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Monday, September 25, 2006

Landing Page Usability: More Than Just The Curiosity Factor

A landing page is the page that visitors first see after becoming curious enough to clíck on a link to your site. The link may be found on search engine results pages, within a specifically targetëd email, on the site's navigation toolbar or within another website.

In many cases, these are links you pay for. The organic results delivered by SERPs are free, but, unless your site appears on the first two pages, it's unlikely that visitors will connect.

In many cases, the landing page is the site's home page - but not always, even within SERPs. Landing pages can appear anywhere within a web site.

Paid Links Demand ROI

If your landing page receives prominent display within search engine results pages, congratulations. Upward of 50% of visitor traffíc found that landing page through an SE query. However, only 20 to 25 sites can appear on page one of Google's SERPs. What about the other 10,000 links Google delivers to its users?

Often, smaller sites employ paid links to drive site traffíc. Google Adwords, for example, is a PPC (pay per clíck) means of building business. The important point is this: PPC programs have to more than pay for themselves in order for your site to remain a viable business.

Any form of paid linkage to one of your landing pages must deliver a nice ROI. And to do that, you need a fully-usable, engaging landing page. Otherwise, visitors won't stick around long enough to read about your low prices and free shipping.

The Purpose of the Landing Page

While all site pages have a purpose (at least on well-designed sites) a landing page typically has a special or singular purpose: to sell a particular item, to announce a product sale, to entice visitors to opt in, complete a questionnaire or perform some other MDA (most desired action).

First determine the MDA the landing page addresses. Then, design everything - from headlines and text to graphics and pictures - to support the completion of the MDA.

Try to keep to one MDA per landing page. Again, the landing page has a specific purpose. Extraneous information, slow-loading videos and a confusing call to action are distractions, along with affilíate links, text links and unnecessary animations. All distract the attention of the viewer from your MDA. Landing Page Design Principles

1. Create a headline that accomplishes the following:

tells the visitors that they're on the right page;
clearly states the purpose of the landing page - the MDA;
engages the visitor, piques interest, encourages the reader to continue.
The headline should be a grabber and appear "above the fold" - the top of your home page. That's the most valuable real estate on your site.

2. Use short blocks of text and single sentences surrounded by negative space (white). Visitors tend to scan rather than read the entire page, even if the text is pure poetry.

3. And because readers scan instead of read site text, use lots of headers, sub-heads and bullet lists. 4. The first sentence of each block of text should provide the critical information you want to impart, again because visitors scan, often reading just the first sentence of a paragraph or block of text.

5. Employ an unambiguous call to action. "Order Now!" "Call now before you forget!" Leave no doubt what action is expected of the visitor. Calls for action can appear throughout the landing page text and a call to action should be the last thing visitors read.

6. Choose a type font that's easy on the eyes. Avoid scrípt fonts and fonts with lots of curly-Qs.

7. If the landing page sells one or more products, provide visitors with pictures of the products.

8. Prices, including shipping and handling costs, should appear below the fold. But they should definitely appear.

Creating a Prominent Landing Page

If your landing page is also the home page, by definition it has prominence to visitors and to search engine spiders. However, if your landing page or pages are within the site, it's important to make sure search engine spiders recognize the importance of this page within the site - its prominence.

Spiders use a number of criteria to determine a particular page's prominence within the context of the entire site. Location is one criterion - the more clicks away from the home page, the less prominent - at least to the limited capabilities of current search engines.

Text is another criterion used to assess prominence. Keywords, keyword density and an automated comparison of keywords in the text against keywords in various HTML tags is another indicator of a page's prominence.

Finally, the number of links pointing to a particular page is an important factor in assessing page prominence. The more links connecting other pages to your landing page, the more prominent it will be to search engines when your site is indexed. This is especially important when landing page product offerings differ significantly from other products sold on the site. Search engines employ a mathematical taxonomy to classify each site within a particular category. So, if you market educational toys but introduce a landing page offering children's books, it's important for search engines to reevaluate the site's taxonomy and to expand the site's classification to include 'sellers of children's books'. One way to do this is to create links within the site all pointing to the landing page.

Landing pages are useful as motivators, as site directories, information sources and for many other valuable purposes. However, the development of an effective landing page takes careful thought and an understanding of what drives both humans and search engine spiders.

Generate increased site traffíc and improve your conversion rate with a well-designed, well-written, well-placed and well-connected landing page on your site.


