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Web Standards Vs. Search-friendly Sites
Posted 14 February 2005 - 02:03 AM
I just finished reading SearchDay's article entitled, "Web Standards vs. Search Friendly Sites: Can You Have Both?" I was misquoted, and I hope to correct that misquote in this forum.
During the session (as well as the session coming up in New York City), I discussed graphic images vs. CSS-formatted text. The article writer wrote a somewhat incorrect statement:
"Shari is on the graphics side of the debate, advocating that graphics are better for usability and that too few graphics mak a page appear unfocused."
For the record, if any of you have a question about anything I write or say, just ask me. I have always been a straight-shooter, and I will give you an answer and be respectful of your deadlines. Here is a case where I was not asked to verify my own quotes. Ugh, I hate when that happens.
Anyway, I do not "side" either on the graphic images OR on CSS. I say that all Web site owners need to test whether graphics work better for some items on a page (navigation scheme, call-to-action banners, etc.) or CSS-formatted text works better. There are clear usability studies that indicate that more people click on graphic images than click on hypertext links, information I received during my usability certification training. If CSS-formatted text works better for your site? Then use it. If graphic images work better for your site? Then use them. One is not necessarily better than the other. The idea is to find the right balance of text, graphic images, and so forth to give your visitors the best user experience.
Many of my competitors honestly believe that I am anti-CSS, and I am not. I love CSS. Been using it for years. But I don't automatically format everything on a site in CSS just because a bunch of search-illiterate Web standards advocates tell me I should. I design, write, and market sites for users first and foremost. There are times when using graphic images are better than using CSS-formatted text.
That last sentence, is it really that difficult a concept to grasp? Is it difficult for some SEMs to grasp because they do not know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator? Or do not understand usability?
And don't get me started about the download time thing. Anyone who knows me knows about my 5 Basic Rules of Web Design. Something I wrote about in 1997 (and still promote). There is a tremendous difference between actual and perceived download time. I have some goodies that I'm saving for the NYC conference about this topic.
Okay, end of rant. I appreciate people reading and responding to this post. I'm writing a Clickz column about this topic, and I am very, very interested in hearing every angle of this debate.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 09:57 AM
For those who haven't read it yet, the article in question is here:
Web Standards vs. Search Friendly Sites: Can You Have Both?
And the author was Bill Hunt.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 11:48 AM
Shari, why not just say what's on your mind? LOL.
I read that article a few days ago didn't pay it no never-mind. Whatever works best on a page is what you should use, period. CSS, pics, whatever.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 02:23 PM
there seems to be an error with this quote too. I think it should read "...the "third web browser."..."
Posted 14 February 2005 - 02:50 PM
No offense to you Shari, but I thought your presentation was a little unfocused and it wasn't always entirely clear what point you were trying to make each step of the way. I think a little lack of polish is very understandable for anyone on that panel, since it was the first time it was presented and the subject is certainly large enough to invite ambiguity, but I also got the sense that many of the points you covered were, in fact, in response to the blog posts that followed on the heels of your San Jose session, which were arguably the genesis for the Web Standards session. I might well be wrong about the undertones, but that was my impression.
Don't get me wrong. I completely enjoyed the session and, indeed, reported it as my favorite of the whole four-day conference. All of the speakers were worth hearing, all of you had important things to add, but I honestly think Matt was the only one on the panel to limit himself to a subset of Web Standards that could be adequately handled in such a short presentation. Even Eric, who didn't have to address SE issues, was all over the board. As it was, every single speaker went well over their allotted time, leaving only time for a single question at close.
Isn't it ironic that the single question centered on images and FIR?
As I recall, and to add to the irony, I think you sided with text against images on that last question? Had time permitted, I suspect I would have disagreed or, at least, tried to qualify your advice to the questioner.
