How images can drag down search and content performance

March 16, 2022
📓 Article

We’ve been drilling down into content optimization lately. A few weeks back, we looked at a checklist for aligning content.

Now let’s focus our optimization efforts on user experience (UX). We adapted another checklist for those finer points of SEO (including link health, alt text, and more).

For this newsletter, we’ll focus on one element from the list: images.

Photos, infographics, and art can really enhance the reading experience – when done right. But sloppy images, carelessly implemented, can be a drag on UX and your search performance.

📸 How images affect content performance

What’s the difference between an image that’s useful to readers (and your page performance) and one that’s dragging everyone down? There are a few:

  • Accessibility
  • Relevance
  • File size
  • Text

Accessibility is the real reason why alt tags exist. Alt tags explain visual content in text format for non-sighted users.

A more accessible website is a more effective website – and Google is looking for the most effective possible websites. So accurately worded alt tag fields strengthen search performance (in addition to providing a basic, neighborly kindness).

Relevance pertains to copy and images alike. Informative, compelling graphics can be tremendous assets for UX (plus they look nice, which is fun).

Generic stock photography, however, does none of those things. This image, for example:

Abstract green image of a circuit board. This image was probably designed to look futuristic, but really it just looks generic.

It is trippy. Which is kind of cool. Kind of.

File size is a silent killer for page performance – oversized files slow down your page’s load speed.

Oversized images sneak onto your blog in any number of ways:

  • Thumbnail images (like author profile photos) that are 2000 x 2000 pixels
  • Uncompressed images (which could be compressed without losing quality)
  • Art with excessive amounts of detail

Text in an image is not an inherently bad thing – but in excess it becomes a problem for accessibility and page performance.

Non-sighted readers can’t access it without alt text. Search crawlers can’t either. In both scenarios, the image will come across as null data. And that’s bad for business.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Download the UX Action Items checklist. Go through each task for every image on a given blog page.

  • Review and update alt text for each image. Here are some best practices.
  • For every image, ask yourself: does this convey any educational or branding data? If the answer is no, then delete the image.
  • Look in your CMS for images larger than ~500kb. Do they really need to be that big? Explore options for compressing, such as Image Optim.
  • Whenever possible, adapt text-heavy images and diagrams to inline text. For example: if it’s a screenshot of someone else’s text, simply add that excerpted copy to the page itself as a quote.

Moving forward, do yourself a favor and try to build good habits around all these things. It will save you time and hassle in the long run.

🤳 One more thing

These optimization tips are even more useful when you’ve got an optimization strategy in place for your content library.

That’s why we’re excited to share our brand new optimization strategy guide: Building a content optimization strategy for traffic, leads, and revenue.

Follow the guide step by step, and at the end you’ll have a fully operational, data-driven strategy to start updating your entire content library.

Introducing Ercule's guide to content optimization strategy

March 1, 2022
📓 Article

Google Analytics is ugly… and absolutely essential.

You need that data to improve the content on your site. But the sprawling GA interface has scared away many content marketers. Perhaps even you.

This makes us, at Ercule, mad!

So we wrote a detailed guide: “Building a content optimization strategy for traffic, leads, and revenue.”

Because you should be able to access the data you need. And make sense of it. And use it to build a high-quality content library.

🍱 What’s in this guide?

The content optimization guide includes a crash course in analytics, plus a step-by-step guide for pulling data from Google Analytics, and…

A user-friendly tool that automatically crunches and sorts your data, then shows you where to start updating.

This guide is designed for any writer or marketer who’s interested in using analytics to work smarter, not harder. No experience required. We designed it to be…

  • Accessible – teaching about performance metrics in simple, nuts-and-bolts language

  • Practical – showing you how to get exactly what you need from Google Analytics

  • Instructional – prescribing update tasks for content, based on the data

  • Strategic – creating a prioritized plan of attack for your entire library

In a few hours, you’ll have a fully operational content optimization strategy for your website.

🏄🏼 What you need to get started

We’ll say it again: you can begin by knowing nothing about analytics or optimization.

To start crunching your site’s data using the optimization template, all you need is access to your site’s Google Analytics account. That’s it: just the log-in.

Even without that info, you could get started with the crash course on content metrics right now.

Really. It’s that simple.

A checklist for blog optimization and keyword alignment

February 8, 2022
📗 Field Note

We’ve been talking a lot recently about strategies for creating new content and updating old stuff.

The next step is doing the things. Making changes to articles. Moving words around. This issue of the newsletter has some specifics on how to do that.

We created an action item checklist to get you started. Make a copy for yourself. (You can even slap your own logo at the top and look extra-smart to your clients.)

This checklist is all about alignment.

Alignment? That’s kind of a vague buzzword, isn’t it?

🌈 What we mean by “alignment”

Using consistent language and structure across every element of a blog page – meta-tags, headings, visuals, etc… that’s what we mean by alignment.

The elements that we recommend aligning:

  • Page heading (H1 tag)
  • URL
  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • Subheads (H2, H3, H4…)

Every component serves a unique purpose. When all components of a page have a shared point of focus, the page as a whole is more coherent.

