Tagged web design

3 Questions Great Websites Always Answer

website19Great websites that convert visitors to customers answer these three questions.

Creating a great website requires much more than the latest widgets or a shiny new set of graphics. Truly great websites are those that not only deliver an impressive user experience, but also clear and concise answers to the top questions your visitors will have. The ability for your visitors to clearly understand the answers to their key questions directly affects their impressions of your brand and their view of the value you provide. Clarity, as you will see, is a key element of a great website.

The specific needs that your visitors have will definitely vary significantly from person to person, as everyone will have a unique set of circumstances that drove them to find you. However, before you are able to deliver solutions for their unique situation, your website must deliver clear and direct answers to these three overarching questions:

WHO

WHAT

WHY

WHO are you? – This is all about the identity of your brand. In essence, do they already know you? If they do, will they recognize you apart from your competitors? The importance of first impressions on your website cannot be emphasized enough. It can be something as simple as a unique and identifiable logo, tagline, or colour scheme. Whatever it is that makes your brand unique and identifiable, you must ensure that your website conveys this in a clear and effective way.

WHAT do you do? – This is all about what it is you actually do. Does your visitor know at a glance that you make product X, or deliver service Y? What’s the basic, core function of your brand? There are countless brands out there that have instantly recognizable logos or taglines, but are victim to the lack of clarity around what it is they actually do. Your website should answer this immediately, and with perfect clarity.

WHY should I care? – This is arguably the toughest of the three main questions you need to answer. Most brands have a clear idea of who they are, and what they do. All too often, however, they do not have the clarity they need to effectively convey WHY they do what they do, and WHY visitors should care. If your brand doesn’t have a definitive reason for being, a purpose, a mission, a core difference or driving passion, then to your visitors you might just be viewed as simply ‘another option’.

Go take a look at your website. Right now. Look at the home page and ask yourself those three main questions. Better yet, find someone else to do it and see what they say. Wanna bet their answers are different from yours? If they are, take a good long look at what the answers SHOULD be, and start tweaking.

list59Also, don’t forget to do the same kind of test to other pages that serve as entry points to your site. It’s crucial to always remember that search engines drive your traffic to the most relevant pages, and this is not always your home page. Check your Google Analytics to identify other top entry pages and work on refining those, too.

The name of the game is ‘optimization’, and that means continually tweaking and adjusting for best performance, so be sure to do this regularly. Your visitors, and your bottom line, will appreciate the effort!

Handy Visual SEO Chart -> The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors

The great folks over at Search Engine Land created this brilliant infographic full of handy SEO information.

From the Search Engine Land post:

“Search engine optimization — SEO — may seem like alchemy to the uninitiated. But there is a science to it. Search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals.

Our chart below summarizes the major factors to focus on for search engine ranking success (and thanks to Column Five Media, for the infographic design).”

Direct link to original post: http://searchengineland.com/seotable

Download PDF of chart here: http://searchengineland.com/seotable/download-periodic-table-of-seo

Share of Search – How much interest are you capturing?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Web metrics are in a constant state of evolution. As we gain access to more and more raw data and behavioural reports through tools like Google Analytics, the necessity of using more effective metrics rises to put all that data in to some kind of useful context so that we can truly understand what the information is really telling us about our business and markets.

One of the most powerful metrics that I’ve been experimenting with more frequently lately is what Google Analytics wizard Avinash Kaushik refers to as ‘Share of Search’ (number 6 on his list of key metrics). In simplest terms, ‘Share of Search’ can be defined as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. That is to say, if there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? 10%? 20%? 50%?

If your ability to be found online is important to you, then taking a look at what your current estimated share of search is, and making changes to potentially improve this metric, could have dramatic effects on how you approach your online activities. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple metric to calculate, requiring only a few points of data which are easily obtained.

Here’s how simple the formula is:

Your monthly search referral traffic for a specific keyword or phrase / Google’s average monthly searches for that specific keyword or phrase x 100 = Your estimated % share of search.

You can easily obtain your sites monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that phrase or keyword through Google, you can use the Google Keyword Tool. Simply make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples by setting the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc).
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Once you’ve obtained your estimated Share of Search, you can begin to monitor it for changes. As your share of search rises, you should try to determine what factors this might correlate to. Did you do a big advertising push? Is interest in your product seasonal? Did you publish strong new content such as blog posts or educational articles? Is there a trade show coming up?

If your share of search decreases, take a look at what might be causing it. Are competitors making big changes to their websites or publishing strong new content? Is your industry seeing an overall decline? Are your ads or marketing messages misaligned with market needs? Is your product becoming obsolete?

Continually monitoring your Share of Search allows you to keep tabs on how ‘findable’ your business is, and how effective your web properties are at capturing the interest of your potential customers. Remember: Search performance is all based on RELEVANCE. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. In theory, an increase in share of search should correlate to an increase in market share as well. Hence, by measuring changes to your share of search and comparing to changes in your market share, you can see if there are disconnects or misalignments in your content, marketing messages, and product offerings.

The real key to effective web metrics is CONTEXT. Simply looking at big numbers like page views and number of visitors doesn’t give you any insight in to how you compare to the rest of the world out there. By looking at more context-driven metrics like share of search, you can begin to understand how your actions impact your performance in the market.  However keep in mind that there is no one magic metric that answers all questions. Share of search is just one more gauge of performance for you to look at. There are many more, but hopefully the simplicity of share of search and the insight it can give you will inspire you to dig deeper in to your data and see the real story that it’s trying to tell you. Big numbers mean nothing. Big context is everything.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

4 ‘Share’ Button Tips – Choosing the best buttons for the job.

