Geek Speak: Don't Be Yourself! Thinking Like Your Audience


There’s a three-way conflict when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) between you (the website owner), your audience, and the search engines themselves. Unfortunately, your goals may not always match your visitor’s goals, while search engines’ goals are just to provide visitors with the most valuable content.

So how can you optimize your website and content to meet your goals, while still ranking highly in search results? The secret: don’t be yourself.

In order to create the best user experience possible, with a combination of excellent design, intuitive navigation, and valuable content, you have to instead think like your visitors. According to Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines, “Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience.”

So how can you create the best user experience? Try these five questions to understand your visitors better. As you read through, imagine visiting your website for the first time and trying to find a piece of information. What do you look for? What phrases would you use to search for it?

1. What are my visitors searching for?

For more people to find your website in search results, you have to understand the keywords and phrases they are using to search for your products or services.

2. What information do they actually need?

Sometimes your audience won’t use a specific question in their search, so you need to make certain that important information and links are front and center on your home page, so visitors don’t have to hunt for the content they need.

3. Where will they look for the information first?

Making your website simple and easy to navigate, with helpful menu categories, is an essential part of a good user experience.

4. How can I help them find the information?

Call-out buttons, banners, and clear menu labeling will assist your visitors in navigating to the information they need.

5. Are there any barriers in their way?

Do you have important content buried in a sub-menu? Are there links only accessible from one page or part of the website? Are there menu categories that aren’t clearly labeled, or links that might fit better in another category? Is important content at the end of a long page, so that you have to scroll way down to see it? Remember that most of your visitors will not be very patient, so important content should never be more than one or two clicks away!

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