Google’s “People also ask” boxes are widely discussed within the SEO industry as they take a lot of SERP real estate while providing little to no organic visibility to the publishers’ sites.
That said, “People also ask” listings are probably helpful for Google’s users allowing them to get a better understanding of a topic they are researching. Yet, whether they do send actual clicks to publishers’ pages remains a huge question.
While we have no power over Google’s search engine page elements, our job as digital marketers is to find ways to take any opportunity to boost our clients’ organic visibility.
Is there any way for marketers to utilize this search feature better? Let’s see.
1. Understand your target query intent better
One of the cooler aspects of “People also ask” boxes is that they are dynamic.
When you click one question, it will take you in a new direction by generating more follow-up questions underneath. Each time you choose, you get more to choose from.
The coolest thing though is that the further questions are different (in topic, direction or intent) based on which question you choose.
Let me explain this by showing you an example. Let’s search for something like – “Is wine good for your blood?”
Now try clicking one of those questions in the box, for example, “What are the benefits of drinking red wine?” and watch more follow-up questions show up. Next, click a different question “Is red wine good for your heart and blood pressure?”. Do you see the difference?
Source: Screenshot made by the author, as of Feb 2020
Now, while this exercise may seem rather insignificant to some people, to me, it is pretty mind-blowing as it shows us what Google may know of their users’ research patterns and what may interest them further, depending on their next step.
To give you a bit of a context, Google seems to rely on semantic analysis when figuring out which questions fit every searcher’s needs better. Bill Slawski did a solid job covering a related patent called “Generating related questions for search queries” which also states that those related questions rely on search intent:
Providing related questions to users can help users who are using un-common keywords or terminology in their search query to identify keywords or terms that are more commonly used to describe their intent.
Source: Google patent
For a deeper insight into the variety of questions and types of intent, they may signal, try Text Optimizer. The tool uses a similar process of extracting questions Google does. For example, here are intent-based questions that refer to the topic of bitcoin.
Source: TextOptimizer’s search screenshot, as of Jan 2020
2. Identify important searching patterns
This one somewhat relates to the previous one but it serves a more practical goal, beyond understanding your audience and topic better. If you search Google for your target query enough, you will soon start seeing certain searching patterns.
For example, lots of city-related “People also ask” boxes will contain questions concerning the city safety, whether it is a good place to live in and what it is famous for:
Identifying these searching patterns is crucial when you want:
- Identify your cornerstone content
- Re-structure your site or an individual landing page
- Re-think your site navigation (both desktop and mobile)
- Create a logical breadcrumb navigation (more on this here)
- Consolidate your multiple pages into categories and taxonomies
3. Create on-page FAQs
Knowing your target users’ struggles can help in creating a really helpful FAQ section that can diversify your rankings and help bring steady traffic.
All you need to do is to collect your relevant “People also ask” results, organize them in sections (based on your identified intent/searching patterns) and answer all those questions on your dedicated FAQ page.
When working on the FAQ page, don’t forget to:
- Use FAQPage schema to generate rich snippets in Google search (WordPress users can take advantage of this plugin). If you have a lot of questions in your niche, it is a good idea to build a standalone knowledge base to address them. Here are all the plugins for the job.
- Set up engagement funnels to keep those readers interacting with your site and ultimately turn them into customers. Finteza is a solid option to use here, as it lets you serve custom CTAs based on the users’ referral source and landing page that brought them to your site:
Source: Screenshot by Finteza, as of July 2019
4. Identify your competitor’s struggles
If you have an established competitor with a strong brand, their branded queries and consequent “People also ask” results will give you lots of insight into what kinds of struggles their customers are facing (and how to serve them better).
When it comes to branded “People also ask” results, you may want to organize them based on possible search intent:
- ROPO questions: These customers are researching a product before making a purchasing decision.
- High-intent questions: Customers are closest to a sale. These are usually price-related queries, for example, those that contain the word “reviews”.
