Usability or SEO? Which is more important? This is an age old battle, much like “Tastes Great” versus “Less Filling”, Ginger vs. Mary-Ann, or for the younger crowd, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. The reality is, this shouldn’t be a battle at all. Some of the most important things you can do for usability are also great for search engine optimization, and vice-versa. To see how usability fits with search engine optimization, you need to think about the who, what, and why.
Who are Usability and SEO For?
Though I have discussed the purpose of both SEO, and Usability in previous posts, I will summarize here. Interestingly, the ultimate goal of both SEO and Usability is to drive more users to site, keep them there longer, and hopefully get them to purchase your product or service. Search Engine Optimization deals with achieving higher rankings on the major search engines by making your site easier for the crawlers sent out by these engines to read and understand. Usability deals with making your site easier for users to read, understand, and utilize. Though SEO is primarily designed for the search engines, the ultimate goal is still to make things easier for the user. So if you concentrate on SEO or Usability, the results you achieve will be remarkably similar.
How Are Usability and SEO Alike?
I’m so glad you asked that question. Most of the things you do to improve SEO, will also make your site more usable to visitors who arrive there. For instance, did you know that it is a requirement for sites to have alt text for all of their images so that someone who is visually impaired can input from their reader about what the image represents? This requirement for Usability serves a dual role because many web crawlers and robots can’t read images and need the alt text to help them index pages on the site. Also, while good internal linking is key to improving your search ranking, it also is vital to help users not get lost while browsing the pages of your site, and help them find what they need quickly. Sitemaps serve a similar dual purpose in this regard. The truth is, most anything you do to improve SEO is going to also improve usability. The reverse is also true.
Why Worry About Usability and SEO?
Usability and SEO affect your bottom line dramatically. Everything you do to improve in either of these areas will ultimately drive more users to your site. It is a simple numbers game. More users equals more purchases equals more money and success for your business. So don’t worry so much about whether the changes you are making will improve Usability, or improve SEO. The improvement will ultimately benefit both, as well as your customers, and your business.