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February 12, 2009

SEO & Usability

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It’s still cold in here. I’m slowly freezing to death. Hopefully, this panel will be nice and lively. Gordon Hotchkiss, President and CEO, Enquiro, moderates. Lance Loveday, Closed Loop Marketing, and Eric Papczun, Performics.

Gord is promising very quick site reviews instead of Q&A. Yeah, those I’m not recapping. It’s the last day, I’m punchy.

Eric Papczun starts with the stat that 30 percent of people online are shopping and 75 percent of those are researching. The average ecommerce shopping cart has a 60 percent abandonment rate. I think I’m responsible for about 40 percent of those.

You need to think about the user first in order to avoid losing them across each stage of the conversion funnel. Align content with searcher intent, provide all the required information, change content according to searcher behavior but don’t necessarily change the focus — if you have a page about Valentine’s Day, you don’t want to drop it just because it’s February 15th. Become an authoritative site with reputable links and provide an intuitive process to complete a task.

SEO is a left brain task while Usability is a right brain task.

Consider what is going to draw the eye to the content and make the connections that will answer the questions that the user has. Where are you leading the user? This connects back to keyword research — matching intent to landing page.

Bullet points are great for catching the eye and giving the user the information up front. Use anchor text to set up expectations — keywords create expectation. Use breadcrumbs to orient your user and to set up siloing. Breadcrumb navigation is a must.

You must have a site map link with a robust site map as well as a customer service link with all the information they need there.

Benefits of pairing organic SEO and Usability:

  • Higher rankings
  • Increased efficiency
  • More qualified leads
  • More conversions
  • Less bounce traffic
  • Positive experiences
  • Stronger brand loyalty

Use A/B and multivariate testing to test impact but think about it from all angles before implementing.

Up next is Lance Loveday. He’s named his presentation “How to Lose Money and Alienate Your Customers”. Heh.

Babies! He’s showing us pictures of CUTE BABIES! I have no idea what the babies are being compared to but they’re CUTE.

Ahem.

So, why does this matter? Because ROI = visibility x effectiveness. Visibility is traffic is SEO. Effectiveness is conversion is usability.

MYTH: Applying SEO to a site limits design flexibility and inhibits usability.

We want to think that there’s one right way to do things and there’s got to be a number one. You need to balance extremes. There’s no inherent trade off between these things. It’s just more work to do all three. You need to start early and get management to understand the opportunity cost.

He shows a screenshot of the Snuggie page. I could so go for a Snuggie right now. I can’t feel my toes anymore. I think his point is that the user interface and the code are largely separate. My point is that I’m freaking cold.

A word about Flash: You can still design in it but it’s more work.

What people say to defend Flash: “Having a deep immersive experience is more important that search engine rankings” “We’ll sacrifice search engine rankings for the experience.”
What they mean: “SEO is boring. We want to use Flash.”

What people say to defend Flash: “Usability needs to be balanced with design, branding and user experience objectives.”
What they mean: “Usability is boring.” “We want to use Flash.”

All Flash page/sites are hard for the search engines to crawl even with advancements in tech in the last year.

Options:

  1. Ideally, don’t design entirely in Flash. Use elements instead.
  2. Provide important Flash content in alternate manner visible to search engines using Progressive Enhancements. (HP’s site is a good example of this.)

Now a word on short URLs versus long URLs. According to a Marketing Sherpa/Enquiro study, “Long URL length contributed to more clicks on… the next ad down the page. Those viewing the listing on the long URL clicked on the listing immediately following 2.5 times more than those viewing the listing with the short URL. The long URL repelled the click as it was interpreted as being less relevant. The long URL may act as a visual wall, directing attention to the next ad.”

What’s the impact of usability on design: 75 percent of users admit to making judgments about the credibility of an organization based on the design of their Web site. You’re judged in as little as 1/20th of a second. Just the blink of an eye. What can you absorb in that time beyond the sense of space and color. That’s why it’s critical to get that right.

On average, sites that take usability into account double their conversion rate. That’s money left on the table if you don’t do it.

Now it’s time for mini-site reviews. Later, folks.

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