I wanted to talk about something I’ve observed ever since Google Analytics introduced the SiteSearch section of reports into the program, back in November 2007. This is something that is happening across the board for most websites, regardless of industry, design, or type of content or language used.
First of all, let’s take a look at how people are finding your website. Most people will search for a keyword on Google or Yahoo, and will click on either your paid advertisement or your organic listing (and, of course, they are both prominently displayed on the first page of the search results ;).
With the exception of your branding keywords, if you ever look at any keyword report, you will see that most of the top keyword searches are either two or three words in length, and they are fairly normal in terms of refinement and how specific the search is. Chances are that these users were not looking for your website using search terms like “iphone” and “apple”, but they also didn’t use something like “green refurbished 8 gig apple ipod nano leather carrying case strap”. They probably were, for a lack of a better term, using some normal, middle of the road search term.
Now, if you are fortunate enough to have both a Search Function on your website and Google Analytics, take a look at the “Search Terms” report, which is the second report from the top, inside of the “SiteSearch” section (which is located within the Content section). Are you surprised with what you are seeing? Yeah, so am I – I still find it tough to believe.
What I’m talking about is the fact that the top search terms people use on your website’s function are normally one-word terms, and they are very basic search terms at that. I’m talking extremely basic – words like “medical”, “label”, “mp3”, “windows”, “spine”, and so on. And, guess what? Some of these people are buying items from your online stores, or reaching the Goals that you have set-up for your profiles.
What does this all mean?
This is my theory. I believe when people land on a website and interact with a website’s search function, that they expect that the website knows exactly what to serve up to the visitor in its search results, despite their unrefined, raw search terms. I believe that people work under the assumption that once they are on a website, that the website should know exactly what the visitor (customer) is thinking right away, and that it should display exactly what the visitor wants to see, or they are back to Google to find another site to go to. I also believe that they feel Google is the place that needs that more-refined search term, so Google can understand what a visitor “is talking about”, whereas the website’s search function should already know what a visitor is talking about, and they shouldn’t have to produce some long-tail, exact search term.
Is this unfair to a website owner?
Oh yes, I feel that it is. But, you know what? That’s life. Remember, the visitor is always right. If they can’t find what they are looking for – or, what they expect to find – they’ll leave your site, and probably interact with another website’s search function, and will keep doing that until they are served up what they want to be served up.
So what do you recommend that I do?
I recommend that you make sure that your internal search function works extremely well, and produces clean, relevant search results at all times. Test it out frequently, and make sure it’s working without any bugs, or serving up any weird search results. Work closely with your programming team to make sure this happens. For example, if you sell plates, and if you search for “plates” on your search function, make sure plates appear right away in the search results! Also make sure that when a user clicks on a search result, that they are taken directly to the correct page, matching the search result listing, otherwise they may become frustrated with your site and leave right away.
…and if someone searches for something that I don’t sell, have, or promote?
Get creative. Don’t simply display a “no results found” message. Send them to a nice looking page that apologizes to the visitor that you do not carry that item or offer that service, and that also shows them the main products or services that you do offer. If there is an item that is constantly searched for that you do not carry, perhaps your visitors are asking you to add it to your website.
Last week, one of our clients confessed to me that they were extremely surprised at the high amount of traffic their “Leadership” page had been receiving. They were surprised that so much of the traffic that had been landing on their homepage eventually found its way to their “Leadership” page.
My response to that statement was “…don’t be surprised by that – I’ve also noticed how much traffic some of our other client’s “About Us” pages receive, too…”. Now, I ask the readers of this blog to start to take notice of where your traffic is going as well. Chances are good that your traffic is going to your “About Us” / “Leadership” / “Executive Team” pages.
What does this mean?
In my opinion, this means that, at some level, the visitors to your site are interested in your company. They are trying to learn more about the people in charge of your company, whether they are simply curious, or checking credentials as some sort of measuring stick. They probably want to know the story of your executive team, and their roles within your organization before contacting you, and (hopefully) doing business with you.
What should be on my “About Us” page?
This is of course going to be different for each company. There are also no set rules or guidelines, so I can only tell you what I like and what I expect to find. When I visit a company’s “About Us” page, I like to be able to clearly and fully understand what the company is and what the company does. Depending on the type of company, I also like to see a brief list or summary of main services offered. Then, I scroll down or look back at the navigation of the site and locate a “Executive Team” page, where I can see the names, faces, and short bios of the people in charge of the company that I am interested in or curious about. An “Executive Team” section or page adds trust and credibility to your business in the online world, and a company gets those extra “Trust Points” with me.
How should I market / how should I put together my “About Us” page?
The concept of “different strokes for different folks” applies here. If you consider your business a serious one, you should keep your “About Us” / “Executive Team” page(s) that way as well. Keep the bios of the executive team short and to the point, but highlight whatever accomplishments, certifications, and degrees the person has. A nice color photo of each member wearing a suit also adds a clean-cut professional touch. On these pages, I would let the content speak for itself – there is no need to slap on your huge-orange-flashing “FREE QUOTE” feature graphic here. Keep the paragraph about each executive brief, but loaded with current responsibility and biographical information. A good experiment here would be to see what happens when you add a calm, inviting call-to-action image to this page. Depending on the nature of your visitors, it may not have any affect, or they may react positively to it and pursue the call-to-action.
What if I don’t have an “About Us” page? Do I even need one?
Whether you sell bean bags or real estate, I would strongly recommend you integrate an “About Us” page on your website that explains who you are and what you do in a very clear manner. Or, if your “About Us” page is cryptic and uninformative, I would advise a clean-up project on that page.
Remember, these points are merely my opinions. All that I know is that websites with an “About Us” or “Leadership” page seem to find a very high amount of traffic going there, generating a lot of pageviews. Therefore, as the saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Another good experiment that someone could conduct would be to see what happens to the traffic as a whole when the “About Us” page is removed from the website navigation. I have a strong feeling that your traffic will visit less pages as a result, and you may even find yourself with fewer leads or conversions, as well.