SEO Industry Directs Attention to Usability

Bruce Clay Inc. hosted a Twitter Chat, #SEOChat, called “The UX Force Awakens”, where Cre8asiteforums founder and administrator, Kim Krause Berg, was invited by Bruce Clay moderators.

We were also delighted to have Kim Krause Berg — the veritable UX whisperer — join us for the chat.

— Source: What Is UX? Who Owns User Experience Optimization? What You Need to Know About SEO & User Satisfaction from #SEOchat

At long last, online marketers are taking user experience seriously and more importantly, are interested in understanding what, exactly, usability is.

Cre8asiteforums, launched in 1998, is the first forums for search engine marketers, website owners, and web developers to host a usability forum. It’s founder, Kim Krause Berg, already established as an SEO, crossed the bridge to usability and accessibility in 2000. At that time, and for the next decade, the number of SEO’s wanting usability site audits for their clients could be counted on one hand, from around the globe.

Today, there are two hands worth.
Just kidding.

Three hands.

Usability is referred to by some internet marketers as “conversions”, or “customer experience”, thus ignoring what usability is. The result? Websites that fail to perform will also fail to convert.

“I was pleased to see that many SEOs place a high value on user experience for all devices, and that they understood why … I’m thrilled that Bruce Clay, Inc. is educating people on UX,” Berg said post-chat. “UX is HUGE … it includes empathy for every human, using every device and every software application and every search engine wanting to provide what humans want, in every environment, with an understanding of the limitations of age, bandwidth, Internet availability, use cases and business requirements specific to one’s business or web page intent.”

Do SEO’s Understand UX?

Screenshot from article on SEOChatDo you? Here is a transcript of the entire discussion, Summary: The UX Force Awakens on #SEOchat.

Cre8asiteforums Thread – #seochat Twitter Discussion With Bruce Clay On Usability

SEO Is Not SEO Anymore

There is a shake-up in the SEO industry that, like climate change and dieting, has its non-believers and some practitioners in denial. The headline is not that “SEO is Dead”, but “SEO is Not SEO Anymore”.

Gorilla facing camera

Search engine marketing practices have changed over the past 20 years.  What has not changed is how SEO’s battle one another over the details.  Since the first instructions about how rank by doing mathematical equations or how to optimize for 125 search terms first began, the industry has been a showcase of ego’s and maniacal hissy fits with gorilla chest thumping, making for a yearly spectacle and rousing bar conversations at each annual Pubcon.  In other words, search marketers are a fun bunch.  And they can be…well, see for yourself.

A member of the WebmasterWorld forums drafted 2015 Google On-page SEO Ranking Factors List” where he writes:

I want to split off on-page from off-page and discuss solely on-page ranking factors, including the deprecated factors. What’s your list of important on-page factors and those that are less important?

2015 Ranking factors
User experience metrics (all of them)
Shorter title tags
Original content
Engaging content that provides an answer, teaches, informs, is useful, delights
Original images
Quality site design
Descriptive meta description


Focus on long tail phrases
Focus on ranking for specific keyword phrases
Lean code

The responses were delightfully thoughtful and descriptive at WMW with some asking what the first item on the list meant. (I wondered too.)

Barry Schwartz reported the discussion  at Search Engine Roundtable.  For reporting on the WMW thread (as he has been doing for many years), he was hit with 61 comments (last I checked), the vast majority of them negative and argumentative with a dash of chest thumping.

What a load of old tripe – seriously. It’s making me sick to death with the amount of blithering idiots ‘thinking’ or using ‘IMO’ – everyone thinks that they’re a bloody SEO experts.

Most of this is a no brainer and the rest is just nonsense. UX is not a factor for ranking aside from with mobile or in the event sections of the site are hidden or the site is not mobile friendly. So “Quality Site Design” is wrong based on Google’s own admission with few exceptions.


Note To Clients: DO NOT HIRE the SEO FIRM who made this list. You will not rank well!

SEO’s can be counted on to show their true colors.  That has never changed.  Every community is different of course.  Cre8asiteforums looked into the WMW list too, in  Your Choices For Search Engine On-Page Seo Ranking Factors

If you go look at the “factors” that SEOs talk about in these surveys, you see very little mention of how visitors behave on the site.  Things like page views, amount of time spent, scroll depth, bookmarking, bounce rate are almost absent in the things that SEOs say are important.  They must be nuts.


