SEO basics: How to use social media

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

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3 Proven Book Marketing Tactics that You Should Probably Avoid

Andrew Raynor

You finally emerge from the dark jungle of self-doubt and the tangled undergrowth of self-loathing that is the typical interior landscape of writing your book (it’s not just me, surely?)

Congratulations! Your “pub date” is inked on to the calendar and it’s exciting to think of this artifact, crafted in the smithy of your soul, out in the world at last.

Until you realized what you’ve always known. Creating the book is easy compared to figuring out how to market and sell the thing.

3 Proven Book Marketing Tactics that You Should Probably Avoid

The rule of thumb I’ve heard is that 93% of books sell less than 1,000 copies. As I first heard those numbers more than five years ago and before the advent of dead-easy self-publishing, they may be overly optimistic.

Now, there are plenty of guides to help you prepare for this second stage. Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl are a dynamic duo. Michael Hyatt. Ryan Holiday. These are all people with the scars of success and failure whose stories are worth listening to. I’ve had some success too. My most recent book, self-published, sold over 180,000 copies in its first year, and a previous book, published by a New York publisher, has sold about 90,000 copies.

But as you consider what to do, it’s useful to consider what you won’t do as well. As I planned the campaign to make The Coaching Habit successful, there were three well-known tactics that I took off the table.

Why? Because when I admitted the truth to myself, I could see that pursuing them was magical thinking, the fantasy that somehow my book would be recognized, plucked from obscurity, and elevated to best-seller status.

Crossing these off my list, help me roll up my sleeves and get down to the hard work of making the tactics I could control have as much impact as possible.

Here are those three tactics (plus one other that might make you smile), so you can weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

1. The bestseller-list hack

Who doesn’t want “New York Times bestseller” splashed across their book’s cover? I certainly do. (So did Jeff.) But it’s not easy to achieve. The rule of thumb, at least for adult nonfiction books like mine, is that you need to sell 10,000 copies a week for two weeks, but — and here’s the twist — you also need to sell them through the right channels.

No one is entirely sure what those channels are (it’s not ebooks; it is certain mysterious bookstores). So while most of us like to think of the NYT bestseller list as a scientific calculation, it’s actually a bit of an art.

Now, this ranking on the NYT list is an almost impossible task if you’re not famous, or don’t have a big crowd at your back or a mega–TED Talk. But it is something you can buy if you know how. For a certain amount of money — it’s either high five figures or, more likely, low six — you can find a partner to facilitate copies of your books being sold through those NYT channels.

Is that ethical? It’s much debated among authors I know. There are some authors who are just making sure that real books that are really sold get counted towards the list, which seems OK. And then there are others who buy their own books and then get them counted, which doesn’t. (Here’s an in-depth article, if you’re curious.)

Anyway, I knew from the start this wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. For one reason, I’m keeping that $150,000 stacked in used twenty-dollar bills in my air-conditioning vents for something else. And, in all seriousness, I got clear that the goal was for this book to be considered a “coaching classic”, which meant I was playing a long game.

A week on a bestseller list wasn’t nearly as important as a commitment to keeping the book alive and important for at least five years. I bet that this long-term mindset (and willingness to invest over that time) was going to pay a better return.

Ironically and delightfully, I accidentally made it on to a list after all. The book spent one week on a Wall Street Journal list (#3 business ebook!) after we ran a BookBub campaign that managed to shift about 7,000 ebooks in a week.

2. The Burchard giveaway

Brendon Burchard is masterful at writing successful books. His books all end up on the NYT best-seller list, and he’s done a brilliant job at leveraging that fame for on-going success.

I’ve looked at what he does, and while I’m only guessing here, I think the essential parts of his book launch system are —

  • Building a huge and loyal list over multiple years.
  • Building long-term partnerships with others who’ve done the same (such as Jeff Walker). They cross-promote each other’s programs, and grow their lists (and sales) from these “Super Affiliates”.
  • Giving his book away for free + shipping and handling (about $7, so they’re sold at a loss, but not a huge loss) and adding the recipients to his mailing list.
  • Channelling these book sales through some sort of system, perhaps like the bestseller hack mentioned above, so the book hits the NYT list.
  • Having a wide range of programs to upsell to the people on his mailing list, so the book acts as a loss leader or at least a small signal of commitment and engagement. These programs also offer affiliate payments to his partners, so there’s the potential financial upside to promoting the original book.

It’s impressive. And even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have pulled it off. I didn’t have the size of a list (ah, it’s always about the size), nor did I have a post-book upsell to offer to help my partners make some “real money.”

But even if this is beyond you, it’s worth seeing the genius in the system that Burchard’s built. Each book has credibility, and provides an easy and safe way onto his mailing list. He knows that the big win is not the book sale but having that person become a regular customer of his programs.

