In parts one, two and three of this series of articles I looked at a variety of issues that can impact your web site's ability to convert visitors to buyers. Today, I'll be covering the information content that you'll need for your about us, contact us, FAQ and product pages. If you haven't already read them, take a few moments to check out part one, which talks about why it's important to consider marketing when building your web site, part two, which talks about the content that you'll need to cover on your home page and part three, which covers things like your "contact us" and frequently asked questions page.
Construction of your site navigation can make or break your website’s performance. Shoddy and haphazard navigation schemes can easily confuse visitors causing them to make that dreaded click out of your site and onto a competitor. A properly constructed navigation can help visitors easily move from page to page finding everything that they are looking for quickly and easily.
Be Consistent (Placement) However you construct your site navigation scheme it should be consistent from one page to the next. Don’t confuse your visitors by changing how the navigation looks or by moving its on-page location to a different area.
There are many different forms of navigational elements: main menus, sub-menus, breadcrumbs, etc. All of them should work together to create a consistent and recognizable flow as the visitor navigates through the site.
It is very important that no matter how big or complex the structure of your site gets, each web page must keep a consistently located and easy to find link back to your home page.
Be Obvious (Breadcrumbs) Being obvious with your navigation prevents your visitors from “getting lost” on the site and not knowing how to navigate back to other important pages that may be in different sections of your site. It’s important that your visitors be able to quickly discern what page they are on and figure out where to go from there.
One of the simplest ways to display where a visitor is on your site, regardless of how deep within the site’s architecture they are, is to use breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a set of navigational links that show the navigational path from home to the current page.
Most visitors don’t actually use the breadcrumb links for navigational purposes, but instead they act as an important visual cue allowing the visitor to see what page, sub-section, and section they are within the site.
Be Helpful (Site Map & Search) Websites with large quantities of pages or products can easily create a navigational nightmare. Even with properly implemented navigation, visitors often find themselves “lost” and don’t know how to navigate specifically to the information they are seeking. While it’s important to eliminate these frustrations as best as possible, you also want to provide some navigational “short cuts” for your visitors.
Site Map: Site maps provide a one-stop destination that allows your visitors to always be no more than two clicks away from the product or information they want. This is a helpful feature allowing anybody to quickly see what you offer and where to get it, all from a single page.
Site maps are also useful to search engines allowing them to easily crawl and index every page on your site. Most engines will only index a couple of clicks deep with each visit, often taking weeks or months to dig all the way through your site. Site maps can speed up that process by making every page easily accessible to the search spider.
In the same manner that you have a consistent link to the home page, you also want to have a link to the site map on every page as well.
Site Search: A site search feature isn’t required for good navigation, but it can add an extra element of usefulness for your visitors. Allowing your visitors to perform a quick search for the product they are looking for can speed up the conversion process and eliminate site abandonment.
Before implementing a site search feature, consider that most site searches fail to deliver great results. Before making your search feature live, run extensive tests to be sure that results are accurate and relevant. Try using product numbers, brand names, misspellings, etc. If you don’t carry an exact product which may be searched for, be sure to deliver results for the similar or relevant products you do carry. If you can’t make your site search engine perform under all of the above situations then its best not to have a search function at all.
Putting all of these pieces together, much like a puzzle, allows you to present a complete picture of who you are, what you do, and how you can meet the needs of your visitors. While your website can and will function without any one of these pieces, there will always be “something” missing, and that something just might be what some visitors need to push them into that final decision to purchase. A complete website, with all the pieces in place is a much more effective website through and through.
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December 13, 2005
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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