Effect of website usability and search engine optimisation on conversion.

Visser, E.B. & Weideman, M.

Poster in Proceedings of The 12th World Wide Web conference (ZAW3-10), 21-23 September. Durban, South Africa.

Visser, E.B. & Weideman, M. 2010. Effect of website usability and search engine optimisation on conversion. Poster in Proceedings of The 12th World Wide Web conference (ZAW3-10), 21-23 September. Durban, South Africa. Online: http://web-visibility.co.za/website-visibility-digital-library-seo/

ABSTRACT
The primary objective of this research project is to determine whether or not website usability attributes are in contradiction with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) elements. Google's search engine quality guidelines state that webpages should be created for visitors and not search engines. However, while visitors will be viewing the webpages, it is search engines and their artificial intelligence crawlers that find, index, rank and present the web pages to visitors. Literature has shown that website usability consists of a number of attributes that may affect each visitor differently, making it difficult to determine each attribute's effectiveness. However, there are some website usability attributes that may address common needs subconsciously and these could assist in the process of getting the visitor to convert into a sale/lead. It is evident that website usability and SEO are dependent on each other. If search engines do not rank an unknown webpage within the top 30 search engine result pages, a visitor might not ever find it. Then again, the visitor may not convert into a sale/lead if the website usability attributes are not applied to address visitors' needs. The empirical work in progress is to determine the effectiveness of applying common website usability attributes to a single website to improve conversion. Three websites were used. A control website was created by a non-technical person with minimal knowledge of website usability and search engine optimisation. Then, two experimental websites were created by an experienced professional. The first experimental website (EP1) was created by applying only website usability attributes and ignoring all search engine optimisation elements. The second experimental website (EP2) was created by applying only SEO elements and ignoring all website usability attributes. Interviews were conducted with five Internet users (each with a minimum of 10 years' Internet exposure) to determine which of the three websites would be the preferred website and if all the website usability attributes applied to EP1 had the intended impact. Accumulated empirical data thus far shows that while traffic to the EP1 is significantly lower than the control website, the number of conversions was almost double. Preliminary results on the EP2 indicated major ranking improvements when compared to the control website rankings. The Interview results confirmed literature findings. Further research is intended, whereby the two experimental websites will be exposed to all Internet users and search engines (including Pay Per Click). The researcher will thus be comparing website traffic, time spent on site per visitor, average page views per visitor, number of conversions and return on investment for each of the three websites. The results obtained will provide a clear indication as to the contradictions between website usability and search engine optimisation, if any.
REFERENCES
  1. Google 2010. Webmaster guidelines http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hi=en&answers=35769#3 [accessed: 7 September 2010]
  2. Murphy, H.C. & Kielgast, C.D. 2008 Do small and medium-sized hotels exploit search engine marketing? International Journal of Contemport Hospitality. Management 20(1):90-97.
  3. Nielsen, J & Loranger, H. prioritizing web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Press.
  4. Visser, E.B. 2007. Search engine optimazation elements effect on web visibility: The Western Cape real estate SMME sector. Unpublished MTech thesis, Cape Peninsula University of Technology Cape Town.
Full text of Conference Poster No 0131: Effect of website usability and search engine optimisation on conversion.

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