Optimizing Webpages for People
Or: Improving Your Search Rankings by Improving Your Content
In my previous article I explained how you can start improving the SEO of your pages. Now, all of that SEO is worthless if you don’t also improve how your pages function for the end user. You want to have a page that is both accessible and useful. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I will be walking you through how to use links to improve your site accessibility, how to format your content to present it in a more understandable way, and how to use lists to your advantage.
If you have an established website, you should have a variety of different webpages on several different topics. The most common pages are a homepage, a services page, an about page, maybe a blog with several posts, and probably a contact page. The easiest way to help people get around your site better is to include contextual links in your pages as you mention topics that relate to other pages.
Let me explain what I mean. Let’s use the example of Pedals & Gears, a local bike co-op I just made up.
As people enter the website for Pedals & Gears, most visitors would first see the homepage. They would see the tagline of “Bike rentals for people on the go. Convenient pick up and drop off locations in and around Toronto.” There is also an image of someone riding a bike with a suit on and wearing a branded helmet. There are links to pickup locations, an about page and a membership page.
Most people don’t come to your website ready to buy or donate, so you will need to address some of their most common concerns. That would be what the pickup location and about pages would be for. You can call these information pages. Think about the pages that you would want someone who knows nothing about your organization to see. What pages should be seen in which order? You need to help guide the visitor through your site.
Add links at the bottom of each informational page that encourages readers to follow your trail of breadcrumbs.
You should also do this with any pages that help them understand what they are paying for. Any pages that relate to the pitch you are making can be called transactional pages. For Pedals & Gears this would be the membership page and would likely also include a section on the benefits of membership.
There should be links to the membership page in the header and footer of the website, in order to make it easier for visitors to find how to get involved once they are interested. You should also include a link into your informational page stream on the main transactional page, just in case people aren’t sure yet if they want to trade their money for what you’re offering.
By using links in this way, you will be able to help your visitors better understand what your organization does and how to get involved.
Within 3 seconds of loading the homepage, the visitor should be able to understand exactly what this website is about. They need to be able to answer what this organization does, and for who. If people can’t figure that out, they will most likely leave before going further. You need to be able to explain why your organization matters to them will they give you more of their time.
I’ve already mentioned the two main types of pages: informational and transactional. Do not mix informational and transactional pages. This is for two reasons.
First, you don’t want to confuse your visitors by switching back and forth between informational and transactional tones. You will be able to improve your visitors experiences with the site by having a clear path through the informational portion of the site, while still providing plenty of chances to access the transactional pages once they’re ready.
Second, you will actually be increasing your visibility to search engines by specializing your webpages. Because each of your pages will be tuned for either giving information or helping complete the transaction, search engines will start directing people searching phrases like: “Toronto bike co-op membership” towards the membership page, and people searching “best bike routes Toronto” to the informational pages that apply.
By splitting your pages by these categories, you will be optimizing for search engines to send you better traffic.
You can also improve the website user experience in a couple different ways.
Try to stay away from large blocks of text. People primarily skim webpages, and people are not likely to read anything longer than a couple lines.
Occasionally break up your lines with something different. I like to use images on my main pages, and main points on my blog posts. Find something that works for you and your website.
Make sure you leave space between elements on your website. Don’t put text all the way across the screen, leave some space between images, and include a buffer between your main body and your sidebars.
Finally, put your text in a legible font and size. 16pt to 18pt is great for screens, and sans-serif is the standard for web-based fonts.
By improving the usability of your site for your visitors, they are more likely to stay on your pages.
People like to understand information that they read. Lists are one tool that help readers make sense of information. Use any tool you need to help you present your information more clearly for your viewers. Informational tools can include anything from infographics, repetition, tutorial videos, case studies, testimonials and beyond.
I like to put my main points in a different typeface and larger size to help them stand out. I also use examples such as Pedals & Gears to help explain how my advice can apply to different kinds of organizations.
Use any tool you need to help you present your information more clearly for your viewers.
If you want a specific tool to help you communicate better with your audience, try using audience personas.
Throughout all of this, remember to keep it simple.