January 24, 2006
Case Study

How to Use Internal Site Search Data to Revamp Your Home Page: People's Bank

SUMMARY: Are you stuck in committee meetings trying to figure out how your home page could be revamped so more visitors find what they want -- quickly and easily? Chances are every department has different ideas about what should be on your navigation bar. Plus, with more and more Web pages being created, your home page may become hopelessly cluttered. Discover how marketers at People's Bank used their own site search stats to solve internal debates, declutter Home, and get better site results:
CHALLENGE People's Bank (NASDAQ: PBCT) Web site has been growing like mushrooms after the rain. Starting with a handful of pages in the 1990s, now the Connecticut-based Bank's site has more than 1,300 pages. At first the marketing and Web design team tried to help visitors cope with burgeoning page growth by installing the best internal site search function they could. That worked wonders for a few years. (See below for link to past MarketingSherpa Case Study on this.)

But, inevitably, People's home page became more cluttered, and hence the site harder to navigate.

Last Summer, Internet Channel Manager Scott Hurlbert knew it was time for a complete home page revamp. However, as he notes, "It's not that useful to look at an existing site and say, 'Well now what? What most people do is they get a list of all their content owners and they get them in a room and they kind of sponsor a fight, and negotiate some kind of new information design based on what all the people who write the site want.

"That's not really based on what visitors are looking for."

"We also found that looking at Web analytics reports is really not that helpful because people are only clicking on links that they actually find. So, well it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy."

How could Hurlbert's team revamp the site's home page based on what visitors really wanted?

CAMPAIGN You guessed it. The team turned to their internal site search logs. They reviewed both:

- what visitors appeared to be looking for
- what terms (wording) visitors used to describe their site goals

Plus, they brought both brand advertising and direct marketing into the fold to discover what messages they were sending to the outside world that might prompt visitors to visit the site. The revised site, launched after weeks of beta testing (especially of link and button names and placement) in an in-house usability lab, featured three key differences from the old one (link below to before-and-after screenshots).

#1. Pulling the tagline into the logo area

Eyetracking studies show that visitors eyes treat top left of the screen where logos tend to be as very different real-estate from the top right corner of the screen which they have lesser expectations for. People's old site design had the logo at the top left and the tagline at the top right … now Hurlbert's team unified these two pieces together into one block at the left.

They also decided to leave the upper right corner of the site empty aside from the search box, which would give search a boost. This hopefully would help the visitor-type who hates to review written navigation links, the search box they preferred to use.

#2. Two clear graphic areas for marketing

Like most banks, People's conducts both brand advertising campaigns via broadcast media and local outdoor, as well as targeted direct response campaigns often via postal mail. The team knew from landing page studies, that

(a) no matter what special URL you give consumers, inevitably many will just go to your home page instead; and,

(b) promotionally-driven visitors need to see a visual image and if possible a headline that matches the promotion as much as possible … or they quickly leave.

So, the team dedicated the middle of the home page to a graphic image plus headline the echoed offline brand advertising, so newbies would know they were in the "right place."

In addition, they added another graphic area below that to post exact copies of current direct mail campaigns so these recipients would also know they were in the right place.

#3. Separating navigation blocks by type of user

The old site was cluttered by a plethora of navigation links, each trying to serve a different visitor's needs. Although the typeface was big and easy to read, it's still hard to wade through dozens of very different links no matter how easily you can see them.

So, the team decided to divide the links and clump them by visitor-type.

90% of People's visitors were current customers, most of whom went online to log into their accounts. The left-hand navigation bar now became almost wholly dedicated to their needs, with a log-in form at the very top.

For the smaller, but equally important group of newbies, as well as current customers considering new services and job seekers, Hurlbert's team created a new horizontal navigation bar across the top of the screen. "We looked at our search logs to see what people are searching for the most. We said let's eliminate them having to do that search step, and put the link on the home navigation. The term list goes through the lowest hanging fruit."

These buttons were all labeled using explicit terminology based on the words thousands of visitors in the past had entered into the site search box.

These surfer-friendly terms were slightly different than you usually see on bank sites; such as "Borrowing" instead of "loans", and 'Branches" instead of "locations".

RESULTS Since the revamped home page launched in September 2005, visitors are clearly finding what they want more quickly and easily on the site.

Example, now that the word 'Careers' has been added to the top horizontal bar, 80% fewer searchers look for the jobs page and traffic to the jobs page has risen by 25%.

Before the site revamp, the average visitor used the site search box 1.5 times during a session (note: this is fairly low); since the revamp, that number lowed to 1.2 searches per average session. Plus the items being searched for are now less likely to be links already available on the navigation.

People are simply finding what they want more easily. In the end, this helps conversions and customer satisfaction rise.

Useful links related to this article:

Before-and-after screenshots of People's Bank home page: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/pb2/study.html

Past MarketingSherpa Case Study, "How People's Bank Uses Internal Search Analytics to Turn More Browsers into Customers": http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=23514

Mondosoft - the site search software People's uses to power search and analyze results: http://www.mondosoft.com

People's Bank: http://www.peoples.com

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