An empirical study on website usability elements and how they affect search engine optimisation

Visser, Eugene Bourbon; Weideman, Melius

South African Journal of Information Management

Visser, E.B. & Weideman, M., 2011, ‘An empirical study on website usability elements and how they affect search engine optimisation’, South African Journal of Information Management 13(1), Art. #428, 9 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajim. v13i1.428

ABSTRACT.
The primary objective of this research project was to identify and investigate the website usability attributes which are in contradiction with search engine optimisation elements. The secondary objective was to determine if these usability attributes affect conversion. Although the literature review identifies the contradictions, experts disagree about their existence. An experiment was conducted, whereby the conversion and/or traffic ratio results of an existing control website were compared to a usability-designed version of the control website, namely the experimental website. All optimisation elements were ignored, thus implementing only usability. The results clearly show that inclusion of the usability attributes positively affect conversion, indicating that usability is a prerequisite for effective website design. Search engine optimisation is also a prerequisite for the very reason that if a website does not rank on the first page of the search engine result page for a given keyword, then that website might as well not exist. According to this empirical work, usability is in contradiction to search engine optimisation best practices. Therefore the two need to be weighed up in terms of importance towards search engines and visitors.
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