Content is king. But even with great content, everything falls flat if you’re NOT directing much of your attention to one of the most important aspects of a great web design and content marketing system – and that is, site navigation.
In the world of marketing, site navigation has a major role to play. Of course your site aesthetics matters. But what’s the benefit of having a really stunning website if a great majority of your potential customers can’t really trace you?
You also don’t want to see you site’s visitors leaving without even bothering to check out what products or services you’re offering.
Keep in mind that a good chunk of the visitors you attract to your site won’t just be landing on your homepage to find bearing. As a matter of fact, nearly a half of the traffic you attract will be visiting your site via internal links and webpages.
Meaning, a sound site navigation has to have all of this well-figured out. Failure of which, you’re likely to end up losing a good number of prospective buyers who find it hard to trace their way around your site.
This post looks at all the possible ways to make your navigation more effective and user-friendly.
Here they are:
Use descriptive labels
Using terms such as ‘what we do’, ‘our products’, or ‘services’ doesn’t clearly indicate what you do. With descriptive navigation, it’s important that you use key phrases that also aid with SEO and conversions.
Start by making sure the descriptive labels you use on your navigation bar appeal to search engines. Also remember that the navigation you use will still be appearing on every single page of your website. So by integrating appropriate search terms in the labels, you’ll also be helping Google find out what your website is all about.
Even more important, by being descriptive with your navigation, you’ll be helping the visitors you get find what it is they’re looking for on your website. What you want if for your visitors to just glance over your site and be able to figure out where to locate a certain product or web section.
Your site’s navigation is the first place you start informing visitors and search engines about your area of specialisation. The labels you choose must therefore be the top-of-the-mind phrases that online users key into search engines for relevant links and web results.
Top among the tools to use to find out about these search terms is Google keyword tool. And while at it, it’s crucial that you avoid using empty labels such as ‘solutions’ and ‘services’.
Even more important is that you don’t make the common mistake of listing all your services under a single page. Most likely, that will never get the page ranked as it doesn’t focus on one topic. Search engines also get confused and may as such respond by ranking you unfairly.
It is simple logic – no one ever searches using the term ‘product’ or ‘service.’ They instead tend to be more specific with what they’re looking for. So extend the same courtesy to your business by being more specific with the kind of labels you use on your navigation bar.
Not just your navigation, but your overall site architecture play a fundamental role in determining your search engine ranking. Start by designing individual pages for every single one of the products or services you’re offering.
Steer Clear of Format Based Navigation
By labelling your content as videos, photos or white paper, what you’ll be doing is identifying the format of the content instead of labelling the topic. Online visitors don’t go to search engines to look for videos or photos. They instead look for answers or solutions to their problem. What they want is the information to guide them to what they want.
Labels that indicate content format also tend to be less descriptive, and may therefore NOT be that useful to the people visiting your site. After all the people searching the net don’t really care about the format their requested content will be served in, so long as it addresses their problems.
Don’t Use a Drop down Menu
Drop down menus enhance the visual appeal of your website. But using them has never been a good idea for two possible reasons:
- Search engines find it hard to crawl them. Depending on how they were programmed, just having them on your site could greatly harm your search engine ranking.
- Majority of online users have admitted to finding drop down menus annoying. That’s because most of them decide on what they’re to look for the moment they glance over your site. But when presented with more options upon hovering to a menu item, just deciding on which sub-menu item is best suited for their needs is a tough task on its own.
- Majority of online visitors have been found to skip drop down menus. The exact reason is yet to be known, but it could be because of analysis paralysis, where online visitors end up confused when presented with an overwhelming amount of options.
But if you really must use a drop down menu, then look no further than the mega drop down menu. And that’s because, different research findings suggest they’re the best performing drop down menu from the list of options you have.
Works for those with a diverse set of services or products to advertise. Instead of lumping them all in a drop down menu, create a page for each one of them and run them as a mega drop down menu, unless otherwise.
Set Your Limit to a Maximum of Seven
Don’t fill up your homepage with menu items. While it’s advisable to create a separate web page for every product or service you provide on your site, don’t forcefully list all of them on your navigation bar.
Here are all the reasons anyone would want to limit the number of their menu items to seven:
– Again, fewer amount of menu items appeal to search engines more. Here’s the thing: your homepage is the most ranked page on your website. And that’s because it has the most search engine authority, coming as a result of containing the highest number of links directing to the different pages on your site.
– By filling it with lots of links, you’ll be diluting the authority, thus reducing the odds of some of them being ranked favourably.
– Succinct navigation allows more authority to flow to every single one of the interiors pages it’s linking to, which goes on to ensure that they’re ranked high in the SERPs.