As you think about your book, it’s worth defining what role it plays in your business model. It’s almost guaranteed not to be a big “revenue source” on its own. So how does your book provide an introduction to the real way you make your money?

3. The Tim Ferriss blessing

In the good old days, you dreamed of being summoned by Oprah to come talk about your book. With the Oprah aura (or so the fantasy went), your book would surge to the top of every bestseller list.

For nonfiction books, Tim Ferriss is the new Oprah. Through his blog, his email list and his lengthy yet excellent podcast interviews, Tim has the eyes and ears of a huge fan base. One interview has helped a book hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. One tweet has helped a certain brand of sardines disappear from shelves. (It’s all laid out here.)

I haven’t used this strategy mostly because I haven’t found a way (yet) to get Tim’s attention. Only a personal introduction will do it with Tim, of course, and that still may not be enough: I’m sure the man is besieged with introductions from people he both knows and trusts.

I’ve not abandoned this one. But it’s a little like the Queen of the Andes plant, which only blossoms once in a hundred years. I’m keeping my eye on the opportunity. Who knows, something may happen and I may get a text from Tim saying “let’s talk.” But I’m assuming not, and I’m wasting no time hoping this will somehow happen.

4. The most expensive book in the world

So here’s the bonus, non-obvious idea. And you need to know, I really REALLY liked this idea. Inspired by British artist Damien Hirst and by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, I thought I’d create the most expensive business book ever. A cover encrusted with diamonds à la For the Love of God. Pages handwritten on vellum by a calligraphy master. Presented in a box made of gold or perhaps of beautifully carved wood. Only one made, à la The Wu — Once upon a Time in Shaolin.

I wasn’t entirely sure how production would go. I think I’d have put it out as part of a Kickstarter campaign for a million dollars — or maybe two — and created only if someone actually bought it.

And think of the press!

My team put the kibosh on the idea. It was, they rightly pointed out, against our core values of Elegance and Tread Lightly. It was a vanity project. It was ridiculous. That said, Marlene, my awesome assistant, did make me a couple of bedazzled versions to help me feel better about it all.

bedazzled book marketing

But the lesson to take from this isn’t about being pro- or anti-bling. It’s about thinking about the marketing of the book right from the start. Rest assured, no-one and I mean NO-ONE cares about a press release saying your book has appeared on the planet. If you want press, you need to find a story. You need to rise about the noise and provide something that grabs their attention. Be funny. Be different. Be controversial.

Whatever your idea, you should probably expect it to fail. Almost nothing catches on. But occasionally it does. Scott Stratten is a guy to watch here. He’s launched a number of memes that have taken off, from this video to this story to the quoted-by-and-now-attributed-to-Brené Brown “Jackass Whisperer”.

How long is a piece of string?

There are an endless number of ways to market in your book. When you’re not sure, when you’re feeling vulnerable, when you’re feeling a little desperate, they can all sound good.

Strategy, in its essence, is taking a deep breath and saying Yes to a few things and in doing so, saying No to many things.

My wish for you: the courage to boldly pick a few marketing tactics and do them deeply, fully, madly. You of course will be taking your best guess at what works, and not all of it will. But don’t try and do everything. And start by crossing these tactics off your list.

What book are you working on? Which book marketing strategies interest you the most? Share in the comments

Andrew Raynor

Social buttons: How to add and track them on your site

Andrew Raynor

 

 

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post we’ll explain how we’ve done this at Yoast and will give you some pointers on how to get started.

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What are social buttons?

For those that don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. This is great for gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

At Yoast, our social buttons look as follow:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how these buttons were implemented. Your initial thought might be that this was added with some kind of plugin. However, at Yoast we decided to add it to our theme. This gives us extra control in how we style and display things. Of course we could have decided to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal for us.

We’ve decided to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way we can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how we implemented a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with psuedo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';

$title = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
$og_image = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.

$images   = $og_image->get_images();
$url = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
$url .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
$url .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
$url .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
$url .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
echo esc_attr( $url );
}
?>
<div id="social-share">
<div class="socialbox">
<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share" href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>">
<i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i>
</a>
</div>
</div>

The above code could be used in a similar fashion for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise you look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons in your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better.
At Yoast, we use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of the social media sharing is done correctly so we can easily see what social media platforms are popular among our readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) {
	$( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) {
		e.preventDefault();
		
		if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) {
			__gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) );
		}
	});	
});

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The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information we passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows us to easily extend the social-share div and add more buttons.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Contact page examples: What makes a great contact page?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

In this post, we’ll go over a number of contact page examples, so you’ll be able to review your own contact page and improve it. For a lot of companies, that contact page is the main reason they have a website in the first place. For others, the contact page filters or manages all incoming contact requests. The right information on these contact pages, combined with for instance a map or images, really improves user experience. And that way you can even use your contact page to improve the overall SEO of your website.

