Top Ten Must Have Books on Usability and Search Engine Optimization

The only that pours slower than molasses is universal acceptance of how well search engine marketing and user experience design work together. How long have I been writing here on the topic? Eleven years. Five people actually get it.

Interest in the Usability and SEO combo is growing but mostly from the search engine marketing camp. Some of the more famous of my friends in the SEO industry have been including usability audits with their services for years. A few won’t even take on new marketing clients until their web site passes a usability review and repairs are made first. Why? Because promoting a web site that doesn’t work is a waste of time and money. While there’s always SEO companies that have no interest in usable web sites and take money in whatever way they can steal get it from unsuspecting people, there are others who take pride in their work.


The Best Usability and SEO books to Own

Why are Usability and SEO so valuable together? Because both camps want to deliver their target users the object of their desire. Each niche has its own techniques and forms of delivery. Search engine marketers focus on promoting clients’ products and services. They’re paid to promote and if they’re any good, their landing pages immediately deliver on the promise of taking their visitor to whatever they promised. User experience design branches out into all things human oriented. Not only do they create designs that deliver visitors to their desired task, but they persuade them to stick around and do something else while they’re there. The usability camp is mortified if someone’s needs and desires aren’t met. Search engine marketers are less concerned about that, but they should be!

There are many books on search engine marketing.  Usability and usability testing books have been around for years, with Jakob Nielsen being the most popular, followed by Jared Spool. Understanding the theory and practices behind a unified Usability and SEO approach can be found in the 10 books below. Each one deserves a home on your bookshelf.

1. Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become

2. Search Engine Visibility (2nd Edition)

3. When Search Meets Web Usability

4. Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results

5. Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer

6. Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success – – This book is new and I love it!

7. Audience, Relevance, and Search: Targeting Web Audiences with Relevant Content

8. Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

9. Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?

10. Internet Marketing: An Hour a Day

How to Give Your Web Site The Special Stuff for Success

I love to write for the Just Behave usability and seo column at Search Engine Land. Every month we have a deadline and each time I hit a brick wall with no idea what to write about. And then…the stuff just comes.

Today’s article is called It’s A Fatal Mistake To Copy Successful Web Sites, I relate a true experience. During the Q & A part of a session at a search marketing conference in which I spoke, someone asked why we don’t all just copy Amazon’s web site. I spoke into the microphone with a definite, “Never, ever copy Amazon.” The audience gasped with surprise.

Although I had a quick moment to clarify my statement, I didn’t have the opportunity to clearly outline what I meant or why my statement could be helpful to audience members. The article I wrote for Search Engine Land goes into that detail and makes many points you may not have considered before.

When someone says they will make your website easier to use, ask them what mental model they are referring to. Are they going to make it easier for search engines to crawl and rank it? This is a searcher mental model and one an SEO is more likely to be focused on. An information architect wants to know the mental model of your target users. What are your customer needs? What types of behaviors can you expect from them? Many websites have different user paths on one website.

The other article I wrote a few weeks back is a personal favorite. It, too, is based on real situations. It’s called The Algorithm Chasers

Algorithm chasers rely on analytical tools to help understand searcher behavior. They are equipped with keyword data, target market information and demographics. But are they able to determine the emotional power of the written word on web pages? Why is content so vital to search results?

I hope these articles are helpful and offer you some new ideas to try on your own web sites.

Where To Go For Usability Resources and Support

The following are my recommendations for usability, user experience, captology and accessibility resources and support.

Companies, Kim Krause Berg, Full Service Usability, SEO and Web Design, Dr. Peter J. Meyers

Joe Dolson Accessibility, Joe Dolson

UIE, Jared Spool

FutureNow, Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg


Closed Loop Marketing, Lance Loveday


Cre8pc Usability and Holistic SEO

Experientia, Putting People First

Functioning Form, LukeW

OutofmyGord, Gord Hotchkiss


WinningExperiences, Colleen Jones


Logic and Emotion, David Armano





Catalyze, Forums Community

Cre8asiteforums Usability and Accessibility Forums

Access Matters


UI Patterns

Accessible Web Design

Design Crux, Captology

Shari Thurow


Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results

Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition

Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day

The Soccer Mom Myth

Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads

Going for SEO Celebrity Fame? Prove You’re The Real Deal

I’ve been thinking about two popular discussions currently taking place in the search engine marketing industry about “Seo Rock Stars”. First was Lee Odden’s, The Fallacy of SEO Celebrity, which was followed up with Rand Fishkin’s take in The Desire for Fame in the SEO World. Both men flung the doors wide open.

