Tag Archives: usability

Social SEO is Here

7 Oct
Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it's important to SEO.

Google Plus might not be popular with people, but it’s important for SEO.

Social 101 for the SEO-minded Company

SEO practitioners have seen the writing on the wall for years. If you really care about ranking well in Google, now it’s past time to pay attention to social. Almost two months ago we learned empirically that more +1 on Google+ means better ranking in Google.

I’ve spent a couple of years hinting to my clients that they should pay more attention to social; now I’m *strongly* suggesting it by outlining a few simple steps they can take (or I can take for them) in the social realm.

Step 1: More Social Outlets

Google Plus is a must. People don’t use it, but Google relies on it for organic rankings, so your organization should use it. If you want to pick your battles and only use three outlets, pick Facebook and Twitter too. But why stop there? It’s so easy to work once and have it propagate to multiple outlets.

Step 2: Maximize Social Efforts

Use Hootsuite or similar services to make social management easy. Type once and your words post on all of your social sites at once. With tools like this there’s no excuse for not also posting on sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and the like.

You can even schedule your content to post at specific times allowing you to compress a portion of your social time investment while taking advantage of peak social interaction times to get your message seen more. Hootsuite is free, and if you’re lucky enough to outgrow the gratis version, it’s only nine bucks a month to upgrade.

Step 3: Encourage Website Visitors to Share

While many sites already sport social icons linking to their Facebook page, that’s not enough. We want a more usable page that enables our web audience to use their social networks to vote and share. Employ action icons like Google’s “+1” to let visitors make note of your specific content. Some might use a +1 as a social bookmark, others as an endorsement. Either way, we like it because Google uses it to rate webpages.

Step 4: Search for Social Engagement #

Hashtags (#) are your friend. Naturally, you should use them in your social posts to tag and categorize your content, but there’s more! Type “#hashtag” (without the quotes) into Facebook’s search bar and you’ll get a list of all posts tagged with #hashtag. But how is that useful?

An acting school might search for #audition and then comment on a post or two every week. A luggage shipping company might search for #lostluggage. A local business might search for people discussing an upcoming local event totally unrelated to their business and then share excitement about it. Etc.

Step 5: Follow for Social Engagement

Have you ever heard of the reward theory of attraction? You can follow that link, or trust me when I say that if you follow others, they might follow you too. This ties in well with hashtag searching. You can’t comment on EVERY related post you find, because that looks spammy, creepy and annoying. Instead, follow people and businesses who are posting about stuff relevant to you. …They’ll be more likely to follow you. Wikipedia says so.

Don’t lay it on too thick

Finally, the overlying/underlying philosophy here is that while social is going to help your other marketing efforts, most of the time, you should not wear your traditional marketing cap while you’re engaging with social networks. When you meet somebody on the street and they try to sell you something, how do you feel? Who wants to follow somebody who’s always talking about themselves? Well, some people do, but you’ll find the people with the most engagement aren’t exclusively self-promoting. Sometimes replying, “ugh!” or “I know, right?!” to share frustration, or asking a question, “How do you find out about _____?” or “Why?” will be more valuable than posting about something more related to your business. Remember: your business name is next to everything you post, so you can just lean on that!

This article only scratches the surface of social best practices, but follow these instructions and your social efforts will be well on their way to helping your search engine optimization.

Dan Dreifort consults on usability, SEO, and now social. If you ask nicely, he might let you subscribe to his private and otherwise unadvertised SEO/usability/social tips email list. …But maybe not.

How is responsive design connected to SEO? It’s mobile.

3 May
the long tail of search

Image by Victoria Jones

Follow the money and you’ll find that hot trends in design and search engine optimization are tied to our shrinking technology.  What’s in your pocket?

This mobile, responsive design, SEO and the long tail article originally appeared on the Geekly Group blog. (Thanks, Archive.org for the save!) (This article is from May 2013.)

The Tale of the Long Tail Search

And Why You Should Have Implemented Responsive Design Years Ago

My latest pocket toy, (a 5th generation iPod Touch), is great at taking dictation. I’ve already carefully enunciated two emails into its microphone today. Because I usually work from home and I’m one of the strange beasts to still use a landline. The iPod is my tiny window into the mobile world.

