August 17, 2004

SEO Without Usability -- An Exercise In Futility

From a WebProNews article by Scottie Claiborne we get a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) article that talks about why site owners shouldn't simply worry about search engine marketing tactics like Google Pagerank optimization, higher rankings, and reciprocal links. If you do somehow manage to drive a lot of traffic to your site, it then needs to be usable or those visitors will quickly go away and you'll lose the sale (or other business opportunity) you seek.

Here are a few excerpts (emphasis is mine):

"[I]n the same way that the average SEO can spot design or technical issues and recommend or work with a specialist, they should also be able to spot major usability issues and recommend or work with a usability analyst. "

"A usability analyst can walk through the site and spot obstacles that may prevent users from completing their goal. They typically address marketing, layout, technical, and design issues that can frustrate users or even drive them away. When site owners are presented with a usability study in addition to an SEO analysis, they have a better picture of overall "health" of the site and a blueprint for greater profitability, not just more traffic.

"Usability reports are a relatively inexpensive investment that return far more than their cost in increased sales, subscriptions, leads, etc. SEO and usability improvements implemented together can result in dramatic changes in traffic and conversions.

"Search engine optimization is still in its infancy, and is a constantly changing discipline. As the search engines get better and better at rewarding the best/most complete sites, usability will become even more important.

"Many long-time SEOs are now looking at the big picture and working with usability analysts. This ensures that their sites are crawler- and user-friendly along with being ready for sales conversions. Sites that can be found and that are usable as well will also attract links. It just makes sense. The double impact of more traffic and higher conversions makes for happy clients and powerful testimonials, as well as satisfied searchers."

You can find a qualified usability consultant on the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) web site. The UPA maintains a list of usability consultants who are members.

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