I enjoy any discussion that offers up a chance to look at where we are as people, community or industry.

There are far less rock star personalities in the Human Factors and Usability/User Experience fields, but they do exist. In those industry circles, the so-called fame can be directly traced to their achievements, such as case studies, white papers, books, popular educational blogs, videos or podcasts or events such as hosting conferences. Only recently did My Catalyze quietly launch. It’s no Sphinn. The content at Catalyze tends to be more academic and not self-promotional.

Reading the comments in both Rand and Lee’s highly rated posts, I was reminded of my early days in the 1990’s, when I made the online acquaintance of Jill Whalen, Kalena Jordan, Ralph Tegtmeier (aka “Fantomaster”), and Ammon Johns (aka “Black Knight”). Danny Sullivan was the most authoritative guide for me, followed soon by Mike Grehan.

What struck me as the most positive role each of these people played back then was that they shared what they learned, while they were learning it. Brett Tabke did the same thing by launching Webmasterworld. In those first years, WMW was an online lab where Brett tested theories and practices and freely shared his findings. Members followed up with their testing and feedback. Eventually “best practices” could be flushed out from all this free flow. If you came into WMW believing you were a smarty pants with an attitude of being a guru, you didn’t survive long.

Flash forward to today. I founded Cre8asiteforums, Jill founded High Rankings Forums and many other forums came long before us, like Jim World and DigitalPoint. The one thing you can count on in forums is self promotion.

There are always exceptions. Some members of Cre8asiteforums contribute day in and day out, giving advice, helping figure out problem code, and offering moral support with no link drops or hints that they’re only being nice because they want your business. The moderating staff and I keep track of humble contributors. Some of them are eventually given opportunities to join the team or write in our blog. We look for self respect, hard workers, generosity, and expertise that have been proven.

Power plays are out. A constant presence that says “Look at me! Look at me! I’m over here!” doesn’t work either. I see this happening in Facebook. Everyone has a different use for it. I go there to have fun, but I’m a professional person, forums owner, business owner and tied to many companies who use my services. What I share in Facebook about my personal life is limited.

When people who have seen me online for years finally meet me at a conference, they meet the “real” Kim. I’m goofy. I’m terrible with names. I’m shy and uncomfortable in crowds until I get a sense of the place. I laugh. A lot. I swear after a few drinks if we’re on a hot topic and am more likely to say things that might surprise you. I rarely have the nerve to approach “SEO Rock Stars” I haven’t met yet or if I do, I’ve had to get the courage up for about 20 minutes first. I figure nobody knows me and will wonder who that strange woman is walking up to them.

I suppose being famous in an industry is a head trip at first. It doesn’t always last long in such a socially driven environment. I’ve seen some new people rise to the top by pushing uphill a boulder of content and involvement in all the “right” places, only to write something that’s in poor judgment online somewhere and they tumble back down the mountain. Some of them will align themselves with someone famous and toot that horn, in essence using the famous person to gain notice.

What’s kept Danny, Ralph, Aaron Wall, Jill, Christine Churchill, Mike Grehan and Ammon going strong over the past 12 years is their devotion to their craft, their interest in upholding the integrity and continued growth of the industry, their consistent ability to stay focused on their work and their personalities. Each of them is genuine. You know it the moment you meet them in person and when you see them anywhere online. They are interested in YOU and YOUR success.

True leaders gain loyalty because people can tell the difference between those who really want their peers to succeed and those who are in it for their own personal agenda.

There’s tremendous talent out there, with some exciting new voices and faces. There are also a lot of well known industry leaders, business owners and conference speakers. Eventually they’ll want to move on, retire, or try something else. The SEO/M industry would do well to nurture and guide the newcomers and support individuals who have impressed them.

It makes little sense to wave fingers at so called “rock stars” because time has a way of filtering out the frauds from the real deal.