There are literally 10’s of thousands of agencies that purport to be able to develop your business online. They say they can grow your rankings and they will do all of the things needed to make your business as successful online as it may be offline. So, just like your business, DSA needs to make sure that it has something different that will make it stand out amongst the many, many businesses that you find when searching for a marketing agency.
We also find it especially difficult in Thailand, where we operate predominately, even though we are a global agency. In Thailand there seems to be so many other agencies that prey on SME’s who have little understanding of the process, time and costs involved in developing their business online to dominate their niche.
With this in mind, DSA has developed a digital methodology that we adapt to all clients sites, no matter what the size or market. This template system may sound like a bad idea, however, thorough our years of experience and thousands of hours of dedicated and constant study, we developed a plan that gets results for the largest clients, and then we scale the volume of work back to fit the budget of almost any client.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the plan, as no client is the same as the others, however, this methodology works, and is flexible enough to be adapted to any client’s desired outcomes and budgets.
Benchmarking & Discovery Research:
The very first thing that any business must do is get an understanding of the environment that it operates in. Weather that be its direct business competition locally, or its online competition globally (if it operates that far).
By getting that list of competitors you give yourself a number of advantages; firstly you can see how well your website is ranking against theirs, as well as the social metrics that they have over yours, and secondly, you can get an understanding on what you can set as a realistic goal for your site.
Setting a realistic goal for your site is possibly the more advantageous of the two advantages as you are able to get a hard statistical baseline that you can work towards. This is never going to be perfect as you can only gather information from online sources, but you can roughly find the traffic that your competitors get, and based on their sale value of their products, and a low 1% conversion rate, you can VERY roughly work out the revenue that your competitor is making and how much traffic they are getting for the month.
This understanding means that you can realistically set your expectations to chase a KPI that can be achievable. Just assuming that if you get to the top of the first page for a keyword over your competitors, does not mean you can start thinking about the colour of your Ferrari and that you will get all the traffic on the internet.
We at DSA will take the following information from sources online to develop an understanding of your competitors.
- Moz metrics
- Ahrefs metrics
- MajesticSEO metrics
- Social metrics on how many times a URL has been shared/liked/tweeted and so on
- Alexia ranking
- Age of site
- Number of pages indexed
- Ranking positions for your targeted keywords
- Potential target keywords for your site that competitors are ranking over you
- Inbound links you have
- Inbound links that your competitors have
Once we have developed a broad understand on your site, its health, its current optimisation levels and also, your competitor’s stats, we can start to get an understanding on the best way forward for optimising your site and where we may be able to beat your competitors.
So now we have developed a baseline for your site, and set some realistic objectives, we want to take the competitor discovery information and put that into an actionable plan.
Firstly, where are your competitors beating you and where are they losing ground? This information was found in the keyword section, and it gives some direction on how to optmise sections of your site to get some traction in the engines, that will, with luck, show google your site is excellent, full of amazing resources and what searchers want.
The second data set that we can action is the links. By seeing where all your competitors links are coming from, we can put a very fast plan together to see if we can get those sites to link to you as well. If they are all getting directory links, submit to those directories. If there are some inbounds from top 5 list’s then contact those sites and put a proposal for why they should include your site in there as well. You can pick up a large number of links in this fashion, and the best part is your competitors have done all the discovery work for you!
On-site & Technical Optimisation:
Now that we have a good outline of our KPI’s, we’ve set some realistic goals for the next 12 months and we have a rough target of how to optimise your site, we can move on to the on-site & technical Optimisation section.
On-site & technical Optimisation means all the things that we can do on your site that will get it up to Google best practices, and give it a far better chance of getting rewarded by the search engines with rankings, and ultimately, with traffic.
There are many sides to this section, and some can be done with no technical knowledge at all. It can be broken into the two core components which is technical and On-site.
Technical focusses on the servers, coding, speed and technology that your site uses to meet the guidelines that Google wants all sites to be. Fast loading, multi-screen size friendly, have no broken links or pages, have all the required markup and sitemaps and more. I will go into a more detailed post on optmising a site technically later, however, I will talk about some of the tools, technologies and pitfalls that must be addressed in this section.
Site speed, is a big factor for Google these days, not just as a ranking factor in itself, but a slow loading site has many knock on effects that will hinder your rankings if they are not met. As an example, how many pages a user visits on your site, and how long they spend on a page (a fully loaded page that is) will effect Google’s view of the quality of your site, however, if a user can’t load up or they get bored with the loading time and bounce away from your site and back to the search page, well, that will tell google that your site isn’t worth showing to anyone.
That can be fixed with ensuring that your site loads within 3 seconds, as that is generally accepted as the ideal page load speed online. Most of the time, one of the following issues is slowing your site down and with a few hours work, you can speed it up greatly.
