Posts in Web Design

A Moving Target: Are Mobile Devices Costing You Business?

May 22nd, 2009 Posted by Web Design 0 thoughts

There are multiple parties involved in the B2B purchase decision. While several parties have the ability to influence the purchase decision (e.g., purchasing personnel), those with the ability to make the decision are typically very busy, often spending significant time on the road, in airports, in meetings. They may not be tethered to their laptop, but most are inseparable from an iPhone or BlackBerry.

While these decision-makers may not initiate purchase research, they often receive purchase recommendations of others via email, and these emails contain links to sellers’ sites. What could be easier than clearing some emails or doing a couple quick searches with Google Mobile while waiting for the next plane? In the next 10 minutes, an executive could form her initial perceptions of your firm based on what she sees on her iPhone. Are you happy with what she’ll find? Do you even know what she’ll find?

Years ago, we were finishing the build of a new, optimized site for a client. The client wanted the site’s primary navigation to be in Flash. So we incorporated other ways for search engines to get to the site’s content from the home page. We also had plenty of html-based intra-site linking within the copy of the site’s pages. One night, I wanted to check the team’s progress on the site. I grabbed my BlackBerry. I quickly found that the only way a mobile user could actually get into the site from the home page was through html links for things like the site map and privacy policy. While I could get to all the content, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, to say the least. The next day, we began to make changes to speak to the mobile user.

Last spring, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study on the use of mobile devices. As of December 2007, 19% of respondents had used their mobile device to access the internet; 7% said they did so regularly, on a typical day. Certainly, these numbers have gone up dramatically since then, and they’ll continue to do so.

If you don’t know what mobile users will experience when they visit your site, you should take the next five minutes to find out. How does your site display? Are there features of your site that don’t even load? Is your site’s primary content easily accessible to mobile users? Are mobile visitors drawn to take desired actions with the same persuasion and ease as desktop users? How long does it take for your site to load? How are images displayed? How easily can mobile users navigate? Is your site engaging to mobile users? Based on what you find, you should either make some changes to your site or create a separate experience for mobile users.

You can also use your analytics to see what mobile users are doing. Most analytics programs allow you to see what platforms visitors are using. You can see what percentage of your visitors are using Safari, Firefox, IE; a Mac or PC; and even XP or Vista. But you can also see how many visitors are using Safari on an iPhone, and you can segment these visitors to determine if their behavior is different from more traditional visitors. How do the bounce rates compare? How long do they stay? How deep are the visits? What are the conversion rates? Wide variance from traditional visitors may indicate the need for changes.

When you look at your analytics, you may be tempted to discount this population because they have far less average page views than traditional visitors. Just remember, your site (not the visitor) may be the primary reason for this. You also may be tempted to discount the importance of this population because mobile users are a small percentage of total site visitors. Keep in mind this population is going to do nothing but grow.

How does your site look on an iPhone?

Keeping Visitors Engaged With Site Search

May 22nd, 2008 Posted by Web Design 0 thoughts

B2B sites tend to be more difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Perhaps it’s because things don’t always fit neatly into more intuitive consumer categories. Perhaps it’s because B2B sites are often laden with so much diverse information. While site owners can engineer enhanced usability, better optimize and structure content, or create better organic landing pages, none of these options is a quick fix. Google’s Site Search offers a quick, inexpensive way to keep visitors engaged and (hopefully) get them quickly to their destination on your site.

We’ve all clicked on promising organic search results and been quickly disappointed that the landing page doesn’t contain what we’re looking for. In many cases I’ll often land at a site I’m fairly certain contains what I want, so I’ll take a few clicks through the site’s navigation. But if I don’t find what I want in a few clicks, I don’t have the patience to keep searching. I’ll go to another site. All of us see these visits in our analytics, too. A four-page, 20-second visit. Then, they’re gone.

Site search functionality offers a way to keep visitors engaged a while longer. If visitors don’t quickly find what they want through navigation, they may try the site’s search tool. Many B2B visitors will go to the site’s search tool right away as an alternative to navigating to find an answer.

While many larger sites have already have site search functions, more often than not I’ve been disappointed with their search results. When I’m looking for a specific product or service, I’ll get hundreds of search results, but the first 30 results will be investor news releases or obscure technical articles. The results aren’t relevant to my quest. Not only do I leave without my desired answer, I’ve also formed some negative perceptions of the company and its website.

Last week, Google relaunched its rebranded custom search engine as Google Site Search. I think it’s a good answer for many B2B sites. It doesn’t cost much. Pricing depends on the number of pages indexed and the number of annual queries. For a site with less than 5,000 pages and less than 250,000 annual search queries, the cost is $100 per year. Pretty reasonable.

Getting all of your content indexed by Google can be a challenge, especially with large B2B sites. Google Site Search offers the opportunity of deeper site indexing for site-specific search. While this deeper site indexing won’t get more pages indexed by Google or help you in your Google rankings for web searches at Google.com, it will help you ensure all of your pages are reflected in the index of your site’s Google Site Search. This means searchers will get different (and likely better) results using Google’s Site Search on your site than if they used Google.com to search for information on your site (e.g., incorporating site:www.yoursite.com into the Google query).

Google’s site search also gives site owners the opportunity to “bias” the search results in a couple ways. For sites in which new content is typically more important, site owners can ensure search results are more heavily weighted to newer site content. Site owners can also bias search results to reflect certain sections of the site more than others, e.g., product-related pages more than company-information pages. This can help drive searchers more quickly to revenue-generating pages.

If you don’t have search capabilities on your B2B site, it makes sense to spend $100 to try it. There’s not much you can do for $100 these days. So try it out. Then watch your analytics. Notice what visitors search for. That alone is great information. Also, see if your bounce rates decline, or if the average time on your site goes up materially. And watch your conversion rates.

If you already have search functionality on your site, you still may want to test out Google Site Search. Set it up and do some comparative searches. See if you think the search results are more relevant or if the user experience is better. I’m not sure if Google’s Site Search will be better than what you already have (and I’m not trying to sell Google’s Site Search), but again, for $100, it’s worth a test.

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