Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Usability or SEO: Whose Side Are You On?

There remains an ocean between human factors/usability/user experience design and testing and search engine optimization, marketing and internet marketing practices, with no bridge to cross over.

angry man ready to punchWhat’s worse, few are willing to build that bridge.  Perhaps it’s because every time someone starts to they are tossed into the ocean or burned at the stake.  Usability and SEO have been on two sides of web site projects since forever.  They are separated into different departments, different buildings, different conferences, different books, and different discussion groups.  Because I’m trained and skilled in both I’m treated as an outsider.


Since I started out in (and was first known in) the search engine marketing industry (when it was called “web site promotion” and “SEO” and PPC/PPI were just babies), I kept that as my base.  It’s easier to network and connect with people who know you and realistically, as a single working mom, speaking at conferences and traveling to network with the usability side was not in my budget.  Nor was getting to SEO functions, but thanks to the generosity of friends and my willingness to volunteer for free access, I got a start.

I have few friends from the usability side because to them I’m too closely aligned with  marketers.  What they don’t realize is the SEO camp threw me out too because I use these words when I write about my work:

“usability”, “user experience”, “web design”

and because, unlike Tim Ash, Roger Dooley, Shari Thurow, Bryan and Jeff Eisenberg, I’m not a book author who have written about landing page conversions,  user behavior and marketing, and searchability and persuasive design.

I just do this stuff for a living.

bridge between seo and ui

Build a Raft

Some larger corporations learned that web site design is a unified team project and that each contribution is vital to the whole.  They don’t start a project until the user experience people and search engine marketing people have a few beers first and shake hands.

Some SEO companies incorporate some form of usability review.  Typically these are basic standards compliance only and never go beyond that into analyzing the data from a user experience and behavioral perspective.  They also leave out information architecture, accessibility, mobile testing, forms, software application and shopping cart testing.

Because, of course, nobody in their right mind wants to market to ALL the people who use web sites.

Meanwhile, user experience people have been punching holes in all kinds of directions and I’m not just talking about the little donuts here folks.  Search engines and companies like Amazon are so fascinated about how you buy stuff, like stuff, hate stuff and use stuff that they’re creating software to track behavior, algorithms to figure out credibility and chasing anyone who studies the brain to see what they can tell us about how we make decisions.

Not including user interface engineering and usability in a project plan from the very start is like shooting clay pigeons with a blindfold on while standing on one foot.

If you are hiding in a search engine marketing bunker somewhere looking to shoot the next person who utters the word “usability”, congratulations on your 15 seconds of page rank success and I hope you have more trees for the money you’ll invest in those ads that don’t convert.  PS. Does your nicely ranked web site page or well placed ad that cost a small fortune click to a page or site that works on mobile devices and screen readers?  Thought so.

If you’re sitting on the high human factors mountain where all things are magically sold, you believe that keywords are nonsense, search engines will “eventually figure it out” and you have no interest in helping a site owner make money, develop a brand, pay their mortgage and hire people to help the economy, have fun in you next life with karmic burden.

If you are one of the Silent Ones who agree with me that user experience and internet marketing can share a house together, please find the courage to come forth and express the benefits (of which there are countless) of applying techniques from both practices.

I need help building the raft.

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