Sitegeist Blog - Beiträge vom September, 2009

Google, SEO and getting it wrong

Friday, 25. September 2009 10:47

A couple of days ago I was in a meeting with a small group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, discussing a new online retail venture. Being a startup, discussion quickly turned to SEO – search engine optimisation – and the techniques writers, programmers and SEO professionals use to get pages to rank higher in search engine results.

It’s a vital consideration, but it made me think…

Google (and let’s use ‘Google’ as a placeholder for ‘all search engines’) want to get it right. Google’s business success is founded on the quality of its search results. Its algorithm is a modern miracle, combining words on pages, page rank (essentially a site’s reputation), inbound and outbound links and a host of other considerations to rank results for any search term you care to think of.

Search results keep changing as Google tweak the results method; it’s an ongoing social experiment aimed at delivering the exact page you want.

So Google try to get it right, based on real websites and real user behaviour.

Yet clever SEO techniques distort websites and search results, trying to provide what they think Google wants to see. Dogs chasing tails or the other way around? Either way, users and usability lose out to copy written for machines, ‘link juice’, and distortions that give better results to whoever spends the most on optimisation.

Don’t get me wrong. I write SEO content almost every day. SEO is vital for business success. You’d be crazy if you didn’t take it into account on your site…

But it’s vital only because Google isn’t perfect. It doesn’t give you the right page, first up, every time. It needs our help.

And while we continue to subvert it to gain its love, it always will.

Thema: Being bad, SEO, Trends | Kommentare (2) | Author:

The right message for the wrong audience

Friday, 18. September 2009 9:22

Effective communication isn’t just about getting the message right. It’s about making sure it’s right for your target audience.

Here are some signs. They all have the same intent: to stop people putting graffiti on walls. They all have the same audience, too: people who are likely to put graffiti on walls.

Polite anti-grafitti sign.

This sign makes an appeal to graffiti artists. But it asks them to acknowledge that their work is dirty. It’s unlikely to carry much weight.

Stern anti-grafitti sign

This sign takes the firm law-and-order line. Graffiti is illegal. But, of course, graffiti artists already know that. Again, it's unlikely to work.

Photo of hand-written sign saying 'If you are caught I will remove the grafitti with your fucking face'.

Here's a photo I took at a building site near my house. Simple, direct, and targeted at its audience. No graffiti anywhere near the place.

Of course, you don’t always have to use bad language to make your point. But you do need to consider the needs and motivations of your market when determining your message.

Thema: User focus | Kommentare (1) | Author:

Headlines are different online

Friday, 11. September 2009 10:44

The Problem
Here are some headlines from Melbourne’s Age newspaper recently:

  • Tiny digger turns deserts into gardens
  • Wedge politics
  • You can’t hide when you seek
  • Dreaming the next stage
  • Look how she’s grown!

Can you see what’s wrong? These headlines are all fine in a printed paper, where they are in designated sections, accompanied by images and subheadings (ie context). For most websites, though, they simply wouldn’t work. And that includes the newspaper site that these headlines were reproduced on.

Why? Because headlines often appear out of context on websites; in lists of articles, archive pages and on internal and external search results pages.

Take another look, and imagine these headlines are a list of links to products or articles on your site. What are the links about? Why would a potential customer click on any one of them?

The Answer
Having read the newspaper stories, these would have been more useful and appropriate headlines:

  • Bilby foraging creates nutrient-rich land
  • Urban planning about-face on Green Wedge strategy
  • Is Google too powerful?
  • Calls for a national indigenous theatre company
  • Justine Clarke hits big time with kids

The strategy is simple: link text should describe what the target content is about. Don’t be cute. Don’t be clever. Save that for the article itself.

Clicks will be more qualified; visitors will likely be actually interested in the content. Your users will love you, Google will love you. Everyone wins. And it’s a double-win for SERP (search engine results page) skimmers.

Not The Answer
Of course, you can go the other way, and totally disrespect your audience for the short-term benefit of cheap traffic. Australian media analysis TV program Media Watch reported an example from June 2009 where News Limited newspaper websites around the country featured a story titled ‘Missing baby found in Sandwich’.

The baby in question was only missing for a couple of hours, and was eventually found safe and well in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

Funny? Maybe. But how many readers who clicked the link were pleased with the punchline?

Thema: Being good, User focus | Kommentare (14) | Author:

Who cares about you? Not me.

Friday, 4. September 2009 12:53

You’ve got a new-look website. You have a great new application. You offer a hip new service. Good on you.

I don’t care.

You offer better service? You offer ease-of-use? You give me something I can’t get anywhere else? You follow up on my problems?

Ahhh. Now you have my attention. Let’s begin…

Thema: Being good, User focus | Comments Off on Who cares about you? Not me. | Author:

Simple & Great

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