- Navigational questions: Customers are lost on your competitor’s site and need some help navigating. These queries can highlight usability issues for you to avoid when building your site.
- Competitive questions: These queries compare two of your competitors.
- Reputation questions: Those customers want to know more about your competitor’s company.
Source: A screenshot made by the author in January 2020
This information helps you develop a better product and a better site than those of your competitors.
With the changes in search algorithms over the years, the dropping and adding of key search elements, the evolution of Google’s SERPs, navigating digital marketing trends seems almost treacherous.
Yet, at the core of things, not much has really shifted and much of what we do remains the same. In fact, some of those changes have made it even easier to make an impact on the web than ever before. While we may welcome or frown upon each new change, there’s still some competitive advantage in each of them.
Our job, as digital marketers, is to distinguish that competitive advantage and make the most of it.
I hope the above ideas will help you use “People also ask” results to your advantage.
Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com.
The post How to make the most of Google’s “People also ask” results appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Can you use Creative Sets instead of A/B testing? Read to find out Apple Search Ads best practices & insights for using Creative Sets, pros and cons of this tool.
Read more at PPCHero.com
After years of invasive pop-ups asking for notification permission, Chrome and Firefox have finally taken action.
Feed: All Latest
In today’s market of evolving website functionality, UX design has become more important than ever to businesses, globally. Here’s a roundup of top UX mistakes and how to fix them.
We want users to navigate our site freely, without obstacles and without friction. If your site makes finding information a challenge, you can bet your bottom dollar your competition already knows that, and is capitalizing on it.
Both UX and SEO are user-centric, which makes them a formidable pair when you get them right.
But get it wrong and you could see high bounce rates, low conversions and even a slight hit on your rankings as Google’s John Mu considers UX a ‘soft ranking factor’.
If you’re finding that users aren’t spending time on your site (or converting) there could be issues. We’re going to help you find out what they could be.
Your site’s navigation is the gateway to your content and service pages. It’s where you (really) focus on building a funnel that is both frictionless and easy to understand.
Your navigation should be an architecture of well-structured, groups of pages; either commercial or informational (depending on your business).
Some of the most common mistakes we see are:
- Links without value in the main menu
- Excessive anchor text
- Non-responsive (yep, it still happens in 2019)
- Too many sub-menus
How to fix your site’s navigation
The golden rule here is to make your navigation accessible, responsive and clutter-free.
Think about your categories, your most valuable pages, where users spend most of their time and, more importantly, who your users are.
Forever 21 does a great job of linking through to the main areas of its site in a structured and visually pleasing way.
Let’s say you run an ecommerce store for pets (because everybody loves animals).
You sell products for dogs, cats and rabbits. Here’s how you can structure your navigation…
Aesthetics are everything
People are visual creatures. We like websites to be aesthetically pleasing.
One of the biggest cardinal sins of UX is poor imagery, color choices and font selection. In fact, I’ll extend that into most areas of any online marketing; social media and display ads.
Here’s an example of all three on a single site:
I don’t think I need to go much further into why this could be improved. But, I will go into the how.
Even the big brands get it wrong…
Notice how a single, poorly sized image has affected the feel of the whole page?
Fixing poor page structure
Things to consider when it comes to site layout are: margins, padding and alignment.
As you can see in the example above, alignment is a big issue and even a small amount of misaligned content/imagery can look unprofessional. Web pages work in columns which provide a structure for designers to create landing pages which can influence users’ focus and attention.
Combining text and images together is normally where layouts can become difficult to manage as we’ve already seen.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a number of page layout examples below which make structuring your content and images simple.
- Image aligned to the right of text:
- Text on top of image:
- Text box overlaid on carousel image:
Working with fonts
When you consider fonts, you need to think about how your content will appear at all sizes. From your header hierarchy to your bullet points.
We recommend limiting the amount of different fonts you use on your site. It’s easy to get carried away to give different sections of your site its own ‘feel’.
