According to one study we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.
In May, The Associated Press (AP) re-published some intriguing statistics showing our dwindling attention span and compared the data to web user activity. Our average attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2012. By comparison, a goldfish has a nine second attention span.
Additional AP data finds on average, people check email 30 times an hour. Web page viewing trends show only four percent spend more than 10 minutes on a page and only 28 percent of words on an average page are read.
That’s enough to make a busy marketer stop and think – even if just for eight seconds. This data emphasizes the importance of website optimization to capture and hold the attention of visitors in order to achieve the desired marketing results.
As a marketer, you think about setting goals for your site and mapping out key activities that need to occur to reach them. You think about ways to get found through organic search. You think about how to get that first click towards conversion and how to simplify the conversion path with appropriate calls-to-action. However, when evaluating your website it’s important for you to also think like a web user.
Web user experience
When you view your website as frequently as you do, it can be difficult to anticipate the user experience for a first time visitor. Usability testing has found the highest level of satisfaction for web users is achieved when content on the site is:
Optimizing user experience requires the right combination of content and navigation. Hitting the sweet spot will help you hold attention and gain higher conversion rates. Optimization also involves structuring your content so search engines can easily crawl and index pages and ultimately bring traffic to your website. That gives you a lot to consider when conducting web analysis.
Like most marketers, your day is filled with revenue reports, market analysis, campaign planning, meetings and checking email 30 times an hour. Clearly you don’t have time to become expert in SEO or web usability. Here is a marketer’s checklist to help with website evaluation to identify opportunities for search and conversion rate optimization.
Site-wide web optimization
Keyword strategy. On smaller sites (less than 100 pages) keywords should be mapped to single pages with no more than three keyword phrases on a page. On larger sites they should be mapped to categories. This degree of focus benefits both visitors and search engines.
Target audience. It should be clear and consistent who the site is intended for: what they want, what they need, and how they pursue their goals online.
Key messages. Have clear, consistent marketing messages on each page highlighting your unique selling proposition and reason why your product/service should be chosen.
Voice, tone and style. Draw on brand identity, purpose for your site and audience expectations to shape your voice and apply all consistently.
Usability. The user should be able to access any main directory within three clicks. Make sure there is a clear path to company information and contact information.
Navigation. Strive for less than seven navigation buttons. Link your logo to the home page. Make links visually consistent and easy to find. Simplicity is the goal.
Internal linking. Make sure links between pages have logical context from the user’s perspective. You want to maximize links to your most important pages. Parent pages should link into child pages and vice versa. Provide a link to the contact page throughout the site.
Social signals. Give visitors an opportunity to share or follow on social media platforms or subscribe to your company blog.
Page-level web optimization
SEO content – These are the SEO copywriting elements that need to be on the page:
- Header (H1, H2) keyword phrases align with title tags
- Meta descriptions include key phrase and geographic location
- Keyword density of 2-4 throughout the page
- Link anchor text using keywords for destination page ranking
Conversion content – Guides the reader through the conversion path:
- Word count is between 250-400
- Important information (marketing and call to action) is above the fold
- Copy is easily scanned, using headers and bulleted lists to break messages into chunks
- Short sentences and paragraphs no longer than five lines
- Copy in each paragraph focuses on one topic and each sentence on one thought
- Copy flows with logical transitions between paragraphs and from headings
- Linking best practices avoid duplicate or serial links
- Links to contact information are on every page
- Calls-to-action are on each page and in appropriate context for the content
The focus of a website analysis is often on full-scale SEO technical audits and usability testing. This checklist is no substitute for that. However, it gives you a solid guideline for optimizing a website to meet the challenges of driving inbound traffic, catching the attention of visitors and converting them into leads and customers.
The Yahoo! Style Guide
Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug
Optimize, Lee Odden
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When Andy Griffith died on July 3, the tributes and career retrospectives hit quickly. He is most remembered for the television program bearing his name which ran from 1960-1968. It was widely popular at the time and remains a favorite for new fans in syndication. One reason its popularity has endured is it combined humor with humanity and simple life lessons that resonate over time.
During the series’ run, Sheriff Andy Taylor provided many examples of servant leadership that are a great example for leaders in any capacity today. Here are five examples.
1. Earned authority
Much was made of the fact that he rarely carried a gun. While some might argue it added to the homespun feel of being Sheriff of small town Mayberry, he frequently noted his authority came with the badge he wore and how he wore it. He carried authority by earning the respect of the citizens based on exemplary conduct not by instilling fear.
In one episode he walked directly into the line of fire of a holed-up bootlegger and calmly took the rifle away while other law officers froze under cover. He later explained the shooter could have shot any of them if he’d wanted – he was just trying to scare them off. He respected Andy’s ultimate authority.
2. Let others fail
Sheriff Taylor occasionally had to risk turning over responsibility to his deputy. In one episode he had to leave town for a day and let Barney Fife act as sheriff in his absence. In his zeal to prove himself, the acting sheriff managed to arrest the entire town on minor infractions.
Upon return, Andy had to restore order and taught Barney the importance of exercising judgment in understanding the larger priorities versus going by the book. If a leader is unwilling to assign responsibilities to others, they are not taking enough risk to enable their growth and development.
