Shane Barker Talks Chatbots, User Experience … and Blue Widgets

Shane Barker

Shane Barker is a leading digital marketing consultant whose work has been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, the Huffington Post and Inc. He helps companies and individuals meet business and revenue goals. He talked with us recently about the importance of the customer journey and what brands need to do to effectively sell blue widgets.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Can you talk about the connection between user experience, chatbots and SEO?

In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of growth in AI-powered chatbots. The idea is that these tools can help drive traffic to your website and get visitors to convert. The reality is that the vast majority of visitors leave your website and don’t come back. How do we increase that conversion rate?

AI-powered chatbots are an easy way to do that. Also, you can use them to segment your audience. Here’s an example: If someone visits your site after reading an SEO article you authored, a bot might ask them questions about their SEO or give them the option to schedule a time to talk. People often have the same questions about specific topics. Chatbots let you automate that process and better qualify leads or prospects.

Chatbots clearly are transforming customer interaction. Beyond that, they’re transforming businesses: One analysis indicates that chatbots will deliver $8 billion in savings by 2022

Can you explain what good chatbots do?

A good chatbot can do different things, whether it’s conducting a survey, asking questions or providing a phone number or email address. Again, the idea is to increase conversion rates. Good chatbots ask engaging questions that pull people in and get them to share their information. They get people into the funnel faster.

It really comes down to segmentation. You want to grab the right traffic. I could add 100,000 people on my website each month. That’s great, but I’d rather have 10,000 targeted visitors that really want my services.

Take my website. We talk about many things — SEO, UX, influencer marketing. If someone visits via an article about influencer marketing, my call to action should be about influencer marketing. I should have a downloadable pdf or an ebook that’s offered there. Research shows that a personalized, relevant CTA performs 202% better than a basic CTA. You’re doing your business a disservice if your CTA isn’t relevant.

What can brands learn from looking at the checkout process?

Say you have ten people put something in a cart, but eight of them are leaving. Why is that? There’s a bottleneck somewhere, because they were already excited about the product. They were ready to commit, but they weren’t able to make it to the finish line. Looking at that is one of the most important things brands can do.

Let’s talk about landing pages.

The whole idea of a landing page is to get customers the information they need, often based on someone looking for a certain keyword. If a customer is looking for blue widgets, and you’re giving them a page that talks about green widgets, that’s a problem. It needs to talk about blue widgets. That’s the whole point. That’s what I clicked for — not just because there were widgets, but because there were blue widgets. Landing pages need to be very specific.

It goes back to segmentation, making sure your landing page is exactly what a person is looking for. Think about the full customer experience that starts with a search query in Google. Then it’s the blue widget experience. It’s about everything from the search box to the checkout, and if you’ve got credibility.

What are some of the common reasons abandon carts?

One of the big factors is not building trust. Maybe they were going to put in their credit card information, but they’re worried about some things the site doesn’t have. Perhaps it’s not a secure website. The other thing is difficulty in navigating the process, like not knowing where or when to put in a coupon code.

When somebody abandons a cart, you need to follow up. We usually have automatic emails which say something like, “Hey John, I saw that you were on our website and you were going to purchase this product. It looks like you had some problems with the checkout. How can we help?” You want to know why they didn’t follow through with their purchase.

Voice search is growing rapidly, with 78% year-over-year growth among U.S. households with smart speakers, and 21% of U.S. adults own a smart speaker. What does this mean for SEO?

With Alexa, Siri and all the others, the idea is Amazon and Google want to be inside your home. That sounds creepy, but the idea is that now you’re going to have an assistant that helps you with stuff. From an SEO perspective, instead of typing keywords, you’re saying something. That’s a whole different way of communicating. Marketers need to be thinking about how to optimize for that kind of search.

What are other horizon issues when it comes to SEO?

I think the voice thing is going to be a game-changer. And video is also very underutilized. YouTube is the No. 2 search engine. There’s a lot of software where you can make a video without buying a $10,000 camera and having all the editing software. Everybody consumes content differently, but lots of people love videos.

The other thing is influencer marketing. My company is doing a lot of education for influencers on how to work with brands. I teach a class at UCLA on personal branding and how to be an influencer. We have a workshop in San Francisco in March to educate brands on how to find influencers. There’s been a bit of a disconnect between brands and influencers.

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