Chris Raines: Hey there. Welcome to Episode 48 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. My name is Chris. This is Michael.
Chris Raines: Michael, hey, how you doing man?
Michael Utley: Good.
Chris Raines: Today, we're talking about SEO Basics to Improve Website Usability, and Micheal, when we say usability and SEO, we're almost talking about the same thing these days. . .
Michael Utley: These days, yeah.
Chris Raines: . . .because Google is more and more concerned with how people experience your website, how they navigate it, if they're frustrated or not. So, really when you're focused on the usability issues, you could only focus solely on usability and the net benefit would be you're improving your SEO.
Michael Utley: Yes.
Chris Raines: We're going to talk about those usability issues today, and if you address these, guess what. You're going to improve your SEO, too. So, it's an SEO thing without really focusing on SEO. You're focusing on the user.
Chris Raines: Michael, why don't you kick us off here with we're going to list five things you can do to improve your usability and thus improve your SEO.
Michael Utley: Yep. Number one: monitor and fix your pagespeed. A slow website is a dead website these days. Since Google has, in my opinion, been competing to make sure that they're the search engine of smartphones. They're very focused on fast page delivery, especially the first thing that you see, the page loading fast and people having the experience of the website being fast, even if the rest of the page is still loading out of view more than ever. So, this is a factor. The way to get to know about your pagespeed on your website is to just do a Google search for "Google PageSpeed Test." The first result that's going to come up is a tool that Google has had available to us for a few years now, and it will show two things: it's going to show scores for your desktop and your mobile version, and then it's going to show you recommendations for what to do to start making improvements to each of those scores.
Chris Raines: And it's zero to 100?
Michael Utley: Yeah, zero to a hundred. It's sort of in red, yellow, green scoring brackets. I would say that a lot of websites right now are able to do pretty well with getting into the green for desktop, but really most even our pretty fast websites right now are in the yellow for mobile. There's a point at which you have trade-offs. So, it's almost like Google would prefer if you did not have any images or video or anything on your website that has to be delivered. Google is really, in my opinion, trying to get to a right answer on the first search for mobile users. I think that's Google's focus right now. I think they're competing to make sure that they're not really vulnerable to any big new search app coming out that's super fast for mobile, maybe that shows a stripped-down version of the website or something, but they're really pushing us in a direction of stripped-down, first search, right answer types of websites. They really don't care if you have lots of images and video.
Michael Utley: So, at some point you have to make a decision about what's important to you and push back a little bit, because you have certain things that you absolutely want and need to communicate. For example, if you're in a service business that does work on people's homes or businesses, like a lot of the companies we work with, you have trade-offs, you need to be able to show those images to tell your story.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: We're assuming that if you're listening to this, you're more of like a business-oriented person, like a founder or a marketing VP or a marketing manager. You've got people who can help with this. So, you can grab the full URL of your page speed results, and just share that and say, "Hey, how can we get into the green on these scores? Could you look at these suggestions?" Your web developer will be able to take that and run with it and help you improve your scores.
Chris Raines: Yeah and sometimes pretty quickly.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah. Some of it's low-hanging fruit. It really is low-hanging fruit with a lot of these sites. . .
Chris Raines: If you've got a 5 to 10-megabyte image on your site, like, there it is.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Sometimes you've got like a hero image or something and somebody just threw it in there with that raw format. Huge image. It's getting squished down into HTML, but what you really want to do is send a smaller image through the pipes, to the server, to the user.
Chris Raines: And compress the image?
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: That's great. Number two: make sure your site is fully responsive. So, we talk about this a lot, and really any website that's been built in the last five or seven years, 99% chance it's already mobile-responsive. But, if it's not, you're getting dinged harder and harder and harder over time to the point where you're invisible, if you're not mobile responsive. Google's pushing the boundary forward even more on mobile-responsive. Even if your elements rearrange in a responsive way for mobile websites, Google will now ding you for what they call "twitchiness." Right?
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: So, Michael, "twitchiness" is where you have an element that loads responsive, but for some reason, maybe it's pulling content from somewhere else, but it changes size. . . Or maybe it's an ad that starts out skinny and then it loads the ad and it expands. . . Anything that twitches on the user experience on mobile, even if it's "mobile-responsive," Google will now ding you for that.
Chris Raines: Can you think of any other examples of "twitchiness," like elements that just don't quite line up right?
