When you built your website, you probably spent hours learning about SEO, trying to figure out the perfect formula for ranking well with the search engines, but did you take the time to consider what your visitors want?
The sad truth is that many webmasters forget the importance of their visitors experience in their struggle to get them there…so, since you have mastered the art of search engine ranking, it is time to work on the art of audience ranking!
There is little point to herding droves of people onto your site if they are simply going to hit the back button soon after arriving. The whole point to driving traffic to your site is to increase conversion rates, whatever the conversion you are looking for may be. Yes, there are still those website owners who really do not care about their visitors, you know the ones…they have a million ads crammed onto their site and only care about traffic to sell more ad space. The downside to that tactic is it DOES NOT WORK!
The search engines have made it very clear that they are concerned about the users experience on your website, so even though there are still a few…and I do mean a FEW companies out there willing to place ads on a site that is not ranked well with the search engines, eventually, they will figure out the importance of audience ranking too. Let’s face it, if your website is not attracting the right type of traffic, keeping that audience interested in what’s on the site and creating conversions…all your hard work programming your website is out the window!
I do not care how many Meta tags you have, how hard you worked to create the perfect headers and how much time you spent analyzing the perfect keywords….and neither does your audience.
So, what does your audience care about when they enter your website?
Before we get too involved in the details about what the audience is looking for, keep in mind that every audience is different, so there are a few tweaks to each of these categories that you will have to make based on your target audience. The information below is a generalized idea of what people are looking for when they enter a website, any website.
The first thing someone notices when they click the link to your site or type in your URL, is how fast the page loads. If someone is looking for information, a product or anything else you have promised to offer them and you are lucky enough for them to have chosen your website to satisfy their need…you better deliver, and you better deliver fast.
Your load time does not only affect how your visitors feel about your site, it also affects how the search engines rank your site.
The longer a user has to wait for a page to load, the more likely they are to abandon that page and move on. The majority of user’s are willing to wait about 6-10 seconds for a webpage to load, but there are those that are only willing to wait about 1-5 seconds, and a small percentage that will not wait even 1 second.
Just a one second delay can create a reduction in conversions by 7%. If that does not sound drastic to you, then consider this: A website earning $100,000 a day would lose $2.5 million a year with that drop…now are you listening?
Google offers a great tool for analyzing your websites load time and provides tools to help implement the best possible performance for your site.
Another great tool to use, is of course, our own at SeoSiteCheckup.com, the ToolBox offers a site loading speed checker, along with helpful tips to increase the loading speed of the site.
Google has over 200 signals its uses to determine page rank, and yes, page load time is only one of them, but it is an important one, and the reason why…users!
Shaving just a second off your load time can increase your conversions, boost your reputation with your audience and that increases your page rank.
A Good Web Design (Organization, Navigation, Value and Aesthetics)
Once your website loads, the next thing visitors notice is the web design and layout of your site. If the site is not professional looking, is confusing or offers any irritants to the user, they are likely to leave. So, even though your page loaded with lightning fast speed, if it does not look good, offer value and easy navigation, you will still lose traffic!
A well-organized website provides users with a quick and clear perspective of what the site is all about. Remember those short attention spans that could not wait for your page to load…well, you shaved off seconds of your load time and got them to your site, but they still have short attention spans, so work with them, not against them to enhance your user experience and increase your conversion rates.
Organize the page so that it clearly displays what is most important using a visual hierarchy with call-to-actions larger, bolder and easier to see. The key is to direct the users eye to what YOU want them to see, do not leave it up to them to try and figure out what you want from them…tell them with your design and layout, they will appreciate you for it…
A case study conducted by Visual Website Optimizer (VWO.com) using the Underwater Audio home page as the subject showed that organizing a website properly increased sales by 35.6%. Take a look below at the before and after and see if you agree with the layout.
By simply swapping places with the call-to-action button and the testimonial bubble, the page seen the dramatic increase in conversion, which in turn, created the larger sales and profits for the company.
Navigation is a huge part of creating a well-organized and user-friendly website. If the user wants to venture further into your website, there should be a clear place for them to do so, and in the same respect, get back to where they started if they so choose. Most users do not use their back buttons, I know that is hard to believe…but it is true. Why should the browser do your website’s job? Creating a well-organized navigational system for your entire website allows users to venture wherever they please, which keeps them there longer with an increased chance for conversions.
By simply adding a navigational bar to the left of the page, VWO.com was able to increase cart clicks by 34% for the Slide Shop website.
The right side promotional bar was removed entirely from the site, and with the addition of the left side navigational bar, the site noticed an 8.9% increase in user engagement as well as the 34% increase in cart clicks
The overall goal of the website should be to load fast, look good, offer value and be easy to navigate. So, when you hear the word “value” when speaking of websites, what do you think it means? Many website owners are not real sure, so do not feel bad if you are included in that group. The term “value” can be confusing, but its meaning is different for each webpage, this is where knowing your audience is important.
