• http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Superb piece, Adam.

    I’ve long believed that at the end of the day the search engines are trying to figure out the most relevant landing pages for users, and that folks spend too much time trying to “game” the results, rather than build highly relevant pages providing great user experience.

    Certainly, it’s important to do both well, but too many folks seem to forget about UX.

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    Hey Adam-

    SEO, IA, and the ever-loaded term “user experience” a turning point in SEO? Maybe to you it is a turning point. To me…it’s an, “about FRIGGIN’ time!”

    Information architecture has always been a part of search engine optimization. I’ve talked about it since 1995. I’ve written about this topic many times over.

    Many SEOs and web developers alike see themselves as architects, when I would characterize them as carpenters. Carpenters are not architects. Carpenters and architects often do not have the same skill set(s).

    But that’s a whole other article, isn’t it? So is the whole “user experience (UX)” thing. I don’t know how much bad optimization, poor design, substandard architectures have been created in the name of “user experience.” No one seems to ask users anymore, do they?

    My 2 cents.

  • http://www.pageonebusiness.com WarnerCarter

    Insightful observations. If the changes you mention are a “Turning Point” Then SEO is always at a turning point, and always will be.

  • Duane Forrester

    Jumpin gon the bandwagon – it’s high time this change happens. Many of us have been preaching this for years now, with very slow adoption at the publisher level being the most obvious, ongoing failure point.

    For some reason, companies tend to what to separate all facets of owning, building and maintaining websites. Understandably the disciplines are individual, but come one – it’s s till one common team effort in the end.

    This general focused as outlined above, when combined with conversion optimization, will become the defacto standard over the next few years for building successful websites.

    Right now, people see success by doing one project or another (SEO or social media). The day is here where people NEED to start looking at things from a combined approach. The first adopters of this approach will stake a claim in new territory – vacant territory – alongside giants like Amazon and Zappos.

  • http://www.audettemedia.com Adam Audette

    Exactly, George. Maybe that’s the crux of the situation. It seems so “easy” in a way – keep it relevant and high-quality, deliver a great user experience, stay away from tricks and games – but then again that’s why it’s so hard. Everyone wants to take short cuts.

    Shari – you are the queen of the triad between IA, SEO and UX. That’s why I linked to your article, “IAs are from Venus, SEOs are from Mars” in that context. You’ve been preaching this for a long time, but not enough people have been listening. You’re right about the UX issue… testing, testing, testing is where we need to go to really find out what user experience is optimal.

  • http://www.nithin.net/ nithin

    Funny to read about how impressive Google’s tools are for sniffing out paid links, and be served an ad for paid links by googleads http://twitpic.com/1ytagd

  • http://seocraftsmen.com taoseo

    I think your article is pretty good – informative and to the point especially in these times but I still would debate your statement:

    “We really, really, really need to get rid of that horrible “SEO footer” as I call them—the footer packed with links and optimized anchor text to everything under the sun within the site. That’s not a useful user experience and it’s definitely not a useful SEO experience.”

    The ‘SEO’ footer works and was always thought of as a product of internet marketing – a useful set of site-links that user could use if they were at the bottom of the page. Users really aren’t that deaf, dumb and blind and the general public safely assumes those are the same links that are found in the main navigation.

    We ALL now this. No confusion or not enough to worry about. Let’s worry about users that get to the bottom of the page or are looking for other links that don’t belong in the main navigation.

  • http://www.audettemedia.com Adam Audette

    Nithin – I’m a little suprised SEL elects to serve ads for TLA, to be honest, but that’s not my area :)

  • http://www.chotrul.com/ Chotrul

    I’d totally agree with the comment about things moving more towards a combined approach. And also the highlighting of conversion rate optimisation.

  • KennelMaster

    Interesting & I suppose it is wise words that you return to the focus on the reader / customer as the most important determinant of success. It is unfortunate that the global nature of the internet & SEO means the necessity for competition for PR e.t.c. takes up so much time and can be essentially a fairly mercenary marketing excercise.


