The Google Search Console is one of the free tools that you can use to ensure that your website is as visible as possible on Google. If you run a website, then it is important to know what this tool can do and how you can use it to boost your online presence.
What is the Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is the current version of what used to be known as the Google Webmaster Tools. The Search Console underwent some significant updates in January 2018 and September 2019, which included a new interface and the loss of some of the older Webmaster Tools. It is a more simplified toolbox to check your site and includes site performance, checking individual web pages (URL inspection) as well as testing site speed.
The main purpose of the Google Search Console is to enable you to make sure that your website is visible when people are searching for relevant terms online. The visibility of your website will depend on how easy it is for Google to access and understand the pages. Google uses automated tools or crawlers to identify websites and learn about their content. If the crawler can’t reach parts of your website, then these pages won’t appear in Google search results. The pages may also be inaccessible to the crawlers used by other search engines too.
The Google Search Console provides various tools and reports that you can use to identify these issues and optimise your website’s visibility.
How Can You Use Google Search Console?
Creating a great website isn’t all it takes to make your business a success online. You also have to make sure that the right people are visiting your site in order to make purchases. Incorporating the right keywords and phrases in your content is part of this but you also need to consider how your webpages are structured. The layout of your website can also make a difference. All of these factors can determine what the crawlers sent out by search engines like Google are able to see when they look at your website. The results of their investigations will determine how visible your site is to people who are searching for relevant terms.
Google Search Console enables you to check for issues that could be blocking crawlers from parts of your website. You can use it to understand what these crawlers see so that you can make changes to improve your search rankings:
- Discover issues such as webpages that the crawlers can’t access
- Check that Google has indexed your site correctly and that it has seen the latest version of all your pages
- Inspect individual URLs to understand what information Google’s crawlers are getting from the page
- Find out how to improve the visibility of structured data like recipes or job listings by ensuring that Google recognises the content with Rich Results reports
- Set up an email alert if Google finds any new problems
You can also use Google Search Console to check how well your site is performing on Google. The console includes tools and reports on your web analytics that you can use to see how well the changes you’re making are working:
- See which words and phrases people were searching for before they came to your site
- Check your position in the search rankings for relevant keywords and phrases
- Get a report on how mobile-friendly your website is
3 Tips for Using Google Search Console for your Business
The Google Search Console includes various reports and tools but there are three key steps that you should start with to enhance the online visibility of your business website.
Make Sure Google Sees Your Website
You can submit your sitemap or individual URLs to Google through the console to ensure that it is sending crawlers to check every page. You can also use the console to check for any issues that are blocking Google’s crawlers and set up email alerts so that any new issues are reported to you right away.
Learn How to Improve Your SEO
The console includes web analytics reports on how well your site is performing on Google and how people are finding you online. You can also use the URL Inspection tool on your website to understand what Google sees on each page. Take a good look at this data to discover what is working and what is not. Which keywords aren’t creating clicks? Are you missing opportunities because your content is poorly structured and hard for the crawlers to understand?
Improve Your Visibility on Google
Now that you know more about how your site appears on Google, you should be able to work out what needs to be changed. You might need to use headings, tags or other structural features to help Google understand the content or to change your SEO strategy to target more effective key phrases.
Following these tips to increase your visibility online with Google Search Console should help your business to reach more customers. The website that you have invested so much time and effort into creating will be easier to find.
Filter bubble is a term that has been used frequently over the last few years, usually in relation to political events. Read more here.
How could filter bubbles be affecting your business and what should you do about them?
What is a Filter Bubble?
A filter bubble is created when you are only exposed to information that fits your own ideas, opinions and biases. Although it has always been the case that people talk to friends with similar ideas or read newspapers that match their view of the world, the internet has enabled people to create stronger bubbles that block out other voices.
Filter bubbles are created because the algorithms used to determine what we see online are based on our past behaviour. Google’s personalised search results will prioritise the sources we’ve used before while Facebook’s news stream gives priority to the friends and businesses you like. This means that people can be living in completely separate bubbles, viewing different content and never coming across a contrasting viewpoint. Filter bubbles can enable misinformation to spread and extreme views to become stronger because they are never contradicted.
