SEO Tips: Visitor Retention

If you have just designed and developed a great new website then the next step is to get people visiting. Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be the key to increase a website’s exposure on the web, but for real success you need to keep the visitors on your website.

A good metric for measuring how well your website is retaining visitors is ‘bounce rate’ – best monitored in Google Analytics. Although bounce rate can provide you with some key reference data for analysing visitor activity, it doesn’t hold the key to everything – here is why.

The percentage provided by the bounce rate metric refers to visitors who ‘bounce’ away from your website to another site without visiting any of the other pages or interacting in any way. Now although you may have a good (low) bounce rate, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the maximum potential of your visitors are being retained once they visit your website. What about the users who tried to access a page and failed? Or the person who searched for something and it wasn’t found?

Here are a couple of tips to help maximise visitor retention.

1. www/non-www – On a typical website there will be one of two ways the primary domain can be accessed, the examples of which are below.

- www.example.com
- example.com

Note the lack of ‘www.’ in the second example.

If you have set your website up so that the primary URL is www.example.com that doesn’t mean that you should ignore the non-www version. People are lazy, and if they think they know a domain they may try typing it directly into their address bar without the ‘www.’. The problem with this is that unless you have setup a redirect on that URL, the visitor will be presented with an error page.
The correct way to avoid this is to setup a 301 redirect on your secondary URL to direct people to the primary one. Read about URL canonicalisation on Matt Cutts’ blog for more information.

2. Custom 404 Page – The second tip to retain visitors follows along the same lines. If somebody tries to visit a link on your website that may not be working for whatever reason, then they will receive a 404 response from the web server. By default, the 404 error will present itself in the form of an error page in your user’s browser, which may lead them to find their information elsewhere. To avoid this, setup a custom 404 page that includes helpful links and perhaps a search box that encourages users to hang around.

Which leads us nicely onto our next tip…

3. Site Searches – If you have a search facility on your website then you ideally need it to be as helpful as possible. If a user types a search in that isn’t found, then providing suggestions may just help them find what they were looking for. If you are using WordPress to power your website, you may want to take a look Yoast’s article about search where he covers misspellings and related suggestions. To ensure you are monitoring what people are searching for on your website, track people’s searches using Google Analytics.

4. Related Pages – Providing visitors with related information or similar pages can improve user interaction significantly – especially in ecommerce websites. If you think of the Amazon website as an example, they provide many similar products throughout the site, including related searches, recommendations and items other people bought. Try including relevant links on your high-traffic pages to keep your visitors wanting more.

5. Load Time – Last but by no means least is the load time of your web pages. With page speed soon to become a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm, there has never been a more critical time to make your pages load faster. If you have a page with great quality content, both users and search engines may be put off if it takes over a minute to load due to a large flash banner you have placed on the page. Ideally you should be looking for a page load time of 2 seconds (or under), but try to keep it under 4 seconds at a maximum.

Tips to improve load time include reducing the number of external files on your website, compressing images and having your site physically hosted in the country of your target audience.

If your website could benefit from a boost in traffic or you would like to find out more about SEO, why not get in touch with Mediaspin to see how we can help.

Call 0161 903 8658 today, or email info@mediaspin.co.uk

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