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Optimizing Your Web Site

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Title: Optimizing Your Web Site


1
Optimizing Your Web Site
  • Christy West
  • SkyGirl Media
  • Christy_at_SkyGirlMedia.com

2
Seminar Poll
3
What does web site optimization mean to you?
  • Search engine optimization
  • Better content
  • Better design
  • Better page load times
  • Better marketing
  • Better sales
  • Better advertising
  • New and improved site features
  • Better usability
  • ?

Do you notice a trend here?
4
OptimizingJust a Buzzword for Making it Better
  • Not a mystical formula or special process
  • Every site is different
  • When you leverage your content and site interface
    to best serve your audience's needs and wants
    while fulfilling or exceeding your business
    goals, your site is optimized.

5
Its Not a One-Time Thing
  • The biggest point I want to make today is that
    optimizing a web site is not a one-time
    procedure. Your audience is constantly evolving,
    as are your content and your business goals.
  • Your web site needs to evolve along with them,
    and it will only do that if your staff regularly
    focuses on your site and how to make it better.

6
1 Optimization Resource
  • YOU!
  • The most important resource in website
    optimization is the time and brainpower you put
    towards identifying what your site needs and
    planning how you can best provide it.

7
1 Plan Your Attack
  • Colors
  • Layout
  • Search options
  • Content presentation
  • Branding
  • Ad presentation/serving
  • Blogs
  • RSS feeds
  • Community features like message boards or article
    comments, etc.

You have to have a plan to make the best use of
your time, your programmers'/designers' time, and
create the best product for your audience.
8
How do you plan to make your site better?
  • Consider your sites mission
  • Audience needs and wants
  • Content
  • Business goals
  • Usability

All five of these aspects must work together to
yield a website that supports the goals of your
audience and your business.
9
Site Mission
  • What is the overall purpose of your site?
  • Publication mission
  • Internal mission

10
Audience Needs and Wants
  • Who are your online readers?
  • How many of them subscribe to your print
    publication, if you have one?
  • What's their age, sex, number of horses, number
    of hours spent online per week, number of hours
    spent on your site per week?
  • Are they the primary caregivers for their horses?
  • How many hours a week do they ride or drive?
  • Do they show?
  • Do they give lessons?

All of these bits of information and any others
specific to your publication/audience help you
figure out how to give your audience more of what
they want and less of what they don't.
11
Focus on Content
  • What is it about your content that is unique?
  • Do you update it more often than most people?
  • Serve a particular niche?
  • Feature well-known columnists that have a gift
    for striking a chord with your readers?
  • Whatever it is that you do best is what you need
    to highlight on your website.

12
Business Goals
  • Financial targets
  • Audience size targets
  • Number of subscriptions generated targets
  • Revenue targets
  • Anything your organization deems important enough
    to require a target and a timeline.

If you want a successful site, you need goals
that push you to improveto provide more
information, better information, or good
information in better waysso that you gain a
bigger audience, more revenue, or whatever your
goal is.
13
Usability
  • The ability of site visitors to use the site
    without error.
  • Good usability Important tasks (search,
    register, purchase, etc.) done without errors and
    frustration by most people.
  • Bad Tasks cant easily be completed. User
    leaves.

How does usability relate to productivity? A
usable website means the user can be very
productive, busily and happily searching,
reading, and buying.
14
Consequences of Poor Usability
  • "Launching a site that is difficult to use will
    deprive the business of its best customers those
    that are so eager to use your service that they
    will visit the site as soon as they hear about
    it. If these users get a bad experience, they
    will not only be lost to you as customers, they
    will also be lost as potential future advocates
    for the site. In fact, any hopes of viral
    marketing will turn into a bad fever as infected
    users warn others to stay away from the site.
  • "Once a user has had a bad experience on a
    website, it is very difficult to convince him or
    her to come back. Resampling is one of the
    hardest sells and will cost your marketing budget
    much more money than the modest cost of getting
    the website right in the first place."--Jakob
    Nielsen, http//www.useit.com/alertbox/20000402.ht
    ml
  • Although it's often neglected, usability is just
    as critical to site performance as content,
    audience, and good business goals. If people
    can't find it or use it, it might as well not
    exist.

15
Everythings Connected
  • None of these things we're discussingmission,
    audience, content, and business goals, and
    usabilityexist independently. They all build on
    each other.
  • Planning your site from the ground up with all of
    these factors in mind will generate a product
    that fulfills both your business goals and your
    audience's goals.

