A major mistake businesses often make when it comes to SEO is optimizing their website at the expense of their customers. Have you ever entered a website while researching a product or service, only to be confronted with massive amounts of content on a poorly designed website? This probably resulted in not only a frustrating experience, but also your exit from the site, and a lost sale for that business.
Here are five steps you can implement to avoid this scenario, and create a website that both your customers and search engines will love.
Step 1: Understand Your Customer
This seems obvious, but business owners tend to design websites that are appealing to them, rather than figuring out what is appealing to their customers. The way you perceive your products or services may be very different than how your customers perceive them.
If you don’t already know, figure out why your existing customers buy from you, rather than your competitors, and make this differentiation readily apparent on your website.
Communicating this value proposition to prospective customers as soon as they enter your website can mean the difference between whether they choose to stay on your site, and whether they choose to do business with you.
Step 2: Don’t Attempt to Create a Work of Art
Websites don't have to be beautiful. They just have to be useful and engaging to your target audience.
This isn't to say your website shouldn't be attractive. But unless you're selling art, it doesn't have to be a work of art. Instead, focus your energy on creating aesthetics that appeal to your customers, emphasize credibility, and improve your brand.
Different aesthetics appeal to different audiences. For example, if your target audience is women ages 18 to 28, the colors, fonts, and imagery you choose to incorporate in your website should be very different than if you’re targeting men ages 45 to 55.
Additionally, emphasize credibility and improve your brand by utilizing a professional design. A website that looks cheap can undermine the credibility of your business and detract from your brand.
Step 3: Create Purposeful, Well-Written Content
The purpose of the content on your website should be to inform your reader, rather than to attract search engines. Your content should be well written, concise, and purposeful. Poor grammar, excessive verbiage, and content without a clear purpose will turn off readers, and potentially result in lost customers.
For each page on your website, ask yourself the following questions
- What is the purpose of this page?
- Will my customers find this information valuable?
- What is the impression I want to make on the person reading it?
- What is the action I want the reader to take?
Step 4: Provide Easy-to-Use Navigation
User-friendly navigation is key to allowing your customers to quickly and conveniently find what they’re looking for on your site. Incorporate navigation in both the header and the footer, so your customers have easy access to it, regardless of where they are on the page. If your site has lots of pages, consider including a drop-down menu for easy access to pages deep within your site.
Also, consider including a sidebar menu that allows for an alternative way to access pages deep within your site. For example, ecommerce sites often list product types in the header navigation and list brand types in the sidebar menu, or vice versa. This gives the customer the option to search by product type or brand, rather than forcing them to search by one or the other.
Step 5: Measure & Improve
Once all of these elements are in place, measure the results by determining your key performance indicators (KPIs). Of course, you want to monitor your search engine rankings, but understanding how those rankings contribute to increased quality traffic, and conversions is essential.
For example, if you own an ecommerce store, your KPIs should include purchases and shopping cart abandonment rates. If you own a brick and mortar, your KPIs may include contact form submissions, phone calls, and the percentage of those form submissions and phone calls that result in sales.
Utilize tracking software such as Google Analytics and know where your customers are coming from, and the steps they are taking that result in conversions, and those that do not. Use this data to continuously improve both your website and your SEO strategy.
Follow these five steps to create a website that both your customers and search engines will love. This will not only improve your rankings, but your bottom line as well.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!