Please understand that there is more than one way to look at a contact page. Some websites use it to direct customers to their customer service, others fill their contact page with call-to-actions and direct visitors to their sales team. Small businesses will use their contact page to direct people to their store or office. What works for others, might not work for your contact page. It highly depends on what kind of business you have. Go read and decide for yourself what improves your contact page!

Essential elements of your contact page

Think about what you are looking for when visiting a contact page on any website. I for one, am not a big fan of phone calls, so I’d rather email a company. Saves time, and it’s less intrusive. Personally, I prefer a contact form on some occasions and an actual email address on others. So I’d advise to provide both. Let’s look at all the essentials:

  • Company name.
  • Company address.
  • General company phone number.
  • General company email address.
  • Contact form.

Multiple departments

If you have more than one department that can be reached by phone or email, list all. Add a clear heading and the details of how that department can be contacted. An example: universities and hospitals usually have separate departments for students, patients, press, business opportunities and more. Youtube has a variety of departments/directions to point you to on their contact page. Obviously, these departments should only be listed if their details should be available for everyone visiting that website.

This article is about great contact page examples, but I came across this one that I really have to mention. EY.com has a great contact page example of how I would not approach this:

Contact page ey.com

Apart from the design of that contact page, the thing I like the least is the fact that I’m not sure what will happen after clicking ‘webmaster’ or ‘global ey.com team’. One would expect a page with more info, but in fact, it opens a pop-up screen with a contact form. It would be so much more convenient to have a contact form right on that page, with an option to choose between technical issues or general inquiries. That can be done by using radio buttons or a select box, for instance. That way, one topic is chosen before sending the form.

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Multiple locations

If you have multiple locations, list all address details (NAP plus email) for every one of those locations. But please make sure to highlight your headquarters one way or the other. Let’s check out a couple of contact page examples that have multiple locations:

  • PwC Australia lists all of their locations on one page but I really have no clue what their main location is.
  • Arcadis does a much better job with a nicely designed contact page, stating the main contact details, personalized details per department and a nice country selector to get you to the nearest location.
  • The US Chamber of Commerce lists one main address and a link to a separate page with all the locations. Makes sense, and provides a focused user experience.

Did you also notice the bottom section of that US Chamber of Commerce page? Even if you can’t find what you are looking for, this section about where to find more information helps you to find what you are looking for. It might even reduce the number of emails in the process.

These are the bare necessities. What else can we do to make that contact page awesome for visitors and Google?

Spice up your contact page

Contact pages that list the bare necessities are dull. And there is so much more you can do to spice up that contact page!

Why and when should I contact you?

It sounds so obvious, but you actually might want to tell your visitors why and when they should or shouldn’t contact you. It pays off to create a safe environment, to assure people you have no annoying holding tunes, that you’ll connect them with a human being from minute one, or simply that you won’t be taking calls after 2PM for whatever reason.

By explaining a bit more about your contact policies, you a) add text to an otherwise dull page and b) are able to manage expectations. Hubspot pointed me to this nice contact page example that does this very well: the contact page of ChoiceScreening.

An awesome call-to-action

Add a great call-to-action to your contact page. That could be a button at the bottom of your contact form, but also a phone number that is displayed in a prominent spot. Just make sure it’s immediately clear what you want your visitor to do on that contact page. Pick your preferred contact method.

There are plenty of contact page examples that have done their call-to-action right. I’d like to mention for instance Jetblue:

Contact page examples: Jetblue

Before showing you their contact details (you can scroll down for these options) they try to answer your question on their website already. It’s very clear that they want you to check for yourself first, hence the large “Select a topic & Get answers”-option. It’s a common practice for a contact page, which undoubtedly saves time for your business.

Macy’s clearly wants you to call them, judging from the box on the right of their contact page. Nestlé gives you a number of options to choose from, being FAQ, Call, and Social Media. I like that as well, although there is no one call-to-action standing out from the rest, so I’m not sure what will work best. But it is definitely better that the lack of a call-to-action on the ABN AMRO contact page.

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Social accounts

For the fifth time in two weeks, my newspaper was late. It has been stormy, which could be the reason for the first four delays. Today is a beautiful day, so the delay makes no sense. I contacted my newspaper via a direct message on Twitter and got an ETA for the newspaper within 5 minutes. Social media is a very common way to stay in touch with (potential) customers and some customer services have made an art out of helping customers that way.

Contact page examples: social at GarminBe sure to list your active social networks on your website. And make sure to respond to any (serious) mention of your company or direct message you receive. I already mentioned Nestlé. Garmin adds a nice little block (see image) to their contact page, and Hootsuite has a nice section on theirs that contains all their social networks. I like how they emphasize the option to use these to get in contact with them.