I also have a mobile phone, but while I don’t often lean on my Android, I recognize that more people are using their mobile devices to search for goods and services. I help companies harness this mobile traffic with responsive design, long-tail keywords and other engagement strategies. The ROI is huge, but it can be a tough sell– unless you have the data to back it up.

The Mobile Traffic Writing is on the Wall & the Font is Getting Bigger!

A few years ago I told a mid-market e-tail client that mobile devices and tablets would soon account for the majority of their traffic and business. I said something like, “Time to think about responsive design lest we alienate the fastest growing segment of consumers.” Instead, this client decided that its core demographic (married women over 35) didn’t (and wouldn’t) purchase or research expensive household products on handheld devices any time soon.

I disagreed.

Without a Mobile Crystal Ball, Let Data Make Smart Decisions For You.

The next year I was able to turn to the data. I pointed out that the company’s mobile bounce rate was higher than that of the overall site average.  When I again suggested it would be best to use a responsive website design to encourage mobile users to engage, the company decided instead to modify its PPC campaigns.

“Don’t address mobile. Ignore it!” was the company mantra. “Who would use a phone to search for luxury goods?!” They stopped serving ads to mobile devices.

In February 2010, only 5% of this company’s site traffic came from handheld devices. By May 2012 that traffic source had grown to 36%. Shortly thereafter they stopped advertising to mobile devices. By March 2013, phones, tablets and iPods accounted for 45% of their traffic. This is remarkable!  Why?  Because they’d specifically and actively tried to alienate those consumers.

So what happened?  The client finally embraced responsive web design. When I juxtaposed the previously mentioned 45% figure with a random sample of a few other sites’ analytics data, it was easy to see that married women over 35 (or whoever their demographic really was) actually used mobile devices more than the average person.

It took a few years and some good data but this company will soon offer a website that will be attractive, usable and engaging regardless of screen size. Lower mobile bounce rates and higher conversion rates are sure to follow.

But engagement is only part of a successful mobile strategy. Customers must find you, before you can engage them.

How Do Mobile Traffic Trends Affect SEO?

A few years ago we searched with our fingers on a keyboard attached to a PC or laptop.  In a few more years, we’ll probably just think about our searches to get things started via a subdermal implant.  In the meantime, we’ve begun talking to our devices.

With the advent of Apple’s Siri, Dragon Dictation and Android-based virtual assistants like Vlingo and Skyvi, more of us are speaking our search phrases than ever before. These new technologies are leading to increasing numbers of “conversational-style” searches, or long tail searches. This interesting combination of conversational search phrases and guttural caveman-like searches performed in noisy environments means that the long tail of SEO keywords is now more meaningful than ever.

Pair this new human side of search trends with the ongoing semantic efforts of search engines like Google and Bing and it’s a welcome perfect storm for wisely managed SEO campaigns. Use great traffic research tools to identify slightly longer, more specific search phrases and you’ll find your ROI going through the roof.  And you’ll live happily ever after…at least until everybody else catches on.

SEO Usability Vacuum

5 Nov

That SEO and usability don’t flourish in a vacuum has been on my mind lately. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. If there’s nobody to hear your pearls of SEO wisdom do they make a sound? The sound of silence sends no sales. Four cases of constructive complaining follow.

Case #1 – Hire Experts + Stop Listening = Profit? No!

I helped grow a startup e-retailer from nothing to three million in annual sales. The company sold to new owners who kept me on for SEO services but took away my keys to the site because they wanted to do all web work in-house. No problem- I work this way (via intermediary) sometimes. Though I’d informed them of redesign best practices, they chose to ignore it all;  the hasty series of redesigns and half-rebrands erased years of SEO and usability progress. I spent a few months frantically trying to implement remedial measures but they heeded nothing I said or sent. We parted ways less than a year after the company switched hands. In a few short months they went from hero to zero in Google. Why would you spend good money on a company and then tank it? Conversely, the people who sold the company hired me to do SEO and usability work for a new endeavor. Its sales are growing. SEO and usability are processes, not events; they don’t exist in a vacuum.

