Search & Usability took a deeper look at the ever-changing world of searcher behavior and how search engines have been evolving to provide the best user experience. As search engines place more emphasis on website previews in search results and take into consideration factors such as site speed, landing page quality, mobile vs desktop search experiences, social signals and beyond, this column focused heavily on balancing information architecture and human interaction. It no longer runs as a standalone column and has since been incorporated into the Content Marketing column on Marketing Land.

How To Avoid Clunky Web Design With Holistic SEO & Usability

There has been a dramatic increase this year in exploring the close relationship between website usability, web page search engine optimization and internet marketing. While some of you still meet resistance from site owners, far more of you report that clients now insist on a site designed for the best user experience that should also rank well in searches. It's easy to say, "Hey, I want that stuff for my website," or "I want my website to look like that one," and still not truly understand what that "stuff" is for or why a design looks the way it does. What is the essence of this "stuff [...]

Where Is Search Going: Yahoo’s Shashi Seth

I’m continuing my look at what search might look like in the future with this first part of a fascinating interview with Shashi Seth, the Senior VP of Search Products at Yahoo. With the recent Bing arrangement, Yahoo now finds themselves in an interesting position in the search game. Now that Yahoo search results are powered by Bing’s algorithm, the company can move its focus from maintaining a web index to how the information is presented to the user. It’s analogous to a car manufacturer farming out the drive train assembly to a partner so they can focus on body styles and interiors. So [...]

Clickability & Search Engine Friendly Web Design

Clickability, or perceived visual affordance, is a key element of search-engine friendly website design. How do searchers and search engines perceive clickable and unclickable elements?

How Searchers Find The Perfect Family Restaurant

Last month I took a look at consumer search behavior for restaurants. This was a high-level analysis, and I mentioned in closing that I would contrast those findings to a model that has consumers searching for a particular type of restaurant—in this case family restaurants. Since this is essentially part two of the analysis, you may want to review How Consumers Search For A Perfect Meal. To quickly summarize the previous analysis, the restaurant search behavior model looked like this: In comparison, the following model is the family restaurant hierarchy of categories displayed more [...]

Web Site Usability For Improving Online Forms

You’ve heard it said a hundred times. Search engine marketing leads to a dead end if the web site isn’t designed to deliver what it promises. Many an anchor text, meta description and advertisement text have sent users into a house of horror because the landing page is a complete disconnect from what was marketed. If your data shows visitors stayed on the landing page and entered a conversion funnel, only to get an abrupt bounce somewhere along the line, something has gone wrong. A web site usability audit can flush out most issues. So can user testing. But, many usability testing co [...]

Looking Back At Six Years of Asking Why

This week was a pretty momentous one for me. I’ve changed gigs. I’m now an employee again. A big, public company now signs my paycheck. And, up to now, that company, YPG, has made most of their money by publishing phone books. The acquisition of Enquiro is part of a much bigger digital strategy for their future. It’s one I’m very excited about. But today, rather than looking forward, I’d like to look back, about six years back. It was when I first starting asking why. What's in a name? I’ve been doing search optimization since 1996. In 1999, I decided to make a business of [...]

More SEO Myths About Website Usability

When you optimize your website for search engine visibility, who are you targeting? The statistically average web searcher? Someone who is new to web searching? Or a highly experienced web searcher?

How Consumers Search For A Perfect Meal

How do consumers find the perfect restaurant? Word of mouth plays a role, but there are other elements at play. How important is your brand? Is value more important than quality? What role does content play in this quest? Here I take a look at the term "restaurant" to show what consumers value when searching for a good place to eat. In this data set there are eleven distinct high-level categories of behavior. The categories are sorted by volume (the first number reflects the number of keyword phrases in that group). 22 Informational - 65,650,450 searches 308 Location based - 13,577,7 [...]

Search As Conversation: Surf Canyon’s Mark Cramer

In my last Just Behave post, I talked to Mark Cramer about his search plug-in, Surf Canyon. The plug in dynamically reorders your results based on the results you click on, taking the click as a signal of intent. This time, I’d like to present the part of the interview where Mark and I explored the main theme for this series: where search is going. The interview was done before the release of Google Instant, so it is interesting that we jumped almost immediately to the concept of a search experience as a conversation, moving away from the "stateless" form of searching we’re all familiar [...]

Mobile Searcher Behavior Should Drive Design & SEO

Mobile searchers have different goals, motivations, and limitations than desktop searchers. What are things you should consider before building and optimizing a website for mobile searchers?

