Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion-Optimized Pages

It’s a question marketers continually encounter: “Why is my bounce rate so high?” This could be any of a number of things, but site admins and C-suite execs are always surprised by how the layout and overall design of a website can dramatically affect the way users flow within your domain. The site architecture can be perfect, and you could have the best content imaginable, but without the right understanding of how a visitor interacts with the graphic elements on your site, it could all be for naught. By taking what we know from eye tracking and landing page optimization, we can combine multiple marketing practices to develop the best-converting page possible.

SEO is the practice of getting right with Google so the right people get to your site. Once they make it there, you need to ensure those people actually get what they need. Content plays a huge role here, as do the ways you can influence a person to convert, whether through online endorsements or landing page optimization. Certain site elements will connect with a visitor or audience member, while others will turn them off completely.

When looking at anything, whether it is art or a call to action (CTA), people will inherently be drawn to certain focal points. These can be created by using visual cues such as contrast, color, shape and motion to lead your audience to the desired conclusion — that is, conversion. Using focal points in tandem with your other site elements can make or break your overall leads.

Left vs. right

The vast majority of my clients originally choose to place forms and contact information on the right side of the screen, with navigation and content more so on the left. While this is the so-called norm for online site layout, it doesn’t necessarily work in your favor. Applying what we know about attraction and what catches the eye, we can test site layout and move a form or CTA to another part of the page to attract more attention.

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An interesting test was conducted by Matt Sullivan to determine if the position of a form in an email marketing campaign would increase conversions. Three sample emails were sent out: a control email with a large form at the bottom, and two test samples, one with the form on the right side of the email, and one with the form on the left. The version with the form on the right essentially performed the same as the control, but the email with the form on the left outperformed the other emails by 217 percent. Why?

Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion Optimized Pages image Form Test

People read online from left to right, the same way they do offline, and so the majority of websites follow suit. A study from the Nielsen Norman Group shows that people begin at the left margin and move right, but slowly lose interest and start to move down the page. This holds true on the SERPs as well as any other site. As you can see on this eye tracking sample from a SERP, Internet users follow a basic “F” pattern when reading online; they start at the top left and browse to the right, coming back to the left margin and moving down.

Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion Optimized Pages image Nielsen Eye Study

All this means that your site layout is really affecting your bottom line. How you lay out a landing page depends on what you want to accomplish with it. Are you interested in conversions, moving visitors to another page, gaining comments or social shares? Guaranteed Mashable is fully aware of this, which is why its new(ish) site design has three main columns, emphasizing the new articles first. Looks like they want a high turnover of content rather than really pushing the already popular media. If you only want people to fill out forms on a certain page, offer it on the left. However, if you need to convince your readers to convert, having a form on the right might be more beneficial. The left hand side would offer value and utility through content explaining a services’s benefits, then the eye naturally moves right to the CTA or form.

Negative space and photo use

Anything you add to a webpage affects how users interact with it. Any photo, color or shape that you use will alter how your audience connects, and potentially considers using what you have.

A study from TechWyse shows that colors and photos on a landing page draw the eye, but using them incorrectly opens you up for the visitor to miss a point or lose interest. Too much color or rich media in one area could turn into a vacuum of attention, when really you want them looking at prices or how to sign up for a discount.

Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion Optimized Pages image TechWyse Eye Study 1Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion Optimized Pages image TechWyse Eye Study 2

Even a photo of an individual could affect your visitor’s attention span. Humans are more likely to look at other people’s faces. By having a stock photo on your home page smiling and looking directly at the visitor, they are likely to return the gaze. Simply by adjusting the position of the eyes or face, you can redirect the visitor to look where you want them to, at your CTA or brand.

Audience flow

Once you understand where people are more likely to look, you need to specify who exactly your audience is and how you relate to them. This can be really difficult for old-school marketers who really just want people to buy what’s being sold. However, the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) has taught us that people need more information to come to a final buying decision online. That being said, a bright and bold CTA on the home page will definitely get conversions, but a lot of people who only want information will inevitably bounce if that’s all you offer.

In order to get the conversions you want on the home page and still culture the growing leads, you need a conversion funnel throughout your website. This will reroute those timid visitors through a series of informative pages that slowly help them decide what is best for them. In order to do this, you have to know your customers.

Let’s say you’re providing three types of software solutions. On your home page, you have some basic navigation and some type of CTA to lead visitors into a free trial. That’s great for those people ready to buy, but everyone else just wants to see what you can offer. A home page will draw a huge chunk of your online traffic, but by only allowing the site visitor to sign up, you lose all those site visitors who aren’t ready to make a purchase. This tactic is demonstrated below by the site design on the left.

Eye Tracking Lessons for SEO and Conversion Optimized Pages image AudienceFlow

Try altering your site layout so it moves visitors naturally into your three services. This way, you can funnel those ready to purchase right to your sales page while helping the remainder of the visitors move deeper into the site funnel to find the information they want. This can be done simply by offering page navigations to the three products as seen in the photo above on the right. A test of this method led to a 331-percent increase in conversions, simply by addressing the audience and connecting them with the services the company provides.

These decisions, though, need to be calculated and proven. Set up A-B testing to see which layout and format works best for your audience.

The Bottom Line: C.R.E.A.M.

Wu-Tang would probably get sick at being quoted in a marketing article, but Cash does Rule Everything Around Me, and when you’re a business that depends on site traffic, you need people coming to your site to convert. Period. Having a dummy page to work in the interim is fine, but to really get serious with your online marketing, you need hordes of traffic and a high percentage of people clicking through. You do this by optimizing your site to bring in the right traffic and giving them the information they want, not tripping over yourself in site design and layout.

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