Typically these occur when elections are taking place – you’re shown posts and ads that you can directly relate to, whether they are true or not.
How to Tell If You’re in a Filter Bubble
So much of online experience is personalised and targeted to us that we’re all living in filter bubbles to a certain extent. For example, if you’re using a service like Netflix then the recommendations you see only represent a tiny fraction of what they have to offer. You could miss out on some amazing content because you’re only picking the options that are presented to you. The same limitations can occur with the news stories you see or the opinions you’re hearing about your business.
You can determine the extent of your filter bubble by considering the following points:
- Do you only see opinions that mirror your own?
- Are the same sources always at the top of your news stream or search rankings?
- Do you only visit a limited number of sites or listen to a small number of voices?
- How much do you rely on sponsored links, recommendations or targeted ads?
- Are you surprised by what you see if you sign out of your account or use someone else’s devices?
Do Filter Bubbles Matter for Your Business?
Filter bubbles can limit your perspective. One of the most common ways in which this affects businesses is by blocking out criticism that could help them to improve. Many businesses decide to mute criticism or avoid negative stories, which an create a filter bubble that blocks these voices out. This could result in missed opportunities to address criticism, repair relationships with unhappy customers, and identify changes that could improve the business.
As well as limiting your perspective on your own business, your filter bubble could also be blocking out important stories affecting your sector or the customers you’re trying to attract. You might find it harder to understand your customers if you’re not seeing the same content that they are viewing.
It’s actually fairly simple to break out of a filter bubble once you realise you’re in one:
- Make an effort to search for the voices you don’t usually hear by visiting other reputable news sources or following new people online
- Try turning off customisation features, cookies and targeted ads
- Sign out of your accounts so that your results won’t be tailored to your history
Filter bubbles also matter for businesses because the customers who you are targeting are also likely to be insulated by their own filter bubbles. The ads that they see will be determined by the online stores they’ve visited and the specific products they’ve viewed there. The messages they hear about your brand will depend on which voices are allowed into their bubble.
The filter bubbles your customers are sitting in can sometimes make it easier for you to reach them. If they’ve already shopped with you then they might be getting targeted ads showcasing your products. Customers who’ve posted good things about you or who follow you on social media might be seeing more positive messages about you too.
However, filter bubbles can also cause problems. It can be harder to reach potential customers if they aren’t already aware of you. They might only see ads from competitors where they’ve shopped before or they might be missing out on the best products you have to offer because they’ve always bought another option. You could also be failing to reach people outside your usual audience if your marketing strategies are shaped by your own bubble.
Breaking out of your own bubble can help you to develop new strategies for reaching these audiences. It’s also important to think about how bubbles shape what people see online. Instead of focusing on the captive audience in your own bubble, you also need to go beyond it to the people you wouldn’t usually reach. This could mean changing the phrasing in your ads to target new groups or building relationships with new kinds of influencers outside your usual brand bubble.
Live chat enables instant customer service to talk to your website visitors.
When it is managed properly, live chat can boost customer satisfaction and even help to increase sales. We’ve written about live chat before and this post looks at different live chat tools for your website.
Which Live Chat Tool Should You Use?
Choosing the right live chat tool is essential as it will determine the quality of your customer service. The best live chat tools will be easy for your customers to use and will provide high quality responses, quickly. They should also look good when they’re incorporated into your website.
All live chat tools will provide the same basic functions, but you might also want to look for some additional features if you want to do more for your customers. You should also consider how many agents you will need to handle the traffic on your website and how much is going to cost. Enlisting the right amount of support is essential as otherwise your customers aren’t going to get the instantaneous service that live chat is supposed to provide.
5 Live Chat Tools for Businesses
These tools are in no specific order and give examples of what’s available.
