UtilityDiscount.com SEO & UX (10/16-2/17)

How I cleaned up UX, improved signup flow, and fixed onsite issues for a business’s WordPress installation– and where we went wrong.

Opportunity

Business: Boost traffic and set the site up for online revenue using SEO & conversion rate optimization tactics
UX: Fix homepage WordPress design and improve signup flow (conversions)
SEO: Fix the crawl, get duplicate & irrelevant pages removed from Google index, improve organic visibility for keyword searches

The Way Forward

October 2016-February 2017: In October, I took on some comprehensive strategy & implementation work that involved optimizing a WordPress site — from start to finish, really. UtilityDiscount.com was built on WordPress, but it had never been done any favors as far as its SEO went… and there were critical issues preventing it from getting properly indexed.

• Non-optimal site structure with duplicate content on many pages
• Irrelevant URL’s (miscellaneous page content that was never set to “Private” or “no index” in WP) had been indexed by Google for years

After a Screaming Frog crawl, I fixed this along with some performance drags I was able to address with WordPress plugins.

In addition, the business owner wanted to move his site to HTTPS, which was great, particularly since it was needed for security — given the utility supplier sign-up flow — but looking at how to invest resources properly, fixing the crawl/indexing issues (and hoping for Google to respond) would mean time away from organic traffic efforts in the short term. Switching to HTTPS wasn’t going to give us a SERP boost. Rankings weren’t even in the picture yet.

And there were bigger issues.

The site needed UX work for the conversion path and brand credibility, so I saw this HAD to be the next step. It’s always a challenge to make the case that efforts to funnel in organic traffic will be more or less wasted if the landing page ain’t working from a conversion path perspective. But the business owner was receptive, and we made legitimate strides with UX as you can see at left. I also optimized homepage & page titles for search.

Next, we switched the site to HTTPS after I diagnosed and fixed insecure content issues. After some back and forth with the developer and getting deep into the HTML… success! The green “Secure” bar was working.

And the new site got fully re-indexed by Google with the site ranking #1 for its brand search term, so that was a good thing. 🙂

Define “Failure”

The larger business issues facing UtilityDiscount.com — and the reason I failed in that time to improve organic search presence — boiled down to a couple things, I thought.

1) The remaining necessary onsite labor investment for design & UX would enhance the brand impression and position us well for an offsite SEO push; however, they didn’t qualify as a “fix” like the above SEO tasks each did. Based on success I’ve seen in the past, I DO tie onsite content and UX work directly to conversion rate improvement, as well as engagement metrics like lower bounce rates.

BUT…

2) The (even bigger) problem facing both UtilityDiscount.com and its affiliate I also did lots of work for, Power Kiosk Direct, is that consumer awareness was still too low overall to establish a baseline trust in the online model — much less the brands themselves. (Analytics data from Power Kiosk Direct campaign efforts, indicating success with engagement metrics otherwise, helped show that this was the case.)

For a small business owner, it’s very difficult to commit to an offsite SEO/PR campaign to build credibility and authority when you don’t see tangibly the step-1 onsite SEO fixes “working.”

My advice in a situation like this, where you’re facing the tremendous challenges of introducing both a new brand and a new online business model? Don’t put a huge investment into your digital efforts until you know — based on what you’ve measured — that the market’s poised to take off. My client was smart in that he just “stuck his toes in the water” first.

Be smart. Test. Learn from the data.

What can you do specifically? Monitor competitors. Invest minimal resources while you test different inbound marketing and paid search strategies, and learn from the analytics data WHERE and WHO your most receptive audiences are. A/B test, improve your messaging, and test again. Know from your competitor’s activities as well as market trend research when you’re best positioned to ramp up your digital investment with a targeted effort. You’ll be prepared to win in the right place, and at the right time.