Case #2 – Second Verse, Similar to the First, But Better Outcome!

seo results graph

SERP trends: often cyclical over longer periods

The chart to the right shows long-term cycles of a  different SEO effort, underfunded and unfortunately not paired with a good usability effort.  The company rakes in millions every year and would hugely benefit from doubling, tripling or quadrupling their SEO spend. I tell them this every year and sometimes spend time cobbling together metrics to back it up. …Which led to a smart realignment of the campaign scope a few years ago. The effort went from about 10% funding to 25% funding, but we’re still overreaching the budget. Part of the problem is the size of the company; they’re huge. Big boats don’t turn on a dime. A properly funded campaign would smooth out those valleys, and the peaks would be, literally, off the charts.

Because of a third-party payment solution, this client is also unable to give me ideal, actionable analytics data tying actual sales to each keyword. I’m left measuring the ranking of SERP listings, a comparatively bush-league measure of success. I’m also sometimes unable to appropriately geo-target longer tail search phrases (usually a good tactic in underfunded efforts) because most of the campaign consists of more competitive generic keywords. (They have their reasons, but it’s still frustrating. Good thing I like a challenge, and complaining!) I have neither budget nor latitude to increase the usability of landing pages so some of the most trafficked pages on the site lack a cohesive design with calls to action and good user direction. Though I know it’s not true, sometimes this client’s actions tell me they’re happier with countless second and third SERP rankings instead of focusing on the first SERP. My voice is necessarily muddled by the relative vacuum, but it’s getting better all the time and I’m still able to do some good work. I am optimistic.

Google SEO vs Bing and Yahoo SEO

SERP ranks different in Google Bing Yahoo

Eating crow in Bing and Yahoo is fine if you’re doing well in Google

This other graph for the same client, though only tenuously related, needed a place to live in the blogosphere. Many of the campaign’s most broad metrics have been sluggish, flat or even slowly tanking over the past year because they cover all three major search engines as a whole. The chart at right (click it for a larger version) shows that SERP listings have been tanking in Bing and Yahoo, while Google’s doing alright. My SEO work will often please Google more than Bing and Yahoo, and this account exhibits the extreme of that trend. Because Google is responsible for the vast majority of searches performed in the US, I’ve never wasted much effort focusing on the other search engines. So while I likely won’t get more budget to play with, I have a Q1 2013 plan to address some of the issues. Ping me in six months if you want an update.

Case #3 – SEO & Usability Are Processes, Not Events.

There’s a reason SEO practitioners display results in charts with various metrics in one axis and time in the other; SEO is a process, not an event. This next tale bit of complaining deals with the one-night stand of SEO gigs. It’s my first one and I feel dirty – too ashamed to post a picture because a filthy picture is worth a thousand guilty words.  Because of stipulations tied to the funding of this project I was informed that I had to complete all SEO work and training in one month. I interjected, “But….” Nope. One month. I could not get keys to the server so I sent over a long list of Drupal modules essential for SEO like nodewords, xml sitemap, seo-friendly urls, etc. After a month I was still left with a CMS that wouldn’t even allow me to insert title tags or descriptions. It’s been over three months and I’m just now getting close to the finish line. It would have been a huge payday for one month’s work, but I knew better. It’s still a decent payout for a third of a year, so I’m happy. I’ve educated and empowered the client enough to ensure continued SEO success in the future.

Case #4 – SEO & Usability Success!

Google Experiments

A/B/X Testing and Google Experiments = More Bang For Your Buck

Most of my clients do listen, especially those I hand pick (vs. clients from agencies.) Case in point, to compliment SEO efforts I’ve really been leaning on A/B/X testing and Google Experiments. I try to convey that people should not be making decisions about design, SEO, brand, etc. when we can actually measure our audience and do what works best for them. After all isn’t that what any organization wants? The results (and data) speak for themselves.

If you have a very usable site with poor SEO, people won’t find your site. If I use SEO to build your audience, but your website sucks, you’re not going to get as much bang for your SEO buck. Usability is the science of making things not suck. SEO makes search robots happy. Usability makes people happy. The marriage of the two equals high ROI. This last image (above) shows how one little four week experiment caused visitors to be twice as likely to convert into customers. It cost very little to run that experiment and it paid for itself in one day. The rest is gravy. That it’s difficult to convince companies to invest in SEO and usability never ceases to amaze me, but I won’t stop trying (or complaining.) Thanks for reading.

