Tonight on Twitter while I was following the Third Tuesday Toronto (yes, held on a Monday) tweets, I was also watching a debate between SugarRae & SEOmom2 about what search engine optimization entailed/ means. Steve Rubel at the Third Tuesday event made a comment that SEO was in trouble because tags & linking structure aren’t relevant to the engines anymore, it’s now about content and links. Well, it’s been about content and links in the Google algorithms for a long time now and good SEO has always had that at its forefront. The architecture used supports the actual content displayed vs. driving what the engines find relevant.
SEO is not about optimizing your site for the search engines, it’s about optimizing your website for the people looking for you – your content, your products, your information. If you “do” SEO well it’s part of your overall design strategy, content strategy, information architecture planning and usability – in other words it’s about making your site USER friendly and optimized which then translates into something the search engines will crawl and say “hey, that’s relevant, let’s index and promote it”. Which then translates into the engines displaying your website in the top results when a user comes along and says “I’m looking for X”.
I’ve always defined SEO to clients as part and parcel of user-experience. If a user gets lost or confused, so will the search engine. If a user doesn’t find the content or information you’re displaying relevant, chances are the sophisticated algorithms the search engines use won’t either. If your back-end is a mess, chances are great your front-end is a mess as well. Of course there are ways to game this, as there are ways to game social media, PPC, etc. But done well, SEO not only helps the engine find your content, but helps you determine what type of information your users/ customers find relevant and useful so you can provide it to them. Your content and products (text, video, audio, graphical, etc.) are why people are on your site after all.
- Your site architecture and layout should be intuitive and easy to navigate (i.e. based on how people use the web vs. your internal company structure).
- Your site content should be robust, value-based, and based on your target audiences needs (expressed or implied).
- Your site meta information should enable the engines & users to quickly figure out the relevance of a particular page.
- You should be using your analytics to inform content decisions and additions.
- With the addition of Social Media, your content should be sharable/ chunk-able into micro-sharing & participation with whomever is so inclined.
It’s really that simple at the end of the day. There are of course complex and advanced functions to consider, but if you do the above well the engines will reward you. And as we move into the realm of universal search, content & value become more important than ever to integrate into your website.
Would love to hear your thoughts – is this what you thought SEO was about?
[photo credit: Lawrence Whittemore via Flickr]