Even if I’ve never met you or visited your web site, I can diagnose with a fair amount of certainty what many users say about it. Whether you realize it or now, they don’t particularly enjoy visiting your site.
That’s because most people use web sites only out of necessity. And your web site really has only one responsibility to these people: To give them the information they value. Period.
Ideally this trade of “effort for information” should be short and sweet. No visitors to your site want to feel like they’re on a scavenger hunt. But that’s exactly what it often feels like, and it pisses them off. Thus, your site’s low conversion rates and high abandon rates. How did I know about those? They’re about as predictable as inhaling and exhaling.
So how do you take some of the frustration out of using your web site? Simple. Fix your site’s confusing navigation and it’s improperly labeled and organized content.
And I suggest you start with the single easiest and best source for learning what’s missing on your site: Namely, data from your internal search.
Think about it. If you have an internal search engine operating right now, the people who find your site the most frustrating are often typing out their frustration in that little text box. The sound of user dissatisfaction (dissatisfaction with your navigation, dissatisfaction with your content) is right there … loud and unequivocal. But it’s got to be captured and measured or this gold mine of information is lost.
Okay, here’s a shameless plug: I and my team at ec-connection build this system in many of our clients’ web specifications. By tabulating the search phrases that users type in, we get to see what’s frustrating them, or at the very least, what they want to see on this site that they’re not finding. With this valuable, free quantitative research, we can fix our clients’ navigation and content problems. And watch the searches, and the user pain they suggest, fall off.
I’ve noticed that the growing power of search engines has brought about a new way to look at the design of a commercial web site. The old approach was to design a site starting with the Home Page. That was the presumed entry page — at least much of the time.
Paradoxically, the new paradigm suggests we should design our sites with pages beyond our direct control in mind.
Today I’ll focus on the entry pages to your site that a very important set of prospects uses. I’m talking about search engine results pages (SERPs) on important search engines, for specific, relevant search terms.
You know what you want to say on your home page. But what about what is said on a search results page? If you consider that you will be getting 10% to 15% of your total site traffic from search engines (a norm we’ve witnessed with many of our commercial sites), can you afford to ignore the influence that these SERPs have on consumers who click through to you? Or worse, the influence they have to cause other prospects not to click through?
I suggest we all regularly check to see what descriptions are showing up for our sites on important SERPs. What’s more, consider setting up a way to find correlations between the best descriptions in these organic listings and those consumers’ chances of converting from visitors to customers. It can be done, and could yield better ROI from those visits. Remember, these folks are pre-qualified and are often your very best prospects!
By the way, I’m talking here exclusively about “organic” results — the results that are generated by a search engine’s true search algorithms. Much has been written elsewhere about testing and tweaking text listings for pay-for-click ads. My point is, why not apply this same discipline to refining your organic results descriptions?
You may even eventually want to optimize key pages that are most likely to be visited from these organic search click-throughs, to ensure that was is stated on the SERPs’ descriptions is restated on that landing page. It could be the difference between a new, satisfied customer and a frustrated, departing visitor.
Speaking of not frustrating your site visitors, my plan is to follow this post with one about the easiest and most sure-fire way to improve your site’s navigation. Stay tuned.