Nevertheless, I finally buckled down and scoured through the manual that Google gives its human quality raters. An eyebrow raising read for sure! But IMO, much more thorough and meaningful than what’s being published on those types of SEO and webmaster sites. I figure, if I’m going to appease to humans, I’d better learn what humans (and not algorithms) look for.

As an “insider”, I listen to a lot of industry folks who talk about their work and companies.  What they are sharing with me are stories of leaving the business because they are no longer doing what they were trained to do because search technology has changed and the work itself is, to put it in simple terms, no longer any fun to do.

The Thrill is Gone. All Hail Google.

SEO audits and website monitoring have become narrowly focused on just one search engine and the work is only about trying to stay out of trouble with that one search engine.  Nobody is doing search engine optimization anymore.  They are doing Google search optimization.

Internet marketers struggle to see a future for the work they do because SEO used to be about optimizing for countless directories and many search engines.  Hence the term “search engine optimization”.  Before that, it was called “website promotion” in the 1990’s, because that was what companies with websites wanted done in directories and search engines.  Social media marketing, as an industry term, didn’t exist back then either, but the pioneers from those days will tell you that in fact, they were doing social marketing in forums, chat rooms, email lists, newsletters and places like Egroups and AOL clubs.

Yes, there is work out there for companies with money to blow and consultants with patience on hand to help websites crippled and damaged by past search engine marketing and web design practices that broke their champion site down after the third race. Winning at all costs is what humans do, creating industries of rescue workers.  This is another reason why some SEO’s are moving on.  They see no future in rescuing websites or they hate that they have to.

SEO is not it anymore.  Or is it simply a case of an industry in the middle of change, learning to adapt?




The End of Civil Online Discussions

I moderated email lists in the mid-1990’s when we got everything in our inbox. Moderating online discussions was about teaching the group how to talk to each other with courtesy and respect.

People TalkingThe era of chat rooms is a fading memory but I was never treated rudely. I cut my moderating and online discussion skills in the darkest corners of the Web, when the adult industry was breaking barriers and search engine ground, and every hobby, church, organization and industry had email discussion groups.

Today, online moderators chase out spammers and have the power of deletion and banning people and posts. In the early days of Cre8asiteforums, it was a much larger and active forum than it is today. It was common practice to work with new members who were clearly new to the Internet and not good at forums etiquette. Certain behavior is known to send up flags, like typing with all capital letters and writing with poor grammar.

Sometimes someone came in with the attitude that they are always right and everyone else is wrong. We let them go on and on until they lost their temper and it was obvious we had an unbalanced member. We would privately message anyone who we felt needed support, guidance, or anger management. The goal was never to disrespect them.

The quickest way to signal you do not respect members of a community is to scold them in front of the entire group. I was shocked when it happened to me the other day. Not only did I not realize I did something wrong, I was not instructed on how to not do it again. I did not understand why my opinion was censored. I came to learn it may have been okay in another part of the community but not in the discussion I participated in. However, this tidbit did not come from a moderator or admin.

I left another famous online community a few years ago when I participated in a thread and was stampeded by other members who decided I couldn’t possibly know what new people want or care about. I no longer remember the conversation but what bothered me was that the community owner knew me, my work and my reputation for helping new people, teaching, etc. I was hurt that no one came to my defense but more than that, it felt strange to be hassled like that.

Ganging up on a member of an online community is not something I endorse. It has always been against our House Rules here at Cre8asiteforums.

I realized a long time ago I don’t belong in communities that manage discussions to the point of making members afraid to post for fear of breaking a rule. Some communities have an elite, cult-like feel and followers. The only time I was ever groupie was when I was dating the drummer from a local punk band.

Social Networks Require Responsibility for Your Own Experience

There is no one to moderate Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and other popular gathering spots. Each person is responsible for what they post and they can try to manage what they will see. Public posts are viewed by anybody, which sets the stage for mass marketing and spreading opinions. Social conversation online allows for people to post vile, disgusting, heart wrenching, gross photos without warnings that what is about to load is going to give you nightmares. It allows for unbalanced and mentally ill people to post illogical ranting. Today, social discussions divide people rather than uniting them.

I do not join social networks to be harassed. There is a guy out there now who sends a public scolding to anyone on Twitter who spells WordPress with a small “p”.

What Happened to Being Civil in Online Discussions?

Every online community has its own flavor. Some are very strict. Some are micro-managed. Some are cult-like. When was the last time you heard someone rave about their experience with a community that treated them with respect, where they felt welcome and were invited to participate? I still send out welcome messages to new members who join Cre8asiteforums.

