claaarky - 3:09 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)
Tedster, just to answer your question a bit more, yes there are patterns (ignoring the cases where good pages go bad because of events outside of our website). It basically boils down to Amit Singhal's list to be honest but I'll try to put it in my own words!
In general the low quality pages, shallow, whatever you want to call them (I haven't yet thought of a word or phrase that perfectly sums up what we're seeing except for 'bad user metrics') are caused by the following:-
- low quality images (slightly blurry)
- images that just aren't very interesting or engaging,
- anything that isn't 100% appropriate to the page (text or images - e.g. an image of an Eagle accompanied by text that mostly talks about birds but doesn't actually mention eagles),
- anything that's badly written (spelling mistakes, bad grammar or lacking in any real helpful detail. For example you could describe a TV as rectangular, flat and sexy OR as LED, 50 inch screen, 3D with a 5 year guarantee....people unsurprisingly prefer the second version).
- long pages that don't do a good job of helping the user work their way through the content it in small, digestible chunks,
- inaccurate page titles (misleads the visitor, affects trust potentially),
- product is bad value (overpriced for what it is, or available elsewhere cheaper)
Those are the biggies. It seems that they all erode a visitor's trust and engagement in the site. In some sections of our site we had lots of pages where the user metrics were on the border of acceptability, but we found they had a cumulative grinding down effect so, although our flagging system said they were okay individually, collectively they were bad news. There would still be certain pages with slightly worse user metrics in amongst them but these would be quite random - almost like people left once they couldn't take any more rather than the page they actually left from being the main problem.
Pages that have none of these issues have great user metrics. However, we do have some pages that DO have one or more of these issues but also have great user metrics - these tend to be where we have products better priced than anyone else (i.e. the price makes it great quality and compensates/overrides the negative factors). We still improved these pages on the basis they'd be even more popular if we did.
Another interesting observation is that bad product reviews really improve engagement and, ironically, conversion. It's like the fact we're prepared to show bad reviews gives people more confidence in us. We added a really slating review to one quite popular product and gritted our teeth, but it suddenly started selling like hot cakes. The number of visitors and external entrances remained the same initially, but as sales grew the page began rising in the rankings (ranking followed popularity, rather than the other way round). However, after a few weeks the sales fell away again and then the ranking dropped as well. This seems to confirm people have more confidence in information that is up to date or recent and that trust can be gained in some surprising ways! It also seems to confirm that pages people like and are engaged with will rank better as a result.
Basically, our observations are simply that running an online business is now no different to running a bricks and mortar business. That's an observation I'm liking a lot. It means I don't have to figure out Google - I need to figure out people and I have a chance of understanding how people work, because I am one. People are far more complex and constantly changing than any computer system could ever be, but I still feel I have a better chance now.