Archive for May, 2007

Relationship between SEO and usability/HCI

May 30, 2007

When SEO is raised in discussions, people most often start rambling on about keywords and Pagerank, they don’t often bring up usability or information architecure.  To be honest, that’s how I have also thought, at least until now, recent posts by Aaron Wall and Bill Slawski are starting to me think I have got mature SEO professionals all wrong.

Bill wrote a very interesting response to my question about the relationship which I very much agreed with.  I would like to hear more on this subject though, does anybody have any links?

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Good ideas are hard to spot

May 30, 2007

Seth Godin has a nice post on the subject of new business ideas that becomes successes, and how they are difficult to forsee.  I can’t recall the last day that I did not wonder if we should be developing a new product, or have a doubt that our product ideas are the right ones.  Several times a week people I meet will tell me our products are fantastic or that they are a waste of time.   Every so often though I will get some feedback from a customer that is fantastic, yesterday was one of those days, it’s a great feeling. 

Some things I think are correct about web site prominence in Google..

May 28, 2007

Age is just a number

The time that a website name (domain) has existed affects the position of that website’s pages in Google search results.  Old websites do better, although new websites seem to get a period of grace where this rule does not apply.  Which would make sense as this provides a window of opportunity for new sites to gain readers.  This seems to one of great debates issues of the field of Search Engine Optimisation, it seems likely that time is a significant coefficient in the equasion that is used to calculate the position of a websites pages in Google’s results.   Nice article about age on the web

Write accessible content

The changes that one would make to improve a website for those with sensory disabilities will help Google’s content scanner (Googlebot) to comprehend your content.  Actually this makes sense if you accept that Google’s little content scanner is not a person but simply a program containing a set of judgements applied automatically to each website.  The state of Computer Science means that visual and semantic interpretations of websites is not possible on the scale that Google must process website pages, and so the Googlebot must use a pretty simple set of judgements based on the set of words it encounters.  At least one simple test can demonstrate this, create web pages, one with the HTML tag H1 (top level heading) followed by a paragraph.  Create another, say, using two paragraphs, and see which one Google makes more sense of, Google’s content scanner will certaily be more likely to make the snippet that appear in search results equal to some or all of the text the the paragraph in the first example.  The World Wide Web Consortium created a great document about this topic back in 2000.

More content on a single page

Don’t be afraid to put more content on fewer pages, Google’s content scanner, like people, it seems is quite happy to read longer text and makes sense of it all rather than skip back and forth between multiple pages.  Web pages with a small amount of content typically assume that the reader is fully aware of the topic being discussed (how many times have you arrived on page 4 of an article and then had to search around for the page 1 link?).  This task takes a lot of human brainpower to complete if you think about it, a computer is very unlikely to be able to comprehend the linkage between pages required to comprehend the whole article, and so Google is likely to make less sense of it.  So make it easy for everyone and put more content on a single page, within reason of course, you don’t want things to take too long to load.  SEOmoz has a great example.

The company you keep: don’t accept gifts from strangers

In everyday life your friends, work colleagues, and customers help a lot by recommending you, whether you want to start a business or simply write an article and have it read.   Google also takes notice of recommendations; more and more trust is becoming important to Google at it tries to weed out websites that it is uncertain about.  This upsets a lot of people who  see this as inequitable, however, ask yourself, how do you prefer to choose your holidays or next television?  Probably from companies that are recommended by your friends, or by publications with a history of making good recommendations I imagine.  Why should you expect Google to recommend your website if nobody also is recommending it? 

I am sure you receive requests to link up with other websites, think carefully before you do this, Google judges these relationships much as one judges a person by their friends, and a business judges another business by its partners and customers.  When discovered for using practices Google deems unacceptable a web site is punished, usually by being removed or moved very far down the search results Google serves up to users.  This might also be applied to web sites that link to the rotten apple.  Google’s has a long memory , and the wrong association may be very hard to shake off, Google  is not known for being responsive to contact from small businesses or individuals. 

Article about Trust on the web

Please feel free to disagree, I might add more to this list, as I think something written in simple form can benefit those people who are not too technically minded.

Helping people enjoy your website

May 27, 2007

I get pretty fed up of people offering me ‘great’ ideas for websites, I pretty much always give the same response nowadays, actually I almost say the same things for new business ideas, of which I hear almost as many: 

Make sure you are helping people, not just trying to help yourself (nobody wants another million dollar homepage)

Search with Google to make sure what you are planning to write about or the service you are planning to provide is not already out there!  Also, research your idea to make sure is is actually useful

Test it out before spending loads of money 

Draw out your new idea on paper if is it a website and test it with a few people, if it is a new business then ask potential customers if they would buy stuff from it – make sure they are not just being nice, this is something that happends too often as people hate to offend!.  even funnier and just as cheap is wizard of oz testing, a favourite of mine.

Get your granny to use your pilot site and then ask her if she knows what it is about 

Rough up a website with off the shelf tools, such as a blog, or a hosted CMS like drupal or yahoo storeWell, test with about five people really, but your granny can be one, and make sure a couple know about your topic, but don’t be surprised about what you can learn from people that have no idea what your website is about.  Read this nice article about testing with people.  if they don’t t get it then think again, don’t spend money on the full thing because ‘what do they know anyway’.  I have seen this happen too many times.

Make sure you ask for feedback once people start to visit

Shock, horror, people might have something to say about your work once they see it.  Be warned, if your don’t like rejection then this might be a harsh life lesson, but just like asking out girls, eventually you will get it right (or give up!).    Here is a nice article about user experience

Market your bloody site

It seems that web site owners fall into three camps: no marketing, lots of dodgy online marketing, and great marketing.  Often the quality of the web site has very little relationship with the approach to marketing taken though, it could be a great site with no marketing, or a rubbish site with loads of marketing.  In fact most often the winners I find have simple web sites with very tight targeted marketing and a lively charasmatic front man.  Read Seth Godin, he knows a thing or two about marketing.