A map and directions

A map isn’t a necessary element for every contact page, but hey, it looks nice and gives your visitor an idea of where you are situated. If your company has multiple locations, it provides a nice overview of your (global) reach and will tell the visitor if there is a location nearby.

If you have a business where customers come into your office, shop or whatever to do business or purchase products, directions do come in handy. Scribd has this incorporated in Google Maps. Gladstone added a small map in the sidebar and wrote instructions from multiple directions on their contact page, much like Gettysburg Seminary has. You can automate a lot of this if you are on WordPress. Our Local SEO for WordPress plugin allows you to add a directions option right on your contact page. It allows you to add a map with your location and a handy option to show the directions from the address the visitor is right now. If you have customers coming to your store/business, I would add directions that way.

Your staff and your business

Present your friendly staff on your contact page, or at least the ones people will reach when calling, tweeting or emailing your company. Your board of directors is also an option. You don’t have to clutter the page will images like the Tilburg University does (although they do have filter options). And I certainly wouldn’t use crappy photos like RoyalHaskoningDHV, even though I like the rest of that page. But a couple of nice photos like Peninsula Air Conditioning has, is welcoming, right? By the way, how do you like that phone number in the header?

If you frequently have people come into your office or store, add an image of your building. That way people will immediately recognize your business when they drive up to it. DSM has a nice example of that on their contact page. As a cherry on the cake, I recommend adding a nice video presentation of your company to your contact page, like Blackstone has.

A lot to digest, right? And you thought just listing your address and email would suffice. Think again. If you have a business that depends on people contacting you, be sure to pick any of the additions listed above to improve the user / customer experience of your contact page. I hope the contact page examples we mentioned will help you improve your contact page as well!

Read more: ‘Local SEO: setting up landing pages’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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147: Spike Your Creativity by Sleeping Smarter: Interview with Shawn Stevenson

Andrew Raynor

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a badge of honor worn proudly by those who embrace a “hustle” mentality. But the irony is this way of life will actually kill you. And when you’re dead, you’re not sleeping. You’re not creating, either.

147: How to Spike Your Creative Output: Interview with Shawn Stevenson

For whatever reason, we creatives have a tendency to sacrifice sleep at the altar of our work before anything else. God forbid we binge-watch Netflix less or stop bringing our smartphones to bed. The trouble is we’re doing more harm than we realize to both our health and creativity by burning the candle at both ends.

This week’s guest on The Portfolio Life is a bestselling author, sleep expert, popular podcast host, and fitness authority, Shawn Stevenson. Shawn and I recently spent a week together at a speaking gig in the Philippines, and I can tell you he is the real deal.

Listen in as we talk about the drastic effect of one day of sleep deprivation, common sleep myths, and how you can hack your health to perform at a higher creative level.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Shawn and I discuss:

  • Why the quality of your sleep matters more than the quantity
  • The optimal time to stop consuming caffeine
  • Combatting the norm of perpetual exhaustion as a badge of honor
  • The truth behind your genes
  • How Shawn went from NFL level speed to the spine of an 80-year-old in high school
  • Why deciding to get well is a crucial step in your health
  • 3 pillars of changing your life from the inside out
  • How the time of day (or night) impacts your dietary choices
  • Creating a culture in your home of honoring sleep
  • Why you can’t pay back a sleep debt
  • The “Money Time” sleep window

Quotes and takeaways

  • “If sleep is for suckers, I’m a lollipop.” –Shawn Stevenson
  • The assimilation of nutrients is magnified by movement.
  • “There’s a difference between doing work and actually being effective.” –Shawn Stevenson
  • We are 60% more reactive to negative stimuli when sleep deprived.
  • A great night of sleep starts the moment you wake up in the morning.
  • Create a bedtime ritual for yourself, not just your kids.
  • Fix your gut to fix your sleep.

Resources

Do you get enough sleep? How would you rate your sleep quality? What do you want to change about your sleep? Share in the comments

Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript.

Andrew Raynor

Yoast SEO 4.5: update your PHP version

Andrew Raynor

 

 

This is a rather special release, as it’s a project that’s close to my heart. It’s not a full-featured release, however, it is just necessary as a regular release. In Yoast SEO 4.5, we are urging site owners whose sites run on servers with an outdated version of PHP to update to a more recent version. To move the web forward, we need to take a stand against old, slow and unsafe software. Updating to PHP 7 will give your site an enormous speed boost. In this post, you’ll find out why we’re showing this notice in WordPress and what you can do to upgrade PHP.

Please read this post to get the complete picture of this move »

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Why this move?

WordPress is built on PHP. This programming language takes care of the heavy lifting for the CMS. WordPress was always built with backward compatibility in mind, but we’ve reached a point where that’s just not feasible anymore. WordPress needs a minimum of PHP5.2 to function, but that version will not get updates, fixes or patches. This makes it inherently insecure. If you are on an old version, Yoast SEO 4.5 will show you a message in the backend. Please update to at least 5.6, but rather PHP 7 to take advantage of all the awesomeness of this new version. Not just for you as a user, but for developers as well.

