Read/WriteWeb contributor Sean Ammirati wrote an interesting article on the application of fundamental theory and its relationship to the development of innovative technology (in this case, social web applications). His “First Principles” theory states that the successful “conversion” of a user in the interaction of a social web application is that:
“the user must perceive they have received more value than the energy (and attention) expended to complete the task.”
From a design perspective, Ammirati offers his suggestion on how this can be applied to the following characteristics of web development:
- New interactions users find valuable
- Returning significantly more value to the user with the same interaction
- Returning the same or slightly more value significantly more efficiently
First Principles Encompasses Multiple Web Strategies, Including SEO
I would argue that this theory can also be applied to the “science” (if you will) of search engine optimization and search marketing, whether that be a baseline for your overall success online, or a measurement of the success of the implementation of your SEO strategy (through link building, social media interaction etc). A similar example can be drawn from the web analytics industry and the usage data visualizations to present a picture of information in an easy-to-digest manner. In this case, design implications related to the presentment of key data points in web analytics have created an opportunity for providing the user with the same data (that they would have been able to glean using .csv exports and manual formatting) that much more efficiently.
The First Principles idea applies directly to your SEO Strategy
Users must perceive a greater value in the attainment of information they receive from your website than the energy that they used to access it. This includes:
- Design implications as it pertains to usability (navigational consistency) and readability (information access)
- A clear path to conversion
- Clear access to information, tools and reference material, applicable to your products and services, and valuable to your targeted user base
If you are providing this value on a regular basis, consider how it makes the implementation of your SEO strategy that much more effective:
- The partners you wish to obtain links from can easily understand your value in the community
- Your content becomes “reference able”, meaning a passive source for inbound links and credibility
- Your users stay engaged – bookmarking, saving and communicating the value of your website, outside of the direct communication process. If it’s the right users for SEO, they’re bookmarking your site online, blogging about it, or spreading your message to valuable online communities for you.
First Steps in This Application
Here are some initial recommendations for applying a “First Principles” strategy to search engine optimization:
- Get involved in the online community and find out what people find of value today, in relation to your keywords, themes and subject matter. Use bookmarking sites like del.icio.us to understand what people are saving (by strategic keyword) and community sites like Yahoo Answers to find out what people are asking (by theme).
- Evaluate the competitive environment to determine what they are providing and how you can provide the same or greater value more effectively.
- Your research for SEO is not restricted to the online environment. Make certain to ask questions of your existing customers and prospects offline as well as online. Find out what would make your website more valuable to them, what they would want to see and what they’ve seen from your competition.
Search Engines like Google and Yahoo are looking to present search results that in turn provide their users with value. As these search engines become more advanced in their ability to do this, your search engine optimization strategy will only be as effective as your complete online marketing strategy. That means providing greater value to your target users and customers – through more effective delivery – in relation to the energy they must expend to obtain this perceived value.
Sean Ammirati’s Presentation on “The First Principle of Social Web Apps and Its Implications” (PDF Format).
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