Oct 17, 2012

Opinion: Forget about SEO, develop a user-centric content strategy

We don't like talking about Search Engine Optimization, nor do we like focusing on it in any significant way as it's own service. We get calls every week (and perhaps a dozen emails a day!) from "search engine marketers" and "search engine specialists" trying to sell us their services. We've laughed at them, especially when we demonstrate that yes, our websites are being found for most of our major keywords (we're #2 behind Wikipedia for "rfp" and "request for proposal").

That being said, it's troublesome when we see people spending more time worrying about "optimizing their site for search engines" than working on their content, or creating new content. That's why this article based on this interview made us happy.

Our favorite two quotes from the article and interview:

"Try to work on your website as if SEO was not part of your plan."

"...what I tend to tell people is the following; if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO."

What this translates into, for us, is that more companies, organizations, and individuals need to create a user-centric content strategy that is search engine friendly, but geared towards humans and not search engines. A strategy that doesn't ignore the things that you should be doing (such as meta information, rich snippets, alt text, title text, page titles, etc), but that also doesn't go "search engine crazy" by thinking "what would search engines think of this page" and try to game the system with links, key phrases, backlinks, etc.

What is a user-centric content strategy?

A user-centric content strategy is your way of looking at your site, your content, your audience, and
  1. defining your goals for you and your audience members, 
  2. defining how and where you're going to interact with them,
  3. defining the best ways for you to produce and share content that advances your goals
By following the above steps you will naturally be employing a strategy that will advance your search engine results, not just from your ability to show up in results, but likely in increasing your click-through rate as well as capture/retention rate.

Remember, it's not just about getting people TO your site, but once they're on your site, making sure they can read your content, share your content, sign up to get more content, interact with your content, contact you, etc.