One factor that many people, be they website owners or website optimization never takes into account is that the navigation system (buttons and links) can make a huge difference in the rankings. We have actually test this by improving the navigation system of a test website and saw it start at number eight and climb to number one. Then we reversed the process and the rankings went back down. We repeated the process over and over again. Always with the same results.
Why is Easy Navigation Important?
Google uses a small program called a "cookie" to monitor the actions of each and every visitor to it's website (including you and what you are doing on this website right now). If the people on your website act in a manner demonstrating they like the website then Google will raise your website in it's rankings. On the other hand if the people's actions indicate they do not like the website then Google will lower the websites rankings. And so your navigation system is extremely important because it affects how people act while on your website.
A Website is like a Book
Let's say you recommended two books to a friend. They were not allowed to actually say the words as to whether they liked it or not but could only answer specific questions. So you asked them how many pages they read in the book. Your friend says they read 2 pages of the first book. On the second book they read "all' of the pages. From this you could assume they liked the second book better. Another question you could have asked is "How much time total did you spend reading the book". If they say two seconds on the first book and eight hours on the second book you can assume they liked the second book more than the first book. Based on this information you would probably never recommend the first book to any of your friends, but you would probably recommend the second book to any of your friends who enjoyed that type of subject matter.
Google Analyzes Visitor Actions
Since a website is similar to a book, it's pretty easy to assume that if people on average only visit one page of a website that people don't like it. If they visit a lot of pages, then they do like it. And that is how Google sees it. If people visit "more pages on your website" than they do on your competitions website then Google will move your website in the rankings. The same is true if they spend more time on your site.
How Do I Get People To Visit More Pages on My Website
Our first recommendation to every client is that their website should have next and previous buttons as close to the top of the website as possible (See ours above). We have done testing and proved that people visit more pages on websites if there is a next and previous button. In fact on most of our clients sites we have a next and previous button on each page sitting above a picture. When people click on these buttons it takes them to a new page with a new picture. And of course another next button. Some people want to see more pictures (emotion) and so they sit there clicking next, next, next, next. Which pushes the website in Google.
No Drop Downs
Google absolutely does not like drop down button menus. People building websites think they are cool, reduce clutter and make the website prettier. But in reality in most cases they are actually hurting the profits made from the website. This is because most people have to use drop down menus to find what they want. They may use them to find one or two pages. But then they generally stop and leave. In fact, while it is not quite as pretty, most people (via tests we have seen of their actions on websites) prefer sites where they can find any page of the website in a single click. Hence no drop downs.
There is also one more reason not to use drop down buttons. Google feels that any text (buttons) that is visible at all times is important. It also feels that any text or buttons which are hidden are of less importance. And so Google may rank that one single drop down button that is always visible highly, but at the same time it is lowering the rankings of every page whose button is not visible at all times.
Nothing is worse than going to a website and the buttons (choices) change from page to page. The human mind craves organization and simplicity. The minute people have to stop and thing, or retrace their steps the odds increase that they will simply leave your website and find one that is easy to navigate.
Look at our site. See how all the buttons are visible at all times. That information is broken into categories. And that we have next and previous buttons at the top of every page? It may not be beautiful but having done sites this way and many others we have found that a website layout similar to this will absolutely stomp the competitions websites in the search engines nine out of ten times. We can do sites in any layout you want. But our recommendation is that visitors find it easy to navigate your website so that your rank high enough to pull in even more visitors in the future.
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