Google is not your navigation

I’m going to say that loud and clear, if people are using Google to navigate your site, you have a problem.  A serious one. The bigger the site, the bigger the problem.

Google as navigation

This is the most visible sign that you have a navigation problem.

You will see this happen when someone arrives into your site at a deep level, stay for one page and then either bounce out or try using navigation and then bounce out. If your analytics are setup to identify multiple journeys by a single person (and their cookies allow it), you’ll see this behaviour more readily.

People bouncing in and out of your site relying on Google to navigate your site is a bad thing for you.

I’ll explain why, but let me just give you a bitesized intro to relevancy.

First page relevancy

When people use Google, they usually only pick results in the first page, usually the top half.  Anything beyond that page and it might as well be dead to them.

This is relevancy in action.  Anything beyond that first page is irrelevant. The higher the rank, the more relevant.

Whether this is actually the case or not right now is unimportant to the person carrying out the search.

How the results get there is voodoo to the vast majority of the population. If something is more relevant, people will ask why it’s not on the first page.

Small fish, big pond

If people coming to your site come via Google, on that search term, at that moment in time, you are a small fish in a big pond, but happen to be the strongest swimmer.

Great, right?

But when that person lands on your site, you want to keep them there a little longer. You want them to use your navigation or your onsite search.

If your navigation doesn’t work then people will go back to what they trust to give them relevancy. They’ll go back to Google and search again.

If that second term happens to rank you as small fish, big pond, strong swimmer, again great.  But consider what happens if you’re not the strong swimmer.

Your visitors will pick the more relevant rank to them.

That means

  • A lost sale, or

  • Missinformation, or

  • Risk to life.

Read the last one slowly.  I’ve spent the last two years working for NHS Digital. The risk of misinformation from an untrusted source can and is a delayed diagnosis. Which means people die.

Trust the source, Luke

Bad puns aside (c’mon, that one was SO good). The only way you can be certain your visitors will trust the source is for them to remain on your site.

The only way you can keep them on your site is to give them a trustworthy compelling navigation method. That includes both your navigation UI and your onsite search.

Don’t make it hard for your visitors to use them.

Want to find out more about this topic, and others, then you need my Introduction to Navigation Design course.

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