In reviewing the schedule for NYC, I was disappointed this particular session wasn't being repeated. With a little more practice, a little more focus, I think it has a HUGE potential for helping to define SEO for the next few years. I see Web Standards today as occupying much the same place dynamic content has occupied for several years (and, yea, still occupies). Both can help a little, both can hurt a lot, and I think it's incumbent on all of us to understand where and why each is true.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 02:55 PM
Posted 14 February 2005 - 07:37 PM
Yeh, I actually sent that in as a suggestion!!
BTW Ron, in the article you kept promising to deliver a few more articles on the conference. Any chance these are coming soon? (i liked the sense of joy in that Gazette BTW. Made it seem like a well worthwhile exercise )
Posted 14 February 2005 - 11:33 PM
I considered it definitely worthwhile, Michael, AND a whole lot of exercise.
Yea, there's going to be more articles, though most will be based on SES Chicago rather than a direct report of it. My own sites have been so busy of late that I'm way behind on my Gazette duties. Today, however, is my annual hump. Poetry sites tend to get a little busy in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day (226,345 uniques so far today, with 30 minutes left), but level off quickly afterwards. I hope to get the next Gazette out this Wednesday, with a couple of articles on linking as inspired in large by our own Debra and Dan.
Posted 15 February 2005 - 03:26 AM
I felt a little split-minded about this article. Personally I tend to lean towards practicing userfriendly SEO that is based on user behaviour and SEO methodologies that still lead to conversions. I come from a copy, design & development background, so felt a little insulted by the following comment:
It always surprises me to learn that not more SEOs integrate SEO methodology with user behaviour. I have spoken with a few people in the industry and all look at me wide eyed when I tell them to use user behaviour to adapt their SEO strategy to gain more conversions.
Is that not what we are all aiming for anyway?
Higher rankings and increased conversions?
Posted 15 February 2005 - 12:11 PM
I had a conversation about this (and other broader marketing/advertising related issues) with a friend the other day. It costs $2 million dollars to get a 30 second ad in the superbowl. Did Pepsi (for example) really sell enough sodas the next day to make 2 million dollars worth of profit purely from that ad? How many would that have sold without it?
It seems to me that advertisers (and to an extent, this includes certain types of SE Marketers) look at the trees and not the forest. They spend 10 million dollars making a fantastic ad, without actually stopping to wonder whether they need the ad in the first place.
Applied to SEMs, ithink that a large number of them focus purely on PR and SERP ranking without considering the larger picture. I think these may have been the ones that Shari was targetting with that statement. (Not trying to put words in Shari's mouth) ..
And these SEM's forget one of (IMO) the biggest rules in the online marketing business. SERPs ranking and PR doesn't make you money. Even high site traffic doesn't make you money. All of the above cost you money. Money to develop your SEO compaign. Money to pay someone for the time they spend building your link campaign. Money to pay for your increased bandwidth caused by higher site traffic.
Conversions make you money. That's it. Nothing else. Just conversions.
And people won't care how high your PR is, or how well you rank in the SERPs if your page is unusable by humans. They'll vote with their mouse and click somewhere else.
p.s. PR and SERP ranking don't actually have to count for much when it comes to site traffic either. imdb don't rank #1 in google for 'movies', 'movie reviews', 'movie news' or a host of other movie-related search terms....
But I bet they get more traffic than all the other movie sites put together.
Posted 15 February 2005 - 12:44 PM
Posted 15 February 2005 - 02:32 PM
Seems to me it's perfectly possible to have sites that look great, read well to the spiders and are easy and intuitive for humans...
Posted 15 February 2005 - 03:15 PM
I agree...I never understood, why this was even a subject to begin with...I kind of thought web standards and and a good start for search friendly went hand in hand. I read Ron's background on the whole issue. And it seems like it started because some seo probably said there is no reason to write valid code and that may very well be true for search engine rankings, but there are other reasons for it. We here a lot of people in the seo world spouting off about best practices...it wouldn't be a crime to follow best practices in other fields (design) as well even if it doesn't directly affect your rankings.
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