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February 17, 2009

The Heart Of SEO - Usability

February 17, 2009
I've been thinking about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) a lot recently. My recent post on Compendium really brought some of my thoughts into focus. Here is what I think a website's guiding SEO strategy should be- usability. Not title tags, Meta tags, external links, etc. These are all important but really the heart of SEO is about the user. Giving them the experience they want to have when they come to your website.

You can spend a lot of money, and many do, on getting a lot of traffic to your website. But if it isn't the right traffic or it isn't sticky traffic then what good is it? You need to have a website that attracts and retains the right people. Engages them in a conversation. If you do this, along with the obvious on-site SEO stuff, you will see your rankings increase over time for the right searches.

Think like Google thinks. They aren't really a technology company they are a connection company (borrowing a great phrase from our buddies at MediaSauce). They are trying to match people with the best possible result for their search. If they connect you with the right listing then they will consider the search a success. More importantly if you land on a page that quickly addresses your search and guides you to the information you need you will consider the search a success. If you bounce back to Google and modify your search or choose another listing then the site you landed on has failed. Google sees this and takes note.

Get to know your visitors. Use Google Analytics or GetClicky.com (my personal fav). They are as real as people walking in the front door of your business, looking around, maybe asking some questions and most of the time leaving without taking action. If you had dozens or hundreds of people doing that every day wouldn't you be in a panic to fix the problem and convert more of them into paying customers? Start thinking of your website that way. People are walking in, looking around, not finding what they want and leaving, silently.

There are still a lot of ways to game Google but eventually Google will find those tricks and eliminate them. One thing they will never punish a site for is being user friendly. Focus on that and the rest will follow.

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