  • Kim Krause Berg

    Well written article, Adam. But the title is discouraging for those of us who have doing SEO/UX/IA for almost 15 years :)

    UX/Usability/Captology/Human Computer Behavior are skills that most SEO’s don’t have. I’ve been told that many don’t want to learn them and resent being advised to. On the other hand, a few top SEO’s partner with Usability folks and provide services together that benefit their clients.

    Certain niches don’t care about either SEO or user behavior. Their passion is for total expression and using all technology to create with. User behavior, habits, and SERPS are non-issues for them.

    I work on web software applications too. SEO is not a business requirement by stakeholders, whereas UX may be. Whenever I speak with anyone wanting to make their web site better, I ask a lot of questions about what they want, and then inquire about the things they don’t know they need. When I explain why it helps their site, they understand.

  • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com ajkohn

    Great article Adam.

    The SEO landscape is changing and with the slew of content out there it does get more and more difficult for newcomers to find the ‘right’ stuff and for savvy SEOs to find content that has real value.

    The changing nature of SEO is what makes it interesting in my opinion. The turning point – for me – is the rate at which it is changing has accelerated once again. After a few years of relative calm, SEO has once again become … restless.

    The IA and infrastructure issues have always been there, but more startups are thinking about building an IA with SEO in mind. That’s the turning point for me.

    Good points about Faceted Navigation (which is still a bit of a toss up in terms of implementation) and Pagination.

    Before rel=canonical I used a ‘follow, noindex’ strategy which ensured crawl and discovery without duplication. The one bit about rel=canonical is the prospect that those pages won’t be visited as often. That means you need to ensure other ways for the bot to get to end-level (e.g. – product) pages.

    And I still think 304s could be useful in maximizing crawl efficiency since it’s not just about how much is crawled but what is crawled.

    But isn’t that why we love SEO? The questions! The challenge. The change.

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com alanbleiweiss

    Great article Adam. One of my biggest clients, an online retailer with roughly 9,000 pages and ecommerce sales in the multi-million $ a year range, is the most rewarding to me because I’ve been brought on to revamp the entire site’s SEO. Just in the first push we’re talking about manually auditing hundreds of pages for the best keyword grouping, recommending comprehensive site-wide, group, and category level sub-navigation…

    Along the way, I got them to change their product pagination out of an AJAX type functionality and into bot-readable. This alone drove the site to gain 40% more pages indexed (so many product detail pages hadn’t ever been seen by Google). Then there was the joy when I got them to completely eliminate the 90+ link footer from those product detail pages :-)

    While I’m proud of the results they’re seeing, there’s still an inordinate number of just as radical UX/IA changes yet to go. And it’s also the biggest challenge I face in training new people in our industry – the “how do I explain this decision” to someone when it’s such a complex process for me to have gone through in making each of them…

  • http://www.audettemedia.com Adam Audette


    I really appreciate your comment. After pondering this more, I think I needed to hammer home the “turning point” a little more in this article. You and Shari are (rightfully) locking onto the point that IA and SEO (and UX) *has* been integrated already, by yourselves and a few other leaders in the field. And that’s of course exactly correct. But the turning point in my eyes isn’t just that integration, but that this is now *essential* rather than just a smart thing to do. Big difference there that I could have done a better job spotlighting.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://www.audettemedia.com Adam Audette

    Very true, Alan, good points. When you are required to pin your SEO decisions down to a bullet list of the “why’s” and then build a correlation with bottom-line revenue impact, it almost takes the wind out of your sales. It doesn’t account for the artful side of SEO, the “feel” and intuitive sense that you just know something will work… or at least *might* work and is worth some effort. And on that note, it doesn’t account for the unknowns of SEO and the need to try, fail, adapt, and try again. Sometimes failure is our biggest asset out there. Speaking of which… I just found the topic of my next article!

    Thanks for your comments, Alan.