Here’s an example:
Suppose your homepage contains about 70 menu items. That, combined with all the links on your homepage, let’s assume amount to about 200 links in total. The authority the homepage passes to every single one of the interior pages it’s linking to will be divided by the total number of links you have on your homepage. In this case, it will be the homepage’s authority divided by 200.
By reducing the number of items, you’ll be increasing the amount of authority the homepage passes to interiors pages, thus increasing the chances of getting them ranked.
To calculate the number of links you have on your homepage or any other page, consider using Link Juice Calculator. You can also use it to estimate your authority increase should you decide to cut the number of links you have on the page. Even though the platform uses PageRank, and NOT Domain Authority as it’s widely thought, the concept used is pretty much the same.
Be Mindful of the Order of Your Site’s Navigation
Just as important as the number of items on your navigation bar is the order at which they appear.
Come to think of it, as with any list you make, the items you place at the very beginning and end matter the most, considering that’s where your visitors direct most of their attention while checking your site out. Otherwise referred to as the serial position effect, the items that appear both at the beginning and end of your list contribute to what’s psychologically referred to as cognitive bias-ness.
First we have the primacy effect which makes the items placed at the beginning of your list easy to both memorise and remember. Second is the recency effect, which makes the items that appear at the end of your list also easy to remember; considering they’re the last thing visitors get to see when they look over your site.
Find out what’s the most important menu item on your list and make a point to find them a slot at the beginning or end of your site’s navigation.
The prominent spots on your navigation bar are better off reserved to the most relevant items to your site’s visitors. This also aligns with the core principles emphasised in both content marketing and web design.
If you can’t figure out the most relevant items from the list you have, then consider checking out your Google analytics. Which page enjoys the most visits? Well, this is the page to include among the first few items on your list, and corresponding so, with the least visited item appearing at the centre.
How to Optimise Your Navigation for SEO
Design your navigation is among the many things you should be doing to your site. Go ahead and design the site according to the mental picture you’ve create. A few weeks in, head back to the site so some little bit of analysis and evaluation until you’re able to fully optimise the navigation for SEO and modify it as per the required industry standard.
There are reports to use in finding out which items on your navigation bar are mostly viewed by visitors. Examples includes the ‘in-page’ and ‘navigation summary’ in your behaviour report in Google analytics. Others include User and Behaviour Flow report.
With in-page analytics, there will be a series of orange boxes displayed next to each navigation item, together with the number of visitors (in percentage) visiting the pages. The only problem is that the tool tend to be a tad bulky. The data provided is also NOT as accurate as expected.
An alternative should be the navigation summary. Just head to the home page section, and check out the list of page links and the number of views they’re getting in percentage. That should clue you in on how to rearrange your menu items for better results in the future.
Another option would be to click through your behaviour report and navigate to the behaviour flow report. The report presented here isn’t very much different from that of the Audience, except for events tracking.
Based on the results you get from analysing the reports, here are the possible course of action you should be thinking of undertaking:
– Check out the items that your visitors almost never click and do the obvious – remove them.
– You can also rename or relabel the items that are rarely clicked, but only if you deem them important. But you’re better off just getting rid of them.
– Move the items that register the highest number of clicks either at the beginning or end of your list.
Navigation on Mobile Devices
Ever since responsive web design was integrated as one of the ranking elements, the need to subscribe to the best navigation standards and practises with regards to navigation heightened by tenfold. That way, the hamburger icon was born.
For what’s worth, a hamburger icon is basically a navigation icon made up of three simple horizontal lines that represent the menu you have on site. Designed to take the semblance of a sandwich, the icon appears at the top right corner of your mobile site. All that visitors ought to do is click on it for it to expand and reveal the list of your menu items arranged in a vertical position.
The hamburger menu has become the industry standard. But that’s NOT to say your visitors by default understand this. It’s for this reason that it’s widely recommended that you remember to include the word ‘menu’ alongside the icon to clue your visitors in on what the icon is all about.
It’s a Wrap
This post is meant to give you a few menu ideas and inspiration. Feel free to implement these tips to both your design and content management system. And while at it, keep in mind that a good site ought to be flexible enough so you can play around with the labels and re-order your menu items for better results in the future.
As with any other rule out there, a few exceptions still hold. Just in case you’re NOT sure of what to do, why NOT contact an experienced web specialist to help you review both your site and analytics for the best way forward.
In brief, you should be striving to make your navigation work for both search engines crawlers and human visitors.
Any other question? It could be about the home button or anything else. You are invited to contact MediaOne today for a free SEO and web design consultation.