Search and Navigate – Top tips for website success

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Navigation is one of the most important features on any website – it affects traffic and search engine rankings, user friendliness, visitor engagement and ultimately conversions.

How many times has your internet search led you to a website that appears to sell everything you need but then you lose your way around the website and can't find what you were looking for? Frustrating isn't it?

The more complex your website is and the more products that you feature on the site, the more difficulty your potential customers may have in locating the product or service they are looking for. Don't forget that visitors can enter a site through any page, not just the homepage!

Users must be easily able to reach the homepage and all major site sections from any page whilst navigating around a website.

How can you improve your website navigation?

1) Be consistent

Having your navigation in standard places makes your site easier to use. Visitors expect to find horizontal navigation across the top or vertical navigation down the left side. If your navigation is constantly changing from page to page, visitors can lose their way which can lead to higher bounce rates, less pages per visit and lower conversions. Can you be sure that if your analytics show that visitor time on the site has increased that it's due to engaging content or have potential clients just spent too long trying to find what they were looking for?

2) The Hansel and Gretel approach

Visitors to your site should always be able to see their current location, where they have been and where they need to go next. 'Breadcrumbs' are a navigation aid allowing users to keep track of their locations within a website. Using or changing the font size and or the colour of the current page are also good techniques to remind users of their location. Keep your important pages like 'Contact Us' and 'Location' only one click away from the homepage and always provide a means of escape, such as a homepage link on every page of your website or an easy-to-find search bar.

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3) Be accurate and relevant

Titles of navigation links should be concise, descriptive and intuitive. Users should easily understand what every link leads to. Cryptic or misleading navigation text confuses and annoys visitors, possibly to the point of abandoning the site. If your navigation contains multiple sections, categories or sub-categories, these categories must be clearly and visually defined. Your navigation also gives you a golden opportunity to show how relevant you are to search engines. As your clientele won't be searching for “products” or “services,” navigation with these labels won’t help your site rankings. Use labels that include popular key phrases and targeted key words instead.

4) The less is more approach

- Fewer clicks – All pages need clickable links but don't overload your pages with too many that clutter up the content. The fewer links you have, the more likely the user is to click on one of them.

- Fewer menu items - With fewer menu items, your visitors’ eyes are less likely to scan past the important ones. Every time you remove a menu item, the remaining items become more prominent.

- Shorter routes are best - Concise navigation is also important for SEO. Your home page has the most 'authority' with search engines since it will almost definitely have more links to it than your internal web pages. SEOs call this authority 'link juice' and like a liquid, it flows from the home page to deeper pages through the navigation. When your navigation has too many links, less authority and trust is passed down to the internal pages, making them less likely to be ranked.

4) Buttons – Image or text-based?

Which buttons are you using on your web pages -text buttons or image buttons? Image buttons are not search friendly, as the text within is invisible to search engines. Links are also harder to update using these, as some form of graphic input is required. What's more, they load more slowly than text buttons, so they are especially bad for mobile users. To prevent these problems, avoid image buttons and use text buttons for your links instead.

And finally....Having a site with robust internal search functionality can be used as another method of navigation on your site, helping visitors to quickly find the product or information that interests them. This not only keeps them engaged on your website and make them more likely to follow through their visit with a sale but also helps search engines index your important information more efficiently and more effectively. When using an in-site search feature, the search results page must always produce relevant results. It must compensate for misspellings, show related items and even produce results for products you don’t have while displaying similar products you offer. Never produce a search result as 'no products found.' If customers can't find something to buy then they can't buy it!

So, here's the bottom line - businesses that take such extra steps to help users find what they need will have the competitive edge over businesses that don't!

Need help improving the search and navigation on your website? Contact Evergreen, the Gloucestershire based bespoke web development specialists.