March 30th, 2011
Website owners want results. High traffic volume is great but unless your site is getting conversions, such as sales, sign ups, etc., looking at traffic statistics isn’t very enlightening. An ideal SEO campaign increases both traffic and conversions but it cannot follow the same formula for every site. Knowing where users land and how they navigate through your site from external sources (search engines or social media sites) is an important step in the SEO process. It is important to understand what your users gain from your site and incorporate it into your SEO strategy.
Analyze Your User’s Habits
The conventional wisdom in website design is that your homepage is the website’s most valuable page, but that might not always be the case. Using Google Analytics, you can quickly determine your most popular landing pages. In the event you sell products online or offer information about services you provide, you might find your internal pages are more popular than your homepage. In this event, a higher priority should be placed on getting people to these pages rather than to your homepage; this is where people want to be and where sales occur.
User patterns for internal pages, such as time on page, page views, and bounce rate (the percent of people who leave your site after viewing only one page) tell you important trends. You can get a strong idea about the popularity of pages and which you should target for SEO with higher value keywords. On the flip side, you might consider downplaying certain pages if they are not getting traffic.
Give People What They Want
Let’s say your website is dedicated to e-commerce and sells widgets (I know, this is a boring high school econ type of example, but bear with me). Obviously, you want to target the keyword “widgets for sale” but you need to make sure it is pointing to an optimal page, such as a general widget product browse page. This tactic provides a great opportunity for visitors coming from external sites to be given exactly what they want without having to search for it on your site.
Because the structure and products/information for each site are different, it’s hard to say that across the board building to a browse page would be useful. With that said, it’s important to build your site around central topic hubs. Directing visitors to these hubs allows them to quickly drill down from a broad topic to a specific piece of information.
Suppose a person wants baseball news. Rather than trying to get visitors to the homepage, a site like ESPN should direct baseball keywords to their baseball page, which is more relevant to their query. Doing so makes for happier users and also gives you more authority over time as a useful source for baseball news.
Basing SEO Around Your Users
Starting an SEO campaign without taking the time to research visitor trends can lead you down the wrong path. If you base link building and keyword research around pages without knowing their value to visitors you could easily miss out on traffic or hurt other pages of your site. Do not assume that people will want to take the time to navigate your site to find what they are looking for, especially if they are arriving from a referring site. Make your landing pages relevant to their corresponding keyword phrases.
Ultimately, the goal with most sites is user conversions. Providing a visitor with a direct portal to browse your goods, services and/or information is the proper first step in increasing your conversion rate. Think about what it would be like from your user’s point of view if they arrived to your site — would you want to continue looking around or bounce? Take your visitor-tracking information to heart and use it as the foundation for your SEO.
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