SEO Breakdown: Think Like a User

When it comes to establishing your company’s online presence, most people turn to one of two approaches: the laissez-faire “my-website-stuff-will-sort-itself-out” method or the even more dangerous method of over-optimization based on insufficient research. In reality, fumbling around with metrics tools or pulling together an incomplete or misguided online marketing strategy can actually distract your customers and prevent them from finding valuable information about your goods and services. And unfortunately, neither of these strategies is capable of addressing the fundamental goal of search engine optimization (SEO), which is to create an engaging, seamless experience for the user.

Search engines, particularly Google, rely on an algorithm that is constantly being tweaked to provide its users with more interesting, up-to-date and relevant information. While updating your HTML coding, adding meta tags and revising your keyword list are all important steps in keeping up with Google’s changes, the most valuable thing to remember when devising an SEO strategy is that the user is king. Everything from the way your website navigates to the color choice of your graphics and the content you’re producing has an impact on whether or not your customer will enjoy their interaction with your company. For those of you scratching your head and retracing past blog posts about online marketing best practices, don’t worry – content is still king, but only in so much as it serves to enhance your user’s online experience.

With this in mind, we can begin to grasp the importance of viewing each element of your online presence from the perspective of your user. For example, if Johnny is looking for a new stereo system for his car and doesn’t know much about cars, the first thing he types into the Google search bar is probably not going to be “AVIC-U220 Component Receiver.” Chances are he will start with a basic search for “car audio systems” or “car audio installation” to find a broad range of options that he can eventually narrow down. In this case, those are the keywords for which you should optimize your website.

Conversely, if your company sells a technical product or service intended for a specific market, your customer will most likely know what he or she is looking for and be able to search for it using more esoteric language. Identifying your target audience is critical, so be sure to spend a lot of time getting to know the people who will be most interested in your company.

Also, keep in mind that the average time spent on a single website is just over a minute, so as you optimize your website for particular keywords, make sure the information on each page matches up with what your potential readers are looking for. Try to think about the things that pop out to you while you are surfing the web for something. If you can start thinking more like a user and less like a salesman, you’ll be able to establish a more meaningful relationship with your customers.

Before leaping headfirst into an SEO or digital marketing campaign, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who am I trying to reach?
  • What are their interests?
  • What types of things would they be searching for on Google?
  • What types of conversations are they involved in online?
  • What types of resources do they use to find information online?
  • Why might they benefit from my company’s product or service?
  • What would they think to call my product, if they didn’t know it existed?

This initial step can require some external research, but the overall benefits are endless. From here, you’ll be able to identify your target market and build a strong foundation for future marketing efforts – both digital and traditional.