By Patty Parobek
More than ever before, customers are doing the work salespeople once did. They search, they seek information — they research on their own. Too often, companies make their customers work too hard to find the information they need. Despite the constant chatter about user-friendly content, many websites still aren’t set up with the end user in mind.
In the new age of voice search, SEO, and competition for consumer attention, failing to optimize a website redesign for allowing users to easily search and find information is a costly mistake for B2B companies.
When considering a website redesign, the most important things to focus on are what user experience expert Gerry McGovern calls “top tasks.” These are the critical functions visitors to the site seek to accomplish, and they often are buried among other internally prioritized initiatives. Failing to optimize for your visitors’ top tasks will impede their ability to find what they are looking for and will negatively impact their overall user experience and, with that, the website’s ability to rank for key searches.
Let’s consider a construction company website that has the goal of selling services locally. The website’s current homepage is taken up by news about the company’s sustainability goals, a blog post about the company’s 100th anniversary, and an article about employees’ recent charity work. Although these might seem like topics that local building owners would be interested in, the website analytics reveal that site visitors instead use the site navigation to locate the local portfolio of recent jobs and information about what industry sectors the company specializes in. The company is essentially making the customer dig around for the information for making decisions instead of presenting that information easily and quickly.
Like all great marketing, a successful site redesign should start with the end user in mind. By focusing most prominently on what the visitor is directly after, you will greatly improve the overall experience with your website. Companies should research which tasks visitors perform most often and what information they want to get first and foremost from their websites. Once established, marketers can connect customer behaviors to KPIs and make better websites.
Website Design Priorities for Better Search
Redesigns in 2019 should consider both what customers want to accomplish and how they plan to get there. B2B user research in 2019 will uncover new buyer behaviors that must be accounted for in new website design. Voice search is now one the most discussed optimization topics in website design for a reason. Demand Gen reports that 61 percent of B2B buyers begin their research with general search queries. By 2020, 50 percent of searches will be voice searches. The world has changed, and B2B site design must change with it.
Whether informational and product searches come to your website through Google on a browser, Siri through an iPhone, or an Alexa on an office desk, these four components are critical for incorporating the new state of search in your B2B website redesign:
Voice search is conversational. People treat voice assistants like real assistants: “Hey Alexa, what movies are playing tonight?” Customers will ask questions, not plug in search terms to a text field.
In order for a site’s content to rank in voice search results, host content optimized to answer those spoken questions. Create blog posts that address common needs. Break up Q&A and FAQ sections into individual pages, then title them exactly as customers will likely phrase their questions. Don’t be afraid to address specific or one-off questions that aren’t necessarily your main message; this is the long-tail content that voice searches will scan for. Anticipate what people want to know specifically and provide answers that are easily accessible.
Just as Google optimized its search experience to satisfy the growing demand of mobile phones, the growth of voice search will cause even more focus on searchers’ preferences.
The faster the website can produce answers for a searcher, the better it will satisfy the searcher, and thus, the higher it will rank in all search channels. So get rid of those giant, uncompressed images that you are using only for aesthetic purposes; big images are major contributors to slowdown. With about half of visitors willing to abandon a site after three seconds, fast load times are essential. Make sure to check out Google’s free tool to measure webpage speed to see your personalized recommendations for improvement.
Search Engine Land reports that 82 percent of smartphone searchers conduct “near me” searches. What’s more, Google in recent years has seen a 500 percent increase in local searches that contain buyer-intent phrases like “to buy.”
The percentage of local product and company searches made by voice will only continue to grow. As a first step to take advantage of this trend, every business should claim its free Google business listing to ensure its local listing is up-to-date in Google’s business index. Additionally, any B2B company that does local business should ensure that its company name, address, and phone number are easy to find on the website and in notable local directories.
Schema.org helps businesses build their websites with search engines in mind, similarly to Sitemaps.org. This tool looks at the data and structure of a website and shows how to optimize the site for better searching. Markup metadata on Schema.org will be critical to the future of voice search because of structured data’s ability to help search engines classify information. This markup can apply to multiple areas, including businesses, events, people, reviews, and more.
Many of these rules apply equally to B2C companies, but B2B operations should not overlook the importance of voice. Executives and decision makers are still people, and they search the same way everyone else searches. During the next site redesign, start with user research to understand your buyers’ top tasks and research scenarios. Use the results to spot opportunities to strengthen the site’s influence in a world where voice search is fast becoming the norm.
About the Author
Patty Parobek is the director of integrated marketing strategy for AMG, a pipeline marketing agency based in Solon, Ohio. With more than 10 years of experience in marketing, Patty specializes in search, lead generation, and a customer-first strategy across the holistic buyer journey.