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Is Usability Part Of The New Seo?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 03:33 PM

It was bound to happen sooner or later...that I'd go too far with a rant. While I feel badly, it did get Danny's attention (thanks to Barry S.), and the result may be a place for folks with related skills to SEO to feel like they can also join Sphinn.

I did join Sphinn, if only to admit my place is the doghouse.

[Note: This thread was begun in the "Backroom" privately. We voted to move it out front because it was turning into a good discussion and we wanted to include you all as well. Kim.]

#2 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 03:51 PM

Oh, I don't think you went too far. You may have gone off base a bit on the SES/SMX issues, but the wish for a usability category was perfectly justified.

Yes, the post was distinctly on the "ruffle some feathers" side --- but it also got noticed. And who knows how much more quickly usability may move into position than it would have otherwise?

Don't worry about it.

#3 BillSlawski

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 03:55 PM

I thought that it was a good rant. :)

And, if it has the effect of adding a usability section to the site, that's good.

I think if Danny would share more information about some of his plans for future SMX conferences, the question would never have been brought up.

Given the recent interview with Jakob Nielsen on search, I think there's a serious need for search to be added to usability conferences. He's so far off in his knowledge of search that I feel embarassed for him. Too many assumptions and opinions, and too little research to back any of them up.

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 04:05 PM

think if Danny would share more information about some of his plans for future SMX conferences, the question would never have been brought up.


Exactly what my husband said :)

My regret is that I'm perceived as not supporting Danny Sullivan or his staff. That bothers me because it's just not true. He's one of the main reasons I remain loyal to the SEO industry. The usability industry has their thumb up their butt and could use a Danny or Chris Sherman.

#5 bwelford

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 04:06 PM

As I said in my comment to your rant, I agreed 100%. I think Danny's comments were a little over-the-top. However the final outcome is just fine. :)

#6 EGOL

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 05:16 PM

The actions of visitors now drive SERPs more than a big load of links. I hired a person in November and told her that she would be building links. She did that job for two days and since then she is working on content. I have not chased links since November and my rankings are still going up.


Usability is the big part of the New SEO.


Some thoughts on this topic from a two-year-old SEOmoz post.

Edited by EGOL, 16 July 2007 - 06:20 AM.


#7 bwelford

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 06:04 PM

Another thought that came to mind as it always does is the aspect of product-driven versus customer-centric (user-centric). That of course means acknowledging the power of the user versus the power of the website owner. Perhaps SEM gets the attention it does because website owners feel they have the power / control of their own destiny. Usability acknowledges that someone else out there has the power / control. If you allow users to determine how websites should be built, then you lose some control. I think that is a big factor with some web designers and some company owners. It's the same tendency that you may see with architects - the tyranny of the architect as some have described it.

Another problem is that I believe Usability is even more important than SEM so I don't know how it fits as a part of the SEM world. You've really got to acknowledge that they're all part of a bigger topic, which is holistic Internet Marketing or words to that effect. It's only because Google has largely set the rules that there is so much attention to Search.

Edited by cre8pc, 15 July 2007 - 10:10 PM.


#8 sanity

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 07:03 PM

I'm not up with Sphinn or anything right now but I thought your post was fine Kim. It raised some great points and I really didn't read it as critical of anyone. At least it's getting usability and user centered design some attention. What's the old saying, you have to break some eggs to make an omlette. :)

Edited by sanity, 15 July 2007 - 10:47 PM.


#9 cre8pc

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 08:58 AM

DazzlinDonna just posted a thoughtful post in her blog called I am no longer an SEO

She's not alone.

While I might be teased or get flack for "ranting" on the lack of usability focus as a skill needed by SEO's, there are some I've spoken to personally at conferences or gatherings, who have NEVER written or publically voiced how they feel, but who feel exactly as I do.

A few are angry that the customer side of marketing is treated as a secondary priority, with satisfying search engines with optimized web design being number one.

What do you think??? Is this all horse hockey or is the "New SEO" the next generation of skills that goes far beyond what we did 10 years back or and even last year?

