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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) from the Searcher's Perspective

Many of my clients web sites show up on the first page, and even in the first slot, of Google's, and Bing's organic search results and that's a really good thing. Still it doesn't ensure that the link to their site will be clicked on by the person doing the search. For example, I'll often skip over the first, second, or even third link listed in favour of something further down in the results. And I'll sometimes search 5 - 10 pages down in my quest for just the right bit of information.

Why would I ignore the first, second and perhaps even third results that Google displays for me? Why might you ignore them in favour of clicking on my client's link? Read on...

The Human Part of the Search Engine Equation

I believe that many web designers and web developers, in their quest for the ultimate SEO results for a page, largely forget the human part of the search engine equation. I guess they figure that being on the first page of results means that the link to their client's web site WILL automatically be clicked on. Alas, this may often not be the case. Just because your link shows up on the first page at Google or Bing, or even in the first organic slot doesn't mean that it's won the race. Indeed, the race is still only half over. Why? Because you still have to convince the searcher that your link is the best one to click. How can you help convince the searcher?

Some Basic SEO Practices

There are some basic ideas that designers and developers, along with web site owners, don't make the best use of.

We, as web designers and web developers, may not have total control over what the search engine displays to the human searchers sitting at their computers, but we do have some control over a major part of what they do see.

Using Google as an example, the first thing displayed with a link is usually the page title. In fact Google uses the page's title as a link to that same page. Take a look at figure 1.

Figure 1

In figure 1 you can see that the search was for drum lessons in London, Ontario. My client's index page (www.thedrumstudio.ca) is listed in the fourth organic result and the fifth result is my clients Facebook page. Good news, but even still we must beat out the first three links when it comes to being clicked on.

Okay, so Google has presented a list of links it feels are relevant to the searcher's request and now the searcher must read through the info that Google has displayed. Keep in mind that the search words were for drum lessons.

The first choice doesn't contain the word "drum" in its title, it does, instead, mention music lessons. A fairly broad topic to be sure and maybe not one someone looking to play drums would click on.

The second and third choices are actually for another type of search engine, or more properly, a web catalogue. Kijiji (kijiji.ca) is a kind of community bulletin-board site similar to Craig's List. The first Kijiji entry does contain the word "drumming", but it does so right after guitar, piano, banjo and fiddle. Now, speaking as a drummer and a student of drumming myself I can't see me clicking on a drumming link that thought that the banjo and the fiddle were important enough to list ahead of the drums... but that's just me.

You'll notice, in the fourth slot that my client's page is titled "Take drum lessons at The Drum Studio in London, Ontario". And take note of the action verb at the beginning of the title. You know you've gotta click on that link if you're looking for drum lessons in London, Ontario. I mean it is The Drum Studio, not the Guitar and Saxophone studio, right?

Even better, now that Google is using Jquery (a mature Javascript library, read more at www.jquery.com) to add some flash (no not Adobe Flash) and pizzazz to their search results pages you can actually get a quick visual preview of the sites that have shown up based on your search request. To do so click the magnifying glass icon to the right of the link/page title listings.

Figures 2 and 3 show previews of the pages from the first and second sites selected by Google. Notice the lack of drums or drum kits.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Now take a look at my client's home page preview in figure 4.

Figure 4

Yep, there it is... a drum kit, visible even at the reduced size. Now I definitely want to click on that link.

With these things in mind, a good title and something happening on the index page visually that says what the web page/web site are all about, I believe you can create more clickable links on your search engine results.

Wrapping Up

What about the site that listed first, but that might not be clicked on? I'd probably advise them to make several smaller sites that cater to each individual musical instrument that they teach. Done properly, they could easily feed off of the high ranking the mother-site already enjoys and probably pick up some new traffic, as well.

article by: Michael Clark for www.LondonsWebDesign.com
created on: December 23, 2010

About the Author, Michael Clark

After writing, teaching and lecturing about the Internet and the Web for over 15 years, Michael recently decided to get back to his software development roots.

Michael's company, www.LondonsWebDesign.com, designs and develops web sites for small and medium-sized businesses in and around the London, Ontario, area.

When he's not helping his clients 'get the Web,' Michael is hard at work developing a mini-CMS that can be easily customized for each of his client's websites. You can 'follow' Michael on Twitter as @LondonWebDev. Just look for the icon of the guy tugging on his ear :).

There are 2 comments for this article

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On March 6, 2011 at 1:55 am  Marty Diamond wrote...

I agree completely - Small business owners can really lose out when they don't do a good job of controlling (as much as they can) their copy on the search results page - and then if they don't do a good job of continuing the conversation that they start on the search results page, on landing page, they miss out as well. It's this attention to detail that separates successful web businesses from the less successful ones.

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On March 8, 2011 at 8:36 pm  Michael wrote...

Hey Marty.

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I believe that sometimes people get so caught up solving one problem in particular that they forget to look at other possible problem areas.


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