With the recent update to Google’s algorithm, designed to improve their search results and punish content farms, SEO has been a hot topic. I get many industry newsletters each week and the majority are discussing topics related to Social Media, but SEO has seen a nice bump in awareness given Google’s recent update in late February. However, companies who focus too much on how their website performs in the Google index can miss the most important aspect of their internet presence. How well does the website perform when someone actually visits the site? Regardless of the source of traffic (organic, paid, referral, or direct) your site’s ability to convert visitors into customers relies more on usability than your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Think about your site’s performance in terms of visitor engagement. Do many visitors leave after viewing only one page (in other words, do you have a high bounce rate)? Is there a statistically significant percentage of visitors who view many pages per visit but never complete the desired call to action on your site? Testing different colors, images and page layouts can help determine the best website design to convert your visitors to customers. While it way seem elementary to test a blue background versus a white one, you may be surprised to see how even subtle changes can increase your site’s performance.
An excellent way to leverage your visitor’s interaction and help increase the performance of your site is through usability experiments. Google Website Optimizer (GWO) is an easy to set up (and free) tool that allows you to test different page layouts, images, and color schemes to determine which best leads to a desired result. Moving an image from the right hand side of the page to the left may be just the change needed to increase conversions. Using bullet points instead of paragraph text may help lower a page’s bounce rate. There could be hundreds of different combinations in which to layout your pages and test which performs best. Think about your site’s usability and the user experience while you are reviewing your next traffic report. The changes you make to increase your site’s performance should be born from usability experiments rather than how well your site ranks in the SERPs or the volume of traffic your site receives.