SEO and User Experience (UX): A Vision of Collaboration


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It’s not enough just to rank highly and drive keyword traffic these days (if you can even do that after Google’s Panda algorithm update). You also need to win over the customer by providing breakthrough experiences that anticipate their needs while providing real, tangible value. The new generation of SEOs understands this, which is why they’re also focused on information architecture and user experience.

In this session, you’ll see world-class examples of how you can bring these disciplines together in your companies and organizations in order to delight your users, plug holes in your conversion rate, and drive more qualified traffic. No “best practices” or baseless theories here – just real-life tactics that solved problems and drove conversion. SEOs and IA/UX pros don’t need to butt heads (or headbutt!) when they can collaborate together to improve the cross-channel experience.

Are you having trouble meeting the needs of your users while growing your traffic? This is the panel for you.

Originally presented by Jonathon Colman, John Goad, Mike Pantoliano, Michael King, and Ben Lloyd at the first-ever Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC 2011) in Seattle, Washington.

You can learn more about Jonathon Colman at

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  • Welcome to our Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC) session, “SEO and UX are Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter”. If you’re here to see Sir Mix-A-Lot, I’m sorry, but he spoke earlier.
  • I’m Jonathon Colman, the in-house SEO for REI. We seek to inspire, educate, and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. If you’re local, you already know about us from our Flagship Store just off I-5. If you’re in town for Seattle Interactive, try to stop on by while you’re here.I’ll be moderating your all-star panel of SEOs who understand the importance of both UX (user experience design) and IA (information architecture), but I first wanted to give you some insight as to our perspective here. So let’s jump in…
  • For years, these two disciplines – SEO and UX– have been practiced separately from one another. They’re done by different people working on different teams in different divisions in different buildings operating under different goals. And both disciplines have done relatively well for themselves. But you know who’s lost in this? Customers, visitors, and users.
  • We heard all of our great speakers yesterday and today – Vanessa Fox, Rand Fishkin, Duane Forrester, Ian Lurie, Maile Ohye, and several others – talk about why it’s so important that we keep the user in mind when we practice SEO. And that includes the search engines themselves as users. Search engines, robots, spiders, crawlers – whatever you want to call them – are consumers of our content, too.All these brilliant folks essentially said the same thing: design for users, but be smart about the search crawlers, too.
  • Here’s why that’s such an important idea: robots didn’t pop into existence all by themselves – we made them. They have some of our characteristics. Heck, let’s get straight to the point – we tell them what to do, where to go, how to perform every operation. They couldn’t function without us.And it’s getting harder for us to function without them. Why? Because amongst other things, robots serve as our wayfinding agents, finding knowledge for us or showing us how to get from Point A to Point B. Next time you pull out your iPhone and use the Maps app, you’ll see what I mean.But in order for robots to serve us, we need to focus on their experience and find ways to help them be successful, just as we do our human users.
  • Why is it important for us to get this right? Because times are hard. Many of us are out of work. And if we spent half as much time learning from each other and working with another as we tend to do fighting, we’d be a lot more productive. And it’s these micro-steps, when scaled up throughout our industries, that can turn an entire economy around.
  • How do we start doing that? By focusing on innovation – and Siri is a great example of what that looks like. Siri on the iPhone 4S (or iPhone 4, if you’re a hacker), is essentially a search utility. She helps you find where you are, where you’re going, where your friends and family are, and so on And she’s been cleverly designed to rely upon one of the greatest interfaces ever created: the Human Voice. This is what innovation looks like when designers and searchers work together.There’s a million more Siris out there, waiting to be created. And the folks in this room – you – are the ones who will make that happen.
  • We’re lucky to have such a great cast of speakers on our panel today. With us are John Goad from AddThree, Mike Pantoliano from Distilled, Michael King from Publicis Modem, and Ben Lloyd from Amplify Interactive. This is truly an all-star panel and I’m especially looking forward to the Q&A portion of our talk so that we can pump them for information.
  • Up first is John Goad.
  • NEW friends from the longtail
  • NEW friends from the longtail
  • NEW friends from the longtail
  • NEW friends from the longtail
  • NEW friends from the longtail
  • Your site’s navigation is the skeleton behind a strong information architecture. It’s the primary way a user interacts with your site, so ignoring it is neglecting a HUGE part of the user experience. But it’s also the way the search engines will crawl through and understand your site. Today I’m going to talk about a specific change that was made to a site’s navigation that improved the user experience AND increased traffic and sales.
  • We have a brand new site, or new site redesign, and we can approach the IA and site navigation from square one. I’m going to talk about a specific example where this wasn’t quite possible.
  • Consider that as we go deeper into the site, the keywords for each page become less competitive. This is why it’s extremely important to make sure that our site’s navigation provides Googlebot and users an intuitive path. No, you’re not going to get tons of links to your product pages, but keeping them indexed, properly keyword targeted, and well linked internally provides you with an excellent chance of getting a ton of long-tail traffic.Sure, this is nice, but large sites can really struggle
  • Big eComm site with 100,000 high end stationary products. How do you present these products without overwhelming? Faceted Navigation… And there are tons of ways to implement faceted navigation
  • Let’s cover what made the user experience so good, but what about it was so bad for SEO
  • AJAX used to apply filters. URL stays constant, content loads dynamically.
  • AJAX used to apply filters. URL stays constant, content loads dynamically.
  • AJAX used to apply filters. URL stays constant, content loads dynamically.
  • Remember that bit about competition earlier? Suppose “wedding invitations” is extremely competitive.
  • AJAX used to apply filters. URL stays constant, content loads dynamically.
  • AJAX used to apply filters. URL stays constant, content loads dynamically.
  • Jam study:Tested displaying & offering samples: 24 jars of jam vs 6 jars of jamMore people stopped by the large display & sampled jam, BUT more people bought from the smaller display (30% purchased from small display, 3% purchased from large display)
  • SEO and User Experience (UX): A Vision of Collaboration

