Good navigation… important for SEO, important for sales

Bad navigation costs you money.

Consider these facts:

  1. 50% of all online sales are lost due to poor navigation
  2. Each time you make your users click to perform an action, you lose 30-60% of your traffic.

To put that second fact into perspective for you, here’s what happens in the best case scenario of losing 30% at each click:

Say 1,000 people show up on your homepage, looking to buy your product. First, they have to get to the Product Page.

Click.

700 people make it to the product page. To order something from the product page, they must first read your Shipping Policy.

Click.

490 people have hung on long enough to read your shipping policy. You have now already lost over half of your traffic. The next step is for the customer to fill out the Order Page.

Click.

343 people fill in the order form. The last step is for them to confirm their order. This is the only click standing between your customer’s money and your bank account. One click left to confirm…

Click.

240 people actually buy something from you.

Now, if you were paying for those initial 1000 people — say, if you were using PPC ads at 25 cents per click — your bad navigation just wasted $190 of your $250 budget.

So there’s a very, very good reason to design smart navigation: It directly affects your bottom line.

Good navigation = money in your pocket. Bad navigation = money out of your pocket.

The key to smart navigation design is to remember that the #1 most-important goal of navigation is clarity. Your users should be able to answer these four questions within 10 seconds of landing on ANY PAGE of your website:

  1. Where am I?
  2. Where have I already been?
  3. Where do I go next?
  4. How do I get back to the homepage?

If any of these questions is unanswerable, chances are very good that you won’t be able to hang onto that user long enough to convert them into a paying customer. So take a look at your navigation to make sure you’re not requiring customers who want to buy something to hunt around to find the order form.

It’s not easy to see your site from your customers’ perspective. You’re so familiar with your business, your keywords, and your market, and you care an awful lot about it, so you might be making some assumptions about your navigation that will trip you up later. Here’s an example:

Say you have a digital photography site. You review and sell photography equipment (like tripods and lenses), feature tips for photographers, and offer a gallery of user-submitted photos. To give your site a little personality, you adopt some industry slang for your navigation labels. Tripod reviews become “see our sticks,” and lens reviews “check our glass.” For your gallery you use a clickable image of a photo in a frame instead of text. Fun and cute, right?

Wrong.

It’s time for cold hard reality: People aren’t coming to your website to play games; they are looking for a solution to a problem. Hiding the solution is not going to make them stick around longer to find it — it will make them think you don’t have a solution.

Usability studies reveal that when people search the Web for a solution to a problem, they are totally ruthless. They don’t care that your site is beautiful, they don’t care that it’s clever. All they care about is whether or not you have the information they’re looking for.

If they don’t see that they’re on the right track immediately, they’re not going to stick around to make sure they haven’t missed anything — “oh wait, that’s a picture of a picture, that must be the gallery link…” — they’ll just hit the back button and pick the next business in the search results.

In that user’s experience, you just wasted their time — so chances are they’ll never be back, even if your site shows up in all their searches for photography equipment. (Told you the reality was cold and hard.)

Setting aside the experience of your human visitors, navigation is great for attracting the search engine spiders too. It’s a really great place to use your keywords: It’s on every page of your site, usually in a very prominent place, and usually near the top.

So what happens if you stuff your navigation with irrelevant words? No one can find you! Not only are you losing prime placement for your real keywords, you’re giving prime placement to irrelevant ones.

If that weren’t bad enough, these irrelevant keywords mean you’ll continue to show up in searches for “sticks” and “glass”, and you won’t show up at all in relevant searches for “tripods” and “lenses.”

Think it’s a challenge to sell a camera lens to someone who is looking to buy one? Try selling one to someone who is looking for wine glasses!

To get a good understanding of navigation, you can’t beat the education you get from laughing at really, really BAD navigation. We strongly recommend you check out www.webpagesthatsuck.com for some fantastic anti-inspiration!

Now You Can Achieve Perfect Navigation EVERY Time!

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