Understanding Website Usability and Conversions

Conversion Rate Optimization, Search Engine Optimization Add comments
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 10 seconds

design usability
In 2010 there was a recorded 170 billion dollars in e-commerce sales. That was two years ago, it’s estimated that in 2011 e-commerce sales were over 200 Billion. In this world of billion dollar e-commerce transactions, imagine the potential for improvement. Every single site can improve their conversion rates thorough an improved UI and usability optimization.  We’re 12 years into the 21st century,  finally companies have excepted the fact that every business needs website.

Now that we all have websites, it’s time to improve them. As the owner of a creative design firm, I am a huge proponent of promoting GOOD design that converts. If your website is user friendly, it will make you more money, and it will make your customers feel more comfortable buying from you. Web usability is the art of refining the way people interact with the online version of your company. Even political campaigns are optimizing their websites, in fact, Obama raised 60 Million dollars by optimizing his donation landing page (read about that here.)

As an inbound marketer, it’s refreshing to see more and more marketers embrace the practice of optimization. Offline stores have been doing this for over a century, Companies like Apple have even gone to great lengths in demanding perfection for their store’s layout. As a result, they have created (arguably) the most beautiful computer retail stores in the world. If you’re in any form of online marketing, then you absolutely have to test the usability of your website.

1. How Does Usability Effects Sales

Happy customers spend more money. When a shopper visits your website, you have less then 3 seconds to make an impression on them. In a recent study by Kiss Metrics, surveys discovered a staggering 79% of customers need to like a site in-order for them to shop there. Your site needs to make visitors feel safe, welcomed, taken care of, and catered to.

Let’s look at a few ways offline customer service, and how it can improve your site’s usability.

Fast Sites Make More Money. 

When you go shopping, you expect to be waited on, it’s no different in a website. You expect speedy, and professional responses from everyone you interact with. The “responsiveness” of a website is determined by how quickly it loads. A slow site, is equivalent to a slow waiter in a restaurant. People are only going to wait around for their “dishes” for so long, before they get tiered and decide to leave. In fact, the same study by kiss metrics found that 47% of customers expected a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of customers will leave a site if it takes longer then 3 seconds to load. That’s not a long time. Keep you page load times down (1.5 seconds or less.) Make sure your sites are optimized for customer satisfaction (AKA, speed.)

Don’t Make Me Think  

“Think of the visitors like rain water, and your site’s layout and design like a funnel. It’s your job to guide your visitors to the destination that you want them to discover. ” Web Usability Expert.

When a visitor reaches your valuable website, it’s critical that they find exactly what they are looking for whine the first 3 seconds. Keep your call to actions simple, clear and succinct. For example, if you sell a trendy product, make sure it’s 110% obvious how to purchase one, how much it costs, and what they “related products” are. Your site’s users will love you for making your site more obvious, because the truth about e-commerce shoppers is that they don’t want to think (so don’t make them.)

2. How Does Usability Effect SEO

Both major search engines (Google/Bing) have openly announced they are working towards “smart bots’s that can crawl a website in a human-like fashion. Search bots are no longer dumb machines that are limited to detecting white text on a white background. They are now able to load dynamic content, fill in forms, perform search quires (sometimes) and even “read content.”

Here are a few ways usability can effect your SEO.

Bounce Rate  vs  Dwell Rate

Let’s define bounce and dwell rates. A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on a page, and then leave your site before visiting any other page.  Bounce rate isn’t always bad because sometimes visitors spend a lot of time on your site before leaving, and sometimes visitors are only looking for an answer to an easy question like: “how many cups are in a quart.” Dwell rate is the amount of time visitors spend on your site.  You don’t have to worry very much about bounce rate, but you should keep track of your dwell rate.  Bing openly admits to lowing the rankings on of sites with a low dwell rates, and Google alludes to it.  Dwell rates should (usually) be high.

When you decide on a design, make sure you hire a web designer who understands your niche and can offer you a different perspectives to market directly to your audience. A developer who focuses on corporate level infrastructure will be a poor fit for a small business that needs to have a high converting homepage.  Design your site to offer visitors exactly what they want, and you’ll be surprised at how long visitors are willing to stay on your site and take action.

Navigation: 

Links are the life blood of your site’s SEO. Both internal links, and external links will effect the keywords you rank for. The menus, and sidebars in your website are some of your most prominent internal links, and they have  direct effect on SEO. You need to keep your navigation easy to understand, and simply to navigate. Search bots will evaluate every link on your site, and give it a quality rating. Don’t stuff your footers with keywords, and links that will NEVER get clicked. Google is spearheading the ability to rank websites based on how “user friendly” they are.

Pro Tip: You can set up events in Google Analytics to track the number of times your links get clicked, if a link never gets clicked by humans, then not only is it unnecessary, it’s may be hurting your site usability.

Content by Bryant Jaquez with BrewSEO. You can follow him at @bryantjaquez.

Dilbert cartoon © UFS

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