Is Usability the New SEO?

Posted in News on 22 April 2014
Photo Credit: Luca Mascaro via flickr

SEO ranks at the top of many marketers’ “most important” list, so much so that the world seems totally obsessed with the topic. In essence, SEO is about creating content that Google adores, and thus ranks accordingly. In other words, it’s a bot-centric practice that aims to garner the attention of algorithms, not human beings.

The result of the SEO fad has, for all intents and purposes, been relatively positive. As algorithms increase in intelligence, so does the usability of the content produced for SEO determinations. After all, Google and company wouldn’t benefit from highlighting sites that trick the algorithms into high rankings. Actual users are turned-off by content that doesn’t speak directly to them, so in practice, this would be a short-lived success. So the search experts have spent thousands of hours perfecting algorithms to match what people want, not robots.

Yet we’ve all seen the reverse happen frequently enough. SEO-savvy marketers use every trick in the book to woo the bots of the world, and we (the users) are left reading keyword dense nonsense that has the usability of a site circa 1996.

That’s why a marriage between SEO and usability is the yin and yang of successful web design. Let’s explore the strengths of each. It may even be that you’ll discover usability is more critical than SEO. Please your audience first, and the bots will follow. That’s a timeless mantra for content creation if ever there was one.

How to Merge SEO and Usability

First, a little clarification:

  • SEO is the art of luring traffic to your site and content via search engine algorithms. Content written with SEO in mind follows the current search engine trends to ensure high search query rankings.
  • Usability focuses on the overall experience of your site, with special attention paid to specific behaviors you wish to trigger (like product purchases and opt-ins.) Usability, then, cares most about conversions, not search engine bots.

Make no mistake, creating sites and content that appeal to bots and humans alike is no easy task. If it were, we’d be frolicking in a world full of fabulous sites that get uber-high rankings. Some days, it feels as if the reverse is true. The challenge is very, very real.

For example, we all love to feature the most critical parts of our content above the fold. We want to include enough words to clue the search engine bots into our niche and expertise, but not so much text that we turn-off visitors. This is often a difficult balance to strike.

The easy solution lies in tabs, or expanding div. These allow you to highlight a small block of text, granting intrigued visitors the opportunity to reveal more details with a click. Search engines can read the entire block of text, too. It’s a total win-win.

Here’s another conundrum that many site owners face: duplicate content. You might run an ecommerce store that wants to run sale promotional text on a large number of pages. These pages likely contain limited content, meaning that your sales copy is going to get you dinged by bots seeing the duplicate announcements.

The SEO solution here is to make duplicate blocks like this embedded in an image. Bots can’t crawl images for content, so you can communicate the big announcement wherever you choose without the red flag. This works well for things like copyrights and disclaimer text too.

Conflicts Between SEO and Usability

There are many inherent disconnects between usability and SEO, but all are truly manageable. They just require a little big-picture thinking.

First of all, please abandon the tactic of keyword stuffing. It’s working less frequently now (Google has long since been on to this annoyance), and it’s never belonged in the usability camp. Instead, use your keywords, but note that it’s no longer necessary to make these equate to X percent of your overall word count in order to succeed. Write content that reads well, that has a pleasing flow and an informative feel. You’ll gain your readers’ trust and attention, and the bots will follow in kind.

Additionally, please stop creating fat (or obese) footers. Many started doing this a few years back as an SEO tactic, as it strengthened structural SEO to have all your site links and keywords present in the footer. This got severely out of hand, and we still see archaic sites with massive footers on every page. This is a major usability no-no and it no longer boosts SEO either.

Rich media used to be a conundrum too; great for usability (people love videos and images) but bad for SEO (bots can’t crawl ‘em). Thanks to a gaggle of smart folks, there are many tools and tactics available now to let your video content also assist in your SEO efforts. The usage of a video sitemap, tilting techniques, video schema, script transcripts, and video sharing networks now significantly help SEO. So by all means, use video to reach your users, and enjoy the SEO benefits as well.

