a picture of "the life changing magic of tidying up"

What Marie Kondo Taught Me About Digital Marketing

Dare I Say It? Even Your Website Might Benefit from “Less is More”

TL;DR – The highlights

I’m not the first person to notice a tie-in between Marie Kondo and the unlikely world of digital marketing. You can find great articles here and here and here. There’s even more. Google it.

I guess it depends on what cultural corner you live on whether you know the name Marie Kondo. Some days it seems like everyone has heard of her, other days I mention her name to a friend and they react with “who?” I first encountered her as a reference used by others who expected me to know who she is. For example this 2019 article on the political blog The Bulwark:

And the biggest threat to physical books is Marie Kondo gleefully advising people to toss them all out in the name of “decluttering.”

Or what about a reference in a 2019 article from The Atlantic about astronomy (of all things):

In 2013, astronomers found something new around Neptune, in a manner that would make Marie Kondo proud.

I had heard the references enough to know the name, but nothing about her (despite the fact that she had a New York Times best-selling book, a 2019 Netflix series, and had appeared on Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Ellen Degeneres, along with many other venues (ok, so I don’t get out much!).

How This Digital Marketer Discovered Marie Kondo

a picture of "the life changing magic of tidying up"

My own, well-thumbed copy.

I really discovered the disarmingly charming Ms. Kondo when I discovered her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” on a shelf in my office while in the process of, well, tidying up, of course. I had never seen the book, and no one in my household claimed ownership. Weeks later I learned that the book was (probably) purchased by my mom. But since she rarely visits my house it’s still a mystery how it ended up on my bookshelf (there’s a bit of magic there, as well).

Guess what; I read it. I was intrigued by Marie’s simple rule of keeping only those things that “spark joy” in my life. (Of course, I had to fudge Marie’s rule a bit to include household necessities. Let’s face it, though there’s simply no joy to be found in a roll of paper towels, I’m not about to throw it away. Duh!).

I launched into a full “KonMari” process in my fast emptying home (3 kids gone, only one remains: I’m almost an empty nester). I piled every stitch of clothing on my bed to give myself that “shokku” that Marie wants her clients to feel. As in “Damn! How did I ever find the money to buy all those clothes?” I emptied every bookshelf, every filing cabinet, every cupboard, every drawer. My garage became engorged with joyless items I not only no longer needed, but I couldn’t even remember why I owned.

I discovered things. Some precious. Some not so precious, such as the 16-years-past-the-expiration box of Crème Brulèe mix. Or the even more ancient jar of Tiger Balm (the date on this jar means this tiny, unused jar accompanied us as my family changed address 4 times. It’s almost as old as my 24-year-old 2nd born – born September of 97, and is older than my 16-year-old daughter and my 19-year-old son — and it still smells good, btw).

expired tiger balm jar

This got packed up and moved 4 times in 24 years, and every time we put it into the moving boxes it carried the same expiration date: 10/97.

It took months to complete the process of “tidying up” but it truly has been “life changing magic.” I feel lighter, happier, much more settled. I also have less trouble finding my keys (the whole process was worth it just for that bennie).

It wasn’t until I was almost complete with that grueling, months-long process, and hard into my final 2 acts: the decluttering yard sale, followed by driving the packed van of leftovers to Goodwill, that I realized how Marie Kondo’s lessons, method, and logic could make the digital marketing struggle with content similarly lighter, happier, and even – how shall I put this? – magical.

Website Clutter

Anyone who’s been creating content for years, especially for a blog, knows that it’s amazing how much content you end up with. It’s like piling all your clothes on the bed. It gives you a “shokku.”

My friend Matt Campbell, who has built one of the most successful wedding websites online (myweddingsongs.com), impressed me early on not only with his dedication to adding content to his website, but his fortitude in removing content that no longer served its purpose.

The benefits have been enormous for Matt and many others aiming for better performance for their websites. Google is no fan of content “deadwood,” and websites typically see a benefit from getting rid of pages that no one finds valuable. Some pages are easy to identify, like the page I just found on one of my long-neglected personal websites that’s advertising the workshops I’ll be holding during…2013!

But for other pages where the choice is not so clear, how do you decide?

That brings us back to Marie Kondo, because her approach to this decision can be applied to your website. The articles I mentioned at the outset all apply a similar approach to decluttering your website, namely asking yourself what “sparks joy.”

Sparking Digital Joy

How can you reduce Marie’s famous maxim, “keep only what sparks joy,” to your website or blog? I see three areas where you can look for a form of “joy” in this context.

Sparking Joy for the Audience

The first aspect of joy applies to your audience. A website likely won’t grow, or even survive, unless it creates satisfaction for those users that encounter its pages. Well, how would you know that? Here are a few ways.

Comments – If you’re evaluating blog pages with the comments section open, a great way to judge “joy” is whether people are leaving comments (favorable ones, obviously).

Backlinks – After your page has been up for a time, use a tool like Majestic to see if any links have been created to it from legitimate websites. Organic links to your content often are a spontaneous expression of “joy,” at least in the context we’re talking about.

Engagement with the page – In Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Take a look at the column “Avg. Time on Page,” and sort it from high to low. You’ll immediately start seeing pages that people lingered over, and, on the opposite end of the scale, pages they couldn’t escape from fast enough. One word of caution when applying this analysis: it only works if you have a decent volume of visits to the page. Any page with visits in the single digits can’t effectively be evaluated this way. Which brings us to the next form of joy…

Sparking Joy for Google

Ok, I realize I’m stretching a bit here. We all know that Google’s primary measurement of joy is profit. But think of joy in this sense as an “algorithmic” joy, if such a thing exists. Basically, does Google like to display your page to searchers? Do you think Googlebot gives a little squeal of delight when it crawls your page? (I already admitted that I’m stretching this a bit…or quite a bit…but I think the principle here is valid.)

If Google sees no value in your content, the average searcher will never have a chance to decide whether it sparks joy for them or not.

A great tool for determining this is Google Search Console. Inside of Search Console, navigate to Performance, and then switch the display to Pages. Make sure you have a pretty large window of time. For this type of measurement I typically max the time window to 18 months. Enable the “Position” column in display. Sort by Impressions from lowest to highest.

When you see pages that a) have been around for a while, and b) are getting very few impressions, or none at all, then those pages are obviously not sparking joy in the heart of Google’s algorithm. Unless there’s a strong reason to keep the page, remove it. (Here’s a quick video how-to I created that illustrates the basics)

Sparking Joy for You

This final measure of joy is, in my opinion, the most important. Does the page spark joy for you? I can’t give you a measurement tool for this, because you’ll have to find the answer within. If you view a page and it sparks the opposite of joy, for example embarrassment at a piece of old content you wrote when you didn’t know better, you might want to dump it regardless of the metrics.

On the other hand, if you wrote a page, most likely a blog post, that still speaks for you, and resonates with you, I would suggest keeping it alive even if you’re the only reader (obviously this advice is for those of you who run your own websites; if you’re an agency like Horizon Web Marketing you have to evaluate everything through the eyes of your client). If you are a blogger, for example, and you jettison pages you value just because others don’t, ultimately there will be nothing left of you in your website. Your website will have lost its soul, and you will lose interest. I guarantee it.

What Not to Do in Decluttering Your Website

That having been said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get rid of old pages that spark joy for no one. So, make your hit list, but make sure you learn the right way to get rid of your stuff before you start throwing pages in the trash can. I’ll be getting that post out in the next week or two, so keep an eye out.

And While You Wait…

Ms. Kondo has a new series out on Netflix, “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo.” Just what Stephen Colbert, I, and other members of the KonMari cult have been waiting for.

SEO Tactics for Better Customer Experience

Driving organic traffic to your website is half the battle. The other half — and probably the trickier to accomplish — is getting these prospects to stay and become your loyal customers. To leverage customer experience as the ultimate marketing tool, you need to understand why SEO matters not only for ranking high in Google search but also for improving the customer experience you provide.

In essence, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a neat marketing strategy that, if executed correctly, can bring more attention to your site. This is great — the more visitors you get, the higher are the chances of your efforts proving worthwhile.

But what if your site visitors click on your web page and aren’t able to find what they were looking for? Or, worse, find it hard to interact with the site’s interface and bounce off when it’s taking too much time to load?

Here’s where adapting your SEO tactics to the customer you serve can shift the gears. You have to find the sweet spot between tending to Google’s search algorithm and preventing your customers from switching to your competitor because of the less-than-favorable experience they’d gotten from your company.

Read on to find out how you can tweak your SEO strategy to attract more customers starting today.

1) Make sure the content you post is relevant to your audience

Sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how much irrelevant and poor content an a company’s website influences their rankings. Not to mention the potential leads who end up not converting because they didn’t find the information they were looking for in the first place.

To avoid this, make posting relevant content consistently a priority. Figure out what your customers would want to read about and pack as much value in blog posts as possible. Answering their queries in the form of long-form posts and guides that link to other important sources is how you appeal to your prospects and demonstrate your trustworthiness to Google.

