Developing your site so that it enhances your visitors' shopping experience and improves conversion rates does not automatically mean that you have a site that is friendly to the search engines. Similarly developing a site that is search engine friendly doesn't automatically make it user-friendly. But these things are also not mutually exclusive. You can please both search engines and website visitors.
While search engines are important, keep in mind that your visitors are even more important. When making edits to your site always consider the implications on both your human visitors and the search engines as well. Every change you make will have either a positive, negative or neutral effect on your human visitors and the search engine spider. You need to know ahead of time the effect any particular change will have and use that as a basis for determining if its worthwhile or not.
For a look at some of the least desirable types of changes you can make to your website review the first two parts of this series: Ultimately, if you have to decide between users and spiders err on the side of making your site better for people. Here are the final three paths that you may face with any site change you are looking to make. Of the nine paths, these are your best options overall.
Path 7: Good for spiders, indifferent for people
Many, many valuable website changes have absolutely zero effect on your human visitors but they are necessary in order to enhance your site's spiderability, search friendliness and overall ranking ability. Many say that you should only make website changes for visitors, not for search engines, but that's just not good policy. While many website architectural issues can be justified as being beneficial for site visitors there are still some changes that are flat out necessary that really don't have much to do with the visitor at all.
If a change is good for search engine spiders and you know it won't have a negative effect on your visitors then it's certainly a valuable change to consider. Ultimately, if you can enhance the experience for the spider you'll be providing better opportunities for your site visitors. But again, just make sure any such change doesn't have a negative site visitor impact.
Path 8: Indifferent to spiders, Good for people
Almost universally, if you can make changes to your site that enhance your visitor's experience while having no negative effect on the search engines you're in good hands. Addressing things such as visitor usability and trust issues rarely effect the search engines directly but they can go a long way for improving how visitors interact with your site and the persuasion process that gets you the conversions you need.
One should always be looking for changes to make to their site that will improve visitor performance and conversions. The trick is to make sure you balance that with the net effect any change has with the spiders. If you can keep making changes that have little or no overall effect in spiderability and search engine friendliness then by all means, keep making them. Your site is only going to get better.
Path 9: Good for spiders, good for people
Pleasing visitors should always be your first priority on your website. But when you can please both visitors and search engines simultaneously then you're in a good spot. Making site changes that have a positive effect in both these areas is the ultimate path, goal and decision that you can make. If only every change that we make to our sites could bring improvement for both search spiders and human visitors. While that's not always the case these are the types of changes that you should actively be seeking out.
Every change you make to your website has an effect. If possible, it's best if that effect can be determined before the change is made. Knowing that information will give you an idea if you should move forward or not. But when it comes to predicting the effect of changes, especially those affecting the site visitor, we can't always be right.
Don't be afraid to make changes you may be unsure about. But it's crucial to track what happens next. Even if you are fairly confident of a positive outcome tracking will either confirm what we already knew or point out where our logic was faulty. This isn't a bad thing. In fact it's better to try, err and correct than not make any improvements at all. The goal should be to develop a site that is as user friendly and search engine friendly as possible. That's done through a long-term process of identifying issues, making edits and analyzing the results.
Not every path is a winner and steer clear of those that have a net negative effect. But everything must be weighed. Even within the nine paths there are several shades of gray and the overall gain/loss must be considered carefully. Even the smallest gains are often beneficial if they outweigh the negatives. As much as possible, though, keep on the paths that provide the best results and you'll be on the path to business success.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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