A search for “How to create an online community” or “Creating a successful online community” will provide the reasons to start one. The focus is promotion for a business, getting links, sending signals to search engines, and providing product support. Nobody teaches how to lead discussions with grace and compassion.

Is it a forgotten art or a practice that has no place in today’s social chatter environment?What happened to being civil in online discussions? Why do we allow discussions divide rather than unite us?  Where do you feel welcome online today?

If you have any thoughts, please share them in  Creating Community Today And Tomorrow: Do We Really Know How?

When Rand Fishkin Defended A Guest Article and Google Shot Its Arrow

In this latest episode of the Dark Night of SEO, we find a guest article has found its way into a firestorm of Google wrath because MOZ ran the piece on its site.

What Was It About That Link?

Two people disagreeing.When Scott Wyden wrote an article, it was used by MOZ. The URL to it has a category called “UGC” in it, that stands for user generated content. This is considered by some SEO’s to signal to Google the article is not good enough for their search engine.

Subsequently, anyone who has ever written for MOZ is freaking out, because Scott got a nice note from Google telling him he needed to remove a link from his site, to his guest article on the MOZ site that he wrote.

Add to this, there were links inside the guest article that were not allowed, according to Google. One of them was a link in the author profile to his own web site. This means that any link to sites we own or work for that are found in bio’s and author profiles are not safe and to appease Google, it is best to “no-follow” them.

It doesn’t matter if the link is to a reputable, legitimate website. It is a Google sin and nobody has died to save it.

Except Rand Fishin, CEO for MOZ.   When he learned that his guest author was penalized for his article link from the MOZ site, he wrote in Dear Google, Links from YouMoz Don’t Violate Your Quality Guidelines:

Scott’s link, ironically, came from this post about Building Relationships, Not Links. It’s a good post with helpful information, good examples, and a message which I strongly support. I also, absolutely, support Scott’s pointing a link back to the Photography SEO community and to his page listing business books for photographers (this link was recently removed from the post at Scott’s request). Note that “Photography SEO community” isn’t just a descriptive name, it’s also the official brand name of the site. In both cases, Scott linked the way I believe content creators should on the web: with descriptive anchor text that helps inform a reader what they’re going to find on that page. In this case, it may overlap with keywords Scott’s targeting for SEO, but I find it ridiculous to hurt usability in the name of tiptoeing around Google’s potential over enforcement. That’s a one-way ticket to a truly inorganic, Google-shaped web.

Meanwhile, discussions erupted after Rand demanded to know why his site caused this issue for one of his writers.

Google Hypocrisy: Keyword Rich & User Friendly Links Should Die, where Barry Schwartz wrote:

Back in the days before Google, online usability folks were all about making user friendly hyperlinks that communicated to the user what the link was about and what to expect when they clicked it. That means, a keyword rich anchor text link that describes the page it is linking to.

Hypocritical Google Dislikes User Friendly Links. Some comments:

1. How does Google know what our intent is? Persuasive design is about presenting an idea or call to action and at that exact moment the reader has been given the incentive to go, this is where the link goes. This also is why I never advise putting a pile of embedded text links into large chunks of content, because we have short attention spans and are easily distracted. Nobody ever reads, follows a link, returns, reads more, follows a link, returns, reads more, repeatedly. This practice is a dead giveaway that the site is spamming and not directed to humans. But to say, never link to your own stuff is not something advise.


2. Frankly I find this issue infuriating. A short while ago I read a piece in an seo blog and found one small issue interesting. I discussed it with the blogger. It ended up that we both looked at it independently, did two different pieces of research and found some interesting results. Our findings have not, as far as I can see, hit publication of any sort. I think they are newsworthy in a geeky sort of tech way, and possibly link worthy. Should we publish the articles side by side on the blogger’s site, as was our first thought, the risk of a link back to one of my smb sites runs the risk of penalties from google’s dictatorial perspective.

Like Rand, I found nothing wrong with the links, their landing pages or the anchor text. However, other SEO’s did, such as finding fault with the link in the author profile to the author’s own web site.

Bulls eye and dartBefore leaving on his “vacation”, Matt Cutts wrote in an email to MOZ:

Short of that, keyword rich anchor text is higher risk than navigational anchor text like a person or site’s name, and so on.”

This fueled the fire because now we have gone past the practice of spammy links into putting descriptive links in danger of being suspect. For example, mystery links are ignored by humans. The only links we click on are those that promise to give us something we want, such as a different site, a product, more information on a specific topic, link in a sales funnel, link that describes an image in detail, and links to take an action. The words in the anchor text are needed for accessibility (screen readers), and to motivate us to click.