16
Optimizing for Search Engines
  • One study says that 81 of Internet users rely on
    search engines and directories to find the
    information they need.
  • Google was the search engine of choice for 55.2
    of U.S. searches in April, according to a recent
    article on Yahoo! Finance. Its nearest neighbor
    was Yahoo Inc. with 21.9 of the market share.
  • More than 90 of users never go past the first
    page of search engine results.

17
Factors Driving Rankings
  • Keyword relevancy
  • Inbound links
  • Domain strength
  • User data
  • Content quality
  • Code to text ratio
  • Code quality
  • Page information
  • Header tags

18
Keyword Relevancy
  • Article subject Founder in horses
  • Keyword research tool http//tools.seobook.com/ge
    neral/keyword/
  • Tells the number of searches done in a recent
    30-day period on Yahoo, estimated values for
    Google and MSN along with suggested variations.

19
Results
20
Laminitis Results
21
Domain Strength
  • if someone is searching for Western saddles, all
    else being equal between the two sites, a domain
    like www.WesternSaddles.com will rank higher than
    a page on Western saddles on www.christysblog.com.
  • If you don't already have a domain name suited to
    your content, get one!

22
Content Quality, Inbound Links, User Data
  • High-quality content
  • High usage of your site
  • High number of links back
  • Higher search engine rankings

23
Code To Text Ratio
  • Related to keyword density on the page
  • Related to overall code used to display the page
  • So less code is better

24
Cascading Style Sheets
  • Generally result in lighter code than standard
    HTML
  • The style sheet is cached by the browser, meaning
    that in the page code all one has to do is mark a
    paragraph or other element as part of a named
    style. Then the code that controls its display
    has to be downloaded only once, not once per
    paragraph, and the page itself is much lighter
    without all the display markup.
  • Consistency and ease of global changes are
    additional benefits

25
Example
http//www.hotdesign.com/seybold/16nasty.html
26
Optimize Images Too
  • File name
  • Alt tag
  • Title tag
  • Longdesc tag
  • Dont ltimg srcfigure1.jpggt
  • Do ltimg srchoof-trimming.jpg altFarrier
    trimming hoof titleFarrier trimming hoof
    longdeschttp//www.thehorse.com/FarrierTrimmingHo
    ofgt

27
Code Quality
  • Code that does not adhere to W3C (World Wide Web
    Consortium) standards can cause spiders to leave
    your page, never finding that valuable content.
  • http//validator.w3.org/
  • Download time analyzer http//www.websiteoptimiza
    tion.com/services/analyze/

28
Page Information
  • A web page can specify its title, description,
    and keywords through META tags that do not
    display to the user (except for the title
    appearing in the title bar at the top of the
    window).
  • These tags should be optimized for search engines
    as well.
  • Title

29
Page Information META Description
  • Not all engines use this, but it's valuable for
    those who do.
  • Brief description that characterizes your page
    and highlights your special focus.
  • If you don't have one, or if the engine prefers
    to show terms in context, the description will
    usually be pulled from the text nearest the most
    "important" uses of the keyword.
  • Example

30
Page Information META keywords
  • Not used by all engines, but help for some as
    long as the words also appear in your text
  • Code example ltmeta name"keywords"
    content"jambalaya recipes rice"gt
  • Good for displaying variations on search terms
    such as "horse health, horse health care, health
    information for horses," etc.

31
Header Tags
  • Search engines place more weight on text inside
    header tagging.
  • Used to denote headlines and subheads

32
Optimizing Usability
  • Usability is a quality attribute that assesses
    how easy user interfaces are to use.
  • Learnability How easy is it for users to
    accomplish basic tasks the first time they
    encounter the design?
  • Efficiency Once users have learned the design,
    how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability When users return to the design
    after a period of not using it, how easily can
    they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors How many errors do users make, how severe
    are these errors, and how easily can they recover
    from the errors?
  • Satisfaction How pleasant is it to use the
    design?

33
There are plenty of other websites available
leaving is the first line of defense when users
encounter a difficulty.
34
Here come your competitors
35
A Little Experiment
  • Grab the least Web-savvy person you know who is
    not familiar with your site and park them in
    front of your computer.
  • Pull up your Web site and ask them to do some of
    the basic tasks someone should be able to do on
    your site.
  • Do not help, encourage, discourage, or direct
    them in any way. Sit behind them and tie your
    hands down if you have to.

36
Its OK, Theyll Learn
  • While some might argue that people will get used
    to a design and learn to use it more effectively,
    Nielsen offers this observation
  • "Usability can improve error avoidance
    substantially more than skilled experienced
    user performance."

37
KISS
  • The overall message of most usability
    recommendations? Keep it simple, stupid. Give
    people what they want, when they want it, looking
    like they expect it to look, without cluttering
    them up with things they don't want.

38
Think like a user
  • Avoid internal jargon and organization
  • The user hasnt always done it that way
  • Example Posting of content by issue because once
    upon a time, the point was to feature your
    magazine's content on the web and sell magazines.
    Now not too many people care about content by
    issue, they want information on a topic and the
    issue date is largely irrelevant clutter.

39
But remember you arent one
  • You know too much.
  • One of usability's most hard-earned lessons is
    that "you are not the user." If you work on a
    development project, you're atypical by
    definition. Design to optimize the user
    experience for outsiders, not insiders.--Nielsen
  • How? Back to user testing. Find out what your
    users really want from your site.

40
Keys to Usability
  • Communicating clearly so that users understand
    you. Users allocate minimal time to initial
    website visits, so you must quickly convince them
    that the site's worthwhile.
  • Providing information users want. Users must be
    able to easily determine whether your services
    meet their needs and why they should do business
    with you.
  • Offering simple, consistent page design, clear
    navigation, and an information architecture that
    puts things where users expect to find them.

41
Common Violations
  • Bad search (too literal)

42
Common Violations
  • PDF files for online reading
  • Not changing the color of visited links
  • Non-scannable text
  • Fixed font size
  • Poor contrast between text and background
  • Page titles with low search engine visibility
  • Things that look like ads

43
Common Violations
  • Violating design conventions
  • Nielsen Consistency is one of the most powerful
    usability principles when things always behave
    the same, users don't have to worry about what
    will happen. Instead, they know what will happen
    based on earlier experience.
  • The more users' expectations prove right, the
    more they will feel in control of the system and
    the more they will like it. And the more the
    system breaks users' expectations, the more they
    will feel insecure.
  • Jakob's Law of the Web User Experience states
    that "users spend most of their time on other
    websites." This means that they form their
    expectations for your site based on what's
    commonly done on most other sites. If you
    deviate, your site will be harder to use and
    users will leave.

44
Common Violations
  • New browser windows
  • Not answering users' questions
  • Frames
  • Gratuitous use of bleeding-edge technology

45
And More Common Violations
  • Continuous animations
  • Complex URLs
  • Orphan pages
  • Long scrolling pages
  • Lack of navigation support
  • Nonstandard link colors
  • Outdated information
  • Last but not least Long download times.

46
So What DO You Do?
  • Nielsen "Usability plays a role in each stage of
    the design process. Main steps
  • Before starting the new design, test the old
    design to identify the good parts that you should
    keep or emphasize, and the bad parts that give
    users trouble.
  • Unless you're working on an intranet, test your
    competitors' designs to get cheap data on a range
    of alternative interfaces that have similar
    features to your own. (If you work on an
    intranet, read the intranet design annuals to
    learn from other designs.)
  • Conduct a field study to see how users behave in
    their natural habitat.
  • Make paper prototypes of one or more new design
    ideas and test them. The less time you invest in
    these design ideas the better, because you'll
    need to change them all based on the test
    results.

47
What To Do, Continued
  • Refine the design ideas that test best through
    multiple iterations, gradually moving from
    low-fidelity prototyping to high-fidelity
    representations that run on the computer. Test
    each iteration.
  • Inspect the design relative to established
    usability guidelines, whether from your own
    earlier studies or published research.
  • Once you decide on and implement the final
    design, test it again. Subtle usability problems
    always creep in during implementation.

48
Dont Make This Mistake
  • Don't defer user testing until you have a fully
    implemented design. If you do, it will be
    impossible to fix the vast majority of the
    critical usability problems that the test
    uncovers.
  • The only way to a high-quality user experience is
    to start user testing early in the design process
    and to keep testing every step of the way.

49
More Usability Topics
  • Reading on the Web http//www.useit.com/alertbox/
    9710a.html
  • Writing for the Web http//www.useit.com/papers/w
    ebwriting/

50
Enhancing the User Experience
  • First make sure whatever you're considering
    really will enhance the user's experience with
    your site, and isn't just giving you something
    new and fun to work on.
  • Not all technologies fit all sites and audiences.

