Should you built sites for users, not search engines? Or is there a middle ground?…
Inspired by the Montreal PPC experts at Bloom Search Marketing, I came across the following excellent bit of navigation. It’s great for users … and can also tie in nicely with SEO, which I’ll get to after explaining the beauty from a conversion perspective.
The Conversion Angle
I’d venture a bet that this navigation is probably doing wonders for the site’s conversion rate. Why? Because it allows people to penetrate more deeply into the site by browsing according to criteria that matters to them.
For those of you familiar with sales closing tactics, this is the “either-or” close. You don’t ask whether or not people want to buy – you ask them to pick an attribute of the product that they care about.
It’s win-win: the buyer narrows down the field of potential candidates and makes his choice easier, while the seller gets an increased level of commitment to the sale. In conversion rate optimization terms, this navigation drives people further into the website off the homepage, which is exactly what the homepage’s purpose exists for.
Hence this recent screen cap of a mobile site developed for Carnival Cruise Lines:
Notice that the key navigation there is to select what kind of cruise you’re interested in? Excellent.
The SEO approach to category navigation
If you’ve ever browsed ecommerce sites with an eye towards SEO, you’ll often notice long, scrolling sidebars full of category links. They often look something like this:
Shop for wines by:
Wines from France
Wines from Israel
Wines from Germany
Wines from USA
Wines from Canada
Wines from Australia
Sauvignon Blanc Wines
Sauvignon Roughe Wines
Pinot Grigiot Wines
Pinot Noir Wines
You can see how these lists quickly grow into massive monstrosities whose sole purpose is to direct search engines deeper into the site – not humans. Humans scan, and lists this long repulse the scanning eye. (Not to mention the annoying keyword stuffing. Just say, “Shop for wines from:” and list the countries…)
That may be acceptable if your strategy is centered on driving search traffic to your category pages and converting visitors from there.
But that strategy neglects the home page… the strongest page on your site from an SEO perspective! Why not try to rank the homepage for some core terms? And if you rank, obviously you need to convert too – which means that you want your navigation to lead people further into the site! (See above regarding the conversion side of things.)
So what’s the solution?