More than five years ago I wrote a blog post stating Message's position on 'SEO', given that lots of prospective clients wondered if we 'did' it.
Five years on, we still find ourselves having the same conversation. And SEOs (the noun, this time) are still asking their clients to enter 'meta keywords for Google'. It's as if Matt Cutts never existed! (Here's video of him telling the world six years ago that Google pays them no heed )
A few weeks ago a client visited for a website re-design kick-off meeting. Before the meeting began she told me "You were right". I asked what about? "SEO. It was a complete waste of time and money."
The company had got into bed with an SEO consultant and spent a year with their focus shifted away from user experience, sales and conversion rates, and onto attempting to drive traffic to their website.
A funny thing happens when you shift focus. If your consideration is always "what will this do for search results?" then you get very different results than if your consideration is "what will this do to my conversion rate?"
Our focus is always on user experience. We're asking "how will this impact the visitor's understanding?" or "will people understand the meaning of that input box?" or "does that colour button make it more or less likely that people will continue to pay?"
The answers to such questions directly - and measurably - impact the bottom line.
If you ask "how will this affect visitor numbers?" then you don't even touch upon those same issues, because that question doesn't care what happens once you're actually on the site; it only cares about getting you there.
Five years from now?
The tide is slowly changing, and most SEOs have twigged they need to offer other services too. Yet the SEO card is retained to be waved in front of clients like a warning: without us you will perish!
Of course you need visitors - footfall is after all the raw material of your conversion rate. But the truth is, the only way to succeed online is to build something good and offer great service. Only if your focus is on great user experience will you retain visitors long enough to have a chance of converting them into customers.
I sincerely hope we're not still having this conversation in another five years. In the mean time I'm glad another of our clients has seen the light, and this new website re-design will go forward with the focus right where it belongs: on the user experience.