One of the great things about testing and optimization is that you can use it to challenge assumptions and keep your site design’s effectiveness up-to-date. No website element, no matter how pretty and well-designed, should be excused from an occasional test to make sure it’s giving you ROI.
In our fast-moving industry, what gave ROI six months ago might not today.
Take, for example, the design pattern I like to call the “SEO Footer.” This design element takes many forms, but essentially it’s using the footer of your website navigation to house keyword-rich anchor links as a means of increasing Search Engine Optimization. It’s a decent idea, and was extremely popular a few years ago, but I personally find them ugly, hard to scan, and hard to use.
Personal opinions aside, we’ve got a great candidate for an optimization test. Why? Because its impact on your site’s SEO is much less clear than it was a few years ago. And if it’s not giving you ROI on organic search traffic, guess what? It’s just cluttering up your site design and hurting your chances of converting customers.
I’m the first to admit I’m not an SEO expert, and the real SEO experts have written some good stuff on this topic, but in my research, I couldn’t see any evidence that sites are testing to see if this tactic is still “paying off” like it did 6, 12, or 18 months ago. So, there’s your free test recommendation.
“Wait! What Do I Test? And How Do I Interpret the Results?”
Run a simple test where some portion of your traffic sees a version of your footer stuffed with juicy keywords, and some portion doesn’t. Measure its impact on whatever conversion matters to you, or whatever conversion might rely most on intuitive navigation. Examples: Visiting a specific section of your site devoted to a business vertical and downloading a white paper, or browsing and finding a particular product and adding it to a shopping cart.
You may find the presence or absence of your SEO Footer has no impact on conversion. That’s OK, because you’re also going to dive into your analytics and/or your SEO reports and see if the absence of the footer hurt your rankings/traffic. If removing those extra keywords has positive or no impact, then you may as well remove it in the name of simple, clutter-free design. If removing it has negative impact, then you should optimize the existing design to make it look as good as possible, and resolve to test it again in six months.
Use this method to make every site element earn its right to be a part of your design, and you’ll optimize your way to ROI.