Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

SEO with Usability: What The People Want

If you are in the business of optimizing web pages and promoting web sites in search engines, in all likelihood you’ve never personally experienced the product or service you’re paid to market.

And yet, your client expects you to make them rich. At the very least, they want their company to rank well in search engine results. They expect you to find the exact keywords their customers are using to find their product or service, but you don’t have access to those customers, do you? You rely on tools and server logs to do your job.

You may be given data to analyze but seriously, if you had the choice, wouldn’t you rather experience the big 10 person party hot tub yourself rather than read dry data on who has purchased it?

Wouldn’t the feel of the warm water, the night sky bursting with stars and the teasing touch of skin nearby just nail the reason for wanting to buy one? Would you know how to target the different sizes of hot tubs and their uses? What if a Bed and Breakfast wants to buy one? Are their needs different than the family of five who want one in their backyard?

How do you advertise what you don’t know about?

SEO’s are demanded to do this. Blind folded. Web site developers are asked to design ways to order products they’ve never held in their hands. Usability consultants are asked to make sure everybody did their job properly, knowing full well in many cases, site designers were never given guidelines, requirements or anything other than a Wish
List by the site’s owner.

Does the Search Engine Marketing industry need to know more about Usability and do User Experience designers need to understand that someone has to market their creation and make it findable and appealing enough to use or buy?

Experience and Marketing

There’s a hilarious scene in the movie, What Women Want, where Mel Gibson is competing with a top woman executive for the best marketing campaign for various women’s products. Everyone on the project has been asked to come up with slogans for the self-care products.

Mel Gibson doesn’t like the new woman, played by Helen Hunt, who came on board to take over the job position he believed he was entitled to. He decides to outdo her.

So he takes the products home and while guzzling wine, begins to use them. He waxes his legs, paints his fingernails, nearly gets killed with a blow-dryer and my favorite part, puts on women’s pantyhose. The experience of the hell women go through to be attractive slowly dawns on him.

Add to this the fact that he can suddenly read the minds of women and you get a marketers dream. His character uncovers their raw emotions, their hidden thoughts, even fantasies and desires that he never knew women had.

While still not as intimately educated on the products as a woman would be, he was able to get enough of a glimpse so he could understand how best to sell not only the products, but the EXPERIENCE of using them.

He had direct access to user experiences and created the marketing campaign based on what he learned.

Marketing Without Blinders On

My son recently asked why horses that pull Amish buggies wear “blinders”. I told him this is because they can see on the side of their heads and they can spook easily, such as when cars come whizzing by on the road. It’s a common practice to blindfold horses when leading them away from fire or other emergency situations because not seeing danger calms them. Once, I needed to tie a shirt over a horse’s eyes just to get him to walk over a bridge. A horse will not go where it doesn’t feel safe.

This same theory applies to customers who make purchases online. Promotional descriptions nearly always focus on an aspect of the product to get the first click through. Once on a page, several things happen at once.

1. The searcher’s expectation for what they think they’ll find must be met.
2. More information must be presented to enable a decision or make choices.
3. The next steps must be clear, such as learn more, change your mind but keep searching on that site, where to go next and where to get customer assistance.
4. The entire experience must feel safe, secure, authentic and believable.

Therefore, it’s important to promote and follow up with a persuasive, logical presentation.

Funny thing is, many SEO’s feel this order sequence also means their part supersedes usability in importance. However, chances are the optimization elements were entered AFTER the design, rather than during. The usability and accessibility heuristics were likely there first, at least in some basic form like site guidelines. If they were not, and the site is truly not usable, then an SEO has an uphill battle they may not wish to climb.

Please continue to read SEO with Usability: What The People Want >

Care to Digg It?

Cre8pc gratefully acknowledges the high number of web sites who found value in this post and republished it.


  1. July 29, 2007    

    great ! exactly what i’ve been trying to bring to my company website… but …. they are used to work old proven way

  2. July 31, 2007    

    I think most SEO’s would go along with your 4 points entirely if only to get a few more keywords and phrases in there!

  3. August 1, 2007    

    Kim – Ah, you’ve done it again. Written the truth, clearly, concisely and in an entertaining manner. And, at the same time, you got your main point accross cleverly – or at least that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn.

    If the experience of a web site visit is not what we wanted, we won’t do what they want us to do and we won’t come back.

    On the other hand, if a visitor finds our site and comes to it, feels comfortable, finds what they want and likes what they see, they are more likely to do what ever it is we are trying to get them to do.

    And, I guess that shows how SEO plus Usability leads to Conversion in a nutshell, eh?

    Keep up the great work. You’ve sure come a long way since that time we were doing sites together so many years ago…

  4. August 1, 2007    

    Alan, you were one of my first mentors, 12 years ago. You would know how far I’ve come. It’s a real honor to know you visited here :)

  5. June 2, 2008    

    Great article, keep those articles coming.

2 Trackbacks

  1. share.websitemagazine.com on July 30, 2007 at 7:54 am
  2. Sphinn Doctor | BPWrap on July 30, 2007 at 10:25 am
  3. Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing on July 30, 2007 at 2:41 pm
  4. SearchCap: The Day In Search, July 30, 2007 | Seo Alchemist on July 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Subscribe to Receive New Blog Posts

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner