When you're passionate about optimizing a website for yourself or a client, it's easy to forget - even briefly - about visitors. While implementing any SEO tactic, it's important to keep your visitors in mind to make sure you're not excluding them.

Here's some advice to help you maintain a visitor-first mindset while performing SEO:

1. Change the way you think of keywords

Keywords aren't what they used to be; at least not in Google's eyes. Keywords used to be the secret weapons to getting first page rankings. When search databases were public, it was easy to find out what people were typing into the search bar; all you needed was the right software. These phrases could be leveraged to obtain first page rankings.

Today, keywords are still important, but there is no universal "first page ranking." Instead, Google provides personalized results with content that often doesn't even match the words that were searched for.

A while back, Google eliminated exact phrase matching (goodbye quotation marks) and put all their focus on what they call relevance. Their intent is to provide content that's relevant to a user's search.

For instance, someone searching for a phrase with the word "physician" will be given results that use synonyms like "doctor" and even "family medicine."

For this reason, it's important to think of keywords as an opportunity to capture a visitor's attention and get them to click on your page, rather than a tactic to achieve a first page ranking. This is what makes keyword diversity more important than ever.

Since Google wants to deliver results with synonyms and relevant phrases, keyword diversity makes both Google and visitors happy. However, it only works when the keywords you choose are relevant to your market. You can drive loads of traffic to your site using keywords related to your content, but unless that traffic is your market, you're not going to get conversions.

2. Make simple layout tweaks that put copy before images

Google reads pages from top to bottom and left to right - just like people in Western society. This means the order of your content matters. You want your content to be noticed by Google before your images. If you've got a page featuring a large image next to text, make sure to place your content left and image right, like in this example. To a visitor, there's no significant difference. To a search engine, there is.

3. Rewrite older content that was originally crafted for Google

If it's been years since you've updated the copy on your website, now is a good time to revisit your content. Chances are, you've got pages you haven't updated since Google completely transformed the way pages are ranked.

It's okay to rewrite copy that was written just to get Google's attention. Use your judgment. Consider whether the content on each of your pages serves your visitors. If the content doesn't serve visitors, and it's not supported by current search algorithms, rewrite it for your visitors.

4. Research every optimization tactic before using it

There will always be marketers looking to make a quick buck by selling their secrets and strategies. Sometimes these strategies are legitimate, and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes legitimate strategies work at the expense of the visitor.

Don't get sucked into the next fad. If an optimization tactic looks interesting to you, research it before you use it. Find out not only how it works, but how implementing it will affect visitors. If the strategy requires you to change the elements on your website in a way that defeats your marketing strategy, you may want to skip it.

Keep in mind that sometimes strategies work well for people because they experimented until they found something that got them results, not knowing how they did it. They reverse engineer their strategy and sell the explanation of how they think they got results, but it's not always accurate.

If your website was designed intentionally according to your marketing strategy, you might already be getting results as good (or better) than what you could achieve with a certain tactic. Always know what's behind the success of any tactic before implementing it; avoid taking a step backward with your own success.

Sometimes you can't research a tactic until you buy the program. In this case, research the seller as well as their affiliated companies and partnerships. If they seem trustworthy, go ahead and buy their program, but don't use it until you've researched it.

Stay focused on quality content

Following these tips will keep your visitors your main priority while you work your optimization magic. Remember that while SEO can bring you more traffic, your content will always determine your conversions.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.


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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > 4 Ways To Optimize Your Website For Visitors And Search Engines