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Michael Utley: Another example of this is if you have an image gallery on your site and you happen to load those images at different heights, and you don't have a minimum height set for the div that that gallery is in. So, when stuff's rotating through the gallery, it's continuing to twitch everything below it. It's very frustrating for the user.
Chris Raines: Another could be an alert bar at the top. A lot of websites have alert bars that have different pertinent, temporary information. Maybe if that doesn't load quickly, your website could load first, and then the alert bar, which pushes it down.
Michael Utley: And that'll twitch the whole page.
Chris Raines: Yeah. So, it's worth it to go to your website, often, on a mobile device and just see. Type in the URL and see how it loads. Scroll through and see if anything seems not smooth or "twitchy". If it does, send it to a developer and say, "Please make it not twitchy because Google hates it."
Michael Utley: That's right. Next use big idea, content marketing on your main pages. A lot of times when we're developing our marketing content, we're inside of the businesses that we're talking about. So, we're very close to what the subject matter is, but to someone who's getting to the website and the same goes for search engines, Google is trying to figure out if you're a dentist or an oil change shop. You need to tell them first: "dentist," or "oil change shop," you need to get that information out.
Chris Raines: Or maybe you're some unique hybrid business that does both of those things and that would be. . .that's a good idea.
Michael Utley: Well that would...they both take about an hour. That's not a bad...
Chris Raines: And you might need both done at the same time.
Michael Utley: Yeah. They're kind of the same frequency. That's actually not a bad idea.
Chris Raines: Let's stop the podcast and drop a business plan.
Michael Utley: You need to tell search engines what you do first. A good way to do that is with little text, maybe around your logo that says what you do, and maybe a little bit of a benefits orientation, like "top-ranked dentists, middle Tennessee", something like that. Then in your hero-creative sort of the big piece of content that is the first thing people see when they see your website, you really want to focus on exactly what you do in a benefits-oriented way.
Michael Utley: One of my favorite sites that we've done that does as well is nashpainting.com and the big headline is "We make homes beautiful." That is what they do. Whatever the situation is with the paint on the house, they're going to take that situation and make it better. They're going to make it beautiful. Then they follow up on that with a sub-header "Expert House Painting Company, Serving Nashville and Middle Tennessee." Well, that's just perfect. That's just using HTML-readable text that's going to go right into a search engine. So, you have a really big concept.
Michael Utley: What we often see companies do is use inside language and jargon to talk about some nuance of how they're different, and that gets too close to what's going on, or they don't really understand how to have a benefits-oriented headline, and they say something that falls a little bit flat. That Goldilocks-zone of "right in the middle" is a benefits-oriented headline that gets to the big picture of the value that you bring to the relationship with your customer, whoever they are.
Michael Utley: So, use big ideas in your content, on your pages. Then same thing, if that's all true for your homepage, it's also true for your services pages. Whatever your products or services are, make sure that those start with just a big strong headline. And I'd say it's a little different for ecommerce. That would be maybe a different subject, but for the most, where you've got thousands of products and people are looking into details more, but for a lot of websites that are out there trying to drive business, use big ideas.
Chris Raines: Awesome. All right. Number four, here: install and learn from your traffic by using heat maps. I love this kind of stuff, Michael. So the best tool you can use, or probably the most commonly used tool, is a tool called Hotjar. You can get a free version and get going and start collecting data, heat maps, and scroll behavior, and screen recordings, and all that stuff. Then they have, you can upgrade to different tiers to get additional features, but tools like Hotjar allow you to observe what are called heat maps on your site. So, you can see a couple primary things. One: where are people clicking when they click on your page? Two: how deep are they scrolling your page? This is a really good way to get both— I see you've got CrazyEgg there, too— both qualitative and quantitative data about what people are doing on your website.
Chris Raines: Here's an example of something you might learn, Michael. Maybe you have something really valuable that's on your page. Maybe it's a really solid customer testimonial, but it's maybe halfway down or further down your page. You might find by using tools like Hotjar that only 20% of the people are actually scrolling to that. That's a big problem. If you want to emphasize that, maybe that causes you to put it up on the page a little bit.
Chris Raines: I've done heat maps on pages before, pages that we've ran, that have been for landing pages. The heat map will tell you what percentage of each area gets clicks. So, if it's a landing page, you want your clicks to go right there on the call to action button. You want 89% of your click.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: We found out on one that 35% or so of clicks, were going to the hamburger menu at the top.