The why is three-pronged: security, speed, and future-proofing. PHP 5.2 hasn’t been updated for years and has serious issues. PHP 7 is lightning fast, up to 400% faster than 5.2. You might even regard this as a green move; you can use 50% fewer servers to get the same results from PHP 7. Last but not least, developers can finally use all the modern technologies to bring WordPress to the next level.

We understand this move might be annoying for some, but it is necessary to speed up the development of the web and to bring it some must needed security. That being said, updating your PHP version is rather easy.

How can I update my PHP version?

How to update your PHP version depends on your host. Most hosts have an article on their site explaining how to update PHP yourself. Here’s the one from SiteGround, or WP Engine. Go to your hosts’ website to find out more on how to go about this. If you can’t find the information you need, please contact your web host. We have made an example email that you can edit and send to your hosting company.

Don’t forget to backup your site before doing any major changes!

And how do I choose a different hosting company?

It might be entirely possible that your host is not willing to work with you. Maybe you just don’t feel valued at your current host or it could be that their future plans don’t fit yours. If so, think about moving web hosts. A web host provides the engine your site runs on and that better be a damn good engine. To help you with your quest for a well-regarded and forward-thinking web host, we’ve compiled a list of hosting services that got the Yoast stamp of approval.

Read more: ‘Whipping your hosting into shape’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Ask Yoast: One or multiple domains for campaigns?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

You might have a lot of small sites which are topically related to each other. If you want to get more traffic to these sites, how do you achieve this? Do you have to bundle those sites to gain more traffic? And, what’s best for SEO when you want to run a new campaign? Set up a new domain for each site? Or add it as a subdomain to an existing site? Joost helps you out with these questions in this Ask Yoast.

We received a question for this Ask Yoast from Roger da Costa out of New York City:

“We run various sites focusing on public health issues. And we now want to bundle campaign sites that get little traffic under the organizations’ domain to improve SEO. Is this a good idea?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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One domain or multiple domains?

What to do when you run multiple campaigns? Choose one main domain or use a single one for every campaign? Check out the video or read the answer below!

Yes. Usually when you have a lot of small sites, consolidating them into one bare one is a good idea. Because it actually makes it easier for people to click around, to get more engagement with your site and you’ll have more links pointing at one domain, instead of a lot of links pointing at all the separate domains.

So, yes, I would do that. And if you build new campaign sites, try to build them as a sub-directory on your main site, instead of setting up a new domain for everything. Because a new domain for everything, really means that you’re starting fresh with Google all the time and that’s just a waste of your efforts on SEO.

Good luck!

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘What to do if the traffic on your blog is decreasing?’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Is Your Idea Any Good? Here’s How to Tell…

Andrew Raynor

How do you know if something is a good idea? Do you trust your gut? Ask other people? When is the right time to go all in a creative endeavor?

Is This a Good Idea? Here's How to Tell...

For the longest time, I misunderstood how this worked. I thought brilliance was a crapshoot. You either got lucky or you didn’t.

I figured it was a product of throwing as many things against the wall as possible and just seeing what stuck. And I assumed the best thing for me to do — if I wanted to come up with some brilliant idea — was to keep “throwing” things.

Certainly, there is some truth to this. Edison apparently came up with a thousand ways to make a filament lightbulb before he found one that worked. Master artists, on average, often spend over ten years practicing their craft before they have anything significant to contribute to the world.

We know that genius takes time and lots of tries. But is that all there is to it?

Hustle smarter

The truth is ideation is not just about attempts. It’s also about process.

I see this often with writers and creatives who just keep trying. They’re waiting for their break, pounding the pavement, hoping the hustle will pay off. But hear my loud and clear on this: There is smart hustle. And there is stupid hustle.

Stupid hustle says “keep trying, and some day all your hard work will pay off.” It tells you that it’s their fault for not understanding how good you are and to just keep going for it.

This is the American Dream, the story we think is the success of every great artist, entrepreneur, and athlete.

But that’s not the whole story.

Smart hustle isn’t just about trying stuff until something works. It’s about intelligent trial and error. It’s about taking feedback and using it to make your work better. To keep doing the things that work and quit the things that won’t.

As singer Colbie Caillat said when she was rejected by American Idol early on in her career, “They were right to reject me. I wasn’t that good.”

That rejection fueled Caillat’s drive. It made her better. Why? Because she didn’t just keep trying things the way she had been doing them before. She took the feedback, applied it to her craft, and found a way to succeed.

And if that’s what it takes for a platinum artist to succeed in the very competitive music industry, it’s probably not going to take anything less than that for you.

