Get Your SEO/M & Usability Groove On

Linkedin has a discussion going called What don’t you trust about SEO (search engine optimization) … and why?. It’s a nightmarish tromp through the minds of those who equate SEO with human sacrifice rituals.

To be fair, some of the poor reputation is well deserved. Anyone worth their greed DNA knows that it takes a devil SEO to make potato salad out of cashews. If you’re dreaming of getting rich tomorrow, promising orgasmic results by reading the ebook you wrote while drunk at your buddy’s house last Saturday is absolutely going to require some down and dirty tactics to trick Google algorithms and brain-dead humans.

One guy in the Linkedin thread impressed everyone with his knowledge of AltaVista. The last press release from that search engine was in 2003. He also mentioned Lycos as a place SEO’s submit to. I just went there and learned about a girl who swallowed magnets and this week’s Mover and Shaker is Jamie Spears, the unmarried teenager who just had a baby. Yep. I want my web site there.

Some respondents in the “Bad SEO” thread had nothing to offer accept links to their web sites. Most wanted proof that SEO works. This is like saying we want proof that string theory is real or Moses really saw a burning bush. With each web site, results and techniques are unique. There are successes and failures. No two situations are the same. There’s so many variables involved. Believe in the promise of number one rank at your own risk. It’s like being baptized and promised you’ll go to heaven if you do. Nobody really knows for sure how it will all turn out.

The conversation in Linkedin is limited to the experiences of those who chose to participate. I don’t visit there myself for Q &A and had it not been for Sphinn, I wouldn’t have known about that discussion. Nearly every commenter had nothing positive to say about SEO. Quite depressing. I thought of going in there with my “Rah Rah SEO and Usability” position but this definition held me back:

Optimization is essential to an effective paid placement (SEM) campaign because of the importance of relevance. If your SEM matrix is not properly relevant (you are bidding on the phrase “Toyota” when you are selling “Ford”) you will pay more for a click. This CAN be optimized, but not easily. A proper optimization WILL reduce the CPC and the major search engines encourage this practice and will even help you do it.

I can tell when the mere mention of web site usability or user experience are going to be met with “huh?”

For the record, there are individual SEO’s and search engine marketing companies who include some sort of usability audit on their clients’ sites as part of the overall holistic approach to online marketing. I know this to be fact because I’m subcontracted or hired to perform their usability reports.

The goal of adding usability site reviews is converting inbound traffic to meet your business goals. This could be product sales, ordering services, booking reservations, newsletter signups, blog RSS feed subscriptions, sales leads, etc. A ranking promise for being “Number 1 in Google” is hollow. I can’t imagine paying money to be number one for a keyword and not having a powerful, working, persuasive web site behind those clicks.

Usability services can be applied at any time and may include (to name a few things):

1. Mock up reviews
2. Business requirements review
3. Functional requirements review
4. Assistance in preparing web site guidelines
5. Assistance in web site planning
6. Checking to make sure legal requirements are met
7. Functional testing of applications
8. Accessibility testing
9. Shopping cart and forms testing
10. Review of overall information architecture

Would you buy a house without first having it inspected by an outside, objective person trained to look out for your welfare?

An SEO company that doesn’t care about your investment is a red flag.

Does Your SEO Offer This Service to Support Your Objectives?

The main objective of usability reviews and functional testing is to help a business succeed. Often, a company simply doesn’t know how to be successful online because their staff isn’t experienced with all the skills necessary to be and remain competitive.

Usability is a business decision if revenue is expected to come from a web site. It’s used to determine what is wanted and needed by a business. Usability input is focused on delivering results and supporting all the ways and opportunities available to successfully meet those results. It’s tied to reputation management, customer service, word of mouth advertising and the return of investment for all marketing.

In addition to support for the business goals, usability testing acts as an advocate for customers and end users by educating companies on data collected on known user behavior, usage habits and issues such as those of disabled persons and the sight impaired. In some countries, such as the USA and the UK, web sites must meet certain legal requirements to do business online. Usability and human factors research are ongoing and closely tied to marketing goals and incentives.

Making a bad choice is your right of course.

There’s plenty of information available to help companies make wise decisions. I’m surprised that with all the search engine marketing conferences and live blogging of sessions, that barely a dent is made in the overall reputation of the SEO/M industry. For every class-act business or search marketer, there appears to be 20 rip offs and countless thousands of people and companies who buy into their schemes.

I hate to say it this way but the truth is, if you’re hiring any service that’s intended to help you succeed, put your “bullshit detector” on. There’s no magic formula. When you do locate and hire a credible company or person,  listen to them and follow their advice.

Sometimes the fault lies not with the SEO, but with the fact that nobody followed their guidance.

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