2) Establish solid linking authority for searchability purposes

The backbone of great on-page SEO is the abundance of internal links. A well-structured website has plenty of links that refer the user from one page to another so that she doesn’t have to go somewhere else in search of answers. It’s also one of the reason why Google decides to prioritize these pages, along with the fact that they are more likely to get crawled.

A less obvious strategy to keep your churn rate low is to link to internal sources at the bottom of the articles under the premise of ‘you might find this helpful’. Along with external links that open up in a new tab, this is a sure way to keep your customers engaged while also building your authority with reliable backlinks.

3) Follow the simple NAP rule to rank well locally

Including your contact details on all the platforms you’re active on has more benefits than what meets the eye. One of them is acquiring more clients that find your business by searching ‘X near me’ in Google or typing ‘X service in Z city’ in Instagram’s or Facebook’s search bar.

Aside from letting your customers find you organically, featuring your company’s name, address and phone number (NAP) on relevant pages of your website also eliminates the need for them to turn to Google in hopes to find your contact information and come across your competitors.

4) Use Google’s Featured Snippets to your advantage

Speaking about catering to Google’s needs, it’s only right to adopt as many features as it offers to deliver the best customer experience. Featured Snippets is one of those instruments that can easily distinguish you from the crowd without having to try too hard.

Think of it as a short paragraph that pops up at the top of the Google search whenever someone is trying to find the most appropriate answer to their question. With nearly 30% of 1.4 million queries on Google showing Featured Snippets, you might want to do your own research for the most common questions relevant to your business and come up with a way to incorporate them into your website copy.

Example of featured snippets in search results

Image Source: SEMrush

5) Take it to social media platforms to boost your online presence

Omnichannel communication is taking over and, to stay relevant, you need to jump on this bandwagon. This means not only engaging with your customers on social media but also applying SEO tactics for a better customer experience.

In addition to using hashtags that are suitable for your business (still viewed as the easiest way to gain exposure), you should seriously consider optimizing your Instagram bio and adding appropriate contact details to your Facebook and Twitter profiles. Mention that you also have a website your followers can visit to learn more about the services you provide.

6) Improve the loading speed of your website

There isn’t a single person on Earth who doesn’t find a slowly loading website annoying and your customers aren’t exceptions. It gets worse — as many as 37% of website visitors will bounce off when they notice that it’s taking over 5 seconds to load.

Image illustrating how slow load times drive up bounce rate

Image Source: Pingdom

This might not seem like a big deal at first, but the longer your website takes to load, the higher is the likelihood of your leads losing patience and not even giving your company a chance to redeem itself. To not get on anyone’s nerves and rank well on Google, make sure your media files are compressed, your web hosting is of high quality, and your server isn’t burdened with too many plugins.

7) Optimize your website for mobile users

The 6.4 billion smartphone users worldwide are proof that people are spending more time on their mobile phones than ever before. A report from Search Engine Land provides an even deeper insight — 60% of searches come directly from mobile devices. If you aren’t taking this into consideration when optimizing your website, we’ve got bad news for you.

The benefits of a mobile-friendly website include quicker page loading time, minimal scrolling, and fewer flash elements. Combined with the relatively short global attention span customers have these days, it’s only natural for you to adapt to this new reality. Besides, Google takes mobile traffic into account when giving you the rank in Google Search, so consider this SEO tactic to be absolutely essential.

In a nutshell

No matter the industry, there isn’t a shortage of competitors trying to make a name for themselves. And while some appeal with their innovative solutions to the old problems, those that ultimately win are the ones that sell experiences rather than products or services. To accomplish this, they put forward their best digital marketing practices that make it easy for customers to choose them over others.

Learn the rules of the SEO game and you’ll join them sooner than anticipated. When you put customers first, success follows naturally.

Mikkel Andreassen

Customer Experience Manager at Dixa

Mikkel is passionate about customer experience in every color of the beautiful customer engagement spectrum. He loves building great connections with his customers, which often lead to meaningful friendships that last a lifetime and inspire his work. Driven by the genuine belief that CX is the pivotal force that drives a successful business, he is currently at the helm of Dixa’s customer experience strategy.


Social media:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikkel-andreassen-4603b74a/

Twitter handle: @MikkelVes

picture of children having search engine success

SEO is About More than Ranking High on Google

SEO stands for “Search Engine” Optimization. It’s Understandable People Get Confused.

Almost every day I delete an email from some “SEO” company, often written in broken English, telling me that they can guarantee a high ranking on Google. In the first place, such claims are always bogus (yes, I said “always” not “almost always”). In the second place, so what?

