In the black hat/white hat world of search engine optimization, there is also the perception by some in the industry that there may be little need to consider the needs of people in their SEO practices. In their determination to meet the challenges presented by search engines and search algorithms, some lack consideration for what people do with websites once they find them.
Even more interesting is when an SEO forgets that the voice of the people holds tremendous value in determining page rank and page indexing.
I’m unsure why some SEO’s neglect and ignore web design practices that blend, and invite as welcome friends, usability, accessibility, quality assurance, customer satisfaction and information architecture.
In a recent interview between Mike Grehan and Google’s Matt Cutts, Matt says,
“And the best advice I can give is don’t worry or over think or try to strategize too hard over is — or isn’t — there a sandbox. Just make a great site, with great content and a normal reason why people would want to link to you and visit your site. A compelling reason why people would want to link to your site. And that’s going to help you capture the mind of the blogosphere and that’s really the best way to let search engines find out about you too.”
I’ve found that what Matt describes as “great content”, “normal reason…to link and visit your site” and capturing the “blogosphere” all require elements from user centered design, persuasive architecture, usability, accessibility and captology, which is about changing human behavior.
Efforts that solely go into changing search engine behavior only go a short distance. Personally, I wouldn’t pay for SEO services that offer only half the golden key.
The Other Side Is at the SEO Door
How important are people to design? Technorati design is the topic of What Would Google Do?. I had to laugh while reading it. I remember asking something similar, before Google became King. The question used to be – “What Would Amazon Do?”
Anyway, the people part of the design equation showed up in this quote from the article, when asking designers to consider the ramifications of using Google simplicity as their guiding light:
1. You donâ€™t care enough about your users to bother talking to them about why they should care about you (and, therefore, they wonâ€™t)
2. Youâ€™re as unoriginal as the guy selling knockoff handbags on the corner, so itâ€™s probably best to just avoid eye contact altogether.
There again, it’s about the web site visitor and their behavior and reactions. This was important enough for Chris McEvoy to find a way to make Google usable and understandabe.
When Jakob Nielsen was interviewed by John Scott, Nielsen said this about the relationship between usability and search engine optimization, and what design techniques are most supportive to SEO techniques.
“I see three main classes of techniques: word use and writing; site architecture; and reputation building.”
In Jakob Nielsen’s new book, Prioritizing Web Usability, an entire section is devoted to search engine marketing techniques. Early in the book, in Chapter 2, “The Web User Experience”, you will read about “Organic and Sponsored Links”, “Number One Guideline for Search Engine Optimization” and “How People Use the Search Engine Results”. Chapter 5 is simply called “Search”. It starts off with “The State of Search” and ends with “Reputation SEO”.
All that, in a book on web site usability.
And, The Other Side is at the Usability Door
In the reverse, search engines have spent a bundle researching how people search. The results are found in changing SERPs (Search engine results pages). In fact, the trend now is that we’re all delivered different search results from each other.
All the more reason to consider the people-side of optimization, isn’t it?
Search engine marketing may appear â€œeasyâ€. How hard is it to pay big bucks to be placed in the number one spot on a search results page? Well, which keyword do you want to buy or optimize for? What do your web site visitors type in to find you? Where is your company located in the world? Who is your target market? What will you do, once they find your web site, to satisfy their need(s)?
This is the performance side, and it gets measured, analyzed and scrutinized. It matters because of what Matt Cutts and others have been saying. There has to be something amazing about your web site to get it screaming down search engine highways. Itâ€™s how your siteâ€™s pages are quickly found.
Itâ€™s why people arrive the first time, and come back, again and again. Thatâ€™s why user (people) centered design matters to search engine marketing.