3. Assume responsibility
In a story involving son Opie, Andy taught responsibility for Opie’s actions with his new slingshot. Opie accidently kills a bird leaving behind a nest of fledglings. With Andy’s prodding, Opie raises the birds himself until they are ready to fend for themselves. In the process, Opie becomes attached to them and wants to keep them as pets. Andy reminds Opie that the mother’s responsibility was to raise them up and let them go. As the surrogate, it was Opie’s responsibility too.
4. Facing fear
There are so many episodes with this theme it is hard to pick one example. One involves Andy receiving a letter from a convict he put away in prison. In the arrest, Andy had injured him in a shoot out. Now the convict was getting out and wanted to “settle some things” by paying a visit. Friends and family urged Andy to leave town to avoid another conflict. He didn’t.
In a poignant talk with Opie, he admitted to being afraid but had to face the fear. In the end the ex-con came to thank Andy for creating the circumstances for him to turn his life around and learn a trade for starting a new life after prison. Andy taught everyone that fear imagined is greater than fear faced.
5. Build up others
One of my favorite episodes is when Andy and his sweetheart get trapped in a cave. Earlier in the day Barney is humiliated when he mistakes the bank president for a bank robber. He is ridiculed by several of the men in town. Later, at a town picnic Andy and Helen venture into a cave and are trapped inside by a rock slide. They manage to escape through another entry, but not before Barney organizes a rescue operation enlisting all the men who had ridiculed him earlier. When Andy realizes this, they return to the cave so they can be saved by Barney.
After they are rescued, Andy tells all the townspeople how fortunate they are to have a take-charge leader like Barney Fife as deputy. He restored Barney’s confidence and stature in the community.
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Business blogging is gaining momentum as a platform for driving inbound traffic. With that, companies are realizing the power of content marketing to generate and nurture sales leads.
Chad Pollitt of Kuno Creative recently published The Content Marketing Manifesto, citing statistics from The Content Marketing Institute on the increasing use of content marketing for lead generation:
- Lead generation is the stated goal for 66 percent of businesses
- 49 percent of businesses measure success by lead quality, and 41 percent by lead quantity
- Nearly 70 percent of businesses blog
- 66 percent attributed new customer acquisitions from blogs updated weekly
The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing survey by HubSpot found 81 percent of businesses rated their blog as useful or better for delivering on inbound strategies. Fifty-nine percent rated blogs as critical or important.
Content marketing residuals
What makes content marketing so appealing is its scale. Done well, it earns dividends for generating leads beyond initial spend compared to traditional media spend. Your blog is a platform that is owned and its traffic is earned, not bought. Search optimization and referral traffic keep the demand generation pump primed. Content is the keystone to inbound marketing success that goes beyond conversions, leads and direct sales.
Businesses striving to achieve this residual with consistent blogging are challenged to create content that tells a story and builds familiarity, likeability and trust with the audience. Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of SEOmoz spoke about this recently at Search Church 2012. He offers insights on content marketing success in this video of his talk.
Fishkin encourages business bloggers to expand their thinking of content relevance beyond current customers. With the potential for discovery from organic search and viral sharing he suggests creating content that appeals to potential customers and anyone who interacts with potential customers to drive more traffic and generate more leads. He identifies ingredients for dynamic, relevant content as:
- Exceptional material about your products or services
- Beneficial to share
Blog content that generates leads
With these traits as a backdrop, the challenge remains to find ways to incorporate them into business blog articles. Knowing your market and audience is an important next step to focus your thinking about content strategy for sales leads. Three ways to zero in on the interests of your target audience are:
Keyword research. A critical step in your content strategy is to research keywords and long tail phrases to determine which topics in your industry are most searched. This helps identify topics of interest and the keywords to use when writing for SEO. Optimized content is a must for driving inbound traffic from organic search and referral sites.
Decision personas. Thinking about where visitors are in the sales journey helps target your message. Plan for content and calls-to-action that answer the questions they have at each stage of the decision-making process and you will get more leads into the top of the funnel.
Identify motivators. So far we’ve focused a lot on the logical aspects of blog visitor behavior. It is also vital to remember the emotional elements of persuasion. Lead generating content needs to capture a moment of interest, taking into account basic human motivations to take action.
Starter ideas for business blog topics
With the framework in place for who your audience is and what they are interested in, brainstorming for story ideas becomes easier. The goal for successful blog content is to inform and educate, not to over-promote your company or product. A recent post by Carol Tice on Entrepreneur.com outlines 50 ideas for your business blog. I will share five of them here.
- Industry trends. Share statistics, technology developments, demographics, business trends, regulatory issues or other data important to the success of your audience.
- Report on an industry conference. Provide news and information from keynote speakers and breakout sessions at events of interest to your audience.
- Case study. Make sure the customer is the hero of the story and share a problem-solution scenario the audience will relate to.
- Interview a high-profile industry leader. Do a Q & A with a thought leader who can provide a third-party perspective on your industry. This can often be accomplished via email.
- Resource list. Compile a list of vendors, business partners and other helpful information related to your business.
SOUND OFF: Tell me what you think. What blog content has been effective for generating leads for you?