One of the most trying points in my search marketing career has been molding a mindset coupling both SEO and the user experience. This primarily means stepping away from “bot obsession” and solely thinking about rankings and traffic.
Every campaign must meet site objectives while hopefully maintaining heightened organic visibility. SEO is evolving more to focus on satisfying the end user.
However, there are many times where I still want to make SEO, bot-focused revisions to a site that may impede upon site usability and the user experience. So this begs the question: which should win?
SEO, Meet Usability
While it may seem difficult to meld both SEO on-page implementation while also providing the best user experience, those who can do this well will be the more successful search tacticians.
What I have compiled below are what I seem to encounter the most day-to-day in the ongoing relationship between usability and SEO with my clients.
We need more content above the fold but if we do add a few paragraphs it will push our product listings below the page fold. This is a logical worry. We can appease the engines with above-fold content but what if it is at the cost of losing product listing visibility?
Use tabs or an expanding div. With this, you will be able to show introductory page content with an option for an interested reader to read more while also having product listing visibility about the page fold.
If you're using an expanding solution that is visible text to search engines, then you should have no worries. Where folks go wrong is with the usage of frames. The framed text is invisible to bots.
Instead of posting text content on page we have a lot we want to say it in a more entertaining manner. We want to use video.
Video? That’s great! If you choose to go the video route you need to take advantage of video SEO needs such as titling, video sitemap, video schema, and placement on video sharing networks.
Instead of descriptive video copy, provide an expandable area featuring a transcript of the video. With this you are again taking advantage of the fore-mentioned copy tactic above or if you wish you can just list it below the page fold. Now you have one message separated into two different content types.
We have so many PDFs on-site but we want to keep them because our users like to print them for reference and when on-the-go.
Plain and simple, I think PDFs suck. I don’t like them because I feel that an HTML page will rank better than a PDF. Also, PDFs don’t allow for analytical tracking so we lose organic traffic credit. But, they do rank.
If HTML migration isn’t in the works, at least revise the Document Properties Title and ensure there are links back to the site in the PDF as well as keyword-to-content relevancy.
In my opinion, I say that we take all text and imagery from the PDF and transition to HTML pages. At the top or/and the bottom of the HTML page you can also feature a link to the PDF version for the grab-and-go crowd.
Give the HTML version a few weeks to get crawled and hopefully take over the PDFs listing in search and then robots.txt exclude the PDF content which we duplicated.
Problem: We're required by our lawyers to have a large block of "disclaimer" text across many pages of our site. Google's Matt Cutts says in his video on duplicate content from just last summer that this type of issue shouldn't be of concern.
While I want to believe a lot of what he says, I also have to think about what Google says they want to see in regard to content quality. If I have many pages that are lacking in content with exception to the disclaimer text, then I have many pages with very similar content.
Solution: Make the disclaimer text embedded in an image. You will still inform the users and the lawyers will be happy, but you will rid the site of excess duplicated copy.
SEO & Usability Can Live Happily Together
The above constitute a small sampling of what I see on a regular basis. It goes to show you that even though you have great SEO intentions, usability or client needs for site users don’t always have to be a block in the road.
With a little SEO prowess, brainstorming, and a will to find collective benefit from both sides, you will be eventually possess a strategy/site that is both highly effective and highly visible.