The value of a website means different things to different people. If users are coming to your site for a product or service, of course that has to be top-notch, but it also has to be presented in a way that the user knows exactly what you are offering once they step onto your page. If a user is looking for information, then you MUST have quality content on your site.
Value basically boils down to offering the user what you promised. So, if a user conducted a search for Halloween costumes on one of the major search engines and your page came up in the listing, they would expect to see Halloween costumes listed on the page they enter. Now, it gets a little trickier when it comes to specific searches, and let’s face it, most people use specific searches rather than vague ones. If the user searches for women’s pirate costumes then they should appear on the page they enter, and if they start adding information like color, size or other specifics, those should be there.
The same is true for information, if the user is looking for information on a particular topic or needs an answer to a question, if your headers say you have what they are looking for, you better deliver when they get there. And this does not mean that they should have to search through your entire site to find what they need…it should be organized well enough that they see it upon arrival, or at the very least, have a navigational system in place that points them in the right direction.
Remember, we talked about attention spans of your web traffic, and that attention span never really increases, so you have to work hard to keep up. Think of it this way, if a user is not willing to wait for 5 seconds for your page to load, why would you think that same user would have the patience to search through your site to find what they were looking for…what you promised them you had waiting on them with a simple click of the mouse?
So, basically, value=relevancy + delivered with the quickness, which = happy traffic!
When it comes to web design, aesthetics play a very important role in whether the visitor stays on the site or moves on. You literally have about 5 seconds to “wow” the visitor before they click the back button on their browser to leave your page.
The first impression users get from your website could be the deciding factor on whether or not they trust you, want to do business with you, would refer you to their friends or would ever visit again. This is where knowing your audience really has an impact on what you do.
If you are appealing to a professional audience, then please avoid cartoon characters and bright flashy colors for your design. A little common sense goes a long way when creating the perfect web page, it is not what YOU like, it’s what YOUR AUDIENCE likes…simple as that.
People are generally more inclined to look at an image rather than a text, so if you have text on your site that is important to the user, try adding an image that helps describe what is written near the text to draw them in. This is not to say you should plaster your site with tons of images, too many images become clustered and confusing to the user and they end up leaving, with a headache to boot!
Look at the image below, if this was a website design, which would you prefer? Most people say the one on the right, and that is because it offers breaks, different coloring and is easier to follow. If you stare at the left side of the image it becomes blurry, this is because your brain takes in information in sections and the left side is just too overwhelming to comprehend. Staring at the right side, it never blurs, this is because your brain is taking in the information in the sections that is it drawn to and not forced to try to decipher anything…
Create a visually appealing, professional page layout and users will find everything they need, navigate through the site with ease and have a memorable and enjoyable experience.
Everything on the page should be uniformed, perfectly sized and never look out of place. If there are sections of your website that look out of place, remove them. Stay with one design element throughout the entire site, so branding is not lost when exploring the site. Colors, themes and other design elements are up to the website owner, but keep in mind the audience when you create your site and make sure that everything flows and meshes perfectly.
Responsive Web Design – Mobile Connectivity
With so many mobile devices in use, the days of visiting a website solely from a computer desktop or laptop are long over. Everywhere you go you see people using their mobile phone, tablet, iPod or other mobile device, not just to connect with others, but to connect with websites as well. With more and more people using these mobile devices to perform searches, it has become extremely important for web masters to come up with a responsive web design.
A responsive web design is one that knows what type of device is requesting its presence and steps out with its best foot forward. This means, when someone connects to your web page from a cell phone or other mobile device, your design responses to the request by displaying a page that fits the users screen. The goal is to deliver an optimal viewing experience to the user with a site that is easy to navigate, read and use without having to scroll or resize in their device.
Creating a mobile site is another option to responsive design, but it takes more effort to setup, maintain and control. With responsive design, there is no reason to maintain different versions of the website; instead the website transforms itself depending on the device used.
The biggest benefit to the design is a good user experience, no matter how they enter your website. Consider times when you have used your cell phone to conduct a search, say it was for a Japanese restaurant nearby. When you get the results, you may see a couple places you have eaten at before, but you are in the mood to try a new place, so you want more information than just the name of the place and how many miles away it is…so, what’s your next step? You click on the restaurants link to be taken to their website so you can view a menu right? Well, what happens if their site was not mobile friendly? You end up trying to click the menu link and click the wrong link, have to back up and try again, this time enlarging the screen so you can see the button. Once the menu loads, and that is only if you have the patience to get to that point, it is huge, so now you have to minimize it to where it is unreadable, or do that annoying constant scroll back and forth and up and down just to see what appetizers they offer. By this time, you are no longer interested in that place, and for most people, the experience may be forgotten, but the name is not, so when it is heard again, all they know for sure is that it is linked to a bad experience…do you want to be that Japanese restaurant?
