A Quiet Historical Step for SES Chicago 2009

As I head into my 15 year (February 1995) of working in the web design, marketing and usability space, it has been this year that has been the most unique.

What finally happened, after years and years of writing on the friendly relationship between SEO and Usability, is that the message is understood and gaining acceptance. I’ve been partnered with a select minority of forward thinking SEO’s for 6 or so years. It’s taken that long for the rest of the industry to catch on to the value-add usability audits bring to SEO and online marketing methodology.

For myself and Shari Thurow, of Omni Marketing Interactive, and author of several books on “search usability”, a pivotal moment came during the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference a few weeks ago. Organizers there invited Peter Morville, the man behind Semantics Studios and Co-Author of the Information Architecture, Findability and Search Patterns books, to deliver a keynote talk to an audience of search engine marketers.

Shari and I, with the assistance of our Moderator, Adam Audette, followed Peter’s talk with our session on Successful Site Architecture. We focused on Information Architecture for SEO and Usability. My role was to describe why and when IA is vital to SEO and user experience design and Shari delivered the technical instructions on how and where to apply IA techniques.

Shari, myself and Adam had dinner with Peter Morville the evening before our presentations. It was shared that Shari and I were thrilled at the nod by SES organizers towards our work and that of Morville. It was a historical move, and yet a quiet one that only a few of us felt.

It’s possible SES had no idea the importance of their decision to let us discuss IA to search engine marketers. Sadly, the session on IA by Shari and I was not video taped. It was not photographed. It was covered by only one blogger, Aim Clear’s Manny Rivas (Thank you very much!)

Is it the nature of the SEO industry to move slowly towards recognizing other methods that support their marketing work? Wouldn’t a company that sends its employees to conferences want the most current and expert information? How telling is that the SEO industry must STILL defend the fact that SEO still matters.

Smart folks and search engines are tracking user behavior (to an extreme in Google’s case, in my opinion). Usability and user experience are a force to be reckoned with in the UK. There, the usability jobs are abundant. Shari and I are so busy, here in the USA, we spent a month trying to connect before our presentation and in the end had to wait until we both were in one spot in Chicago. We deliver SEO, Usability and Information Architecture to our clients. Through our eyes, every web site deserves the whole pie rather than 1/4 of what can be done for it’s success.

There are two major conferences that acknowledge search usability – The Search Marketing Expo Series and Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo. They serve us well and I support both equally.

But one took a step into the future of Internet Marketing – however gentle that step may be.

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