Google’s "Universal Search" and its implications for your website

In my opinion, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the toughest online consulting fields to be in right now because of the constant need to adapt to search engine algorithms. Just when an SEO firm thinks it has a good process/template in place to gain efficiencies from multiple clients , Google releases the Universal Search Algorithm and companies are going back to the drawing boards due to unhappy clients suddenly losing that prestige Top 10 spot for a particular keyword/keyphrase. Put simply, Google Universal Search is when a search query (using Google) brings back results that encompass not only Web pages but also videos, blogs, images, news articles, and other media available online.

I came across this article by Scott Buresh yesterday in which he explains what Universal Search is all about (the positives and the negatives):Search Engine Optimization for Google’s Universal Search: Back to Square One?

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It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few months, in the meantime, try the new Universal Search on Google for yourselves (be sure to clear your Google cache), let me know what you think!

Stop using Splash Pages!

I was recently at a client meeting where the client stubbornly insisted on incorporating a splash page on their website against my advice, claiming it builds a “brand”. I get a strong urge to voice my true profane thoughts out loud at moments like that but I know better..

A BRAND is not just a logo, picture or creative concept!
A BRAND has something called BRAND EXPERIENCE as its core component (intangible values). This experience must be reflected at every touchpoint. If my organization is supposed to provide a solution to a problem (be it a product or service), then my first and foremost aim is to make attaining that solution EASY and ENJOYABLE….this is BRAND.

Providing, yet another obstacle for someone trying to get onto your site creates a negative brand experience…and as if that’s not enough, everytime they return there it is again, your pretty logo blocking their way into your site. Do you really think that each website visitor (typically with a 3-click attention span) is thinking “wow, what a pretty colourful logo, this is really a great brand, i’m glad they keep reminding me what their colours are…”?

Think of running into your local gas station in a hurry to pay for your gas. Imagine opening the front door and entering a hallway with another set of giant mahogany closed doors at the end of it which have ” WELCOME TO COMPANY X “WHERE THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST” written above them. You have to walk forward and press down on the big heavy handles to enter….(the offline equivalent of having to do an extra click online). Now doing that once may not seem so bad, but would you still return to this gas station [website] if another one was built beside it with no extra door [splash page], just a place to make your payment [substitute with primary goal of your site]?

This is just a fraction of SPLASH page problems. An even bigger problem is search engine visibility. Search Engine spiders will crawl a splash page (typically the root directory of your website) and make their opinion about your website content based mainly on the text on that page (ususally…”enter here”..or “French” “English”). These words would be seen as the primary keywords on your website since they are dominant on your first page. Are those the search queires you are targetting? Have you looked at the latest stats showing the over 80% of users use search engines (specific keywords) to find what they are looking for (even if they know the url)? How many times have you Googled a wesite whose URL is familiar to you?

A splash page will hurt your website’s visibility consideraby. Don’t believe me? Google this “SEO and Splash Pages”

I’ll leave you with a link to one of my favourite blog entries on this topic:

http://www.jemjabella.co.uk/scribblings/scr-splash.php

 

The 1-2-3 Call-To-Action concept; simple yet often overlooked

I have always been a big advocate of websites that have a clear call to action based on their objectives. The most popular design I see is the “1-2-3” step concept. Example sites are: www.smartmoves.ca, www.mycanadaday.com, www.ready.gov. Can someone tell me what the disadvantages are of using this sort of strategy? I want to be able to play the devil’s advocate. As far as I see it, the 1-2-3 concept is fully measurable and helps address the short attention spans of today’s web surfers.