    1. SEO + UXA Brief Introduction Jonathon Colman In-house SEO at REI Twitter @jcolman
    2. Converge SEO UX
    3. Converge Design for people Account for robots
    4. Humansdesignrobots.So there’spart of usinside them.
    5. Speakers John Goad [AddThree] @JohnGoad Mike Pantoliano [Distilled] @MikeCP Michael King [Publicis Modem] @iPullRank Ben Lloyd [Amplify Interactive] @Blizzle
    6. Speakers John Goad [AddThree] @JohnGoad Mike Pantoliano [Distilled] @MikeCP Michael King [Publicis Modem] @iPullRank Ben Lloyd [Amplify Interactive] @Blizzle
    7. SEO is UX for Robots John Goad SEO @johngoad
    8. Users 5000 Searches Monthly 5000 Searches Monthly Billions of Monthly Conversion Rate 5% Conversion Rate 5% Searches *Conversion Rate Varies*it depends
    9. Humans Humans leverage robots everyday looming for your content. Publisher to Computer to Computer to Human. We’re #1 Know how your humans are using computers and language to find content discovered by robots…. Good
    10. Robots Robots have limitations. Robots don’t read. Robots don’t see. But they have tons of friends and they love to make high quality introductions.
    11. Balance
    12. How Think like a bot …. Some of the same “human” rules apply* on a high level. Be the robot … Humans first… then robots. * not all
    13. ClientWell established internet based insurance provider(that does not want me to use their name). I am in insurance … I need credibility but have fallen off of page 1 to page 6. Last SEO’s IA and content recommendations lost 75% of my organic traffic.
    14. ProblemAt first meeting client stated….“I have a team in India buying links forme is that bad?”UH OH…..Real ProblemClient created over 20,000 pages of 3rdparty veterinarian listings that watereddown the main site content.Lost Authotity
    15. SolutionRe-FocusWith Robot.txt file we excluded the directorythat contained the veterinarian listings.This increased the strength of themain content.
    16. ResultsClient bounced back with better thanoriginal visibility.• Credibility restored …. back on page 1.• Organic traffic back up to pre engagement levels. 75% Total increase in Organic referrals.
    17. WinRobots help you…Make new friends and influencepeople.People find you.People link to you.People talk about #you.Help them help you.
    18. Thanks @johngoadJohn GoadDirector of Free
    19. Speakers John Goad [AddThree] @JohnGoad Mike Pantoliano [Distilled] @MikeCP Michael King [Publicis Modem] @iPullRank Ben Lloyd [Amplify Interactive] @Blizzle
    20. Not Just More Traffic, Better Traffic Smart IA and Site NavigationMike Pantoliano This presentation is available here:@MikeCP
    21. In An IdealWorld • Clean Slate • Map out sitemap for UX/SEO
    22. IA / SEO Competitiveness Sure, this is nice, but large sites can really struggle
    23. FacetedNavigation
    24. OurExample• Large eComm site• 100,000+ High End StationaryProducts• Faceted Navigation• Great User Experience• Awful for SEO
    25. The BigProblemAJAX does not create new pages!
    26. The BigProblem
    27. ResultMissing out on tons of longer-tail traffic!
    28. Other ProblemsJavaScript isn’t the only potential culprit • Poor IA leading to weak indexation • iFrames • Dropdown Sorting
    29. Solution How to preserve UX but allow crawlability?Fall back to static HTML pages when no JS detected
    30. ResultsOrganic traffic increased 72% SEO Conversions up 76% UX Sales up 136%
    31. Take AwayExport your navigation into Excel Get search volume from GKTBrainstorm/mine for new keywords
    32. Take AwayAre you missing out on organic landing page opportunities?
    33. Thanks! Mike Pantoliano @MikeCP Distilled
    34. Speakers John Goad [AddThree] @JohnGoad Mike Pantoliano [Distilled] @MikeCP Michael King [Publicis Modem] @iPullRank Ben Lloyd [Amplify Interactive] @Blizzle
    35. Let’s Be Friends Michael King SEO Manager @ipullrank Publicis ModemDownload these slides
    36. Building a user experiencewithout SEO in mind is likebuilding a car with no engine.
    37. I don’t believe in bad user experience for the sake of SEO.Stop making ugly sites and blaming it on the need for SEO
    38. Do Less of this Do More of this Make compelling experiences with utility
    39. Any Creative that thinks SEO willlimit their abilities to deliver aquality product isnt very (ahem)creative. Yeah, it’s an orphan. What you gonna do about it?! SEO is a springboard not an anchor
    40. User Experience is onlycompromised by SEO when it isretrofitted to the design process Inject SEO into the design process as early as possible
