TopRank Marketing Editor

SES Session: Usability and SEO

TopRank Marketing Editor     Online Marketing, Search Engine Strategies

Usability & SEO at SES Chicago

Truly, is there anything in the world more beautiful than a perfectly designed website?

One that is easy to find, easy to navigate, all while burning its design into the heart of its visitors?

Like a perfect marriage, it contains seamless and complimentary aspects of all that have a stake in its creation to the point that its union seems almost too easy.

Our nation’s high divorce rate serves to remind us that it’s truly not as easy as it looks. My first session at SES Chicago, “Usability & SEO” served as a reminder that these two complimentary concepts do not blend seamlessly without a bit of work.

“Usability & SEO”, moderated by Jeffery Rohrs, included on its panel:

  • Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO Director from Omni Marketing
  • Matthew Bailey, President of SiteLogic
  • Bob Tripathy, Search Strategist from Discover Financial Services

Prior to today’s session, I had always thought of SEO and usability as essentially one in the same. What helped gel the difference was the marriage analogy hinted at above.

“A great looking site does not always lead to a user completing the desired task,” stated Thurow.

To think of it in another sense, the super shiny candleholder your fiance insists on adding to your registry may be just that – all glitter, no substance, and a fire hazard in the waiting.

Better, would be a a candleholder that achieves the best of both worlds – shiny, and great to show off to company, while usable to the point that it will never allow a burning flame to fall out of its clutch. In some cases, this may not be the one with the most flash appeal, and may not be the user’s first choice.

When applying this to the concept at hand, Thurow boldly proclaimed that the user is not always right. Users may SAY they love the shiniest site, but will they always be inspired to buy the site’s product, or fill out the site’s form? Even more horrifying, will they even find the site to begin with?

The solution, as it often is, is so close to us that we may not necessarily see it: integrate usability testing with SEO best practices from your design stage on. Again, as with a marriage, by working together through your most vital decisions, a the earliest stage possible, you will be far more likely to come to a decision that’s right for your partnership.

Usability & SEO at SES Chicago

Bailey provided some excellent insight here with a series of tips for the perfect marriage between usability & SEO:

  • Speak the same language as your user
    If you were looking for said candleholder, would you search for “steel reinforced centerpiece”? The first stage of any design, including both SEO and usability, is to ensure what you create can be found. By centering your design around how your prospects search, your customers search will be centered around your design.
  • Every page on your site is a home page
    With multiple entrance points into a site, each page must be set up with an architecture that supports what the user is expecting. This will lead to both a satisfied user, and a satisfied business owner as their website visitor is far more likely to complete the desired action.
  • Don’t Dillute
    Again, if you’re selling a candleholder, ensure your site is optimized for “candleholder” and your CTA clearly asks the customer to buy a candelholder, throughout every breath of the page’s design.

To paraphrase points from both Thurow & Bailey, the most beautifully designed site is essentially useless if it does not let the user know what it wants out of them. In the same respect, if a site cannot be found, beautiful or not, it’s simply not really there.

The marriage between usability & SEO, when done right, is a partnership that will allow the beauty that is your perfect website to be found and to be interacted with – without ever seeming forced. It will clearly ask for the action your prospect intended on completing anyway.

It is also one that will create ongoing work and commitment. Bailey concluded, a website is never done. As we all know, the rules of SEO can change daily – and usability will always have to be taken into account. When this marriage fades, what will become of your website?

What’s the last thing we swear upon before saying “I do?”

View more photos from the TopRank team & SES Chicago.

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