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Usability and Findability—Getting the Synergy Right

by Stephan Spencer  |  
January 20, 2009
  |  5,692 views

Finding the balance between search engine optimization (SEO) and a successful user experience can be a challenge. The two strategies can conflict, and companies may mistakenly favor one over the other.

For example, one company may choose to "stuff" the same keywords into every "alt" tag in its navigation graphics. That, of course, detracts from the user experience, making the page slower to load and making the page difficult to interpret for the visually impaired who are using screen readers.

Then there are others who try to maximize usability without any concern for SEO. They choose to "Googleize" their homepage, stripping all non-essential elements out of the page and making it as simple and streamlined as Google.com's homepage.

That, unfortunately, offers very little for the search engines to sink their teeth into; that is, there are insufficient clues for the search engine to identify appropriate keyword themes for your page.

In most cases, it is your homepage that gets the most weight of all the pages on your site. So you won't want to squander that opportunity:

  • SEO, when done right, enhances the usability of the site for the user.
  • Conversely, usability, when done right, enhances the search engine findability of the site.


For example, breadcrumb navigation is a useful technique both for users and for search engines. The breadcrumb contains text links with (hopefully) relevant keywords in the anchor text:

Contrast that with using the words "click here" everywhere in the anchor text of your internal links, which is not easy for the user to interpret because the underlined words are not related to the linked pages' content. Also, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search associate that anchor text with the page to which you are linking. So, when you use the words "click here," you are telling Google that the page to which you link is all about "click here."


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Stephan Spencer is the founder of Science of SEO and an SEO expert, author, and speaker.

LinkedIn: Stephan Spencer

Twitter: @sspencer

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  • by ali kinaze Tue Jan 20, 2009 via web

    When you say "In most cases, it is your homepage that gets the most weight of all the pages on your site", I think it’s important to highlight the fact that the point of having a strong hierarchical linking structure is to make every pages of a site a homepage. This is especially true with informative sites that get a lot of visits through search engines researches and where users never get to visit the real homepage.

    About the Visa.com homepage title (Visa—Credit Cards and Other Payment Solutions), I would like to add that not only this title includes the keyword phrases « credit cards » and « payment solutions » but also « Visa cards », « credit solutions » and so on. I think great search engines optimized titles are those that combine words linearly and non-linearly. Am I wrong?

    That being said, I find tag clouds to be extremely helpful at referencing a website. Question : Is there a limit of internal links we should place on a page template, giving the fact that it looks great, i.e. it is usable?

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