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SEO vs Usability

Alex Christie

15 May 2008

While reading an article this morning, I couldn’t help but feel relieved with the fact that we, Tamar, already understand a fundamental factor of optimising websites — when building or redesigning a site, one of the target users that is always considered and tested for is the "search engine". There is no struggle between the different "owners" of the project, we all know how important the balance is and, at this point, we just seem to do it naturally. Not surprising really considering our differentiator as a business is "search conversion".

In general, meeting the needs of the search user runs parallel with meeting many other best practice usability and accessibility needs. For example, using meta tags, not using a splash page or flash for important content, creating clear, relevant and meaningful labelling and architecting the site to meet user expectations (to name a few).

The one area where there seems to be the greatest potential for a conflict would be with the quantity and density of content. However, through practice and experience, we have learned ways to still meet the content requirements of the "Search user" without distracting from the needs and goals of the  other users.

In fact, the content can be equally optimised for conversion (which includes both persuasion and usability) as it is for search; it isn’t so much compromise as creativity and a dedication to getting the perfect balance. In the end, it isn’t worth sacrificing one for the other because getting more traffic to a site that is not going to engage your customers is as useless as an enthralling site with no visitors.

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