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oUsability – Two aspects are important for a website to produce a satisfying performance. Not only it needs to be well optimized for search engines, or be search engine friendly, but it also needs to be optimized for visitors, or be user friendly. That is why usability factors are so important when it comes to designing navigation, framework, and contents of a website.
oFeedback – One cannot afford to ignore type of keywords and other search criteria that will generate largest rate of conversion from visitors to clients. By analyzing this data periodically we can continually optimize our website, not necessarily to obtain a greater number of top search engine rankings, but to improve our efficiency and profitability (our real goal).
From information to knowledge
This will be one of buzzwords for 2005. The true goal for this year will be to achieve that a larger number of web visitors actually become clients. Obtaining top rankings in search engines, even though is one of most worthwhile investments, still costs money. It is even more expensive to sign up for an AdWords campaign or any other pay-per-click scheme. Besides, higher traffic level, more bandwidth will be required and, in some instances, cost to analyze traffic statistics will increase. That is why quality of traffic is always going to be valued over quantity. This paradigm shift will involve efforts in two different areas: positioning and results analysis and measurement.
It will be time well spent to identify and select those key concepts for our niche market and most efficient search engines and value-added portals to direct quality traffic to our website. The majority of effort will be concentrated in areas listed below.
oWeb optimization will no longer belong to just a few. It is foreseeable that by generalizing web optimization procedures, competition among websites in same line of business will shift from application of certain “tricks” (e.g., meta-tags, keyword saturations, etc.) to improvements in areas such as content enrichment, usability, a genuine interest towards end-users and addition of external references by placing access links in related websites. oQuality code. XHTML 1.0 code and CSS 2.0 style sheets are becoming increasingly popular syntaxes for development of web pages. They provide flexibility and possibility to easily customize a web design, while significantly increasing page loading speeds, thus improving accessibility and indexing of a website. oCultural and geographical content adaptation. Global websites go beyond translation of their text to multiple languages. They also adapt their entire content to match local peculiarities and cultural and linguistic differences of each country or region. In United States, for example, websites adapted to capture attention of Hispanic community, number one minority in that country, have already started to surface. In multi-cultural environment of European Union, an even larger need exists to adapt website contents to different languages and cultural interests of each country. And finally, one cannot ignore emergent interest by western businesses of capturing Chinese, Indian, and Middle-eastern audiences. oUsability and accessibility. These are two principles that besides improving and facilitating conversion process from users to clients, they demand a greater social responsibility towards minorities, and generally speaking, an increase in degree in which a website has to be indexed for a search engine.
Web traffic analysis:
Web positioning and web traffic reports, in isolation, no longer have valuable meaning if they are being used as only set of metrics to determine success of a website. Instead, one should focus not only in selection of most significant set of performance metrics for a website (the so-called key Performance Indicators), but also in continuous monitoring of these indicators in order to establish trends and anticipate changes. To ensure success, this type of analysis must follow following guidelines: oEach department should establish their own set of metrics and associated performance indicators. Examples of such indicators could be rate of satisfactory results generated by an internal product search engine, rate of cases that were resolved at a help desk, participation rate among various website sections as depicted in web traffic reports, rate of products that get added to a shopping cart, rate of visits that concluded in a successful sale, recommendations sent to other users, how visitors valued different products, number of contacts established, etc. oOnce performance indicators have been identified for each case, a monitoring calendar should be put in place to periodically track various metrics. Instead of receiving hundreds of web traffic statistics, each department head can then focus in tracking their own performance indicators. oThis form of tracking does allow each responsible party to contemplate improvement plans and determine if previous strategies are having anticipated success. Since they are only monitoring their own area, corrective measures can be quickly identified and applied. oBased on information obtained from these indicators, entire cycle can be started again.
The search engine consolidation in three primary players –Google, Yahoo! and MSN Search- has simplified, in a way, task of positioning websites for those engines. Notwithstanding, generalization of this type of strategies has started to erode competitive edge that early websites obtained from using “tricks” to attract attention of certain search engines. From here on, however, battle for a successful website placement strays from application of “tricks” by expert wannabes towards more sound, while more complex, strategies including not only optimization of meta-tags, but also enrichment of page contents, code correctness, generation of contents for other websites, participation in forums and chat rooms, active search for partners and access links, on-line training, usability, accessibility, etc. And it is in this new environment, armed with a good set of increasingly sophisticated web traffic analysis tools, that we can make well educated marketing decisions, not only to improve our on-line presence, but to benefit our off-line world as well. As a final comment, I would like to raise possibility that some or all these tactics may prove ineffective by year end. However, since we have not found that perfect crystal ball yet, it seems wise and prudent to start from basis suggested in this paper and keep a watchful eye on any new developments that may impact course that we decide to set.
Fernando Maciá is Human Level Communications' CEO, a company with offices in Alicante, Spain and Dallas, Texas. We specialize in web design, CMS development, search engine optimization and traffic statistics data mining. http://www.humanlevel.com