Before I get into the article, some of you are wondering what the alphabet soup is about. Most of you know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization; that’s trying to make your site come up in the unpaid search results. UXD stands for User Experience Design, defined by Wikipedia as “the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.”
OK, now that the definitions are done, what I want to discuss with you is whether you should focus first on SEO or focus on UXD. To tell the truth, I don’t pay much attention to SEO for my own websites. I simply write content that my audience (you) will hopefully find useful and make the navigation around my site as easy and intuitive as possible. That said, if I’ve done that well, I should also have accomplished much of what is necessary to optimize for search engines. After all, a search engine is supposed to return results to you, based upon what you’ve put in the search bar. It’s looking for the best content to answer your question, fulfill your need, etc. Search engines are looking for pages – not sites – that have content that most closely fits your query.
You’re fooling yourself
If you try to game the system, but stuffing in keywords, you risk getting blocked by the search engines (yes, they’re getting smarter every day). Even if you do it well, without getting blocked, there’s a greater risk. When I’m reviewing websites, like yours, I often can tell when the SEO team (even if it’s the owner of the business) has had a heavy hand in the wording and design. The sites just don’t read well, with too many keywords used in a way that would never come up in normal conversation. If you’ve ever seen the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, then you definitely, definitely, know what I’m talking about. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, sorry!)
Living out loud
When I’m reviewing a website, I like to read the text out loud. What I’m looking for is a conversational voice, one that reflects the people at that business. You can use the third person (someone talking about your business); or – my preference – the first person (sounds like you are talking directly to the site visitor). Either way, you need to be including the site visitor, and their needs, into the conversation. That’s why I do the “you-test.” I click EDIT, FIND, and then I type “you” in the search box. The web browser highlights every instance of “you” and “your” on the page, and it will give you the number of times it appears; it will be very obvious if those words are on the page, or not.
Even if the words “you” and “your” are there, a lot, I’m also looking to see if they’re buried in the text, or if they’re the focus of the text. If most paragraphs start with “we”, the focus still feels like it’s on the company, not their visitors. Try it on your own website. Read the text out loud and see how it sounds (also a good idea, because if you’re like many people, you haven’t read the text since the site launched). When you read it, does it sound like you speaking? Does it sound conversational? If someone comes in through a search engine, and then doesn’t stick around and contact you – the goal of most of your sites – then you’ve wasted the opportunity; or you’re attracting the wrong prospects with your SEO.
Speak about the outcome of hiring you
As you’re reading the text, listen for whether you’re talking about what you do, or about the results of hiring you. While your customers need “what” you do, they’re really looking for the results of hiring you – your “why”. I’ve written and spoken about this, a lot; but people buy, and yes review, the outcomes/results of hiring you. In a bullet point list every wedding planner does the same “what”. It’s same for almost every category; every band, DJ, videographer, officiant, florist, etc., has a similar bullet point list as the others in your category. When you get to the core of “why” they should hire specifically you, and your team, to deliver on that list, then you have a brand.
First UXD, then SEO
I’m not saying that you should ignore SEO, that’s your decision. If you don’t get much business from organic searches, then either your site isn’t optimized for SEO, or your SEO isn’t working. My suggestion is that you first optimize your site for your visitors, regardless of how they get to your site (organic search, WeddingWire, referral from another site, etc.). After you’ve written your text for your visitors, and you talk about the results of hiring you (hint, it’s in your reviews and testimonials, so put short clips on every page), then go back and look for where you implied a keyword but didn’t use one. For example, if you talk about their “event”, you’re not using a keyword such as “wedding” or “corporate event.”
Try to include the cities/towns/states where you do business. In my website reviews and consulting, I recommend including the name of the venue, with its city and state, next to each short testimonial. If you are the venue, then include the city/state of where your couple lives. You can use the EDIT > FIND feature of every web browser to search for the keywords on your pages. If you do this well, you’re handling both SEO and UXD at the same time. And of course, there’s a lot more to SEO than just these tips. I’ve heard that, these days, Google pays more attention to what the visitors can see, than what’s in the coding behind the page. That makes sense, since it’s looking for the words and phrases that your visitors are seeking; if it’s in the coding, but not on the page, your visitors won’t be able to see it. And, if you’re looking to get a lot of your business from search engines, you’re probably going to want to hire an expert and also buy ads on the major search engines – a discussion for another day.
© 2018 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions
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