Even in the era of agency consolidation, search continues to be sold as a stand alone service. Is it possible to put together a decent performing search campaign in a vacuum? Sure. Does it deliver the best possible results? Definitely not! As powerful as a carefully orchestrated search initiative can be, it becomes significantly more so when you add user experience (UX) and analytics to the mix.
Let’s first talk about user experience. A big part of user experience’s role is to make sure client websites are intuitive and easy for target audiences to use. Sort of like cyber-ergonomics, if you will. As a result, user experience teams need to spend a lot of time doing research, observing users’ online and offline behaviors to see how they approach key tasks, and crafting solutions targeted to more directly meet user needs. This type of work and the ensuing results are directly tied to the work that search engine marketing (SEM) professionals do on a regular basis.
One of our UX experts has a button hanging in her cube with the phrase “If the user can’t find it, the functionality isn’t there” printed on it. Meaning that in order for a site or software application to be successful, users have to be able to quickly and easily find the desired functionality, or that functionality might as well not exist. Makes sense, right? Why would anyone spend millions of dollars to build a highly-functional word processing application without investing a few grand to ensure users are able to find the “create bulleted list” functionality?
When search engine marketing is part of the equation, that phrase is even more far-reaching than initially thought. Forget individual functions, if users can’t find your site, it doesn’t matter how intuitive or usable it is. To ensure that your site is not only usable, but also findable, you need to make sure your search marketers are working with usability professionals at the start.
It takes the right words to make users say “I do”
Several months ago, we had a collective epiphany during a user-research initiative with a new client in the bridal industry. The client had loaded its website with the word “bridal”, and when “bridal” was entered into a search engine, the site came up third in the search results. Pretty good, right? Well, not in this case.
During the actual user research sessions, it was discovered that very few participants entered the term “bridal”, preferring instead the term “wedding”. When “wedding” was entered into the search engine, the client’s site didn’t appear until page five of the results. Of course, none of the participants made it to page five and ended up selecting a competitor’s site instead.