Easy-to-use websites need to be easy-to-find.
When we talk about usability and customer-centered website design, we typically focus on customers that are already browsing the website. Designers need to remember that part of the customers’ experience is finding and returning to the website.
(Update: Almost four years after we published this article, it’s address in “Findability, Orphan of the Web Design Industry” at A List Apart.)
We use three techniques to make websites easy-to-find: search engine optimization, search engine marketing and e-mail marketing.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (“SEO”) refers to using design and programming techniques to make a website easy for search engines to read and understand. SEO techniques include programming the website using standards-compliant code, using natural language addresses and creating well-written content with plenty of keywords.
Generally speaking, SEO is focused internally on modifying the website itself.
Search Engine Marketing
While SEO is internally focused, search engine marketing (or “SEM”) is externally focused, and includes paid advertising on search engines (Google AdWords), articles that link back to your site, link-sharing programs, press releases and traditional marketing techniques.
If your organization doesn’t have an e-mail newsletter yet, it should. Not only is it the most effective way of building loyal, repeat customers, but it’s also extremely measurable. We can help make your newsletter compelling and make sure your customers can view it.
Where should I focus?
Both SEO and SEM are important and there is a significant amount of overlap, however we recommend that once basic SEO is complete, our clients focus on SEM.
A properly designed and built website — such as the ones Loud Dog delivers — should incorporate a number of techniques that will result in relatively optimized websites (probably about eighty percent of the way there). The next ten percent is very expensive and has marginal effects on the rankings of all but the most successful websites (once a website is highly trafficked, advanced techniques can add a lot). The final ten percent has significant negative impacts on the usability and enjoyability of the site. Once basic SEO is taken care of, SEM usually provides a much better return.
Although search engines do look at a website’s internal keywords and programming when making a ranking decision, these factors are generally outweighed by external factors: how many sites are linking to it, how popular those sites are and what keywords they are using to link to it.
(This is aptly demonstrated by the GoogleBomb: Internet slang for connecting a specific site or page to a particular word by getting many people to link to it using that word.)
Well-run SEO and SEM efforts can be very time-consuming, but can achieve remarkable results. Although Loud Dog rarely engages in complete programs, we are happy to consult and often provide advice and guidance based on our extensive experience.
Hey! This wasn't written by a gang of elk! It was written by Josh Orum, who does awesome work at Loud Dog, a digital branding firm in San Francisco that helps businesses express themselves authentically via identities, websites, and marketing collateral.
If you want us to do awesome work for you, if you have a question, or if you're just feeling lonely and want to chat, we want to hear from you!