If you aren’t reaching your desired audience and giving them what they are looking for, you have already lost them.
Avoid a Marketing Blind Spot With an Optimal User Experience
While search engine optimization may not have had a name two decades ago, it was still an important, albeit mysterious, aspect of web design and online content creation. Site designers and advertisers were constantly competing with each other to attract and retain the attention of their audiences with a variety of strategies and gimmicks. This has changed little over the years, although SEO has evolved dramatically, and in turn, has increased the need for competitiveness among designers, marketers, and content creators.
Search engine optimization has become much less mysterious, however, and we are now better able to detect patterns of potential success, anticipate trends in popularity, and predict the demands of online users. Regardless of the myriad aspects put into play when it comes to designing and creating for the digital world, it is that last item that ultimately will determine whether or not your efforts have paid off. If you aren’t pleasing your audience, you’ll soon not have one at all. Above all else, optimizing for the user experience remains the single most important part of your SEO.
Why User Experience is Vital to SEO
Despite what you may have read about any number of SEO strategies, tips, or tricks being more important or having more value than user experience, those other tactics will only help you so much before you, too, become as obsolete as some of those tactics themselves. Regardless of how many “absolutely guaranteed to work” SEO strategies you apply to your marketing material and online content, one simple fact remains: if you aren’t reaching your desired audience and giving them what they are looking for, you have already lost them.
At the end of the day, it is the user that determines the value and success of your marketing efforts by the actions they take when they encounter it. Do they click? Do they enroll? Do they buy? Search engine rankings, above-the-fold calls to action, prominently placed images, and creative anchor text do not make the call when it comes to your marketing success — the actions of your users do. All of the other aspects of SEO, content creation, and web design certainly play a role in influencing the visibility of your marketing material, but no amount of visibility will make someone follow you into your sales funnel unless you are acknowledging, addressing, and meeting the needs of your users.
The Marketing Blind Spot
Creating web content for your users has far surpassed the days when it was enough to design an attractive web page that invited the visitor to “click here.” Unsolicited email messages demanding that the recipient “sign up now” for a newsletter or eBook are no longer effective at catching the eye of your target audience. A flashy GIF or bold headline doesn’t do the trick of enticing a reaction from online surfers and shoppers anymore. Not only has the process of SEO evolved. Internet users have also evolved to the point where they are inundated with marketing material over and over throughout their day. This has led to a “blind spot” when it comes to the solicitation of clicks from your desired audience; they no longer see it because they have already seen it too much.
Despite the fact that your visitors, recipients, or target audience have already been suffocated beneath a blanket of marketing material that renders most advertisements invisible to them, there are still ways you can reach out to and connect with your desired users and motivate them to make actionable choices that lead them down your sales funnel. You can certainly apply the SEO strategies you’ve read online or learned in a marketing class, or you can create unforgettable and unique content coupled with eye-catching images. That those actions will help is true, but more importantly, you need to design for your user and with your user foremost in your mind.
Designing Marketing Material For Your Intended Users
Many digital marketers have tried (and failed) to create the perfect landing page, web copy, or email newsletter for their users. The most obvious reason these efforts are less than successful is that they still lack the most important component in user optimization: a connection with the audience they are trying to reach. Here are several tips to help you design content and create online marketing material that will evoke a reaction from your target audience and compel them to interact with your calls to action in a desirable way.
- Focus on a specific audience demographic. One of the biggest reasons marketing efforts fail is that their reach is too broad. The common, and mistaken, assumption is that if you send your message to the masses, you’ll eventually draw in the part of the masses that want or need what you are offering. Rather than broadcasting a global message, however, you need to whittle down your message and tailor it to speak only to those who need to hear it. If your content is geared toward middle-age, college-educated single males, for example, a message sent to every human being between the ages of 8 and 80 will fall far short of your desired mark most of the time.
- Focus on what is valuable about your message (and amplify it). What are you offering? In most cases, marketing material is designed to offer a solution to something, whether it is a question, want, or need. That solution is the value in your message, regardless of what it is addressing, and you need to focus on that value and amplify it as much as possible. Your marketing material should be clear and concise about that value and how it can provide a solution for your target audience.