Dan Dreifort makes money for companies and reads. If people paid him to read more he might stop helping companies make so much money. He’s currently proofreading (and loving) a book called When the Biomass Hits The Wind Turbine. It’s available in self-published form from Amazon for a few more months before its re-released and becomes all famous and stuff on the Daily Show and whatever awful show Oprah’s doing these days.

Updated Extensions for Latest Firefox Update

28 Aug
English: Firefox word mark. Correct clear spac...

Firefox. Love it. Hate it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember back when Firefox 3.5.17 came out? I’ll give you a clue; it was 2011.

It’s just a year later and the latest version of Firefox (15.0) ships with new features under the hood, including better memory handling for plugins and new “Silent, background updates,” but it’s not enough. When Mozilla switched Firefox to a faster release cycle in 2011, users relying on extensions and plugins suffered. Many jumped ship for Chrome and Safari. Those of us who have stayed either suffer or update extensions on our own. I’m in the latter camp.

Head here to download a zip containing the following usability extensions updated for the current Firefox release:

  • Duplicate Tab – keystroke or context menu to dupe a tab
  • Quick Restart – without shutting down Firefox!
  • Show Go! – Always show the go arrow in the URL window/bar

I’ve posted links to other updated Firefox plugins in the past but I don’t make a habit of it. If you’d like updated versions for any of those, drop me a note in the comments.

Wordtracker KEI Fail, Wordtracker Alternatives & SEO News

7 Sep
Wordtracker keywords

Wordtracker keywords (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

I recently reluctantly renewed my subscription to Wordtracker, a keyword research tool and database. Why was I so reluctant? (And why am I considering asking for a refund?)

Wordtracker provides poor documentation and regularly switches the formulas they use for data they offer without notifying its customers.

Wordtracker Changes the Meaning of “Searches”

In 2009 Wordtracker completely changed the way they calculate the data they provide under the column labeled “Searches”. How they get away with redefining “searches” is beyond me. I contributed to a Wordtracker support discussion about this problem, but somebody else summed it up better. “The fact that a so-called provider of data like Wordtracker does not clearly and expressly explain two critical factors relating to their data is appalling.”

One day “searches” means one thing. The next day it means something else. I got no apology from Wordtracker. I had to eat crow and throw out a few mea culpas to my clients when I realized that Wordtracker had pulled the rug out from under me. Boo. But it gets worse.

Wordtracker Changes KEI Formula

New Wordtracker KEI Formula Sucks

My $329/yr subscription just expired so I renewed. It had been a while since I used the service and Wordtracker neglected to tell me that since the last time I’d used their service they changed the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) formula. I thought I was buying one thing and Wordtracker delivered another.

KEI used to be a great metric to find low hanging fruit or “keyword gems in the rough” if you will. But the metric is now useless for that. Click the image above for a larger version. You can see that the most generic, high traffic, high competition phrases now have the highest “KEI” – and yes, “KEI” should always appear in quotes from now on until… well, maybe forever.

Though they offer great verbiage about what an improvement it is, Wordtracker’s new “KEI” borders on meaningless. Surely somebody at Wordtracker should know that when you combine data inconsistencies with poor communication and terrible documentation, usability will suffer. Apparently the usability and branding experts at Wordtracker haven’t been speaking up.

Comparison of KEI Formulas

Wondering how to determine KEI? Me too.

Typically KEI is the the ratio of the square of the searches upon a particular keyword in a day divided by the number of websites that are listed for that keyword. For example, a keyword that has 100 searches a day and for which Google shows 5000 websites would have a KEI of 2. (100 * 100 / 5000)
– web1marketing.com

So they’re saying: KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 486 per month and Google displays 214,234 results for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is 486 divided by 214,234. In this case, the KEI 0.002.
-searchenginepromotionhelp.com

For that one, the formula is: KEI = monthly searches / SE listings

Suppose the number of searches for a keyword is 821 per day and Google displays 224,234 results (pages) for that keyword. Then the ratio between the popularity and competitiveness for that keyword is: 224,234 divided by 821. In this case, the KEI is 273.
-bestpracticemarketing.com

And those jokers say that: KEI = daily searches / SE listings

Those are the first three definitions I found. I’ll bet there are more. Clearly the jury’s out on KEI. But while contradiction abounds, there’s a common thread in defining KEI. It has always related to the quantity of searches and the number of search engine listings.

