Optimize Content for Users First, Bots Second
- Ashley Bailes, Client Strategist
As the search engine optimization industry continues to expand, new techniques, methodologies and perspectives are conceived. The SEO community hashes out new theories of search engine algorithms daily and such controversial discussions delve deep into the heart of optimization. However, with companies and webmasters alike vying for the next quick optimization trick, many sites are left lacking the most fundamentally vital of components: user experience.
Although the overall function of websites may differ, the universal purpose is to generate user conversions - a specific action you wish the user to take. After all, that is why companies work so hard to become SEO friendly. As a website is optimized, its position moves up in the results, increasing visibility. Accordingly, more traffic is generated to the website, which improves the likelihood of conversions.
Countless companies spend time, money and ongoing efforts to optimize their websites solely for keywords, forgetting the importance of content. Keywords are what attract potential prospects to your site, but content is what keeps them there. Site content is king... but not only must it be relevant, it must be comprehensible. A great rule of thumb is to keep the flow of content sounding natural. If, in an attempt to optimize for certain keywords, the text reads awkwardly - it is best to change the keyword form, or just drop it altogether.
Avoid spending time keyword 'stuffing' and trying to force keywords into the content. Focus, rather, on high quality content instead of having an 'optimal' keyword density. While the keyword density is generally considered to be most advantageous around 4%, do what works best for your individual site. Concentrate on the function of your site and work from there. What content would be helpful if you were a potential customer?
The same holds true for search engine marketing ventures. Paid placement can easily deplete a company's budget if traffic is being sent to an un-optimized landing page. Once again, while keywords and SEO are important, it is the user experience that is key to generating conversions. For SEM landing pages, be sure the content is relevant and the 'conversion action' is clear. If a user can not discern the action you wish them to take, they will have no qualms about hitting the 'back' button on their browser.
The actual design and layout of a site may be beautiful, but users can immediately sense if the site is what they want. Be sure to have pertinent content immediately available; avoid forcing users to 'dig' to find it. On the same token, be sure not to overload your page with content as it can lead to some of the same problems as keyword 'stuffed' content. If you wouldn't want to read through all that text to find what you are looking for, neither would the user.
When writing content for your site, be sure to keep it clear and concise. Always use relevant terms purely where they 'sound' appropriate and avoid overloading a page with text. Ensure content fonts are easily legible and avoid the overuse of italics and bold. In addition, make sure the action step you want a user to take is apparent from the second they hit that landing page.
In order to avoid duplicate content issues and enhance user experience, avoid having content that repeats throughout the pages of your site. Be sure all content is page specific based on the targeted keywords for that page. The targeted keywords should match the keywords in the searcher's query or at least be strongly relevant. Home page keywords should be broader and pertain to the overall products and services of the site. Furthermore, be sure that as a user travels deeper within the site, the content on the page matches the keywords and is specifically unique to that page.
Remember, the search engine algorithms were developed to locate quality sites through rational guidelines. Worry less about how you site compares via algorithm and more about sensible content and calls-to-action. You may have 'relevant' content according to the search engine algorithm, but that is no guarantee that users will feel the same way.
If you are interested in finding out more about how to optimize your website's content, please come visit us at www.MoreVisibility.com.