Write for Search Engines or the Consumer? How to Balance SEO and the User Experience.

Balancing SEO and User Experience
Do I focus on SEO or the user experience?

I recently met with a client who was considering removing quite a bit of content from their website. “It doesn’t help us with the search engines,” they argued, “so it won’t make a difference if we remove it.” Right? Not necessarily.

Having previously worked in public relations, I’m accustomed to defending tactics that aren’t directly tied to ROI. Why do I need to spend money creating “warm fuzzies” that may never directly lead to a sale? For the same reason the Mall of America needs to stop putting black text over a blue background on their map kiosks. It didn’t keep me from buying a new pair of jeans, but since I couldn’t read the map, it took a frustrating 20 minutes to locate the store – and didn’t improve my user experience!

So how do we approach this issue? Focus on SEO and weed out any content that may not boost your rankings, or focus on the user and hope it produces a favorable end result with the search engines?

Aim for the Best of Both Worlds
In the world of SEO, I believe it’s possible to “have it all.” You can write for the user AND the search engines. I’m sure you’re thinking, “I’ve always been told to focus on the user!” True, but you can’t completely forget about the search engines either. SEO doesn’t just happen without effort. Do your keyword research to see how users are searching, incorporate those keywords into your content in a natural way, and do your due diligence to help the search engines crawl your site and know how to best categorize your content.

Clean House with a Discerning Eye
I recently downsized from a 4/4.5 house to a 2/1.5 townhouse. Painful? Definitely. But it was good. I sold furniture I didn’t need and finally took all my spare change to the Coinstar® machine. I also accidentally donated a whole trash bag of my winter shoes to Goodwill (some lucky lady wearing size 7.5 hit the jackpot).

My point? Clean house, but don’t throw away elements you may still need. Don’t strip your site down so much that you lose the essence of the brand or leave the consumer without an engaging, helpful user experience. I recommend cleaning out the closets of your website at least every quarter. This gives you the opportunity to not only refresh your content (which helps with the search engines) but also get rid of content that isn’t needed, is outdated or gets negligible traffic. Are you saying the same thing seven ways on the same page? Pare it down. Keep it simple and organized.

Just don’t throw away your new boots.

Suzanne Youngblood – Director of Content Marketing

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