So what’s the new Wordtracker definition for KEI?

Maybe we should start with the old Wordtracker definition of KEI

KEI compares the Count result with the number of Competing Web pages

Yep. That seems to be in line with what everybody else says about KEI. In case you were wondering, “count” is,  “The number of times the search phrase has been used in Wordtracker’s partner search engines.” And “competing” means, “The number of Web pages the search engine says it has in its index that match the search phrase.” So more specifically the old Wordtracker formula for KEI was

KEI = (daily searches)^2 / Search Engine (SE) listings

Here’s the new Wordtracker KEI definition

KEI = (Searches ^ 2) / In Anchor

Is that searches per day? Per month? Who knows? The only other information Wordtracker provides on its data results pages about its new KEI equation is

KEI compares the number of times a keyword has been searched for with competition (the number of pages that contain the exact keyword phrase within at least one of its incoming links, known as ‘All in Anchor’).

Does the “In Anchor” include only external pages? Or will a page with an internal “In Anchor” link make the cut too? Tough to say. Wordtracker regularly defines things their own way. While I’ll not poo poo innovation, I take umbrage with my data providers when they skirt industry norms. If Google defines a metric a certain way, clearly it is beneficial to follow the leader. Note to Wordtracker: Don’t confuse your users by regularly creating new definitions for established industry terms. Your poor usability is a disservice to your paying customers.

In Anchor And Title IAAT

Wordtracker founder and CTO Mike Mindel says

‘In Anchor and Title’ is a count of the number of pages for which the keyword appears in both the title tag and the anchor text of at least one backlink to the page (not domain).

Understandably this metric is used to help identify serious competitors. But Google measures parts of this metric differently. Back to Mike Mindel

There are two reasons why [Wordtracker] and Google show different numbers of links for seemingly similar searches. The first is that the [Wordtracker] In Anchor metric shows a count of external anchor text (from other websites), whereas Google includes internal anchor text as well (from within a website).

Google search market share

Google Market Share – Image from Wikipedia

‹rant› If internal In Anchor links are good enough for Google they should be a sufficient metric for Wordtracker.  Wordtracker tries to sell you on why its better to use their more specific metric, but aren’t all search engine optimizers essentially trying to play Google’s game?! Why wouldn’t Wordtracker emulate Google metrics as much as possible? Clearly they’re meaningful. Something more specific isn’t always better. Furthermore, why would you use the same terminology to discuss two separate things? ‹/rant›

Wordtracker’s Mr. Midel goes on to say,

The second reason is that Google’s AllInAnchor returns broad matches by default (the words mcdonalds, nutrition, and facts in any order), whereas Wordtracker uses the In Anchor phrase match count (mcdonalds nutrition facts somewhere within the anchor text).

(See previous ‹rant› .) Mike Mindel continues,

I hope you can see now that bigger numbers clearly do not mean better numbers.

Well, Mike, I hope you can see now that I’m not sold on your new (bigger) KEIs being better than the older, smaller KEI figures. And doesn’t Wordtracker try to sell us on bigger numbers being better? (See next paragraph.) Now I’m confused(er).

Back to Low Hanging Fruit

This new KEI formula doesn’t do much to help SEOs find keyword phrases with low competition and reasonably high traffic. It’s more tailored to high traffic phrases. Mark Nunney of Wordtracker says,

“KEI squares Searches because otherwise if both Searches and Competition (whatever metric is used for this) go up at the same rate then the KEI value remains the same and that will not take into account the increased opportunity that more Searches offers.”

I don’t know… I always thought that popularity proved only popularity itself. (Think: MC Hammer.) I also always thought that KEI was to represent some notion of ROI. Big returns aren’t valuable if the investment doesn’t make sense. Even my largest clients benefit from low hanging fruit and the small investments required to conquer them. Just because one has the deep pockets necessary to go after high traffic keywords doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective path. Mull it over. Easy pickings are more valuable to me than the garbage these new Wordtracker metrics provide.

Wordtracker Alternatives

I wrote an email to Wordtracker explaining that I want a refund. But I haven’t sent it yet. I looked for wordtracker replacements. There are a few that are too expensive for me to even consider. (We’re talking $1000 per client per year.) But I found a few tools that provide good data. They are:

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

http://www.keywordeye.co.uk

http://www.google.com/insights/search/#

I’ve also heard decent things about marketsamurai.com/ but I haven’t tried them yet, so no endorsement or link out.

