If your website was presented before a jury of your peers, would you be found guilty of gross marketing misconduct or absolved of all charges of crimes against usability?

The fact is, your website is being judged. Each and every visitor that comes to your site is actively weighing, measuring and perhaps even finding you wanting in how you present your information to them. Every person will judge you on how quickly they can find the information they want, how complete that information is, and whether or not all their questions get answered.

GavelIf you're selling a product, the ultimate verdict is whether the visitor makes it through the buying process without leaving the site. Every visitor that leaves your site to purchase what you offer somewhere else is a juror who has found you guilty of misconduct. Each shopper that abandons their products in the shopping cart because they find it too cumbersome is a juror that may deliberate with other jurors about your crimes against usability. Any searcher to lands on your site via a search results and can't immediately find what they are looking for is a juror passing a verdict on your incompetence as a business.

But this jury doesn't need to be unanimous. That can work for and against you. If the jury unanimously decided you were guilty, you could serve your punishment, re-develop your site properly and be on the road toward total rehabilitation. But on the web, each juror makes their decisions for themselves. While this undoubtedly means that some jurors will absolve you of your crimes, most, wont. But you can be lulled into a false sense of security by those that turn a blind eye to your web marketing sins.

As a business owner, you need to study your jury. Find out what they are passing judgment on in your site. Check their search and navigation patterns to see where they find what they want and when they don't. Make changes to your site based on this information. Test new ways of presenting the information. Perform new keyword research. Edit your content to better meet the needs of your jury.

Every day you get a new jury and a new opportunity to be found guilty or not. If the too many of your daily jurors are finding you guilty, you need to change the error of your ways, or let the ultimate judgment be passed on to you: reduction of income. As you adapt to the wants, needs and whims of your jurors, you'll see more and more of them finding you not guilty. Not only will you be giving them what they want, they'll start giving you more of what you want: increased revenue and profits.

The jurors are seated. Your site is on trial. Will you be found guilty? Let the jury decide.

January 21, 2009

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Hahaha. i like the way your explain it. Good one. i am usually checking my Google Analytic for the Bounce Rate to see if i am guilty. :)

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Excellent post. Visitors to your site are judge and jury. AND the verdict is final once they leave your site. There is no appeal process other than serving the sentence.

Nice post.. I may be guilty..

Wow. A lot of blanket statements in this "article" that make a lot of assumptions that simply aren't true.

If you're selling something and someone doesn't buy your product, it doesn't mean your site wasn't effective. It could mean any of a dozen things. Just because they leave doesn't mean they bought it somewhere else either.

Most business owners don't know enough about server stats to interpret them, so telling them to study search and navigation patterns is worthless. You could argue they should, but that wouldn't be realistic.

You tell people they need to change their site based on their "jury." How? What things should they look at in their design? These types of things would be helpful to people, but really what's here is mostly fluff to fill the space. Tthere aren't really any specifics here, just cutesy stuff.

You also have to take into consideration that you may be drawing the wrong jury. Your bounce rate not only indicates a usability problem, it could also mean you're targeting the wrong people.

They land on your page and decide this isn't what I wanted. Not always a usability problem. Sometimes it's a misguided marketing campaign.

@Lj - not every article can be a "how to" piece. I'm with you that I like how-to articles a great deal but sometimes concepts need to be laid out. I've offered plenty of how-to content in other articles. Though I find it amusing that you gripe about me making assumptions when you did the very same. I didn't say that if someone leaves that means they bought the same thing somewhere else. That was just a scenario, and if that happens, then there is definitely a problem with the site they are leaving.

@michael harvey - You're absolutely right. Getting the wrong people to the site will make you look guiltier than you are. Find the right keywords that bring the right people, and then let them judge your guilt or innocence.

Your ideas are valid. Usability should be an extremely important consideration. One only has to look to IBM to see problems lack of usability cause. Their lotus notes product keeps the notes developer happy and employed, but the usability of the interface for the end user is horrible. So much so that most users will bad mouth lotus notes any chance they get.

My 2 cents.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Are You Guilty of Crimes Against Usability? Let the Jury Decide