the world’s hometown newspaper – a place where any interested user can go to access information and opinions most relevant to them. The first page of search results is the front page. Because of this opportunity to introduce interested users to their content, brands have focused on paid and organic search marketing to improve visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). Getting folks to your site, however, is only half of the challenge – you still need to ensure they feel engaged once they get there.
To maximize the quantity and quality of traffic to your brand’s website, follow these five steps for informing your content with data about public search trends and on-site user experience.
1. Define your brand’s core issues
Without focusing on your brand’s existing web content, think about which issues are at the heart of your brand’s identity. In order for your brand to achieve its desired outcomes, ask yourself which issues and messages are most important to communicate. After making a list of these key topics, take an inventory of your brand’s Web content, categorizing by your newly defined key issues. Do interior pages currently exist to support each of these issues? Have they been updated recently? If not, you will need to create or revise relevant content.
At this point, you can also use Google Insights to evaluate each issue’s “hotness” as demonstrated by public search behavior. Map all of your brand’s key issues into a SWOT analysis with absolute search volume on one axis and search volume growth on the other. Which issues present the greatest opportunities and which issues have low public search interest and zero growth? This public search data will later provide context to landing page performance. If a landing page for a “cold” issue is receiving low quantity but high quality traffic, it is probably performing as well as can be expected. On the other hand, if public interest in an issue is high but traffic quantity to its landing page is low, paid and organic search strategies for this landing page should be reconsidered.
2. Create your taxonomy
Google AdWords paid search campaigns can drive valuable traffic to your issue landing pages if you have built accurate, focused taxonomies – lists of search terms on which your paid search ads run – for each landing page. A quality landing page taxonomy is comprised of keywords that accurately describe page content and match how your target audience searches for that topic. When working with a brand day-in and day-out, it’s easy to forget how your audiences talk about and search for the key issues discussed on your landing pages. Keyword research can help bring you back to reality by filling gaps in your taxonomy and weeding out “dead” language that is not actually being used by searchers. Keyword research tools, like Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool, can also help to identify long-tail keywords, synonyms and closely-related terms that may be less commonly used in search queries, but attract the quality visitors you need to reach. These research tools are also helpful for identifying the “supporting cast” of keywords to incorporate into each landing page’s copy or meta tags.
3. Identify key metrics
How do you evaluate landing page performance? First, set up a Google Analytics account for your brand’s online content and explore the types of data available. Using Google Analytics to monitor traffic, navigation and conversion metrics for your key issue landing pages will allow you to draw conclusions about what content is attracting, engaging and resonating with visitors. It will also help to analyze what content needs to be revised or added.
Think critically about which types of data provide insights into the effectiveness of your content, learn the nuances of each metric and then use them to measure success. With so much data at your fingertips, you may be tempted to choose more than just a handful of Google Analytics metrics. Don’t fall into this trap! You will find yourself waist-deep in data, struggling to wade toward conclusions when the time comes to evaluate.
Instead, get down to what really matters – key metrics that include bounce rate (especially for an e-commerce site), time on page and pages viewed per visit. Once you have identified several metrics, take a look at how your landing pages are currently performing for each, develop realistic goals and establish a regular evaluation schedule. When running a paid search campaign, it’s also helpful to navigate to the “traffic sources” section of Google Analytics and see the top paid keywords that are driving traffic to your site. You can then look at the bounce rate, pages viewed per visit and time on page stats for the visits coming from each keyword to identify your highest quality keywords.
4. Monitor trends
Remember to update everything according to current trends. This applies to landing page content and paid search taxonomies – no matter how great they were six months ago, they’re probably in need of an update. Use Google Insights to visualize search patterns across different regions, categories and time frames. Is a certain issue or search term becoming more popular because of a recent event, and does this impact how you should target your brand’s search efforts? Twitter’s Trending Topics and CNN’s NewsPulse are other free tools that can give you an idea of what is becoming more important to audiences. With search engines now counting social signals in their ranking algorithms, sharing your content on social media platforms can boost its SERP ranking. What better way to encourage social sharing then by creating content with the latest trends in mind?
5. Discover what content works and fix what doesn’t
During each measurement period, make sure you analyze your Google Analytics data and put it to good use. Identify search landing pages that are not performing well according to your key metrics, and rethink the page’s content and/or its target keywords. Also, share the results of your data-mining with content creators and spokespeople so that they are implementing your keyword research and search trends into other communications materials. Informing content with data is a continuous process, so what are you waiting for? Get monitoring, analyzing and revising!
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