SEO is important. Very important. But it isn’t everything.
Sweet-talking Google is great, but Google won’t pay you money, it won’t use your services, and it won’t subscribe to your newsletter.
Humans might. The trick is to ensure they do.
Human optimisation is the art of ensuring that people stay on your website and do whatever it is you want them to do there. Is your website human optimised?
What do Humans Want?
Humans are a demanding bunch. If you don’t give them what they want, they will leave.
By ensuring your site has each of the following features, you will be well on your way to optimising your site for humans, fulfilling their demands, and converting them into paying customers.
Humans Want Clear, Compelling Copy
Nobody likes a jargon junkie, especially online. Your website’s copy needs to be clear, simple, and easy to understand. As Einstein is supposed to have said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Clarity isn’t just about simplicity, however. Quite reasonably, humans want something written for them, not for a search engine. That’s why your content must read naturally – don’t publish anything that’s stilted or stuffed with keywords. (NB: keyword stuffing won’t help your SEO anyway, so it’s a double no-no.)
Humans also want copy that’s compelling. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they will leave. Good copywriting will grab your human readers’ attention, keep it, and call them to action at the end. Clear, compelling copy is crucial for human optimisation.
Humans are Scanners
A lot of humans don’t like reading. Or, at least, they don’t like reading everything – especially in the online world. Instead, humans want to be able to scan pages to determine whether they are relevant and merit a closer look.
To human optimise your copy, you therefore need to include clear headings, bulleted lists, and other elements of formatting that make your content easier to scan and provide clear signposts. No large, intimidating blocks of unbroken text.
Humans Like Clear, Clean User Interfaces
Humans like websites they can easily read. They like websites that don’t bombard them with mixed or multiple messages. They like websites that clearly indicate where they can find things, and where you want them to go next. So to human optimise your website, ensure that your text is easy to read – no red on blue, please. Make sure that there’s plenty of “white space”. And make sure your call-to-action buttons stand out, and can be easily found.
Humans Hate Forms and Captchas
Human users don’t like to share their life story with you. If a form requires too much information, chances are they won’t fill it in. Optimise your site for humans by ensuring that you don’t ask for more information than you need to, and by removing annoying or unnecessary steps or requirements from any sort of form-filling exercise. Humans also hate captchas. If you must have them, consider using a funcaptcha.
Humans are Lazy
Most humans are a bit lazy. Especially online. They don’t want to go looking for information. So make sure you put all the important information in a place they can see, or have clearly visible signposts indicating where they can find it. Try not to put vital information below “the fold” (i.e. below the part of the webpage that is visible without scrolling).
Humans Like Other Humans
Humans tend to like other humans. To human optimise your website, you need to give it a human face.
On-site, you can give your website a human face by ensuring you include pictures of real, relevant humans (like my photo on my ‘About’ page).
Humans Need Accessibility
Some humans deal with impairments that limit their ability to use your site. These humans want a site that is set up to help them navigate and understand it.
To optimise your site for humans with hearing difficulties, provide them with access to subtitles or transcripts for any videos on your site.
To optimise for vision-impaired humans who use a screen reader, include descriptive ALT tags for all your images, format lists properly, and use descriptive text for links so that they know what they’ll find when they click on them.
Optimising for dyslexic humans involves ensuring that your text is left aligned (not centred or justified), ensuring it’s a nice, clear font, and getting rid of captchas.
Humans Want to Access You on the Go
These days, humans like to access information on the go on their smart phones and tablets. A human optimised site therefore needs to be “responsive” – it must adapt to the device it’s being accessed from, and be designed to provide an optimum user experience no matter how big or small a user’s screen size is. (To see an example of this, try playing with your browser’s size will looking at my site. See how it changes according to the size of the browser?)
Alternatively, you can have an “m.” site – a version of your site specifically designed for mobile users, which mobile devices are automatically redirected to.
SEO is important. But writing and creating websites designed with humans in mind is equally, if not more, important. So go forth, and get human!
Are you a human? Do you hate filling in online forms? What else do you hate on websites? Have your say in the comments below.