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Google's motivations

August 13, 2020
📓 Article

Often, in SEO, we make the mistake of assuming that Google wants to drive users to our content. We wish this were true, but it isn’t.

Google-motivations-screenshot

Search for any topic, and you’ll consistently see fewer links to publisher sites than you did a few years ago. Instead, more and more of what you see is:

  • Content scraped directly from websites and presented by Google, including instant answers and knowledge panels Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 12.26.04 PM.png

  • Links to other Google properties Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 12.26.17 PM.png

  • Ads Screen Shot 2020-08-18 at 12.25.30 PM.png

SparkToro has some great stats on this. To summarize briefly, their data shows that no-click searches increased from 56% to 62% of all searches from 2016 to 2018.

And according to Bloomberg, “[In 2019], the Search business alone brought in almost $100 billion in sales. Much of that growth has come from adding more ads.”

What do we think this means for SEO? There are a few predictions we can confidently make:

  • Organic search will remain important for a long time.
  • Zero-click results will become more important, too. This means it’s important to have well-structured websites, together with schema markup, that Google can read.
  • Ads are going to become more competitive and take up more space on the front page. This means that clicks from paid ads are going to become more expensive.

It also means:

  • Content marketers need to think beyond SEO and to holistic link distribution strategies. That way, as organic does become more competitive, their content is already distributed among other channels.
  • Content marketers need to own their own audience, not Google. That means audience building is important. That means conversions from the traffic you do get, and high-quality branded content creation so that organic search becomes a way of increasing brand exposure. It also means you should focus on keywords Google is less likely to cannibalize.
  • Content marketers need to focus on improving their content marketing machinery, which is effective across all content.

Conclusion

Google is an extremely useful tool for business, but it has a vested interest in steering people toward Google properties and the sites of people who pay Google money (a.k.a. advertisers). Keep using Google for its perks, but don’t rely on a search engine to grow your business for you.

Work on building your own audience independent of search results. Capture their attention with a steady stream of quality content. Optimize your website for the strongest possible showing in organic search results, which will keep you toward the top of a SERP (without ever paying for ads).

Useful questions for user tests

August 11, 2020
📓 Article

We’ve already covered useful questions for customer interviews. But how can you get insight on your content, and your site, from people who you don’t know yet? We really like services like UserTesting.com for this, and in this article we’ll suggest some questions you can ask during a user test to get useful feedback on what you’re doing.

By the way, this article covers a specific type of user test – a remote, moderated test. This type of test is conducted by the subject, using a list of questions you provide. Because you won’t be there to ask questions when conducting this type of test, it’s critical that the subject be encouraged to talk through why they are behaving in certain ways, and how they are thinking about their interactions with you.

Screening

Be sure to screen out testers who aren’t in, or related to, your target market. If you provide an accounting solution for small businesses, for example – you might want to select for people with some familiarity with competing products, or who have job functions that are related to accounting.

The 5 second test

In the 5 second test, you want to show users your site – most likely, your homepage – for just 5 seconds and see if they can understand what you’re about. This is a great test to see if you have a clear value proposition that people who don’t know who you are, can understand. Once users have had 5 seconds to look, specific questions you can ask include:

  • What do you remember? This is helpful for understanding if your value proposition is clear – and also for understanding if there are distracting (or particularly memorable) elements on your site.
  • Who’s this site for? A good test for seeing if the target persona is easily detectable. This is a question your visitors will typically ask themselves when they land on your site – and if the site isn’t for them, they will leave more quickly.

Home page exploration

Ask your user to take 30 seconds to get acquainted with the homepage. This attempts to simulate the experience a user will have if they become seriously interested in your product. Good questions to ask here include:

  • Without leaving the homepage, what are your initial impressions of the website? Explain your answer. This is a good way to assess a visitor’s initial level of trust in your website, when they arrive. Asking a visitor the reason for their impression is helpful, too – since the answer may point to specific issues you can fix.
  • Please describe what our product does. This helps you figure out whether your value proposition is easy to find, and if so, whether it’s easy to understand.

Screen Shot 2020-08-16 at 8.55.50 PM.png

And you don’t have to be fancy to be clear.

Screen Shot 2020-08-16 at 8.55.31 PM.png

Task accomplishment

The buyer journey on a B2B website is extremely complex. Your visitor is probably on your site to research your solution, and may also have the goal of being able to bring information back to the rest of their team. So, ask your users to accomplish information-gathering tasks that you commonly expect users to accomplish on your site. For example:

  • Determine whether our product supports Linux.
  • Get information about the ROI of our product.
  • Find information about how to most efficiently deploy a new bid management system.
  • Tell us how you would contact our sales team.
  • Explain how we compare with Competitor X.

Be sure to have users talk you through what they are doing, and why they’re doing it. “I’m going to click on ‘Resource Library’ because I think that’s where you keep whitepapers on this topic.”

Test your competitors’ sites

Lastly, consider running user tests against your competitors’ sites, too, to see where they’ve done a better job of helping visitors get the information they need. Whoever provides information is likely to be able to frame the conversation.

Conclusion

User testing is a relatively inexpensive way of seeing problems on your site that you don’t notice. And they can be a great way of convincing others on your team to take action – once you’ve conducted 5 - 7 tests, send out a highlight reel so everyone can see how real users interact with the content you’ve created.