One of the most often overlooked factors in Search Engine Optimisation is user behaviour. When approached by a client many SEO companies offer the knee-jerk reaction services such as:
It overlooks one very fundamental point:
and this very often means you will receive one very bad piece of advice: Do your website design first and your SEO second.
To understand the flaw in this thinking it's important to understand that there are three steps to SEO, not two.
When the search engines send robots to your website they can read the code and content but they cannot have an emotional response.
So take this site and the phrase “How to SEO your website”. Robots can tell this website is about SEO and pick up there is a great deal of “How to” content here. But is it better than other websites?
The aim of every search engine is to provide good results for any search, but good for humans – not robots.
So far a robot can find this site and understand its' context but to assess if it is a “good” site it needs some help from humans and internet users give them exactly that.
All search engines can measure:
Google often has a further advantage. As almost anyone who is serious about SEO has Google Analytics installed this search engine can tell a whole lot more such as:
So the robots make the first cut guess about where a site should rank for a particular keyword and then search engines harness user behaviour to decide if that first cut was good or bad – and therefore if your website should move up or down in the search results.
This means it is possible to use code and content to gain good rankings only to see them fall again unless you are using a company that understands user-behaviour is every bit as vital as your page titles, URLs, backlinks and other SEO factors.
User-behaviour is a key part of our approach to SEO. Improving your CTR is a code thing but reducing your bounce rate and increasing the average amount of time an internet user spends on your site can be a very different kettle of fish.
While many companies try to separate website design from SEO we don't. How your website looks, the ease in which it can be navigated, the way it encourages users to explore other content all affect your bounce and average time on site.
In other words Website Design is every bit an important part of SEO as coding, content and links. They are inseparable.
Great design + poor content = negative user behaviour = loss of rankings Poor design + great content = negative user behaviour = loss of rankings
So how come there are some websites out there that look awful but rank highly?
Always remember with SEO it's all about you and your competitors. Website A with poor design and great content can rank highly if there isn't a website with a great design and great content that is SEOed and ready to compete.
But it means there is an opportunity for Website A to be toppled at any time and innumerable online store owners have discovered this to their cost.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.