Usability Pushes Standards on SEO, Consumer Behavior

News broke last week that the speed of page loads will become a more important criterion for search engine rankings in 2010.  As marketers we know better than to pay too much heed to rumors about ranking algorithms, but in this case the word was handed down directly by Matt Cutts and Google.

Some may recall that this issue arose in early 2008, when Yahoo! announced submission of a patent application related to the automation of site usability reviews.

Then and now, there’s a noteworthy SEO consideration to this news, as the pursuit of a highly usable, fast-loading site will undoubtedly be added to search marketing firms’ list of tactics to conduct a proper SEO program.  However, in reality this does not fundamentally change the rules of engagement.  Search engines have always preferred pages that read cleanly and load quickly; they have a natural tendency to rise to the top of the rankings by virtue of their smart design.  The rationale is that with a smoother web-based experience, consumers are less encumbered by the operational aspects of their purchase behavior, leaving them to focus their energies on what they prefer: to spend their money on the products and services that reflect their needs and wants.

The real insight here is that in developed countries where internet adoption is starting to taper off, we’re going to see usability as a key catalyst in driving a higher level of quality in this adoption.  Demographics on the fringes of adoption, such as relatively young or old consumers, will be converted from casual users to a more engaged variety, certainly more empowered users of more advanced applications such as rich media, e-commerce, and social media (WOM).

In consumer-driven societies, we need to be paying close attention to usability as a critical engine of growth.  Google’s commitment to fast page loads in the context of search is just the first of many evolutionary steps which continue to make them key allies for marketers.

About Paul Burani

Paul Burani - Partner, Web Liquid Group. Connect with me on Google+

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