Once you’ve chosen a single font family or families, consider how you can create contrast between header and body content.
Single font selections with varying font weights can create a very visually pleasing contrast between sections of your page.
A poor font selection can even make a retail giant, such as Amazon, look untrustworthy and unprofessional.
If you’re struggling for ideas on font pairing, you can find use Font Pair to put together different font types. It’s important to remember that font readability will play a huge part in how users consume content.
- Paragraph spacing
If you’re content currently looks like this:
I’m sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.
Even a minor change to fonts can cause the greatest of upsets to users. Just ask Amazon how it went for it.
Most CMS platforms will come with pre-installed fonts, but if you need more of a selection you can always use Google Fonts.
Finally, consider how your font appears on desktop and mobile.
If your font size is too big, it would take up too much of a mobile screen. If it’s too small, users will struggle to read it. It’s worth testing different sizes to cater for overall legibility.
This is an example of how Zazzle’s homepage appears on an iPhone X – using a font size of 18px.
Page load times
This shouldn’t be news to you by now.
There are multiple case studies available about how load times can impact conversions. So, I won’t go into that here.
The most common reason for page load times being high, is images. Images are something most site owners can change with little dev input. It ultimately comes down to saving the right file type, using the right dimensions and compressing high-resolution to preserve quality, whilst reducing size.
Savings in KB can often make a huge difference.
Take a look at what happens when image optimization is ignored.
For the sake of anonymity, we’ve hidden the brand’s identity.
However, this is the page we were greeted with for over five seconds. It’s a medium-sized ecommerce website that caters to children’s clothing.
By optimizing the images, we found that there were savings of up to 900kb – a significant weight lifted off of a browser.
Consider how this feels for users? First impressions are everything. What’s to stop traffic bouncing due to content/images not loading?
Think about that for a second!
How to fix image bloat
Firstly, you need to find if this is an issue.
You can run speed tests using Google’s Lighthouse or GTMetrix to get an understanding of which files are too heavy. It’s simple to find poorly optimized images for individual pages.
For batch analysis, we recommend using a tool like Sitebulb which has an incredibly in-depth section attributed to page speeds.
If your images are already on your site and you don’t really fancy opening Photoshop and resizing them all, you need to run batch compressions to reduce the file size.
It’s often thought that compressing images means poor quality. However, take a look at the image below and assess the quality difference for yourselves.
For those of you using WordPress, you can use the Smush.it plugin to compress and resize the images on your site.
New image formats
Google Developers introduced a new file format which is considered to be superior to its PNG and JPG equivalent.
It offers fantastic lossless and lossy compression for images.
Shaving milliseconds off your load time, especially on poor mobile connections, can stop a user from leaving your site. Google has said it actively rewards sites that are seen to make incremental improvements to site speed.
The great news?
More than 70% of browsers support this media format!
You can read more about WebP with Google Developers.
No UX mistake roundup would be complete without mentioning pop-ups.
They seem to get more aggressive and more disruptive each year. You’ll find it hard to come across a website without them.
Sorry Sumo, but this is one of the worst.
This is considered a scroll-triggered pop-up. Whereby, the page waits for me to interact before the pop-up is shown.
There is one major rule that you must abide by: do not disrupt a user’s experience with pop-ups. We know this is a bold statement but… who likes pushy sales?
If you want to help users, do it natively.
Remember, we’re creating a frictionless journey.
How to use pop-ups — the right way
First things, don’t ever use interstitial pop-ups. It will annoy users and could defer the rendering of your page in search engines.
Both are bad for business.
We recommend using pop-ups in a more subtle manner.
A perfect example of a branded CTA at the top of the screen. It’s non-invasive on both desktop and mobile.
Chatbots are a great way to help users find what they’re looking for, without disrupting their experience.
You can incorporate lead generation, discount codes or just offer general customer advice. It can help improve operational efficiency (reducing calls into the business) and improving conversion rates.
If a customer is finding it hard to find a particular area of the site, chatbots can remove this friction quickly to help retain users.
