05 Mar 2013

Do Your Paid Internet Marketing Strategies Target People?

For Marketers: Explaining the Importance of Usability to Site Owners – Part Four

The way to capture the attention of someone browsing on the web is not by hitting the exact keyword phrase. Even search engines know this and offer variations of search phrases to help direct us to the best results.

And that’s when all the nice and friendly assistance stops.

After you click into a promising web page all sort of behaviors kick in. Your eyes are assaulted by slideshows and 3 columns packed with text, images and links. There’s buttons, ads, product images, social icons, colors, fonts and perhaps a form or bookings application all demanding your attention in five seconds. Some web pages are long, so you’ll need to have some extra time to scroll them to find what you’re looking for if it was not conveniently placed above the fold.

Girl holding puzzle piece.
How do you feel now? Frustrated because the page is so busy and unorganized you couldn’t find the right path to follow? Satisfied that you quickly found what you wanted? Thrilled that the landing page absolutely nailed on the promise of the sponsored link that brought you there?

You just got lucky.

Behind that stack of keywords are real people and most online marketers have no idea how to target them because their job doesn’t include user experience.

What the Data Will Not Tell You

Over the years while conducting web site usability audits I’ve been asked if I want access to their Google Analytics. I learned that if I said no, I wasn’t taken seriously. Entire discussions can take place about bounce rates and time spent on pages but never in my career has a client asked me about the people behind the numbers. It’s as if there are no people using web sites, just keywords.

Some companies will ask for eye tracking or heat maps. Others will pick 5 people for user testing because they read somewhere that 5 people is all it takes to know if your site works properly. Split testing is a favorite test. Each of these are helpful for the actual layout of web pages. They have a story to tell.

What we won’t learn from these tests and mounds of keywords are how your web site visitors feel. If you own a site in any area of health care, do you consider how sick people feel when looking for help? If you own a travel site, do you consider who buys the tickets? Is it an employee making travel plans for their boss or a honeymoon couple? Did you design to appeal to both?

The data we see on how many people use mobile devices to access our sites often sits there, completely ignored by marketers and stakeholders. Very few wonder why mobile use is increasing for their site, let alone jump on this opportunity for new marketing strategies and design changes for conversions.

Search engine rank will not measure web sites that are used frequently because people with eyesight problems can read them. Keyword research doesn’t look for terms that appeal to different user types who may be your targeted customers. Marketing campaigns with specific landing pages rarely consider the environment someone is in when they click there, how much time they have, if they’re using a screen reader or can make out the poor color contrasts.

Selling usability, user experience and persuasive design along with Internet marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. If you want to solve the mystery of high bounce rates or a sudden drop in conversion rates, you need to know about human computer behavior.

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  1. Lucky Balaraman March 7, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    I know what you meant when you talked about “slideshows and 3 columns packed with text, images and links.” I personally am repelled by such packed detail, which in my view is unnecessary and ineffective.

    Look at Google’s help pages. No fancy graphics, only three colors and low text density. And I’ll bet the farm it’s effective (which is why we used a similar theme for our website).

    What’s finally important is that users find what they are looking for. As you have implied, website designers have to put themselves in users’ shoes and only then put finger to keyboard.

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