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SEO, Usability & 15 Stupid Things You Can Do to Your Website – SMX West

Michael Stebbins—Market Motive

Whilst not technically a session I was fortunate enough to hear Michael Stebbins of Market Motive present a little mini-presentation in the Expo hall, which grabbed a lot of people’s attention. I was away from my laptop but managed to type up notes on my iPhone.

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His presentation was titled: 15 stupid things you can do to your website:

1. Using lots of JavaScript menus so search engines can’t crawl your website properly.

2. Using stupid keywords—ones that are too competitive or no one is searching for. Michael suggested picking mid-range keywords and work your way up.

3. ‘No Crawl’ added to the robots.txt on the test site, but then accidentally copying that over to the live site when it goes live. This could include using the ‘disallow all’ command in the robots file of a test site and then unwittingly copying that robots.txt file over to the live website.

4. Using ‘home page’ as the title tag on the home page, or even worse not having a title tag at all! Unique relevant title tags that address the page content and keyword agenda should be used for web pages.

5. No Meta description tag—similar to above unique description tags were recommended for all webpages.

6. For Adwords don’t accept default ‘broad match’ as this can be an expensive mistake to make.

7. Don’t let Adwords chose which advert is served up. Michael cited a technique put forward by Dan Thies and that was to make 3 ads that work for every test ad, then simply tell Google to rotate the ad and that way the new test advert will only show 25% of the time. This protects the website against having a new advert showing for the majority of the time that might not be as effective as the old one.

8. Leaving margin out of ROI calculations (ROI doesn’t include all the real costs. For example no cost of goods are included).

9. Be patient when submitting to the DMOZ directory. If you submit your website to DMOZ don’t resubmit over and over again as resubmitting can mean you start all over again and thus reset the submission time.

10. Bad use of images as content headings. Michael recommended using text and appropriate h1/h2 tags.

11. Avoid default blog permalinks. Michael suggested using the all in one SEO pack so the blog URLS can include keywords.

12. Not using a Google site map. Users should choose priorities carefully and not put priority 1 on every page.

13. Mass email using BCC and not using email services. Using an email service provider is highly recommended for sending to large lists of recipients.

14. Below the fold calls to action. Ensure calls to action are above the fold and in order to check how the page appears on different screen sizes undertake browser testing.

15. Collecting unnecessary data in web forms and reducing conversions. Asking too many questions can reduce the number of people who complete a form—so only have the fields that are essential. Creating complex HTML emails with forms embedded in them was also not recommended as its not an effective way to capture data. Michael recommended sending users to a website form instead.


In the SEO and usability session Eric Papczun and Lance Loveday took to the stage.

Eric Papczun—Performics

1/4 of all people online are shopping and of that 25%, 77% of those people are relying on the Internet to research. Perhaps with the economic recession this will continue to grow as people seek out bargains.

Eric advised the audience of a couple of statistics for ECommerce websites. The average landing page bounce rate was 50-70% and the average ECommerce shopping cart has a 60% abandonment rate.

He argued that if advertisers are fulfilling the needs of consumers then the search engines will reward them—in other words positive user experiences drive higher rankings.

Eric explained that on a landing page the eye will typically move to largest image on the page then gravitate to text with white space around it. Graphs/charts that hit to the heart, can be more affective than generic stock photography (e.g. business people shaking hands etc.) as they can attract attention and evoke some form of emotion or interest in a way stock footage can not.

Eric also argued that using an 0800 number can create a positive user pre-conception and experience as the prospect can feel that the ECommerce business is not afraid to talk to the customer. An 0800 free phone number can also convey the image that the business has been around a while.

Lance Loveday—Closed Loop Marketing

How to lose money and alienate your customers? Lance told attendees that a lot of people assume there is a 3-way trade off between SEO, Design and Usability. Lance argued that there is a widely held myth amongst the design community that SEO limits design flexibility. He suggested there should be no trade off necessary—but rather there is just more work to do to align both well. So it tends to require that SEO input should start earlier.

Lance pointed out some key issues with Flash websites – mainly that all flash/site pages are largely invisible to Search engines.

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Options:

1. Have plenty of plain indexable HTML content in addition to flash element.

2. Can also provide important Flash content—but also have viewable indexable content.

So Lance repeated the important point that Flash and SEO are not necessarily at odds. He also told the audience that short URLs with keywords tend to get more clicks. He added that the stats show a user is less likely to click on a link if its a long query string URL. In fact users are up to 2.5x less likely to click longer URLs in a search engine result!

Another interesting bit of information that Lance shared was that 75% of web users admit to making judgements about the credibility of an organization based on the design of its web site.

So how quickly is the page/site judged?

Initially this can be in the blink of an eye. Lance used the example of if a person is blindfolded then shown a brief glimpse of where they are, they would know if they were in an expensive department store or a budget store. Thus humans have the ability to absorb a lot of information in a very short space of time.

He suggested that whilst it seems obvious all websites should state clearly what they do, on the home page prominently.