There are as many types of ‘Share’ buttons as there are Social Media sites, so how do you pick the right ones for your site and avoid the clutter?

There’s no denying that you need to have share buttons on your site or blog. They are an absolutely essential feature, and are crucial for anyone who wants to encourage sharing of content in an easy way that’s familiar to your users/readers. But there are SO MANY options out there, how can you effectively choose the right buttons without cluttering up your pages?

Each SM site provides code for their own button designs, and often there are multiple options that are different sizes, shapes, colours, etc. In addition, there are mutli-source sharing button options that pull in virtually every possible share option in to one expandable button, like those from AddThis or AddToAny.

Should you use only a couple of the most popular buttons? Or maybe just go with a multi-share button that covers every option? Or just go with the one share location that you WANT people to use? Well, there are a few good rules-of-thumb that I’ve put together that might help you choose which ones are really the best choice for your particular application and audience.

1 – Size, colour and shape

Visually, your share buttons should both blend in with your site, and stand out enough to be easily noticed. Sound like a contradiction? Perhaps, but think about it this way: the ignition on your car could be a tiny slot concealed to blend right in with the dash, but that would make it hard to locate when you need it. Or, you could make the ignition super-easy to find by using a big red button the size of your fist, but that would look out of place and silly.

• Your share button should be sized to be proportional to the other elements on your site.
• Your share button should be the right shape for the location of the button so that there’s a decent amount of space around it, without being too close to other elements or sticking it in the middle of nowhere on your page.
• If you have a dark background, use a lighter button. Light background, darker button. Just like text, dark-on-dark and light-on-light = bad.

2 – Location, location, location.


Example: Mashable is great at placing their share buttons in an easily accessible spot, and makes them scroll with the page so they are always visible.

Where you put your share button is just as important as how it looks. I’ve seen some web pages with the share buttons at the very bottom of the page, lumped in with things like the privacy policy or the ever-useful site map. Other times I’ve seen it scattered in multiple places on the same page. Ideally, you want your share button to be easily accessible, but not intrusive. In sidebars, below product title headers, or at the end of blog posts are all great locations that make it clear what information you’ll be sharing.

• Very rarely do you need more than one set of share buttons on a page.
• It should be clear to the ‘sharer’ what content will be shared.
• If your share button isn’t easy to find, it won’t get used. Don’t throw it at the bottom of your site.

3 – Single-site share buttons vs. multi-site share buttons.

This is where things get tricky. It really depends on the type of content on the page, and the type of users you are attracting. If it’s a blog, for example, you’ll likely want a multi-site share button so that readers can share it in any way they want (Tweet, Like, StumbleUpon, Re-blog, email, print, etc).

If it’s an individual product, then a pair or a trio of individual site share buttons (A ‘tweet’ button, a ‘like’ button etc) may be the best way to allow users to simply indicate that they endorse that particular product. In addition, those individual site share buttons usually come with a ‘counter’ to display how many people have liked or tweeted the page. If your users appear to have an affinity to one particular social media site, Facebook for example, providing them a native share button for their preferred site may encourage them to share more.

Also, there are combo-buttons that typically feature Facebook ‘Like’ and Twitter ‘Tweet’ buttons with counters, as well as a multi-site ‘Share’ button that ties in all the other sites. These are great all-round solutions since they combine the best traits of each option in to one share tool.

• Multi-site share buttons are excellent for educational/informational materials that users would share in many different outlets.
• Single-site share buttons are simple, easy ways for users to share that they ‘like’ or approve of a particular product, service, or singular piece of content.
• Combo buttons provide the best of both worlds.

4 – Familiar trumps freaky.

Do a Google search for ‘social media icons’ and you’ll get countless options of funky, sleek, crazy, and cool social media icons made by graphic designers that you can use on your site. The only problem is that the majority of these really only appeal to other graphic designers. The vast majority of your users will simply be looking for the ever-familiar Facebook ‘F’ or Twitter ‘T’ icons in the official colours used on those sites. Even a passing glance will generate instant recognition of what it is and what it does. Using an icon for your button that looks like a bottle cap or a lab experiment beaker may get the occasional user to think ‘wow, that looks neat!’, but hardly encourages your average user to click on it.

• Always use the official logo, colours, and appearance whenever possible for your share buttons.
• If your share buttons look different from everyone else’s share buttons, you may lose potential sharers because they don’t recognize them.

Overall, what you really need to look at when deciding how to setup your sharing options is what really fits with your site or blog. This is one instance where the Keep It Simple Stupid mantra really should be kept in mind. Just like all things in web design, people like simple navigation over complex, clean design over cluttered, clear calls to action over hidden links, and ease of use above all else.

Don’t forget that all of these buttons and widgets will come with analytics so that you can easily monitor how they are performing, and how users are interacting with them. Be sure to check these regularly, for they will reveal fascinating insights that you can use to help refine your ‘sharing’ strategy to encourage more and more shares.

Here’s a list of share button resource links that you can choose from when incorporating share functions in to your site:

Multi-site Share Buttons:
http://www.addthis.com
http://sharethis.com/
http://www.addtoany.com

Single-site Share Buttons:
http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/
https://twitter.com/about/resources/tweetbutton
http://www.linkedin.com/publishers
http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/share_button
http://www.stumbleupon.com/badges/landing/