There is a lot of discussion about “Search Engine Optimization” and “Search Engine Friendly” nowdays. A lot of Words are bantered around in attempting to explain it to the business owner, and many result in the glazed look of confusion.
So what’s the difference and why is it important? Websites today are built with two principal driving issues: will my website be useful to the user and will he, after visiting it, do what I want him to do? (Buy my product, call me, tell all my friends about me-whatever); and will my website be found and put on the top (or close to the top) of the list, so those who are searching for something will go to my website first? So-which is most important? Actually, they both are. If my website gets to the top of the list, and users click on my listing, the impression that happens next is critical. If a user is turned off by what he sees (it’s old, outdated, doesn’t answer my question [remember, the user searched for something and my website is his reward] then he is gone—gone to look for more information—translation—another website—the competition.
Let’s look at this more closely—
1. “My website at the top of the list”.
How important is that? Well, it is documented that users rarely go past page 1 when searching for something. So, if my site is on page 10, or 346, or 4,256, then the chances of me being found are about a zillion to one.
2. “My website being useful to the user”— he finds what he is looking for, and then does something that I want him to do — emails me, calls me, buys something — whatever I want him to do.
So now, what do “Search Engine Optimized” and Search Engine Friendly” have to do with any of this?
Let’s assume that every business owner wants the same things—all of the above. If my site is “Search Engine Friendly” it will be built to accommodate the search engines-they will be able to index it without any problems-they can see my content, and understand it, so they will know it is a relevant website. So, they will rank it (list it on Google, Yahoo, etc) as a relevant and viable website that can be easily found if a user uses one or more of the terms that are in the website content (copy).
If my site is “Search Engine Optimized”, then I get all the above, PLUS, my site will be found and ranked above others when users type in search terms that match my website content. And here’s the key-through the search engine optimization process, I KNOW the terms they are using to find sites like mine, so I use those terms in my website.
Most web designers who actually understand web development, build sites that are largely “Search Engine Friendly”. They use code structure and certain benchmark items that are essential in relating to the search engines. Most website designers and developers do not know how to properly Optimize a website for Search Engines. Search Engine Optimization is part art and part science. It is looking at the competition’s websites, examining their rankings, and figuring out just the right words or terms that make the site rank high, and then using those terms in just the right way to boost the client’s site ahead of the competition. It is a monitoring process, a nurturing that goes beyond simply sprinkling a few words here and there.
A simple comparison: (Thanks to Joe Dolson)
1. An Optimized page has carefully researched and tested page titles and descriptions which perform well in search engines. A Friendly page has well-written unique page titles and descriptions which explain the page simply and accurately.
2. An Optimized page has content carefully written to incorporate key phrases which, on the basis of research, will help the site convert search visitors better. A Friendly page has content which has been carefully written to be clear and understandable to the widest possible range of people.
3. An Optimized page is designed to influence visitors to follow navigation paths which drive them to accomplish conversion tasks: sales, registrations, or sales queries. A Friendly page has made certain that all navigation paths are followable by a search engine to make certain that all important pages can be indexed.
4. An Optimized site is the product of months or years of research into what provides the best results for search visits and conversions combined. A Friendlysite is the product of a development process which has taken all the technological issues which could reduce search relevance into consideration:robots.txt, correctly formatted redirects, etc.
5. An Optimized site is the result of extensive research. It requires a statistical basis which keeps track of user behavior. A Friendly site is the result of technical expertise which takes into careful consideration the many issues which can get in the way of optimization.
These are crucial distinguishing points. Search Engine Optimization is a separate, long-term task which, although it depends on “friendly” web construction, is ultimately based on statistics.
Accessible or search-friendly design, while influenced by existing knowledge of what helps optimize a website, is based on criteria concerning the ability of users (or devices) to access the site.
Get to know your web company and determine if your site is “Friendly” or “Optimized”.
Contact us at The Site Guys and we’ll help you determine the difference, and suggest what you should do next. All of our sites are “Search Engine Friendly” and all of our sites are ready to be “Search Engine Optimized”.