Search engines are one of the most used tools on the web. If you need to find the best recipe for blueberry muffins, you Google it. If you need to rid yourself of a computer virus or malware, you probably Google it. If you’re a computer savvy individual, and a family member asks you how to do something on the computer, your way out is, “I don’t know, have you tried Googling it?”
SEO – or search engine optimization – is a series of tactics used to make your website rank higher on any given search engine based on keywords users enter when searching for something. The way search engines decide how high to place something is via a somewhat obfuscated algorithm. And there are tactics that you can take advantage of this algorithm so that when searching for certain keywords, your website ranks higher in the search results, making it easier for your content to be discovered.
These tactics are often guised with the term “SEO Value”. In the nineties, companies would increase “SEO value” by stuffing their webpages with keywords. Developers were clever; they would make the text so small you couldn’t even read it, or would place white text on white backgrounds, making the thousands of repetitive keywords used to impact search results hidden from the end user.
Google caught onto this tactic, and tactics like it and modified their algorithm to not only ignore keyword stuffing, but to de-rank or ban websites that did so.
Today, Google’s algorithm has gotten incredibly complex, and has been tested to factor in not only keywords, but content quality, code quality, page load time, mobile friendliness, bounce rate, navigation/internal linking, time spent on your site, among many other things.
SEO value, contrary to popular belief, is not just volume of content, it is not just using the right keywords, it is not just creating a responsive website. SEO value is about making your website useful and interesting. Boosting your position in search is not something that happens over night, and is not something you can brute force your way to.
Google’s algorithm is changing constantly; it is slowly evolving to provide its users with the best web experience possible, and therefor does its best to reward websites that follow that principle.
At the end of the day, your users are people, not bots, statistics, or equations. Treating them otherwise will not only negatively impact your “SEO value”, but the perception of your brand. As a business, your website is first and foremast a source of information. It a product that allows users to access your content, products, and a better understanding of who you are. SEO Value as a tactic is secondary to creating a good, usable, useful website for your users.
Since the dawn of time there have been ads. Ok, not the dawn of time per se, but as far back as any of us can remember, there have been advertisements shoved in our faces, through our ears, and down our throats from one medium to the next. Be it a radio jingle, or a tv commercial skit, ads have existed for quite some time.
But as long as ads have existed, humans have found ways to get around them. TV and radio had a volume control and mute buttons, VHS players had fast-forward buttons.
We are in the dawn of a new era, where everything is digital; every move we watch, every tv show, every song, every newspaper, every piece of information you desire can be found online. And yes, there are ads. There are people wanting something from you – money, your email address, something.
Ever been reading a really interesting blog post when THIS happens?:
Yes, we’ve all been there! What impression does this leave you with? My first thought is “I need to join a trial to even read this?! Am I really required to give my credit-card info just to read an article, when you’ve got 3 ads in the first fold?”
Little do I notice the little “x” button. So small.
Brad frost illustrated this perfectly : “Welcome to our website, screw you!”
So what do I do? I go and install today’s version of a mute-button: yes, an adblocker. Because, let’s face it, people don’t like dealing with the things they don’t like. You wouldn’t willingly step in a pile of dog shit, would you?
There are far more elegant ways to make money through your website than shoving garbage down people’s throats.
This is not an issue of whether someone values your content or not; it’s a matter of how you justify your actions. Interrupting what I’m doing or trying to do isn’t going to make me want to pay for your services.
This is why user experience is key in every site. User experience matters – it affects your SEO ranking, it affects your revenue, and it affects how people perceive your brand. This is crucial to understand.
When a user lands on your site, what you present to them, whether you like it or not, sets expectations. It sets a tone. Your users aren’t stupid; they know your motives. They can tell whether you’re just the type of company that sees them as dollar signs, or sees them as people.
When you dive into building your next site, or launching your next optimization test, ask yourself if what you’re doing is genuinely useful to your visitors. Don’t try and trick them into buying something, or confuse them down a funnel. Don’t offer them content, and present them with distraction. If you say “click here to read more” then don’t give them something to read, why on earth do you think they’ll do anything but leave?
When we get fixated on “conversion rate” and “rpv”, we tend to view our users not as people, but as equations – statistics. As much as we’d like to pretend our users won’t notice – they do. And yes, they will use the mute button 🙂