I started out as a simple webmaster in the days when websites were simple to build. Then I provided basic search engine optimization services back when basic SEO was enough to pull rank in the top 25 spots. I say twenty-five because although number one rank for a client made me look great, searchers back then were willing to click on sites found in the first 25 results and still considered them "worthy". Nowadays, if a site isn't ranked number one, the SEO is blamed (or a change in Google's indexing), but not the website design.
Nowadays, if a site isn't found in a paid for spot somewhere at or near the top of search results pages, it may never be clicked on. Today, keyword density and linkage are not enough, especially if you have a competitive product like lingerie, automobiles, games or trivia and travel, to name a few. Companies sink a lot of money on SEO or PPC just to get the attention of someone who will at least click on their URL with a mouse. They pay for that click, regardless of whether or not the visitor remains on the site and does anything productive such as make a purchase.
That's about as nuts as me putting on a ton of makeup and pushup bra and standing on the street corner hoping to get noticed and having to pay each person who just looks at me. (Great for the ego, but who in the heck can afford that?)
What is the surfer looking for? What do they want to do once they get to your website? Are they even looking for your type of website? Ads, title tags, meta descriptions and keywords don't accurately portray site purpose, design architecture, ease of use or quality of information.For the past year or so I've been digging around for information to help me understand what happens when people view SERPS and what actions they perform next. One Cre8asiteForums member compared PPC to "tire kicking", whereby users click and leave (kick the tire and walk away). This is getting pretty expensive. Is anyone making a profit with PPC ads besides the sites that host them?
There's lots of research by Human Factors researchers and others who study human interaction with hardware and software. One study shows that the more experienced Internet users browse less websites and goes on to find that experienced users follow website links instead of relying on search engines to find information.
A longitudinal study of World Wide Web users' information-searching behavior is one such study mentioned in the current issue of Human Factors International's (HFI) newsletter
It says "Experienced users access the Web less often and more sporadically. (Cothey, 2002)
More experienced users access fewer sites. (Cothey, 2002)
More experienced users tend to browse to sites (either directly or via other trusted sites) rather than getting there via search. (Cothey, 2002)"
The HFI newsletter is a goldmine of information such as this. If you're looking for help with design issues to improve ROI, usability resources like this are a good bet.
That is, if you want people to do more than just look at you in that pushup bra.