- Focus on user-friendly content and design. While you might think a page full of colorful graphics and interactive content is appealing, your audience most definitely does not. The attention span of the average Internet user is less than eight seconds, which means you have a minimal amount of time to convey your message and convince your user that they want or need you to provide them with what you are offering. Simplicity is essential. Make your content as readable and usable as possible, and do so with aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-navigate design.
- Focus on establishing an emotional connection. Many people make decisions based on emotion. Logic is often left out of the equation entirely. If you want to connect with your audience, you must find a way to do so that touches them emotionally. When people are compelled to feel “something,” they often remember and react to what has made them do so. Naturally, you will want to choose marketing material that evokes a positive emotion rather than a negative one, and the most obvious way to do this is by creating content that pulls an involuntary laugh or smile out of your target audience.
These four tips are important in creating the perfect user experience and drawing the desired reaction out of your target audience. All of your online content should include each one of these aspects. You can also apply other useful user experience optimization strategies that emphasize or assist these four components, but you should never include any options, items, or tactics that detract from them. As part of your design or creation process, you should include testing to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts, and you should continually strive to improve upon your efforts. By staying focused on your users and what they want or need, you can more easily avoid becoming a victim of the marketing blind spot and keep your content as visible and actionable as possible.
How to Create the Optimimal User Experience
A good website is achieved through encompassing important elements that include content, functionality, navigation and design. In the current day and age, running a business site is important to enable a company to stay afloat of competition and reach a wider market share effectively. Therefore, every website should be user-friendly to increase the number of visitors to the site who eventually become loyal customers to the business. A user-friendly website entices more prospects, performs exemplary and boosts sales of the business.
Landing on a website that is difficult to navigate is very frustrating. A user-friendly website has everything intuitive, not overly cluttered and complicated. Whenever a site is difficult to navigate, visitors leave it within a short time and never return to that particular site. Even if a site has great and updated content but is hardly navigable, visitors do not return to it. Thus, every website owner should strive to create a site that is user-friendly to increase and sustain traffic thus increasing revenue.
There are certain strategies and formats that every web creator must consider and use to create a user-friendly website. Once the attention of the visitors is captured and sustained, the site owner can achieve an increase in their return on investment and conversion rate simultaneously. Here are some of the tips that improve website usability and make sure that visitors stay on the sites:
When you are building out your sitemap, make sure that you keep it as intuitive and simple as you possibly can. Make sure that every page is named appropriately. Furthermore, all your sub navigations should relate to the main navigation option. In case you have a larger sitemap, it is advisable to create a utility navigation. The utility navigation is a smaller navigation bar that is found on the top right of many of the websites. This smaller bar will reduce cases of overcrowding on the main navigation bar making your site appear organized and professional with less clutter. (See Image Below in Navigation Location and notice both menus).
Your logo should always be situated at the top and to the left of your site. (See photo below) When you place your logo in this location, it enables your visitors to know whose site they are navigating. Furthermore, the conspicuous location will enable the visitors to identify your brand’s name with the content they see on your site. The logo will also serve as a direct link to the homepage making your site user-friendly. This linking of the logo to the homepage will enable users to return quickly to the homepage regardless of where they are within your site.
For efficiency and quick access, you should place your main navigation bar at the top or on the left side of your website. This placement will enable your viewers and visitors always to see their navigation options as they browse through your site. The main navigation must always be viewable and quickly accessible no matter where your visitors are within the site. It is advisable to anchor the main navigation permanently in this location. Also, make sure that the navigation is above the fold regardless of what device or monitor the visitors use to access your site.
Include search functionality to your site. That is done with the hope and aspiration that you have created buyer personas. Keep in mind that the level of tech savvy skills and experience is different in different buyer personas. To make sure that all your visitors can easily find the information that they are looking for on your site regardless of their tech skills you should add a search bar. The search bar and icon should be placed at the top right of your website for easy use by your visitors. When using WordPress, adding a search bar is as simple as adding a Widget. Keep in mind, when you add the search bar only to the right hand column, it won’t function the same on Mobile. Consider placing the search bar in the header.
