December 15, 2010
well deserved. When a client hires an outside SEO consultant during the design and development of a new website, it's often not looked upon kindly by the development team. Chances are the team has had bad experiences with an SEO who forced them to design for search engines and not for people.
Who wouldn't be upset by that? Search engines don't buy products. They don't sign up for newsletters, and they don't tell their friends about your great company.
If that's what any SEO consultant tries to do, it is wrong. More than that, it isn't SEO. It is pseudo SEO that is implemented when there's not enough budget to do things correctly.
Get that type of SEO out of your head.
Real SEOs Understand Usability
But don't be fooled into thinking that their SEO recommendations are just for the search engines. Nearly anything that's implemented for better visibility in search engines, when done correctly, also enhances the website for users as well. But it does take a lot more work, which means you're also going to have to spend more money.
Remember, while Google's own user interface may be evolving rapidly, the crawler and indexing components are still very much like old web browsers. Crawlers can't easily use the search boxes on your website to find information and products hidden in your database. They need obvious links that point to web pages that showcase the content that sits in your database. They also can't see or index content contained in images. And while they can extract some information from Flash, in practice, it might as well be invisible.
Guess what else behaves like an older web browser? Screen readers meant for people with low vision or other disabilities that impede their ability to surf the web through traditional browsers.
Know what else? Ironically, many mobile browsers (which should be on the cutting-edge) can act in an old-fashioned way – iPhones don't see Flash at all! And some cell phone browsers make it difficult to navigate around a site that only has search boxes. On slow mobile connections (can you say "Edge Network"?), images may not even show up. In all of these cases, if SEO and usability best practices have been put into place, the visitor experience is much simpler and better all around. Clearly, it's a lot easier to click links when you're browsing a website from your phone rather than it is to try to figure out the various configurations of some e-commerce site search boxes.
SEO Creates Better User Experiences
Whether you care if your website is search engine friendly or not (and you ought to care!), it should never be designed so that the only way to get around is via search boxes. It's nothing short of poor usability. Your target market is composed of different types of people who are likely to find what they're looking for in different ways. Providing alternate forms of navigation helps everyone (including search engines) find exactly what they're looking for.
The next time your SEO consultant recommends something that you don't think is necessary, ask them why it should be that way. If they mention that it will be better for both search engines and site visitors (and can explain why), then you can rest assured that they are not your enemy or trying to sabotage your beautiful website. They have the best interests of everyone in mind at all times.