The way that individual websites are designed may not seem to have anything to do with how the majority of users are directed to that site – or rather, how the design can impact on SEO – but the influence that search engines like Google have as gatekeepers to content is substantial and not always visible at surface level. Here’s what your business needs to know about Google’s updates in terms of your web design.
Usability testing can be an invaluable tool in the arsenal of a digital marketer and web designer.
Get it right, and it can provide solutions to problems that you didn’t even realise existed. But get it wrong and you may end up making unnecessary changes that could negatively impact the performance of your website.
Here are my top tips for getting usability testing right, including some simple things that you need to avoid in order to get the most out of what can be a vital activity. Continue Reading
SEO, over the time that I’ve been working on it, has changed drastically. Back in the mists of time, it was fairly easy to simply create a site, get the title, meta keywords and description tags right, have OK content and you’d rank. Nowadays it’s somewhat more complex.
There’s various aspects that haven’t been traditionally considered part of SEO which have absolutely become part of it. Over a series of posts, I’m going to deconstructing each of these and looking at what needs to be taken in to account as part of it. Continue Reading
We speak to a lot of Clients who don’t realise that it is extremely important for their site navigation, (commonly referred to as internal links or information architecture) to be extremely well considered so that the right pages get indexed easily and regularly by the search engine spiders. Connected to the site architecture is the preference that no one page contains more than 100 links, this keeps the quality score assigned to each link at a respectable level and helps the spiders move through the site properly.
To start, it helps to understand how the spiders prioritise the pages, and then crawl the site.
Spiders will visit popular pages more often, popular pages are defined by the number of back-links and the site architecture should correlate with this. For example:
- Your homepage, and chosen landing pages, should be the most popular with the most back-links
- First and second level category pages should be fairly popular but containing less back-links than the homepage
- At the bottom of the priority are the deepest pages, these will be pages such as news pages, product pages, service price lists etc
The spiders will enter the site via a landing page, this doesn’t need to be the homepage, they will then follow links through each page looking to index the whole site. They don’t like being sent in circles and they don’t like feeling lost in too many links, so it’s important that your site architecture makes it as easy as possible for the spiders to do their job, whilst getting all the pages which need indexing, indexed. Ideally you want the spiders to be able to index everything within three clicks of arriving on the site, regardless if that is your homepage or your deepest category page.
XML Site Maps
XML site maps are seen as the quick fix for architecture issues, and this is what they are. They do not resolve problems in the site architecture and internal navigation, they merely hide the problems so that you are unaware of them.
In an ideal world, you would not add an XML site map until you know the website architecture is sound and secure and most importantly indexing on it’s own. Below are some basic architecture tips to get you started.
Keep Architecture Flat
You want to keep your architecture as flat and easy to navigate as possible, whilst retaining the three click rule (if a spider lands on one of your deeper pages, can they reach the other pages within three links?)
In a brand new website the following structure is a common one used with the 100 links per page being the absolute maximum you should have on each page.
At the top: Homepage with no more than 100 links per page
First Level: Categories – no more than 100 pages (each page has no more than 100 links)
Second Level: Sub-Categories – no more than 10,000 (each page has no more than 100 links)
At the bottom: Detail/Products – no more than 1,000,000 pages
Index and rankings are determined by how much authority each page has, the higher the domain authority of your site the more links you can realistically get away with including on each page. As a rough guide, if your website already holds some domain authority (DA) you can increase the links on each page as follows:
DA 7-10 = 250 links
DA 5-7 = 175 links
DA 3-5 = 125 links
DA 0-3 = 100 links
So, the smaller the number of links the spiders have to follow to index the whole site, the happier they are and the more weight each page will hold.
This is a common and useful aspect of ecommerce sites, which allows you to pick facets of a product which are important to you. For example, you could pick the category of T-Shirts, pick the colour black, and the size Medium, the results you are shown then directly correspond with what you specifically want. In essence the website has ignored anything which doesn’t contain the facets you have chosen.
Setting up faceted navigation can be tricky, and you need to keep in mind that the primary facet pages won’t rank, you want the deeper facet pages to rank as these are the one’s that will help the spiders discover all of the product pages.
When setting up faceted navigation, some of the things to keep in mind are:
You must have a unique URL for each facet level. The URL’s should be clear and not complicated and hard to follow:
Clear URL: www.tshirtdomain.co.uk/tshirts/black/medium
Unclear URL: www.tshirtdomain.co.uk/all/tshirts/all/black/all/medium
You also want to ensure that whatever route somebody takes to reach this facet level the same URL is shown so for example:
Somebody clicks on Tshirts, then Medium, then Black the URL they end up on should still be www.tshirtdomain.co.uk/tshirts/black/medium and not www.tshirtdomain.co.uk/tshirts/medium/black which would result in you creating unnecessary duplicate content issues!
Adding & Removing Facets
You should make it easy for your customers to add or remove additional facets as they see fit.
As they add facets to their search these should be displayed as follows so that any or all facets can be removed by the user:
So that they can easily choose which facets can be automatically generated from the results meta data so it is easy for you to display the number of results within that facet, for example:
Any pages which could be considered as duplicate content should be no-indexed, the spiders will still visit these pages but they won’t index them. To keep a page out of the index you want to add some code to the page as follows:
<meta name = “robots” content = “noindex”> – This will make the page no index
<link rel = “canonical” href = “domainname.co.uk/tshirts/black”> – This will take the spiders back to the correct page.
Filtering & Pagination
Another common aspect of ecommerce sites is filtering results. This is where you can choose a filter which will sort the products in a certain way, for example only showing 10 items per page (creating pagination or multiple pages), or showing lowest priced items first.
The ideal way to deal with pagination in category results is to programme the page to show all results rather than writing each page of results as page 1, page 2, etc.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Again
Don’t under-value the benefit of properly planning your website. Most of our examples have referred to ecommerce sites, but the same principal applies to brochure sites. Plan to succeed and your website will be a spider’s navigational dream and you will be rewarded with good search results and no duplicate content issues.
In summary, the number one rule for you to keep in mind when you are planning your navigation is that you want as few pages as possible to be indexed, whilst allowing for each and every product page to be indexed.
To increase traffic to your website is of course a major part of an online marketing strategy but don’t overlook the importance of what your visitors might be experiencing when they get there. Afterall, high volumes of traffic are useless to you if these visitors are not converting. There can be many factors to consider when looking at low or falling conversion rates.
Little glitches or errors will frustrate the user and more than likely turn them away; like a search function that doesn’t work properly or a slow loading page. Worse still, a shopping cart that fails to add the products or forms that have errors.
There is one particular tool that you may find very helpful for looking at how your visitors are interacting with your site and in particular handling your forms. Have a look at www.clicktale.com
Broken Links between pages or image links that go to the wrong place will not inspire confidence in the potential customer.
Poor Quality images of products will not show them to their best advantage or entice people to buy.
These are just some of the reasons visitors may exit your site and seek out your competititor. It is important to have your usability testing done by someone who is not already familiar with the site as they will pick up navigation issues for example. A new user will really tell you how intuative or easy it is to buy from your site.
Remember too that webusers can be fickle and unforgiving as they scan for the results they want. They also have increasingly high expectations making them harder to satisfy with sub standard websites. Don’t make them search too hard or make them fill endless forms or they will quickly loose interest. Website usability testing finds out how much time users might take to search for a particular product or item on your site; what are the difficulties faced by them while conducting the search; do they face any problems related to your website design and features, such as navigating from one web page to the other, opening up links, downloading images or content, and the like.
In a nutshell, website usability testing is an approach to calculate the ease-of-use quotient of your site. Here at SIM we have perfected a system of usability testing that has been invaluable to our clients. Give us your target audience demographic and we can arrange for comprehensive testing of your site with a full report.
Based on the website usability testing analysis, you can then apply the changes and correct glitches and errors in the knowledge that you will be improving your customer’s experience.