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The Golden Design Rule: Usability Before SEO

When designing websites for clients, it often amazes me how many clients consider SEO (search engine optimization) more important than the needs of a user. They want to stuff pages with keywords or deviate from web design standards in order to accomplish what they feel is more important -- attracting more users.

Why put SEO before Usability?
Whether building a new site, or rebuilding an old one, all site owners have the same dream: to bring on a drove of users who will roam their site and hire them or purchase their products. After all, this is why you have a site, isn't it? And most believe SEO is the key to obtaining more eyeballs through organic search. But attracting the users is only part of the puzzle.

A high jump rate tells the story
If they come but don't stay, you've missed the opportunity to convert a new client. If for some reason your site isn't user friendly, then you're going to have a high jump rate that proves it, and then you might understand why you have a lot of people visiting, but very few inquiring about your services. The jump rate is the percentage of people who leave your site immediately after landing on a page. You can refer to your analytics software to measure your usability rating for your site.

Optimum usability keeps the eyeballs
When designing your site, the needs of the user should always come before SEO implementation. For example, if you are organizing your information architecture and trying to include your keywords into the headings, make certain it will make sense for your visitors. If your menu tags are long, or the terms don't make sense, then you need to reconsider how it's organized.

For example, let's say you have a company that is in construction. You know many people search for construction under specific terms such as home construction, commercial construction, public works construction, etc. You should not create a menu structure that addresses each of these types of construction. It would be overwhelming for the user to navigate through all these words. Instead, you should have a menu item that talks about your construction services, and within the body of the page, describe the specific services provided. Or, have a primary menu item labeled construction, and have a sub page for each type of construction.

I have gathered together several articles that talk about usability. Many point to usability vs. SEO choices which you should consider on your site. Just remember the golden rule: Usability before SEO.