What’s a URL?

Do you know what a URL is and what to do with it?  It sounds like a stupid question, of course you know what a URL is, everybody does! But you’d be wrong.  Having observed countless users interacting with websites, it is striking how many people enter the URL into their search engine.  My hypothesis is that the URL bar in the browser is something technical and best left alone.  But don’t just take my anecdotal evidence for it, look at the top 500 search engine keywords– in the top 20, four are URLs that could have been typed into the browser address.  Look at the keywords in your web analytics, almost certainly (if yours is a B2C proposition), your URL will come in the top ten keywords for your homepage.

Lesson number one: people are not as tech savy that you think they are.  If they don’t know how to use URLs, what other assumptions are you making about your customers in the product you are developing?

Lesson number two: your URL is not as important as your ability to be found in the search engines.  It is refreshing to see an increasing number of companies not giving any URL in their print or TV advertising, rather “search for us on google using <insert term>”.  But before you go off engaging SEO snakeoil merchants, the basics of optimising your website for search engines (SEO) are hardly rocket science (especially if you are an already trusted brand), and Google let’s you in on a lot of their secrets which is 80% of what any SEO company will tell you.  Only google give it to you for free.

What’s in a name?

So only 1% of google searches use “advanced search”. Is this because the word “advanced” (especially in the world of IT) speaks of complexity and language that only people in the know understand. Anders Olausson suggests if it were labeled differently, “easy search” or “better search” (because that is what it actually is) more people would use it and the result would be more efficient searching. There’s a lesson here when labeling functionality and features. All to often the project team in development will refer to something by its technical name, and this will manifest itself on the user interface. Yet if these names are not those of the users language this will at best result in user annoyance, and at worst result in the feature being unused.

How’s your SEO?

SEO is high on any on-line marketeers agenda. There’s plenty of agencies about that can give advice on how to leapfrog up the google rankings, but before you do that, take a look at Website Grader. A neat tool that grades your site, gives you insight into the search engine world and tips on how you could improve your ranking.