2016 Conference Content Creation

Beyond SEO: Writing Findable Content (MCS5)

“Findability is the biggest content problem in higher ed.” That’s how content strategist Rick Allen opened his session Beyond SEO: Writing Findable Content.

He also debunked the myth that “SEO is dead,” a notion that’s becoming quite ubiquitous in online marketing. A notion that’s just not true. Allen explained that he sees some of his client websites receiving more than 60 percent of traffic through organic search. This means that SEO does still matter.

However, it’s not the only thing that matters. Once people arrive at a website by organic search (or any other means), can they find what they’re looking for? Creating content means nothing if it’s not read — or even found. Allen explained that we spend more time looking for content than consuming it. He then went on to provide attendees strategies and tactics for providing site visitors a helping hand in finding the content they need within a website.

Citing Steve Krug’s DON’T MAKE ME THINK, Allen explained that the difference between searching and navigating is asking around and looking around: people will do both. He then illustrated this point further by taking us to Home Depot: if we navigate, we’ll look on our own for the items using the way-finding signage. If we search, we’ll ask a staff member for help.

He broke his findability tips into four areas: context, search, browsing, way-finding.

  • Context: do people understand the page? Does the page have a purpose?
  • Search: is the page optimized? (relevant, proper meta data, structured well, etc.)
  • Browsing: is the page easy to scan, find information and use?
  • Way-finding: are any next steps to enhance discoverability visually clear?

Allen ended his talk with the idea that “Findability is customer service.” Our students are our customers after all, and we should be serving them in the best way we can by creating websites that easily lead them to the information and action items they seek. The alternative is that they get lost… which means we lose them too.




Photo Credit: TheTimeTraveler! Flickr via Compfight cc

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.