Native CTA banners
Another smart way to offer discounts to users is to integrate CTAs within product selections or even at category level as a header banner.
We find this to be a great way to preserve UX and still help drive incentivized clicks to sale or discount pages.
It’s always important to remember to design banners to match size and resolutions of your products.
UX is as important to your website as your content. Data shows that UX is still a bit of a mystery to many marketers, but it should be the most important factor on any site design.
Website innovation is encouraged but not at the cost of your users. When you’re considering how to improve your user’s experience, you need to remember how you feel navigating a poorly put together site.
Consider the easy fixes; fonts, images, colors and navigation first, before you think about CRO (conversion rate optimization).
Remember, we’re in a market driven by user behavior so, try your best to cater to that as much as you can and you’ll win!
Ryan Roberts is an SEO Lead at Zazzle Media.
The post How to fix the top most painful website UX mistakes [examples] appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
It’s that time of year again! The time to release our newest edition of the Top 25 and honor some of the hardest workers in our tight-knit PPC community. Find out the 2019 Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts in the world.
Read more at PPCHero.com
For the first time in the history of the Top 25 list, we decided to announce a Top 50. The Top 50 is based on votes only…meaning only those with the most votes got in the Top 50 to be scored for the final Top 25 list. Find out who made the Top 50!
Read more at PPCHero.com
Braille is a crucial skill for children with visual impairments to learn, and with these LEGO Braille Bricks kids can learn through hands-on play rather than more rigid methods like Braille readers and printouts. Given the naturally Braille-like structure of LEGO blocks, it’s surprising this wasn’t done decades ago.
The truth is, however, that nothing can be obvious enough when it comes to marginalized populations like people with disabilities. But sometimes all it takes is someone in the right position to say “You know what? That’s a great idea and we’re just going to do it.”
It happened with the BecDot (above) and it seems to have happened at LEGO. Stine Storm led the project, but Morten Bonde, who himself suffers from degenerating vision, helped guide the team with the passion and insight that only comes with personal experience.
In some remarks sent over by LEGO, Bonde describes his drive to help:
When I was contacted by the LEGO Foundation to function as internal consultant on the LEGO Braille Bricks project, and first met with Stine Storm, where she showed me the Braille bricks for the first time, I had a very emotional experience. While Stine talked about the project and the blind children she had visited and introduced to the LEGO Braille Bricks I got goose bumps all over the body. I just knew that I had to work on this project.
I want to help all blind and visually impaired children in the world dare to dream and see that life has so much in store for them. When, some years ago, I was hit by stress and depression over my blind future, I decided one day that life is too precious for me not to enjoy every second of. I would like to help give blind children the desire to embark on challenges, learn to fail, learn to see life as a playground, where anything can come true if you yourself believe that they can come true. That is my greatest ambition with my participation in the LEGO Braille Bricks project
The bricks themselves are very like the originals, specifically the common 2×4 blocks, except they don’t have the full 8 “studs” (so that’s what they’re called). Instead, they have the letters of the Braille alphabet, which happens to fit comfortably in a 2×3 array of studs, with room left on the bottom to put a visual indicator of the letter or symbol for sighted people.
It’s compatible with ordinary LEGO bricks and of course they can be stacked and attached themselves, though not with quite the same versatility as an ordinary block, since some symbols will have fewer studs. You’ll probably want to keep them separate, since they’re more or less identical unless you inspect them individually.
All told the set, which will be provided for free to institutions serving vision-impaired students, will include about 250 pieces: A-Z (with regional variants), the numerals 0-9, basic operators like + and =, and some “inspiration for teaching and interactive games.” Perhaps some specialty pieces for word games and math toys, that sort of thing.
LEGO was already one of the toys that can be enjoyed equally by sighted and vision-impaired children, but this adds a new layer, or I suppose just re-engineers an existing and proven one, to extend and specialize the decades-old toy for a group that already seems already to have taken to it:
“The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days,” said Bonde.