The final word is clear: focusing on a true unification of SEO and usability is the fast track to site success. By thoughtfully considering how to please the bots and your demographic with each critical decision, you’re doubling your chances at high rankings and high conversions. Resist the short-term SEO tricks that turn off users long-term; it’s no longer worth the risk. Now that we have the tools and tactics to please both parties, there’s no excuse to take the easy way out.


Facebook Auto-Play Videos a Success for Marketers

Posted in News on 22 April 2014
Adobe image

Facebook’s auto-play 15-second video ads have been an enormous success for marketers, according to Adobe’s Social Intelligence report.

In the first three months of 2014, brands that posted videos enjoyed 58 percent more engagement than in the previous three months. That means their posts were receiving more click-throughs, likes, comments and shares.

Facebook first began testing auto-play videos on its mobile network last September on a small portion of U.S. users and, in December, rolled out the video ads to a handful of Web users.

The full launch of the new marketing feature, which shows up in the news feed, came out last month.

Facebook video ads

Adobe image

Although videos begin to play as they appear on a user’s screen, they do so without sound. If a user does not want to watch a video, he or she can simply scroll or swipe past it. Those who do wish to view the video, however, can click or tap on it to have it played in full screen with sound.

It appears there has been a lot of clicking and tapping going on.

Video plays from organic brand posts rose an astonishing 785 percent over the same quarter in 2013 and increased 134 percent from the fourth quarter of last year, the study discovered.

“Links and video both showed strong growth as marketers continue to wage the social battle between engagement and referral traffic,” the report reads. “With video engagement up, marketers should consider more video posts. Fridays are a good bet.”

Overall, engagement with video posts is up 25 percent year-over-year and 58 percent quarter-over-quarter.

Of the non-video posts, those with images provide the highest engagement rate while text posts have declined significantly in shares and engagement.

Posts with links, however, have risen 77 percent year-over-year and 167 percent quarter-over-quarter.


Microsoft-Nokia Acquisition a Done Deal Friday

Posted in News on 22 April 2014
Nokia devices and services executive vice-president, Stephen Elop shows three new Nokia phones, the Lumia 930, the Lumia 635 and the Lumia 630, all built on Windows Phone 8.1.

It will soon be official.

Microsoft’s 7.2-billion acquisition of Finnish Smartphone maker Nokia will be complete on Friday after months of waiting for regulatory approvals in several countries.

“Today we are excited to share that we have completed the steps necessary to finalize Microsoft’s acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business,” wrote Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post.

“The completion of this acquisition follows several months of planning and will mark a key step on the journey towards integration. This acquisition will help Microsoft accelerate innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones. In addition, we look forward to introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones.”

To push the deal through, both technology firms had to make adjustments to the original deal by entering into a number of different agreements to address concerns ranging from manufacturing to IT, Smith said.

The changes listed by Smith are:

• The two companies agreed Microsoft would manage the domain and social media sites for the benefit of both companies and their customers for up to a year.

• Under the original deal, all employees in Nokia’s Chief Technology Office were to stay with Nokia. Under the new agreement the 21 employees in China working on mobile phones will join Microsoft where they will continue their work.

• Also under the original deal Microsoft was to acquire Nokia’s Korean manufacturing facility. Under the new agreement Microsoft will not acquire the facility after all.

The deal will also bring 32,000 Nokia workers to Redmond. Microsoft and Nokia have been partners since February 2011.


Volunteering Opportunity - Giro d'Italia

Posted in Jobs on 22 April 2014

You can also get involved in the thrill of the Giro d’Italia by joining one of our volunteer teams raising vital funds at the Giro Fan Parks in Dublin and Belfast city and fun locations along the route including Carnfunnock Country Park, Glengormley, Carrickfergus, Dundalk and Swords.

If you would like to be a life-changer and have 2 or 3 hours to spare across the weekend of 8-11 May, we have a role for you! As an Oxfam volunteer, you will be fully briefed on what is involved in advance!

