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Digital marketing optimization strategies explained

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Online presence

A strong online presence. A must for any business or individual that wants to connect with relevant audiences.

People and businesses often use digital marketing with the main goal of reaching a specific audience. Social media allows you to get in touch with people who know you and to advertise specifically to other target groups.

To reach audiences who are not familiar with you or your company, “being found” (ranking high for relevant search terms in search engines) is an effective strategy. In order to allow all those acquaintances and strangers to connect with you digitally, appealing content and a pleasant digital experience are also important. That’s what this article is about; about those digital marketing optimization techniques.

Optimization techniques reinforce each other

The time of haphazardly creating pages, adding keywords and doing link building to be found in Google is over. Search engine algorithms are constantly being improved. Their goal; rank the most relevant websites based on the searcher’s needs.

Relevance and authority are thé keywords in today’s SEO game

Search Engine algorithm improvements are based both on having relevant content on your page, and on having a fast-loading and accessible website. One of the factors on which the algorithm is also based is the on-page behavior of the users who end up on your website. Take bounces as an example: many ‘bounces‘ (visits that leave your web page quickly and without interaction) can negatively affect your ranking and thus lower your position.

Some jargon and abbreviations bingo

Not only SEO and SEA are important to attract traffic to your website, but also CRO or Conversion Rate Optimization. One of the main goals of conversion optimization is to improve the UX (User Experience) of your website with the main goal of more conversions. CRO specialists use various methods to improve your website, with A/B testing being the most important method. A/B testing can be applied to all optimization strategies to test and optimize, but it does not work equally effectively in all situations. In this article we provide some insight into the differences between SEA, SEO and CRO, and when A-B testing works and when it doesn’t.

What are SEO, SEA, CRO and A/B testing?

If you’re unfamiliar with technical jargon such as those abbreviations above, no worries. Here’s a brief introduction to each;

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about being indexed by search engines in the most optimal way. Nowadays, that does not only mean using the right keywords and adding some content to your websiteeing relevant and authoritative on subjects and topics you specialise in is even more important. The days when you could fool the algorithm with some simple content are over. It means keeping Google’s E-E-A-T principles in mind, but also distinguishing between ‘normal’ websites and ecommerce platforms.
  • Search Engine Advertising (SEA) is all about buying those relevant positions in search results. However, this does not just cover advertising in google search results. Social platforms and websites are also often connected to an advertising network and can support a wide range of advertising content options, like for example, display ads that can include interactive elements. Benefits of SEA include the ability to display ads based on contextual relevance, both in terms of on-page relationships to other content, and visitor profile relevance.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is all about making sure that precious traffic doesn’t immediately leave again to continue its search. If you’ve reached this depth of this article, that’s an indication so far there’s sufficient relevance for you to stay and continue reading. So, part 1 of my SEO and CRO goals is covered. Oftentimes, part 2 of conversion optimization is getting you to click through, preferably for contacting us for our services. With CRO, there’s a naturally occurring funnel in most cases, where percentages of the total traffic volume click through, thus “converting”. CRO techniques focus mostly on visitor psychology with the aim of serving more relevant content and interactions, and thus optimising the click-through rates and engagement metrics.
  • Lastly, A/B Testing is an optimization technique that allows the designers, developers and content creators to test variations and small differences between content, interactions and designs. A/B testing is a quantitative technique that requires a significant volume of traffic, clicks and / or users to be useful. Without volume, the results are statistically unreliable. Moreover, A/B testing is usually only useful to test small variations, such as different keywords or variations between link- or button texts.

 

In this article we zoom in on optimization techniques that can be used before, during and after developing digital communication solutions and content. That is why we do not include (rapid) prototyping, design sprints and user testing in this article. (Rapid) Prototyping and design sprints are more suitable for conceiving, designing and optimizing new functions, product(s) or major changes. We can do that too, so are you interested? Feel free to click through to my 2nd conversion goal.

Reference cases

 

When can these optimization techniques be used?

In all phases of your digital project. Yes. You read that right. In all project phases. Even in the quotation phase when creating a briefing.