Danish, Norwegian, English, and Portuguese blocks are being tested now, with German, Spanish and French on track for later this year. The kit should ship in 2020 — if you think your classroom could use these, get in touch with LEGO right away.
Here’s a bold statement: “SEO in the travel industry is immensely challenging.”
The sheer number of pages to manage, complexities of properties, flights, accommodation, availability, occupancy, destinations, not to mention the crazy amount of APIs and databases to make a travel site function, can all make life tricky for an SEO, particularly when it comes to the development queue…
Having said that, there are still common mistakes and missed opportunities out there that have the potential to be really impactful and believe it or not, they don’t actually require a huge amount of resource to put right.
So, here’s a list of the six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right for 2019:
Forgetting about index bloat
There are a LOT of facets and filters when it comes to commercial travel category pages, arguably the most of any industry.
Typically with every facet or filter, be it; availability, location, facilities, amenities nearby, occupancy etc. A URL is created with the associated parameters selected by the user.
If not handled correctly, this can produce thousands of indexable pages that have no unique organic value to users.
This is a problem for a number of reasons:
- It can be confusing for search engines because they can find it tricky to identify the best and most relevant URL to rank and show users depending on their query
- It can dilute domain level ranking signals drastically
- It can cause a huge amount of duplicate content issues
- It can waste crawl budget which for big travel sites is super important
Combined, this can cause big losses in rankings, traffic and subsequently conversion!
How to identify index bloat
Go to Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and check your ‘Index Coverage’ report or, in the old version, check ‘Index Status’ to see if you can see any spikes or growth in ‘Total Indexed’ pages. If you notice something like the graph below and it’s not expected, then there may be a problem:
If you find there is a big increase and you can’t explain why, conduct some ‘Site:’ operator searches and spot check areas of your site where this may be commonplace to see what you can find.
Here’s an example of index bloat from the page speed tool ‘Pingdom’. It seems as though every input a user executes produces an indexable URL:
Once you’ve found a problem like this, review the extent of it with a Screaming Frog crawl. This way you can see how many URLs are affected and distinguish between whether they are actually indexable or not.
For example, there may be a few hundred pages that are indexable but have not yet been found and indexed by Google.
How to fix index bloat:
- Noindex – Use a page level meta ‘noindex’ directive on the culprit pages
- Where possible redirect – index bloat can happen as a result of mountains of historical 404 pages too, 301 redirect them into the most appropriate page to consolidate
- Canonicalisation – apply an absolute canonical tag to the culprit pages to indicate that they are duplicate
- Pagination – where possible use rel=”next” & rel=”prev” markup to show that pages are part of a series
- URL parameter tool – By far the easiest but arguably the most risky method is using Google’s parameter handling tool to indicate the purpose of the culprit pages, be careful though, this can cause bigger problems if implemented incorrectly
If any of the above are difficult to get implemented in your dev queue and you don’t trust yourself using the parameter handling tool, you can actually noindex web pages & directories in your robots.txt file. You can actually add lines reading:
This could save you a lot of time and is fully reversible, so less risky if you have control over your robots file. If you’ve never heard of this, don’t worry it is supported and it does work!
Unemotive meta titles
It’s pretty staggering but in the UK, there’s a lot going on in January for travel — it is certainly the biggest spike in the year for many brands, followed by ‘holiday blues’ peaks after summer.
Here’s the trend of interest over time for the query ‘tenerife holidays’ (a destination famed for its good weather all year round) to show you what I mean:
January might be a bad time to experiment because of the higher interest but, the rest of the year presents a great opportunity to get creative with your titles.
Why would you?
Simply, keyword heavy titles don’t inspire high click-through rates.
Creative titles entice users into your landing pages, give your brand a personality and increase your click-through rate. This sends strong positive relevancy signals to Google which helps towards highlighting that your website is the best for the initial user query.
