Beyond SEO: Retaining the Visitor

right-now-active-visitors-google-analyticsFor the past couple months, I’ve been on a mission. I’ve been placing SEO and the psychosis of rankings on the back burner.

For what in return you ask? To better the user experience.

I had spent years placing all my concern SEO-ing sites to the fullest to maximize traffic potential. At the end of the day I realized that hordes of traffic mean nothing if they don’t convert.

During SES Chicago, there was definitely a resounding theme. You have to think more about your visitor than you have in the past. It isn’t always about a throng of visitors. As I’ve worked to create a better and more meaningful user experience for my clients’ site visitors, I noticed that time and time again, my clients keep making simple mistakes that detract from what I call visitor retention.

It Can Be as Easy as Relevance

Bryan Eisenberg, during a great presentation at SES Chicago, made a great point about PPC: don’t create an ad your site can’t cash. I think the same goes for SEO as well.

Be mindful of the correlation of your heading, first paragraph, and the first internal link anchor text instance in correlation with your page title element, meta description, and page naming convention seen by an initial query. If the SERP display doesn’t paint an accurate picture for the click through, you’re only inflating your bounce rate.

As I’ve said time and time again, I’d rather have 100 visitors who do something than a thousand who don’t. This is where the brand marketers call me out.

Funnel Reinforcement

Headings that consist of the same two word keyword that resides in the title element do little to create enticement towards an end goal. I know I searched that term, tell me how you provide a better solution for “keyword phrase” than the other site.

Likewise, provide me with a main navigation that gives me a roadmap to an end goal that makes us both happy. There is nothing interesting about navigation queues like Home, Services, Careers, and About Us.

Quit Using Those Damn PDFs

Your PDFs rank. You know that and I know it, but they would rank better if they were HTML.

Outside of SEO-ability of a PDF we have to think about the user experience. Yes, they see your content but do they enjoy the same HTML page experience of supporting main and supporting navigation? No – and most often, there are no links in the PDF allowing the user to peruse the site further. I absolutely hate seeing this. 

Besides not being able to track organic entries into the site through this point, you should give users the ability to utilize the same site template as any other site user viewing a standard webpage. While the engineering world needs PDFs for extensive diagrams and such as well as company brochures and manuals, for all else, convert to HTML and provide a PDF download link for your “print and run” crowd. If you must use your PDFs, provide a link to the homepage or most relevant standard site page in the footer of each PDF page.

Don’t Let Social Integration Become a Disconnect

It’s important to introduce your site traffic to your social communities. But remember that those icons linking to your Facebook, Twitter or YouTube profile need to open in a new window. People should visit your social profiles, but don’t usher people off the site.

Partnerships and External Linking

Nothing makes my blood boil like same window external links. While this is akin to the above issue, these instances almost feel intentional to make me claw at the walls. I absolutely love when a client of mine can create a link with a partner site, especially if it is non-reciprocal. I even enjoy the opportunity to link out to a greater source when looking for supporting and authoritative content.

But opening in the same window? Come on. It’s like a slap in the face of a traffic generating SEO.

Do You See What I See?

We spend our days in front of a screen wondering what our site visitors think of our site. We must remember that an increasing number are seeing it on a handheld screen.

So, as mentioned above, they may see only a heading, navigation, a first paragraph etc. Those expecting a mobile user to instantaneously gather the theme of a page by immediately viewing an entire page are sadly mistaken.

While I don’t believe you have to have a mobile site, I believe you need to gain an understanding of your mobile visitor’s intentions and create a mobile style sheet to cater to their smaller experience. This visitor segment is only going to increase. How you manage this relationship with mobile visitors will tell a lot about your online success over the next few years.

Mend Broken Paths, Harvest Erroneous Paths

Shame on you for having broken links in your site pages. But, lucky for you, your continual monitoring of your Google Webmaster Tools account allows you to see where you have accidentally goofed a link target.

Additionally, from the same Webmaster Tools reporting, find where other sites may have got the domain right but the page name wrong. Make the connect here through redirection to take what was originally a bad link and create a pathway for new traffic as well as additional link value.


Many of these mentioned quick fixes have nothing to do with extremely technical SEO. These are often the simple mistakes or occurrences one doesn’t even think of. Dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s within your overall online marketing strategy can do a wonderful thing to your conversion rates as well as your time on site, bounce rate, and page per visit metrics.

You’re getting the traffic, now do something with it!

Register now for SES London 2012, the Leading Search Social Marketing Event, taking place 20-24 February, 2012. SES Conference Expo features presentations and panel discussions that cover all aspects of search engine-related promotion. Hurry, early bird rate expires February 3!

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