Is getting Dugg the new SEO or is customer satisfaction?

#10 EGOL

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 09:19 AM

Google is smart enough to use "confirmational data" in their rankings.

You might have a highly optimized site and a lot of backlinks... that used to be enough to earn #1 rankings.

Now that Google is using site visitor actions in their algo, that information must confirm that your links are given on the basis of page quality. So, you might be optimized and have a lot of links - but if your site bounces visitors you will probably be demoted in the SERPs.

A million backlinks is not enough in the New SEO.

#11 bwelford

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 09:57 AM

I'm starting a movement to use the widely-known acronym, SEO, as the handle for what the best are doing in this area. It includes everything necessary to get websites to perform well. That goes from the strategic questions such as selecting the right niche and developing a USP right through to Usability, Captology and getting conversions.

The new definition is SEO = Selling Effectiveness Optimization.

I've Sphinned (? Sphunned) this, so I hope that will be enough to do the trick. :)

#12 Mano70

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 11:07 AM

Almost the same question was raised by one of the best usability experts in my country last year; Should SEOs have to be usability experts also in the future, or should usability experts also have to be SEOs?

My opinion then (as now) is that SEOs will have to look at usability in the future more than usability experts will have to look at SEO. At that time I didn't work with SEM/SEO full time, but in April I joined one of the largest (and oldest) SEM firm, and one of the reasons for taking the job was that the company also have experts and equipments for usability testing. SEO without usability in mind is only a half job done.

Edited by Mano70, 16 July 2007 - 11:08 AM.


#13 SEOigloo

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 02:28 PM

Hi Kim,
I thought your post was a good and important one.

Here's a funny thing about how I come to this issue. I always thought that making pages work right for people (Usability) and aiming for high rankings (SEO) was just what web design is about. The thing is, for several years, we had no idea that either of these pursuits had names. We just thought of it as building websites. The idea that you'd build a site that didn't function correctly or rank well just didn't enter the picture once we started building websites for money.

Labels can help us to quantify, but they can also be divisive. This is a tough thing. I'm happy to use the words SEO, Usability, Marketing if it means others will know what I'm talking about...but in the back of my mind, it remains 'building good websites'.

Miriam

Edited by SEOigloo, 16 July 2007 - 02:29 PM.


#14 iamlost

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 04:02 PM

I thought it was a fair rant (insufficient CAPITALISATION) with a great point.

I have long been bemused by the narrowness of 'optimisation' in the web community. One needs to optimise for (at least):
* people/browsers: accessibility, usability, and content quality.
* SEs/bots: allow/deny control measures and ranking considerations.
* ROI: number, variety, and effectiveness of revenue streams.

SEO started narrow and has since shrunk it's scope while simultaneously expanding it's boundaries in an attempt to co-opt SEM. The tail is attempting to wag the dog. :)

All 'titles' and job descriptions overlap especially in web development. The larger the organisation the more formal the boundaries and the more difficult the communication. As a one person operation, with occassional subcontractors, I am a Bartholomew Cubbins (of Dr. Seuss fame), a man of many hats. Most of us are.

Which explains everything. One would hate to commit a fashion faux pas by wearing the wrong style or colour of hat to an event. The hat afterall defines who we really are.

#15 swainzy

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 07:12 PM

eCopt on Donna's site mentioned the title "Internet Strategist". I like that one, do you?

#16 A.N.Onym

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 09:40 PM

There have been plenty of times, when SEOs have been thinking that some other angle should be considered SEO or not. I recall the same talk about copywriting, marketing, hand-coding, link baiting and now it is about usability.

A common term that might unite the whole things a SEO is responsible with is Internet marketer. Naturally, everyone has different backgrounds, though.

#17 DianeV

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 11:21 PM

It goes without saying that usability is needed in the development of a website. So are other disciplines. But I remember when we were trying to devise a name that would encompass web design and other necessary disciplines; the name arrived at was "holistic web design". I've never used it because it doesn't communicate anything to the general public.

I think there's always a problem when you try to include one discipline within the definition of another -- particularly when the general public doesn't know what most of these terms mean. If you try to embed usability in the definition of SEO, does that somehow mean that you no longer have to mention usability(!). Which discipline gets slighted as "just a part of" the other (when it really isn't)? And what's to differentiate you from the next person who does just SEO?

To illustrate, to me, SEO should be included in the design and building of a website (as should usability and what is now being called "persuasive design" — we seem to be a new-name-happy bunch). Does that then mean that we should not mention SEO or these other disciplines at all and just call it web design? Heck no — because what would differentiate that service from someone who only does web design?

In short: what's wrong with saying you do usability AND SEO?

#18 AbleReach

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 03:18 AM

Just saw this!

If I were creating a presenter category for usability I'd call it something like "user behavior," because it is self explanatory and sounds more urgent than "Other Online Marketing." User centered design, persuasive design/marketing and even something about communication styles and personas would fit into a user behavior group.

The idea of putting search before usability and content has always seemed nuts to me. I think it's nuts to not have a usability-like category in a search marketing seminar. Definitely a worthy rant topic. Do more! Flaunting opinions once in a while is a good thing, and pushing ideas around afterwards can be instructive and healthy.

#19 eKstreme

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 03:29 AM

What ever happened to good old "Webmaster"?

#20 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 06:07 AM

Is Usability Part Of The New Seo?

No.

It is part of old-school marketing. We call it making a smooth presentation. :(

Or if you learned marketing fromone of the hardnosed veterans of face-to-face selling, it was called "Don't p*** the customer off"

#21 cre8pc

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 09:59 AM

I've been out of town on business but able to monitor the continued rumblings ignited from my rant. I can see instances where my point or incentive was misunderstood, but the long term result is that a conversation got going on the topic. It, or concerns related to it, did matter to some people.

It surprised me to find a comment in my blog from someone who hinted I voiced my opinions just for link bait. There's another rant topic for another day :D

#22 Respree

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 11:10 AM

I don't you should feel slighted, Kim. It's very analagous to the human body. All the pieces are important. Without one piece or a poorly- or non-functioning one, the whole thing just doesn't work optimally or as expected.

I think they've simply carved out their particular focus. Nothing wrong with the Usability industry carving out theirs.

It it were a site about brains, I don't think the cardiologists should be ranting, "Hey, have a heart." <ba dump bump>

#23 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 11:45 AM

Nice example, Garrick. :D

The only problem in this case is that the cardiologists (SEOs) are the only ones who anyone thinks about when improving a website. It would be so nice if there was equal emphasis that you really need to make sure the brain is functioning well too. :)

#24 cre8pc

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 01:37 PM

What was sticking out for me was that Danny had finally accepted the pitches for SEO and Usability sessions for SES, but it hadn't carried over to SMX. I'm not the only one who noticed and wondered why. When it didn't show up in Sphinn, I reacted.

It's not difficult to assume there was a snub but wrong that I didn't just ASK Danny about it privately. To that end, I viewed him as unapproachable...and have since learned that was also wrong.

He did listen. He responded. I'm really happy about that :D

Not fun learning some lessons in front of everybody but even wierder seeing it become "news". That just floors me. :hmmmm:

#25 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2007 - 01:47 PM

I think Danny was just reflecting the average world view about this, Kim. People are so self-centered with their high resolution screens and multi-years experience of learning to cope with web pages that are often ludicrous in terms of user experience. It needs a lot more rants out in the open to begin to make a dent in this.

I push hard what UIE says about doing User Tests as early and as often as you can when developing online properties. It just doesn't happen. I'm still bemused that Danny chose Sphinn as the domain name assuming that people would pronounce it as Spin even though his About page might suggest otherwise.

This isn't a rant, BTW. It's just a cool assessment of the state of the nation.

#26 bwelford

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 01:35 PM

This just in. :blushing:

A slightly amusing incident on the Sphinn website shows the need for User Tests. I couldn't get my Sphinns registered for topics despite repeated tries. Michelle spotted that perhaps I was not clicking on the text below the Sphinn image. Here is part of my reply:

I was clicking on the image. This shows a hand for the cursor and after clicking there is a small hourglass icon so you assume something is happening in the short delay. The correct way is to click on the text and then the vote is registered.