Here are a few things you can try with supportive content and commercial landers:
- Get emotional, people buy holidays on the experiences they anticipate having. Play on that with your titles – how will products/content from this page make the user feel?
- Where possible use a numbered list to be as descriptive as possible
- Use strengthening words such as premium, secret, amazing, proven, guaranteed
- Tie in emotional hooks using words like; fun, adventure, seamless, safe, welcoming, luxury, relaxing
- Experiment with ‘price from’ and actually quote pricing in the title
- Switch up your ‘PHP’ generated title tags for property pages and experiment with more descriptive wording and not just PROPERTY NAME | LOCATION | BRAND – but don’t remove any keyword targeting, just improve those titles.
As previously mentioned, the travel industry experiences peaks and troughs of consumer behavior trend throughout the year which causes the majority intent to switch dramatically across different months in the year.
So, having a deep understanding of what users are actually looking for is really important when merchandising high traffic pages to get the best conversion out of your audience.
In short, gaining an understanding of what works when, is huge.
Here’s some tips to help you make better merchandising decisions:
- Use last year’s email open rate data – what type of content/product worked?
- Use Google Search Console to find pages that peaked in organic traffic at different times
- Involve the social media team to get a better understanding of what your audience is engaging with and why
- Use Google Trend data to verify your hunches and find clearer answers
- Use UGC sites such as Quora to find questions users are asking during different months of the year. Use the following site operator and swap out ‘holiday’ for your topic: ‘site:quora.com inurl:holiday’ and then filter by custom date range on your search
Often consumers are exposed to the same offers, destinations and visuals on key landing pages all year round which is such a missed opportunity.
We now live in a world of immediacy and those in the industry know the challenges of users cross-shopping between brands, even those who are brand loyal. This often means that if users can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will bounce and find a site that serves them the content they are looking for.
For example, there’s an argument for promoting and focusing on media-based content, more so than product, later in the year, to cater to users that are in the ‘consideration’ part of the purchasing funnel.
Use number five in this list to pull even more clues to help inform merchandising
Holding back on the informational market share
I grant you, this is a tall order, travel advice, blogs and guides are a standalone business but, the opportunity for commercial travel sites to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor is massive.
An opportunity estimated from our recent Travel Sector Report at 232,057 monthly clicks from 22,040 keywords and only Thomas Cook is pushing into the top 10.
Commercial sites that don’t have a huge amount of authority might struggle to rank for informational queries because dedicated travel sites that aren’t directly commercial are usually deemed to provide better/unbiased content for users.
Having said that, you can see clearly from above that it IS possible!
So, here’s what you should do…
…focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else
Sounds pretty straightforward and you’re probably thinking ‘I’ve heard this before’ but, only a handful in the travel industry are actually doing this well.
Often you see the same information from one travel site to the next, average weather, flight times, the location of the country on a map, a little bit of fluff about the history of the destination and then straight into accommodation.
This is fine, it’s useful, but it’s not outstanding.
Let’s take Thomas Cook as an example.
Thomas Cook has built a network of weather pages that provide live forecasts, annual overviews as well as unique insights into when is best to go to different destinations. It even has a tool to shop for holidays by the weather (something very important to Brits) called ‘Where’s Hot When?’
The content is relevant, useful, concise, complete, easy to use, contemporary in design and, most importantly, better than anyone else’s.
In short, Thomas Cook is nailing it.
They have focused on weather and haven’t stopped until it’s as best as it can be.
Why did they bother with weather? Well it’s approximately a third of all travel-related informational searches that we found in our keyword set from the Travel Sector Report:
Apply Thomas Cook’s methodology to something that is relevant to your audience, it could be; family attractions, adult only tour guides, Michelin star eateries, international laws families should be concerned about, the list is plentiful!
Find something, nail it.
Ignoring the gold in on-site search
There are some big travel sites out there that don’t have an on-site search function which is a huge missed opportunity. Travel sites are inherently difficult to navigate with such a volume of pages, site search is quite often a great solution for users.
