Does your website have a scent?

Before you lean over and sniff your screen, let me explain.
If you’ve ever set up ‘goals’ in your analytics software, you’ll understand how this works, but your website should have a scent. Or maybe several.
I’m not talking about the sweet smell of ylang ylang, or the aroma coming from a bed of roses. Your users should be able to pick up a scent from your landing pages, a scent that leads them through to fulfill your goals and calls to action.
Maintaining a ‘scent’ keeps website users on track right through to completing the goal and leaving. It’s the invisible thread that pulls them from one page to the next, without making them stop and think.
Some of the techniques used in maintaining scent are:
Link integrity – links should link to what they say, so the link and the resulting page title should be reasonably similar. Losing this connection between the link and the page can break the scent.
Search – When users arrive at your website from a search engine, they have followed a link. This is where they first pick up the scent. Make sure your website is meeting their needs by providing the information they are searching for.
Design integrity – Changing the design or layout between pages is poor usability and will break the scent. Users will expect pages to have consistency, surprising them with something different will break the scent.
Security – On ecommerce sites, users will become increasingly aware of security during the checkout process. Unexpected behaviours here will knock your customers’ confidence, especially on first-time purchases. And remember, the first purchase, if completed, will boost confidence in your site’s ability to fulfill, leading to repeat sales.
Switching medium – Try to maintain scents across your website, email and social media. Any scent picked up on the website may be lost elsewhere if it is watered down. Establish a policy for handling messages by email and social media.
Microcopy – Never underestimate the power of single words and short phrases in influencing your customers. Sometimes we are tempted to say too much, destroying the lure of finding out more.
We’ve all seen a dog sniffing around after losing a scent, frantically confused. Don’t do this to your website users, they are your next customers.