Should you write for Search Engines or Human Readers?

There is writing for readers and there is writing for the search engines. I think there are problems with both. Worse, I think many times people get confused as to who the visitors actually are.

The medium can affect the message. For example - Flash is 100% about visitors to the website. It's as written for visitors as you can get - no interest in keyword density, header tags, KW positioning etc. And search engines hate it.

Yet if you are aiming for a 14 year old gaming buff, it's the perfect medium - all that boring text in a document that focused on useability or SE (Search Engine) friendlieness just would not get read.

But how would that 14 year old actually *find* the site in the first place?

A search engine IS a visitor to your website. It's just as relevant to write for that visitor as it is to write for others.

Question: What if your website appealed to 20-something females AND 40-something males? How would you write for it? Would you create 2 separate sites, write only for one group, or try to catch as many of your important visitors as possible?

I would try to catch as many as possible.

Why shouldn't you consider a search engine to be yet another important visitor? Not the most important, but not the least, either. This particular visitor never actually buys anything from you, but does tend to refer a lot of potential buyers, so this visitor is not to be ignored by smart owners.

At the same time, you don't focus on the visitor that refers lots of potential buyers and forget about the actual buyers - that's really stupid - what's the point of getting refferals if you turn them off when you finally get them to your site?

You should focus on both types of visitors, IMO - your human visitors represent today's paycheck, your search engine visitors represent tomorrows.

I would not ignore either.Write for both. Use search engine friendly techniques to write human friendly content. It's that simple. Don't focus only on one or the other.

A bonus is that SE friendly almost always equals human usablity - so you are already dealing with that aspect of it.

Likewise, if you are truly interested in making things easy for your visitors, you will find you are helping your SE efforts are being helped, too.

A search engine IS a visitor. Write for ALL your visitors, not just one group.


1 comment:

Eric S. said...

Hey Ian,

I recently attended the SES Conference in Miami and really enjoyed your presentation on domain redirects and international domain issues.

Just about every question i had coming into the conference on behalf of our Latin American clients were answered in your speech.

I look forward to following your publishes here and hearing you speak again soon.

Do you have any other appearances in the US coming up?