Chris Raines: For some reason, people were really attracted. They didn't know what it was, so they're clicking on it. We didn't really want people to leak off of that page and go other places, so that caused us to make changes to the site to eliminate that leak.
Chris Raines: The other thing you can do with tools like Hotjar is do actual screen recording. You can record real sessions from people that land on your site, and you can watch them in real time, watch the mouse move around, and watch them scroll on mobile. This is so valuable because there are a lot of things that you don't get from just looking at Google Analytics, for instance.
Chris Raines: Maybe there's a dropdown menu that's really confusing to navigate. And they can't really. .. There's all kinds of little things that might frustrate people, or maybe they're clicking back and forth at something they can't get. There's all kinds of things to look at that really you need to just watch people interact with your site to do.
Chris Raines: That's a really great way to look at the most important pages on your website and see are people scrolling to what they need to scroll to? Are they going where we want them to go? Is there anything that's frustrating them that we need to address?
Michael Utley: That's great. Yeah, Hotjar is great. Some of these tools take you down the road of even doing split-testing, showing two different versions.
Chris Raines: Yeah, CrazyEgg does that. I saw you had CrazyEgg on, too.
Michael Utley: All right. Last up on a website usability for this episode. Be sure your forms are working and are as simple as possible. A lot of websites, when they come into us for the first time, have 5-10 inputs, and they're really using the website form as a way to take work off of the sales team to do essentially a client intake. The problem is what you really want to do with a website is get the minimum amount of information necessary to get the contact and get them converted from being traffic to being a sales lead.
Michael Utley: If you're asking for five or ten pieces of information, it is absolutely true that you will always reduce the number of people who move all the way through to become a lead or a sale, whatever it is you're doing. So, fewer pieces of information being requested takes work off of them. I think name, phone, and email addresses should be the standard. I think if there's a universal signal for I'm raising my hand and I want to talk to somebody, or I need some help, it's name, phone, and email.
Chris Raines: There's probably scenarios where you want to qualify. I'm thinking of something like B2B, where if you know that somebody has less than 2,500 employees, that you cannot help them.
Michael Utley: Right.
Chris Raines: If you know you can't help them, it's probably worth it to put a questionnaire on there that says, "What employee size is your company?" That allows you to really quickly get them at a system, get point them to the direction that they need to go. I can think of some things like that, where if you absolutely know you can't help them.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Another way to attack that problem is to offset it with copy. . . If your hero copy is something like, "We're the cybersecurity company for 2500 employees..."
Chris Raines: That's true.
Michael Utley: Yeah. So anything to take the work off of the user. We've seen crazy forms that are essentially a "new patient intake" almost, and it can reduce the number of people. Now, if you want to have a separate forum for that, you can always do that, and you can provide that link when it's appropriate to somebody and it's a good fit and a good way to enter and interact with him.
Michael Utley: Another thing to watch out for is these forums can break occasionally if the backend of your website has some kind of problem, and you don't know it, you might not see anything that's not working correctly. So, one of our sort of protocols for any website we're dealing with is to go check the forms every 30 days.
Chris Raines: Yep, that's good.
Michael Utley: But if you have a day or two with no leads, and that's uncommon for you, I would say, go check your forms.
Michael Utley: One other landmine to watch out for, a lot of the marketing automation platforms will let you build forms on their platform and then embed it on your website, and that's good in terms of getting the lead slurped directly into your CRM, but watch out for your pagespeed. Those forums can be a killer for page speed because. . .
Chris Raines: They don't care about pagespeed.
Michael Utley: They're not paying enough attention to that in my opinion. That can be a real problem. We've had SEO rankings on a website just tank because of a large marketing automation company's forms being slow when they're embedded. So, using URL mapping or some other approach, there are lots of different workarounds, or just capturing the data, using a native form to your CRM or your CMS, and then importing that data in manually, whatever you need to do to make sure that the link to the incoming customer is not broken, is really key.
Michael Utley: Those are some things on forms to think about.
Chris Raines: Awesome. Well, that's all we got, hopefully, that helps you improve your website ability and thus improve your SEO. That's all for this episode. We'll see on the next one.
Michael Utley: We'll let you know when we open that dentist oil change shop.
Chris Raines: Yeah, it's going to be huge.
Michael Utley: That's the next big thing.
Chris Raines: Thanks.