Google has recently changed how it figures out site rankings in their Search Results and this is going to dramatically alter how we need to look at website design and strategies.
"Panda" or "Farmer" update which was released during March of last year, has forever changed the best practices followed by all of us for many years. In this SEOmoz video, Rand Fishkin explains very nicely how the Panda algorithm works and that now, more than ever, USER EXPERIENCE matters much more than good, original content.
For years, we have been literally preaching the benefits of generating good quality content on unique topics. Then as a matter of practice we would focus on generating links back to that content and hope people would follow them. Now this practice has become obsolete almost overnight - Google's new search algorithm can detect it and penalize sites for using the method.
This is a great video that explains what Panada means to SEO:
So what does this mean to the average person who has been working hard to write good content and feverishly building links back to their websites?.... It means STOP! … Time to look at your web strategy another way. I had to look at Zestimedia's site from the point of view of a user and began removing large sections of the site. Old blog posts were deleted, the site navigation completely removed and only left parts that I wanted people to experience from the site. That left Homepage, Portfolio and Contact Pages.
I have a few customized landing pages for adwords and different marketing campaigns but they aren't linked up to any place other than the ads that run them
Many people have been praising CMS systems like Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal for their ability to easily produce content. While this was useful in the past, it has now become completely detrimental to your site usability. Anything that looks spammy is NOT GOOD, and much of what Wordpress has been great for is pumping out "spammy" content for the sake of SEO. Not everyone uses Wordpress this way but I know of a number of marketing consultants who encourage their client to compose unique content on as many topics as possible and work to artificially inflate the size of the website. Not only is this now an expensive waste of time... but it is extremely important to note that it may have negative effects on your SERP results.
Web designers have long preached the benefits of good design and attention to strategy over content for the sake of content. Cluttered directory style sites may have finally seen their day. When we first look at our landing page, what is it we want viewers to see? What is it they should hopefully do while they are there? What is it you want from them? Rand touches on this point when he describes a store that sells many small parts, and how the strategy to write content for each and every part was a bad practice from an SEO perspective.
I can tell you from a designer's perspective it wasn't a lot of fun to design either. We knew in our minds many of the individual items were to appease Google robots. Most of us had bigger visions for our careers! The thought of designing sites that are appealing to humans is a welcome breath of fresh air.
I'm hoping that our future clients start demanding more focus on the user experience and less on the organic position of their sites on search engines. I can comment that having good search results for organic terms is nice, but it takes very large volumes of traffic to return any sort of investment in the first place. In my opinion, it is more cost effective to just purchase the first place spot with google adwords and forget the SEO.
Advertisements force us to focus much more on UX. We want those precious paid for "clicks" to convert. So we design special pages that focus very tightly on one topic... and drive traffic there by having ads popping up all over the place on the Google network. For most small start ups and home based businesses, this is simply the most cost effective way to get something real out of Google. The lessons we learn from paying for our clicks tells us volumes about our prospective clients. We start to realize what it is that is bringing them to the site, and what it is that makes them think "Ohhh, I must have that!".
So why does Google go out of its way to provide analytical tools that measure things like bounce rate and time spent on site? These are real tell tale factors on whether or not people are actually using your site and "liking it" or if they are seeing your ad collage and scrapbook approach to page layout and go "eww! - back click" . The fact is, for far too long we have been building our websites to impress a computer algorithm or perhaps our friends at the BBQ and spent far too little time analyzing "what's in it for my reader?"
Have another look at your website:
- What is the one single most important thing you want it to achieve?
- Now, identify what sections/pages/parts have nothing to do with that primary objective
50% of it?
95% of it?
Now you know what needs to get scrapped and have a look at what the one thing you want to achieve is, and what strategies can you employ to achieve that singular goal.
A Simple, Tried and True Method For Engaging Viewers.
Video. Yup, a good YouTube video will almost certainly get watched if it's a topic your users are interested in viewing at that moment. A video is a great way to expand that 8 second "time on site" average. Most videos are a couple of minutes long and if you are good at them, people may very well want to watch a second. Watching videos is much easier than reading content, it just naturally begs a view.
However, we must be careful not to over focus here and try and produce videos of a national broadcasting media house. You'll never achieve it, and the end product will almost definitely appear "produced" . Unless you are striving to become a film director, it can take many many years to perfect that craft and not worth your time. You need to focus on your message, the little mistakes and blunders only add to your videos authenticity. Leave the little slurs and corrections in there. It helps to have short blurbs or talking points on a piece of paper taped next to the screen, but avoid reading full on scripts. They always make you sound as though you're reading. So have fun with it, relax and just speak naturally and on topic.
I personally love to watch short videos, unless someone starts trying to "sell" me right from the get-go. As with most things, I'm happily looking for something for nothing. Some free advice or insight that actually helps me or even just makes me think. Very rarely am I shopping to make a purchase, and, if I am, it's from a place I have sought out and completely trust. If your marketing focus is to advertise to people on a search engine in hopes of converting them to buyers, you're going to find the online world very frustrating. It's simply not how the public uses the web. In most cases, poor performance really has nothing to do with the product but entirely with the strategy used to sell it.
When you first hear about Google Panda, or perhaps watched your SERPs fall suddenly, have another look at your website and ask yourself, "Is there anything that might lead people away from what I want them to do?" Think about cleaning up the clutter and simplifying things. By creating a small few great pages, you're more likely to get the result you're looking for, and ultimately if people like what they read, your search results should correspond to your increased "time on site" statistics... AND we can breathe a sigh of relief that there is no more need to waste time churning out more blog rhetoric or posting useless comments on blogs in hopes of getting a backlink .. we can focus on just one thing at a time and improve our results by using our statistics to tell us what people think when they land on our pages.
It's cleaner, simple and effective.