Online Search Journeys: SEO, UX and Delivering Promises
- 1st June 2015 - Written by Tony Dimmock
8 to 10 to be precise.
As online searchers, ”seconds” are the currency we trade in now.
Just seconds left of a frantic lunch break to source an item and buy online? Last minute gift-finding while grabbing a coffee? Or that to-do list needing your un-Googled attention?
Which one are you? More to the point: which one is your next potential online customer?
There are two ways these scenarios will play out:
(far too often) Their ruthless inner voice screams “NEXT!” at the confusion, frustration or ambiguity they've experienced online. They’re in a hurry, right? “Don’t make me think, damn it!”
(much more please) A grateful high-5 – their inner voice whispers “Someone at your company understands my needs and respects my milliseconds” (while whispering an even quieter) “thank you!”
Theatrics aside, let’s be brutally honest (it’s too important not to be) and simplify this:
Unless your page stands out online and within 8 to 10 seconds provides “relevancy”, leave the building. The old 14 to 15 second “golden triangle” Eye-Tracker Study findings are history..
**UPDATE** Further proof - see @peeplaja's latest post on F Patterns No More: How People View Google & Bing Search Results (image below sourced from post):
"There are unstoppable forces at play, in the world economy and digital economy. Consumers are more empowered than ever."
Indeed. In today’s economy, consumers are voting with their fingers, no longer just with their feet!
The good news: You’ve now read some pretty meaty studies, research and expert opinion to back all this up - let’s discuss GAP’s and GUT’s.
The bad news: Not delivering on the promise will break some trust that could have been heading your way (and possibly your reputation). But more on this later..
Winning the SEO “GAP” – Getting Attention & Persuading
@RavenNate nailed it during a Twitter chat: “You have to make someone feel something if you expect them to do anything”.
So, if we feel something there’s a damn good chance we’ll do something. And to feel something, we need to connect with it. AJ Kohn sums this concept up nicely: “This means that ‘at-a-glance’ users see the answer to their active intent. Your job as an SEO is to extract intent from query syntax”. We must feel value by having our passive intent satisfied – a “connection” that compels us to act.
What do feelings have to do with SEO?
Pretty much everything, especially as a searcher's journey starts with an emotional need.
With only seconds to spare, they’ll pick whatever gets their attention when they enter a query into a search engine. This is where the searcher's “journey of demand” starts.
Now, if we’ve done our semantic homework (more on taxonomy and ontology here and via Dawn Anderson, here), we’ve built strong content that backs up our SERP claim and we’ve earned our place to be one of the first they’ll see.
But it doesn’t stop there.
We must persuade them to click on our attention-grabbing SERP entry.
To do this, we need to connect with their intent (what they typed in) and them (on a human level), within 8 to 10 seconds.
Hungry? Great. Let’s analyse one of my favourite topics, cupcakes, in my home county of Hertfordshire:
Don't they look delicious? And those Night Garden sweeties. (ahem) I digress..
Let’s review this #1 Google result using a GAP analysis:
Get Attention (in 8 to 10 seconds):
- SERP real estate – mentions of them take up 40% of the screen
- 5 star “orange” reviews. 15 no less. The others have none
- The Night Garden characters – adorable, yet edible
- No truncation in the Title - easy to read, doesn’t screw up your brain
Persuade (in 8 to 10 seconds):
- “We deliver all around Hertfordshire” – that’s delivery sorted out
- Emphasis on taste - the word “Heaven” in the domain name, <Title> tag and “little bites of heaven” text - yum!
- 4 x sub-pages, enticing you to click:
- Galleries = visuals of what you could have
- Menu = "there's more?!" (hunger related)
- Contact us = "get in touch – now!"
- Classes & Parties = educational, make your own and “we cater for groups too!”
However, a quick check on Screaming Frog shows that Google has pulled the “delivery” text and “little bites of heaven” wording from the page. It's not included within the meta description.
Why? Their meta description is the same for every page. But they (or their designer) had the sense to make “We don't just make cupcakes... we make little bites of heaven!” a H2 Heading on the Home page. And pulled into the SERP snippet by Google (lucky them).
So 10/10 for attention, but 8/10 for persuasion - the <H2> Heading and deeper page links save the day.
But can you see the opportunities they’ve missed?
In SEO, everything you do, whether for your own website or others, must lead with getting attention first, within 8 to 10 seconds. Then you must persuade the searcher to click through to your content.
Put another way: unless your entry STANDS OUT QUICKLY you’ll never get a chance to persuade someone to take action, no matter how great your business (or your clients business) is offline.
OK, we’ve gone through the GAP elements of SEO, now onto UX’s GUT.
Feeding UX’s “GUT” (Growing User Trust)
“Feeding” means constantly monitoring, tweaking and improving the user’s experience of your website.
Contrary to popular belief, UX isn’t a “do once then forget” process. It’s never-ending, aids conversions directly and indirectly and amplifies your brand through social sentiment, shares and reviews because of its usability, positively and negatively.
Your website must be set-up to meet the needs of your audience’s behavioural, emotional, psychological and decision-making processes. This means focusing on your #1 priority: generating actions; whether that be leads, sales, downloads, views or subscribers
But where does “growing user trust” come into this?
User trust is gained by mirroring your audiences’ natural offline journey, online - in all areas of user experience.
Growing user trust means increasing the human connection they have with your brand - an ongoing task. Websites (and brands) that do this well win big. Period.
So where do "8 to 10 seconds" fit in?
