Ads placement remains a necessary evil for the user experience, threat to Google and marketing revenue darling.
One of my favorite tasks for my old Cre8pc site was bringing attention to good works by people in the SEO and Usability industries. Continuing with that tradition, here is one of my favorite finds.
An SEO Guide to Adsense, Ads and Placement was written in 2011 by Cyrus Shepard and featured on MOZ. When the article came out, it was helpful for many people struggling with ad placement and Google slaps for banners placed above content. Shepard includes mockups of ads placement for “Panda Friendly” page layouts.
I continue to see news and directory sites plastered with banners. That they don’t appear to be punished by Google is curious. And not only from the SEO perspective, since the user experience suffers when content is broken up with ads. The day we all come to web pages for the sole purpose of finding and clicking on ads is the day I retire on a remote island with my own “girly drink” hunky waiter to serve me.
Is there an update to this article? If so, let me know. We all want to earn money and placing ads on pages is not an act of treachery. Do we have the right to place them wherever we want to?
What are your findings?
What is SEO? Is SEO Ethical? Nearly 20 years later and the question remains a hot discussion topic. What is an SEO?
Webmasterworld takes a fun frolick on the ethics, in Is All SEO Unethical?.
My point was that all SEO except the purest WH, is unethical as it deliberately causes harm to other sites. For any SEO to work, the main goal is to knock someone out of their position in the search engine. In other words, the goal is to cause harm to some other site, by definition any SEO of that nature is negative SEO as it intends to unnaturally unseat another site.
The key word is “manipulate”.
In the real world, two gas stations or even four, are placed at an intersection. Each of them wants the same customers. They change their gas prices as the most visible way of competing. When they each sell for the same price, they work on other ways to draw in customers, from gas pumps with TV’s to great cheese steaks. Sometimes one of them will hire a dude in a costume to stand out front dancing around to get attention. Would you call that manipulation? Ethical? I call it friendly competition by using creative ways of promotion.
20 years ago, the work of getting pages into search engines was called “promotion”. To promote a website meant getting it indexed. Optimization was a gentle term that came later but was a badly needed method due to the enormous volume of pages competing for the same audience. Black Hat fought the secret mafia of search marketing because behind every search engine were people taking money for rank, meaning corporations would always win. BH got a bad rep because the methodology pissed off the people getting rich first.
We refer to SEO as “manipulation”. That is how hundreds of thousands do SEO. There are other techniques that fall into the human experience side, such as making websites that work for all people rather than bots. To me, this is experience optimization and an under-valued method of online marketing.
a topic at Cre8asiteforums, appealed to beginners who wanted to show off their knowledge to get post counts. This is never wise, especially when what you know is what everybody already knows, like the guy who defined SERPS for us. The discussion fizzled to loud thump when I asked:
Is it part of the job of an SEO to include the user experience within their methodology? Or is the purpose to rank high with no follow through once a visitor clicks into the website?
One person responded with “no”. And there was no debate.
For hundreds of thousands, if not a few million SEO’s, their mission in life is to get pages indexed and ranked in the top 10 spots of search engine results pages for specific keywords. There is no need to know anything about the people who visit optimized web pages or why they chose specific search phrases. There is no interest in what resolution searchers use, or device, or if they are someone relying assistive technology that reads web pages to them. Marketing quality web sites is not part of their job.
Which is one reason why SEO has a bad reputation.
Remember the TV commercial that showed what your brain looks like when you take street narcotic drugs? The splattered egg in a pan? Have you ever wondered what your brain looks like when trying to find something you want from a search engine? In those cases, brains look like strawberries.
is a piece I wrote about the relationship between human behavior and information seeking.
Frequency of the use a search term may not necessarily be interpreted to mean it is the best word to choose for your particular website. The word might be used often because it is more commonly known and used but still not meet the need of the information seeker because they know of no better word choices to try.
Did you know that your website visitors have different searching styles? Do you know how these behaviors affect how they search for information and make choices? There is more to keyword research data than the number of queries used to find site or the weight value of the top keywords. Words paint a different mental image for some people or don’t mean anything at all.
Another recent article I wrote is on a topic that I love, but which most web site owners choose to ignore.
