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December 26, 2007

The strong link between Usability & SEO

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Search engines are enhanced by having the most relevant results in their index. For a site to gain in these indices, there needs to be a strategic interest to develop an understanding of a site’s usability.

Search engines weight the importance of sites in many different ways.  One way, for example, is the importance of online bookmark site such as StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us and other social bookmark sites.  If others think the site is noteworthy enough to remember, search engines will also follow that lead.

Bounce rate is a key part of usability.  High bounce rate is when a visitor stays a very short time or only visits one page. Determining the causes of high bounce rate and correcting that problem, is key to better site usability. The better the usability, the longer the visitor stays on the site.

Usability is also a key factor in driving the acquisition of high value inbound links. For example if you want a university or a government site to link to yours, they must be able to quickly and more importantly, easily understand what the page and site is about. Again, usability is a major factor in this process.

From the architectural level, having a clean site hierarchy and an easily understood navigation structure will benefit both usability and SEO. For example, providing a logically thought through hierarchy that matches up with the nature of the theme/content of the site. Therefore the site should have a easy-to-use consistent global navigation structure and a breadcrumb bar.

One very important key point:

For the best-practices in site development, follow this chain:

Usability -> SEO -> Web Design/Development -> Testing -> Site Launch -> Constant Site Monitoring

But why does SEO come before Web Design/Development?

  • Upfront target audience research will determine the kind of site architecture and navigation to implement.
  • Defining which markup tags in the coding is as important as what will be said on the page.
  • Titles of the page and the page URL needs to be planned to match about what the page will convey.

Involving optimization into your web design process in the beginning enables you to lay down the appropriate framework for your site. If you ignore SEO best practices when designing your website, it can lead to immediate search engine problems and certainly can cost you time and money later.

Organic Search Engine Optimization is another concept to understand before jumping into it. Prior to launching an Organic SEO campaign, it is important to prepare keyword research and also discover/understand the competition. Discovering this information first is crucial to successful and profitable Organic SEO campaigns.

So the conclusion is, that it is highly recommended that you do these things before even creating your site. Since you are planning to build a new site, it would be a good idea to start with some basic questions.

  • What is the purpose of the site? There are many good answers to this question, such as lead generation, selling services, selling advertising, or reduce support costs, etc. Understanding the answer to this question is where everything starts. Conversions are the fulfilling of this purpose.
  • Who is you target audience you want to attract to the site? Who are those visitors you want to bring to your site that might convert in the short or the long term? There are many distinct groups of visitors. They can be divided into several groups such as first time visitors, repeat visitors, visitors from different countries, buyers, tire-kickers or advanced users?
  • How is your site useful to your visitors? What are their interests and/or goals etc and how can you help fulfill them? Depending on the targeted group of visitors, think about the types of information, products and/or services they want to see on your site.
  • Will the visitors know where to find what they are looking for on the site? Will they arrive at your site, be one click away from finding what they are looking for, or from converting, but instead simply leave because they cannot find what they seek?  Since you know who your target audience is, you should ask yourself is the site useful to them. Is the usability for that group correct for that group?

In conclusion, this concept can help your rank better utilizing better usability and the best proven methods of SEO. When this occurs, you should see better visitor interaction with your site.  And that you can translate into whatever you need.

Author:  This article was written by John S. Britsios, Web Architect & Principal SEO Consultant at SEO Workers. Add his expertise to your Google web searches.

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