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Designing for Humans in a Robot’s World

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Over the last few months, I, like most people, have been asking myself a lot of questions. Small questions like, “Do I have enough toilet paper?” Hard questions like, “When will I see my friends again?” And big questions like, “What will our world look like when this is all over?”

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend WordCamp—what is usually a one-day WordPress conference in Minneapolis but now, like so much of our lives, had shifted to being entirely virtual. Where better, I thought, to start finding answers to at least some of my questions, many of which are connected to our increasing dependence on the digital world.

As someone who has designed a website or two, I have been filled with a mixture of sadness at how much of our interactions have become virtual and curiosity about how we can work to make these spaces more meaningful and more inclusive. At WordCamp, I was pleased to discover some unexpected insights that left me feeling more motivated and optimistic than before. (Although no answers on the toilet paper front.)

SEO… It’s Not Just for Bots

I will be the first to admit that I was somewhat of a reluctant web designer. My teachers would stress how important it was, and I would be like, “Yeah, but the paper—it’s so romantic!” This changed when I realized it was arrogance, not romance, that was constraining my thinking.

By forcing my own notions of “good design” on the user, I wasn’t listening to what they actually needed or wanted. I had to shift my thinking into designing for the medium that would be most beneficial to the audience I was talking to and not just the medium that I wanted to create in.

What does all of this have to do with SEO? The prevailing attitudes towards SEO are that it is either a.) A game that can be won and lost or b.) A giant pain in the butt that Google has forced upon us all. While there may be some truth in these attitudes, SEO work can become more purposeful if we spend less time obsessing about search rankings and inscrutable algorithms and more time focusing on what’s really important: the user.

In one of the sessions I attended, Tyler Goldberg of CYBERsprout explained that, contrary to popular belief, Google is not out to get you when it comes to SEO. Google’s primary goal is deliver the content that is the most relevant and useful to the user. So if your goal is the same, you will be helping Google and, in turn, Google will help you.

While the SEO game can still be conned by those with deep pockets and black hat practices, it is definitely changing for the better. Google recently announced that it will be adjusting its algorithm to reward websites who provide a good user experience. This means content that is well-formatted and engaging and designs that are intuitive and easy-to-use. In other words, good SEO is really just good human-centric design.

We All Win With an Accessible Web

Many of us have only recently begun to rely on digital-only services as a lifeline to the outside world, but for people with disabilities, the web has long been a vital tool to help them live richer and more independent lives.

I am ashamed to say that when I first began designing for the web, accessibility was not something I put too much thought into. But the more I have learned about it, the more it has provided depth and purpose to my work.

In her session about web accessibility, Mychelle Blake of Firelink (and fellow Sioux Falls resident!) shared the importance of considering it at every stage of the process. There is no plug-and-play solution that will make a website accessible—it needs to be baked in from the site structure to the content to the design.

During this session, I was struck by the eerie similarities between SEO and accessibility. When it comes down to it, they are both about having empathy for the end user and delivering them a positive experience. Often, both SEO and accessibility are afterthoughts—something that comes secondary to the overall design. But, when we stop seeing these aspects as burdens or hoops we have to jump through and start working them into our overall purpose and strategy, we can start to design a web that is better for everyone.

As our reliance on the web grows stronger, it is more imperative than ever to create a web that useful, just, and, above all, human.

5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Improve SEO

Many of us have heard the term “SEO” but aren’t sure what it means. We only know, this is important to our company and we need more of it. The acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Rather than having “more” SEO, we actually want to improve SEO. Improving our SEO means our company is more easily found in web searches and that we have a good reputation with search engines, making them more willing to help us show up near the top of search results. Here are some simple ways to improve your overall SEO. While it is best to do all of them, even doing one of the following can help improve your rank.

1. Create consistency between reviews and listing sites

To improve your reputation with search engines, it is important that you have consistency between sites. An easy acronym to help you remember what to look for is NAP which stands for Name Address Phone number. The first step to creating consistency is to make a list of any website your business is listed on. This can include Google Plus, Yelp, Facebook, and more. Once you have the list created, visit each site and make note of how your name, address, and phone appear. After you have collected this information, you will be able to see which listings are incorrect and need to be changed. Update those listings and voila, you are on the road to improving your SEO.

2. Increase inbound links

An important component to improve SEO is creating a system of links. Basically, whenever another business posts your URL on their website, search engines see you as more credible. Within your social and business networks, it is easy to mutually improve your Search Engine Optimization by linking to your business partners and asking them to link back to you.

3.  Improve keyword density

Keyword density is important for helping search engines understand the topic of your website and its pages. There are many ways to improve the keyword density of your site but all of these methods start with the same thing. The initial step to improving keyword density is to simply identify what you want to talk about. If you run an eye clinic, it is important to talk about eyes. When creating web content, try to think what the end user might be searching for and that will help you decide what to focus on. It is important to identify which keywords should appear on which pages. Having those keywords appear multiple times on their respective pages will vastly improve your SEO.

4.  Curate your social media presence

Similar to creating listing consistency like in number 1, it is important that your social media presence is consistent as well. Make a list of all the social networks you use for your business and how you use them. Take a look at what content is performing well and try to identify why that content is performing well. Though each social network may serve different audiences, it is important that your brand is represented consistently to each audience. As you think about what to post on LinkedIn versus Facebook, consider what those audiences will be most interested in and the type of content that will be most relevant to them. It is important to find a happy medium between catering to your audience and having a consistent brand message.

5. Focus on content marketing to continually improve SEO

This is the most time consuming of the five tips but can also be the most valuable. Content marketing is a fancy way of saying, you need to constantly be creating blogs or other content for your website. Search engines will find your business more reputable if you are constantly posting current information than if you build your website and don’t touch it for 2 years. Blogs don’t have to be long and should focus on information your audience may find helpful. Remember to keep each blog keyword dense to focus on the topic at hand.

There you have it. Five simple steps that will jump start your company’s SEO today. For more information about improving your company’s SEO and what Matt Jensen Marketing can do to help, drop us a line at digital@mattjensenmarketing.com.