I recently sat in on a Vertical Measures webinar presented by Alan Bleiweiss, an SEO expert who’s worked with top-dollar clients and has over 11 years experience in the industry. His main discussion was about how to generate a quality SEO strategy that can be used to help rank your clients without cutting corners or reverting to “shady” practices.
One point in the webinar that really struck me was that SEO is about the user, not the company. It’s an obvious point, but how Bleiweiss delved deeper into the topic is what interested me the most. As it turns out, most companies may know that SEO is about user experience, but they may not be using it in their own practices—not efficiently enough, anyway.
So how exactly can you improve your user experience?
Avoid Common SEO Mistakes
Here’s a list of 5 common SEO mistakes that were featured on http://burlingtonseo.org/ recently, these are so common that even the most reputable companies make them from time to time.
Dilution refers to having too many of the same type of keywords on one page. Bleiweiss gave the example of cars: “car” and “automobile” are two strong category types, but using words like “vehicle” or “4 wheel transportation” are too vague and can point to other subjects. You should stick to one or two categories for your keywords and make sure you’re using quality, not quantity.
Poor Information Structure
This refers to the belief that website visitors are looking to make as few clicks as possible through the website. Of course, you want visitors to find the information they’re looking for as quickly and seamlessly as possible, but that doesn’t mean adding every single page to the homepage navigation bar. “Trust the user,” Bleiweiss says, and you’ll be surprised that they’ll find what they’re looking for without every link in the header or footer.
We all want our clients to rank as high as possible for as many keywords as possible. But this doesn’t mean that your client is going to rank for a million keywords instantly. Instead, you should focus on one or two important keywords for ranking—the others will come in time and as your client’s online reputation increases.
No one wants to sit and wait for a site to load anymore—we simply no longer have the time or attention span. Bleiweiss encourages removing extraneous or unnecessary “clutter” from your site in order to speed it up. Too many social pages, images, or widgets could be deterring users from even entering your site.
External Link Weakness
“Trying to fake is harder than ever,” Bleiweiss warns. With the recent search engine updates, it’s risky for business to try and cut corners just to make a quick load of cash. Too many links without enough anchor text, too many irrelevant links, and too much irrelevant information makes for a terrible experience. Instead, you should focus on quality content with relevant links that lead your user where they want/need to go.
Think Less about Yourself
Bleiweiss emphasized several times that marketing companies need to start thinking outside of themselves in order to be successful with their SEO strategies. This means thinking like your audience base.
For example, if your client sells air conditioning services to homeowners, you’ll want to think like a homeowner who needs air conditioning services. Once you can realistically put yourself in that mindset, you can focus your keywords around what your audience will most likely search for. “HVAC service” isn’t going to be as viable as “air conditioning service” in this case—firstly because most people don’t know what “HVAC” stands for and secondly because the keyword phrase “air conditioning service” is specific to your client’s business.
But the user experience goes far beyond simply searching for a keyword. All of the common SEO mistakes add up to make a terrible user experience. Just because everything looks and loads fine when you’re viewing your client’s website doesn’t mean this is true for your users.
Work Harder AND Smarter
No one said SEO was easy—it’s not supposed to be. But all the hard work you put into your sited to make them more user-friendly will show in your traffic and rankings.
Bleiweiss’ final word of advice is something I think everyone should take to heart: “Fundamental SEO is always the same.” No matter how many search engine updates come out, no matter how much the Internet changes over time, the best practices will always be the ones that remain the best despite change. And those are the strategies that you want to follow.