How to Turn Your 404 Page Into a Marketing Secret Weapon

 

You know what a 404 page is, right?

Just in case you need a refresher: it’s the error page your visitor reaches when they look for a page on your website that no longer exists.

Most businesses leave these as the standard template included with their host.

Big mistake.

Because, you can transform your 404 page from one that only reinforces a disappointing experience into an opportunity that builds a strong relationship with someone who could become a customer in the future.

How you ultimately do that is up to you. But here’s a simple process, with some examples, on what you might do:

  1. First, Acknowledge Your Mistake with a Unique Message

The standard 404 page says something like “404 Page Not Found.” That’s a tad cryptic. It’s computer speak to people who may not be tech geeks.

So, change that message into something else. It works doubly better if you can be humorous. Here’s some ideas:

  • “Whoops! Our Bad. We Don’t Have that Page.”
  • “Shit. We Lost It.”
  • “Uh-oh. Big Mistake On Our Part. We Kinda Sorta Don’t Have The Page You Want.”

Anyway, you get the idea. Some fancier websites will even take you through an animation that allows you to punish their web developer. No need to install that functionality on your website, but it shows you what’s possible.

The important thing is you clearly admit your own mistake. You may also want to include a sentence or two below clarifying the message a tad further.

  1. Give Your Visitors Options for What to Do Instead

If you have the standard 404 page template, it doesn’t give your visitors any recommendation on what action to take next. Sure, they could go up to your main navigation and choose something. But they’re much more likely to take action if you suggest a few ideas on what to do next.

One idea is to go to your analytics, find your top 3 visited pages or product categories, and offer these links. You could also give them the option to do an on-site search to find what they were looking for.

There’s not necessarily a “right” strategy. Anything you do to keep your visitor engaged is a win. You’ve done the hard work attracting them to your site in the first place, so keep the relationship going.

  1. Offer a 10% Discount in Exchange for Their Email Address

This may be a better fit for e-commerce sites that sell many products. But if you’re a service provider, you might include it too.

A 10% discount to make up for your mistake would go over quite well, and especially so because your visitor didn’t expect to get it.

Make sure to get something from them in return…like their email address. Then, you can turn them into a long-term customer through email marketing. Your best customers who buy the most stay on your email list. So, you can transform a minor mistake into thousands in revenue for years to come with this strategy!

Now, Your 404 Page is a Great Marketing Asset

See how something simple, like a 404 page, changes from just another event into a marketing machine?

Think creatively online. Think win-win. And you’ll get more customers and stay ahead of your competition.

What You Need to Know about Google’s Mobile-First Update

It’s coming soon…

At least this time, Google told you.

With most updates, you have no clue they’re hitting. Then, all of a sudden, you realize your rankings have tanked.

What happened?

Usually a Google update.

But Google’s made no secret of this one. Its Mobile-First update will happen. And it’s going to be a big change.

What Will the Mobile-First Update Do?

Google’s ultimate goal is to have one search index based on how your site serves mobile users. However, these search results will be served to both mobile and desktop users.

People search more on their mobile devices than desktop or laptop. So from a logical standpoint, the update makes sense.

If You Have a Responsive Site, Are You Already Prepared?

Possibly. But maybe not.

Mobile users may like your website, but that doesn’t guarantee Google will too.

Your site may look good on mobile devices. But that’s not exactly what Google looks for.

For example, people may look at your website on a variety of screen sizes. Smartphones come with many screen sizes. Tablets have a variety of sizes. Then you have laptops and desktops too.

Smart corporations design a unique experience for their mobile users. The branding is similar so the site remains recognizable. However, it’s a different experience.

That’s what you do in an ideal world.

Make Your content Easy to Read

Paragraphs should have about 3 sentences in them at maximum.

One-sentence paragraphs are totally okay, and you should include them throughout your content.

Your content should still include images. However, they should be scaled down from their original size for two reasons:

  1. So they don’t eat up the whole screen on a mobile device
  2. They’ll load faster, which gives your users a better experience

Diversify Your Traffic Sources

Although Google’s much better at punishing and rewarding sites as they justly deserve, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, you can follow all the rules with perfect intent and still get whacked.

You don’t always know exactly what Google will want. And they can make changes faster than you can adjust.

Using other traffic sources, besides organic traffic, is just sound business. These could include:

  • Social media
  • PPC
  • Video marketing
  • In-person marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Online review sites

You have plenty of opportunity to win traffic and keep driving it from non-organic sources.