Images are too big or you have too many loading off the one domain. This issue is very common and can really slow your site down, by using a CDN you can move all the images off your domain and onto another, which will allow code and images to be loaded at the same time by the user, rather than one by one, thus making it faster.
There are a number of technical fixes you can make beyond this and I will detail them much further in another post later, but these few technical changes can have a large effect on the speed and rankings for your site.
The second phase of technical & Onsite is the text Optimisation that we need to do. As we have divined a list of keywords on that we can start to try to rank pages for, we will look at the Page title, the page description, the headings on the page, the number of times in the body of the text that we use the keywords, the semantic alliteration of the keywords, the images alt and title tags making use of keywords and if our keywords are in the navigation, the URL and if the keywords are used as link anchor text from other pages on my site to the focus one.
By creating pages that are optimised for a particular set of keywords, we can look at getting a page ranking for this topic or issue, but not ranking an entire site. However, a single or landing page, we can target many, many different keywords and generate enquiries and leads from these pages.
As an example, let’s say that we are trying to rank a page for “Most Relaxing Music Ever“, we would start at the top, by creating a new page that was dsa-global.com/the-most-relaxing-music-ever, then we would create a title and meta description for the page that will look like the following in Google
<title>The Most Relaxing Music Ever To Be Created</title>
<description>Getting into a mindset to become calm and focused can be difficult, The Most Relaxing Music Ever, is however stated to do just that, listen here.<description>
This above will catch the attention of Google for that key phrase but also of the person that will be looking for something like, the most relaxing music ever.
Then we need to create an article on the page that talks about this topic we are trying to rank, 1000 words is considered perfect these days, and it needs to have bullet points, images and if you can, other multimedia in the article, to break up the slabs of text that are created.
In your titles and sub titles, you need to talk about music, relaxation and so on, all semantically linked to the key phrase that you are looking to rank for.
Lastly, in your navigation and in text on other pages, you will want to have the “Most Relaxing Music Ever” as the link anchor text. This is the best possible start for your page to get ranking for that key phrase, and if done right will also rank for other variations on that phrase.
It’s a time consuming task to undertake, especially if you have thousands of pages, or you have many topics that you want to develop some traffic for, however, over time, this is an investment that will serve your site far more than any ads or paid traffic sources will.
*As an experiment I have created that page on the site and with luck you will be able to go to Google and find that post by searching the keyword, it is to be noted that the other sites that are ranking for this term are large news sites, and with this little effort it’s going to be difficult, but maybe on the second page..” At the time of writing this it is currently at the top of the 4th page.
Put simply, conversion Optimisation is working on the layout, design or user flow of a website to get the most number of conversions for the traffic it generates. If you send 1,000 visitors to a site, but they have a 0.01% conversion rate, then you’re going to need to work on the site, to increase that, because it will not matter how many visitors you have, you will be losing many potential sales.
This is what DSA will focus on after you’re technical and onsite Optimisation is done, although it’s never truly done, but there is a point that you can move on and just tweak, however.
There are many elements to this section, and it should always start with gathering a dataset. Firstly what are your current onsite stats, and conversions? This is gathered early on, so you have a bench mark, then using tools such as optimiszly and hotjar, you can start to undertake A/B testing of your pages.
We use Hotjar as our heat mapping, screen recording and user testing tool as it’s the best set of tools for a pretty low cost and its very, very simple to use. You just add a line of code to your site, and that is it, it will do the rest. By getting unfettered access to recordings of how users use your site, you can start to make some decisions on how the placement of elements or content on the page are affecting the conversions on your site. Are users looking around for a next button or are they getting confused as to the text? You can develop a good understanding of how they use your site with this tool, and it has a major advantage over the paid user testing tools, like feedback army.
Feedback army is a site that you can pay for feedback on your website, this is great, however, the users are going to your site to answer a specific question about the use of the site, they are not going to your site to use it. It’s a very different mindset of user and it results in a very different thought and use process. So, the best type of data is data that is gathered while a user isn’t aware that they are being monitored, it’s going to show you the problems they have in your sites use and give you some direction as to where you can focus your efforts for Optimisation.
Once we have that data, we then use a tool like Optimizley to run tests on your page to see what layout or changes work the best; so we will show 50% of the traffic one layout, and 50% another. Then by setting the goals on what we want users to do, we can track those goals to see what gets better conversion and then we can make lasting changes to the page.
This can be done across the entire site and will be done constantly to assess if changes need to be made, as 0.5% higher conversion across 10,000 visitors can mean a great deal of money for your business.
Some of these changes can be as simple as changing the text on your buy now buttons or changing the color of it. We have seen cases where editing the shade of blue on a checkout button has increased the sites conversions by 35%, which is huge and very unexpected when we did it. DSA will use its knowledge of online user behaviors and best practices for most initial testing, however, it’s only after a data set has been gathered that DSA can make informed judgments and tests.
Part 2 of this article is available here (Part 2)