It is a common misconception that SEO, SEA, CRO and / or A/B testing are only useful techniques to be applied to optimise live websites or (web- or mobile)applications. In fact, these techniques are just as valuable during (re)design and (re)development of new or existing websites and apps. That is part of what we hope to offer you in this article; the recommendation to use these techniques to your benefit as an integral part of your (re)design, (re)development and optimization activities. So early on – when you are considering creating a new website, or migrating an existing one.

Applied SEO during the design phase of a new website

Proper SEO is not just a methodology or a toolset, it is mostly a strategic way of creating and publishing content to built out your authority. SEO tools can help you create a strategic content architecture framework, often referred to as topical authority, that allows you to categorise your content and keywords around content hubs. SEO tools can help you ensure the content is created in such a way that both users and search engines can read it easily. For example, it may be relevant for your content strategy to ensure the new CMS support structured data and meta tags. A solid SEO strategy is also vital to any content migration. SEO strategy and 403/404 redirects ensure your ranking is maintained first, and continues to boost your SEO performance.

Applied SEA during the design phase of a new website

Advertising means connecting with your target group where they are. And connecting on an emotional level. SEA data, statistics and tools can be used to achieve those goals. For example, it can be useful to determine the channels (socials or websites) and content preferences of your target group. Their keyword use, engagement data or demographic details can be found via SEA methods. There is a wealth of insights, data and best practices offered by popular social advertising platforms such as LinkedIn’s Research & Education database.

Applied CRO during the design phase of a new website

CRO starts with having clearly defined conversion goals. Based on those goals, CRO strategy can be applied and tested in a design prototype, using a clickable model and a test lab. Or just by field testing a wireframe or content sample. A fun way methodology can be paper prototyping. Just draw your layout, navigation or content and give someone a knife saying ‘this is your mouse, now click’. By watching whey they ‘click’ their knife you get valuable insights on what draws their attention and if- or how you could influence their behaviour in ways that benefit your goals. Of course you will need to be relevant to the user, but assuming you have that covered, this method can help you make that relevance more obvious and navigable when you’re designing your digital marketing interaction, or creating your content. You can also explore persuasive design best practices, but it’s probably best to not move to the dark side of that force.

Pro tip; don’t disrupt user flows by being overly creative and by messing up well established digital affordance principles.

Applied A-B testing during the design phase of a new website

A/B testing can be applied within all three of the above mentioned optimizations during the design phase. For example you can post some content on an existing blog and analyse traffic to test your SEO and keyword strategy. You can launch a trial ad on some advertising networks to assess whether or not it creates clicks, and you can prototype and A/B test some design variations, as long as you keep in mind that the low volume will not generate a sufficiently large statistical basis. Also, be vigilant about possible confirmation bias when doing your testing. Peer reviewing both your plan as well as your results is always a good idea and can help improve both the designs as well as the projects’ success.

Examples of applied optimization techniques in development and production

During the development phase the different techniques can be used as follows;

  • SEO tools can help you test the SEO performance of the website and provide useful optimization suggestions
  • Content added on a staging environment can be analysed and optimised, to ensure an optimal launch
  • A good SEO migration plan ensures that all old URLs are redirected using a permanent redirect, preventing 404 errors
  • Technical settings like canonical URLs are correctly applied to avoid duplicate content
  • Depending on your CMS, you might be able to use SEO modules like Mageworx or Yoast SEO
  • External SEO tools like Semrush help you identify traffic sources, keywords and topics that you may want to build topical hubs around to get that authority ranking up
  • SEA during development can include setting up dashboards, implementing proper tag manager code and triggers to measure and analyse conversion performance
  • You can possibly prepare and develop some campaigns
  • This phase may also be perfect for exploring what AI can do for your content creation needs.
  • CRO can be applied during website or application development by user testing the staging website in a test lab or by field testing. By giving test users certain tasks to perform, the designers and developers can monitor the user friendliness and whether or not the UX and UI designs are intuitive for the user. It’s quite often that testing in this stage reveals surprising insights about how a user thinks and acts, leading to optimizations in navigation, page layout, search features and more. Some are as simple as changing the wording on a button.
  • A/B testing during development is not commonly used although, of course, design variations or campaign ad variations can be beta tested as a preliminary trial before live launch.

