SEO is a lot like life. You learn a lot as you go along and make a few mistakes along the way. Mistakes we make in life shape our path for years to come. The same is true of the optimization tactics we employ and their power to change the where, when and how a site is listed.
Possibly one of the greatest mistakes made SEO wise is forgetting that the focus when optimizing a site should always be on the end user. Discarding this principle and constructing a series of web pages aimed specifically at the search engine spiders has far reaching implications that stretch beyond search positioning. A site built only to secure better rankings may flourish initially but will end up a loser long term.
The ultimate goal of search engine optimization is to increase website visibility to internet users searching for a particular product or service. Having worked hard to get high enough up the SERPs to drive interested traffic to the site, it’s always baffling to find sites that immediately lose any advantage gained by presenting their visitor with a site that hasn’t actually been designed for them at all.
Content stuffed with keywords, an overload of H1 and H2 tags, too much focus on the technical and no thought to the branding and visual, drive the hard won traffic away. Often they navigate directly in to the arms of more SEO savvy competitors. Yes, you need to have the optimization elements in place to secure your spot in the results, but this does not have to be at the cost of the visitor experience.
When optimizing a site, the best approach is to almost forget about the search engines and focus primarily on the target demographic. Lavishing those likely to buy from you with care, attention and unique content is wholly more profitable than trying to please a search platform. After all, a number one ranking won’t pay the bills. Happy clients will.
So exactly how do you optimize a site for a customer base rather than a search engine? Content, as always, holds the key. Whether they’re repeat buyers, new buyers or simply browsing, anyone tempted to flash the cash will appreciate time taken to educate and inform. That means housing lots of original, informative even entertaining content and updating regularly. Although this is an old rule, it’s one that is well worth repeating. Even taking a few minutes a day to add more detailed product descriptions, post a news item when you win a new client or an industry award or simply provide a monthly update on what’s new with the company – store openings, an online catalog, a seasonal sale for example – reaps dividends.
Search engines can’t crawl through images making them virtually worthless from an optimization point of view. Not so when your focus is the end user. The old saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words” is as true online as it is off, making a few well chosen images a wonderful website investment. Commissioning a professional photographer or paying for library prints may be something of a misnomer when trying to optimize a site as it draws cash flow away from techies and agencies with sure-fire techniques for better page ranking. However, even just one or two eye-catching images can be made a focal point of the site. If the pictures are of great products or happy customers enjoying unrivaled service, all the better. As we all tighten our belts in the face of an economic meltdown, actually being able to see the product being sold or enjoying a visual depiction of the benefits on offer is a powerful persuader.
Likewise, audio and TV content can be used to transform those wavering in their decision to buy into committed clients. Things like existing client testimonials and clips from local radio coverage not only add multimedia interest to the site but contain strong calls to action. Serving up content in a number of guises engages the interest of the human eye. Compare a site offering video, audio, image and text with one stuffed full of keyword rich text yet skimpy in actual information, and it’s easy to see which one engineers more interaction and ultimately, affiliation.