The Intersection of SEO and User Experience - Part 1

19 March 2013


San Antonio: One of the biggest criticisms that exist regarding the process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is that it’s entirely self-promotional—that is, that it manipulates websites based on what the search engines prefer to see not based on what’s most beneficial to website users.


As such, it would appear that a conflict exists between SEO and the creation of a good user experience. After all, if you’re constantly tweaking and tailoring your website for natural search success, doesn’t it also stand to reason that this diminished focus on your website’s users creates an environment that isn’t enjoyable or interesting for real people?


In fact, I disagree. As you’ll see in the following examples, there are plenty of instances in which these dual focuses actually work together—with best practices from both disciplines combining to create an environment that’s both easily accessible to the search engines and highly engaging to the actual visitors that wind up on your site.


Use Sitemaps and Simple Navigation

It’s no secret that sitemaps and effective navigation strategies are important from an SEO perspective. Search engines operate on limited crawl budgets, meaning that they may only index a certain number of pages on your site on any given visit. If they have any difficulty navigating to different areas of your website (whether because of a lack of internal links or because of Flash-based navigation systems), you risk squandering this crawl budget unnecessarily.


As a result, sitemaps and efficient navigation options are great for the search engines, but their also great for your users. Keep in mind that users like things simplified as well. Really, nobody has time these days to click through page after page, looking for a single piece of information that could have been made easily accessible with a better navigation system.


So, do both your users and the search engines a favor by following sitemap creation best practices and implementing an HTML-based navigation system that ensures that every page on your site can be found within three clicks or less!


Combine SEO and User Experience Elements

From an SEO standpoint, huge chunks of text are good. Not only do they give the search engines’ spider programs a better understanding of your site’s focus area (increasing the odds that you’ll rank for the right search queries in the natural results), they also improve keyword discovery for webmasters (increasing the number of search queries for which you’ll rank).


But from a user standpoint, long stretches of uninterrupted text-based content aren’t all that great. Nobody wants to click on to a new website—only to be assaulted by the sheer volume of required reading offered by some pages.


That said, you don’t need to choose between the text content that’s favored by the search engines and the graphic experience preferred by website visitors. Just keep “the fold” of your website’s pages in mind. Because the first few moments of interaction on your website are so critical to interesting and retaining new visitors, consider including graphic elements on the top of your pages (where they’ll be seen right away by users) and text blogs on the bottom (where they’ll still be accessible by the search engines).  Everybody wins!


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