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If you market products, services or content online, one of the best
ways to improve your results (traffic, sales leads, conversions) is
to improve the experience of the people who visit your web site. It
may sound obvious, but the easier you make it for customers to find
the products or information they’re looking for, the more likely
they are to make transactions.
Yahoo! Search Marketing has developed the
following set of guidelines to help you maximize the effectiveness of
your web site.
Including a call to action
Making your site easy to navigate
Simple page layouts
Incorporating search on your site
Writing for the Web
The purchase process: browsing, buying,
Creating a search engine-friendly web site
What to avoid
Provide alternative content for images
1. General suggestions
There are a few helpful things you can do to evaluate the effectiveness
of your web site:
Ask people to look at your site and
tell you what they think.
Go through the experience of trying to
buy something on your site, and ask friends and family to do the
same. Note the ways the customer experience can be streamlined.
Set target dates for improvements and
stay on track.
Test your site with different
browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.
Know your visitors and your target
Survey customers shortly after you
launch so you can make improvements right away.
2. Including a call to action
The “call to action” is the primary action you want customers to take
when they visit your web site. For example, if you want someone to add
items to a shopping cart, or even just go deeper into your site to learn
more, you might put “Add to cart” or “Learn More” buttons at the top of
the page, in a place that stands out from other content.
Focus on one primary action per
screen. Don’t clutter too many products on one screen.
Make the call to action button clearly
Make sure visitors can see the call to
action button without having to scroll.
Don’t bury the call to action under
pages of information. If you have a lot of information, consider
using a pop-up box with additional info or tabs to consolidate.
3. Making your site easy to navigate
Help potential customers find what they are looking for as quickly and
easily as possible.
Design your site with a clear
Use descriptive categories.
Maintain consistent navigation.
Use breadcrumbs to let visitors know
where they are.
Use color to distinguish between
visited and unvisited links.
Use local navigation to link to
related content. Guide visitors to similar products, related
products, background information, author biographies, product
reviews, customer testimonials, etc.
Provide multiple ways to find
products. These can include browse, search, wizard, featured
products, top-sellers, related products, etc.
Make sure your logo is clickable and
takes the user to your home page.
Make sure each page is an effective
landing page. Visitors should know exactly where they are in the
site and what they are looking at. If your site promotes different
items in the same category, visitors should be able to view other
Remember, most visitors will not start out
on your home page. Consequently, each keyword landing page needs to
function like a home page—the user should easily figure out where they
are on the site.
4. Simple page layouts
Improve the user experience with a good layout that employs a clean
visual design and straightforward text.
Use a consistent layout. Define global
and individual page templates.
Use a clean visual design—don’t
clutter a page with images.
Use color and contrast to guide a user
through the Web site.
Use headings, lists and consistent
structure to increase legibility.
Make sure pages can be seen on lower
resolution screens (800x600).
Keep calls to action at the top of the
page, so the user does not have to scroll to find them.
5. Incorporating search on your site
Include search if necessary to help visitors find relevant content.
Keep search features simple and
On home pages, search should be a
type-in field and not a link.
Keep the search input field wide
enough to contain a typical query.
Try to keep search results useful.
People rarely look beyond the first page of results.
To increase sales, make sure your
search results link to product pages.
6. Writing for the Web
Typically, visitors scan content on the Web instead of reading it. Keep
your information as clear and concise as possible.
Use summary descriptions, subheads,
bulleted lists and short paragraphs.
Use keywords you’ve selected for your
search marketing campaign in your web page content, so the pages
will appear in an organic search.
Put your key message first.
Include one idea per paragraph.
Make your points on each page clearly
but quickly, using as few words as possible.
Don’t provide a PDF for online
viewing. Convert everything to HTML if possible.
Design printable versions of pages.
Use a standard one-column format for
Use high contrast for easily legible
text. A familiar example is black text on white background.
High-quality graphics, good writing,
and use of outbound hypertext links increase credibility.
7. The purchase process: browsing,
Make it easy for visitors to browse and buy the products they’re looking
for, and give them a smooth, reassuring checkout experience.
Tips for an easy browsing and buying
Make sure your product detail page
includes all the relevant information a typical user needs to make a
Add related content to cross-sell and
If you have additional information,
provide buttons so the user can access that information without
leaving the page.
Don’t discourage visitors with
required registration and poor shipping charge policies.
Provide easy access to your shopping
cart. Give customers the option to continue shopping or proceed to
Include all necessary features in the
shopping cart process. Provide product details in the cart,
including the image of the product, and a link back to the product
page. Make it easy for visitors to edit the shopping cart (change
quantities or options, delete an item, etc).
Reassure customers at the right time
and place. Provide links to product warranties, shipping costs,
return policies, testimonials, even optional extended service plans.
Add trustworthy third-party icons.
Logos for credit cards and services like HackerSafe and the Better
Business Bureau increase customer confidence.
Tips for an easy checkout
Provide shipping costs as early as
possible in the checkout process. Buyers don’t want to be surprised
by a cost after going through a long checkout.
Include a progress indicator on each
checkout page. Give shoppers an opportunity to review what they did
in previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they
Ask only for required data and provide
examples for its use. Save and auto fill previously supplied info.
Use clear labels and reasonable sizes
for input fields.
Differentiate shipping and billing
addresses. Also, if the shipping information is the same as the
billing information, include a checkbox to automatically fill in the
Provide clear explanation after
Provide customer support. Offer
alternate ways to place the order ( e.g. a toll-free phone number).
8. Creating a search-engine friendly
Make it easy for search engines to find and list your site.
Use page titles. Make your titles
unique to each page, and use relevant keywords on each page.
Add a site map.
Use meta tags. Only use relevant
keywords in your meta-description.
Be aware that your content is
constantly crawled by search engines. Keep your content original,
update it frequently, and vary keywords and phrases to try different
ways to attract customers.
Develop simple, logical internal
navigation. Make sure it’s easy for visitors to link between related
sections and pages in your site.
9. What to avoid
Don’t clutter your pages with unnecessary details.
Avoid frames. They make it difficult
for visitors to bookmark your site.
Avoid horizontal scrolling.
Avoid splash pages or animated
Avoid new browser windows.
Avoid flash-based content unless
Use meaningful graphics to show real
10. Provide alternative content for
Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or
Use Alt Text for images and
animations. This way, if images don’t load, the user will still see
Make flash content available in
another format. Not all visitors have flash downloaded to their
These guidelines can help you provide a
streamlined experience for the customers that come to your web site. And
that, in turn, can lead to sales and repeat customers.