Ranking high is nice, it’s desirable, it stokes our egos, but ultimately, most business people realize that a high ranking, even a number ranking, can be completely meaningless. Of course once you think only in terms of “Search Engine” optimization, you might miss that the point of having a website probably is probably not achieved by a person searching on Google or Bing and finding your website.

picture of children having search engine success

Hurray! They found you! … Now what?

An SEO company owes it to their clients to focus, not on rankings, but on business success. Even Google drives this point, as mentioned by former Googler Maile Ohye

“A successful SEO also looks to improve the entire searcher experience, from search results to clicking on your website and potentially converting”

Not only does this make business sense, it’s absolutely critical from Google’s perspective. Think about it, Google is like a tour guide. If a tour guide keeps dropping the tourists off at destinations that bore them, that they can’t wait to leave, where they find nothing of interest that they’d like to take home, that tour guide will not get tips and eventually will lose customers.

Google has a vested interest in having people arrive at a website that they’ve “recommended” and say, “wow, this is just what I was searching for!”

When you become a client with Horizon Web Marketing, we view it an essential component of our program to analyze the type of website experience your customers will enjoy (or hate) when they land on your website. We’d like to offer some of the methods we use to understand and improve visitor experience on our clients’ websites.

3 Easy Ways to Understand Searcher Experience on Your Website

  • The best tool is still the easiest. Visit your own site and try to experience it through the eyes of someone who has never been there. This can be hard at first, but the longer and slower you browse, the more you can get a feel for that first-timer.
  • What good are friends if you don’t use them? Actually we’re talking about using them as unofficial testers. For example, if your site is an Ecommerce site, as a friend to buy one of your products (you might want to give them a substantial discount, say, 100%). Here’s the key, watch them do it. This is an occasionally painful, always useful experience.
  • Check your analytics. Google Analytics will show you on a page by page basis how long the average viewer will stay on a page (behavior > all pages > average time on page), how many of them leave without going deeper into your site ( > bounce rate).

Of course there are more sophisticated ways to measure searcher experience, but the priority remains the same, don’t get distracted chasing rankings or be satisfied when you’ve achieve them. As Maile Ohye said, “improve the entire searcher experience.”

Mobile Friendly and the Busy CEO: C-Suite SEO Tip #2

The Culture Goes Mobile: Is Your Business Ready for That?

How does a half hour on the phone with Apple customer service tie into the way Google treats your website? In this video I explore an anecdote to illustrate why ignoring the mobile trend in website marketing is tempting but dangerous (a transcript appears below the embedded video).

If you would like an assessment of your website’s mobile friendliness, contact us today.

Video Transcript

Yesterday I had a really frustrating experience with Apple customer service. When I was done with that frustrating experience, I realized that I needed to reach out to top level managers and CEOs and business owners and give them fair warning that they could end up having a very unpleasant surprise in the very near future with Google. If those things don’t seem to line up, stick around. I’ll put the pieces together in just a few seconds.

Hi. I’m Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing. First, I’m going to tell you a little bit about this frustrating experience that I had with Apple customer service. Like many of you out there, I have a teenage daughter, and a teenage daughter who spends a lot of time on her iPhone. She’s a really responsible girl, so I let her use my Apple sign-in ID. The other day, she downloaded an app that came with a subscription. She had no intention of buying it, but she just wanted to see what it was like. There was a trial period. She deleted the app, and I said, “Well, I need to do due diligence. Let’s log in to Apple and see if there’s going to be any consequences to this. Is there anything that we need to cancel?”

Of course, what do I do? Troglodyte that I am, I go to my desktop computer, I go to the Apple website. You see it right here. Of course, you got a way to sign in. I’m signed in right now. Once I sign in, I navigate on over to my account. Within my account, I check the status of any orders. No orders showing there. I can’t find anything about subscriptions, so I figure, “Hey, I’m good. Right?” What do you think happens? Of course, two days later, boom, I got a $50 charge on my credit card.

I get on with Apple chat customer service. Long story short, after 30 minutes, I finally was able to get the subscription canceled. In the meantime, while I’m chatting with this lady who’s trying to help me, she’s directing me to articles like this one, “View, change, or cancel your subscriptions”. I’m sending her screen captures of the place where I’m at. By the way, she wasn’t even looking at my screen captures, so bad for customer service in that respect. Finally figured out that the only way to cancel the subscription was on the iPhone. There was a workaround if I would have had iTunes installed, but I didn’t. There’s just simply no way though the web browser interface to get this simple job done of canceling a subscription.