As well as this, it can give marketers some amazing insight into what users are looking for, not just generally in terms of the keywords users might be using but also the queries users are searching on a page by page level.
For example, you could drill down into the differences between queries searched on your homepage vs queries searched on specific landing pages to spot trends in behavior and fix the content gaps from these areas of the site.
You could also use the data to inform merchandising decisions to address number three on this list.
In doing this, users are actually telling you exactly what they are looking for, at what time, whether they are a repeat visitor or a new one and where they’ve come from to visit your site.
If you spend the time, this data is gold!
If you can’t get buy in for this, test the theory with an out of the box search function that plugs straight into your site like searchnode. Try it for six months, you might be surprised at how many users turn to it and you will get some really actionable data out of it.
It’s also super easy to track in Google Analytics and the reports are really straightforward:
1. Go to Admin
2. Click ‘View Settings’
3. Switch ‘Site search Tracking’ on
4. Strip the letter that appears in your site’s search URL before the search terms e.g. for wordpress this is usually the letter “s”: www.travelsite.co.uk/?s=search-term
5. Click ‘save’, boom you’re done.
Let Google collect data, extract it monthly and dig, dig furiously!
Ignoring custom 404 errors pages
Who doesn’t love a witty 404 page. More and more often you’ll find that when webmasters optimize a 404 error page they make them lighthearted. Here’s a great example from Broadway Travel:
There is a reason why webmasters aim for a giggle.
Think about it… when users hit a 404 error page, 100% of the time there’s a problem, which is a big inconvenience when you’re minding your own business and having a browse, so, something to make you laugh goes a long way at keeping you unfrustrated.
Time to name names, and show you some 404 error pages that need some work…
TUI & Firstchoice
404 error pages happen over time, it’s totally normal.
It’s also normal to get traffic to your 404 error page. But it’s not just any old traffic, it’s traffic that you’ve worked hard to get hold of.
If, at this point, you’re thinking, ‘my site has recently been audited and internal links to 404 pages have been cleared up’.
Users can misspell URLs, ancient external links can point to old pages, the product team can make mistakes, as meticulous as you may be, please don’t discount this one.
Losing quality users because of a bad 404 experience is an SEO’s idea of nails down a chalkboard.
Here are some tips to optimize your 404 pages:
- Hit them with something witty but don’t be controversial
- Feature the main site query forms prominently so users can conduct another ‘base’ search
- Feature a site search option as well – an error page is a perfect opportunity to get users to conduct a site search to give you some insight into what they are looking for (number five on this list)
- Include curated links to most popular top level pages such as destinations, guides, hotels, deals etc. This will allow users to start from at the top of each section and it will also allow search engines to continue crawling if they hit a 404 page
- Re-emphasize branding, USPs, value proposition and trust signals to subconsciously remind users of why they’re on your site in the first place
Even if you think your 404 is awesome don’t neglect them when they pop up:
- Review the 404 page data in Google Analytics behavior flow to find broken links you may not have known about and fix them
- Keep on top of your 404 pages in Google Search Console and redirect to appropriate pages where necessary
404’s are often the bane of an SEO’s life and you might think about ways to get out of keeping on top of them.
Sadly there aren’t any short cuts….
…Bonus SEO mistake
Creating a global 301 redirect rule for every 404 page and direct them to your homepage.
This is surprisingly common but is poor SEO practice for a number of reasons, firstly you won’t be able to identify where users are having issues on your site when 404 pages pop up.
You may also be redirecting a page that could have originally had content on it that was totally irrelevant to your homepage. It’s likely in this situation that Google will actually override your redirect and classify it as a soft 404, not to mention the links that may have originally pointed to your 404’s.
Save your users, build a 404 page!
No site is perfect, and although it might appear as though we’re pointing fingers, we want you to be able to overcome any challenges that come with SEO implementation — there’s always a bigger priority but keep your mind open and don’t neglect the small stuff to stay ahead of the game.
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