Usability and SEO: Two Wins for the Price of One

Apr 13, 2007 • 12:03 pm | comments (0) by twitter | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2007 New York
 

Usability and SEO: Two Wins for the Price of One, Friday, April 13, 2007 10:45am Organic Track

Moderator: Dana Todd, SEMPO and SiteLab

Speakers: Shari Thurow, GrantasticDesigns.com Matt Bailey, Site Logic Marketing

Was just interviewed by Mike McDonald of Webpronews again. I thought I'd be more relaxed, the second time around (1st interview was in Chicago), but I was still afraid my words would come tumbling out too fast and I wouldn't make any sense. He and videographer, Richard Easterling are professional, comfortable with what they're doing and do their best to put interviewees at ease. We discussed usability a little and how it relates to seo, which leads me into the next session I covered, presented below. This session is in a ballroom size room and it is full.

Dana Todd arrives. She is the moderator. She's surprised to see so many people show up on the last day...cold room. Every visitor is important to convert. You need to think about making your website perform. Introduces for Shari Thurow. She's a lively moderator. My favorite so far!

Shari is first. Dana and I have been with the conferences since the beginning. She calls it "search usability." Website usability vs. search usability. She loves Jakob Nielsen's view that usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces or web pages are to use. Are you giving users enough info when they arrive? SEO and usability are not that different. Focus groups measure opinions. There is a herd mentality, the one who disagrees will likely go along with the majority. Usability. Measures whether person finishes a task. Did they click a button? Did they add to cart? Not a matter of being a cool site. Are they completing a desired task and if not, why not? Balance between user and business goals? The customer is not always right. We have to balance what the majority expects. Usability. Addresses search behaviors. Queries, browsing, surfing, pogo-sticking foraging, scanning, reading, berry picking. Search is not a linear process. If people are jumping back and forth between search results pages, that's negative search behavior. They're not finding what they’re looking for. Scent of info, sense of place, user confidence, info arch vs. site nav, interface - key concepts in search usability.

Scent of info = term highlighting in search engines is one ex. Google uses it in titles, ad copy, html title tags, term highlighting in snippets, some urls can provide scent of info. Too much highlighting bugs people because it seems like keyword stuffing. Primary and secondary text serves SERPS. Html tags, copy, meta tag desc.... Whenever a page provides scent of info and sense of place, not irritating to users. Show people a page for 8 seconds, and remove it. Ask them if they remember what the page was about. If they can't recall, not enough keywords to give sense of place. Good places to put keywords are top left. Recommends H1 tag. Breadcrumb trails are good for keywords. Main body.

What do you want people to do? Put that in the middle in the page and or above the page fold. Embedded text links are good for keywords. Navigation links. This is providing a sense of place for people and it also ranks well. She's showing an example of how pages can be optimized for SEO and are people oriented at the same time. Her illustrations show placement of copy, labels, content and links that illustrate this balance. Do your keyword research first, and then do you IA based on that. Site nav is part of the interface. Categorization is the IA, and how you do nav is the interface. She shows primary, secondary, and lower level navigation. Asks users in tests, What level are you viewing? If the IA and interface are keyword focused, people recall data easier, and where they are on a site. This is not keyword stuffing. It's logical placement of keywords to support the people who are visiting the site. She shows how this also ranks pages at the same time.

Nav schemes - text yes, FLASH now. User what your users prefer and put supplemental text links at the bottom as alt. Graphic nav, make sure you have relevant cross linking. Number 1 design mistake is cross linking. Cross linking is internal. There are vertical - breadcrumb, cat/sub/product and are a "you are here" directive. Breadcrumbs help form a mental model of the site. Don't make the homepage the main emphasis. Embedded texts are great because you look at a page of content and it is boring but links are keyword focused and provide scent of info. Alphabetical nav links can be helpful for some search scenarios. The key she points out is to provide alternative nav for different types of users and needs. Alternative links for products are good for things like related products, for ex. Sitemaps are huge positive. It's a map of sites global nav. If you have to submit your sitemap to engines, then your IA is poor. Keywords in urls count. Characters in URls are stop signs to SE's. Hyphens in urls are not the end of the world. What urls will your users remember better? Dynamic urls are hard to recall. Directors or subs? Both are fine for people and engines. Sub domain or main domain? Both are fine with SE's and people. Whenever possible your urls should reflect your sites arch.

