Multi-channel marketing is nothing new for modern brands, but it’s becoming more demanding as the number of channels increases and consumers chop and change between them. In this article, we’re going to look at how you can make the most of traffic from every channel by using performance UX.
One of the biggest challenges marketers face today is turning all of these channels into a single strategy and a consistent experience for users. The more channels you use to generate and nurture leads, the more friction points you introduce as users move along the consumer journey, often switching devices as they jump from one channel to another.
Performance UX and search optimization
As we reported in March, search overtook social to become the main source of referral traffic for the first time since 2014. This means the majority of your traffic is probably coming from search engines once again and most of this is likely coming from mobile users – particularly for first-time visitors.
At the same time, user experience signals have a larger impact on search ranking than they did four years ago, making performance UX and search optimization more integral to each other than ever.
Performance indicators that impact search ranking
There are numerous performance indicators that impact your search ranking, including:
- Loading times
- Mobile optimization
- Navigation and website structure
- On-page optimization (headings, internal links etc)
- Secure encryption (HTTPS)
- Security (spam, malware, hacks etc)
Although Google has never provided a list of ranking factors in its search algorithm, all of the above factors are known to have a direct impact on your ranking. It’s a safe assumption that other performance indicators are also considered but all of the above have been confirmed by algorithm updates and statements from Google.
Engagement indicators that impact search ranking
While the performance indicators listed above have a direct impact on search ranking, most engagement indicators have an indirect influence. We’ll explain this more in a moment but first, let’s have a look at some of the most important engagement indicators to consider:
- Inbound links
- Organic shares
- Time spent on page
- Time spent on site
- Number of pages visited
- Bounce rate
Now, inbound links are still one of the top three ranking factors in Google’s search algorithm, as confirmed by the search giant itself in 2016. The more valuable and engaging your content is, the more it will be linked to by authoritative sources – and we really are talking about the quality of links, not quantity. If your page has five links from high-authority sources, you’re going to be in a much better position than having 100 links from low-quality sites.
Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed links are still one of the top ranking factors in March 2016.
So inbound links are definitely a direct linking factor – there’s no doubt about that – but most of the other performance indicators are almost certainly indirect. Organic shares might be the exception here but this point is widely debated and impossible to prove one way or the other. As for signals like time on page, time on site, pages visited and bounce rate, none of these signals alone can directly indicate how engaging your content is.
For example, a high bounce rate is generally considered to be a bad thing, but Google can’t rule out occasions where users are so engaged with your content that they convert right away and leave before visiting a second page. In many ways, this is the perfect user session and it wouldn’t make sense to drop the ranking for a page when it performs this efficiently.
However, Google can use these signals as a composite indicator (e.g. high bounce rates + low time on page + user goes back to search and clicks another listing) to determine that your page isn’t providing what they’re looking for.
Google could take this further, too, by comparing these signals with your loading times and mobile-friendly score against desktop performance to determine whether mobile optimization is the problem. We don’t know exactly how Google makes these decisions but we do know RankBrain is capable of far more complex calculations than the example we’ve just given.
Moving beyond search
Of course, organic search is just one of the channels in your multi-channel marketing strategy and you’ll also be generating leads from paid search, social media, referral traffic (e.g. links), offline interactions and any other channels incorporated into your marketing strategy.
These aren’t merely lead generation channels either. Users move between these channels at various stages of the buying process and you need to be in the right place, at the right time with the right message to meet their needs.
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Users who first land on your site via organic search are likely to return again from social, click through from a PPC ad or sign up to your email list, interacting with your brand across multiple channels as they move closer to making a purchase.
Google introduced the concept of micro-moments in 2015 to address the way users move between channels and devices as their needs change.
Google established micro-moments for organic and paid search, but the same principle applies to your wider marketing strategy, including every channel used to generate and nurture leads along the buying process.
For example, a micro-moment could be someone traveling in your local area right now who first discovers your restaurant on Facebook – not by accident, but because you’re using location targeting to reach people traveling in your city.
Source: Facebook Advertiser Help Center
This user might then jump over to Google Maps to see what time your business hours are and click through to your website for more information and then decide to give you a ring because you’ve got a lovely call button displaying on the mobile version of your site.
In this short and simple consumer journey, we’ve already got Facebook ads working with Google Maps and a Google My Business profile, complete with opening hours and a link to your website where mobile users can tap a button to call you right away.
These are the kind of conversion paths you need to be designing for users because they’re not all going to click on your Facebook ad as soon as they see it. Without a complete Google My Business profile or that call button on your site, this lead would probably slip away.
Creating a single experience across multiple channels
Multi-channel marketing quickly falls apart if you fail to create a single experience for users across each of them. For example, if you have a Facebook chatbot where people can buy products or make customer inquiries, users need this session data to be stored globally, in real-time, so the same information is there when they log in to their account on your website.
Likewise, your sales team needs all of this information available when a customer calls up with a problem – every interaction, across every channel.
Starbucks has the unenviable task of integrating a mostly-offline customer experience with its online channels, but it does an impressive job of things. By geo-fencing its membership cards to appear in customers’ smartphones when they enter selected stores, people simply need to pull out their phone to get their points, pay for their coffee and even get the odd free latte for their troubles.
Say what you like about their over-roasted beans but Starbucks is doing better than most brands when it comes to bridging the online and offline experience.
Test the details that impact performance
When it comes to creating a single experience, every detail matters. Users should be able to pause tasks on one channel and then pick up right where they left off on another. So if someone’s halfway through buying a product via your chatbot when they suddenly get a call, they should be able to log in at your website and complete the purchase while they talk on the phone.
The problem with optimizing UX is that it’s easy to get absorbed in details that don’t have a positive impact on performance. Sure, that new navigation menu might improve the user experience tenfold but what if it’s not helping you boost conversions, close more leads or get some kind of ROI on your UX investment?
To make UX optimization profitable, you have to focus on the details that make a difference to your marketing objectives. This is why we distinguish our performance UX services from regular user experience optimization. We identify the UX factors that make or break your marketing goals and optimize the details that matter most – so you’re only investing in tests and design improvements that boost results.
Apply this across each channel in your marketing strategy and your brand is going to make the most of traffic from every source and create a streamlined experience between each touch point as users become paying customers.
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