The sad truth is that I think I might get enough value from Wordtracker to warrant sticking with it. After all, I can dump all of the data to CSV and make my own versions of KEI to get the data I want. That’s nice, but that’s not the point.

Wordtracker sucks. They keep changing the definitions without notifying customers which causes Wordtracker’s usability to suffer. I am searching for Wordtracker alternatives. Let me know when you find a good one. I’m willing to pay for a wordtracker replacement.

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability for companies large and small. He whines a lot on this blog. Sorry.

Internet Explorer 8 Compatibility View SNAFU

6 Sep

File this one under Microsoft usability nightmares. I was visiting one of my W3 standards compliant pages using Internet Explorer 8 to check for cross-browser layout/rendering consistency when I noticed that IE8 served a pop-up.  I was not pleased to learn that I could press the compatibility view button to fix problems in pages made for older browsers. The page looked fine to me. What the hell, I’ll click the button.

Naturally, clicking the IE8 compatibility view button destroyed the layout. It wasn’t illegible, but it really no longer looked professional.

How to force a page into IE8’s standards mode

I found this gem to force pages into standards mode

<meta http-equiv=”X-UA-Compatible” content=”IE=EmulateIE8″ />

Works like a charm. No more annoying pop-up.

Consider adding this to any page/site that’s built to W3 specs.

IE8 Compatibility Mode Pop-up Message

Internet Exploder

Need Help Finding a WebPosition Replacement

7 Jul
webposition alternative

The all new, (all suck) webPosition!

WebPosition was pretty great until Infospace bought them in 2009. What was once a wonderfully supported suite of SEO SERP tools turned into a nightmare. The newly released Webposition is a web-only interface (vs. software you install on your computer.) Whereas you used to pay a few hundred bucks to own the program outright you now have to pay WebPosition a steep monthly fee to use this website.

What’s wrong with the new WebPosition?

It’s costly. $499 per year.

Poor security. Because it’s online-only, all of your clients’ campaign data is on their servers. No doubt they’re selling it to somebody.

Missing features. And more! My friend reports that he’s…

having trouble exporting their reports into excel.
They don’t give any details on how many keywords
rank #1, 2-10, 11-20, etc (only shows a bar graph)
There’s no report email function, and I don’t see an option to FTP/upload reports.
The reports look really sloppy compared to the WP4 reports.
WP support is still no good.

WebPosition Alternatives

Advanced Web Ranking

That same friend and fellow SEO says,

I’m trying AWR because I’ve heard a lot of good
things from prominent SEOs and larger agencies who use it.
AWR has custom reports and lots of bells and whistles.
I couldn’t get anyone to answer their customer service line…I believe the
company is in another country… I never tried emailing them.

So far Advanced Web Ranking is at the top of my list to try. It’s $399 to buy and then $119 per year after the first 12 months.

Web CEO

I’m on the advisory board for the e-business program at a college. They use Web CEO for their SEO classes. So it’s number two on my list. WebCEO costs $389.

Addweb

Costs $299 but their website is an unholy mess. I can only imagine how terrible their program’s usability is.

SEOmoz

$79 per MONTH ?! Wow. My friend says,

Seomoz’s rank tracker isn’t very robust and you need to enter each keyword
and URL individually. Lame.

Wikipedia’s List of Web Ranking Software

As if this wasn’t already complex and challenging, Wikipedia offers a longer list of SERP software options. And dmoz has a category full of website promotion possibilities.

SEO Software Help

As you can see, this blog post isn’t informative as much as it’s a cry for help. If you have a non-shill comment on your experience with SEO ranking software, please comment. Here are the most important criteria

  • >20 sites
  • sftp upload of reports
  • brandable/customizable reports
  • data export (csv or ods or xls)
  • easy backup AND restore from backup
  • easy revert (e.g. if my evdo internet connection dies during querying and I need to re-run a report.)
  • imports WP4 campaigns (this might be a pipe dream)
  • no monthly fee
  • no sensitive data stored on third-party servers
  • etc.

What do you think?

 

Dan Dreifort whines about SEO, efficiency and usability on this blog and IRL.

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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