Don’t let linkbait get in the way of usability

October 14, 2014

We’ve just done some user testing on the prototype of a new website for a very large brand in the travel sector. The site was full of really useful widgets to help users achieve tasks – but also full of wordy content, outside and inside the widget boxes, none of which the testers looked at (as we could see on Liveviewer through our Tobii eyetracker). “Woah” we said “let’s try to cut out some of these words and de-clutter the site”. To which our client replied “we pay a lot of money to an agency to write this stuff, to help our SEO”.

There needs to be a balance. Certainly, significant effort needs to go into getting the site high in search result rankings because we know that users will tend to only look at the first search engine results page. But when the user then lands on your site, they need to be able to quickly and easily achieve the task they’re trying to do – if they can’t, they’ll leave the site.

We believe there is considerable synergy in adopting a joined-up approach to thinking about SEO and usability – striving to develop a seamless user journey from initial search engine query through to a page that will enable the user to achieve their goal. The user benefits by being able to achieve their goals easily, efficiently and with a high degree of satisfaction. The site owner gets increased traffic, greater conversion and happy customers – who hopefully will then recommend the site (See our paper ‘Joining the dots…SEO and usability’).

Within a couple of days of this discussion with our client, Gerry McGovern published an article on this very topic – it’s always nice to have our views re-enforced, and he’s got a couple of nice little case studies: “Pumping your site full of content marketing might seem like a cool thing to do, and might even help your search engine optimization in the short term. But beware of the bloated, out-of-date, unmanageable website that emerges over time. Years ago, we dealt with an airline whose website was full of destination content. It got into financial difficulties and had to close its publishing activities and remove this content. The day after it removed the content, bookings jumped. Less clutter, more simplicity. A telco removed 80% of its content and saw an 80% increase in sales. Think about it: all this content marketing you’re producing could actually be damaging your ability to do business.” (Gerry McGovern New Thinking – ‘Do you really want to do content fake marketing?