Oh SEO, how you like to scare people and make them write robot friendly content and not people friendly content. As a user experience practitioner, I champion the user, the user often get’s lost in unfounded fears about SEO best practices.
In my work most where I often encounter the greatest friction between human design and computer design demands is with search engine optimization. SEO is not some demi-god that should be allowed to strike fear into website owners, the refrain is all to common, “we can’t design that way we will loose some SEO traffic/Google Page Rank.”
Good SEO standards should free you to design as you need. Want AJAX menus? Find a way. Want readable product descriptions and not keyword strings? Find a way. Want a Flash hero image, write content to support it.
People read your website. People are your customers. People are interacting with your site. Yes, they need to find you, but not at the cost of publishing nonsensical gibberish. We should not live in fear of the SEO boggy man will hate on us if we focus on delivering a useful experience and meaningful content. Quite the opposite.
It reminds me a bit of the early 2000 reverence for information architecture, where the IA (me) was treated like Wizard of OZ (which I did enjoy), and now good user interface principles are a core practice for all web workers. Good SEO is about strong, core practices and above all: good content – Google strongly support this. Write good, helpful, unique, meaningful content for humans to read, not robots, and, yes, respect the necessary syntax, with good clean code standards. And your site will be fine, your content will be found, and it will be liked, shared and re-tweeted, and Google +.
Our SEO team focuses on core SEO practices, on mitigating risk and tending to your SEO with a careful, constant focus not an overwhelming demand that locks site owners into a cycle of fear of SEO and prevents them from publishing good content.
For the authority on all matters SEO visit SEOMOZ. What is important here is to glean the top 20% of the tips and guidance and reverently implement those. Review the findings of SEOMOZ annual, 2011 Search Engine Ranking: Future of Search.
At the top of the list, and is what this post is addressing, “Analysis of a site/page’s perceived value to Users” – create content that is good for the user above all else. This should come as a relief to publishers. Rather than being stuck in the arcane of robot.txt, just write good stuff.
Like all good communities of experts, follow the top 20% of what they are telling you at SEOMOZ, the rest is for insiders about insiders. And as for Matt Cutts, Matt is awesome, but please stop sifting the tea leaves on his blog as some game to beat Google. You can’t beat Google, play nice with Google and serve up some strong content to the beast and all will be well.
SEO will recede into the background as a given. SEO is something that does require care, respect and attention, but human content for humans by humans will trump all. The web is for people, not computers. Content is still king, even of SEO.