Alright. Why am I going into all of this? Because it illustrates a point. The point it illustrates is how strongly the culture, users, and major companies are moving towards a mobile-centric world. I don’t like it anymore than you do, at least I hope you don’t like it, if you’re like me, but that’s the way it is nowadays. You know who’s paying attention to this? Google. That’s why Google is writing like on their official Webmaster Central Blog recently, they did an article on how they are moving to a mobile-first index and how eventually they may even move to a mobile-only index. Not going to try and explain what mobile-first index or even what index is, I’m just going to tell you the impact.

The impact on your business website is if your website does not run smoothly, look good, load quickly on a mobile device, it’s going to start hurting you in Google search results, and most likely Bing as well, although most people only really care about Google nowadays. Basically, the ante has been upped. You need to make sure that your business website, if you need visibility in search, and who doesn’t, has to be ready on mobile. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, we got web developers and we hired this company that does our website and everything.” Maybe you haven’t even checked it out.

That factors back into why I’m talking to top level business executives. If you’re, for example, a CEO, you’ve got a really busy schedule. It’s entirely understandable if you’ve never actually pulled out a phone and taken a look at your company’s website on the phone. I’m going to tell you that you need to engage with this and not just delegate it away. Here’s a couple of examples of why.

I’m going to go to a website, or I’m going to show you here a large company website. This company is $87 million in annual revenue estimated. Look at their page over here on the right. You can see their page on a mobile device. This tool here that I’m showing you is Google’s own mobile friendly test. Notice what Google concludes, “This page is not mobile friendly.” This factors back into what I was telling you about Google. If the page is not mobile friendly, it’s not going to be well situated for a mobile-first world, the world that Google is preparing for.

Let me give you another example here so you can see this is not an isolated incident. Here’s a $106 million business. On mobile, their website doesn’t even render correctly. I doubt if the CEO or if the top level senior management people in this company even know that this is the case. You also might be thinking, “Hey, our clientele is always going to be looking at our website on a desktop computer, so it doesn’t really matter”, but it does because Google says, “Page is not mobile friendly.” Google is basically saying, “Page is very possibly not going to do well for search in the future.”

screenshot of a large company website that is not mobile friendly

Here’s my final example to show you really quickly, and that is … Let me see if I can find it here. Here is probably the most egregious example that I have. A $410 million company, half a billion dollars almost in annual revenue, and their website does not render correctly on a mobile device.

The purpose of this video is not to give you a how-to of how to check out your website. I have done a video that shows you how you, without any technical skills, can check out your own company’s website in order to see, “Hey, are we measuring up? Is our website mobile friendly?” I’ll put a link to that video in the description for this video, but no, the purpose of this is to give you my “dad” lecture, like I did with my oldest son when I said, “Hey, listen. If you drop out of high school, you’re going to regret it.” He did drop out of high school, and yeah, he does regret it. The point is if you don’t check this out, if you don’t engage with this issue, you’re likely to regret it when you find that you’re losing ground in Google search results.

If you need any help on this, at Horizon Web Marketing, we do consulting and we also do seo training, either for you or for your staff, around all sorts of digital marketing issues, including issues like this. What impact does this type of thing have on your placement in search results? That’s part of what we do for SEO, or search engine optimization. Definitely if you like videos in plain business English, subscribe down below. Also in the comments, let me know what you’d like to learn more about so that you can be more effective in managing your company’s digital marketing presence, or making sure that other people and companies do a good job of that. Until next time, my name is Ross Barefoot with Horizon Web Marketing and Horizon Web Marketing Academy. Thank you very much for your time.

Sale Stoppers: Why Some Websites Never Generate Any Business

man unhappy with website sales stares at screen, line drawing

“Why have I invested all this money in a website? It never generates any leads or sales for my business!?! What a waste!”

Have you ever found yourself screaming in frustration at your website because it’s not giving you any return on investment?

Guess what, you’re part of a vast army of disappointed website owners.

Determining the cause of website non-performance isn’t always easy, but we have to start somewhere, and usually in our consulting business at Horizon Web Marketing we start, not with paid search or “organic” SEO, but by looking at the website and asking ourselves: “How can this website do a better job earning money for its owners RIGHT NOW?”

We call this process “conversion rate optimization” (CRO), and it’s all about doing more with the traffic you already have BEFORE you go out and try to attract a bunch of new visitors.

We know from our own experience that this process can bear rich fruit for small business, and so we decided to host a free webinar to give you some actionable tips for identifying and correcting simple, common mistakes that might be standing in the way of your website’s ability to convert visitors to customers.

Join us for free, and ask your questions at the end of the webinar.  I’d love to have you attend, and I’m sure you’ll find it a profitable hour.

This webinar is limited to 100 attendees at the live session.  It will be recorded and freely available for only 30 days after the broadcast date, so make sure you sign up today: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1928031404525741825?source=hwmwebsite