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A Double Whammy:
Usability Improvements
and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

By Nardo Kuitert,
December 29, 2003

This article was published in our (discontinued) email newsletter "Does Your Website Suck...People In?
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The Internet has concurred the world in every aspect. Every movie release is now accompanied by a website. Audio CD’s mention the artist’s website to build a loyal fan-base. People do their banking online, and recently we learnt all about online pharmacies, causing huge amounts of Canadian prescription drugs to be shipped to the United States. And more and more people research their intended purchases online prior to buying it in a store. Or they just buy it online.

Buying online has become so convenient, and affordable – even cheap! Free shipping may be provided when ordering over a certain amount, and Staples Canada recently had an email offer with a $ 30 discount for orders over $ 100. Amazing! Compare this to an email that I received from a major department store. It mentions “What’s new for December 1-7”. Well, nothing is really new… I received it December 4th… it was almost yesterday’s news!

But I’m side tracking here. My point is, that even for site with only a regional target audience it pays to mind the search engines and directories.

In order for your website to be effective it needs to be Easy to Find + Easy to Use. The following scenario may very well be familiar to you:

After consulting various sites on what to look for in a new PC I decided to visit a regional dealer that I had already bought from in the past. I knew for sure that they had a website, but I couldn’t find it in Google! Even very specific search phrases, including the city, didn’t return the desired search results. Annoyed I looked for the invoice from my previous purchase, and my frustration grew, as they didn’t even mention the web address there! Those people must really NOT want you to visit their site…

This is a sure way to chase away repeat customers! By the time I came across their website address in a newspaper ad it was too late: I had taken my business elsewhere.

When researching a purchase I found the information that I was looking for: a nice product, with all the right specifications. But I wasn’t able to find out where that company was located. The Contact Us button only brought up an email address. There was also no mentioning of a price, or shipping conditions. Since this was a last minute purchase I had to look elsewhere, and bought a present that was less than the one I saw online. A loose-loose situation.

Making a website Easy to Find + Easy to Use is essential for online success. But when I ask business owners about their websites they tend to say: “It’s fine. I never hear any complaints. Everybody is pleased with it.” Or are they? Research shows that only 4% of visitors encountering problems on a website will tell the webmaster: 96% will just move on. The competition is only a click away…

Assuming that your website is O.K. proves to be false security. I certainly didn’t complain in the instances mentioned above. Those organizations failed to offer me an online experience that fosters loyal customers.

So what is my advice?

  • Take a close look at your website, from a visitor’s perspective. Ask family and friends for their honest feedback. Does your site look professional and trustworthy? How does your website look in the second-most used screen resolution of 800x600 pixels – does your website also have the 805-pixel syndrome; a problem which made usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s Top 10 Design Mistakes of 2002?
  • You can also ask a web usability expert to take a close look, gauging your site against generally accepted usability guidelines and best practices.
  • Check your search engine rankings, and perform visitor analysis with your Internet tracking tool. What are the top visited pages? What are your top entry and exit pages? Where is your website traffic coming from? Do your assumed top key phrases attract any traffic worth mentioning – or is nobody using those words? Knowledge is power, and measuring allows you to fix it.
  • Construct a website that pleases search engines and visitors. That is, if you are interested in attracting more qualified traffic while turning more visitors into customers. You may need help with professional search engine optimization.There are still many search engine optimization (seo) myths around that may get your site banned from the major search engines and directories. But I will discuss these search engine optimization myths in a future article.

Your website is a constant work-in-progress. Hopefully this article will give you a push in the right direction.

Wishing you a happy New Year.
Nardo Kuitert

Nardo Kuitert is a Website Optimizer with, a service provided by Ontario Website Optimization firm U-C WEBS ( Attract more qualified visitors, and turn more visitors into customers with full Website Optimization: Search Engine Optimization and Usability Walkthroughs.

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