Usability & SEO: Two Wins For The Price of One

Aug 23, 2007 • 4:42 pm | comments (0) by twitter | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2007 San Jose
 

If you build a user friendly site, chances are you've also built a search engine friendly site. This session teaches how good usability can help your human visitors while bringing in search traffic.

Moderator: Gordon Hotchkiss, Enquiro Search Solutions

Speakers: Shari Thurow, Omni Marketing Interactive Matt Bailey, Site Logic Marketing

Finally, it is about 12:30 pm Thursday and this is the last session of the day. Today is a half-day, with tomorrow devoted to training. People are still trickling in. I've covering this session for the third or fourth time...am losing count. Ice cream cones are being passed around. Gord throws one to someone in the audience. It gets thrown around until it finally lands in the back to someone in the audience. The speakers and Gord are eating them too. He kills time by asking how the parties were last night. Room is about full. Gord introduces Shari by using her old company. She teases him about that. Gordon remarks they get less formal as the days wear on. By the time the session was ending, the room was packed.

Shari:

She will discuss search usability vs web site usability. A lot of SEO's don't understand web site usability. People type in keyword phrase. Ave. is 2.3 words. Get a search result. They go to the page they desire. SE's do term hightlighting of that word. This provides "scent of information" (see Jared Spool). They want to see their same keywords on the page they click into. IF you design for the user only you won't make a lot of money.You need to meet business goals too. People don't always create using user personas or base design on user behaviors. Browsing? Pogo sticking (jumping between pages), foraging, scanning, reading, berrypicking. Querying. These are search behaviors to take into consideration. Scent of info, sense of place, user confidence, info arch vs site nav, interface are key concepts in search usability.

Scent of info is make of text and graphical cues that people use to decide a path to chooose. Term highlighted in engines helps with scent of information by offering clues. Usability serves relevancy via HTML title tags, body copy. Secondary text is meta tag desc and url structure. Provide a sense of place and scent of information. This encourages clicks to the your pages. There is the 8 second (or 5 second) test. Show people your page for 5-8 seconds. Ask where are you? What are you viewing? What is the topic? Is the info you want there? This helps you understand if the keywords are there or not or the content provides enough scent of information clues. She gives a demonstration of a page constructed and describes the content elements, how screen real estate is used, where people's eyes go first, how search engines react to the page, etc. Recommends not removing the underline for clickable links. Because blue is associated with being a click, using blue for non clickable words is confusing to people. Her demo page also shows a litle bit about how to redundant info to help visitors understand the page.

Info arch is the organization of site content into groups. Determine info arch first, then design. She has a demo page that shows navigation, groupings of info. Asked people what are you viewing? They got it 100% right because page was keyword focused and navigation supports it via keyword oriented labels and specific placement of info. Keywords help your visitors find what they want while also aiding search engines. Site nav, cross linking,page layout, allocation of page real estate and url structure is where you add keywords to content to be spider friendly. Shows a demo of breadcrumb navigaiton and how you can put words in reverse

order in the breadcrumb trail, for keyword searches in reverse order. Cross link vertically as well as horizontally. Use embedded text links. If you have a glossary, you should have some form of alphabetical navigation (A, B, C, D etc.) Every site should have a sitemap. Don't make sea of blue. Annotate the links. She says if you have to create a sitemap so your users can use the site, it means your site isn't built right. There are those who disagree with this few as well. Simple URLS are the ones users will remember the most. (The ones minus the extra parameters.) One sub directory or two? Both are fine and both are search engine friendly. Sub directory or sub domain are fine. Sub domains are recommended for very large sites. URLS can and should communicate the site arch and it doesn't hurt rank She shows a case study...says a swear word and asks me not to blog it. (That was funny.) The case studies show how different organization of elements on a page, with exact same content, compare with each other. You have to consider the end user. The performance of tasks was tested. Search usability helps web pages be found and helps visitors use the site once its found.

Matt:

Last speaker, last session, last day...he jokes. Usability is always last. Says he's on a sugar high from the ice cream. Search and usability are hand in hand. SEO is a child of usability and site arch. When you make usability changes on your site you will see changes in search results too. Number one goal of search is to get people to your site. Increase qualified traffic. USability is what happens when they get there.

Where do you want them go and what do you want them to. IF they can't find it, it's not there. It's your problem if users can't find what they want.

Matt launches his traditional funny screenshots of bad sites. Seeing is believing and this session is always hysterical.

If you try to force people where to go. Shows a site where you can shop now or enter the site. You can't do both? Avoid user fear. Should I have clicked that other button? They second guess themselves. Shows a page with product info with images that make it look like they have one product to sell. Shows a ecommerce site with ads that take users off-site as soon as they get there. Shows a page with navigation you can't see, including contact us. Color and placement matter. Taxonony- hierarchal stucture, classication, grouping. You need to determine how people classify things. People don't do it the same way. When you develop

keyword groups, how do your users group the words? This information goes into your navigation labels and information arch. How do you shop for wine? Region? Red, wine, pink? Blends? Wine.com takes this into account for their groups of links. You can provide different ways to look for products so people can find them. Make links clear and visible. This allows SE's to see those pages. You can also interlink your own web pages.

Break out products into categories. Show related links on the page. Don't force anyone to go back out to main navigation or homepage to start a new search on your site. Shows a page with several navigation schemes that confuse the task at hand. Know when to stop selling and when to allow them to get what they want. Shows a redundant navigation structure that works. There is a left side nav and inside content version but the content one has descriptive content that further describes the link. Avoid using "more" and "click here". Allow your users to explore. Give them the ability to find related items. Make it easy for someone who knows specifically that they want and wants to get in and get out. You also want to enable browsers to find info, be sold on what they're looking for.

Be product specific with terms. Call your product what your customers will call it. Users are searching for specific products rather than brands. Sales decisions are emotional decisions. Shows a Fish n Flush product. Not something people would be normally looking for. People have to know it exists before they can search for it. Landing pages, people want to know if this is the right page they should be on. Avoid dropping them on homepage. Put them on product pages instead. They want to immediatey get what they want.

He gets to the Butt Paste page (he's used this before. Always gets the most laughs.) It's really diaper rash ointment. Why don't you call it that? Branding vs what people call it. People don't search for butt paste.

Shows a product page where you can recommend it to a friend but you can't buy it. Shows a funny sushi disk page with all kinds of illogical elements on it...have to see it to understand. Shows a page with repeated keywords to the extreme. Shows a page where you hit "Start shopping" but you're presented with 3 PDFs to read first. You have to read to the policies first or "you will lose financially". (A real site did this.) Shows a cup warmer page with a ton of content on a silly product.

People look for different things. Digital camera info has to be different than MP3 player shoppers. You can't sell it the same way. International, content may be lost in translation, avoid slang, use clear instructions.

Don't assume that something is usable here, it is usable globally.

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