Quitters are winners

Seth Godin talks about this in his short but powerful book, The Dip, in which he debunks the common myth that “quitters never win.” That’s not true, he says:

“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.”

Quitters win all the time. Bill Gates quit. Steve Jobs quit.

Some of the world’s highest performers quit their way to success by discarding the things they weren’t good at or didn’t love so that they could do the one thing that they were the best in the world at.

And everyone, Seth says, has something that they can be best in the world at. You just have to quit your way to it.

So what does this look, exactly? How do you decide when something is a good idea and when something is a bad idea?

As I said, it’s a process.

Experiment-Chase-Program

Years ago, when I was a marketing director at a nonprofit, a friend gave me some great advice on this topic. He said, “Jeff, at our company, we never go all in on any single idea. We test it.”

“How?” I asked.

“Simple,” he said. “We call it experiment-chase-program. Before we spend a bunch of money on a new strategy or create a whole new division, we run an cost effective experiment. We set a goal and use limited resources to try to reach that goal. If it works, we move on to the ‘chase’ stage, which requires us to double down, spending some more money and time chasing this strategy. If we continue to see results, say over the course of a month or quarter maybe, we’ll move to ‘program.’ This is where turn this idea or strategy into some ongoing effort. We make it part of the business plan or marketing strategy. It gets a regular line item in the budget. Of course, we continue to measure how well it’s doing, but we realize at this stage there will be ups and downs, and so we evaluate on a less frequent basis. But if at any point, we think the program is no longer working, we go back to experimenting.”

Experiment. Chase. Program.

I love this because it applies to just about everything.

You’d never propose marriage on the first date. You’d go out once, and if it worked, you go out a bunch more times, even start “going steady” as the kids say. Eventually, you’d propose, and then get married.

Similarly, it wouldn’t be smart to quit your job the first day your blog blows up or you get a book contract. As you probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of this “take the leap” strategy and instead endorse a “build a bridge” approach. Take your time chasing a dream, and it will likely last a lot longer.

And so it is with your big idea, this book you want to write or the business you want to start. Don’t go all in until you do the following first:

1. Experiment

Before you write the book or launch the business, start small. Begin with a habit. Try doing it for half an hour to an hour every day for 30 days and see if you still like it. See if you even have the discipline to do it every day.

Author Shauna Niequist once told me early on in my writing journey, “Most people think they have a whole book on their computer, when in fact all they have is a chapter.” She was talking about herself, but she was, of course, talking about me, too.

If you’ve caught the writing bug, as was the case with me, consider starting a blog and writing on it once a week before you run off and try to write a book. If you can’t do it on a blog, you won’t be able to do it in a book.

Run an experiment. Set a timeline for it, have an intended outcome, and create some consequences for what happens if you hit your goal or don’t. If you don’t, you need to keep experimenting. If you do, move on to the next step.

2. Chase

Once you’ve seen some success and realize that this thing you want to do is more than just a good idea — it’s something you have to do — then it’s time to chase it down.

If you were writing for 30 minutes a day, now it’s time to start writing for two hours. It’s time to start marketing and maybe even selling something. If you did it for 30 days, now up the ante to 90 days.

Make everything harder and riskier to see if you continue to enjoy the process. See if the idea holds up to scrutiny to 100 strangers. Get people to read your work, critique your business idea, give you feedback on your form and technique.

This is how we get better. We have to invest more of ourselves into the process and figure out what we’re still doing wrong.

I applied this principle after seeing results of my efforts with this blog — people were subscribing — and so I decided to try to sell something after a year of maintaining that habit. It was still an experiment but one that was a little less of a pipe dream than “I want to write a book!”

I conducted a survey, asking my audience what content they wanted, and they said “blogging help” so I wrote a short, 10,000-word eBook in a couple of weeks and sold it. I said, “If it sells 100 copies, then I’ll keep doing this. If not, I’ll try to find another way to support my family.”

500 people bought that eBook in two days.

So, I kept going. I kept chasing. And a year later, that Big Moment finally came… two years into the process.

3. Program

At this point, you can go all in. You can quit your job or write that book or whatever. It doesn’t have to take two years, but it won’t happen all once, either. I quit my job after I’d run a number of experiments and chased the things that worked (books, courses, blogging) while quitting the things that didn’t (consulting, coaching, software). I found a way that worked for me and built a system around that.

I created a program.

This isn’t just about writing or quitting your job or any of that. It’s about how you take a big idea and turn it into something that just might work. It’s also a way to try just about anything without shooting down “bad ideas” or throwing away money and time at things that you think are good ideas that just don’t seem to pay off. The truth is, nobody knows if an idea is good or bad until it works or fails.

The other day one of our team members said, “Hey! How about we do THIS?”

I said, “Good idea. Let’s try it. But first, let’s experiment.”

