The discussion between SEO and user experience has been a hot one for quite some time. Small businesses are always trying to find that balance between pleasing the search engine bots so that readers will find the content while simultaneously pleasing the readers once they find that content. It feels like a catch 22, and any writer or publisher will tell you that this isn’t an enjoyable balancing act.
Nonetheless, almost every SEO, content, or online marketing expert will tell you that you should always create your website for readers first and search engines second. With this being the end-all-be-all answer for most, it’s hard not to ask yourself: Is there ever a time when SEO should come before user experience?
SEO First and Readers Second: Wait, What?
The reason this question is so hard to answer is because it’s so complicated. There are several different, specific situations where SEO might want to take a front seat in order to be successful. However, it’s important to remember that in no situation does SEO take over user experience completely, it just might be something you’ll want to consider first instead of second.
There are really only two scenarios where you may want to think about SEO first:
Initial Dry Spell.
If you haven’t been able to get any visibility for your website at all and it has been several months, it might be time to ramp up your SEO, which you can learn more about here. Continue to use those great graphics and continue to write engaging content, but consider putting a tad bit more content on the page and utilizing keywords in your text a little bit more. In most cases, writing this might come before you add in all the creativity for your readers.
If you already have a very solid and established website but are looking to appeal to a different audience, you might need the help of search engines. Do keyword research first and make sure that your content is based around these keywords for your new audience. This will hopefully bring them to the page, and your internal linking will hopefully send them to more of your great, already-popular content. Once you get these initial eyes hooked, you can start putting creativity at the forefront.
As you can see, the above scenarios still put a huge emphasis on readers, so the answers really point back to the idea that readers should come first. These might be instances where thinking about SEO first is important, but readers can never be ignored (whereas SEO can). In short, listen to what all the experts and all the advanced Webmasters are saying—always put readers first and SEO second. If you do this, you’ll be successful the vast majority of the time. Learn more about some of the trouble between SEO and user experience here.
Can you think of any more reasons SEO might come before user experience? Do you have any stories or experience with this dilemma? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.