Take the first step by emailing your name and contact details and we will find a shift to suit you. Or if you prefer, you can give us a call:

Dublin volunteer co-ordinators:

Marie-Louise (01) 635 0406 or Jenny (01) 635 4054

Belfast volunteer co-ordinators:

Nikki (028) 90 89 5972 or Linda (028) 90 89 5978


Student Job

Posted in Jobs on 22 April 2014
Abbey Tours is one of Ireland’s longest established and best known incoming
Tour Operator. Working in close partnership with the Travel Trade and Event Organisers, we provide 
the complete range of services in Ireland for Group & Individual Travel, Association Conferences 
and Corporate Events.
We are looking for students to assist us with a conference at the University
College Dublin from 19th – 22nd of May 2014: Responsibilities and requirements:
   Act as the first point of contact during the conference
   Offer assistance with directions and provide response to any queries that may arise
   Bubbly and friendly personality
   Ability to use own initiative
   Effective team player
Remuneration: 10 Euro per hour
If you are interested in the position please forward your CV to Marije Kraan at by 
the 28th of April 2014.


Posted in Jobs on 17 April 2014

Are you a talented mobile applications developer focused on native iOS applications that wants to help Zendesk revolutionize the mobile customer service experience? Can you develop native applications that will be widely used by our 30K plus customers? Do you want to work in a company that has a strong focus on design excellence and creativity alongside the belief in the importance of coding disciplines and modern agile development techniques?

What you get to do every day:

  • Design native apps for the iOS platform that empower our customers to drive customer success
  • Work with smart people who have a strong sense of ownership and thrive when they see their work being used by Millions of daily users
  • Liaison with product management and dev teams both locally and in our HQ in San Francisco helping to define mobile product features and the evolution of Zendesk’s iOS offering

What you bring to the role:

  • Bachelor's degree in Computer Science degree or equivalent and a Minimum of 1 year of native iOS development experience - experience with other mobile platforms or SaaS is a plus
  • 3+ years development experience in a high level language, preferably Objective C
  • Experience working in an Agile development setting
  • Able to solve problems and make pragmatic engineering decisions quickly

With your application, please make sure to send us your GitHub / Bitbucket account
Zendesk is the leading provider of proven, cloud-based help desk software. For growing organizations, Zendesk is the fastest way to enable great customer service. More than 40,000 Zendesk customers, including Adobe, Sony, OpenTable and Groupon, trust Zendesk with their most valuable assets: their customers, partners, and employees. Founded in 2007, Zendesk is funded by Charles River Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Matrix Partners. Learn more at
Individuals seeking employment at Zendesk are considered without regards to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, ancestry, physical or mental disability, veteran status, or sexual orientation.



Posted in Jobs on 17 April 2014

Our Client is currently looking for an experienced Web PHP Developer for a permanent position at their development office in Dublin. Below is an outline of the role for you to look over. If you are happy to be represented and be put forward for this role (or would like more information) please send me an email back or call me (T: 01 2449520), indicating if you wish to be represented by Solas Consulting Group. 

Key Points: 

  • Based in Dublin
  • Permanent Full time role
  • Cutting Edge Technologies

My Client are looking for a suitable candidate to help create, extend and optimise their database(s) as well as enhance the company’s core products with innovation and problem-solving skills. The ideal person will have excellent technical skills, strong written and verbal communication skills and will be a pro-active, self-motivated individual who can work to tight deadlines. 

Desired Skills: 

  • Experience working with large databases
  • OOP PHP 5 (previous experience of Ruby would also be an advantage)
  • XHTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery and AJAX
  • WordPress
  • Familiarity with Apache and Unix/Linux
  • Building & maintaining RESTful Web-Services
  • Experience developing and / or working with APIs and MVC framework are a distinct advantage
  • Should be comfortable working with ticketing systems (Assembla/Asana), Version Control (GIT/SVN) etc.


Java Developer

Posted in Jobs on 17 April 2014
We are currently looking for a Java Developer to join our team so if you are interested in progressing your career, this position represents a great opportunity to join our company at an exciting stage in its development and expansion 

Main Responsibilities: 
  • Take responsibility for developing new components 
  • Implement, test, and bug-fix functionality 
  • Produce reasonable estimates for tasks and meeting project schedules 
  • Deploy and provide support to the latest releases of software 
The successful candidate will: 
  • 1 to 2 years plus Enterprise Java experience. 
  • Experienced with SQL (Oracle database preferred). 
  • Experienced in developing UI components for the web in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. 
  • Delivery experience within an agile development framework. 