51
A Few Enhancements
  • RSS
  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Social bookmarking
  • Folksonomy
  • Chat rooms
  • User-generated content
  • Message boards
  • Article/blog comments
  • Vote on content value
  • Product reviews
  • Wikis

52
What Will You Have Done?
  • Make sure the new feature really fits your site.
  • Then the skys the limit!

53
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54
User-Generated Content Article/Blog Comments
55
AJAX
56
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57
Developing new features
  • Might have to outsource to get those skills
  • Test, test, and test again!

58
Metrics
  • What people actually do online is often different
    than what they say they do, or would do if given
    the chance. Metrics can tell you what people are
    really doing and how they're doing it.
  • Key Find the person in your organization who
    loves pulling and analyzing this stuff, because
    most people don't.

59
A Few Aspects of Metrics
  • What can be measured
  • What you should measure
  • How to measure it
  • How to use that information to make your site
    better

60
What Can Be Measured
  • Pretty much anything a user clicks or types on
    your site can be logged and measured, along with
    the time in between. Let's start with some of the
    basics, such as
  • Page views/impressions
  • Number of unique visitors
  • Number of repeat visitors
  • Average session length
  • Does anyone track hits anymore?

61
What Can Be Measured Editorially
  • Popular pages
  • Click paths
  • Entry pages
  • Exit pages
  • Bounce rate
  • Search terms
  • Error codes

62
What Can Be Measured Engines
  • Top referrers
  • Top search engines
  • Search terms
  • Amount of traffic generated by search engines ()
  • Paid search advertising performance

63
What Can Be Measured User Variables
  • Browser and version
  • Operating system and version
  • Screen resolution
  • Screen colors
  • Javascript enabled/version
  • Location---sort of. Often ties through primary
    provider, so not always as useful as you might
    like.

64
What Can Be Measured Ads
  • Ad impressions
  • Clickthroughs
  • Clickthrough rates

65
What Can Be Measured Marketing/Sales
  • Number of sales
  • Sale revenues
  • Conversion rate
  • Paid search advertising

66
What You Should Measure
  • What's important to your business? That's what
    you should measure. The overall statistics are
    important to maintain an broad picture of things,
    but the details will vary depending on your
    site's content and goals.

67
How to Measure It
  • Many, many choices
  • Just starting out? Try Google Analytics, its
    free

68
How to Use That Information to Make Your Site
Better
  • Identify things you're doing well so you can
    capitalize on them
  • Identify problem areas that need fixing
  • Identify trends that tell you your audience's
    needs are changing

69
Examples
  • High traffic in a topic area might stimulate you
    to do a special newsletter on that topic.
  • High traffic in a particular general message
    board might suggest splitting that topic area
    into subtopics.
  • High bounce rate on homepage might cause you to
    trim down and focus your message so that it gets
    across more quickly and clearly, hopefully
    resulting in lower bounce rate.
  • High number of views of a new feature (i.e., a
    blog) leads you to develop more features along
    that line.
  • Low percentage of traffic from search engines
    might lead you to work on search engine
    optimization.
  • Decreased sales might lead you to promote a more
    appealing deal to your users.
  • Consistently low traffic at a certain time of day
    might lead you to roll out any site changes at
    that timeless server load and fewer users
    possibly being inconvenienced during the
    switchover.

70
Usability example QuickFind
  • Initial location high in nav links
  • People were using a lot this is good, right?
  • Not necessarily
  • It was also generating a lot of errors. Why? It
    was an empty blankpeople thought it was a search
    box and typed words into it. Since it was only
    designed to accept numbers, that didnt work so
    well.

71
Why It Didnt Work/Results
  • We violated consistent design principles rulewe
    had given them something that looked like a
    keyword search box but didn't work like one.
    Here's a snapshot of what we were seeing
  • In 10 days of traffic 693 uses of this form,
    30-40 errors/day 48-63 error rate. Ouch.
  • We moved it down out of the first screen.
  • Results (6 days of traffic) 141 hits, 10 errors
    total (max, estimated) 7.1 error rate. Much
    better!

72
Wrapping Up
  • A lot goes into optimizing a web site, but much
    of it is the same resource that goes into
    optimizing your magazineusing your goals,
    content, and knowledge of your audience to plan
    out and maintain a quality product.
  • There are additional considerations brought on by
    the technology and interactivity, but don't be
    daunted! Those are just opportunity for
    innovation. And improving your website is one of
    the best possible things you can do to improve
    your brand.

73
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74
A few additional resources
  • Search engine optimization www.seomoz.org
  • Usability www.useit.com
  • A List Apart For People Who Make Websites
    http//www.alistapart.com

75
Any questions?
Any questions?
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