Content is the most significant factor when you need to convince users and visitors to stick around your website. Providing content that is fresh, easy-to-read and interactive is the starting point of making your website more user-friendly. The average internet user skims through content instead of reading it all. Keep the paragraphs short and format your text in columns for easy skimming. Always use headings, sub-headings, paragraphs, bullets and lists to break up your text. This strategy will enable your visitors to go easily through the focal points of your site and quickly discover what they need.
The content on your website should always be kept concise, simple and relatively jargon free. Always make sure that you use the correct terminologies in a concise manner to display your prowess in your field. Nonetheless, make sure that you correctly and carefully use these terminologies to avoid confusing your visitors searching for relevant information from your site. When writing your content, make sure that you use necessary keywords for Search Engine Optimization purposes. The keywords also will make your visitors comfortable with the topic at hand and will build interest in your brand.
Finding the right contrast between the background of your website and the content is important. If your content lacks contrast, it becomes complex to read and sieve through the main points. Make sure that you select the best color scheme to maintain high visibility of your content.
Always make sure that your visitors are aware of where they are on your site and can exactly pinpoint on where they need to go. A good way to achieve this is to use breadcrumbs. Also, you can use linked headings at the top of your site showing your visitors where they are within your site and providing them with links to every individual page listed. Advanced technology has allowed for web creators to create pathways through your site that guide your visitors through.
Call-to-Action links instructing your visitors what page they should view or what action they should take next will keep them aware of their specific location and makes your site highly interactive. Some of the instructing links include “Click Here to Order”, “Download Now” or “Contact Us”.
Photos and Videos
Having a site with only text becomes monotonous and unappealing to your visitors. Thus, you should break the monotony of your text content with relevant and professional videos and images. Make sure that the multimedia you use on your site enhance the text content and not detract from it. The photos must be original and unique. Therefore, make sure that the photos you use are cannot be found on other sites. Including too many images can crowd your pages.
Cluttering will distract your visitors, and they will become confused without knowing where to proceed to next. Also, including many moving objects and animation on a page will distract the reader.
Highlighting and bolding keywords capture the attention of your visitors. Links and keywords should be highlighted to draw the attention of the visitors and enable them to realize quickly that your content is relevant and appropriate for their searches. Also, your links should appear conspicuous from your other text to retain your visitors’ attention and should open up in a new window when clicked on. Opening in a new window will keep your visitors on your site all through.
Always include your contact information on your website and make sure that it is easy to find. Place your email and phone number at the top right corner of your site. Additionally, you should place in the footer so that it can be easily seen on each one of your pages. An excellent way also to get your visitors to contact you is to add a contact form to your website. Through this contact form, potential customers can fill out their name, basic information and contact details.
Advancement in technology has resulted in an increased number of people using their smart phone to access the internet. Therefore, when you create your website, you should make sure that it is responsive for smart phone users to navigate through it comfortably. If the users have to zoom in and out to view your content, high chances are they will leave your site and view the sites of your competitors that are responsive to their different devices. A responsive site will create a seamless and enjoyable experience for your visitors.
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Avoid odd acronyms and navigation titles in the menu since they will confuse your visitors. You should only use acronyms and abbreviations whose meanings are obvious and universal. Using the common words like ‘home’, ‘about’, ‘ssupport’ and ‘contact us’ makes your site become more user-friendly.
Time management is important and visitors become impatient when your web pages take long to load. Thus, it is important to design a website with a short load time to make navigation through your site enjoyable. Your web pages should load within 4 to 6 seconds. If your site loads slowly, it will affect your search engine rankings reducing traffic flow to the website significantly.
Avoid large videos, photos, files and flash since they reduce the loading speed of your site. It is advisable to compress your multimedia files. Resize the images before uploading them using software like Photoshop and Fireworks. You should also reduce the number of redirects whenever possible since they drastically slow down your web page. Make sure that your internal linking is efficient.
After you have created your website, always test it to find out whether it is fully user-friendly. A broken website is not desirable for any business. It will hurt your credibility and aggravate the visitor. Make sure that you test all your links, pages, buttons, and forms before launching your site. Besides, it is advisory to examine your links frequently and make sure that they are working appropriately and leading to the correct pages.