5 important trends for your online business

1. Google gets aggressive on mobile-unfriendly sites

Mobile, Tablet, and Smartphone traffic accounts for 30-50%+ of all search traffic for the majority of business websites, yet there are still a massive proportion of websites that give an unpleasant ‘mobile’ experience. Google has been hammering this message for over 2 years, and are finally getting aggressive. If your site does not pass their ‘mobile friendly test’ by 21 April 2015, then you can wave organic traffic goodbye and say hello to lost leads and sales.

Note: This is a low bar to cross, however if you want to maximise your mobile conversion potential you need to take a closer look at mobile experience across your site. Check out this video by Google: Design Principles for a Better Mobile Web.

Google loves quick load times too so don’t be surprised if the next thing they come down on are slow-loading sites. Here’s a good tool for speed-testing your site.

Tip: You can check your site’s mobile compatability using Google’s own tool.

2. Conversion rate serial killers

I cannot count the number of websites that have had their revenues slaughtered by web designers.

The problem is that most web designers don’t know what design is – all they think about is ‘how it looks’.

Steve Jobs said: “Design is not just what it looks and feels like, design is how it works”.

If your website is in the middle of, or about to be, redesigned, then you should make sure that an analytics tool (e.g. Google Analytics) is being used at least as much as Photoshop.

Some designers like to design for themselves, following the latest trend, creating sites that will look good in their portfolio, and worst of all they design on big desktops with ‘retina’ displays – a large proportion of customers are not using these, so oversized home page hero images and stylish grey-on-black-text only make the site harder to use, resulting in fewer sales.

If you are like most businesses then your website is there to make you money. That is a user experience (UX) question, and the answer to that question is in your data.

Tip: Take the time to look yourself and try and complete key functionality on at least the most popular web browsing devices: 24 inch desktop, 15 inch laptop, iPhone 5 & 6, Samsung Galaxy 5 & 6. Complete common tasks to double-check ease-of-use and functionality (e.g. buy something, find a phone number, send a contact form).

3. How new websites destroy SEO (search engine optimization)

It’s a sad story I hear all the time:

“Our company website was doing pretty well in Google, and getting us regular leads/sales, but our rankings have dropped, and the leads and sales slowed or stopped”

“Can you help us?”

“Let me ask you a question - did you get a new website recently?”

“Yes we did”

“Go back in time and make sure you choose a web developer or designer that has an idea about ‘SEO Transitions’ – and by ‘has an idea’ I mean has done them before”

What is an SEO Transition? It is pretty much what it says – you transfer the SEO from your existing site to the new site.

It is the analysis and mapping of your existing website URLs, links, rankings and other ranking factors, and ensuring that they (and the Google ranking ‘juice’ they hold) are transferred to the new site, allowing you keep your rankings you’ve worked so hard for.

This is tedious, time-consuming technical work – nothing like picking which image will be the hero of the front page, getting photos taken of the staff, or debating logo size and position. But this tedious time consuming technical work is what actually matters if you are invested in protecting your position in Google.

The good news is that there are tools that can help recover some of your lost juice, but the sooner you act the better.

Tip: if you are changing URLs on your site for any reason (old service or product lines being removed etc), then think about how you maintain any Google juice those pages have instead of throwing it away by just turning the pages off. This includes changing from ‘.co.nz’ to ‘.co’ or ‘.nz’ or ‘.kiwi’ – now you are dicing with your entire domain – that’s your whole reputation with Google at stake.

4. Social Media - Virile or Sterile, which are you?

How do you know if you are Socially Virile or Sterile? Engagement Metrics!

Take Facebook for instance: Would you rather have 10,000 Likes because you gave away an iPhone 6, but when you post something you only get a handful of Likes or Shares (Sterile)

Or have 1,000 Likes because you did the hard work of being interesting and relevant and useful to your target market, and when you post, people Like and Share your posts? (Virile)

People talk about ‘Virality’ – yes it is great to have stuff shared around, but to be ‘Viral’ you have to be ‘Virile’ defined as: “having or characterised by strength and energy.”

Remember, you get what you measure. If your digital marketing reports include Facebook Likes as a KPI then you need to make some changes to measure what really matters. Include Engagement metrics like average likes or shares for posts – there are plenty to choose from just make sure that together they drive you towards virility.

Tip: Facebook is changing its model of reach. This means that if you have tens of thousands of Likes but people are not interacting with your content, then Facebook sees your content as irrelevant and you don’t get featured on as many peoples’ feeds/walls. If you want your message to get out you can’t just post it and expect Facebook to publish it – you need your audience to truly Like you and want to spread your message for you. The moral of the story here is you don’t own your Facebook following so take that into consideration when planning spends.

5. Measuring things properly

There are a lot of things that feed into developing a great online presence.

You have to measure the right things – like website traffic, of course it is good to have more people on your site – but…

You have to measure it in the right way – for starters, by splitting it down into sources, mediums, and channels to compare it over time in relation to seasonality or key events.

You have to measure it with the right tools – using at least Google Analytics but preferably also a third-party SEO platform (not one your SEO company built or something free you found), as well as tools to allow you to gain specialised insights such as: a split testing tool, landing page tool, link analysis tool, heat and click mapping tool, and user session recording tool.

You have to analyse all your data with the right people – to get the best out of all of this information and to prioritise action, you either need a skilled and experienced internal team, or a trusted external consultancy that can run the tests, monitor all the tools, crunch the data, create priority lists, and teach your internal team so that you develop internal competency in the increasingly business-critical online space.

Tip: Implementation matters - I have never seen a Google Analytics implementation that wasn’t either collecting data incorrectly e.g. code in the wrong place, loaded twice, incorrectly configured, missing from pages, outdated, or simply not set-up beyond the absolute basics (not taking advantage of the extra customisations and filters that allow far better insight into customer behaviour). 80-90%+ of organic search engine traffic is now represented in Google Analytics as “(not provided)”, where it used to tell you what keywords people used to get to your website (resulting from a change in Google’s default search privacy options). It does not have to be that way – there are customisations you can milk for more useful information than “(not provided)”.