Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Maximizing Website Conversions For Search Engines


Many people still get confused when it comes to website conversions and how to fully understand how it relates to good SEO practices. When it comes to website search engine optimization and conversations, I often use the following analogy as to how it relates to purchasing a book:

Most people in the book publishing (internet marketing) industry know that most people (browsers) DO judge a book (website) by its cover. With the thousands upon thousands of different book (website) choices, studies have shown that people typically take around 10-20 seconds to decide to purchase a book or re-shelf it. Book covers (websites) must first be sold to the bookstore (search engines) and then to the reader (browser).

As a result, a great deal of research by publishers (SEO experts) goes into what should be on the spine (Title Tag), front cover (META Description Tag) and the back cover (Home page) of the book (website).

When people look for information on the web, they commonly start by using search engines like Google (bookstore) and conduct a search. The results then display primary results on the page that contain:

Title Tags (Book Spine): In Google, this is first line of each web page result displayed in a maximum of 69 characters (including spaces). Title tags serve two purposes: 1.) They sell your web page to the search engines (bookstores) for placement and 2.) They tell browsers (readers) what your web page (book) is all about in a very short piece of real estate. Search engines do this due to a very limited lack of real estate and so do bookstores – it’s all about maximum results in very limited space.

META Descriptions (Front Book Cover): In Google, this is the second line of each web page results displayed with a maximum of 156 characters (including spaces). Unlike Title tags, the META Description has only one purpose: sell the website (book) to the reader. The Title Tag (Spine) get’s your initial attention while the META Description (Front Book cover) allows the reader to see a little more detail. Sometimes bookstore owners (search engines) will further promote the sale of certain books (websites) by displaying the front cover (adding more website results pages, links, and Places listings) out to help better promote the book (website). Search engines commonly do this for more highly trafficked and/or relevant websites for your search.

Web page Result (Book Back Cover): This is the first website page that the user will see when they click on the website link. Depending on the search, this may be the home page or a sub-page on a website. Studies have shown that most people will decide whether to continue reading the site or navigate away (re-shelf the book) in less than a second. To publishers, the back cover is what “sells the book” and the same applies to websites. Looking across all industries, a website conversion rate of 1% is considered to be good, less is bad and more is great.

How to best sell your website (book) to your potential customers (readers):

Create title tags that match your targeted search and use you keywords displayed prominently from left to right. Start by researching the most commonly used and relevant keywords and phrases and create a title tag for each page of your website. Much like a book title, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of selling your website (book) to both the search engines (book store) and browser (reader) so make sure this process is well thought out and executed. Although Title tags can be longer than 69 charters in length (Bing: 65, Yahoo: 72), it is good practice to list the most important words and phrases from left to right with the least important spilling over to the right if needed.

Create META Description tags that build on the title tag and help sell the website (book) to the browser (reader). The added length of 156 characters In Google (Bing: 150, Yahoo: 161) allows you to sell each website page with more detailed information about the web page (book) and create a call to action to the browser (reader). Unlike a book cover, most website owners DO NOT physically see the META description tag on their website pages so this is commonly one of the most overlooked aspects of good search engine optimization and conversion. Often times when no META description is present on a web page, the search engine will pull content from other segments of your site to substitute them – many times to your detriment. A good website designer and/or SEO consultant can easily see these in your website’s source code.

Create web pages that are: competitively superior, relevant to the search, and contain a clear call to action and conversion. Here are more details on each:

- Competitively superior web pages are simply web page designs that look better than your competition. In order to see how your stack up, click on the other 9 results on the targeted search results page and ask others which sites are most visually appealing to them.

- Relevant to the search are website pages that are most relevant to what the browser is looking for. For example, if I did a search on a fall from a defective ladder – which web page would be the best result for my search: a web page on construction accidents or a page on defective ladder falls? Naturally, the more targeted the page and page content, the better chances you have to match the search.

- Clear Call to Action is simply a way to most effectively encourage browsers on your web page to best journey through your site. This starts with defining a goal for your site – what do you want users to do when they arrive on your site? Do you want them to buy a product, download a promo or contact you via phone or email? Once defined, you need to maximize each path so users can clearly and most effectively get to your goals. It is also important to note that depending on the industry, the average time on site for a user ranges from 1-3 minutes so it is a good idea to create prominent, clear, and easy-to-find calls to action from each page of your website.

As you can see, the parallels between selling a book and selling a website are not far off – especially since most of us have purchased a book before. Even as the old saying goes that “you shouldn’t read a book by its cover,” the reality is that this is how people buy books and how they choose websites as well.

If any of these website conversion aspects seem complicated for you, don’t worry – most people do not do repairs on their automobiles either. A good SEO consultant will be able to help guide you through these fixes/processes and help your website run like a champ.

Visit www.custfeedback.com if you would like to learn more about web search engine optimization.

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