February 9, 2010
The Balance Between Usability and SEO
To ensure your website works hard for your business, you need to make sure that it is both user-friendly and search-engine-friendly. Striking a balance between these two items is extremely important if you want a website that is both visible in the online market and successful in communicating with your customers.
It’s no good having a fantastically designed website that communicates your brand and engages with your customers when they reach your website if they can’t actually find it when they start searching in search engines. And similarly, it’s no use having a website that ranks at the top of Google if your users only get frustrated after the first 10 seconds they spend on the site, only to return to the search engine results and go to a competitor’s website that ranks below yours.
But there are a few ways that you can balance the requirements of both users and search engine spiders:
- Content, content, content. Search engine friendly websites are all about the content. However, usability experts say that users won’t read your website extensively and excess content will only frustrate them as they won’t be able to find the important information they are looking for. There are a couple of ways to ensure your users can still find what they are looking for while also increasing the content on your website for the search engines. Firstly, make sure important content that is aimed at users is kept above the fold line. Users will read by scanning the page and they’ll often get sick of reading before they get to the bottom of the page. Search engine spiders, however, are not so fussy. They’ll read the text even if it’s at the bottom of the page. Therefore, place SEO content at the bottom of the page and even segment horizontally with a line to deter users from reading that far and becoming bogged down.
- Use logical headings. These need to strike a balance between your SEO keywords and the need to also guide users as to what will be included in the page content. Users read a web page by first scanning the headings before deciding whether it is worth the time reading the content. Search engines also like headings so it’s important to make sure your headings are logical and well thought out.
- Keep content fresh. Make sure your content is always up-to-date. Users will become frustrated if they find out of date information, particularly if your site advertises upcoming events or other date-related items. Search engines also like to see fresh content that is constantly updated.
- Check for errors regularly. Not only are broken links frustrating for users but they also annoy the spiders. It goes without saying, but you should also make sure there are no spelling errors on your website.
Obviously there are far more ways to improve the usability or search-engine-friendliness of your site, but these are just a few starting points to help strike a balance between a user-friendly site and a search-engine-friendly site.