    41. SEO absolutely MUST be an activeconsideration and ideally the driver ofevery step of a site build SEO = DNA
    42. UX is very important to SEO becausethere is evidence that Googlebot andBingbot may be headless webbrowsers. See: and Google also just revealed that they can crawl AJAX
    43. Most importantly SEO is abouthelping people find what they wantand presenting it to them in a waythat they expect. Need States Navigational Business Goals Informational Navigational Transactional Informational Transactional The old keyword classes are dead; identify need states
    44. I’m done ranting, let’s talk about the mistakes that I’ve learned from
    45. Your development and Creative teams will just do what works. To them building for Search is utterly unnatural. Don‘t let them build anything before you see it. Cheech & Chong’s Magic Brownie Adventure was an awesome campaign developed by my team but the site was built with no SEO considerations at all. Not even a page title.Never leave your Creative or Tech team to their own devices
    46. LG’s site is a nightmare for a variety of reasons but one of my favorite is the 1997 frames-inspired navigation that features over 200 links and is impossible to mouse over properly.Faceted navigation is an option when handled properly
    47. Giant flash videos are cool, right?Sometimes your team or theclient will be so far off the markthat there is nothing you can dobut wait for the redesign. What do you mean navigation should be text? Some battles you cannot win.
    48. Use expandable DIVs to keep large blocks of text from being obtrusive to design The Expandable DIV is your best friend.
    49. Drive the Content Strategy by preparing an SEO Copy Brief that thoroughlyoutlines the information architecture with regard to target keywords andidentify the objectives and target audience. Keyword-relevant information architecture MUST come from SEO
    50. Adding considerations at the wireframe stage allows everyone to be on the same page about how and why SEO is to be accomplished.Apply pressure during the Wireframe phase to ensure success.
    51. Social Listening/ Keyword Push Live / Need State Creative / Copy / Mapping / Conversion RateDetermination/ Tech Information Optimization / Keyword Development Architecture Measurement Research SEO Defines SEO Validates SEO Drives Info Architecture User Experience Measurement Get involved throughout the lifecycle from strategy to measurement
    52. Scout Labs Alterian SM2 Social MentionMine the conversation in social media for personas and keywords
    53. Here comes a case study!
    54. 1. 2. 3. 4 5. 6. 7. Motivation Decision- Research Booking Pre-flight Travel Post-travel to travel making How do I crystallize my Need States What is out there that travels so that they are I want to collect new Of the options available, Who’s going to help me What do I need to do to Who can I rely on to help would be fun and easy to share, and experience, add to my what is feasible given fine tune and make the activate my trip so that me make the most of my interesting to do alone provide inspiration to personal story, and time & budget plan possible? it’s as easy as possible? trip? and/or with the people I me and otherscreate special memories constraints? care about? evermore?Occasion: Get Ideas: Search for: Search for: Locate: Connect: Organize: Examples of What’s happening-Season/Holiday Key trip info: -With local info -Memories/events From friends, family,colleagues, Activity and experience options -Cheapest flight options based-NY’ eve -Luggage rules -With resources (guides, gurus) -Evidence you’ve been there/ extended social media network, at different destinations on timings-Valentine’s D -Check in time -Activity ideas Memorabilia bloggers, TV personalities, - Cheapest flight options based-Honeymoon -Terminal to go to -New ideas movies, activity groups & forums on destination (look for promos-Birthday gift and time suggestions) -Currency exchange-Anniversary Compare: -Ways to and from airport-Stag do Destination options based on -Travel tips Record: Package:-Reunion Search for: timings, costs, and ease of -Experiences-Accomplishment Occasion or experience sought getting there Compare: -Memories Trip takeouts so as to extend the benefits gained from the trip-Time off on google, publications, forums, social media groups,etc Time options vs. budget across key providers Book: -New ideas, contacts, knowledge -Car hire -AccommodationExperience: -Airport bus Share:-Broaden horizon Commit: To build on and showcase who-Hobby/skill To a scenario you are-Well-being/R&R-Adventure Manage:-Landscape (sea, mountain, Info updates, efficient and easyplant) task completion-Weather (sun, snow, wind) Research Commitment Experience Inspiration Discoveries in social listening must dictate the SEO, content strategy and UX We used social listening to identify need states and build personas
