Usability vs SEO. Fight!
In the battle between usability and search engine optimization (SEO) for control of your website, the best you can hope for is a draw. (Or, if you’re an extraordinary optimist, a win/win.) But now there’s a tool that could actually maximize your ROI with the help of Google.
The battle between SEO and usability is really about finding that balance between attracting visitors and retaining them. If you’re trying to attract new visitors to your site, you’re probably working hard to design it so that it’s prominently listed on the results page of a search engine like Google. But if you want to keep those prospects on your site once they arrive, you should be focusing on usability.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to both attract and retain visitors. So how do you design a website that’s a delight to use yet still captures those crucial visitors that have been directed your way by search engines? You could start by buying prominence on search engine results pages using marketing tools like Google’s AdWords, Microsoft’s AdCenter or Yahoo’s search marketing. And before you roll your eyes, let me tell you that it doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition.
Not all keywords are created equally
Buying keywords from a search engine (via AdWords, AdCenter or any other like service) ensures that, when a user enters these words or phrases into a search, an ad for your site is automatically included on the search results page. Buying keywords is a competitive, auction-based affair, which means you need to understand what you want to achieve before you end up breaking the bank.
This is where a posting by Google Web Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik comes in. He’s looked at how people use search engines and found that many of them will use a very small subset of keywords or phrases to get to a website (for instance, most users will search on the company name itself, the name of a product/brand or perhaps a high-visibility individual).
In the case of your website, most of these keywords are probably words that are strongly associated with your company already. That is to say, you’ll likely already be high on the search results page without paying a cent (although optimizing your website to boost the impact of these keywords on search engines could pay big dividends).
So what Avinash suggests next may seem counterintuitive: focus on the large number of non-company-specific keywords that attract the remainder – perhaps even the majority – of your visitors.
Let me explain further. In the case of his website, Avinash points out that 13 searched keywords/phrases accounted for 13% of visits to his site. (This list of keywords includes his name, the name of his blog as well as permutations and combinations of these.) But a further 26,124 keywords/phrases accounted for the other 87% of visits. It’s these latter keywords that shouldn’t be overlooked simply because of the sheer number of visits they can produce. So how do you identify the ones that will deliver the best bang for the buck?
There’s an app for that.
If you’ve ever bought keywords from AdWords, you’ll know that they don’t all cost the same and don’t have equal power to draw people to your website. What’s more, they don’t all have equal relevance to your company or its brand(s). So Avinash and Co. created the Search-based Keyword Tool (SbKT) that links up two databases: the log of all keyword queries posted to Google by users, and the index of the Web created by Google bots/spiders as they traverse the Internet.
Visit SbKT and enter the URL of your website and the application will spit out all keywords relevant to your site. It’ll tell you how frequently these keywords were used in Google searches over the past month and how much you’re likely to have to bid to secure them via AdWords. It also shows you the exact page on your website where it thinks your visitors will find content relevant to these keywords.
This tool doesn’t plan your online search-marketing tactics, but it gets you much further along the path. It removes much of the guesswork while potentially leaving more money in your bank account. And, just as importantly, it attracts visitors to your site, without detracting from the attractiveness of it.