03-robot-willowgarage Theory

UX & SEO: A Love Story

This is a guest post written by our friend Mark Oleszczak

Oftentimes, when people hear the words “search engine optimization” – they think of shady people who love keyword stuffing, gimmicky page titles, and who in general love to ruin the cleanliness of a beautiful website. While those people do exist, it’s important to note that not all search engine optimizers are the same, and there are a number of easy things you can do as a designer to ensure your site is beautiful for both your target audience and for robots.

Aww… robots.

7 Easy SEO Elements To Consider

Sitemaps

One of the simplest elements to create for your website happens to also be one of the best. User experience is all about how efficiently users will experience your website, so it is vital that we think of this from the get-go. An HTML sitemap will provide a basic bulleted list of all the essential pages of your website; thus making it easy for humans to navigate. An XML sitemap is a list of all your pages, images, videos, etc – and make it much easy for robots to navigate.

I always like to tell people that they shouldn’t always assume that a visitor enters your site from the homepage. By creating a sitemap, it will enable a visitor to figure out exactly where they are, and continue an easy experience while on your site.

Google’s Matt Cutts talks about the importance of sitemaps from a usability perspective

Utilize Rel-Author

The rel-author tag is the latest element to increase awareness of authorship for individual posts. Pictures are worth a thousand words – and by implementing this tag onto your articles, it will display the individuals Google+ profile picture – thus further enticing a user to click on an article.

How To Implement The Rel-Author Tag

  1. Create a Google Plus profile
  2. Click “Edit Profile”
    • Under “Contributor To,” list all of the sites you are associated with
    • Add an email address to your G+ page and verify it
  3. Boom. Done.

Avoid Flash

Bare with me while I pick up the pieces of the overplayed record, tape them together, and put them back on the turntable to play one last time. Stop using Flash. Everyone hates it, progress bars are annoying, it drains your battery, and it is buggy as shit. Also, if you haven’t noticed by now, iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) do not support Flash, and Apple gave a detailed explanation on why back in April 2010. Plus – are you cool losing out on Apple’s 54% mobile market share . . . doubt it.

Utilize H-Tags Properly

It’s easy to get confused with H-tag, but it doesn’t need to be. I like using the analogy that your website is a book, and each page of your website represents a new book (or an H1). With that example, you would only ever give your book ONE title, as it wouldn’t make sense to have 3-4 titles. However, books contain multiple chapters & are represented by H2’s in this example. The more you break out your chapter – the further the H-tags break out.

People love a good book, but only if it tells a good story & is easy to decipher. You would never find a book containing one chapter, and if you did … it’d be confusing as hell. Be sure to break out each section of your site with clear identifiers of what will be covered in that section.

Avoid Splash Pages

While splash pages have their place on the web, remember that it adds an extra click and can potentially result in users leaving your site before they even have the opportunity to view the information. These pages are notorious for having low-quality content, and usually do not include any value to a user. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter a site and leave after viewing only one page – so while your splash page may be beautiful, but does it help the user accomplish the goal at hand?

Do you want everyone leaving your site after only viewing one page?

Embrace Simple Navigation

With smartphones & tablet devices dominating the industry today, navigation has become an increased concern amongst user experience experts. Hover-style nav bars were once a great way to showcase information, and provide the user with an easy-to-view flow of the site.

While the option to “hover” over something exists on computers with a mouse & cursor, tablet devices & smartphones are completely different as you rely on the individual’s finger to physically touch an object before the nav-bar expands out. The ability to “hover” your finger on a smart device isn’t an option – thus making you rethink how people navigate your site.

Certainly from a search engine perspective, the ability to crawl a site efficiently is a major plus to getting your content displayed right. However, think about what is best for your user, and how they would prefer to see information laid out.

Page / URL Names

Lastly, while naming convention may seem silly to mention from a user experience standpoint, let’s briefly discuss why this is critical.

For example: You decide to search for “pickled eggs” on the internet, and you are shown a plethora of pickled egg recipes. Mmm .. pickles. You sort thru the listing of results, and try to decide which recipe is the exact perfect item to click on – as you certainly do not want to wait any longer for that perfect egg you are craving.
Google search for pickled eggs, with purple eggs showing under the image section

But wait! You notice at the bottom of the results that one of the page’s title is “How To Make Pickled Eggs…”, but the page’s name is actually “/chicken-finger-basket.html” Hmmphff, I don’t know about you … but I certainly would not click on that nonsense about chicken fingers to fulfill my pickled delight.

Rule of thumb
Always use hyphens in between words when creating page names. Avoid spaces & underscores.
Good: “/pickled-egg-recipes.html”
Bad: “/pickled_egg%20recipes.html”

What’s Best?

At the end of the day, user’s always come first – no matter what anyone tells you. You can optimize your site all day long, but if no one is looking for you, then you are wasting a lot of time. I’ve come across hundreds of websites, and the most successful ones of the bunch are the ones that take UX testing seriously, and spend the time learning who the real people searching for their website are. These few items mentioned above are just a few of the many ways that SEO crosses into UX, and can help everyone out in the process. Search engines love clean sites, and clean sites are often very well planned out to showcase the information they have.

Answer The Following Questions

  • When did you last Google your company’s website?
  • Are you pleased how users are getting to your site?
  • Is the tone of your voice consistent in your meta-descriptions?
  • Is SEO essential to UX?

About The Author

Mark Oleszczak is an internet marketer who specializes in not just providing quality internet marketing strategies, but understanding the use of beautiful design to help enhance visibility. He is an advocate of using natural search engine optimization, playful social media tactics and true keyword research to help better optimize a site from the ground up.

His favorite thing to say at parties is, “Google is trying to mimic humans … so if you stop thinking like a robot, and start acting like a human again … beautiful things happen.” Also, he’d love to have a conversation, so start following him and say, “hello” on his Twitter account.

2 comments

  1. Mark Oleszczak

    Look Ma! That’s me!

  2. SEO Services Gold Coast

    Whoa this is great! It’s already equipped with all the information a SEO must know. Even for those who have been into SEO before. This is really a must read article! Outrageous! Thanks a lot for sharing some info’s about SEO.

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