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

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!

I Can Prove Your Web Site is Not Converting (Said the Invisible UX Fairy)

This has been my mantra for a long time and I feel like I am a tiny little fairy with a whisper of a voice screaming into flowers with huge egos who think usability testing is not important.

fairyPeriodically, I seem to go on a wild tear about the value of a working website.  It appears to be a foreign concept or at least one not worthy of investing in.

The other day my husband was trying to enter information into a website.  I could hear him grunting and sighing and then he said, “Don’t let my wife see this site”, before continuing on with his task.  The brand new site was built to work in only one browser – one we do not use.  I was unable to stomach this, which is why he was doing this annoying task.

I am a tolerant person with a forgiving nature – when it comes to people.  When the thing I have to deal with is a website, however, I suddenly channel one of those people like you see on the stage of the Jerry Springer TV Show.

In fact, here are my episodes: (Based on this month’s TV show topics.)

You Can’t Make Me Click You

Penalized, Ugly Design and Dumped

Future Episode Ideas:

Do you want to confront the usability analyst who failed your web site?

Are you in an SEO/Usability/Social Media love triangle?

Is it your fantasy to have a web site that sucks?

Featured Show

I’m Psychic and Your Web Site Doesn’t Convert – Kim says that she’s positive her client, Website From Mars, is ignoring  her usability recommendations. How can she be so sure? She’s a third-generation psychic and she’s seen visions of….

In all seriousness, I have a friend who does long distance healing and messaged me on Facebook a few days ago to tell me that I am not smiling inside.

Jerry springer titles

Why would you not trust me to conduct usability audits for your web site? What could possibly be more crazy than hiring someone with a dozen years of usability testing experience, topped by two decades in the search engine marketing industry doing stuff like speaking at conferences on web site conversions and who teaches usability at the Search Engine College.

As one Cre8asiteforums member put it, while addressing my questions about being the invisible usability fairy,

You have to be tough…and you have to be persistent and smart and you have to let rejection roll off you like water off a duck.

If you want to participate in the recent discussions on usability, testing, conversions and what it means to get a usability audit, here are some of the great links to check out:

Questions On Usability, Conversions, Persuasive Design

Why Do Companies Invest In Marketing Rather Than Web Design?

Drunk Usability Video

When To Request a Web Site Usability Audit

You Have to See This: The Secret To Search Engines and Internet Marketing

Photo credit – Dark Fairy

To Slide or Not to Slider

We may be dependent on our senses to inform us, but when it comes to websites, we don’t always have time to be simultaneously entertained and informed. Most sliders are useless.

Sliders and carousels quickly became a web design fad, and like gray colored text, was soon found to turn away site visitors rather than provide them with something of value. Gray text, especially when used against colored backgrounds, was simply impossible to see most people. Sliders and carousels are easy to see but come with many issues that prevent the important information from being seen in five seconds.

Five seconds is how much time every homepage has to convince first time visitors that it contains what that visitor needs. In that five seconds, the page has to load quickly. It has to be easy to read. It must contain text for search engines describing its topic. In five seconds, a human wants to know everything, or at least enough to convince them to keep on reading.

ADDEntertainment websites are not good examples for ecommerce websites to follow. Photography sites are not good examples for resource directory sites to follow. Services websites have very different business requirements than product oriented sites. Every website has a different target market. Most of them neglect segments of the human population, such as those who wear glasses, are deaf, have a reason to not use a mouse, use mobile devices of all makes, models and ages, have different ways of connecting to the Internet and are young, older, educated or not skilled with computers. If you were to ask a website owner if their website is designed for someone with Attention Deficit Syndrome, they would look at you as if you were from Mars.

Sliders do not present conversions opportunities for large segments of people coming to websites looking to research or make a purchase. Study after study has shown they barely convert. Companies that test conversions have already switched to using static images and text.

Sliders came up, once again, my a community member, in Image Slider:

I just thought a nice slider might add pizzazz with added functionality and usability.

There is no such thing as a slider being functional or helpful for the user experience. They take up too much space on a homepage and most do not contain a clear call to action.

If you need convincing or need to win the Slider or No Slider Debate, here are some resources:

Our themes don’t have sliders… Because sliders suck.

Homepage Sliders: Bad For SEO, Bad For Usability

Do you know how well your carousels are performing?

Kill Conversion Killing Carousels Now

What’s a Fat Footer and Is It Important?

The appearance of wider footers stuffed with a variety of links, forms, and social icons has led to discussions on their usage, purpose and possible hazards.

Back in 2008, the Thesis theme for WordPress introduced “Fat” footers and since then they have become popular for all websites.  The beauty of these larger footers was the use of columns used to display content in an organized layout.  Today, some themes come with footer widgets that can be used together or separately using the blocked column idea.

Fat baby feetThe footer began as a a place to put a copyright date and policy links.  Then, it was where text links were placed that repeated global navigation in the header.  Before CSS, some navigation was image based or image maps were used.  Since search engines couldn’t “see” images, the links were invisible too.  Special needs users also need text to move around web pages.  Text links in the footer and a sitemap with just text links was a popular solution, but not very user friendly.

The use of links for SEO as additional ways to insert keywords mucked up the user experience for fat footers by using different terms in the anchor text that led to the same page.  For example, “Contact”, “Contact Us”, and “Send us Feedback” would all lead to the same Contact page.

In August 2012, Jakob Nielsen wrote this in SEO and Usability 

As another example, fat footers can greatly increase usability for people who arrive at the end of a page without finding what they want. Fat footers also strengthen structural SEO by guiding link juice to the site’s best pages about each key topic. (snip)

Sadly, some people can’t let a good thing alone, and we’ve started seeing obese footers that stuff every link known to humankind into the page bottoms. The theory? It’s good for SEO to feed the search engines an abundance of keyword-rich links. The reality? It’s bad for users when you offer a link collection so big that it’s impossible to scan quickly.

Since that time, fat footers have been become more useful and sometimes even creative.

We already know from user behavior studies that we tend to get used to web page elements being placed in common areas.  So we know, for instance, to look for policies and terms in a footer. Today we often find several columns displaying the top level categories of the site with a few chosen sub-page links. The idea is to supply just enough to show the overall site architecture and lead visitors to the most popular and needed pages within the site.

The fat footer is also where we can locate a newsletter sign-up form, feeds, social links, payment information, and Trustmarks for security. These various tasks and information are less likely to be important higher up on pages or the header, but when site visitors want this information, they appreciate knowing where they can be confident they will find it.

Even with a purpose and its generous role in site support, many people dislike fat footers or abuse them. There’s certainly enough confusion about fat footers to inspire debate and that’s what’s happening now inside the forums.

Share your thoughts and experience, and ask questions too in Usability Considerations For A Site Footer