“Design for people first, then the search engines will be pleased too. It’s like the Pinocchio effect – they want to be a real boy too.”
Such were the words of wisdom of Matthew Bailey, President of SiteLogic, and Jennifer Laycock, Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Guide in the Site Clinic, the last seminar of Search Engine Strategies New York. Although Jennifer’s voice was recovering from a cold, Matt Bailey was remarkably perky for the end of the session (he later told me he’d had Wednesday off!)
Instead of showing each site and telling what they did (which might be another post altogether), I’ve compiled all the tips they gave to improve sites.
Color, Design, and Graphics
- DO use large buttons, and large graphics.
- DO use pictures on your site. For one, to break up large expanses of text, but also, people respond when they see pictures of people. For example, one site had a “mechanic” section – should have a picture of a woman gettin’ greasy with her car.
- DO use pictures of the product.
- DON’T use gradients in navigation bars. Any text you put in there won’t be easily seen and contrast suffers.
- DO use high contrast. One site was a lot of brown, maroon, and pink. Very little contrast and was hard to read.
- DO use visual cues to tell users where they are at in the navigation. Make it OBVIOUS.
- If you use a Google searchbox, DO make it blend into the site.
- DO make your website simple, especially when designing for an older audience. (One site was for the elderly, and Matt said that “elderly women look at the web with fear.”)
- DO provide a provide comfortable, inviting environment. Whenever you don’t provide a next step, if you don’t invite them to click somewhere, they get confused. What should I do?
- DON’T put crucial site text inside a graphic.
Navigation and Information Architecture
- DO make your links look like links (some didn’t show the underline until the hover, some looked like regular text).
- DO make liberal use of headings, subheads, and bullet points (80% of people scan pages, thinking, “does this answer my question?”) When we say “yes,” we read.
- DO use visual cues to tell the user where you are in the navigation.
- If your goal is page views, DON’T have a “back to previous page,” you never want to send a user back.
- DO put good information in your page titles! Matt says, “Page titles are beachfront property of your website – first thing that show sup in search results.” Make page titles unique, and in full sentences whenever possible.
- DON’T dilute your brand by splittng off domains (for example, the site in question was www.summerinterships.com, but if someone looked at barcelona, they would be taken to www.barcelonainternships.com.) If you do this you’re competing against yourself and end up having to do multiple linking campaigns. Focus on one domain.
In the preceding example, should have gone to “www.summerinternships.com/barcelona”
- DON’T put critical content in any Flash! If you HAVE to use flash, put a sniffer on the page, to find if user has flash installed, if not, feed HTML.
- DO have an SEO copywriter condense and “chunk” your text, make sure it’s keyword heavy.
- DON’T let page titles be autopopulated from breadcrumbs.
- DON’T use too many links. Google has said they they’ll only read 100 links (if you have more, then that’s a sign that you should break up the page into multiple pages).
- DON’T use a redirect on the front page. IF traffic is going to www.mycoolsite.com the redirect shouldn’t be going to www.mycoolsite.com/innerpages.html
- DO use testimonials!! Testimonials are your best selling point! Create a right column and fill it with testimonials!
- If you have a lot of content, DON’T make people have to scroll a lot:
- Break things up by graphics.
- Have links to “jump down.”
- Break it into several pages. This also helps get more pages into search results, and gets good deep links.
- Insert something like, “I’ve read enough, take me to purchase.”
- DO have a google search box, make sure it searches your site by default
- DO make sure to have lots of internal links if you have deep content. For example, if you are mentioning a paper written by your company that exists on the website, then for pete’s sake add the link to it!
- If you are a resource type of site, DO have an RSS feed for each category.
Social Media Marketing
- DO join relevant Facebook groups! For example, one site was an internship site, and they could have gotten onto Facebook groups in different cities, and in different industries.
- DO use Facebook PPC.
- DO have a blog! Create a personality that can go to the rest of the web, and can leave comments and contributions that can lead people back to this site.
Bashing Cocky IT Guys
- DON’T let IT guys tell you you can’t edit the page title field.
- DON’T try to tell the IT guy what to do: you have to feed their ego – tell them they are smart and capable and awesome.
- DO contact Jennifer and Matt if you get IT pushback (oh we can’t do that) – they will speak to them for you!