There Is More To Optimization Than SEO

Aug 25th

What is the purpose of that new page you're adding to your site?

Is it to rank highly for a keyword term? That's half the battle won, of course :)

After the visitor has arrived on your page, what do you want the visitor to do next?

According to Seth Godin, you probably want a visitor to do one of five things:

  • Click to go to another page on your site
  • Buy something
  • Register for something
  • Click on/view advertising
  • Pass your message on to a friend

So, if you build a landing page, and you're going to invest time and money to get people to visit it, it makes sense to optimize that page to accomplish just one of the things above. Perhaps two, but no more.

Keep that desired action firmly in mind when you design and optimize your pages. The first rule of optimization is to optimize for humans. Ranking a page, only to have visitors click away, is a waste of time and effort.

Optimize For Focus

In the SEOBook Forums, we offer site reviews as a service to members.

We often see sites where it isn't clear what they visitor needs to do. This is usually caused by too many options presented on one page. By trying to please all audiences, we often end up pleasing nobody.

Decide the key action you want people to take, and relegate all other options. Either move some options to a different page, or reduce the visual weight of other options relative to the main action you want a visitor to take.

Here's a great example of a site where the one key action is in clear focus: DailyBurn.com

An exception to this rule is when the user is very familiar with the site. A lack of options often means too many clicks to get things done. However, if your page is focused on the first time searcher, then simplicity and clarity is the way to go.

Visual Focus

Do you know where people's eyes focus when they land on your site?

Check out this tool at FenGui. The tool tries to work out how people will visually scan your site. Some web statistics packages, such as Google Analytics and ClickTracks, provide visual click tracking based on user activity.

Before deciding on a template for your site, it is a good idea to test out your ideas using PPC. Knock up a few different designs, run a short campaign and use split/run testing to determine which page layout result in the user taking the desired action most often. Armed with this information, you're less likely to waste time in your SEO campaign.

Design Considerations

There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to web design, because each element you add will affect what is already there. Or not there.

However, a few factors remain constant:

  • The eye will be attracted to color blocks
  • The eye will be attracted to human faces or forms
  • Whitespace promotes readability - keep paragraphs short, use headings and bulletpoints

Make sure all visual elements underscore the desired action.

Where Web Design/ SEO Often Goes Wrong

The success of a page should be measured by one criteria:

Does the visitor do what you want them to do?

Often, other criteria will blur this vision. For example, a designer who is more interested in winning awards than ensuring your pages do what they should, may make a page pretty, but sometimes pretty doesn't result in a desired action. An SEO can sometimes be overzealous in terms of keyword usage, which can result in dense text and odd-phrasing, which has the potential to put visitors off.

There is little point putting a lot of effort into attracting visitors if they don't do what you want them to do.

A Word About Adsense

Positioning of adsense can be the difference between making pocketmoney and making a living. Look at Adsense as a visual element, as opposed to a block of text. Typography and text layout are design elements, every bit as much as graphics.

Are your eyes drawn to Adsense as you scan the page? If not, you may need to tone down other visual display elements, including color, to make Adsense Ads stand out. If Adsense is the way you monetize, the desired user action is the click. Are other elements on your page, be they links or graphics, competing for that click?

Published: August 25, 2009

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Comments

August 26, 2009 - 6:04am

Google Analytics Campaign Goals helped me think in a whole new way about web design. Now I define page goals before even starting the design. Then I build the page around that goal. It actually works out quite nicely!

Great post (as always.)

August 26, 2009 - 1:43pm

Thanks for such a great post. You are covering one of the most important aspects of on page SEO that rarely gets talked about. Creating a visual priority for the page spills over to on page ranking factors because search engine spiders take not. Well, maybe not literally, but creating a visual preference on the page is usually accompanied by a concentration of keywords and related links. I think it helps anyone designing their page to think about SEO.

August 27, 2009 - 4:30pm

Just laughing and wondering whether you changed the title of the post Peter, as the URL's pretty funny! :)

August 27, 2009 - 9:48pm

I did not change the title. I changed the URL. :)

August 28, 2009 - 12:54am

I came here for Megan Fox pictures... and was cruelly disappointed. On the other hand, the Feng-GUI tool looks quite useful. Thanks for the tip!

August 28, 2009 - 12:19pm

You can use Heatmap. This is a plugin with shouw you what points are frequently pointed my users mouse.

It's very useful because you can predict what are the interess point for users.

August 29, 2009 - 5:42pm

Cool article! Creating a visual priority for the page spills over to on page ranking factors because search engine spiders take not. Well, maybe not literally, but creating a visual preference on the page is usually accompanied by a concentration of keywords and related links. I think it helps anyone designing their page to think about SEO.

September 2, 2009 - 9:21pm

Hi There,

I totally agree with this article : optimization starts with SE but it's just the beginning of a long story. We are trying to add goals tracking inside our cloud computing CMS (avaliable soon on demand) in order to estimate the impact of any change on the interface.

If you need a free and open source heatmap generator (available on php servers only) you can try ClickHeat : http://www.labsmedia.com/clickheat/index.html

Thanks Peter for all these good advices !

September 9, 2009 - 5:25am

i've been trying for 2 hours to download the free tools from your website, but seems they're not there. Where can i download?

September 9, 2009 - 5:59am

I just tested them earlier. so long as you are logged in and are using firefox the download links should work.

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