Not a very good Usability issue but I gather that's coming along shortly. Anyway this User in this test showed there's a serious problem.

What a striking example of how the simplest things can go wrong if you don't factor in the Users.

#27 SEOigloo

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 02:03 PM

Hi Barry,
I just sphunn and commented on your post about this at Sphinn. I believe I've had the exact same problem as you with this. I assumed that something was supposed to happen when I clicked the buttons, and it seemed like something was happening, but there was no visible result. Through trial and error, clicking the text enabled me to sphinn articles.

I think I'm learning two interesting things from Sphinn.

1) Even pros like Danny have to deal with bugs and Usability problems. I guess I thought, erroneously, that the 'big guys' were somehow impervious to these types of issues because of their experience, their resources, etc. I've learned this just isn't true. I've been really surprised by the number of bugs and pretty extreme Usability issues at Sphinn, and guess this is what Beta means. They are doing a good job addressing everyone's concerns, but it seems like it will take a good long while to really comb over that site and deal with all of the problems. I wish them luck with this. It's such a big entity.

2) If you've got a product that people want enough, they seem willing to deal with hitches to be able to use it. This also surprises me, in a way. We are always so freaked out that if ANYTHING doesn't work perfectly on a website we build, people will immediately say, "Hey, this is dumb" and leave. But, I believe if you've worked hard enough to gain the type of reputation Danny Sullivan has, people have enough faith in your brand that you will ultimately get everything working right that they are more patient than they might be with an unknown brand.

Interesting stuff.
Miriam

#28 cre8pc

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 02:45 PM

It costs $$ for proper testing, which is why public BETA is popular. As long as he has a team to handle repairs, this is the economical approach.

True QA is a process, with extreme discipline when done professionally. Even in test environments I'm involved with, code is frozen with open defects and releases are rolled out, knowing users will stumble and complain.

Nature of the beast :blushing:

The SEO community is pretty devoted. An unusual gang and surprisingly tolerant.

#29 bwelford

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 05:08 PM

But as Jared Spool would say, why not do User Tests very early in the process even with a very few Users. You'll always get surprises.

#30 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 July 2007 - 09:20 PM

Or most of all, get Kim and other devoted usability folks (heck, I'd do, too) just use the site for a day or two. If asked nicely and promised a visible mention, I bet they'd do it.

Then again, Danny could be doing beta testing to build a loyal community. Hardships unite.

#31 cre8pc

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 12:18 PM

But as Jared Spool would say, why not do User Tests very early in the process even with a very few Users.


They may have. We're not privy to their situation. Even if they did, if it was programmers testing their own stuff, they'd never be able to find everything objectively.

As for me testing, I'd want requirements documentation to do it right. For example, was accessibility a requirement? If so, how was it met? Functional testing is obviously still being done...as is performance testing.

In general, Sphinn rocks for a fresh rollout in BETA.

Remember when Danny asked for help with the SearchEngineLand logo design? I think part of his approach is to let the community participate in creating what they want to see and use.

[added: Just saw that more negative feedback on Sphinn is in the news.

#32 A.N.Onym

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Posted 23 July 2007 - 08:55 PM

You know, I looked at the thread title this morning and it gave me a chuckle. New SEO? Usability has been part of SEO as long as I remember (as in, read this forum).

Edited by A.N.Onym, 23 July 2007 - 08:55 PM.


#33 Kal

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 02:51 AM

We just thought of it as building websites. The idea that you'd build a site that didn't function correctly or rank well just didn't enter the picture once we started building websites for money.


That's exactly how I feel Miriam. Unfortunately, the terms are relative. One web designer's idea of functional is not another's. My concept of a usable site is not the same as my husband's. And my definition of good ROI is often not the same as my client's :pieinface:

I wonder how many shopping cart users expect to have at least one problem during an online purchase these days? It seems the norm to me that something will break or I'll have to reload the page, or go back and add a product or delete something that the system added. Based on past experience, I truly don't expect my online shopping experience to go smoothly but I am willing to put up with a couple of usability glitches as long as the purchase completes successfully. But I bet my level of tolerance will be much higher than Kim's! In that respect, I think usability is relative.

