Archive | February, 2010

SEO, Typography, Usability – Advice to a client

26 Feb

Through better usability (and other practices) we can turn more of your visitors into customers.

A client asked for clarification on a few suggestions I’d queued for their project. While I don’t offer any background, this article is still informative. Partially edited to protect the innocent.

What is Google Page Rank? How do I measure it?

Google pagerank is best explained by those who’ve already typed it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank

I use a Firefox page rank plugin to tell me the PR of any page I visit. But you can also use web tools like this one

http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php

Typesetting and typography: What are they and should I care?

Typography… I’ll just talk around it a bit. That restaurant menu link I sent:
http://www.abriosbrickoven.com/menu.php
represents the last time I tried to do something neat with fonts, layouts and spacing. It’s from a few years ago (largely stolen from here) and I was on a tight budget. But while it’s far from perfect, it uses fonts, font sizes, font colors, font spacing, kerning, etc. in an attempt to present information in a sensible and easy to read format.

The example cited even conveys some subtle branding – with the Italian color scheme. We could display the same information with stock fonts, stock spacing, stock (black) colors, etc., and it would look different… worse. The information conveyed wouldn’t be as attractive. Visitors would read it less, and other nastiness! 😉

Another Typography Example

Prior to that one, my earlier attempt at an Italian menu (circa 2005) was this one:
http://avalanchepizza.net/pizza-menu.php
It’s been edited (read: improved) since I worked on it, but it’s still sucky enough  (typographically speaking) to be a good example. The fonts stay the same throughout. There’s bold text here and there, and we add some red. But other than that, it’s a fairly jumbled mess, comparatively speaking. The kerning is too tight. The spacing between an item’s header and its description is actually GREATER than the space between the item’s description and the NEXT item’s header. Etc. Etc.

A final typographic e.g.

Go to your bookshelf. Grab a paperback from the 1960’s and then grab the most recent hardcover book you can find. Open them to page 50. Read a few lines from each book. What’s the difference? Typesetting’s come a long way in a few decades. Books are much easier to read now.

So, using typography, we can better present the information on your site. We do this using CSS Cascading Style Sheets to define the spacing and other font attributes.

To further answer your question, yes, there is something you can do to help the effort. Write more sub-headlines to break up text.

Using HTML headlines helps both humans and robots

I’ll pick a random page:
https://www.mygovspending.com/gearbox/GovtDeficitAndDebt
Ah, not the *best* example, but I’ll use it nonetheless. A page with fewer headlines would’ve been better, but in one sense, this is actually better; it shows how we can improve on a good start.

Between these two headlines…
“A Shot at Quantifying Comprehensive Taxpayer Liability”
and
“Can government debt be a good thing?”

…we have a whole bunch of text. And while there’s a chart and a magazine style pull quote box, it still needs more segmentation. What’s there would suffice for a textbook or even a newspaper, but more headlines are the norm for web content where it’s so easy to lose a reader’s attention to countless other sites.

e.g. I picked a random article from smart money
http://www.smartmoney.com/investing/economy/the-other-consumer-confidence-index/

There’s a headline an average of every two paragraphs.

This is not just good for readability, keeping readers hooked, helping readers find what they want in a page and etc, it’s also good for SEO. Robots love this sh*t! HTML headlines are our opportunity to present a better page outline to the search engine spiders.

Headlines should often be accurately descriptive more so than catchy. If they’re both, that’s even better.

How about a segue?

As a neat tangent, and segue, think about the links you see when you visit a site. The call to action, “Click Here!” was once the norm. But then some genius realized that presenting the user with a dozen links on a page, all with the anchor text “Click here!”, all going to different pages… was a bad idea.

What are good links made of?

So, as well as providing better,  more obvious information to readers about where a link will take them, descriptive link anchor text is also valuable for those search engine bots too. The anchor text that you use to link to your pages, and even more so, the anchor text that third parties use when linking to your pages, tells Google a whole bunch about how it should rank your site.

The BEST links are:

  • from another site to yours
  • on a page that has high page rank (PR)
  • on a page with content closely related to yours
  • without link reciprocity (e.g. w/out you linking back)
  • hosted on a different server, different domain registrar info, etc.

How do I get incoming links?

But getting the best links is VERY hard. So we just get as close as we can. For SEO, I’d say the PR is the most important variable.

How do we get links?

  • Ask nicely (ultra low success rate)
  • Offer to trade links (also pretty low)
  • Buy them (expensive and frowned upon by Google)
  • Do some press releases (hope for links)
  • Befriend bloggers, e.g. hook them up w/ a free account (hope for links and/or a review)
  • Other networking (hope for / trade for links)
  • Etc.

We could compile a list of the top twenty or so bloggers in your field and compose a very short email to them. “Hey, check out my mad-crazy site, yo! I’ll hook you up with a free account.” …and you can send them off with a personal touch.

W3C Page Validation

The W3C link at the bottom relates to web standards. The closer you are to meeting them, the more people (e.g. w/ disabilities) and robots (e.g. Google’s) are able to make sense of your content. It’s otherwise advisable to get your code up to specifications too. If you need more convincing, please Google for myriad reasons.

Whew! This took a while to type, but it’s worth it.

Dan Dreifort

Dan Dreifort is a SEO consultant, usability consultant… and he’s working on becoming an efficiency consultant too. He just bought fficient.com in the hopes that it will some day become the web home of his efficiency consulting wing. Yeah, he’s like a bird.

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