The trade off between SEO and Website Usability

A site without serious Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is either for personal use or is so big that people use it by default (like Google and Facebook). Good SEO helps search engines to understand what your site and its pages are about and which elements are more important. But there is a snag because a site written purely for search engines will have poor usability. Search engines are not humans, they are simple beasts not needing structured sentences, navigation in the right place and images.

SEO is what every site needs before a user gets to a site; Usability is what is needed once the user has arrived. There is a fine balance with a trade off between SEO and usability. In the struggle SEO needs to win because is a user never gets to a website in the first place then it doesn’t matter how usable it is. On the other hand when the user arrives on a site we want them to easily find what they are looking for, stay and return. Search engines are now using popularity as a measure of ranking so the experience the user has on site bringing them back is important.

Other methods are available to get people to your website – social media, newsletters and link building – but not be fooled the vast majority of websites are found by using search engines and this is where most of your budget needs to be spent.

What does Google see on page?

To get an idea what a search engine like Google sees when it looks at your site take the following steps.

  1. Enter site:www.yoursitename.com into the Google search box
  2. Hover to the right of a listing and you will see a double chevron which generates a preview of that page.
  3. At the top of the preview you will see the Cached click on it.
  4. This opens the cached version that Google is actually looking at and at the top it tells you when it cached it.
  5. In the top grey box to the top right you will see Text-only version click on it.

This is the text only version that Google is actually seeing – ignoring the layout and images – and showing tags as they are actually expressed ignoring style sheets. This can come as a big surprise and you will quickly see how well your pages are really constructed.

What are the common on page mistakes?

  1. Missing key header tags <h1> <h2> <h3>. Many modern sites use style sheets for everything, which is good but often at the expense of key search engine tags. Make sure your designer is using these header tags.
  2. Over use of <h1> <h2> <h3>. Some designers realise that header tags are needed but then over use them on the wrong parts of the site. Take control and make sure header tags are used sparingly on the right content.
  3. Repeated content. Poorly designed repeated page to page content can make every page on a site look the same. For example many sites now have a common navigation across all pages. This loads the page with large amounts of content that is the same across the site. It also pushes key content down the page reducing its significance. To solve this move common navigation in javascript blocks so they are loaded with the page but hidden from the search engine.
  4. Key content too far down the page. The higher up the page (as seen in text mode) key content is the better – it raises its significance.

As always there is more to just building a website and it is always worth considering how a search engines see your website balanced with how the user sees it.

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4 comments on “The trade off between SEO and Website Usability

  1. How did u pick up the tips to create ““The trade off between SEO and Website Usability |
    Community Connections Cambridge” ceoblogwatch.com ? I appreciate it ,
    Robby

  2. Pingback: Making the most of the web content you already have | Community Connections Cambridge - Web & Social Media Experts

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