Do you jump first and ask questions later? What’s your process for vetting new ideas? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

SEO basics: How to optimize a blog post?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Content writing should be a key element of every SEO strategy. How do you make sure your blog posts have the highest chance to rank well in Google? What are the successive steps you’ll need to take? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. How do you optimize a blog post?

Find that keyword

The very first step of every content SEO strategy should be keyword research. You should figure out for what search terms you want to be found. Figuring out the right keyword can be quite daunting though. You really have to get into the heads of your audience.

Read more: ‘Why every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research’ »

A word is not a topic, though. Besides a keyword (or keyphrase), you’ll need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more about that.

Yoast is most famous for the Yoast SEO plugin, of course. Our plugin will really help you in the optimizing process. The first step is to fill out the keyword you want your post to be found for (the focus keyword). After that, the plugin will give you feedback on how to improve the SEO of your blog post. It will, for instance, check your post for these things:

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Use that keyword

If you want to rank high for a certain term, you should definitely use that term quite often in your text. That way, Google will know that your text is about that specific keyword. But don’t overdo it. Google doesn’t like over-optimized text at all. A keyword density of 2 % ( in which one in fifty words is your keyword) is great. It’s best to create a text that’s rather lengthly, we recommend a text of at least 300 words. That way, you’ll be able to use your keyword quite a number of times.

Optimize your headings

Check if your focus keyword is in your headings. The title of your post is really important. You should definitely use your keyword there. Try to use your keyword in at least one of your subheadings as well.

How about that snippet?

The snippet is the thing Google shows in the search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your snippet: it shows you a preview of the snippet and allows you to easily edit the content. This is very important, as it’s the first thing your audience will read. So this piece of text will have to convince them to go to your site.

Unfortunately, we’re never sure whether Google will show that specific snippet. However, creating a kick-ass snippet preview should be part of your SEO strategy. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again!

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it’ »

Don’t forget: write an awesome post!

Optimizing your post for the search engines is something you should definitely do. But more importantly, you should make sure you write an awesome post. The topic of your post should be original, the message of your text should be appealing to your audience. On top of that, your text should be pleasant and not too difficult to read. Without making concessions to the readability of your post, you should use the tips described to optimize your blog post and make it stand out a little bit more!

Read on: ‘10 steps to an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

 

SEO New Hampshire

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Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics

Andrew Raynor

 

 

“I came, I puked, I left” is a very famous definition of the bounce rate by Avinash Kaushik. But what does it mean exactly? When does a visitor bounce? Is it purely a visitor that hits the back button or is there more to it? And what can you tell by looking at the bounce rate of a webpage? In this post I want to show you what it is, what it means and how you can improve your bounce rate. 

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What’s bounce rate?

Bounce rate is a metric that measures the percentage of people who land on your website, and do completely nothing on the page they entered. So they don’t click on a menu item, a ‘read more’ link, or any other internal links on the page. This means that the Google Analytics server doesn’t receive a trigger from the visitor. A user bounces when there has been no engagement with the landing page and the visit ends with a single-page visit. You can use bounce rate as a metric that indicates the quality of a webpage and/or the “quality” of your audience. Quality of your audience, in this case, means whether your audience fits the purpose of your site.

How does Google Analytics calculate bounce rate?

According to Google bounce rate is calculated in the following way:

Bounce rate is single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.

In other words, it collects all sessions where a visitor only visited one page and divides it by all the sessions.

Having a high bounce rate can mean three things:
1. The quality of the page is low. There’s nothing inviting to engage with.
2. Your audience doesn’t match the purpose of the page, as they won’t engage with your page.
3. Visitors have found the information that they were looking for. 

I’ll get back to the meaning of bounce rate further below!

Bounce rate and SEO

In this post, I’m talking about bounce rate in Google Analytics. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor, or not. In my opinion, I can hardly imagine that Google takes Google Analytics’ data as a ranking factor, because if Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly, then the data isn’t reliable. Moreover, you can easily manipulate the bounce rate.

Luckily, several Googlers say the same thing: Google doesn’t use Google Analytics’ data in their search algorithm. But, of course, you need to make sure that when people come from a search engine to your site, they don’t bounce back to the search results, since that kind of bouncing probably is a ranking factor. It might be measured in a different way though, than bounce rate in Google Analytics.

From a holistic SEO perspective, you need to optimize every aspect of your site. So looking closely at your bounce rate, can help you optimize your website even further, which contributes to your SEO.

What does the bounce rate mean?

The height of the bounce rate and whether that’s a good or a bad thing, really depends on the purpose of the page.

If the purpose of the page is to purely inform you, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing per se. Of course you’d like people to read more articles on your website, or subscribe to your newsletter and so on. But when they’ve only visited that page to read the post, then it isn’t surprising that they close the tab after they’re done reading. Mind you, also in this case, there’s no trigger sent to the Google Analytics server, thus it’s a bounce. A clever thing to do, when you own a blog, is creating a segment that only contains ‘New visitors’. If the bounce rate amongst new visitors is high, think about how you can improve their engagement with your site. Because you do want new visitors to engage with your site.

