Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can feel like a painfully abstract chore for business owners – a coded game that you pay a tech wizard to win on your behalf – but it’s related more to basic business values than you might think.

Over time, search engines have become very good at understanding what people actually want from websites. They understand it by observing and charting the interactions between users and websites.

In other words: if your website is a place that people enjoy spending time, it will be a place that search engines recommend more frequently. In that sense, optimizing your website for SEO is very similar to setting up the best possible brick and mortar shop.

This quality is often described as User Experience (UX). There are lots of little tweaks you can make to optimize UX on your site, same as you would a store. And just as every store benefits from a friendly employee to welcome all visitors and answer questions, websites benefit from live chat.

What is User Experience (UX)?

UX pertains to how people feel about when they’re on your website. Scientists can (and do) get really deep on UX and interface theory, particularly as it intersects with cognitive science and digital interface design.

But here’s a shorthand version: if you can create a good user experience, people will spend more time on your website. Search engines notice when people spend significant time (or don’t) on your website. They do so with metrics like these:

  • Bounce rate
    What percentage of visitors visit your site and don’t take another action before leaving – the equivalent of a customer window shopping and quickly deciding this store isn’t for them.
  • Time on page
    How long someone spends on an individual page once they get there. A high average for time spent on a page can be one good indicator of valuable content.

Qualities of Strong UX

Broadly speaking, you want your website to affect visitors in the same way that your actual business does – projecting competence, thoughtfulness, and competitive edge. 

Content

A sense of value comes from relevant content that satisfies the questions your users have. For example, if someone searches ‘house sale listings in my area’ and clicks on your realty website, those listings should be readily available and up-to-date.

Web Design

Ease of navigation and interaction will keep people engaged. Do the pages load quickly? Is it easy to find the most important pages? Are the support resources for visitors struggling with any step of the process?

How Live Chat Improves UX

So, to review: improved UX will amplify your search engine rankings (and probably your sales in the meantime). And you can enhance your UX by creating a website that answers people’s questions, keeps them happily exploring, and possibly even providing you with contact info so you can convert them farther down the sales funnel.

Live chat is a powerful tool at your disposal to address all of those concerns at once.

How does live chat optimize your site’s UX? Here are some values…

Responsive

People’s customer service expectations keep rising and they want it now. A Salesforce survey found that 64% of customers and 80% of business buyers expect questions answered in real time. And nearly 3/4 of shoppers will switch brands if they don’t receive consistent service.

For web visitors, live chat offers the most immediate mode of response. Visitors don’t even have to pick up the phone. Instead of waiting for a visitor to reach out with a question, effective live chat systems introduce themselves as soon as a visitor arrives.

When I landed on the Ruby homepage today, for example, I was greeted by a little live chat box where an assistant offered guidance. I knew where I was going, but kept the minimized chat box in the corner, just in case.

Useful

Your website should gently lead visitors to the information they want. But no matter how perfectly you create content and design the site, people will have unique questions and access needs. There’s no substitute for live customer service in those situations.

A live chat assistant trained in industry terms and customer concerns can direct people to the info they need. They can answer questions directly and, in case they don’t have an answer right away, they can follow-up later on with it.

Access is also a tech issue – people are visiting through various desktops, tablets, and smartphones. According to Google, 79% of users are more likely to revisit a mobile-friendly site. The live chat tools you choose should be adaptable to these platforms.

Engaging

Live chat agents not only ask questions – they ask follow-up questions. It keeps people paying attention (and increases the time they spend on your site). It’s also a fantastic way to understand what people are looking for when they come to your site. If numerous people ask the same question to live chat, such as ‘where is your pricing page?’ then it’s probably time to rethink the placement of your pricing page. 

Live chat dialogue is also an effective (and accessible) way to capture contact info for lead acquisition. It does the work of a lead capture survey without putting the onus on the customer. When done well, it can also include all sorts of nuanced data that provides your sales team with extra personal touches for outreach.

Classic Customer Engagement In The Digital World

Focusing on User Experience can be one of the best tactics for boosting any business’s search engine rankings. When visitors spend more time on your site than your competitor’s site, Google and other engines take notice.

There’s really no faking those UX metrics, but you can improve the quality of UX by focusing on fundamentals: content, design, and customer support.

Effective customer support can keep visitors happy despite any complications they may have on your site, and live chat provides responsive, engaging, valuable support to visitors 24/7/365.

Interested in learning more about live chat? Download our guide, The Rise of Website Chat to get the full scoop!

Josh Orr is part of the team at Ercule, a content and SEO performance agency in Portland, OR.

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Shop Local! It has become a rallying cry for independent businesses around the world. In the age of Google, people don’t simply stroll on down to Main Street when they want to make a purchase. No one opens the local yellow pages anymore. They open a search engine on their phone and it might take them far, far away from Main Street.

The good news? Four out of five people use search engines to find local information. Searches for ‘near me’ or ‘close by’ increased more than 900% in a two-year period.

You’ve probably conducted this kind of search yourself when looking to buy soccer cleats or hire an electrician ‘near me’. And if you’re like most people — 92% of shoppers to be exact — you choose a business from the first page of results that Google provides.