Google demands a “no-follow” on links that many site owners don’t have any issue with sharing. For example, if someone writes a guest article for your site for free, the least that could be done is to send them “link juice” or a click to their site.

What’s also confusing about the Scott article disavow example is that the article is from 2012 and he is just now getting called out on it. One theory for the problem was not so much the MOZ URL, but that the site hosts guest blog posts at all. Google went after MyBlogGuest for that same reason.

Danny Sullivan weighed in at the MOZ discussion:

Let me start by saying I’d be as annoyed as Rand is if Google started telling people that Search Engine Land was a source of “inorganic” links. We have contributors; we take care to edit and be selective in what we allow. And ultimately, it’s our site — we’ll decide what we think makes sense to have as links and how they should appear.

It is understandable that Google is doing whatever it can to build a database of accurate content but at what cost? How many businesses will fail because they broke a Google “guideline”? When did Google stop caring about the user experience of the sites in its index?

Danny concluded, as did a few other SEO’s, that the issue was not MOZ, and not Scott’s article but actually Scott’s web site itself. That may be so, but don’t mess with Rand by including a link from his site as a potential threat!

NoIndex Your Forums, Says Google

An hour into a video in which Google’s John Mueller answers questions about Google issues, the topic came up on the indexing online forums content.

His answers to a question, at about 1:09:50 into the session, regarding an unnamed forum. What caught our notice at Cre8asiteforums was the advice about indexing forums with “thin” content.

1. Make sure the forums “work well”.
2. The quality of content can be a determent to your domain and its overall performance with Google.
3. Forums are “tricky” because “people can put just about anything in your forums.”
4. Make sure the content on your forums is the “highest quality possible.”
5. Find ways to show the posts “author” is reputable.
6. Use “noindex” for new member threads because they these are questions with no answers.
7. Forums owners must “block” low quality content from being indexed.
8. Forums owners can free up content once it is reviewed and determined to be “quality”.
9. A forums that is mostly “chatter” should “noindex” the entire forums, except anything that may be considered “quality” content.

Forum DiscussionsWell. Cre8asiteforums members thought about this and so did I as its Founder.
Yes, it is true that forums today may be planned for reasons that don’t have anything to do with discussions.

Internet marketers looking for links went chasing after forums to drop links to their web sites, articles and blog posts. If there was a way to link drop, self-promote or direct the discussion to one’s own web site, a desperate SEO did that.  Cre8asiteforums does not permit the practice of putting entire articles and blog post content into forums posts, which is another spam practice found in forums.

Learning how to do a job

The practice of being hired for a job one is not qualified for and then going out to forums to get the members to explain how to do something is still a common practice in some online forums. This is not the same as coming to a forums to ask a valid question. There is a difference between questions like “I was hired to build a website. Can you teach me HTML?” versus “I am stuck on this code and need a set of eyes to find what is breaking on my page.”

Before Google introduced “noindex”, Cre8asiteforums had long ago established a way to block search engine spiders from following outbound links inside threads. We blocked indexing of signature links, posts links and profile links. This “scrambling” of URLS was made known to all new members, who never bothered to read the rules. After they saw no results from their link drops, they left.

In fact, this is true for most forums. They tout their membership numbers, but never admit that a tiny portion of that number are actually active members who participate in the discussions. The majority came to get a profile link and never joined in any discussions.

What is the purpose of a forums today?

Forums and PeopleDoes it make sense to have a forums if the only purpose is to feed search engines with content that has to be determined to be “quality” only? Cre8asiteforums was not launched for any reason other than sharing knowledge and networking with people.

If you slap ads on a forums, you risk the wrath of Google.

If you “noindex” sections of your forums, you are censoring the conversation. So what if a new person has a question? That is why they came to the community. Google says we can free up the answers, but only if we determine it is delivered by a trustworthy member known to write valuable posts.

As idealist as I feel about forums being about people, the fact is that if you own one, you know how difficult it is to attract people to use it.

There are many reasons to have a forum. One is to focus on a topic or niche and be the go-to place for the best information on that topic. That traffic and reputation for being a place where topic experts gather is gold. To achieve it takes time and letting search engines know that if they come, they will locate genuine, valuable, credible content that match searcher queries.

How do you feel about this? The membership has some funny, thoughtful and sometimes angry thoughts – Forums “noindex” Thin/new/unanswered Content

Here is the video, set to the part where John talks about forums content: