For the debut of my first in weekly blog posts for Internet Marketing Ninjas, I thought it fitting to begin by going into more depth on what I call the “The Magical Secret to Natural Site Conversions for Usability and SEO”.
During the recent PubCon in Las Vegas, I gave a short presentation at an Open Mic session called, “SEO and Usability Conversion Tactics for Your Homepage”. There was no way I could get into the actual how-to details in ten minutes so in the weeks to come I’ll explain what you can do for your own web site. My talk was limited to the homepage and I’ll lead off here with that page as the main emphasis first. In future posts I can explain how to apply these suggestions to any web page on your web site.
The easiest way to increase web site conversions is by paying attention to content that can answer these questions – Who, Where, What, Why, When and How. This works for search engines and people. You won’t need to do anything with your meta information or source code. Later in this series I’ll offer recommendations for that, but for now, we’re all about the text that search engines and site guests see on your homepage.
Text is important. Content is King but actual text pleases the entire Kingdom. Text is appreciated by your first time visitors who have just arrived because your web page appeared in the search engine results in response to their search query. You have mere seconds to prove to them they arrived at the right place, that you have what they came for and you have other cool stuff that will convince them to stay.
Text that increases the types of conversions you seek will motivate, inspire, gain trust, create confidence and show off your gems. Everybody claims to be the “Best” or an “Expert” or the “Leader” in something, so your first decision is to never use those words in areas where you want a task completed or a link clicked on.
While I’m on the topic of what not to do, here is another important rule to apply in your web design and marketing strategies. Don’t copy what your competitors do. Of course you have been doing competitive analysis into their top keywords and borrowing some of their nifty looking design ideas. But what if what they’re doing is wrong? Not all marketing advice is sound advice and sometimes it’s even damaging to a brand or search engine acceptance. More importantly, their business and site requirements will be different than your own. Be unique and follow your own requirements. And remember, your requirements will change over time depending on your regular analysis of your web site’s performance. So will your competitors’.
What Text Do I Apply Conversion Enhancements?
By text I’m referring to your homepage content that search engines can read and humans can read or listen to from screen readers. This includes:
- Introductory content
- Taglines or slogans
- Navigation links
- Embedded text link anchor text
- Picture captions
- Product descriptions
- Side bar content
- Quick link navigation boxes
- Footer text
- Bullet points
One of the most remarkable discoveries I’ve made in a dozen years of usability testing are homepages that forget to tell search engines and visitors WHO they are. The logo with a company or web site name is in an image that search engines won’t see (nor will special needs visitors using screen reading devices.) Sometimes a company name is tucked all the way down in the footer in a tiny font with low contrast color. The first secret trick to conversions is making sure everybody knows who you are.
The second, more powerful detail is addressing WHO your intended visitors are in ways that tell them you expect them and are ready to guide them to what they seek. Who can use your web site? Who can buy from you? Who recommends your site? Who are your leading customers or clients?
Fashion clothing web sites are wildly popular for frustrating customers because they ignore organic search marketing and usability standards in favor of creative visuals. The like FLASH and rely on visuals to tell their story, using as little words as possible or non-descript labels such as “men” and “women”. If I’m a tall man, do they have something for me? If I’m a budget driven “fashionista”, do they have sales?
Here’s how to increase conversions for the WHO requirement. Remember, these suggestions are for your text only.
- Identify your company, brand or web site name three times on the homepage, preferably with two of the places above the page fold. The footer can count for one but try to make it easy to see.
- Describe who your targeted users are by identifying them. “American girls, age 10 – 16”, “Medical students”, “job opportunities for [insert who], etc. When you have different sales funnels based on separate user types, it’s important to identify them and signal where they should go on your site.
- If someone is searching for a “whom”, who is it? A “Who” can be a brand name, dealer, store near you, famous person, clients you represent, and more.
- Who can use your web site if there are age restrictions or other limiting factors. The idea here is to not waste anyone one’s time. If they searched for an item or an article and found it on your web site, who may be prevented from accessing it, buying it, signing up for it or joining wherever you have it?
- Searchers look for themselves on your web site. The more ways you can describe who your web site is designed for, the more likely they will feel welcome and stay. This is especially handy in situations where products are luxury items, or for a specific niche or need. (Healthcare, local sites, pet owners, students, etc.)
- Who are your clients? Who uses your software? A pile of logos is not helpful here. Highlight certain choices, write something persuasive or inspiring, throw in a picture and add a caption.
- Use category labels to identify WHO opportunities.
- User instructions and warnings are places to try. Who can’t register?
- Who can your visitors follow in social networking sites? Might it be your brand name or the CEO?
- Who don’t you provide services to, ship to or the reverse, such as who can sign up to be an affiliate, who qualifies for your contest, poll or limited time specials?
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to enhance your conversions by being sure to identify who you are and who you wish to target. People like to be identified, welcomed, guided, rewarded, motivated and inspired during their visit to your web site. Your biggest chances at increasing conversion rates will be in the small details, in subtle but powerful areas of text on the homepage.
Start experimenting. Test your results. Fine tune your keywords and terminology.
Next week, we will work on boosting conversion rates by focusing on the section called WHERE.