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User Experience vs. Search Engine Optimization

Content, Information Architecture, Search, User Experience

Makespace Team

As a user experience advocate, I want my websites to be so simple that the user doesn't have to think. I try to understand the users needs (that's you) before I ever organize a site and I don't believe in force feeding or manipulating users into taking an action they didn't want, didn't ask for (stop automatically starting music & movies for me...kthx) or weren't ready for. So the age old question...how can we balance good design with staying on top of search engine marketing efforts & achieving conversion? I believe our team is living in harmony as much as any & I'll let you in on what we did to try to balance our own goals while maintaining good design.

Business goals were identified

A site map was created. Content was written. Information was architected based on past analytics on what our users are looking for. A design emerged. All was well in the world. Birds sang & butterflies fluttered above our monitors.

user experience vs search engine marketing

In steps the SEO crew. (da da daaaaa)

  • "We need web design in the content on the homepage 150 times."
  • "We need a contact callout in the users face at all times."
  • "We need more pages."
  • "We need more content"
  • "We cannot fall off the first page of google."
  • "This design won't convert!"

My heart pounds and the wheels in my head start to spin with how I can give these guys what they need without destroying my beautiful experience. I designed this site with organic seo in mind and if we do our jobs right...we can make this happen.

First of all, it's not going to be perfect the first time. You have to accept that it may get worse before it gets better. At makespace's previous site, we were very successful with keyword cramming into our lengthy copy. The site was search engine gold but the experience for users was ghastly. It just wasn't there. No way were people reading even a paragraph of the 20 that were on the homepage. But we were #1 for web design in Louisville & people were calling.

So we formed an plan of attack as a team. We identified and implemented the best alt tags and title tags for our media and links. We organized and optimized our H1's, H2's, etc. We styled our contact button to bring attention to it. We reviewed and optimized the content featured on our homepage for relevant keywords. We pulled blog posts over from our old site. We created pages for all our areas of expertise and optimized all of that. We altered our page slugs (that's the part in your url that forms the /category/page-name/). We created meta data for important pages. In short...we did everything in our power to make our site relevant in an organic way and we decided on a plan of action to make things even better in the future. To top it all off...we are very closely monitoring our analytics & heat mapping to make sure folks are getting what they need out of the site.

We made ourselves our biggest and best experiment and it has been an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. We're looking forward to using what we learn on our website and our future projects.

So in closing, user experience and search engine optimization teams don't need to be adversarial. We all want users and businesses to get what they need out of their websites.  Algorithms change...getting the user what they need while balancing business goals is your most effective plan of action.