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SEO TIPS: Search Engine Optimization vs. Website Usability

Mike Moran posted an article on Search Engine Guide today discussing a common folly in perspective regarding SEO, that being, optimizing a web page for search engines opposed to customer interaction. While this is an issue which can arise in SEO, in this post, I would like to comment on a sister subject, the tug of war that can occur between search engine optimization and website usability.

When you are optimizing a site for search, the search marketer’s is often enticed to pull out all the stops. I mean, let’s face it, search engine optimization is competitive, and a few keywords in the right place can sometimes make a big difference. But one critical item to keep in mind is usability. If the implementation of your SEO is at all misleading and causes the usability of the site to diminish, then visitors will bounce from your pages, and your conversions will most likely go down. Also, eventually, your rankings will slip.

In SEO, just like in life, honesty is the best policy. If you try to cut corners by not thoroughly thinking through an SEO strategy that makes sense for both the website users and the search engines, your site will suffer. This is really what Mike Morgan is hinting at in his post. Take a look at this excerpt below:

In my talk Friday, I posted a list of things to do for improving your search marketing campaign:

  • Discovering the most popular keywords.
  • Using those keywords in your copy.
  • Conducting link campaigns to get links to your pages.

That’s not controversial advice, but suppose you had a somewhat different list:

  • Discover what your customers want.
  • Provide the information they need.
  • Create information so useful that other sites link to your pages.

Ultimately, both of these perspectives need to be considered in every SEO strategy. You must have keywords in the right places, you must engage in some link building, and you have to optimize your site with best practices. But without considering what your customers want, giving them the information they need, and making sticky, popular pages, your website will never reach greatness.

Now, this is nothing new for search engine optimization. People have been saying, “Content is King” for a long time. But in today’s online space, it’s becoming even more critical.

Matt Cutts, the head of webspam at Google, perhaps put it best in his recent video blog. To summarize, his main point was created amazing content while using best SEO practices and get that content exposure through all your means. Cutts’ comments hit home for me. If you create something worthwhile online, it will get the credit it deserves. But you have to optimize it and promote it properly otherwise it may never be discovered. And when you do your optimization, make sure it’s done it a way that makes sense for your site and your customer first, then refine it for the search engines.

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