Optimize for Users, Not Just Search Engines

Things that irritate people on a site will make them not want to come back…how hard is it to code a required field as such? When there are 10 boxes to fill out and 9 are yellow, one assumes that the yellow ones are required and the white one is not. However, that’s not always the case and those pesky errors that show up dictating what you must do are really, really obnoxious in cases like this. I spent a few years as a programmer and I can assure you that coding a required field takes only the smallest bit of effort.

Even if you aren’t at all trained in usability, you still know something about it from your experiences. You can tell when a site or program is easy to use. You may not immediately be able to name exactly WHY a site is highly user-friendly but if a piece of it isn’t, you can. Usability is something that you may have no control over but if you do, it’s something you really need to research and really think about if you want any conversions.

A site that’s not user-friendly may get tons of new visitors but they won’t get repeat visitors unless they’re really sweet Brits who don’t want to offend anyone (like my friend and SEO Bloke Ciaran Norris, who was lucky enough to have a napkin to spit his spicy nut (ha!) into, because otherwise he would’ve had to eat it so as not to be rude. Or the angelic Rob Kerry who drank a non-alcoholic beer in Seattle because it’s what he was handed and NOT drinking it would have been rude.)

My example of a required field not being indicated is a rather mild case of poor usability, but it still irritated me enough to write this post and eat a large hunk of chocolate cake for breakfast. It’s because I KNOW it doesn’t take much time to code, and it certainly doesn’t take much time to do a bit of quality assurance testing. Obviously if you have major issues with something like your shopping cart system it might take a tad bit longer but still, do some damn testing and FIX THE PROBLEMS.

So why is the web so rampant with glaring issues like this and what can we, as SEOs, do about it? Even if you don’t have access to a usability specialist you can still discover what’s bad about the user experience on a site simply by performing the tasks a user is expected to perform in order to convert. And don’t stop there…find your most unsavvy web user (my mom is available) and have him or her do the same. If something’s just not right, it should be obvious. And most importantly, talk to the site owner/programmer about fixing the problems. This person may be completely unaware that anything isn’t as it should be.

I know that when I programmed something, I could MAKE it work because I knew the intricacies of it. Things made perfect logical sense to me but then again I was the creator of the software. When I’d send it to testing, the test team would sometimes immediately run over to tell me they’d found a bug. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that someone else needs to proofread what you write because you can’t see your own errors. You apparently also cannot tell when you smell bad or when you’re really boring.

To close this I’d like to mention the top 10 site problems that really annoy me…feel free to add to the list. 1. No home button or link on every page 2. Prices that are marked as sale prices but still match what is listed as the original price (I’ve only fallen for this once!) 3. Navigation that varies from page to page 4. Blurry images that were obviously enlarged from a poor quality smaller one 5. Shopping cart system that doesn’t tell you shipping costs until you’ve purchased the item (sounds too horrible to be true) 6. Any site that doesn’t send you a confirmation email when your order has been placed 7. The exact same description for more than one product when they seem quite different 8. Internal search functionality that doesn’t work on partials of a term or is only available for product codes 9. Frames (I don’t mean the band either)

10. Product or service listed in the meta tags but nowhere on the page


Here are a few places you might want to go to get more information on SEO and usability. These were the three pieces that I thought were the most informative when doing a little research on the subject.


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