#34 bwelford

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 06:45 AM

Kal, it's OK that there are pleasant people around like you who are willing to roll with the punches. However I think you've got to hope there are people around like me who you probably think are hypersensitive to usability issues. My excuse is that if you have gray hair, people expect it of you. :)

I see so very many examples in physical situations (the arrivals area at Montreal Dorval Airport), physical objects (my local newspaper - the Montreal Gazette - how can you get a newspaper wrong :hmmmm: ) and clearly in the majority of websites and ecommerce sites. To comment on them seems like ranting, but I think the problem is that Usability does not seem to be regarded as a measure of the competence of those who create these entities. We shouldn't need to be pointing out these problems to the owners. They should be eagle-eyed in looking out for anything that gets in the way of the sale.

#35 Kal

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 07:54 AM

I think the problem is that Usability does not seem to be regarded as a measure of the competence of those who create these entities. We shouldn't need to be pointing out these problems to the owners. They should be eagle-eyed in looking out for anything that gets in the way of the sale.


That's an excellent point. So I guess it comes back to ignorance vs education? We need to educate web designers and SEOs about usability being crucial to achieving site goals and not just a value-add. I'm really surprised (and disappointed!) by how many of our students think usability is limited to site accessibility. I'm even more disappointed by how few students are interested in our Web Site Usability course compared to the others on offer - sorry Kim! But how do we get students and web designers more interested in usability issues?? :)

#36 cre8pc

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 08:03 AM

Kal raises an excellent point about user tolerance and personally, I found it more interesting because she's worked with me and is one of early adopters of usability testing in conjunction with SEO work (and she let me write a course on usability for her Search Engine College). So even though she knows the importance of usability, she's still open and sympathetic and even accepting of user experiences that are less than perfect.

She's correct in that my tolerance is low for poor usability but my cracking points are usually functional. I'm not as fussy about design unless it has something distracting to tasks. I'm married to a Software Performance Engineer too, and watching him do something like find a part in Dell is enough to make me grab the wine bottle. His expectations on performance are higher than mine!

Obviously not everyone using websites is trained to build them and has over time learned to despise anything less than perfection.

But, as more and more consumers, especially, purchase from the web, we will need to be ready to meet their growing demands for things that not only work properly but offer a pleasant experience along the way.

This is all usability is. The core of it.

Remember too that some people haven't jumped on the Internet bandwagon yet. A lovely retired couple live next door to me and they don't have a computer. They're healthy, vibrant and have busy lives, with kids and grandkids, who want to send them pictures and email. But, they have just not felt ready for the Internet. I offered to help teach and support them when they're ready. Just discovering this was a great reminder to me that there are beginners learning about the Internet every day.

They too, expect things to work and are also the ones who will be hitting the buttons the wrong way and not understanding how things happen. Error messages may feel unfriendly to new people, esp. if they're just learning how to work with forms that don't explain how to enter the data, such as phone numbers.

Anyway, great point about tolerance. Loved it! :cheers:

#37 A.N.Onym

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Posted 26 July 2007 - 08:32 AM

Naturally, you need to list the benefits of knowing and practicing usability for designers:
- build better websites for the people
- improve the overall Web quality (some think it's important)
- make websites that get more visitors and convert to more customers
- have happier clients, who enjoy getting more visitors and customers
- get more clients via referrals from happy clients
- work with more happy people, almost exclusively with happy people, who you either have designer earlier for, or who have been referred by previous clients
- enjoy your life by working with happy people
- realize your potential by taking all aspects of your profession
- make your family, friends happy by being and living happy

You can read more web designers and usability here.

Obviously, you also need to promote the idea of the benefits for web designers, their clients and the clients' clients (you and everyone else). How you do it is up to you, can't take a large step with this one.



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