Guest post - usability testing for SEO

Introduction from Hike – this is a guest post from our friend Sophie over at oa agency. Here she brilliantly explains how to conduct usability testing for your clients; an often overlooked process that can do so much for SEO and more!

So without further ado, enjoy this guest post…

How many times have you met with a prospective client who thinks they know everything about how their website should appear and what content should be present for their prospective customers?

Of course, no one knows their business as well as they do and often, they do have some valuable insight however it is almost impossible to assume what’s going to work and what’s not unless these business owners have spent thousands of dollars running focus groups and psychometric testing for their particular buyer personas.

If they’re anything like the client meetings I’ve been a part of the conversations would go a bit like this….

“We don’t need all that content, that’s not what they want to see”

“We want this photo instead of that one”

“We don’t need an about us page”

“The title should be different”

It’s all too familiar.

You could have years and years of experience in digital and won loads of awards in your field only to be told “you just don’t get our types of customers”.

Lucky for us digital marketers out there who are trying to convince clients they need a great content strategy for their SEO to work and to convert website leads to customers, there are a number of online resources which offer affordable usability tests online. 

How customer experience usability tests can help get clients across the line

There a number of different strategies you can play around with but the simple and most effective is the following:

– Gather some intelligence about your clients ideal customer such as age, gender, industry and even pay bracket. When setting up your test, you can add all these filters to ensure usability tests are undertaken by their ideal target market

– Find one or two competitor websites that are implementing the content strategy or other website changes your recommending to your client

BONUS – If one of these online competitors is known to your client it will create a stronger case

– Create your test by setting up some non-leading questions that will allow testers to read through and follow instructions on all the sites you’ve asked them to look at. They will offer their opinions by providing a live walkthrough of your questions whilst viewing the websites. You will receive the video recording within an hour or a couple of days depending on your preferences. 

– Play the videos to your client, let them watch and hear what the testers have to say. If you’re providing good advice, you often hear the feedback you were hoping for. 

An example test you can run for your client

Your client owns an online camera shop and you’re looking to create a video content strategy for all their product-specific pages. Your client doesn’t believe customers watch videos and you want to prove them wrong therefore you create a customer experience test online and show them the results. 

Test:
www.fredscameras.com.au (your client’s website)
www.tomscameras.com.au (known online competitor, great product videos, selling exactly the same product)

The tester won’t be aware which website is yours, all they have to work with are the following questions:

“Take a look at the Sony DSLR100 page, after landing on this page which website would you rather purchase from and why?”

*This is an example of a non-leading question. A leading question would look like:

“Why would you rather purchase a Sony DSLR100 from Tom’s cameras as opposed to Fred’s cameras”

See the difference? 

This might open up a world of opportunity not just from an SEO point of view but for brand new web development if the feedback is poor enough!

Example of feedback you might receive:

“Tom’s cameras really look like they know what their talking about and even have a video with all the information I’d need before purchasing”

“There’s not enough information on this camera on the Fred’s website so I’d probably prefer to purchase from Tom’s”

“I can’t even get to the product page – it’s so difficult to find my way around the website as it’s so confusing” –  BONUS FEEDBACK

Having access to this ‘real-life’ feedback will not only overcome your client assumptions on how they believe things should work but will also allow them to trust your advice even before beginning a working relationship with you and your agency (given your feedback matches the results they receive). 

SEO centric customer experience usability test ideas

To get you started on your first test, here are a few SEO centric customer experience usability test ideas:

– Testing local search results by asking users which Google My Business listing they would rather get in contact with (promoting the need for reviews and optimised GMB page)

– Testing user preference on search results with structured data vs no markup

– Testing websites with specific content types such as case studies vs pages with basic, minimal content 

– Testing particular metadata and page titles against other websites in search results

So to rather than getting into a debate in your next client meeting, consider running one of these tests and gain some insightful pre-defined knowledge that would otherwise have been uncovered months or years down the track when your client is wondering why their campaign hasn’t performed as well as they’d hoped!

Author bio: Sophie is the SEO whizz at oa agency (a Sydney-based online marketing, UX and business strategy agency).

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