One of the reasons why sliders and carousels suddenly appeared everywhere on homepages is because they provided vivid visuals, with or without commentary or a call to action. The logic was similar to what goes into book cover designs. A walk through a bookstore or library is partly research, partly informational and partly tied to whatever book cover attracts attention. A casual browsing experience, where there is time to take in both information and eye candy, does not work for several genres on the Web.
The real tragedy in web design is not knowing how to sell online.
This is something I didn’t write, but a Cre8asiteforums member found some interesting stuff:
Has anyone used any of the reports and settings suggested in the articles above with any success when working on their own sites or reporting for clients sites? By success, I mean, have you used any of the suggestions and has that resulted in any really valuable insights about a website that you could take action on?
I’m surrounded by smart people.
Google has created a circus of sad-faced SEO clowns jumping through hoops trying to get rid of “bad” links to their web sites.
This is why I never ever chose to be a slave to search engines and chose the human side of the web experience over the algorithm changing lead-line approach where every site owner is pulled along under the threat of low rank, poor PR scores and penalization.
The first disavow link removal request I got was a “mistake”. They messed with the wrong woman. This one has me stumped.
You have the following links on your website that points to a page or pages on the site and I was wondering if it would be at all possible for you to remove it please.
The page they are referring to, Do SEO’s Bear the Burden of a Company’s Conversions? does not have a link to their site in it. It links to a great article by Jill Whalen and there were many valid, non-spammy comments on my post.
The disavow request goes on to say,
As I am sure you are aware, Google has made a number of algorithm changes this year that target link profiles and so it is necessary to place greater control on where links appear. This is no way a comment on your site; rather it is a necessary task that I must undertake.
It most definitely DOES indicate an issue with my site and this is where I get really miffed. My reputation, both when I was a SEO and later a Usability and SEO design practitioner has been 100% no spam and no stupid SEO tricks. My only mistake was using Text Link Ads software when I owned Cre8asiteforums, which is now owned by Jim Boykin at Internet Marketing Ninjas. The forums was penalized by a drop in PR score for having, if I remember right, one or two text links at the bottom of one page. I allowed those links because of my friendship to the application developers and Google slapped me on the wrist for it.
There are, of course, countless cases where sites need to go back and erase years of bad behavior. All I can do is recall all my warnings to clients who kept buying high priced links or before that practice, believed in link farms, micro-sites and reciprocal links with sites that had no logical relationship.
I didn’t do that stuff because being fake doesn’t impress me in life or the Internet.
Bug Off Disavow Hounds!
To those of you who earn money by hounding site owners for crimes against Google we didn’t commit – it’s your Karma. Do your research before sending out your link removal requests.
I linked to articles I LIKED and have no intention of hunting through a database with 11 years worth of posts to remove one of your’s because Google is pointing a gun at your head.
See also Jackassery – Disavow Toolto discuss at Cre8asiteforums.
Aaron Wall at SEO Book posted on the disavow tool and link removal requests and refers to google’s antics as “jackassery.”
Gather ye horses, trusty steeds, flask of whiskey and your Google bot dogs, for we have word of another fox in the rank-house and Matt Cutts has sounded the trumpets!
Bad Merchant? Google May Drop Your Rankings Later This Year reports that Matt Cutts signaled yet another blow to spammers and bad online businesses.
We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little bit sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that, because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.
So far, other attempts to rank credible web sites in the ecommerce space created a delightful new revenue stream for writers and fake user reviews. Even Matt isn’t sure how they can truly tell the difference between a good or bad merchant.
Says our Hunt Master,
We are trying to ask ourselves, are there other signals that we can use to spot whether someone is not a great merchant, and if we can find those, and we think that they are not all that spammable, then we’re more than happy to use those.
I may be riding my gorgeous white mare in the back of the hunting group but I do have a teeny suggestion for the Leader of the Pack. How about using the ability to USE the site as an indication of a good online merchant? Why not support sites that can be used by EVERYBODY (accessibility), searchable on all devices (responsive), and pass usability audits?
Customer experience design is usability design. An online business that wants to rank should be able to prove it wants real customers who arrive with confidence and trust.
So Matt, why not make web site usability a rank factor?
When Google went from being just another new search engine to the search engine, I couldn’t stop comparing the company to the cartoon series, Pinky and the Brain. In my mind, the conversation between Larry and Sergey was identical to the two lab mice:
Larry: “Gee Sergey, what do you want to do tonight?”