When a visitor first arrives on one of your website pages, that’s how long you have to achieve your first goal: to keep them there (H/T Bill Slawski). Your goal isn't to sell your product, generate a new lead, get them to share your content or subscribe to your newsletter.
In those initial first 8 to 10 seconds, you must grow their trust - at lightning speed.
Why? Here’s what they’re thinking:
- Am I in the right place?
- Can I trust this website to not mess me around?
- Can I trust the business behind it?
- Is this experience already confusing me?
- Does this place look credible?
- Can I foresee trouble ahead here?
- Where do I start?
- How do I feel about all this right now?
- I’m in a rush, where do I find _____ ? (remember those last-minute gift finders on short lunch breaks?)
Those 8 to 10 seconds must satisfy those little-voice hunches and concerns they have when they first land on a new page.
How do we show visitors that they’re in the right place?
By adding in additional little clues that build trust and credibility
Here’s 15 ideas straight off-the-bat, that will help you or your client build that 8-10 second trust.
It's worth noting (H/T AJ Kohn) that I've used these elements predominantly with B2B and eCom sites and as every site is different, not all will be relevant for you or your clients industry or audience, so just use those that fit:
1) Industry Accreditations – logos and links, especially to pages dedicated to your company, products or services
2) Quality Accreditations – does your company have to adhere to industry standards or legislation, such as ISO, Health and Safety or CHAS compliance? Add the logos to your site. For some potential clients, having these is mandatory to opening up initial discussion about a new business relationship
3) Client Logos – nothing convinces a person quicker than name-dropping clients (their competitors?) on your site
4) Case Study Videos – nothing beats hearing an existing client sharing their delight at working with you. Better still if they reveal, on camera, how you’ve helped them.
5) Testimonials – relevant testimonials on pages, citing the name and position (the higher the better) are gold dust. “If they use this company (and they’re big) why don’t we?”
6) Payment Gateway Logos – who do you use for processing online payments? WorldPay? SagePay? HSBC? CitiBank? Google Wallet? Show it. For those with credit cards in hand, this shows you’re serious about fulfilling their needs
7) HTTPS vs HTTP – if you accept orders online, there’s no quicker way to lose trust than not provide a secure, encrypted system for order placement. If online ordering is key to your business, use HTTPS..
8) Awards – did you outgun a major competitor to win an industry-recognised award? Get the “[insert award} Winner 2015” logo added to your site. I’m sure you worked your socks off to achieve it, so show it!
9) Your Face(s) - don’t hide behind your logo – show visitors you’re human. People buy from people, not logos
10) UGC & Blog Comment Replies – if a visitor has taken the time to comment, show you validate it by responding. This activity can yield excellent leads, so allocate time and show their comment(s) are important to you
11) Community – show how active you are in your local community. Do you sponsor charity events, support a local kids football team or provide free help to organisations? Show it. How else will visitors know your depth of care?
12) Deliveries, Returns & Complaints – for eCommerce, detailing your customer service processes and procedures builds trust and faith, especially for higher-priced items. Visitors will then know what to expect if things go wrong (as they sometimes do)
13) Website Aesthetics – does the colour of your website put off visitors as soon as they arrive? Colours play a huge role in confirming whether visitors have arrived at the right place. Which colours convert the best? See ConversionXL’s resource
14) Website Images – is your website using stock photography that everyone else uses in your industry? That’s an immediate turn-off. Either hire a photographer to capture the essence of your business or go around your office one day and capture moments of natural “human-ness”
15) Pop-Ups – if you’re asking every visitor to submit their contact details before you give them a sniff of what they came for, your analytics will show you why that’s a bad idea. Serve your users first, then (and only then) ask if they’d like to subscribe to more good information – don’t force
EDIT: AJ Kohn made an excellent point here that I'll include in it's entirety, because it absolutely nails the type of traffic you're looking to attract to your site:
"In the 'old days' (and actually I still use the term) I would talk about productive traffic. Traffic that doesn't covert is ... relatively meaningless. I've had many a client where traffic went down but the amount of productive traffic went up sharply." Thanks AJ :)
So, we’ve got a user's attention, persuaded them to visit our web page and grown their trust enough to stay and explore further, all within the first 8 to 10 seconds, we’re done right? Not quite..
Delivering The Promise
Delivering the promise is where most would-be conversions, sales and orders fall short.
Baymard Institute cited an average online shopping cart abandonment rate of 68.53% based on statistics they’d reviewed from 31 research studies including IBM, Comscore, Forrester and MarketingSherpa, from 2006 to 2015.
For average website conversion rates, across all major industries, MarketingSherpa’s 2012 findings make interesting reading:
Another MarketingSherpa study found where marketers focus their optimisation efforts:
A review of the commentary under “Unique landing pages tie into different customer motivations” reveals:
“Landing pages are most effective when they tie into the value promised in the campaign — whether through PPC ads, email, print, etc. — that drove prospects to that page, and then tie into the unique pain points of different types of customers”.
“As one marketer replied in the Benchmark Report survey, "Biggest lesson is what drove us here: diminishing returns from existing pages and how a good page for one niche market doesn't work in another."
Let’s summarise the key takeaways above, from an SEO and UX perspective:
1) Tie your landing pages (“supply” via UX) into the value promised in the campaign (“demand” query SERP relevancy matching via SEO), then
2) Connect the implicit / explicit intent (what drove them to those pages) to resolutions to their unique needs
Your priority is to enable these, from the moment online searchers begin their journey (often in search engines) right through to helping them take action (leads or sales).
It's a fact - first impressions count more than ever before.
Make those initial 8 to 10 seconds and delivering the promise your focus for the second half of 2015!
Keep charging :)