She's over her time limit. She's going to talk about MedicineNet.com. She got the project of making the site of making it user friendly rather than seo friendly. She shows examples of on page optimization for human goals. Then they tracked and it shows skyrocketed conversions, ROI with no zero PPC investment. Shari is a detailed speaker. This is my third time covering this session. Her strength is in the fine details and illustrating to the audience on-page placement of elements, which I can't do justice for in this post. Her screenshots are a better way of communicating her ideas. She shares a great deal of info.

Matt Bailey is next.

Once you get involved with usability you fall in love with it. The reason you are here is because you want people to do what you want at your website. Get people to your site. Why spend money on seo when you neglect to measure where they're going and what they can't find? If they can't find it, its not there. It doesn't exist. Same as seo. If not in engines, it doesn't exist.

Homepage should have clear directions. SEO links out to the rest of the site and keyword focused navigation. What you sell must be very evident. Exit and bounce rates, when they search and they land on a page that has no info on what they just searched for, they will leave. They need a reason to stay and go somewhere from there. There must be a goal for your visitors. He shows Hall of Shame sites.

You can shop now or enter the site, which one should I do? Funny ex. of a site for cars. Users have a sense of fear in their choice. "I made a wrong decision at the very beginning” They want to shop but also want to go into the site. Pet site example - he has the audience cracking up. Is there anything on the homepage that shows it’s a store? It says product not products. Nav needs to be more desc. of what people will find. Shows a wine site. Ads from Google on a homepage are illogical because it takes people off your site. The color contrasts were terrible. Black links. Dark colors on dark colors. You need high contrast colors.

Taxonomy= good organization. User research comes in handy. What do people call your products and how do THEY group it? Not you or your company. New customers? Existing customers? Address your users’ needs immediately, right from the homepage. Understand what your visitors are looking for. Bring it forward. You can divide up by categories, as one suggestion. Groupings by how people do tasks. By price? Ratings? Popular? He shows a wine site that constantly changes their homepage based on research on how visitors conduct tasks on the site. This analysis explains what they want to do and the site nav and content, and keywords back it up and support this.

You need an established hierarchy of categories. For seo, multiple links with keywords. Customer based nav groupings. Don't hide links. Make them look like links. Buttons that don't look clickable are a no-no. Don't make people think about what they need to do. Use keywords in product links, Alt text, captions and labels. When you group in product pages, don't put so many categories on one page forcing a long scroll down. Don't clump all products on one page. Don't be afraid to add new pages. Shows an example of missing sub-navigation and faulty nav. Shows example of sub-navigation that is redundant. Stop selling so much. Far into a site, people want to focus on just the product, not all the other stuff you throw into the top and side spaces. Shows a good ex of ThinkGeek site and how they do sub-nav well. Other ex. is nav by type, price, etc. Call products by what they are. Be product specific about product content. For seo, call products what they are. The want benefits, value prop., how it connects to your users vs. just product stats. Sales decisions are emotional decision. You need to sell to the logical and emotional sides How will product make my life better? Problem solve keywords. Make your nav solve problems.

Shows a toilet aquarium site and everyone laughs. Site homepage is one big graphic, and everyone boos. Landing pages, does this page meet my needs and expectations? Shows his now famous Butt Paste web page. It's on a baby site. Has everyone in stitches. It was featured on Oprah. Search is for diaper rash ointment. That keyword is on the page in one place. But product is "Butt paste", a product name which is not what people search for.

Shows example of third party shopping cart on another site. New UI to deal with. Shows a sushi site. Has a buy button but no price. What happens if someone clicks a buy button. Shows a science site...rubber band powered racers. The page had 3 different product names on one page reinforced with content and big visible buy now button. Shows a real website warning that failure to review company's policy may be damaging financially to the user. Funny. He shows a product page with content that clearly describes product benefit to the user if they use it. Asks for review or upload you using the product. High rank because of extra content. Where do people enter and exit your site. Hilarious screenshot of with people using search engines and he represents Yahoo and Google with MSN sneaking onto the page. Avoid using slang. Words that are lost in translation. International users - not everyone have 5 digit zip codes. Not everyone lives in a state. Show shipping before they buy. Make pages easy to navigation, easy to find.

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