    55. 1. 2. 3. 4 5. 6. 7. Motivation Decision- Research Booking Pre-flight Travel Post-travel to travel making Occasion Activity Destination Offering Simplify Connect RememberCore Semantic Groups We identified the need state Flights matched the client’s business goals and mapped them to semantic groups to dictate the information architecture.Country/Region Logistics Timing City/Airport Cheap Flights Map need states to core semantic groups to develop site maps
    56. Identify what people want and present it in a way that matches theirexpectations using the language they expect in order to provide the bestuser experience to your target audience and improve conversion. We mapped those to our keyword research and developed content
    57. Navigation and sub-navigation reflect need states UX and content developed with the concerns of our personas We built a user experience indicative of these considerations
    58. We improved rankings and conversions dramatically by marrying these concepts.Bookings Organic Traffic Turns out we’re pretty good at this.
    59. So what else can we do?
    60. Search Keyword-LevelFB:Admin Demographics Referrers Placing a site on Facebook’s OpenGraph and having a user opt-in allows you to get their FB data whenever they come to your site. Matching that with search referrers gives you demographics at a keyword-level. KLD Source Code:
    61. OWNER Curious George Gamer Film Purist Tech Geek • 18-32 • 18-32 • 22-40 • 22-40 • Male • Male • Male • Male • Loves indie rock • Loves all music • Loves film soundtracks • Loves Techno • Wishes he had a beard • Wishes he could move out • Wishes he could live in the • Wishes you would stop his mom’s basement movie Avatar invading his online privacy• 5000 Searches Monthly • 600 Searches Monthly • 1000 Searches Monthly • 100 Searches Monthly• Conversion Rate 5% • Conversion Rate 2% • Conversion Rate 0.5% • Conversion Rate 0.2% This data allows you to determine which of your target personas dominates traffic and conversions for a given keyword. For more applications of KLD see:
    62. What Normal Users See What Curious George Sees Curious George • 18-32 • Male • Loves indie rock • Wishes he had a beard Using the FB data user experiences can be tailored dynamically to reflect properties of the persona when they visit. Use social data to improve the user experience and conversion
    63. UX and SEO are good buddiesnow and they are going places! UX SEO
    64. Michael KingSEO Manager @iPullRank
    65. Speakers John Goad [AddThree] @JohnGoad Mike Pantoliano [Distilled] @MikeCP Michael King [Publicis Modem] @iPullRank Ben Lloyd [Amplify Interactive] @Blizzle
    66. Navigation, Links & SEOHow Much is Too Much? SEO & User Experience
    67. Quotes“I like having a selection, I just dont likemaking a choice” -Carrie Renee Mathews Jam Study: “The presence of choice might be appealing in theory… in reality, people might find more & more choice debilitating” -Professor Sheena Iyengar, Columbia University
    68. Choices Ever try to pick a paint color? Did you know there were THAT MANY shades of white? How about order from a restaurant menu that’s 5 pages long?
    69. Links•SEO Says: “Too many on-page links”•Designer should hear: “The Navigation is Overwhelming”•Site Owner/Client freaks out about cutting down user options- SEO Benefit: Improved spidering = more pages available for search- Design & U/X Benefit: Contextual navigation = improved usability- Site Benefit: more visitors, better usability = ROI
    70. Case Study
    71. Internal Links1. Major duplicate content issue resolved2. Nav change to news3. Nav change to events4. Nav change to posts5. Minor duplicate content issue resolved
    72. TemplateChanges Example: Simple Template Changes  Sidebar links  Number of posts
    73. DirectoryChanges Example: Simple Template Changes  Cut down on columns  Sidebar links are contextual
    74. PostChanges Example: Post-Level Changes  Keep the links contextual
    75. OrganicSearch URLs Receiving Entrances from Search Q3 2010 Q4 2010 Q1 2011 Q2 2011 Q3 2011
    76. Organic Search1. Major duplicate content issue resolved2. Nav change to news3. Nav change to events4. Nav change to posts5. Minor duplicate content issue resolved
    77. SEO & UX?