Another Look At SEO
Another Look At SEO
I think it's reasonably safe to assume that most people have used search engines at some time to research products and services. Whether you're looking for a wedding planner or to find the nearest pizza restaurant, the answer is online, all you have to do is ask. Conversely, if you have a commercial website, achieving multiple first page search engine rankings can drive thousands of qualified visitors to your site every day.
Advertising or Information
TV, Radio and Printed advertising are intrusive; they attempt to interrupt the viewer, listener or reader long enough to take notice of a marketing message. This type of marketing is known as Push marketing. Here the marketing message, along with where and when it's delivered, are pretty much controlled by the advertiser.
The internet reverses this process, internet users turn to search engines in order to receive the information they want at a time and place that suits them. Before there were search engines, printed directories like Yellow Pages were the best way to locate a service. In the same way that someone using Yellow Pages to locate a wedding planner is likely to be looking for someone to help plan a wedding, someone using a search engine to research and locate your products or services is probably in the market for what you offer. This is called pull marketing.
I am not suggesting that traditional marketing no longer works, rather I am pointing out that someone who arrives at your site via a search engine is proactively seeking information. The chances are they have already decided to buy and are looking to locate a product. They are not looking for advertising or hype, they want information, they want it to be accessible, and they want the site to be user friendly.
What has Usability and Accessibility to do with SEO
Failing to consider accessibility or usability is failing to consider your visitors. At the end of the day SEO is rather more than simply obtaining search engine positions, it must in some way produce a return on investment. More sales, more leads or more opt-ins is what SEO is really about. Sure, search engine visibility plays a big part, but remember this, no one ever buys from a search engine!
The fact is, many accessibility techniques could be considered SEO and vice versa. For example:
- Using CSS to separate style from content.
- Using valid, standards compliant code.
These simple steps will allow search engines to spider, index, categorise and rank web pages much easier. Furthermore, pages will download faster, be accessible to a wider range of browsers, older technologies and assistive devices such as screen readers. Note that each of Google's guidelines actually correlates with a W3C Web Content Accessibility Guideline.
One should not forget the legal responsibility to provide accessible web pages. Over recent years there have been some high profile court cases where companies have been successfully sued for failing to provide websites that are accessible to all.
Good usability enhances the visitor experience and encourages visitors to stay on your site longer. A great visitor experience rarely happens by chance, rather, it stems from an intimate understanding of your visitors and their immediate and long term goals.
- Identifying the different personas or groups of people who visit your website
- Evaluating the range of goals they have
- Structuring information into logical paths
- Help them achieve their goals in the minimum number of clicks.
The paths should initially address your visitors immediate needs by answering their questions and concerns then steer them towards completing the goal or call to action you have set out for them.
Further reading on Usability
SEO in the purest sense is about gaining search engine positions. If you know enough about SEO you will realise that just about any page will rank if you point enough links at it. But what will happen when a visitor lands on one of your pages, is the navigation intuitive, does the website think like them, do your pages render quickly in their browser of choice, does it project trust, will it make a sale?
SEO Scotland: Promoting business online with professionalism and integrity.
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