SEO & Web Design – How to Pull Off A Perfectly Designed Site Structure March 17, 2013 by Brett Prince While most people in the business world appreciate the power of the Internet and the critical role a website plays when it comes to success, just about everyone, for some reason, believes in the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. The result is one of those awful looking websites you see around the web and it’s pretty obvious when a website or company is lacking proper on-site strategic direction. Of course we know that success on the web isn’t that easy. If you think about it, a website is in place to guide your visitors to take a predetermined action. This could include some sort of motivation to inquire about more information, to get answers to their questions, opting into your marketing funnel, or perhaps actually buy something! These goals and the process associated with them are driven by your website design and it can make or break the on-site experience. A lot of sites throughout the web suffer from the same problem that many beautiful people do: they think they’re able to skate by based on appearance alone, lacking real substance, and ultimately finding that beauty is only a small part of a bigger picture. It’s the interaction, the substance, that’s the real value. It’s important to ensure that every single element on your website is designed to facilitate not only your visitors’ experience or the on-site SEO elements to help with your overall optimizations, but to also push those hot prospects through the slippery slope of your sales funnel, ultimately guiding them to become customers. Designing For The Process, Not Your Website There’s a common misconception that some of the world’s best web designers are incredibility artistic and push the boundaries of visual and technological innovations to create stunning websites. These types of websites look great, sure, but from a business perspective they tend to fail on delivering any real results. The real top web designers of the world understand that your website is your most powerful salesmen and another cog in your Internet marketing machine. From a usability perspective, it’s important to plan out the content flow across the site. Organizing your content in a hierarchal architecture is not only the most natural way for a visitor to engage with your site, but it’s also the easiest to code and streamline flow with how your want your visitors to interact with your website. Understanding Your Visitor The best Internet marketers in the world are successful because they are able to step inside the mind and body of an average visitor with the intention of added perspective, determining what a user is seeking and then strategically designing their website and structure around the user’s needs. Unfortunately, many businesses owners are too reliant on high-end design firms that approach the process backwards. By stepping outside of your body and asking the following critical questions about your visitor, you should have all the information you need to begin outline your website: Who is this website really for? What results do I expect to receive from my website? Why are my visitors coming to my website and what are they searching for? Are they targeted or relevant? What value do I have to provide to get them to take the actions I want them to take? Once you have this information in hand, you’ll be able to easily and effortlessly create a proper workflow for how your visitors should approach your site. By starting with a more general overview on your homepage, and then drilling down to more specific information all the while enticing them to take actions you’d like them to take with each page that goes deeper on your site, you’ll be able to make sure that you can provide all of your unique visitors with the custom tailored experience they are expecting. Note: One of the most powerful tools any website owner has access to is visitor data. By using Google Analytics or a similar set up, even a third party visitor heat map system, you can literally track each and every encounter of every visitor that comes to your page to locate where and when they decide to take action, or where your stumbling blocks are. In depth, on-site data is better than any guess, and using analytics data to model your site redesign is one of the smartest things you could do. Look into it. E-commerce Titan Zappos Is A Perfect Example Of Fantastic Site Design One of the most highly trafficked and reputable online stores anywhere in the world, Zappos.com, is a perfect example for the kind of structure and hierarchal organizing that I’ve been talking about. Going to the home page gives you an overview of everything that the website offers, while hovering over the specific navigation tabs produce a drop-down box of options all related to your specific selection. For instance, if you hover over the clothing on the homepage you are presented with a drop-down box that separates all the content on the site not only by gender and age, but also by clothing type as well. This is the kind of smart and seamless design that makes it almost brain-dead simple for your visitor to find exactly what they’re looking for, giving them very little reason to leave your page. It’s important to remember that doing business online means you are exposed to a world of competition that brick-and-mortar stores never had to deal with. And while your local competition may have flooded Main Street, you are now dealing with literally thousands and possibly millions of people looking to steal your customers, and sometimes they’re only a simple click away. The easier you make it for your users to find exactly what they’re looking for through your smart website design that also facilitates your business goals, the more successful you’re going to be. How Designing For People Can Actually Improve SEO Anyone familiar with SEO can either recall or have heard of the days of keyword stuffing an article or a website with the intention to manipulate ranking, and of course nothing could be further from the truth given the current SEO landscape. With Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates wiping out “stuffers” and other blackhat methods, Google is making a very real effort to only rank sites that are providing valuable content. The simpler and easier you make your site for people to use, the better the user experience in Google’s eyes, including potential ranking increase down the road. Having a comprehensive on-page SEO strategy will not only help users from a usability perspective, but it will also let Google know that you’re optimizing for user relevance above all else. There’s also the importance of the online reputation of your website or brand, which is increasingly important given natural sharing through social media and word-of-mouth. The last thing you want to do is alienate your users by designing your site infrastructure and content exclusively for robots. Optimizing around the user experience is about as close to win-win as you can get in the Internet marketing world, and it’s the only way to ensure that your business/website is future proof. Conclusion Smart Internet marketers are paying closer and closer attention to the shifting winds and always turbulent landscape of running an online business. Digital strategies that may work well to help boost your rankings today could very well become the single thing that could cripple you tomorrow. It’s important to continue to focus on your primary goal, and since search robots won’t be buying your products, it’s a good idea to invest resources in helping your customers get what they want so that you can get what you want.