When you follow these tips, the mobile-first update doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience.

New Aberdeen Group Research Highlights Website Management Problems

You’ve heard us discuss best practices for websites before. But, it’s been some time since we’ve done so. And these standards change over time.

Aberdeen Group recently released its research and findings on website management. And we’d like to share some of those with you here.

So let’s dive right in.

Why Care About Your Website’s Performance Anyway?

You know it’s important to offer the best presentation you can for your visitors. What difference does that actually make?

Aberdeen found companies who make a consistent effort at improving their websites for their uses are:

  • 4x more likely to have more online sales and revenue
  • 2x more likely to have lesser website downtime
  • 45% more likely to have a greater insight into performance problems

By the way, if you want to read the whole report, you can find it here.

The Average Patience of the Typical Website Visitor

You’ve heard the stat that most visitors leave your website in just seconds. What’s the reality on that?

According to Aberdeen, 20% of mobile websites report users start leaving their site after just 2 seconds. After 3 seconds, this jumps to 40%.

What Smart Companies Do

When you’re first building your website, your priority is ranking and attracting traffic. That traffic gives you data, so you can understand how people use your website, and what they like and don’t like.

At the beginning, you of course create the best experience possible at that point. But, you realize your website will need changes on an ongoing basis to adapt to preferences in your market.

What do sharp companies do to continue to meet their market’s needs?

Here are some things:

  1. Analyze Visitor Conversion Paths

Google Analytics gives you a report called “Users Flow.” You can find it under “Reporting à Audience à Users Flow.”

You’ll see an image like this:

new-aberdeen_blog_17

This report shows where users enter your website, and then the path of pages they follow. It’s huge for understanding how people use your website, and where they leave. Then you can figure out what to do at points where they leave to increase their on-site time.

  1. Heat Maps

Heat maps show similar data to the Google “Users Flow” you just learned about. However, they help you understand exactly how a visitor uses a certain page in greater depth. They show you exactly what the user clicks on in a certain page.

Check out this one:

new-aberdeen_2blog_17

Image Credit: Conversion XL

The red indicates the areas of most frequent clicking. This data helps you understand how to build your pages for the best user experience, and possible elements to eliminate.

Those are a couple things forward-thinking companies do to make their websites most useful for their users. You can get as scientific as you want, and it does make a big difference in your sales once you have consistent traffic.

What’s a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

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Fair warning: content delivery networks are a little more on the technical, obscure side.

Unless you’re a SEO pro, you probably haven’t heard of one.

Their basic benefit is that they speed up the browsing experience for your users. That’s good for you because the faster your website loads, the more sales you make.

And since Google factors page speed into your rankings, they make good sense to use.

How Do content Delivery Networks Work?

They’re simple to understand: they deliver web pages and other web content to your users based on their geographic location, the origin of the web page, and the content delivery server. The closer the CDN server is to the user, the faster the delivery, the better their experience, and the more likely you are to make a sale.

So if you host your website in New York, but have a user visit from Los Angeles or Sydney, Australia, a CDN would be located geographically closer and speed up the loading of your web page for them.

When Should You Use a CDN?

Honestly, they’re not the first speed improvement to make for your website. A CDN can be costly and relatively difficult to implement.

So you want to go with other things first, like:

  1. Optimizing the overall user experience (ease of navigation, design, useful content)
  2. Improving page speeds with coding and appropriate WordPress plugins
  3. Designing your site to be mobile friendly

Who Should Use a CDN?

Technically, every website which has more than 1 user at a time can benefit from a CDN.

However, CDNs are especially useful for these situations:

  1. E-commerce sites with high amounts of traffic (think Black Friday and other holidays)
  2. Government websites
  3. Websites heavy with rich media like video and images
  4. Websites that serve customers nationally or globally
  5. Any site that requires user to login to use a service

Some Helpful Information to Know about CDNs

  1. CDN providers, good ones anyway, guarantee nearly 100% availability, even during catastrophic events like massive power outages. So you won’t have to worry about your users not having access to parts of your website.
  2. If you have mostly mobile users, the returns you get are generally marginal in relation to their cost. Desktop users tend to get more speed than mobile users.
  3. CDN’s are getting more affordable because of increased competition. Years ago, you could expect to pay thousands of dollars per month at minimum. Now, the market’s tighter, and CDNs cooperate well with newer technologies.
  4. Different CDNs work better for various business types. An experienced internet marketing professional can help you make the right choice for yours.

