When it comes to Search Engine Listings, a website doesn’t just need to be visible to ‘robots’ in order to rank highly. Google, for example, looks at over 200 ‘touch points’ when calculating a page’s position within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
When you look at the pages that already list well on Google, Bing or Yahoo, they share a number of similarities – the majority are well structured and easy to navigate for the user; pages tend to load in a reasonable time, and your journey is likely to be unhindered by frustrating 404 errors, broken links and problems with images. Yes, keyword research and on-page optimisation are essential parts of any optimisation work, but if you want your website to be assessed positively, you need to consider a customer’s experience on your site too.
Battling against falling attention spans
A simple place to start with regards to customer experience is page-loading speed. A recent Microsoft study using Canadian subjects claimed that the average attention span of a human in todays ‘Digital World’ has gone from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. Indeed, the extent to which speed in general has become a necessary focus of the savvy business owner is highlighted by Harry Shum, a researcher for Microsoft who recently claimed that just 250 milliseconds difference in loading speed between two competing websites has been proven to result in a customer choosing one site over another.
So how can you test that your pages are loading quickly?
A tool like GT Metrix is invaluable for this. It provides a useful insight in to how well your site loads, and based on the GT Metrix scoring system a ‘good’ rating would be A, B or C (at worst). If your website scores lower than this and has a slow page load speed, there are certain things that you can do to improve this:
- Optimise your images – i.e. reduce the size of your images, as large image files can take much longer to load
- Consider using a Content Delivery Network – a CDN holds cached versions of your website on multiple servers across the globe, and when someone wants to access your website they are directed to their nearest server to improve page loading speed
- Enable Gzip compression – this is a deliberate action taken to reduce the size of data to save storage space or increase data transfer rate
Another way that you can improve the customer experience on your website is to check for – and remove – broken links on your website. Broken links and error pages on a website can have a negative impact on browsing customers who can’t easily find what they are looking for and may choose to look elsewhere for similar products or services. There are a number of handy error reporting websites out there, like http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/ and we strongly recommend that you regularly check your website for errors.
Improved usability could lead to increasing sales
Customer usability on a website isn’t just important when it comes to building a positive and ‘trusted’ relationship with the search engines. On-page and server optimisation can help to get a greater number of relevant and potential customers to your site, but converting those visitors to buying customers comes down to what happens when they are on your site. By focusing on a positive and straightforward user experience right from the very beginning of your Digital Marketing journey, hopefully, you will already have considered what you need to do in order to effectively engage potential customers, and persuade them to purchase from you once they are on your site.
Learn more about boosting your search engine listings by coming along to the Chamber’s Digital Seminars and members can see the exciting digital offers in the private members’ area of our website – so go look see!
Digital Marketing Information Services August 2017