At the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference held earlier this month, two themes were repeated in various ways by different panels of speakers that I felt were strong messages to keep in mind.

The first item is understanding that search engines sincerely want your content. This is not an excuse to manipulate them. Rather, the message was simple. Clearly state on every page the topic or theme, and the search engines can take it from there. Even if your page has FLASH components, images, or JavaScript, there remain a number of options available for getting usable, descriptive content onto a web page.

The second message I came away with comes from the world of Podcasting; specifically, optimizing videos and radio shows for search engines. What the experienced panelists were hoping to get across is that there’s no reason to ignore the value of search with the new media formats. Rather, convert them to text.

For example, transcripts. Every show should be transcribed into text. Every video title should be descriptive. Instead of “December 12 Session #412″, make it “Interview with [insert name] on [insert theme] dated [insert date].” Add a descriptive meta description, on page text summary and appropriate title tag and you have a page search engines and people will understand, that links to your program.

This is a basic stuff.

What if you want to persuade, sell, inform, drive traffic and otherwise lure in someone with that page they’ve found in the search engine? Could you possibly be chasing them away and not realize it? Are basic on-page optimization techniques enough nowadays? Why are so many people still not finding what they want in everyday searches? What’s wrong?

New Book Due January 2007

Most of you are aware that traffic, click pattern and search measurement data tell a story about how your website is being found and perceived. Can you use this data to improve the customer experience? How can search assist with this?

Take this further. Now that your visitor, or for ecommerce especially, your prospective online customer, has arrived, what are they looking for? What do they want to find? How are they finding it, or not finding it? Rather than focusing on how a site is found, the search analysis processs described in this book focuses on what they do once they’re there.

There is a new book forthcoming that may help answer some of these questions. It’s called Search Analytics for your Site: Conversations with your Customers, by Louis Rosenfeld and Richard Wiggins.

The book discusses how people search and what their expectations are for search results. Anyone who optimizes web pages needs to understand this too. The authors talk about “starting points” behavior. People use one or two words more often, rather than complicated search phrases. They also naturally expect that a search engine can read their mind and know exactly what they want, despite those minimal keyword terms used.

In your on-page marketing efforts, are you confident that you know how someone wants to find your site or a landing page? Have you provided the means for productive site searches?
From the book description:

“Search queries are gold: they are real data that show us exactly what users are searching for in their own words. This book shows you how to use search analytics to carry on a conversation with your customers: listen to and understand their needs, and improve your content, navigation and search performance to meet those needs.”

This book may help you serve your site visitors better by helping you understand what their needs are and why they came (or left). The two-fold approach of working with the engines to create a better customer experience sounds like a new goal for 2007.

The website for Search Analytics for your Site: Conversations with your Customers includes a first draft, free sample chapter, book information and an RSS feed to help you remain updated on its progress.

Added: Power Point presentation about the book.

Note 12/20/06: This post has been edited to clarify the focus of the book, based on more friendly information from Louis Rosenfeld. To reiterate, “Rather than focusing on how a site is found, the search analysis processs described in this book focuses on what they do once they’re there.”

I’m really looking forward to reading this book!

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)