Is anyone else totally sick of marketing buzzword syndrome? I think I have buzzwordsitis. That’s an inflammation of the buzzwords, for those not up on their medical terminology. Almost every day I hop onto Econsultancy or Search Engine Watch or whatever industry blog du jour I pick to hit first from my bookmarks bar, and am promptly greeted by a plethora of gibberish and “next best thing” and “will be the way forward for marketing” and, of course, the inevitable “will replace SEO,” and my blood pressure spurts into a healthy morning peak.
The problem isn’t just the clickbait, Buzzfeed-worthy titling (although this is a trend in the digital industry which also pisses me off quite thoroughly – not everywhere is Buzzfeed, content headline writers) but the total lack of substance in these oft-lauded pieces of drivel. Now before a screaming hoard of editors and contributors lands in my inbox with torches and flaming pitchforks (or vice versa) I don’t mean drivel in the sense of poorly written. In fact the most irritating part of this is that in most – I’d say in as many as 90% – of cases the content itself is actually very well written; so masterfully crafted, in fact, that often you end up halfway through the final paragraph before you suddenly catch on and think “wait a damned second, I’ve been doing this for years only I just call it (insert non buzzword descriptive term).”
There are tons of these. “Link baiting” was a big thing back when I was a wee SEO still sweating over my meta tags – I remember clearly and excitedly waxing forth in the direction of a vastly more experienced account manager in my then-agency for whole minutes, only to be greeted with a weary “You mean earning links with content. Yes. We do that.”
Talk about a letdown.
Guest blogging was this way for a while (“Placing content on authoritative sites and asking for link attribution? Yes, we’ve done this for years…?”) until The Cutts smacked it down. Native advertising looked promising for a while until everyone worth a damn realised they were doing it already. Big data has far outstayed its welcome (a quote from an analyst friend of mine always sums this up nicely: “I don’t care how big your data is, if you can’t get useful insights out of it then sod off”), social signals crop up now and again, digital PR was big for a while before dying off into the “well, duh” school of “oh, we were doing this anyway,” although “link detoxing” seems to have (thankfully) died a relatively rapid death after the initial penguin-related panicking.
One of the most recent of these buzzword beasts, however, seems to be here to stay and it is pissing me off no end. You’ve probably heard the rumours – apparently UX and SEO are linked now. Gee whiz, Billy, you mean I should care about the experience my customers have as well as where I show up on Google? This marketing business is getting mighty complicated!
The particularly frustrating thing is that there’s a nugget of valuable truth hidden in all the corporate-speak BS this time around. The problem is that people are lumping all elements of a very complex and in-depth practice – something, in fact, at least as complex (and very possibly more so) than SEO – into one bucket and slapping on a UX label. UX, like modern SEO, is actually made up of many dozens of micro-disciplines that all complement, inform and feed back to each other.
At the core of “UX” as an entity is the idea that if users have a good experience with your brand/website/racetrack/flavour of cottage cheese, they are far more likely to buy again/convert/drive well/eat more (as appropriate). This is something so blatantly self-evident that every time I see a marketer, especially an SEO, exclaim at the concept as if it is some divine revelation I get the urge to set their hair and many neighbouring organs on fire. Of course UX and SEO are linked. SEO – indeed, search marketing generally – is designed to enhance a user’s experience of a brand by making it easy to find for relevant queries and highly visible to a relevant target audience. If you’ve been doing SEO any other way, frankly you’ll have had a Google penalty by now and it’ll bloody well serve you right, too.
What is new, and what people should be interested in and excited about, is that for the first time direct user interface design – that’s UI for the jargon-lovers – is being considered as a direct factor for organic visibility by Google. At the moment it is only on mobile, under the guide of the “mobile friendly” update, with the aim of the search engine not wanting to send people on a mobile device through to a site that has no touch support, crappy tiddly buttons you can’t hit properly, text that is too small, a load time that leaves you dozing off on the station platform and a myriad of various other things that add up to people going ugh and pressing the Back button. Yes, it is UX. But no, it isn’t the “next big thing for SEO” or anything else. It is something you should have been paying attention to all along – let’s face it, if your site was rubbish for usability then all the traffic in the world won’t help you.
All Google is going is gradually integrating more of the components of the overall discipline of UX into its organic algorithm, bringing them under the SEO umbrella as well. These ideas and needs have always been there – your customers have always needed accessible, authoritative, fast and informative websites with good, rich content and helpful meta data “shop windows” to help them decide where in the SERP to click.
And they’ve always needed decent sized buttons, non-tiddly text and sensible menus too. If you’ve been neglecting things like that until now, don’t chalk it down to your SEO. Chalk it down to not understanding your customers and what they need.
Buzzwordsitis affects at least one in three marketers today. But together, we can beat it. Who’s with me?