June 18th, 2010
The other day, I listened to a fascinating interview that John Jantsch conducted with Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing In The Age of Google.
Listening to her, I got this idea about links like “Products”, which we see on a lot of corporate sites. Vanessa was talking about these words from an SEO perspective, explaining that, when we use them as the headings and main navigation on the site, the search engines don’t know what to do.
Vanessa points out that nobody goes to Google and searches for “Products”. Instead they search for what they are looking for. But the heading and navigation links are critical to helping the search engine do what it needs to do.
Home pages, like at 3m.com, use generic words like “Products & Services” and “Our Company” for their links and headings.
So, her recommendation was to stop using words like Products, Solutions, and Clients and start using words that actually describe what you offer. This way the search engine would list you higher for those terms.
Interestingly, I’ve found the same when watching people use the web sites. Rarely, does someone say, “Hmmm. I wonder what products they have.” Even when they do, the menu (usually a simple drop down, but these days, a mega menu is common) lists the trademark names of the products, which, almost always, don’t actually say what the product does.
Sites like Progress.com use a mega menu for their products.
If you aren’t already familiar with the product offerings, how do you know where to click next? Sybase also offers a solutions tab. Again, these are buzzword-filled terms that are vague in what they actually mean. What is the difference between predictive analytics, high-performance business intelligence, and quantitative analytics? What do these terms actually mean? (Would we ever be in the market for low-performance business stupidity?)
Sybase.com‘s solution tab is riddled with buzzwords. How likely is it that anybody but dedicated customers and employees will know what this means?
So, once again, the parallels between what search engines needs for SEO and what users need from the design are striking. SEO strives to make it easy for the search engines to understand your content, so they can offer it to their searchers when that’s what the searcher is seeking. And what users need is an easy way to understand your content, so they can choose the right path through the site.
Coming up with terms for one will easily buy you terms for another. And it all comes down to providing great scent for both your users and for the search engine crawlers.
Update: Keith suggested Verizon Wireless’s site as a good example and I agree.
Verizon Wireless uses terms like Phones & Accessories instead of Products.
If you search on Phone & Accessories, their site appears in the top 10 organic listings. And, from a user perspective, the labels mean something more than Products.Tweet