Search Engine Guide: Search Engine Marketing + Human Usability = Successful Web Site

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Each Web site has two sets of visitors, humans and search engine "spiders." Are you addressing the needs of both?


Examining the spiderability of a Web site is a crucial first step. Search engine spiders must be able to access all your product information in order to make products "findable" in search listings.


Your site has to do the hard work of turning visitors into customers. You need to fully understand what elements of your site's design, navigation and copywriting are most effective with visitors and which elements turn prospective customers away.


The search marketing team of @Web Site Publicity teamed with usability experts from Millard Group's Decision Direct Research to analyze the effect of both areas for clients such as Oriental Trading and Yankee Magazine. In a program called Web That Works, the companies applied an initial paradigm or scorecard to aspects of each site. Here are some of the findings and recommendations that apply to many complex Web sites:


Usability Issues


Consumer feedback is important because company personnel may be too close to the product.


· Marketing: Make your brand statement strong on the home page. Since consumers also find your site through sub-pages listed in search engines, be sure each page acts as a strong landing page, clearly stating who you are and what you offer.


· Content: Make terms easy to understand; there are many terms used internally that may be unfamiliar to a visitor. Ensure that your descriptions and photography are as exact as possible. List SKUs under several headings to make them easier to find, but assign only one Web address per SKU. Highlight special items such as exclusivity and personalization through flags, consistent with catalog treatment. If you offer personalization, include that as an internal search term. The "Contact Us" tab should be prominent on every page.


· Technical: Site interactivity encourages participation: add requests for photographs, surveys, etc. If you ask visitors to log in, tell them the benefits of doing so and make it easy for returning customers.


Search Engine Marketing Issues


· Organic or natural search: Ensure that deep-level product pages are in the indices of Google, Yahoo and MSN. If they are not being spidered, remove spider blocks or consider paid inclusion. Provide unique meta tags for each page, including an attractive title tag. Engines often use this as the descriptor for your Web page. Directory listings provide authoritative links. Submit to categories in Yahoo and Open Directory (www.dmoz.org). Keep site architecture clean. Avoid 302 re-directs, broken links and coding errors.


· Paid search: Deploy a broad campaign, including all relevant iterations of product terms. Trim back based on conversion. Even terms with few searches can bring attractive ROI. Test bidding on positions 2 and 3 for most terms, but position 1 for your brand.


Test landing pages in addition to ad copy. For retail locations, test geo-targeting. Optimize a Direct Product Feed for Yahoo SiteMatch Xchange (500+ SKUs), Froogle and other shopping engines.


For more articles from The Direct Marketer's Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit www.dmnews.com/search .


A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf


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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in ...