Certain webmasters refuse to acknowledge SEO and some go way over board. What I want to talk about today is those who over optimize their site. These are the people who read every SEO article out there, subscribe to 30 SEO blogs and change their whole site after hearing about a new factor.
These are the webmasters who changed their whole site, got rid of images and videos in May 2011 when Google told the world that they use Page Speed in the algorithm.
Let me get this one thing straight, I am not against SEO in fact I am very pro SEO being the owner of a website that helps people build links to their website. What I am against is the webmasters who forget to write high quality content because they are so focused on optimizing their website.
Great content optimizes itself
Google have been crawling websites and indexing pages for so many years they have developed a very sophisticated algorithm that recognizes high quality content.
Sure all those on page SEO factors count and should be adhered to but the quality and quantity of that content is paramount.
The whole point of Google’s PageRank algorithm is that users link to the content they find valuable. And since the dawn of search engines on page factors have consistently become less of a factor. There are two examples of this that come to the top of my mind.
Google have confirmed that they no longer use the meta keywords tag because it is totally controlled by the webmaster and can be manipulated. And then on the other side of the fence Google have very recently confirmed that they are using social signals in their algorithm and they will continue to develop this factor. Social signals are almost totally user controlled.
To summarize, how well your website ranks is being put more in the user’s hands. What can we conclude from that?
You should be optimizing more for users than for the search engines.
Optimizing for users
There are tons of articles out there on what users like and I have read many of them. Here is a summary of what most of them say:
- An appropriate font and size is key, it needs to be large enough to read, 13-18 seems to be perfect and the ideal web font is apparently Arial and the related font family. Although there is a bit of debate on that one, the important thing is to stay away from hard to read web fonts like Times New Roman which might work well for print media but not online.
- Use images and videos. Without a doubt users love plenty of images and videos. Take a look at my website and you will see I am a real big fan of images. You can buy high quality inexpensive images from iStockphoto.com, that’s where I get mine.
- Break up the text with headings, paragraphs and lists.
- Use bold, italics and underlined words sparsely and only use for important statements.
- A good web design, I personally don’t mind this one too much, just a clean web page with a white background is what I like, don’t splash out too much on a web designer if you do go down that route.
- Content accessibility. This for me is the most important. Link to other pages on your site just like Wikipedia do. When I visit Wikipedia I usually end up reading about 5 pages, even though I only came for 1.
- Use summaries, sum up what you wrote in every article with a single paragraph, this is particularly important for long pages and blog posts. For example check out the summary of this post.
- Make sure pages load quickly, but don’t sacrifice rich media for this factor.
There are so many other things I could list but this resource from usability.gov does the rest http://www.usability.gov/pdfs/chapter2.pdf
The key take away from this post is to focus on your visitors when you write. Next time you are writing a post, think what “would a user want me to say or provide”?
At the end of the day there is a balance to be struck. For example I can guarantee there is nobody searching for “the content conundrum” but there are people searching for over optimization and related keywords. I have written this post for the user and not the search engine, but I know that the search engine benefit will come.