When you think optimization, the word may well suggest a tuning process for something that is already working fairly well. If something is not working then making it work is not optimization but some other more heavy-duty task such as repairing or troubleshooting.
If your website works fairly well when you visit it, then you may feel only a little optimization is in order. Perhaps some tweaking may be a nice thing to do. This slightly complacent attitude can reduce the urgency you likely should be feeling.
A better approach is to realize that undoubtedly some potential visitors have major problems interacting with your website. In fact there are barriers that stand in their way. Some troubleshooting or repairing activity is needed to remove those barriers. This is not a nice to-do activity, but rather requires urgent action. The way to realize the importance of this topic is to examine analytics data for the visitor traffic. One powerful solution here is to use Google Analytics, which can give very detailed information on how visitors are behaving.
Here we list ten barriers, some or all of which may be blocking visitors to your website. Each one of them may mean that a certain important percentage of potential visitors never get to your website or abandon the effort to get there. Why not check whether these 10 barriers are a problem for your website.
1. Not On The RSS News Feed Radar Screen
Some potential visitors use RSS news feeds as a way of checking whether there are interesting new items that they might wish to see. If you are unsure what this is all about then check out Feed 101 from Feedburner, now part of Google.
Your online property should have an associated news feed and this can be registered through the Google Feedburner system to give maximum visibility. The RSS news feed should include the full web page content. This is important to some visitors and maximizes visibility of the news feed in Google Blogsearch.
2. Not Visible When They Search
Many web pages will see the majority of their visitor traffic arrive after doing a keyword search with one of the search engines. If this is not the case, you should check whether the web pages are adequately search engine visible in terms of their important keyword content. This is the subject matter of SEO and a full explanation of what is involved would take us outside the scope of this post. Clearly web pages that have little text content will perform poorly: examples are image-rich web pages or pages wholly in Flash.
If the web pages are inherently poor in search engine visibility, paid advertising (PPC) can be used to try to bring traffic but this is a second-best approach with lower numbers of visitors clicking on paid ads rather than items within the organic keyword query search listing.
3. The Title Does Not Attract
Even if the web page ranks well in the keyword query search report page, it may not be attractive given the title that the search engine displays to introduce the item. Relative to the competition on the search page, the web page should have a title that is more appealing than the competition. The title could be a key influence on which item the searcher selects.
4. The Search Snippet Does Not Appeal
The short paragraph that the search engine displays after the title, the so-called snippet in Google terms, can be a strong influence in getting the visitor's click. The snippet is produced automatically based on the searcher's keyword choice. Writing a good meta description for the web page is an important input contributor to this snippet production process. For a blog it is important to have distinct meta descriptions for each post. In WordPress this is easily arranged using the All-In-One SEOpack plugin.
5. Their Device Or Browser Does Not 'See' Your Web Page
Even if the search engine identifies your web page as an appropriate relevant item for their keywords, the visitor may not be able to see the web page with the device or browser they are using. Microsoft with its evolving Internet Explorer versions has created major problems here. However other browsers even if they 'follow standards' may handle some elements differently.
The new complication is the increasing number of visitors who now surf via mobile devices with much more limited width screens. The solution is probably to have separate web pages specifically for mobile devices. The SMM Local Business Online Smart Tips shows a simple example of what may be appropriate. For the present, the absence of mobile-friendly web pages means that some potential visitors may be lost.
6. Too Slow To Load
Not everyone is working with high-speed connections, If the screen remains blank for some seconds, the potential visitor may click away in frustration. To avoid this possibility the size of web pages and particularly the images included must be carefully chosen.
Even if the web page loads in a satisfactory time, the first impression gained within the first seconds may trigger a flight reaction among potential visitors. That is the thesis that Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book, Blink. The instant impression must be one that entices rather than causing revulsion.
8. What's In It For Them
Even if that two second impression is pleasing, that may not be enough to keep the visitor on the web page. For the target visitors, the web page must highlight what the visitor will gain by visiting the website. There should be instant recognition of the needs of the audience and a simple and direct display of how those needs will be met.
9. First Paragraph Does Not Engage
Even if the web page has attracted the best visitors and intrigued them with the possibility that here their needs can be met, it is not clear that they will be hooked enough to do some research on the website, particularly if there are strong competitors. The early part of the web page should quickly confirm that this is where they will find the answers they are looking for. If they must travel in hope, that may not be sufficient to maintain their hope as they find they need to do some exploration. Perhaps closely comparable competitor websites may provide a surer path to a solution.
10. Too Much To See
The last barrier to prospects clicking on the call to action button (either buy, or ask for a quote, etc.) is that they find there is just too much on the web page and they do not get to the call to action button. Again this is a big subject in understanding how people move around web pages. It involves aspects of Usability (the ease of navigation) and of Captology.
Captology gets into the whole question of how visitors get involved or engaged with what the web page is offering. Again this is a huge subject and deserves some serious attention. It is particularly galling if the first 9 barriers have been largely eliminated and visitors are being lost at this final hurdle.
A website only succeeds if suitable numbers of visitors arrive and work their way through to clicking on the Call To Action buttons. Some of the barriers to that are more difficult to correct than
others. However the first step is to identify which barriers are proving to be a problem to visitors. The program to eliminate the most important barriers first can then be implemented. This can be an extremely valuable contribution to the website performance and the most effective way of applying available resources.