Thoughts About SEO and Site Design

seoSEO – Search Engine Optimization – is fine as long as it stays in its place.  What I mean by that is: content and service are King and Queen.  Many SEO specialists believe that you must change your content, menus, site tags, and much, much more to adhere to SEO keywords, in order to get your site in the top search engine results so coveted by marketers.  Honestly, that’s BS.  Why?  Because people use sites, not search engines.  A site should be designed to make friends – with real, live people.  Search engines are robots, not friends.

If you create good content; have a well-behaved, properly laid-out site; and you are filling a need or want well; people will come.  There is no substitute for having a good site with good content, except for maybe having an excellent site with excellent content!  In some places this is referred to as organic or natural SEO, like word of mouth in advertising – the best!  It takes links from other sites into yours, mentions on blogs, and trusted third-parties connecting to your site to make a search engine rank your site higher.  Creating unnatural or false details could actually cause your site to be banned from major search engines!

Now lets talk about site design and why it’s so important.  In my work I visit lots of sites on the web.  The first thing that turns me off when opening a site is poor design – pop-ups and things that interrupt my reading, like those sections of the page, usually found at the top, which expand and compress.  They make the content move when I’m trying to read it, and that’s a major pain in the butt!   Why are you making your info a moving target?  How is that gimmicky pop-in/out helping serve your visitors?  People don’t like moving targets unless they are shooting at them!

The next thing that bothers me is how busy some pages are.  How many links do you need to display?  Why are there 6 menus?  Even though I use, I think their page layout is terrible!  “Too many options” is as bad as “not enough”.  Maybe worse.  They are just too busy and there is TOO MUCH INFORMATION – which leads to INFORMATION OVERLOAD!!!!

Third pet peeve: just plain bad organization.  Let’s face it – one important feature of a link is that you can organize them in multiple ways.  Think of a cross-reference.  For example, given the proper index, you can look up people by first name, last name, telephone number, address, etc.  With HTML, you can create links to pages, searches, and other links that take advantage of this multiple link capability.  You can have multiple links produce (or take you to) the same results.  Another example: looking for a product.  I might call it and search for a “lawn chair”, while someone else might call it “deck seating”.  Now in this respect, localized search optimization and expansion of search terms would be a major benefit.  SEO might enhance this, as well, but it will probably not help your site come up higher in search results.

Do you think I’m going to recommend those kinds of terrible sites to friends?  Do you think I’m going to mention those sites in any blogging I do?  Will I link to them from my pages?  Would you?  NO!  No linking means lower search result placement.  Remember, your web site is trying to attract and retain users, give them what they want – which in most cases is information, and MAKE AND KEEP FRIENDS!  The more friends you have, with more linking and web presence, the higher your site will be in the search engine results.  There is no short cut for this!  It helps to be organized and at least somewhat logical from the users’ perspective.  And don’t forget easy-to-use!  To visitors, little things count.  For example, if your target audience is over 50, consider using larger fonts.  It makes the content easier to read for older eyes.  I know when I come across a site that has ultra-tiny text. I usually move on to the next one in the list.  These little things don’t come across in the SEO world, but they make a big difference in visitor numbers and retention!

You want some great tips about how to making your site better?  See Google’s excellent suggestions here:  Note that the first item is “Give visitors the information they’re looking for”.  Even though these are presented as ways to get your site “Google-friendly”, they are perfect suggestions for being people-friendly, too!

And next time we’ll talk about a super-set of SEO, ORM – Online Reputation Management.  This is, in my opinion, much more important and more far-reaching than the over-used term SEO.