As SEOs, we’re the only type of online marketers who pay little to no attention to the people who actually visit our websites. PPC’ers watch visitors’ responses to ads via click through rates, social media managers converse with users directly, writers write for readers, and designers design for visitors. But SEOs give advice based on Google.
Google, like the rest of online marketers, is primarily concerned with the opinions of visitors to Google.com. Its goals is to deliver the most satisfying webpages as results to searchers (and possibly charge for those results through ever-more-subtle paid ads). Thus, we SEOs eventually have our effect on actual visitors, as our techniques to attract search engines allow our sites to rank well and get visits from actual humans.
Why don’t we just make changes for visitors so that Google will want to rank us well?
In the dawn of SEO, Google was stupid
When Google was first created, it couldn’t see nearly as much as it can now, and focusing on user experience alone could leave your site virtually unreadable to Google. I only started in this industry in 2010, and even then, SEOs had to focus on specific keyword usage, tagging, link building, and anchor text—all things that are virtually meaningless to visitors. But over the past few years, Google’s near-daily algorithm updates have made its crawler interpret webpages more and more like a human would.
Still, we continue to panic about every change Google makes. What are their next steps? Are they going to do something that will crush your site?
Here’s a hint: If we’re optimizing our sites for visitors, there’s little to no chance that a Google algorithm update will penalize us. That means that we’re on Google’s side: We’re trying to make our site better for visitors, which makes Google look good when visitors click through to our sites. Help them help us.
The good news is, if you’re a white hat SEO who keeps up on search engine trends, Google has probably led you into doing some good online marketing without even realizing it. To explain this a little more clearly, here’s a comparison of some of the top white-hat SEO strategies from 2010, when I started, and how you should handle them in 2013: