Build For The User, Not For The Search Engines: Your Business Depends on Customers, Not Google

We live in a post-panda world. No, I don’t mean those slow-moving black-and-white animals are now extinct, I mean those useless content farms and scammy sites are being wiped-off the planet. The SEO world has been laser-focused on backlinks for a long, long time, and now the times are changing the question is, will good SEO companies make the shift? A business comes to an SEO firm and says, “I want to rank better on Google.” The SEO firm then does a variety of things from creating backlinks to tweaking title tags, adding specific content, etc.

At the end of the day the company will rank better, this hasn’t changed all that much. If the SEO firm is doing a good job of getting high-quality links from reliable sources, adding good-quality content, and making the right tweaks so that search engines can better understand who the site is targeting, then they will improve Google rankings. Here’s the problem, what the SEO firm is missing, and many companies are missing is one simple thing – what does the customer want?

Sure, you can get your site ranked well, and yes, your traffic will increase with a better ranking…but this doesn’t mean you’re actually providing more value to your customers. I’m not saying the SEO firm is doing a bad job in this case, they are doing what they’re paid to do, the problem is that the business needs to understand that ranking well is only part of the equation. If you whole business model is based on ranking well in Google then you’re not really focusing on customer satisfaction, you’re focused on Google satisfaction and I’ll tell you this, Google is satisfied no matter what, and they aren’t the ones paying you – your customer is!

DinerHere’s a real life example. Let’s suppose that you own a diner. The decor, food, and staff haven’t changed in 20 years and unfortunately, you’re losing customers. So you decide to move to a better location a few blocks up the road, now you’re in a much busier location and you start to get more customers than ever. However, you’ve kept the decor, food, and staff exactly the way it was and notice that once again over time you start to lose customers. The problem is that you put yourself in a higher traffic area but you didn’t address the real problem – how to create a truly exceptional customer experience.

The same is true when building online brands. As a business-owner you need to look beyond rankings and traffic and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What is it that your customer wants to do when they come to your site? What is that #1 thing that the customer is looking for and how can you make their experience better. In many cases this means more than just giving your customer more articles to read – this is the easy approach but think about it, what happens after your customer has read all the articles on your site, why would they come back? Interactivity is one of the keys to user engagement and customer retention, give your users something to do on your site that involves more than just reading a bunch of articles about a particular topic.

Now at this point you might say, “well this sounds really expensive, I need to hire some programming wizard to write a bunch of code, install a bunch of widgets, etc.” It’s actually not quite as hard as you might think. For example, I recently added a Debt Calculator to one of my Debt sites – it took less than five minutes to do and since adding it, the average time a user spends on my site has doubled! You can take a look at how easy it is to add this by looking at the Bankrate Debt Calculator widget here. As you can see you don’t actually write any code yourself, just copy and paste. If you don’t want the “Bankrate” logo at the top you can hire someone to build this exact calculator for you in PHP, Ruby or whatever language you want for around $20.

debt_calculatorSure it’s not a revolutionary feature but it’s a way to provide interactivity and a service that visitors actually need. Suppose you run a travel site – do you have a place for visitors to provide information about their recent trips? Maybe add a travel blog that users can contribute to. You can grow awareness through Twitter and Facebook and connect with users that might not be searching for your site but find your site because you offer what they are looking for.

The idea here is simple, let’s go back to our diner example. Putting a diner that isn’t retaining customers on the busiest street corner in your city doesn’t mean that customers are going to like it more, you might get more customers but what value are you adding? It’s time to think beyond just SEO, SEO is still needed but your customer is what matters, not Google.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Louise June 16, 2011, 11:46 am

    Excellent article!

    There is the case of supplying worthwhile items to the customer, but having some suspicious code which tips off the Google crawler that it is a SPAM site, which you didn’t mention. That is what happened to Epik. People loved IceCreamMaker/com, the design the choices, but the code tripped the Google mechanism to isololate it.

    One has to be so careful with SEO to not rock the boat. For that reason alone, it might be worthwhile to hire white hat specialist, to make sure there is nothing errant on the site which would offend Google!

    BTW, your blog, which I enjoy, sometimes glitches my browser! I had to refresh to be able to log this comment, because the flash ads on it – or seomthing – were hanging up my mouse in Firefox.

    Reply
  • Michael June 16, 2011, 1:19 pm

    Great analogy with the diner.

    Reply
  • Nima.Co June 16, 2011, 1:28 pm

    This was a very well thought out piece. Everything you said was spot on and it’s a topic that I’ve been brainstorming on recently. It’s all about adding value and trying to increase user interaction which can be challenging. Keep up the good work! You’re doing the entire industry a service.

    Reply
  • Avraham Music June 16, 2011, 10:07 pm

    Great post Morgan. Content is and always be king. Providing value. My wife made a search for crocks yesterday and got 15 pages with the same copy paste answer….. providing value will always be ultimate SEO!

    Reply

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