You Say Law Firm, I Say Lawyer

You have a dilemma: you are considering a couple of keyword phrases that are similar. How do you choose, and does it matter? It often does. In this analysis, I show that consumer search behavior can be different depending upon how they start their search. Here I contrast the phrase law firms with lawyer to show that consumers engage in either seven or nine distinct categories of search behavior depending upon which phrase they use when searching for legal services. It's often useful to contrast two complementary search phrases to show that user intent can be significantly different, depending [...]

Why We React Strongly When Web Sites Change

A new tactic to get web site traffic I've seen lately is to make a drastic change that will create a buzz. Whether a web site undergoes a complete redesign or removes a previous function, we know that no matter what the change is, some people are going to hate it. Several of them will comment in Twitter. Others will write an entire blog post listing all their reasons for disagreeing with a company’s decision to change something. The traffic boost and follow up user reactions would be a non-event if not for one thing: human emotion. Study after study of human/computer interaction shows [...]

Keywords, Aboutness & SEO

Do your web pages, graphic images, and videos effectively communicate aboutness to both web searchers and search engines? How do search engines and searchers determine aboutness?

Even Lasik Surgeons Have To Pay Attention To Search Behavior

Like many small business owners, you've just hung out your shingle for your new business: a Lasik Surgery practice. You know that there are a lot of folks who are blind as a bat, and hate their coke-bottle glasses. You’ve paid good money for your website, but the customers are slow in coming. Why? And more importantly, how do you get their attention and interest? Here I will explore a search behavior model that shows how consumers search for medical services. In this case we will look at Lasik surgery in some detail. In this behavior model consumers exhibit eight categories of search beha [...]

How To Rescue Poorly Converting Web Sites

Twice this year I got the call too late. Two online businesses were in their final death throes. Their owners begged me for emergency help with sinking conversion rates. Both believed that I could find what was "broken," repair it with some magic usability tape, traffic would flow again and sales would return. Though I could provide plenty of recommendations, many of them easy fixes, it would have taken time to implement them and get measurable results. These owners had under a month left to survive. I wished they'd found me sooner. I’m not a numbers person. To me, the numbers eithe [...]

Where Is Search Going? Surf Canyon’s Mark Cramer

Some time ago, a gentleman by the name of Mark Cramer emailed me wanting to talk about the future of search. It was probably precipitated by the Search:2010 whitepaper we produced in 2007, where I talked to several search and UX notables, including Danny Sullivan, Chris Sherman, Marissa Mayer, Jakob Nielsen and others. Alas, Mark and I never connected back then. So, it’s somewhat ironic that we finally connected in 2010, the hypothetical horizon I set back then for the future of search. And that irony kicked off our interview: Cramer: You might be aware that I pinged you the first time [...]

When Good SEO Becomes Bad Information Architecture

Have you ever heard the phrase search engine optimization (SEO) architecture? At first glance, it might seem like a good idea…but maybe not. Learn about 2 critical usability tests that help SEO professionals not make critical architecture errors.

How To Transform Search Behavior Into A Great Search Experience

You've done your research. You understand how consumers search for your products and services. Now, what do you do with this insight? In my previous article about Giving Customers What They Want, I outlined an approach to creating a search behavior model that can be used to develop your information architecture and your website content strategy. In practice, these are important first steps required to develop a world-class website. Now that you have this insight, what do you do next? A critical task is the evaluation and selection of a technology that enables the behavior model and maxi [...]

Site Navigation & Information Architecture Fundamentals For SEOs

One of the most confusing skills to teach someone who practices organic search engine optimization is called "information architecture" (aka "IA"). I’ve given several talks on the topic in an effort to chip away at some popular misconceptions. Each time the audience has people who refer to themselves as an SEO, IA or usability professional. Typically we’re allotted anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to discuss "successful information architecture." Since IA is not the same for SEO and Usability (closely related however), conveying the nuances of how, why, when, where and what information a [...]

Where Is Search Going: Google’s Johanna Wright

With this post, I return to the topic I got sidetracked from a few months back: where is search going? I've had the chance to talk to Stefan Weitz from Microsoft, The Search author John Battelle and, this time around, I had the chance to pose a few questions to Johanna Wright, Google's Product Management Director for Web Search (by email). If we're exploring where search is going, at some point we have to poke the 800 pound gorilla and get its thoughts. While I didn't have the chance to follow up on any of the thoughts from Johanna (as you'll see, we didn't agree on all points), I thought it m [...]

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