SEO versus User Engagement: Finding the Right Balance

A large part of marketing is a balancing act between what you want to do and the time and resources that you have to do it in. Whereas big corporations have their own dedicated marketing teams on the job full time, for most SME’s resources are limited and it is often more difficult to get the mix right. One area that often causes a problem is striking the right balance between search engine optimisation (SEO) and the kind of website user engagement that leads to a sale once a prospect arrives.

In this article we look at SEO versus User Engagement and whether you have to choose between them or whether you can optimse your website with a view to the user engagement.

SEO versus User Engagement Finding the Right Balance

SEO versus User Engagement: Finding the Right Balance

If you have optimised your site for search engines plenty of people will no doubt land on your website. Unfortunately, the probability that all but a few are likely to be engaged is quite high. This could because the text you provide neither informs nor makes the customer feel that you are a good business to deal with. At the other end of the spectrum, if you develop your website purely for user engagement by adding lots of highly appealing images but very little textual content, it is unlikely to be particularly well optimised for the search engines which means you won’t be getting the traffic you need.

Organic SEO and user engagement have a kind of see-saw relationship and the trick is to make sure that one is not out of balance with the other. One of the worst ranked sites we have seen was for a graphic designer. The website had been up for 19 years but when we put their name into Google they didn’t come up. Their site was beautiful – easy to navigate and showing off their talents tremendously well. The big problem was that every single piece of text was set as an image with no alt tags displayed for the search engines to identify what the images were about, resulting in a website that was white noise as far as Google was concerned.

At the other extreme, there was a London cleaning company that was so concerned with getting as many keywords on their pages, mainly because they had taken the wrong advice from a marketing professional who hadn’t updated his or her skills in a long while. It meant that the text on their site was all but unreadable for the average user. No images and no thought to how they were going to engage customers once they arrived simply meant they got a decent amount of traffic but not much in the way of conversions. Of course that doesn’t happen so much now, Google especially, has steered web developers and SEO specialists round to compiling site content that is appealing for the user which by default will rank well with the search engines.

SEO versus User Engagement: Balance in the Online World

As a business with an online presence you should be trying to strike a sensible balance between SEO and a website that provides better user engagement. Yes, keywords are important but so are engaging meta descriptions, to get people to click through to your site in the first place. Appropriately tagged images, inbound links from reputable sources and regularly updated engaging and interesting content.

All these ‘technical’ strategies and tweaks amount to nothing if they are not combined with user engagement strategies that work: Great content that gives the customer what they are looking for as a website that is easy to use and understand all contribute to converting prospects to sales. The good news is that great content will also improve your SEO profile as search engines such as Google become ever more sophisticated in their drive to give the searcher what they want.

For SMEs getting the right balance can be difficult. There is often the desire to produce huge amounts of traffic without knowing whether it is relevant or not. Stepping back and taking a look at your site design and content can help you make the constant adjustments that are needed to perfectly balance both SEO and visitor engagement.

This article from Moz.com How Usability, Experience and Content Affect Search Engine Rankings gives a much more detailed report of how search engines are tailoring their requirements much more toward user engagement.

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