Page one of a Google search — this is the new marketing goal of any business, including yours.

How do you appear at the top of the page for every relevant search? In other words, how do you improve your local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? At Ercule, we spend every day helping businesses do exactly that.

In this blog series, we’ll be sharing insights and tips you can put into practice for your own business.

Understand Your Content Stack

Content is the cornerstone of optimizing your web presence. Quality content. Useful content. In today’s extremely competitive business landscape, your competitors are creating tons of digital content and strategically working to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. You need to be doing the same if you want to be the top local listing for your industry on Google.

We call this layered approach the content stack and it consists of several components.

Strategy

Which search terms do you want to own? What kinds of shoppers are you looking to win over? 

Production

Creating relevant, thorough, readable material that provides useful information for visitors to your website and secures your place as a trustworthy expert.

Distribution

Promoting your written content via diverse channels, including organic search, social media, email, and direct sales outreach.

Conversion

Perfecting your website so visitors have the best possible experience and, ultimately, choose to spend their money with you.

Analysis

Looking at click rates, conversion rates, revenue, and all pertinent data to understand which strategies are working well and which ones might be improved.

Strategy: Figure Out What People Are Searching For

Strategizing for your content stack means understanding the exact search terms people are using most often in your area. 

Search data is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of your community. While you can never fully predict which search terms are most popular in a given area, you don’t have to guess either. Google provides you with the data you need via free apps, such as:

  • Google Search Console
    See how your website is showing up in Google search, how often its listing is getting clicks, and any formatting errors that are causing it to be overlooked by search engine A.I.
  • Google Trends
    Enter in any keyword and see how frequently it is being searched in comparison to other keywords. For example, if you’re a bookstore you might compare the local trends for a term like ‘new fiction’ versus ‘best-seller fiction’.
  • Google Analytics
    Log in to track activity around your own website. This data can show the search terms that brought people to your site, the pages on your site that get the most clicks, and the ‘bounce rate’ or amount of time visitors spend on your site before clicking elsewhere.

You can explore each of these platforms for hours on end and get lost in data, but even basic questions can work wonders for your SEO strategy. Consider these:

  • What are the top search terms locally for my industry?
  • How well does my business rank for each of these top search terms?
  • When I search these keywords in the search bar, which local businesses have the top rank?

Doing research on your competitors and their keywords is another great way to understand what sort of content is winning the attention of shoppers in your area.  

Production: Give The People What They Want (And Help Search Engines Find It)

Now that you’ve got a list of the most valuable search terms in your local market, you can build the content that speaks to those terms.

‘Content’ is a term people throw around a lot these days to describe anything from videos to tweets to podcasts. When we speak of ‘content’ in the SEO context, there are a few basic formats that will go a long way:

  • Blog Posts
    Casual but informative pieces (like this one) devoted to a particular topic. Shoot for a word count around 600 to 1200 words.
  • Explainers
    Longer pieces (1500 words or more) designed as a primer for any newcomer to a subject. Explainers maintain a friendly tone, and go deeper into the material than a blog.
  • Product Pages
    These are in-depth pages about the product your business offers and can be great for SEO when written around specific features. For example, a locksmith might have a page built around “car key replacement” and another on “24-hour unlocking services”.

Designing Content For SEO

What kind of content will win the attention of search engines? In the old days, businesses would just repeat the keyword over and over and over in a blog post. It didn’t bring much value to human readers but it was a boon for SEO.

These days, the search engine A.I. is much more sophisticated. Increasingly, it’s learning to value blogs and explainers for the same values that human readers do.

Quality content is…

  • Relevant (and, if possible, evergreen) subject matter
  • Written in a clear, concise, readable way
  • Thoroughly researched and presented

Of course, there are other ways to tailor your content for an extra SEO edge as well:

  • Optimizing keyword placements – especially in headings, like the Ruby blog post shown below, which is optimized for the search term ‘Call Handling’.
  • Optimizing content length – Google and other search engines tend to prefer “meatier” content that encourages users to stay and interact with a page – think 300 words and up.
  • Getting inbound links – whether they are from your site or from external sites, well-used inbound links signal the value of a page to search engines. 

Boost Your SEO For Yourself And Your Customers

Boosting your search engine performance depends on the same principles local businesses have always used to stay competitive. At base, it’s about providing real value to the lives of customers and making that value easy to find.

It requires first understanding your customers’ problems, which is easier now because search engines record every question that is searched. Once you get oriented to the online tools and methods for finding those questions, you can do your work with precision.

The content you generate not only wins the attention of search engines, it highlights your expertise to people in your community, free of charge. It’s a gift. By boosting SEO, that value becomes more accessible for everyone.

And when people visit your website for that content, the rest of the site should engage them as well. That’s where features like page design and customer support come in to play – live chat on your site is one great example of this. 

We’ll be exploring these topics more in subsequent blog posts, in the meantime, you might download Ruby’s guide to live chat to learn more about how to make your optimized website perform better for you.

Josh Orr is part of the team at Ercule, a content and SEO performance agency in Portland, OR.

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