If you want your user experience to be the best it can possibly be, a CDN’s a must-have. It might be just the edge you need to beat your competition.

 

Top 4 WordPress Plugins to Improve Page Speed

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WordPress plugins can be extremely helpful sometimes…

And then they cause more trouble than they’re others.

The trap that’s easy to fall into is to learn about a new plugin, and add that. Then you hear about another, and install it. And so on…

Before you realize it, you have 70+ plugins. And when you have a lot, they can interact poorly with each other, causing your website to stop working!

Plugins are a good thing. But you need to know which ones are worth having.

So here’s the top ones you should have to increase your page speed:

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights

Start right off with a plugin that uses technology from a name you trust. This plugin doesn’t do any fixes for you. But it does tell you what you need to fix.

You’ll learn:

  • The largest areas for page speed improvement across your entire site
  • What to fix on each page of your website (not all pages are the same, after all)
  • Your best and worst performing pages

 

  1. W3 Total Cache

A number of big names in the internet marketing space, and business in general, use this plugin. AT&T, Matt Cutts, Mashable, and others swear by it.

As its name suggests, it takes advantage of caching to improve your site’s speed. So, rather than loading a new page every time you visit, you can set this plugin to instead tell your user’s computers to check their internet history cache on their computer for a recent version of your web page.

W3 goes much farther than simple caching, as it’s really a complete solution for optimizing the speed of your entire WordPress site. It even has support for content delivery network integration.

Few WordPress plugins have W3’s amazing reputation. It truly is a must-have for your website.

  1. P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

Remember how we said it’s easy to install way too many plugins on your WordPress site?

Well this plugin analyzes all the ones you have installed, and tells you which ones slow down your site’s load time most.

Makes it easy to get rid of the troublemakers!

  1. WP Smush

Have a lot of images on your website? With just a few clicks, this plugin automatically reduces the file size of all the images…without reducing their quality.

And it does this automatically for each new image you upload too.

Other plugins do something similar, but you may have to manually do the process for each image! Yikes!

In a bloated world of WordPress plugins, those are the top 4 for improving your page speed.

They’ll make your life, and your user’s experience, much better!

Why Every Page on Your Website Needs to Load Fast

Why Every Page on Your Website Needs to Load Fast

 

Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who’s been testing what web users really want since the mid-1990s before most people even had the internet, says this about page load speed:

“When sites shave as little as 0.1 seconds of response time, the outcome is a juicy lift in conversion rates. Today or the 1990s? Same effect.”

He goes on to add that web users prefer fast websites over gorgeous ones. And no VP of marketing aims for a “sluggish” experience in any area of business.

So, it’s super important for your bottom line that your website operates fast.

But, That’s Not the Only Reason Your Website Should Load Fast…

That’s because Google gives better rankings to websites that load fast. And this isn’t a recent rule.

In fact, it’s been in place for more than 5 years – since April 2010.

Remember: it’s Google’s goal to put websites with the most helpful information at the top of its search rankings. They’re a for-profit company, so they have to do that better than anyone else to stay in business.

After that, at a general level, they consider user experience. And since you already learned users want fast websites, that’s something you need to aim for.

How Do You Know if Your Website Loads “Fast?”

After all, people have different connection speeds. So not everyone’s experience is the same.

Some people might even still be on dial-up (remember that?)!

Fortunately, it’s easy to check. Google has a PageSpeed Insights tool that tells you (and appropriately so) in just seconds.

Simply enter in your URL. Google gives you a score of 1-100, with 100 being perfect. And it gives you separate scores for mobile and desktop versions of your website (you do have both, don’t you?).

Here’s an example so you see what we mean:

That’s the easy part.

The hard part is…making the changes. You don’t need a skilled developer to make them all, but you will need one to make most of them. Some you can get away with by using a simple WordPress plugin.

Examples of Websites that Load “Fast”

Believe it or not, you can shell out thousands of dollars making your website load fast. The good news is you don’t need to break the bank. You can get close enough if you’re on a budget.

But here’s a few websites that show you what to shoot for:

  1. Copyblogger

This website’s actually a thought leader in the online marketing space. Just click around on their site a little.

Notice how it loads so fast that you almost feel like you’re clicking on your desktop computer.

  1. com

This site delivers news stories according to your interest. Like Copyblogger, it loads fast and has a simple design.

In conclusion, your customers want everything now, and the same goes with your website. So, it’s important to make it load fast for their benefit, and to keep your Google rankings high.