Notes from the September mkeUX meetup: Search

Last night’s mkeUX was all about search – both SEO and paid search. Ross Monaghan and Jordon Meyer were great presenters and obviously have the background to back up their claims (and, after having a drink with the guys beforehand, not such bad guys in general). Twitter is a pretty good place to follow the action — search the hashtag #mkeUX — but I took some notes along the way, presented here for your amusement.

Ross Monaghan — “SEO & UX. WTF?”

Accessibility! There are already search engine optimization standards established by companies and groups like Google and the W3C. They’re designed to help you make sure your content is accessible. So… use them!

Search engines are essentially heavily disabled users. They have extremely limited ability to process Javascript, they can’t see your images, they won’t watch your Flash, and they won’t listen to your audio. If you don’t provide alternate means of consuming this content, it’s essentially invisible to search. The same goes for things that require user interaction – dropdown forms, etc. Search engines won’t jump through the hoops that human users may be willing to tolerate.

Keep it clean!

Keeping your URLs clean and human-friendly, and making good use of canonical URLs, will go a long way toward improving your search engine performance. Excessive use of querystring parameters, or extensive tagging without proper compensating techniques like using robots.txt to exclude “tag overview” pages, will inevitably start to dilute the value of the other links throughout your site. So be careful how you implement those “features.”

If I can read your page and immediately tell you what keywords you’re targeting, you’re doing it wrong.

Architecture. Sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself (or your client), “Why the hell are we building this website to begin with?” If there’s no clear answer, STOP. If there is a clear answer, then… great! Now what? You need to ensure a consistent and reliable strategy — taxonomies, structure, labeling, and organizational themes.

Jordon Meyer — “Paid Search Usability”

Paid search gets a bad rap.

— Jordan

In 2009, Google got $23 billion in revenue selling paid search ads and had 37 billion clicks on those ads. However, only around 2% of those clicks ever turned into an actual conversion. 98% of the ads ended up meaning absolutely nothing. Why? (Possible answer: people just distrust paid search results?)

Five opportunities to lose customers:

  • Irrelevant keywords – buying every conceivable keyword just in hopes of getting someone to click? Bad!
  • Misleading copy – “office chairs under $50!” when none of your office chairs are under $100
  • Generic keywords
  • Poor choice of destination – don’t send every click to your homepage! Take into account what the user is searching for, why they clicked, and where they expect to land.
  • Low quality of destination – if you have no calls to action, too much (or not enough) copy, high load times, etc… people will leave. And they may not come back.

You got the click to your site, now do something with it! Standards exist and evolve for a reason. Use them to your advantage.