Search and Usability
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Or, as I often say in those endless conference calls, "If you're a car dealer, would you rather talk to the person walking around your showroom floor or the one hitchhiking down the highway."
Actually, the hitchhiker might be interesting to talk to, but the person on the showroom floor is probably more interested in buying that black BMW 3 series sedan.
Good SEM, then, is all about intercepting the hitchhiker with his thumb out at the moment he's ready to trade up for the sedan. Simple as that.
Or, in other words, it's about driving the right users to your Web site. Because not all traffic is good.
You want the most qualified traffic.
As I learned in a session at last week's SXSWi 2007, once the good traffic does land, your priorities should shift to:
Stat: Nearly 90% of Web sites are initially found through search
Stat II: 95% of Web sites fail to engage their visitors in a meaningful and compelling manner
Ooops. As Bill Leake, CEO and president of Apogee-Search said in his session entitled appropriately "How to Make Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Usability Work Together," organic search is "a balancing act between conversion and maintaining a high ranking with search engines."
Some of Bill's tips for striving to reach that balance:
Which means you that you need to ensure that your site navigation provides context on every page so that users can more easily orient themselves and navigate the site.
Also remember, you often only have one shot at this: Users will bolt for the Web "Exit" sign when your landing page content doesn't map to the mental model (the user expectations) for that search.
Some easy-to-remember tips for helping ensure that the user experience leads to the desired conversion:
Better yet, think about your own behavior when conducting searchers and put yourself in the searcher's shoes, and you'll be well on your way to getting the qualified prospect into your showroom.