    Key Skills (in order of priority): 
  • Java 
  • Grails (or similar MVC frameworks such as Spring MVC, Ruby on Rails) 
  • SQL (Oracle, MySQL) 
  • HTML 
  • CSS 
  • JavaScript 
  • jQuery 
  • Linux (Redhat, Ubuntu) - setup and configuration 
  • Oracle Database - setup and configuration 
  • WebLogic 
  • Tomcat 
  • Subversion



Six Tips to Improve Your Online Shopping Store

Posted in Tips on 17 April 2014
Image courtesy of (arztsamui)/
There is immense potential in online shopping and hence lot of analysis involved in this area. Many firms are in the race of getting more customer attention and knowing what exactly will work for the firm can help. The climate is increasingly competitive, and it is imperative to know what can get you on the right platform and build a solid reputation. We have analyzed and listed six tips that can help improve performance of your online store.

Tip 1: Three-Second Test

The first impression is very important. People form a first impression on others within the first seven seconds. The same applies for online shops also. It is simple, you just have to ask two questions to yourself:

  • Can the shoppers find out what the website is selling?
  • Will the shoppers trust the website and use their credit cards on the site?

These are the pain points of a website, and after this, there is engagement, interaction and sales conversion.

Tip 2: Multiple Layouts

It is important to know which pages can convert more customers. Different approaches, items and aesthetics can help the visitors be turned into shoppers. It is also important to find out what works well and will help in the long run. Take a test and see the outcome of various layouts on various customers after seeing the conversion trend. Take an example of website selling rock-climbing supplies, trying to promote new shoes. In such a scenario, pictures can be used with attractive text, in another format; they may use a video explaining the effectiveness of the shoes and hands on experience of a climber who has used the shoes.

A third form can be Flash display that gives out key features and descriptions once the user mouses over. The store can test on these three different strategies to see which one has helped most to generate revenue.

Tip 3: Display of Price and Shipping Clearly

The aim remains to get rid of the pain points and help in better sales. It is important to examine the fear involved in the process of shopping and removing that fear from the mind of shopper. Some shoppers may hesitate to buy a product because of the hidden costs involved. Shipping is one such example. The website should make sure that the prices are inclusive of all charges and are clearly displayed.

Such an approach can generate understanding and confidence among the buyers.

Tip 4: E-mail Subscriptions

The buyers may like purchasing from your website, but it is important that they get devoted to your website. This will happen by mode of social media, word of mouth and e-mail marketing. The e-mails can prove to be a direct from of interaction between the product and the customer. The customers are directly linked to the brand by this mode.

You can use some java-enabled pop-ups to get the customer to your site and then give them attractive first-time deals to stay with you. Future communications will also be facilitated with the help of this mode.

Tip 5: Social Media Integration

Word of mouth is now spread on social media.  Fellow consumers can be a good source of information or product review. The trust factor comes in place when we talk about recommending or appreciating a product. You can include the share button on your product page so that the presence of your product is felt by everyone. With lot of sharing and suggesting, the brand will be improved and will be included in the conversations in social media.

Tip 6: Contact Information

It is of great help to have a human face behind your business relationship. You must offer all contact information in a straight-forward form. This will lead to better answers to any customer questions and better decisions made by the customers. Overall, your company will have a reputation of one that cares. If the customers can access your website directly and get the information they want, this will give them better knowledge of exchanges, returns, etc. This will involve some cost, but it will be worth considering the consistent brand reputation that is built as a result.

An online store can help figure out what struggles are faced by customers and finding any new possible opportunities. Correct contact information can help build lot of trust. Make sure customers can contact you via e-mail. Also, try integrating social media to improve your reach. By helping the customers, you can improve your image, income and outlook.


Skill Levels Are the Greatest Hiring Challenge for Start-ups

Posted in News on 17 April 2014


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