 

During the production phase the different techniques can be used as follows;

  • SEO tools will offer great insights to grow your findability after a succesful migration
  • Strategically applying optimizations to rank in featured snippets and adding rich snippets helps you stand out in search results
  • Applying a solid content strategy ensures your ranking and authority are leveraged to the utmost
  • It may be helpful to create a content calendar or to collaborate with a marketing / SEO agency to create a content ecosystem that is bigger than just your website
  • SEA in a production phase means running that campaign, but of course also analysing performance data
  • SEA strategy is also the creative process of creating new content variations and ideas
  • We recommend optimising the campaigns in a cyclical PDCA approach. Our Growth specialists at https://huray.nl/growth/ have it nicely written out.
  • Huray also also has some great insights in their blog – for example on how to apply Neuromarketing to your campaign and content strategy.
  • With the rise of AI tools, the possibilities of creating and optimising content have increased exponentially, so be sure to stay on top of current developments and benefit from those developments that are applicable within your SEA and advertising practices.
  • SEA and campaigns are also excellent environments for A/B testing ideas and content variations to boost conversion.

 

Aside from A/B testing your SEA and growth marketing, CRO in a website or app production environment often revolves around the combined usage of techniques like user surveys and interviews, and tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar or Optimizely. The last one is in itself an A/B testing tool. The end goal here being to get that user to stay on your website longer, engage with the content and features more, and to click through to those conversion goals you outlined in the design phase.

Start optimising today – a step by step guide

Want to approach optimization yourself? Here’s a suggestion of where to start;

  1. Define your optimization goals
    Make your optimization smart. “Measurable” is the key item, but Specific just as much. Aim too high or too broad and chances are you’ll miss your mark(s). Or there’ll be a lot of confusion and discussion about the set goals.
  2. Benchmark
    You will not know whether you’re making progress without measuring the aforementioned KPI’s without having a benchmark. A benchmark is a first measurement that gives 3 benefits;

    1. It ensures you can evaluate the results based on your KPIs
    2. It allows you to add or optimise the measurement tooling (analytics, logging, etc.)
    3. It allows you to assess its ‘actionability’. It’s actionable if the data actually gives you insight and direction for your optimization strategy
  3. Ideate
    Assess and workshop the optimization ideas and strategies – preferably with your target audience or your key stakeholders and domain experts in your organisation. A workshop works best, in our opinion, but conversations and brainstorm sessions might be just as valuable.
  4. Prioritise
    Be selective in what you optimise, implement and test. Too many optimizations at once and you won’t be able to measure which one had the most impact. A practical approach to prioritisation is awarding points (best guess) for complexity and value to each idea. Ideas with high-value and low complexity should be given priority.
    image of value complexity matrix to prioritize ideas and tasks
  5. Implement & analyse
    Implement your optimizations and allow sufficient time to measure enough statistically required data to identify its impact. Watch out for changing conditions in, for example, Google Algorithms, your market, politics or other factors that might influence your measurements, and skew your analysis though.
  6. Rinse & repeat
    Start again at step 1. While a strategy shouldn’t change too much too often, your applied optimization and analysis may very well provide insights that influence your initially defined goals. Be sure to reassess them periodically, together with the KPI’s, the measurement tools, and your effectiveness.

Need help?

Contact us if you feel a Loyals Group professional can help you on your way. Or beyond.

Or, for more information from our specialists on optimization, take a look here:

 

Looking for a match with IT partners?

This blog is also available at https://isourcinghub.nl/blog/digitale-marketing-optimalisatie/. Use https://isourcinghub.nl/ to find the right IT partner for your issue. With more than 600 affiliated IT partners and tailor-made matching advice, you are guaranteed to find the right partner.

Profielfoto van Commercieel Directeur van de Loyals Groep Tibor Uittenbogaard

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