1. HubSpot Live Chat
HubSpot provides a live chat service that complements its CRM system. If you’re already using HubSpot for customer relations then this is probably the simplest choice for your business. The live chat agent will be able to access any information held in the CRM system, such as the customer’s profile and history. It is also possible for agents to interact with the CRM in order to take action for the customer. HubSpot’s live chat tool is easy to customise for your brand and there is a chatbot tool for automated messages.
HubSpot Live Chat is free but if you want to integrate with other systems, there may be a cost.
2. Zendesk Chat
Zendesk is focused on customer service, but the platform is adaptable enough to use for other types of interaction such as sales too. One of the best features of Zendesk is its chatbot, which can provide very human-like answers to common questions. It’s good enough to rely on for basic customer support, leaving the human agents to deal with more difficult questions. Zendesk can be customised to suit your brand and it is relatively simple to incorporate into your website. It also works seamlessly with the Zendesk help desk, so it’s the ideal choice if you’re already using this company. The analytics tools are useful for monitoring performance and understanding your customer’s needs.
The main disadvantage of Zendesk live chat is that a lot of the best features are only available on the most expensive plans. Although there are affordable options for smaller businesses, you will need to pay more to use features like the chatbot.
Zendesk Chat starts from £5 per agent, per month.
Freshdesk is a good choice if you want to manage all of your customer communications from one place. It can combine data from phone, email, social media and live chat interactions so that you can manage communications more effectively. Another reason to consider Freshdesk is that it provides some informative tools for analysing this data and monitoring results and customer satisfaction.
Freshdesk Live Chat comes in a free version, with additional features available from £11 per month.
LiveAgent is another live chat tool that can also incorporate phone, email and social media activity. LiveAgent has a chatbot that is particularly good when it is used as a starting point for interactions so that they can be efficiently distributed between agents. It is also one of the simplest tools to add to your site as it comes as a simple widget that anyone can insert, without any specialist or coding knowledge.
LiveAgent starts at $15 per agent, per month and their website illustrates all the features as a giant burger as shown here:
Drift is a relative newcomer in live chat, but it has been generating lots of positive reviews from businesses. It offers all of the usual customer service tools, but it is particularly good if you want to use live chat for sales purposes. Drift includes a chatbot called LeadBot, which is designed to engage with potential customers on the site. It can handle tasks such as booking meetings or leading customers to the CRM and is a good choice for larger businesses that need to automate part of the service.
However, Drift might not be the right option if you want to focus on customer service rather than sales. It’s also worth being aware that Drift has tended to have frequent updates and new features, which can throw you off as you need to keep changing the way you use it. This is likely to settle down in time as it is common for newer products.
Free versions of Drift are available, with more advanced features starting at $50 a month.
Are you using live chat in your business? What’s your experience? Do share!
Online communities can be valuable for your business. A good community can provide support to your customers, generate insights into what they want, and create ambassadors for your brand.
What Makes a Good Online Community?
Every business is unique, so the online community that you create will need to be tailored to your customers and your brand. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you to ensure that your online community is an active, useful and safe place.
Make sure that people register before they post
Content should be visible before people register with the community, but it’s good practice to require people to sign up before they can post. It can make the community feel more trustworthy, reduce spam and enable your moderators to take action against the account if necessary. However, signing up should be quick and easy.
Set clear guidelines for your online community
The guidelines will set the tone for your online community. You can give users an idea of the atmosphere you’re trying to create and the purpose of the community. You should also make it clear that you won’t accept any harmful behaviour and what will happen if the rules are violated. Users need to feel that the community is safe and that you care about their experiences in it.
Focus on your online community members
Although you will have your own reasons for creating an online community, it is important to provide something that your customers actually want. You should offer entertainment, education, or engagement. However, you shouldn’t try to control the community too much. Users should feel free to express themselves and have some control over how the community grows. It’s also vital to listen to your community and to show your appreciation for them.
Assign community managers
Online communities can seem to be self-organising, but the most effective ones have people in charge to ensure that the community is easy to navigate and use. Community managers can ensure that information is easy to find, highlight the best content, and encourage more engagement. They can answer questions and post messages from your brand.