The People vs. Robots: Striking a Balance in SEO
For decades, science fiction writers have warned us this day would come. There is a battle under- way, and the combatants are just as predicted:
What the futurists failed to tell us was that, in this iteration, the fight is not for survival but for your attention. The fight is not in an urban wasteland but online. And, while your life is not at stake, your marketing dollars and resources are.
Of course, I am speaking of the ever-evolving field of online marketing via your website and what it takes to satisfy both the search engines (the “robots”) and prospective patients (the “people” in our battle).
Who Is Your PrImarY audIence – the people or the robots? To answer this question, let’s look at certain aspects of your web design and content and see how each audience feels about it.
Well-Written, Modern, Clean Code – CSS and JQuery, Lightweight and Accessible
PEOPLE like this because it means fast page loads, the same experience across various browsers, easy navigation and readable content.
ROBOTS like this because they value the fast page loads even more than people do. They like the fact that images and styles are moved to stylesheets and that the code on the page is lean, efficient and gets straight to the point – the content.
So in this case, The PeoPle and The RoboTs agRee — we’ll have to explore deeper to discover your main audience.
ANSWERING QUESTIONS AT A GLANCE –
Who Are You, How Can I Get in Touch With You, and What Are Others Saying?
PEOPLE like an easy-to-find phone number, obvious ways to email you and seeing that people are talking about you on Social Networks.
ROBOTS like all of this as well! The phone number helps iden- tify your business for listing purposes. Easy-to-find online forms show your site is not just a one-way street of information but that you listen to your visitors. Social networking links and re- view links show that you are a good Internet citizen, not trying to create an island and, more than ever with the convergence of search and social, this factor is growing in importance.
Again, THE PEOPLE AND THE ROBOTS AGREE. To answer our main question, we must dig deeper.
IS THE SITE VISITOR IN CONTROL OF THE EXPERIENCE?
PEOPLE like being in control for a number of reasons. Most importantly, visitors like to feel they are controlling their online experience in general. To explain this, it may be best to give examples of what users do not like:
- Auto-playing videos, especially with audio (always imagine the visitor to your website being at work with colleagues nearby, and your site immediately begins blaring information about cos- metic surgery procedures — you just lost a potential patient)
- Splash pages that have no content, just a nice logo or a pretty picture — a user does not want to have to click again or wait just to see the information for which they came.
- Websites that don’t care what kind of device you are on — check your analytics to see how many mobile visitors you are getting (more on this in a moment).
ROBOTS like to see that you put people in control of their experience, but they have their own reasons for disliking the same options listed above: auto-playing videos greatly slow page load and require unneeded and unrequested bandwidth to be used, splash pages only show the search engine that you have nothing to say, and being indifferent to different devices shows you aren’t considering page load and user experience factors for a large portion of the population.
Again, THE ROBOTS AND PEOPLE AGREE — and this is the point. The answer to our overarching question is this: doing good work on your website and with your online marketing means that you are pleasing both audiences. Thoughtful, intentional effort in this respect will benefit your practice and its online presence in the eyes of both potential patients and search engine giants.
ONE ADDITIONAL NOTE ON MOBILE WEBSITES:
Too often, “mobile-friendly” merely means “your site, stripped of anything visually interesting.” While that’s a quick way to make your information readable on a mobile device, we believe that you should consider a user’s desired actions instead. Give them easy-to-use mobile navigation, familiar mobile behaviors, the ability to text, get a map and call. Ask yourself, “what am I usually doing when I look something up on my phone?”
Search engine robots, by the way, will recognize a mobile sitemap or a mobile redirect, and they appreciate your thoughtfulness.