If the purpose of the page is to actively engage with your site, then a high bounce rate is a bad thing. Let’s say you have a page that has one goal: get visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. If that page has a high bounce rate, then you need to optimize the page itself. By adding a clear call-to-action, a ‘Subscribe to our newsletter’ button, for instance, you could lower that bounce rate. However, in case you’ve lured a visitor under false assumptions to your subscription page, you shouldn’t be surprised when a visitor doesn’t engage with your page. The user probably expected something else when landing on that page. On the other hand, if you’ve been very clear from the start with what you wanted from the visitor moving towards your subscription page, a low bounce rate could say something about the quality of the visitor and not per se about the quality of the page.

Bounce rate and conversion

If you look at bounce rate from a conversion perspective, then bounce rate can be used as a metric to measure success. For instance, let’s say you’ve changed the design of your page hoping that it will convert better, then keep an eye on the bounce rate of that page. If you’re seeing an increase in bounces, the change in design you’ve made might have been the wrong change and it could explain the low conversion rate you have. You could also check the bounce rate of your most popular pages. Which pages have a low and which pages have a high bounce rate? Compare the two, then learn from the pages with low bounce rates.

Another way of looking at your bounce rate and trying to decide the quality of visitors that come to your website, is from a traffic sources perspective. Which traffic sources lead to a high bounce rate? Your newsletter for instance? Or a referral website that sends a lot of traffic? Can you figure out what causes the high bounce rate? And if you’re running an AdWords campaign, you should keep an eye on the bounce rate of that traffic source as well. 

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Be careful with drawing conclusions though…

We’ve seen loads of clients with a bounce rate that was unnaturally low. All alarm bells should go off, especially if you don’t expect it, as that probably means that Google Analytics isn’t implemented correctly. There are several things that influence bounce rate, because they send a trigger to the Google Analytics server and Google Analytics falsely recognizes it as an engagement. Usually, an unnaturally low bounce rate is caused by an event that triggers the Google Analytics server. Think of pop-ups, auto-play of videos or an event you’ve implemented that fires after 1 second.

Of course, if you’ve created an event that tracks scrolling counts, then having a low bounce rate is a good thing. It shows that people actually scroll down the page and read your content.

How can you lower the bounce rate?

The only way of lowering your bounce rate is by amping up the engagement on your page. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at bounce rate. From a traffic perspective and from a page perspective.
If certain traffic sources have high bounce rates, then you need to look at the expectations of those visitors coming to your site. Let’s say you’re running an ad on another website, and most people coming to your site via that ad bounce, then you’re not making their wish come true. You’re not living up to their expectations. Review the ad you’re running and see if it matches the page you’re showing. If not, make sure the page is a logical follow-up of the ad or vice versa.

If your page lives up to the expectations of your visitors, and the page still has a high bounce rate, then you have to look at the page itself. How’s the usability of the page? Is there a call-to-action above the fold on the page? Do you have internal links that point to related pages or posts? Do you have a menu that’s easy to use? Does the page invite people to look further on your site? These are all things you need to consider when optimizing your page.

What’s this thing about exit rate?

The bounce rate is frequently mistaken for the exit rate. Literally, the exit rate is the percentage of pageviews that were last in the session. It says something about users deciding to end their session on your website on that particular page. Google’s support page gives some clear examples of the exit rates and bounce rates which makes the difference very clear. This comes directly from their page:

Monday: Page B > Page A > Page C > Exit
Tuesday: Page B > Exit
Wednesday: Page A > Page C > Page B > Exit
Thursday: Page C > Exit
Friday: Page B > Page C > Page A > Exit

The % Exit and Bounce Rate calculations are:

Exit Rate:
Page A: 33% (3 sessions included Page A, 1 session exited from Page A)
Page B: 50% (4 sessions included Page B, 2 sessions exited from Page B)
Page C: 50% (4 sessions included Page C, 2 sessions exited from Page C)

Bounce Rate:
Page A: 0% (one session began with Page A, but that was not a single-page session, so it has no Bounce Rate)
Page B: 33% (Bounce Rate is less than Exit Rate, because 3 sessions started with Page B, with one leading to a bounce)
Page C: 100% (one session started with Page C, and it lead to a bounce)

Conclusion

Bounce rate is a metric you can use to analyze your marketing efforts. You can use it to measure if you’re living up to your visitors’ expectations. And you can use the bounce rate to decide which pages need more attention. Meeting your visitors’ expectations and making your pages more inviting for visitors all leads to creating an awesome website. And we all know that awesome websites rank better!

Read more: ‘Creating segments in Google Analytics’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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