SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

The mobile user and your site

When you think about who your ‘typical’ visitor to your site, is that person someone who is viewing your site from a desktop computer, from a notebook computer at Panera Bread by WiFi or are they using a smart phone?

I was thinking about this last week when I was surfing IMDB.com from the parking lot after watching Terminator and wanted to see what McG had done previously. So there from the parking lot, we quickly were able to look up the site, get to the page and see the biography of McG and a variety of other stars, producers and directors in just a few minutes while continuing the conversation.  Lifesaving – absolutely not.  Convenient – very much so.  We continued the conversation (the rare beautiful spring nights that are not too warm or not too cold – sweet).

Looking at a website from a smart phone is often referred to as the 3rd screen (TV being 1st, Desktop computer 2nd, whatever is in your pocket or purse is 3rd).

While IMDB’s site was not fully optimized for the 3rd screen, it does not recognize when it is on a small browser, it was more than acceptable with the graphics turned off.

If your site will have a lot of 3rd screen visitors – people more often to be ‘out and about’ rather than sitting at a desk, you need to make sure your site accommodates their needs – lean, fast, direct and to the point.  Restaurants are a great example, but so are doctors, retailers and most businesses with a local audience.  They will often be looking for the essential facts:

–        Name of business – do they have the correct name of the business, and what sign are they looking for as they drive down the street.

–        Type of service or product – Do you provide the product or service I am looking for.

–        Location – Where are you?  1st to determine if I want to go to your place, second, how do I get there.

–        Hours – When are you there?  If I leave now, will you be there when I arrive.

–        Phone number – How do I call and verify the above information or ask one more question?

–        Directions – How do I really get to your place, especially at rush hour?

–        What does the entrance or sign look like?

–        Have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page.

–        Link to your ‘normal’ pages/site.

Notice all of these are from the customer’s perspective, not yours.  They do not care about your feelings; it is all about WIIFM (what is in it for me).

So consider building a simple version of your site, and pay a few dollars to get a sub domain of mobile.xxxx.com that also links to your main site.

Tips on designing for the format:

–        This should be clear and simple to let mobile browsers get the information at speeds comparable to old dialup speeds.

–        The layout should have few graphics. Many 3rd screens have graphics turned off by default. In other words, put the text navigation on the top, and the graphic navigation on the bottom (opposite of ‘normal’ sites designed for home users).

–        Remember the resolution of 3rd screens is getting better, but is still low.  Go back to the old days of site design and TEST your layout on 640 x 480 or lower (320×240 is not unheard of).  Assume that users have larger font sizes.  If you can’t test on an actual smart phone, set your font size to large.

–        Test your site on as many devices as possible (keep going to different cell phone stores and go surf your site to see how it looks).  Ask as many friends as possible to test the site from their phone, even if it costs a few dollars one time, because they do not have a normal web plan on their cell phone.

–        Use small pages – have just the fact pages, linking to detailed pages with the longer descriptions.

–        Use Title, Description, ALT tags and descriptive hyperlinks in your code.

–        Simplify your CSS (cascading style sheet) descriptions, again to speed up download.

The other perspective to remember when designing the mobile version of a site is to consider a friend showing you her new site.  What would you want to see and be willing to squint at on her phone on a sunny day at a café?  That is how you need to design your site for your visitors.  At this point, the site is about the text and information, not the prettiness and the images.

By the way, following all these guidelines also plays well to another category of visitors to your site – search engines – they want to see:

–        Short pages, with complete text explanations

–        Clear purpose or objective for each page

–        Information that is understandable from the text

–        Links to more detailed explanations (your ‘normal’ version of your site)

And Google and other search engines liking your site is almost always a recipe for it to say ‘I’ll be back’ (like you did not see that one coming from a mile away) – thanks McG.

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June 8, 2009 Posted by | How To, mobile, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

FAQ – Get More Traffic by Saving Yourself Time.

Want to save time and get more traffic to your website?  I recommend answering your visitor’s questions as clearly and completely as you can.  This takes the advice written by Michael Gerber, decades before the Internet was even opened up to the public.

