As you will know, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a technique used to improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google itself tell us that for a website to improve its rankings, it needs to include various elements on each web page so that it can understand what that website is about and rank it accordingly. Google uses an algorithm, a piece of programming that reads each web page to find specific code and content, that gives it the necessary information to do this.
SEO meets website usability
These same elements that programmers, designers and SEO experts use when building a website can also have additional benefits to website visitors. They can also help improve website usability – ensuring that visitors find what they want quickly and with confidence when browsing a website.
We’re going to look at a few ways that website visitors assess your website before considering whether to buy from you and which onsite SEO elements can help improve your visitors’ experience:
1. Gaining trust and confidence
As in most other aspects of everyday life, building trust with your website visitors mustn’t be underestimated.
These onsite elements will help you do this:
- Clean URLs – Individual pages with website addresses (URLs) that contain strings of code or unrelated terms that contradicts the content displayed on that page look untidy and unprofessional. Make sure page URLs are not over-long and describe what the page is about. Also avoid file extensions such as .html at the end of the URL – whilst this doesn’t necessarily benefit SEO, it makes them easier to remember and they look cleaner.
- Meta data – A stalwart element of SEO, well constructed Meta titles and Meta descriptions that show in the SERPs listings as well as in your Internet browser tab should explain what the page is about without the visitor being required to think about it too much. Like a clean URL, it’s one of several immediate signals that a website visitor will use, often sub-consciously, when forming a first impression about your website.
- Spelling and grammar – This may sound obvious, but it’s incredible how little attention this is often given. Poor spelling and grammatical errors may not be an issue to some, but for many, it is the cause of irritation and irrespective of how competitively priced a product is on your website, if there are obvious mistakes of this kind, then there is evidence to suggest that potential web customers will go elsewhere.
- Link to resources – This is really important and is often deliberately over-looked due to fear of visitors leaving a website and never coming back. On the contrary – when a useful resource or reference is linked to its source (making sure it’s coded to open in a new window leaving the original page open), this shows trust in your visitors and makes your content increasingly useful and authoritative.
- Contact information – Make sure that you provide contact information that is consistent with your printed marketing material and your offsite online listings on websites like Google Places and Yell.com.
- Trust Logos – Including logos of relevant membership to industry associations and organisations gives visitors confidence that your business is reliable. So, for example, if you are a registered electrician, use the NECEIC logo and link it to their website. Likewise, if you take online payments for products and services, display any payment security systems you use onsite.
2. Reducing frustration
Finding one’s way around a website can either be a joy or an utter nightmare.
One thing is for sure, if you can’t find what you’re looking for through a clear and obvious navigation – you’re likely to go elsewhere simply through frustration. The following SEO elements are also useful for reducing your visitors’ frustrations:
- Navigation structure – Make sure that the content on your website is organised. Use categories and sub-levels to organise your website’s content into a meaningful navigation, therefore making it easier for each visitor to find what they want quickly. This isn’t always easy and requires careful consideration, but it is one of the most important elements of your website. Of course, like all of these elements, categories and unique pages for specific types of products are great for SEO too.
- Navigation text – Ensure that your navigation links contain text that describes what the visitor will find when clicking them. So simple, it’s hard to believe that this is often overlooked.
- Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs (remember Hansel and Gretel?) do exactly what they suggest, they leave a visual trail of links that tell the website visitor where they are on your website. This is important in case a visitor can’t find what they want straight away so that they can find the path back to where they started through a series of ‘breadcrumb’ links. Without this, visitors may exit your website and never come back.
- Headers – Using appropriate and descriptive headers and sub-headers in your copy will help direct visitors to the relevant section of a page more quickly. It’s as simple as that.
- HTML Sitemap – As well as giving the search engines a way to crawl all of your website’s content easily, an HTML sitemap will do the same thing for your human visitors if they get lost – providing that there is a link to it from every page somewhere in the navigation. Don’t leave this out!
Getting the basics right
All of these things are straight-forward but essential techniques and practices for SEO and for gaining trust and confidence from your website visitors, whilst reducing their frustration.
If you’d like further advice about your onsite SEO or a review of your website’s usability, then please get in touch with our online marketing specialists at The Floating Frog Web Agency.