Podcast: Dominating Search Results with Angie Schottmuller

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In this episode of Landing Page Optimization, SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash and Angie Schottmuller, Director of Interactive Strategic Planning & Optimization at Three Deep, discuss similarities between the search and conversion fields, and how the shifts in Google’s algorithm present opportunities for practitioners of both fields.

Ugly Converts

Tim opens the discussion by asking about tactical versus strategic planning for digital, and Angie begins by explaining that it really starts with the company’s goals. An example is on social media ROI - companies can obsess about fan counts, but that’s not the right Key Performance Indicator (KPI), it doesn’t tie into the business. 

A better KPI would be ratings and reviews from social media, and then using the reviews to measure the conversion difference for certain keywords and social traffic on other channels. Another would be how user generated content helps make the web site more trustworthy - stock photos may be prettier, but real customers sharing real photos build more credibility, and ultimately the “uglier” photos help the site convert better.

The same is true for videos - the extra layer of editing doesn’t help. To plan properly, companies need to look at the goals and studies the right KPIs. 

Searches and Conversions Are Merging

Angie indicated that for her, there’s no way to think about SEO without thinking about conversions, and vice versa. Search engines still drive a lot of the traffic, and they carry data about the need - the visitor’s state of mind. But all that extra traffic still needs to convert.

She explains that search is basically relevance plus authority, and conversions are largely about the same things. For SEO, authority is backlinks - who links out to your content, and how many there are of them. Relevance is the match - the keyword, the context of the keyword, the search intent versus the page. For CRO, authority is, “is this site trustworthy,” or “do photos make it more credible.” Relevance is “did this match my intentions.” 

Because of the industry movements and Google’s changes to the algorithm, the distinction is dissolving.

The SERP is Evolving

Tim asks Angie about the changes to Google’s results page, and she expounds on the changes to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) by saying that there’s a radical shift afoot. Google is using rich snippets to display more information;  first with ratings and reviews, then with the authorship tag that displays photos of the authors on the results page, and then the array of information derived from markups - price, city, address, business hours, and other pieces of “tagging” content.

Those markups to the results page, she notes, can improve click-through rates by 20-30%, and can even help a result compete for attention against a result higher up on the results page, given how much people pay attention to images and other markups.

Multimedia Is Important

Angie notes that you can have a developer go through your site and tag everything, but even if you don’t have someone on the team who can do that, there’s Google’s data highlighter, which lets you visually indicate when something is an attribute - a date, price, or something else that a visitor cares about.

The other tactical win is fairly simple - ensuring the file names of images are hyphen-separated words that contain the relevant context for the pictures, and that the image is flanked by text that “relates” to the image. The latter makes it easier for the search engine spiders to associate an image to words and topics.

Create Magnetic Content

Angie notes that the key for both SEO and CRO is to create magnetic content, amazing content that answers people’s questions and pulls them in. The split between search and conversion experts is not as noticeable now, because both are really about being the best answer to a question. The new challenges are around viewing search, social, and conversion as a triangle where you are answering people’s questions, tapping into an army of advocates for user-generated content, and making the connections between the fields to deliver business value.

First Air Date: August 19, 2013

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