Sergey: “The same thing we do every night, Larry—try to take over the world.”
For the cartoon, no matter what scheme Brain devised, the world was not his to take. Perhaps it was Bill Gates’ plan to put a computer in every home that stood the best chance of world domination. Steve Jobs and Apple followed up with more computers and added music. You might even say that the music injection was the language the entire world could understand.
It occurred to me one day that people like Larry, Sergey, Bill and Steve, and others like them, instinctively understand the human brain. They know that computers aren’t substitutes for our minds, but are extensions because, for starters, we create the machines. Fascination with our brains is everywhere. There are new books on the male brain, female brain, brain after a stroke, spiritual brains and how brains handle memory or heal disease.
It’s likely no coincidence that around the time Google was launched, an essay called The Extended Mind was published in the journal Analysis by two philosophers, Andy Clark and David Chalmers. They set out to prove that the mind is a system made up of the physical brain and parts of its environment. When your environment is dependent on computers for communication, for example, how does this affect your memory? Does texting with phonetic words mean the eventual loss of grammatically correct writing?
One way to take over the world is to make people dependent on computers for their survival, communication, entertainment and income. I find it no coincidence that Google explores ways to make its search and data an extension of our daily habits. The key theme between Larry, Sergey, Bill and Steve, and others like them is that humans love convenience.
I think user experience web design and Internet marketing success is tied to exactly the same idea.
Another interesting study shows how narrow our awareness is. Two psychologists, Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris, showed a video of two groups of students weaving around each other, passing a basketball. Half of them wore white shirts and the other half wore black. They were asked to keep track of how many times the basketball was passed by their team. At one point, a student dressed in a gorilla costume came wandering into the scene. Later, several students said they never saw the gorilla. Their brains regarded this information as extraneous information. (You can view the “basketball” video here.)
We extract only what we need for whatever our task may be. This same lesson can be applied to usability and marketing.
Navigation and memory
Search engines keep changing their user interfaces. This is not intended to drive you crazy. Rather, the companies are keenly aware of human-computer interaction studies and listen to user feedback. One of our many issues with search and web designs is our inability to recall where things are, how we got anywhere and how to handle information overload.
Creatures of habit, we’ve learned where logos are placed and become accustomed to global, supplemental, supportive and breadcrumb navigation. We scan and look for tidbits. We seek out only what we need to complete a task.
Design styles have changed over the years. However, you will still see home pages with 20-plus items listed on the left side navigation. If just one of those choices is the start of a task, a site visitor has started down a certain path. Ask them to recall what the other 19 items are and they can’t tell you because they didn’t want or need all that information. Duplicating that information with image navigation inside the main body aggravates the situation by removing confidence. Which click is the best for the task, the left side link or product image?
We are quickly adapting not only our brains to our laptops, but also our hands and eyes to sorting through and responding to information. New studies are being performed on how our brains seek out new ways to get information. There’s a rearrangement of neurons based on new methods of getting any feedback. This feedback is not just by sight. For us as internet workers, the creation of lists, forms, videos and detailed images contribute to engaging the brains of our targeted readers or market. Consider disabled persons accessing the Internet and those whose handheld devices are an extension of their body.
One area I see missing in ecommerce design is close up shots of craftsmanship in handmade products. A wedding site with models showing different styles of veils will sell better if the model is shown with several head shots and with close ups of the beads, lace, and length. With the time honored custom of shopping for wedding gown and accessories with family, sales online must find ways to emulate the experience of touching material, remembering a design that was like one Grandmother wore at her wedding and trying on head pieces to see how they look on different size women. We have yet to truly emulate physical feedback to our brains in an environment where touch doesn’t exist.
Pinky and Brain were never able to conquer the world, despite being genetically altered so they could speak to humans. Brain’s name is an acronym for “Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus”. Will Google become an extension of our brains? As we search for information via the Internet and make purchases online, we’re contributing to a new way of communication. Our brains are adapting to new behaviors. How we market online is attached to our greater perception of ourselves. Think social media and social media marketing, for example.
For a struggling world economy, companies that will succeed will be those who get unstuck from old practices in design and marketing and regard each of us as evolving humans.
This article was originally written by Kim Berg and published by Search Engine Land, January 23, 2009