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6 Reasons Search Engine Traffic Will Flee Your Website

by Russ Henneberry

There is a reason that traffic from search engines is hard to please.  Six reasons actually.

When a site visitor arrives after being referred by a friend or family member in an email or from Facebook, we call it Referral Traffic.  It’s a warmer lead then the folks that come in cold from Search Engine traffic.

Search Engine Traffic from PPC or SEO is often cold.  They may have no experience with your business, products or brands.  It’s a much different site visitor than the one that types your URL into their browser after reading a full page spread on you in Inc. Magazine.

Sure, they typed in a keyword that indicates they are looking for what you sell, but they are cold and skeptical about you being the one that sells it to them.

They don’t trust your website.  And you can’t blame them.  You’re new.

They are looking for signals.  Signals that will tell them whether you can be trusted, or not.

Use This Checklist

They will size you up starting with the 10,000 foot birds eye view.  And, if you pass that test they will engage deeper and deeper into the content of the website.  At each point, you could fail and they could flee.

The first three reasons we will discuss are evaluated almost instantly upon visiting your website.

Let’s start with the big picture…

1. You Look Funny

Within seconds of hitting the website, you have been judged.

The look and feel of the website will have given an impression of trust or anxiety.  If it’s the latter, see you later.

In most cases, I subscribe to the maxim that the design shouldn’t get in the way.  It should be noticed almost subconsciously by the site visitor.

All things being equal, less is more.

For me, good design is like house cleaning.  It is only noticed when it is not done.

And when it is not done, at the very least, you have a major strike against you.  Cold traffic has a difficult time swallowing poor design.  At worst, you have sent the site visitor off to your competitor.

2. No Focal Point

If the design is deemed acceptable, the brain immediately searches for the focal point.  This all happens in a matter of seconds.

The main question on the brain’s mind… “Does this website create the outcome I am looking for?”

This is why a solid headline is so important.  A good headline immediately communicates the benefit and persuades the visitor to dive deeper into the content of the website.

As Joe Sugarman put it, the purpose of the headline is to get the reader to read the first sentence.

But the focal point is much more than a headline.  It can contain text, images and audio.

But whatever it contains, it should be designed to draw they eye immediately and communicate the benefit. Failure to do so with cold traffic from SEO and PPC will lead your visitor to believe that you can’t provide the outcome they are looking for.

In other words, bye bye.

3. No Evidence

If we had a choice between two restaurants, neither of which we knew anything about, we would pick the one with more cars in the parking lot.

Why?  Because one of the ways we decide what to do is to look at what others are doing.  It’s called social proof and it is incredibly powerful.

Once again, within seconds of visiting a web page our brain is searching for evidence that the website can provide the outcome we are looking for.  Indications that the company behind the website has provided the outcome for other people builds trust.

Skeptical, cold traffic that comes to your site from search engines can be soothed by logos of companies you have worked with, testimonials and badges of organizations you are a member of.

4. They’re Working Too Hard

The first three elements we discussed in this post are assessed virtually simultaneously within a few seconds of hitting your web page.

If you’ve passed this test, congratulations.  But you aren’t out of the woods yet.

Your site visitor now takes a swig of their coffee and begins interacting with your website on a more granular level.

The first thing they will notice is whether it is user friendly.

  • Is the navigation easy to use?
  • Are buttons clearly labeled?
  • Is there a search function?

In other words, does the tool (your website) work in a way that let’s them easily get the outcome they desire?

Each time the user has a negative experience with the way the site functions, you lose points.   When you’re dealing with cold traffic, you don’t have many points to lose.

5. They Don’t Know What You Are About

This one might seem out of place in this article.  But I think it deserves its own section.

I have been involved in the marketing of 100’s of websites over the years.  For 9 out of 10 websites the “About” page or its equivalent is one of the most visited pages on the site.

Particularly for cold traffic.

And this passes the sniff test — people do business with people.  Not websites.

They want to know who they are buying from.

Read more about creating an About Page here.

6. It Sounds Funny

Last but certainly not least is the copy.

Much like the first reason, you look funny, the copy is what you sound like.

The text on the page or the words spoken in the video or audio are critical to building trust.

It goes without saying that spelling and grammar issues will crush you.  While spelling and grammar errors might be tolerated on content oriented parts of the website, no one likes to see a half-dozen errors on a page that is asking you to buy a $1000 product.

But good copy is so much more than grammar.  And, if you will forgive a quick rant, I believe this is the most neglected elements of building a website that builds trust.

When websites are built, particularly for small businesses, the line-item that is often crossed off on the proposal is copy writing services.  The business owner often feels that they can do the writing.

And they may be correct.  But make no mistake, there is art and science to copy writing.

And failure to create persuasive copy, will send your site visitors packing.

Make Deposits Early

I like to think of this trust phenomenon like a bank account.  You gain and lose trust as the visitor continues to interact with your website and your company.

But cold traffic comes in with a balance of zero.

This is why the first three elements we discussed are so important.  Cold traffic coming in from a search engine won’t tolerate a terrible design.  They won’t stick around if they can’t find a focal point that clearly communicates that they are in the right place.

You simply don’t have enough trust in the bank with that type of site visitor.

Evaluate your website based on the criteria we discussed above.  Fix the issues you have with establishing trust with cold website traffic.

Do that and you will have much more than trust in your bank account.

What did I miss?  Let me know in the comments. 



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. MJ Meyer says:
    July 24, 2012 at 3:19 am

    WOW! Best. Read. Ever!!!

    There’s not a single point that I don’t agree with. Every single business on Earth should see this before getting a website done!!

  2. Ettie Steg says:
    June 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Dear Russ,
    So glad I discovered your blog. Would appreciate your comments on naming pages. I am in a quandary about that.

    The key words I would naturally use are much too common, and if I use original ones, who will search for those terms??
    The site is and I would much appreciate any and all critiques.


    • Russ Henneberry says:
      June 26, 2012 at 8:35 am

      @Ettie — Are you referring to the title tags on your pages?

  3. Clint Lenard says:
    June 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Fully agree with everything here, Russ. Great points, especially #4. It’s amazing how many sites have far too many things going on and fail to test with all of the tools available, such as CrazyEgg.


    • Russ Henneberry says:
      June 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      @Clint — Thanks Clint! You’re right and tools (like Crazy Egg) are very simple to use!

  4. Navigator Multimedia says:
    June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for the article, Russ! It’s worth mentioning that while spelling and grammar are not used as direct signals for the Google search algorithm, Matt Cutts has mentioned in a Google Webmaster Help clip that he notices a correlation between a site’s spelling/grammar quality and its PageRank. Correct spelling and grammar boost a site’s legitimacy as a source of information, encouraging users to trust and explore.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      June 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      @Sarah — Good stuff Sarah — thanks for adding that!

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