If your website is a part of your business, I highly recommend reading Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited.  It is written partly as a parable to describe the entrepreneurial myth of many small businesses. It is part parable, and part information. Gerber uses the story of Sarah, a struggling business woman, to describe the process of the written steps you need to take to improve your business. Whether your business is large or small, the website needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit.  Therefore, I recommend reading and integrating this classic book that has formed the foundation of the businesses I have started, and the hundreds of  business’ I have consulted for.

If you are trying to get more traffic to your site as easily as possible, I recommend creating or extending your FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on the site. The idea of the FAQ is to collect all the different questions that customers ask on a repeated basis with answers.  Why does a FAQ get you more traffic? Because when properly designed  these pages will be descriptive of the terms that customers use to look for answers on your site.  These terms will probably be repeated just enough without seeming ‘spammy’. So take the time to write out the questions and answers on separate pages to let users understand your site in the context of the questions your visitors are looking at your site.

It has also been suggested that Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week is another great resource that really explores the idea of defining your business on paper in a way that can ge shared with others. There are some great concepts there and clear steps outlined on how to document your business and create FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions pages.  He has made a whole lot of money on implementing effective (both cost and time) ways of making money on the web following his own advice.

Are you a newer business without the traffic and experience of  knowing the questions your visitors will ask? Time to do some market research.  Larger business’ will pay a decent dollar to go out and see what perspective customers are thinking about. If you cannot afford to pay, it is time to get guerrilla in your approach.  Ask friends, set up a kiosk at a flea market, hang at  coffee shop, go to your kids soccer game and ask what questions do you have. Be ready to collect the questions, and test the answers. Stop by the library and read about market surveys and how to create your tests with as little bias as possible.

I would recommend a FAQ page that has all the questions on one page, then link to each question and answer on a separate page.  On the page, I recommend the following:

  • A clear title that states the site name, short version of the question, and contact info (800 number).
  • A clear description of the site and question in the Description META tag.
  • Keywords META tag related to the question and answer keyword phrases.
  • Question summary
  • Long question
  • Short answer with key phrases in them.
  • Longer answer with key phrases and links to other pages as appropriate to the site or off the site.  This is your chance to really explain and give the background appropriate to understand your site and what you are trying to have each visitor walk away from your site with, knowledge wise.
  • Ideally, ‘breadcrumbs’ to how you got to this page from the home page of your site.
  • Ideally, links to the rest of the site navigation system in text and graphical.
  • Ideally, UGC – User Generated Content where visitors are allowed to comment and ask follow up questions and give responses.
  • Ideally, have short poll questions to begin to truly understand how users view your pages (4 questions at most, ideally only 1).

These steps generally will create content that will allow the search engines to ‘understand’ your site and help rank you well on a variety of search terms. The key is to explain your site from the perspective of someone who does not know anything about your site.  Do not assume your users have much background when they come to this page and ask the question, if for no other reason than this is the case for Google. It does not automatically understand anything and it is up to you to ‘explain’ your questions to the search engines.

Understand that unless you have been writing interactive copy for decades (and the Internet has only been public for 15 years), you will need to continue to learn how your visitors interpret your site. That is OK, and the fun of online marketing.  This will require you to continue to tweak and improve your site. Google actually prefers to see sites that continue to evolve rather than act like the US Constitution (and even that we keep considering changing on a regular basis with admendments).  Remember, it is a lot easier to change a website than it is to change our tax code and laws, and ‘they’ change that with great frequency (usually for the worse, unless you have million dollar lobbyists, but I digress).  Sucks that we have 100 Senators, not to mention the hundreds of Representatives, and they have a whole lot of staff just to work on the wording of our laws.  Are you better than 600 legislatures and thousands of staff in your ability to write your website FAQ pages?  If so, please contact me ASAP, we could make millions together! Otherwise, keep reviewing your questions and answers and keep improving your responses based on your feedback of how well you are communicating.

The key is to put in writing on the site all those amazing visions you have for helping others with your site. It really needs to be written down and not just in your head.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | E-Myth, How To, Reference books, Simple | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments