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March 31, 2011
SEO Consultants and the User Experience
 
When you think of SEO professionals, do you have an image of a greasy used-car salesperson in your head? If so, you’re not alone. SEOs are often talked about in a bad light, but often for good reason. When a business decides to work with an SEO consultant when designing their website, the development team is not always happy. They may have worked with a bad SEO in the past who tried to get them to develop the website only for search engines, but not for the human beings who would be using it.

That’s Not Professional SEO
Any SEO consultant who puts search engines before real users is wrong. They are working from an outdated mindset. All SEO recommendations should be focused on how to make your website better for your site visitors. The cool thing is that pretty much anything that's implemented for better visibility in search engines also makes the website better for your human site visitors. Unfortunately, professional SEO done with the human experience in mind is a lot more work, meaning that it costs more money. This is why so many SEOs take shortcuts.

Better Usability Can Fix Technical Issues
Even though Google gets better all the time, its crawler and indexing capabilities can still be easily trapped by some cutting-edge website features. Even things as simple as a search box on your site can stump a search engine, if it’s the only way to navigate a site, because search engines traditionally can’t fill out forms (which is all a search box is). Instead, search engines look for links that point to pages on your site that provide the information on your products and services. If the only way to get that information is to search for it, your users, as well as the search engines, could be stumped.

The same goes for information on your site that may be contained within Flash. For the most part, search engines don’t see or index that information. Ironically, many mobile browsers (which should be cutting-edge) act like older browsers. For instance, iPhones and iPads ignore Flash completely! And some cell phones make it difficult to navigate a website that only has search boxes. Combine these factors with slow mobile connections and a website’s images may not even show up.
 
For all of the above, when SEO and usability work together, it can make for a much better user experience. After all, it is much easier to click links (when you're browsing from your phone) than it is to type words into a search box on your teeny-tiny mobile keyboard.

SEO Creates Better User Experiences
The important takeaway here is that your audience comprises a variety of users who will be seeking information on many platforms. When you give visitors numerous ways to navigate your website, you’re not only helping them, but also helping the search engines to find everything they are looking for.

Remember this: when an SEO consultant recommends something that doesn’t sound quite right to you, don’t be afraid to find out exactly why they want you to implement something on your website. If their answer is that it will create a better experience for your users AND the search engines—and can explain to you how—then you’ve likely found a professional SEO consultant that has the interests of all parties in mind.

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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