Ethical Search Engine Marketing and Web Site Usability

It’s been reported that Jakob Nielson spoke about SEO and Usability in his keynote speech at the User Experience 2007 conference in Barcelona. Known to have a strong interest in search engine development, he sometimes gets on the nerves of search engine marketers.

According to Jakob Nielson sees parallels between ethical SEO and usability,

With Web 2.0 still a buzz word and Web 3.0 or even 4.0 on the horizon, Nielson predicts a ‘back to basics approach’ as website owners realise that simplification and resolution of basic problems is the key to a positive user experience, rather than the bells and whistles that come with participation innovations.

Ultimately, Nielsen’s keynote address poses an important question: should we look to trends in search engine development and SEO techniques to persuade web owners that simplest is best for website usability and ‘findability’?

My instinctive reaction to that question is “NO!”. Designing and marketing for the lowest common denominator isn’t challenging, creative or even practical. Twice this week I addressed this in Are We Designing For The Human Experience? and the one my husband felt might ruffle the feathers of SEO’s, Customer Experience, Loyalty and Search Engine Marketing Without Understanding Either of These.

To look at search engines as the holy grail of web design practices?

It’s not that search engines aren’t making an effort to go out and try on every human. It’s that not every human uses search engines, so why base web design on what they’re doing?

User Personas Are Us

The topic, Is It Worth Creating User Personas? took a little turn when 37 Signals wrote in Ask 37signals: Personas? that “We don’t use personas. We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels.”

As my friend, Adrian Lee, said when I pointed out the 37 Signals post in our Cre8asiteforums thread, Thinking About User Personas,

Heh, well yes, if you’re building something to fix your own problem, then there doesn’t seem much need for personas. But if you’re trying to solve someone else’s problems, what do you do then?

Ecommerce site owners may want to consider the many points in Persona-lizing a site from Internet Retailer.

For example, a project for Home Depot uncovered two very different customers who might have identical demographic profiles—the do-it-yourselfer who wants to pick out all the cabinets and appliances and the customer who wants a kitchen designer to do it all.

The article also describes how FutureNow took a web site’s conversion rate from less than 1% to average 4%, and the return on pay-per-click is consistently 2 to 1.

From My Messy Inbox (Not to be confused with my messy desk)

User testing? Morae is on sale until December!. Go ahead. Spend now.

I really liked this article because it provides case studies and other resources: 30 Usability Issues To Be Aware Of.

Another case study…Landing Page Optimization: Improving Conversion 50-60% by Applying Continuity and Congruence

Laura Milligan wrote The Del.icio.us Toolbox: 50+ Del.icio.us-related Scripts, Tools, and Tutorials. Did you know they’re changing their domain to “delicious.com”? I use this site and had no idea there were so many things you could do with it. This article has them all. Love the “Lazy Sheep”. It’s perfect for me.

If you haven’t been there yet, go now to the newly redesigned and updated Small Business Brief. There’s no slowing these people down!

And finally, SEOMoz has launched the Marketplace. It’s free to everyone to use or submit to. The application itself is just out of BETA and having pounded on it myself as a tester, I found it to be one of the smoothest user experiences I’ve ever had with an Internet application. It’s sleek. Simple. Useful. Attractive. Functions well. If your company handles web development, Internet marketing, usability or Internet software development, the Marketplace is a place to list your services. If you’re job hunting, you can submit your resume too.

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