The Roaring PJ - A Social Media Blog

Creating a Custom 404 Page That Turns an Error into an Opportunity

Posted on by Kent Yunk

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As a member of the modern world, you’ve probably encountered a custom 404 page.

And even if you’ve never seen these clever customized error pages, you’ve likely seen the standard version: click a broken link or type the wrong URL, and you will quickly and briefly be informed that the page you’re looking for cannot be found.

Though we’ve all encountered these 404 error pages, they tend to be the most neglected pages on websites. They are often standard and boring, and are frustrating for the user and a missed opportunity for your business. In an instance when a site visitor (and potential customer) might get annoyed, frustrated or confused, you can preemptively and proactively improve their experience and point them back to where they were trying to go . . . or where you would like them to go next.

In this post, we’ll show you how to create a custom 404 page that makes sure the right pages get found—and ensures the people who end up on your site stay on your site until they find exactly what they need.

How Your Page Gets Lost and (Not) Found

If your website doesn’t recognize a link, the server gives visitors what is called a 404 error page: the standard response code in HTTP that is automatically generated when the URL your visitor was trying to locate cannot be found.

These error pages are potentially a very upsetting moment for the visitor—and understandably so. Visitors looking for specific information only find they cannot access that information. And standard 404 pages do little beyond making visitors to your site feel as if they’ve done something wrong . . . without pointing them in the right direction! The standard structure of a 404 page doesn’t have a header with a familiar logo, blames the visitor for ending up in the wrong place and doesn’t offer guidance on where to go next other than backwards—back to another site, back to a search engine or back off their computer entirely.

And that’s not what you want, right?

If a site visitor accidentally types the wrong URL or clicks on an unfixed broken link or your site has unexpectedly gone down—and they get blamed for the error!—they probably won’t stick around for long. But that’s also the reality of websites; migrations happen, links break and URLs change. While business owners should always fix their broken links when possible, it’s also important to prepare for the rare broken links you miss!

By using a custom 404 page, you can retain some of that potential traffic loss and keep visitors to your site on your site—a move that benefits you both.

How To Create a Clever Error Page

Every 404 page should include at least the following elements: a message apologizing for your error, recommended next steps and links to the most high-value pages on your website.

You should also consider including your usual site header (and logo!), footer and a search bar. While you can’t know exactly what a visitor was searching, you can point them in some helpful directions: Start by including links to your home page, other popular pages—such as services, products, solution—and your contact page.

Some of our favorite “Page Not Found” pages are the custom error pages from Intel, Petco and NPR—and, of course, our own. What do they all share in common? Well, they follow our tips by customizing their 404 pages: they take responsibility for the error, they guide visitors to helpful links or resources and they include their familiar branding and navigation.

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Creating a 404 page is easy and getting creative with the copy and design can be quite fun! So long as you remember to take responsibility for the error and guide your visitor where they should go next, you have liberty to be creative and enjoy the experience. The more fun you have, the more your website visitor will, too . . . and the more likely they’ll stick around your site and find exactly what they need.

Website errors may be an issue, but creating your custom 404 page doesn’t have to be an issue. Make sure you are taking advantage of the opportunity.

What simple tweaks can you make to enhance the experience of landing on your custom 404 page? Share one change you’ll make in the comments below.

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Choose the Right Money Keywords to Boost Your Bottom Line

Posted on by Kent Yunk

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Not all website traffic is created equal. Your business needs traffic—and keywords—that actually make you money. You need to know your money keywords.

Money keywords are the keywords that not only drive potential customers directly to your site, they drive the right potential customers to your site—the customers who will pull out their credit card and pay you money (or contact you for more information) on the spot. This tactic isn’t some marketing hack or sleazy trick; these people are paying you because you are offering the exact product or services they want. They are paying you because they searched for the exact keywords you used to optimize your site.

One thing all business owners share in common is they want to get paid. If you’re going to invest in a SEO and content strategy—and you absolutely should—finding and optimizing for your money keywords should be high on your list. Here’s how choosing the right keywords works:

What exactly is a money keyword?

Of course, knowing how to choose the right keywords for your own SEO strategy starts with understanding that money keywords are the long-tail terms your customers are typing into search engines. Instead of generic “head term” keywords like “concerts”, potential customers may be searching for “live jazz music in San Carlos.” If you were a small music venue in the San Francisco East Bay, wouldn’t ranking for the latter search term be more valuable to your business?

Business owners are often savvy enough with SEO to understand the value of head term keywords: the high-demand keywords like “concerts” that generically describe what they sell. But the long-tail keywords—the specific phrases like “live jazz music in San Carlos”—are an important part of your SEO strategy, too.

Why do I need to use money keywords?

By determining and optimizing for the right money keywords, you are much more likely to attract your ideal customers (and those most likely to spend money with you) directly to your website.

While certain schools of marketing advise business owners to be unique and get clever with their copy, SEO strategy offers a different take: “In addition to writing to stand out from the crowd, consider what people actually type into search engines. What words do they use to find your service or product?” Those are the words to use on your website and in your marketing materials. Those keywords will help the right people find you.

A solid SEO strategy incorporates both head terms and long-tail keywords, because both are valuable. However, the specific value of money keywords occurs due to less competition for the term, and a far more qualified search result when people do search for that term. In other words, when your ideal customer is trying to find you searches for the money keyword you included on your site, you rank higher in the search result, your customers will find you and you will get paid.

How do I choose (and use) my money keywords?

Learning how to choose the right keywords takes some effort. You can’t just list off the general categories your business fits into and call them keywords; you have to actually get into the head of your customers and consider the words they might type into the search bar.

However, choosing the right keywords can be as easy as paying attention to your customers—a practice that’s always valuable for your business. Ask new customers how they found you and ask long-time customers the specific value you provide. Also, consider what makes your business unique: use your location and your unique selling proposition in your keyword phrases, too.

You can also use a keyword research tool, like Google’s Keyword Planner, to discover what people are actually searching for and determine demand. Or you can run a limited ad campaign on Google, that will suggest the best keywords for conversion. Finally, you might just head over to a search engine yourself, start typing in what you do or what you sell and note the phrase that is auto-completed.

Once you optimize your website for your keywords (hint: we can help with search engine optimization!), you also need to consider how your site will convert these qualified leads to customers. Make sure your product or service page explicitly targets the keywords people are searching and is clear on why your product or service is valuable. You don’t want qualified leads ending up on your site only for them to then be unsure about whether you’re selling what they want.

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While money keywords may not always be in high demand, they work to your advantage because you will “own” your money keyword. The lower the demand, the higher your likelihood to rank—and rank more quickly—in search results for each specific phrase . . . and the higher your likelihood to make money from potential customers who click through from search.

Do some quick keyword research! Type your service or product into Google and note the phrase that auto-completes. Then share your money keyword with us in the comments below!

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Start with Schema.org for a Better Search Engine Result

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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Have you heard of schema.org? You may not have before today, but it will quickly become one of your go-to sites—this website will positively change how potential customers find your content and will encourage them to click through from search engines more often. Want to know how? Let me explain.

You don’t need to own a business to recognize and appreciate the value of the search engine results page (SERP). Whether you’re trying to look up ingredients for a new dinner recipe or suddenly need to know the name of the actor who starred in Caddyshack, search engines like Google and Bing are always at our fingertips, ready with the answers.

While your average internet user may not need to know exactly how Google always finds the answers and shares the best results, business owners do. Because knowing the backend business of structuring data for your website pages ensures that your business shows up high in search results—and with the compelling information that will make users click!

Search engines are built on data; the data collected from user searches, the data collected from XML sitemaps, traffic data and so much more. Fortunately, we live in an age where all of this data is readily available—but before we can access these collections of data, they have to be organized and standardized and packaged to show up in our search engine results.

That’s where Schema.org comes in.

What is Schema?

Before we talk about schema, we need to define “metadata”: Metadata is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. And schema is one of those sets! Schema is the overall structure for that metadata. More specifically, schema metadata is the dataset that enables you to include more information about a web page when your site shows up in search engine results.

You not only score “points” with search engines by standardizing the data and creating a richer search result, you also get to highlight the exact information you know your ideal customer is searching for . . . making it that much more compelling for them to click on your search result and head to your page!

For example, if you search for the term “vodka martini recipe”, the top results include a photo, ratings, ingredients, instructions and more—offering you a rich and compelling recipe result searchers will want to click. Another example is Roaring Pajamas’ client, LoveToKnow. If you type “site:lovetoknow.com cats” into Google, you’ll see the breadcrumb from the site—and that was created using schema.

 

Why is Schema Important?

Search engines created a standard for search engine results to ensure a better experience for their users. By creating an experience where users are a lot more likely to find the answers they need directly on the SERP, search engines ensure that users stay in the search channel—and are more likely to click on the ads that make those search engines money!

As a business owner or marketer, a richer search engine result benefits you, too. Keep in mind that you only have seconds to gain the user’s attention—there are a lot of answers on that SERP, after all—so you should optimize your search result to appeal to your target audience and entice them to click-through to learn more.

Metadata called out in schema markup can also positively impact your search ranking—also known as your position on the SERP. Research has highlighted significant improvements in both search engine ranking and click-through rate when your content is appropriately optimized. That’s where schema.org comes in . . . but more on that later.

While you may have a different end goal in mind than the search engines do, richer search results benefit you both. A richer result benefits Google and if you leverage Google’s desire for a better search experience, the likelihood that people will click on your result is much higher.

How Do I Work with Schema?

The good news is you don’t have to build the schema for your metadata from scratch! Metadata needs to be standardized, so that data from one webpage can be compared to data from another. Schema.org is the collaborative community activity that provides a set of schema standards for marking up a web page depending upon the style of the page. You can find schema templates for everything from blog posts to recipes to books, events, articles and more!

Take a step back before you dive into the templates: As with all aspects of your business, consider your target audience first. Ask yourself: When my audience is searching for the information I can provide, what exactly are they looking for? If your website features recipes, are your ideal readers looking for the number of calories in each recipe? When creating your metadata content using schema as a guide, always give the user some of what they’re looking for and give them the next logical step: a call-to-action that encourages them to click to your web page and learn more.

Be intentional about including what your target audience is looking for when you optimize for search engines. But don’t give everything away either—make sure you include just enough information to make your search result stand out, but leave your audience wanting to click through to read more.

How Do I Add Metadata to My Website Using Schema?

Start with schema.org: Each of the templates on the site will give you different aspects and standards, and will even provide HTML code that you can copy and paste directly onto your webpage.

The SEO plugins for many content management systems also offer schema options, or you can download modules just for optimizing your schema tags. Lastly, there’s always the option to hand-code the data yourself—though that’s a bit more tedious than downloading a plugin or a module that will do the work for you.

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Creating, optimizing and adding metadata to your website using a schema template is actually quite simple—and incredibly valuable—when you use Schema.org. Give search engines as much data as you can to enrich the search experience for your potential customers, while also optimizing for a richer result that compels those same customers to click-through and buy from you!

Have you explored schema.org? Tell us the template you’ll try first in the comments below!

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