For example: Headings and subheads help a person make sense of your written content. It’s even easier for them when those headings use consistent terminology (ie. keywords). Formatting that content (with h-tags) streamlines the process, too. It makes a page’s structure more visually clear.

This is helpful for the people reading your blog and the search engine crawlers ranking your blog.

Bonus: when a reader (or search crawler) has an easy time understanding what you’re writing about, they’ll attribute it to you being really smart and helpful and trustworthy!

🏄🏼 What you can do

You can get started aligning your content today. Here’s how.

1️⃣ Make a copy of the action items checklist.

2️⃣ Choose a blog page from your site to optimize. (Hopefully, you’ve prioritized certain pages for optimization ahead of others. We’ve got some recommendations for how to build that strategy.)

3️⃣ Copy the content from your chosen page (including hyperlinks and images) and paste it in a simple text document. You could even paste it on the template, beneath the checklist.

4️⃣ Identify a keyword that you want to target before you start optimizing the page.

5️⃣ With your keyword in mind, start at the top of the checklist and work your way down.

Some action items on the list are based on ‘best practices’. For example: a 60-character limit in page titles. Others are purely subjective, like the suggestion to include your brand name at the end of every page title.

If you disagree with any item, go ahead and delete it from the template. Add a few others according to your own style guide.

After all, this is your checklist now.

A strategy for optimizing old content

January 26, 2022
📗 Field Note

We tend to fixate on creating new content. But that’s not the only way to meet performance goals.

Updating your existing content is important, and almost nobody does it!

Remember the awesome (and not-so-awesome) pages you published months or years ago? They’re still affecting your overall organic performance – and not always in a positive way.

Each page needs to be analyzed and updated sooner or later. This often feels daunting, especially if your site has a big content library.

That’s where a content optimization strategy comes in.

🏛️ Building a content optimization strategy

The idea of updating an entire library might leave you with a lot of questions:

  • Which pages should you update first?
  • What does a given page need to perform better?
  • Where do you even begin with this process?
  • How can you complete it without burning out?

A content optimization strategy answers those questions for you. And it breaks down the library update project into more manageable chunks.

The process has four main stages:

  • Analyze performance data
  • Group pages by performance
  • Schedule pages for optimization
  • Plan action for each page

All you need to get started is access to your site’s Google Analytics.

(Don’t worry: we built a little templated tool you can use to simplify the process. More on that below.)

🏄🏼 What you can do

To get started, you’ll pull some data. I know that Google Analytics is not everyone’s favorite place to be, so here’s a step-by-step guide :

  1. Go into Google Analytics, and open up the “All Pages” view (there’s a handy search bar at the top that can help you find it).

  2. Extend the date range using the date picker. We recommend a date range that covers three months. Also, change the view to show you at least 100 posts.

  3. Click the “Export” button. This will export all the data into Google Sheets. (Here’s a gif that shows you exactly what to do.)

  4. Open the exported sheet. Sort the page data to identify top performers, poor performers, and the in-betweens. You can do this manually in the exported Google Sheet – but there’s an easier (and more precise) method that we recommend…

  5. Use this spreadsheet template to group all pages by performance category. Paste your page data in the template and it will automatically group each page into one of 4 categories: Stars, Sloths, Wallflowers, and Lemons.

  • Schedule pages to be updated first. We recommend starting with the top five Star posts, followed by the top five Sloth pages. Those two groups seem to get the best ROI from updates.

And now you’ve got the first ten optimization assignments for your library update campaign. The speed at which you update your library is up to you.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!

What to do with a page that has amazing performance metrics

January 13, 2022
📗 Field Note

We’ve spent the past few newsletters talking about how to optimize pages on your site based on their performance. So far, we’ve looked at

So let’s start this new year with the brightest part of your library: the pages on your site that are doing everything right.

We refer to these posts as “Stars” because they’re the shining example of why your business is awesome.

And your Star content can point you toward where you need to go in the future.

🌟 Understanding Star performers

Star pages are performing beautifully across the board:

  • High traffic
  • High engagement
  • High conversions

A Star page is a huge accomplishment (and asset) for any site. And it’s a great source of ideas for future content.

🏄🏼 What you can do

Each Star page is a proven formula for success.

Start replicating the effort:

  • Adapt the page to a webinar
  • Build a guide around the page content
  • Create new posts about related topics
  • Talk about it on social
  • Add material to the page
  • Send it to the sales team so they can see what’s getting traction

New content is a significant time commitment, but it’s the best investment for leveraging the power of a Star page.

Afterwards, you might work on optimizing the page for conversion… but make sure to do so in low-risk ways.

Experimenting with call-to-action design, for example, is pretty low-risk. Restructuring the content of a post, however, is a high-risk move – so it runs the risk of ruining your page performance.

Moving forward: plan to regularly monitor these pages for ongoing performance—make sure nothing slips!

Address the constant threats to traffic:

Address threats to conversion rate:

Work toward continuous improvement:

  • Content quality + usefulness
  • Usability
  • Domain authority
  • Accessibility

No matter how many Star performers you’ve got in your catalog, you can’t coast on that momentum. Maintaining that success requires care and attention.

Feel free to schedule office hours to look at this together!