If you want to cast a critical and impartial eye over your website, to evaluate its likely effectiveness, ask yourself whether it meets the only three reasons that bring people to websites in the first place.
You might be selling DVDs, offering a collection of funny videos, blogging about your gap year in Moldova or running a petition against the price of donkey rides at Weston Super Mare, but all websites receive visits for one of three reasons.
Of course, your website must look nice and your content must be easy to navigate, but that is really about what happens once people get to your site. What brings people to your website in the first place is one of these three basic needs.
Reason 1: They are looking for information
Perhaps they have your business card or have been referred to you, and they want to read more about your company and what you do. This may include questions about how you make your products or where you source your materials; maybe they want to read customer testimonials or see your portfolio. Website visitors may even be looking for a link to your social media pages. For newspaper and media sites, the information the user seeks is usually the content you publish rather than information about you.
Have a think about all the types of information a potential customer might want to read on your website. Is it really enough to just say you are the best in the business and you can deliver made-to-measure widgets? I give extra respect to a website that tells me more without me having to ask. I personally hate websites that force me to fill in a form to get a quote without at least giving me a good amount of information for free.
If writing website content is a challenge for your business find out how to write great content when you are short on time.
Reason 2: They want to contact you
How many times do you go to a company website to look for their telephone number, an email address or a form you can use to get in touch with them? How many times does the website not answer this need?
I often tell small business clients to include their telephone number on every page of their website or, at the very least, include it in the meta description or ALT attributes in their header images so that Google can read it. Search engine users often use Google as a telephone directory, typing in a company name with “telephone”, for example: “Widgets R Us telephone”. Searchers are more likely to click through to visit the website whose search result snippet shows them a telephone number from the outset.
In fact, in a test on one website (as reported here by Kissmetrics), a split test revealed that the version with a telephone number received 54% of the total conversions, with 46% going to the version with no phone number. Even though people were not calling the number – it just seemed to engender trust.
Reason 3: They want to transact with you
You might be a gaming website where people come to play games, you may sell products, or you may be offering a free eBook in return for data. Website visits may come to your website from people ready to transact either money or information. When these visitors land on your site, you need to make sure they get to do exactly what they are looking for right away. No obstacles, no complicated path to the transaction point.
You will hear PPC specialists talk about the importance of good landing pages, so great calls to action in pay-per-click ads are matched by the landing page. If you watch TV shopping channels and you want to buy something on the screen, the person taking the call already knows what you want to buy, they don’t faff about telling you who they are, what year they started the company and how they offer great service.
In short, somehow you need to ensure that, when people visit your website, they land on the page that gives them what they are looking for. This is where SEO expertise can help, because search engines already try to find the part of your website that matches what people want to do. SEO is not just about trying to be number one for specific keywords, it is also about ensuring Google can see the right things on your website and send people to the pages that match what they are looking for.
See also: What supermarkets can teach us about SEO