Online commentators will sometimes write anything to get a ‘like’ or a ‘share’. Provocation is one way of achieving that goal. As a result, headlines such as ‘the press release is dead’ or ‘SEO is dead’ have been bandied about in marketing blogs over the past few years, invariably with no evidence to support these assertions. One headline that made me smile recently was this advice from a B2B PR agency that professes digital marketing expertise: ‘Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines’. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of just how important and effective Google search is today, at least in B2B electronics marketing where numerous research studies tell us how often engineers turn search engines to find the products and services they need. Search algorithms recognise key word stuffing (overuse of keywords and phrases), understand both context and natural language, reject duplicate content, and allocate authority to domains, pages and individuals. Search engines work like this to best serve the needs of the users – the people looking for your page – and if you don’t have a page that is optimised for search with relevant, well-constructed phrases that help Google or other search engines find it, who’s going to read it? In other words, if done well, a page that is designed for users is exactly the same as a page designed for search engines.
Of course, this wasn’t always the case. In their infancy, search engines could be manipulated by stuffing pages full of keywords to the extent that the content was virtually unintelligible. Companies would also set up external blogs, fill them with keywords and insert links back to target pages in the hope of boosting their Page rank. When Google discovered this it downgraded these target pages. We’ve even had competitors using this technique to try to have the Publitek site downgraded in the past.
Today, search engines are far more sophisticated. They owe their existence to being able to deliver meaningful results to users. If you write a great page for users, you write it with due consideration for the search terms they are likely to use. How to establish these will be the subject of another blog post, but it starts with a deep understanding of your audience. You may be able to phrase your message perfectly eloquently without thinking about search terms. But how would that be writing ‘primarily for the user’? Nobody will find it. Nobody will read it.