Trust and Reliability
You may think your sales approach is golden, but to others it may be annoying. There are certain aspects about a website that can be considered an irritant to users, so if your website is guilty of anything below…fix it!
Control and Irritants
When a user enters your site, yes, they expect you to lead the way, but ultimately, they want control of the experience. This means, do not create a site that forces users to certain locations, has links that activate when hovered over or that play ads or videos automatically.
One of the worst offenses in the above list is the hover links. When a user simply places their mouse over a link it automatically opens. This is not only annoying; it can be offensive to some. The end result is an excessive amount of open pages from your site that they no longer, or may have never cared to see. This is a trick that some website owners use to try to make it look like users are actually diving into their website, but it DOES NOT WORK, and it drives users away!
The websites that play videos or audio ads automatically when someone enters their site need to understand that the largest percentage of users find this to be a huge irritant. Most people do not mind the ads being on the site, as long as they are relevant to the sites content, but having them play without being asked is enough to turn them away from the page and the entire site.
Broken links on a website not only deter users from trusting your site, they also damage rankings within the search engines. When a user clicks a link from your page that ends with a 404 error, it creates a feeling of distrust for the user. There is a small percentage of people who leave the site after encountering just one broken link, but when multiple ones are presented, MOST users leave, with the majority never returning.
The dreaded 404 error that a user sees causes them to leave the page almost instantly, and in many cases, your entire site. This creates a high bounce rate for your page and Google takes note of your bounce rates, especially since they alert the search engine giant to pages and sites that are irrelevant to the searches performed. The higher bounce rate, the lower your rankings, so not only is the broken link an annoyance to the user, it is damaging to your rankings.
SeoSiteCheckUp.com provides a quick and easy way to check for broken links, giving you no reason to leave them on your page. If you’re not inclined to use our tools, check out Google’s Webmaster Tools, but please make sure you get the links repaired or removed before they become a problem for your business.
I realize that quality content is hard to come by, and if you are not a writer, well then that content you paid for seems like gold to you, but if it is outdated, it is doing more harm than good. A website must have fresh and current content in order to come across as relevant to the users, and to the search engines.
It is ok to keep the older content on the site, as long as it is dated and properly archived. Do not have a news story from three years ago on your front page or a product review for something that has since been recalled on your page. Blog sites are a great way to keep old content alive, without it killing user experience and rankings. A blog stores the old content, which is fine, as long as new content is being added to it…this is so when the user enters the site, they see the newest content first.
Give your entire website a once over to find any content that is outdated and needs either removed or archived. Users who enter websites with outdated content often believe the business is no longer active, or if it is, they simply do not trust them.
Safety and Security
When visitors come to your page, they want to know their information is safe and protected. They do not want to deal with malicious malware or a virus directing them to dodgy websites. Google identifies over 9,500 infected websites a day, and over half of them are legitimate websites that have been hacked according to the article on entrepreneur.com, so even if you are not intending to compromise your visitors safety and privacy, there are those that are…and it is your responsibility to protect your site, and your visitors from them.
Small businesses are the most vulnerable, so it is important to implement the right tools, such as virus software, Google’s Webmaster Tools and the help of experts. Some companies that provide security for small businesses include Stop the Hacker, Qualys, Sucuri and SiteLock, with packages starting at around $90 a year.
Again, SeoSiteCheckup.com has a complete toolbox of helpful tools to ensure your website is running safe and smooth.
Social Media Connection
Social media is a powerful tool for businesses, and visitors expect to see that you are connected. When a user enters your website and begins to explore everything you have to offer, what happens when they want to share what they found? If you do not have a social media connection, the answer is they do nothing. If you are expecting that user to find your content so compelling that they actually copy the web address and then leave your page to enter it in their social media page, well, don’t hold your breath.
By simply placing social media share buttons on your page or next to your content, you open up the doors to a world of exposure. You have heard what a fox says, you know that it hurt when Charlie bit his brothers finger, and the reason you know these things is simple…they were shared through social media.
Your content may not be as exciting as watching a poodle dancing the polka, but having just one person like it enough to share it can dramatically increase your traffic. The average person has about 700 friends on Facebook, 600 followers on Twitter and countless followers on Pinterest, so just one person sharing your content goes a long way.
Since we live in a world where technology has taken the place of one-on-one live interactions between people, we may not have as much personal human contact as we once did, but we have a much larger connection to a much larger group of people.