About The Author
Frederick Townes is the owner of W3 EDGE Web Design. W3 EDGE specializes in custom business web design and development, providing bleeding edge solutions to fit needs from small static sites to large dynamic sites requiring a fully customized CMS system. Contact them today to find out how W3 EDGE can help you make the most of your online presence.

posted by Scott Jones @ 7:09 am 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Google Goal Of Indexing 100 Billion Web Pages

Google's Goal of Quality Search

In their paper 'The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine' it is very evident that Google's goal has always been to be one of the best search engines there is in terms of the quality of the results it gives. Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, however knew that in order to do this, Google needed to be able to store information efficiently and cost effectively and to have excellent crawling, indexing, and sorting methods or techniques. Google not only aimed to give quality results but to produce the results as fast as possible.

Google started as a high quality search engine and continues to be the best search engine today. It has managed to stay true to its original intent to be a search engine that not only crawls and indexes the web efficiently but also a search engine that produces more satisfying results in comparison to other existing search engines. To stay true to the goal of providing the best search results, Google knew right from the start that it had to be designed so that the search engine could catch up with the web's growth. According to Brin and Page "In designing Google we have considered both the rate of growth of the Web and technological changes. Google is designed to scale well to extremely large data sets. It makes efficient use of storage space to store the index". They knew that they needed much space to store an ever growing index.

Google's index size, which started out as 24 million web pages, was large for its time and has grown to around 25 billion web pages, still keeping Google ahead of its competitors. However, Google is a company that doesn't settle for just beating the competitors. They truly aim to give their users the best service there is and that means as a search engine they want to give users access to all or at least most of the quality information that is available on the web.

Google's New System for Indexing More Pages

As mentioned earlier, Google aims to give access to even more information and has been devoting time and much effort to realize this goal. It seems that the new patent entitled 'Multiple Index Based Information Retrieval System' filed by Google employee Anna Patterson might be the answer to the problem. The patent published just this May of 2006 and filed way back in January of 2005 shows that Google might actually be aiming to expand their index size to as much as a 100 billion web pages or even more.

According to the patent, conventional information retrieval systems, more commonly known as search engines, are able to index only a small part of the documents available on the Internet. According to estimates, the existing number of web pages on the Internet as of last year was around 200 billion; however, Patterson claimed that even the best search engine (that is Google) was able to index only up to 6 to 8 billion web pages.

The disparity between the number of indexed pages and existing pages clearly signaled a need for a new breed of information retrieval system. Conventional information retrieval systems just weren't capable of doing the job and just wouldn't be able to index enough web pages to give users access to a large enough percentage of the present existing information available on the web.

The Multiple Index Based Information Retrieval System, however, is up to the challenge and is Google's answer to the problem. Two characteristics of the new system makes it stand out compared to the conventional systems. One is that it has the "capability to index an extremely large number of documents, on the order of a hundred billion or more". And the other is its capability to "index multiple versions or instances of documents for archiving...enabling a user to search for documents within a specific range of dates, and allowing date or version related relevance information to be used in evaluating documents in response to a search query and in organizing search results."

With the new system developed by Patterson, Google now has the ability to expand its index size to unbelievable proportions as well as improve document analysis and processing, document annotation, and even the process of ranking according to contained and anchor phrases.

History of Google's Index Size

Google started out with an index size of around 24 million web pages in 1996. By August of 2000, Google had managed to quadruple their index size to approximately one billion web pages. In September of 2003, Google's front-page boasted an index of 3.3 billion web pages. Microdoc, however, revealed that the actual number of web pages Google had indexed during that time was already more than five billion web pages. In their article 'Google Understates the Size of Its Database', they emphasized that Google not only specialized in simplicity but also in understating their power and complexity. Google was still managing to stay ahead of its competitors and continued to surprise everyone with what they had up their sleeves.

As Google's index continued to grow the number in their front page grew impressively large as well before it plateaued at eight billion web pages. This was around the time that Patterson filed the new patent. Then in 2005, with controversies in index size growing, Google decided to stop counting in front of the public and simply claimed that their index size was three times largër than the nearest competitor's index size. Google also maintained that it was not just the size of indexed pages that was important but how relevant the results they returned were.

Then in September of 2005, as part of Google's 7th anniversary, Anna Patterson, the same software engineer who filed the patent on the Multiple Based Index Information Retrieval System posted an entry on Google's official blog claiming that the index size was now 1,000 times larger than the original index. This pegged their index size at around 24 billion web pages, about a fourth of Google's goal of indexing a 100 billion web pages. It seems then that Google must have started using the new system in mid 2005. With the new system in place, we can only wait and see how fast Google will reach the goal of a 100 billion web pages in its index. It's most likely though that when Google has reached that goal it will set an even higher goal to provide continuous quality service.


About The Author
Danny Wirken is co-owner of http://www.theinternetone.net an internet marketing website that primarily focuses on the many aspects, methodologies and processes that are used in internet marketing.

posted by Scott Jones @ 10:06 am 0 comments links to this post