With Google collecting the data it needs to develop searcher personas, the search experience is becoming far more personalized. Web sites must rise to the occasion and create landing pages that appear for keywords while enhancing the search experience. Let's dive right into what you need to know to give your landing page a fighting chance with search spiders and human audiences.
Web Sites Shouldn't be Bouncy
Do you know the bounce rate of your Web site as a whole? How about the bounce rate of the landing page you drive searchers to? A quick indicator of irrelevant content is a whole bunch of users hitting your Web site and leaving without clicking a thing.
According to Google Analytics, bounce rate refers to "the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page." What does it say about your page if a searcher doesn't stick around long enough to read your content?
High bounce rate doesn't just indicate content problems related to user relevancy. It may tell Google that the page isn't relevant to your target search phrase and, therefore, it shouldn't rank highly.
User relevancy issues can quickly become search engine issues, compounding the problem and making it harder to regain visibility. Make sure your content is relevant to your target keyword, encourages spidering, and (most importantly) engages the reader.
Make a Lasting First Impression
Your landing page is the first impression by which search engines and users alike will judge your site. And when a searcher first lands on your Web site, you have but mere seconds to establish credibility.
We all do it. We judge a site immediately by its design and decide whether we believe it will contain credible information. With search engines returning so many results, it's easy for users to hit the back button without actually reading the content.
Opinions are formed incredibly fast. If your site can't quickly (and visually) establish its worth, users will move to the next search result.
This is, of course, a balancing act. Many sites choose to establish "visual authority" through Flash design elements. While great for users, Flash still poses a challenge to search spiders as they're still working out the indexing kinks.
When determining a page's associated keywords, search spiders place significant emphasis on written content (body copy, links, alt tags, etc.). Consider Flash remediation or an alternate HTML page version to make things easier for spiders.
Your landing page needs the visual appeal to draw human users in, and the content appeal to have search spiders connect it with your target keywords. First impressions can be tricky, especially in such mixed company.
Construct a Scannable Page
How do you ensure a user will stay long enough to read the copy you've worked so hard to mold and craft? Steal a concept from the paid search playbook!
In paid search, it's been proven that when the search phrase is used in the search ad, the CTR is higher. Why not structure page titles, header tags, or called out content (think bulleted lists) to include the search phrase you're targeting? Let searchers make an immediate connection between what they're looking for and what you're offering.
Including keywords upfront makes a page easier for users to scan and find the information they need. Scannability is key, because people don't like to read long paragraphs online. Limit paragraphs to a few short sentences, break up copy with lists and sub-headers, and opt for the visual explanation over the textual one (remembering, of course, to use an alt tag for such images.
Length and shape of text also send a visual cue to the reader. Headers should be succinct, usually under 55 characters. Sentences are best kept to around 10 words. Paragraphs that take up about four lines are ideal.
Remember to construct your content with the most important information first in the "inverted pyramid" style of news article writing. Put an emphasis on user benefit, and put it up front.
Well-constructed, highly scannable copy is easier for readers to digest, and guess what? It's better for search spiders, too. By using keyword-optimized headers and dicing the content into well-labeled chunks, search spiders can easily identify the main components of a landing page and associate the page with the keywords you're looking to target.
Tools of the Trade
Even if you follow the best practices laid out above, you still need to test and tweak your landing page for optimal performance. Quite a few tools are available to help you with this. Make sure whatever tool you choose provides:
- Click density, which indicates where people click within the page.
- Scrolling analysis, which tells you how far down the page users are scrolling to read content.
- Form friction analysis, which highlights where people are abandoning forms.
There's a wealth of measurable elements, and even an overall page score based on all elements combined. Do your homework and optimize your pages for search engine spiders and searchers.
Exercise Common Sense
A lot of this information may seem obvious. Yet I'm always surprised by how often I click on a search result only to immediately leave for the next listing. Retaining user attention is tough, and our appetite for instant search gratification doesn't help.
If you go through the effort of optimization to rank well in the SERPs, you should also spend time measuring how your pages perform. Remember, it's not just the searcher who judges your site; the search engines themselves observe the relevancy of the page to the SERPs and the searcher. The best way to succeed online is to build with your audience in mind.
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