Organizations pay countless amounts of money and time on search engine optimization. For years, the results justified the investments. As the search engine optimization field changes however, the best search engine optimization tip may become this simple one: Don’t forget the user.
Search Engine Oriented vs User Oriented Content
As previously discussed here regarding search engine optimization and business blogs, the landscape continues to change dramatically for the search engine optimization industry. Recent developments in search algorithms are putting more pressure on the quality, quantity, and timeliness of content. Meanwhile, many search engine optimization strategies produce content that isn’t user oriented but instead search engine oriented.
What does that mean? The optimized content results often include repeated use of target phrases carefully calculated in relation to the total word count of the page. Links are often added not in a logical order that would be attractive to an actual user but instead aimed at criteria that the search engines find attractive. Content often isn’t readable, appealing, or actionable.
This isn’t always obvious to web site owners that are happy about their newfound search engine traffic. Sure, search engine attention is great, but what happens when the content isn’t useful?
Leveling the Playing Field
Like Google or not, I do believe that their efforts are well intentioned when it comes to search algorithm updates. Weeding out lesser quality content in searches is a good thing. The intention is to level the playing field for content creators while producing more meaningful search results.
Unfortunately for those invested in the search engine optimization industry, “overly optimized” content is falling into this lower quality category more and more. Therefore, many smaller businesses who have invested in optimizing content find that they are being hit with the cost and hassle of re-optimization in order to keep content fresh and timely. For them, the playing field can’t be leveled enough, soon enough.
Looking at the timing and impact of algorithm updates such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, the quality of results will continue to improve but are still far from ideal.
Discoverability vs Usability
For many who have used search engine optimization services, they’re left with a web site people can find but that people don’t want to use. That’s a problem.
The key to benefiting from our basic search engine optimization tip here is understanding the differences between discoverability and usability.
As much as I would like to believe it’s all about the content, it isn’t. There are still many search engine optimization tricks that can (and perhaps unfortunately) must be employed. However, content usability and future growth should always be taken into account first. Optimization can be done later.
The user must come first. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Leveraging This Simple Search Engine Optimization Tip
In the interest of supporting our single “don’t forget the user” search engine optimization tip, here are some ideas to keep in mind:
Search Engine Optimization Services Are Fine, But . . .
Be clear upfront and vigilant throughout the process that the quality of your content comes first. Many of these organizations sub-contract work to contractors whose primary language may not be the same as your end user’s.
Establish Logical Site Structure Early
Understand what logical structures your audience might seek while on your web site. Do you offer products and services, for example? How are those listed separately in different areas of the site? Identifying this early can actually help both discoverability and usability. Layering content on later as an afterthought can produce disastrous results.
Know the “Must Have” Content Your Audience is Seeking
What are the things that your customers and potential customers must get from your site? Keep this in mind throughout any optimization process.
What Actions Do You Want Your Audience To Take After Engaging Content?
Search engine optimization helps get your audience to your site, but then you must engage them. And, ultimately, you want them to do something. What is that? Do your search engine optimization efforts hinder them in any way?
Remember: The user must come first.
Is this a good search engine optimization tip? Disagree? Got a better search engine optimization tip?