Stop Pretending SEO Isn’t About User Experience

SEO vs UX — we’re both obsessed with people

In the last two weeks I’ve witnessed three separate moments where a developer said something along the lines of, “but we’re focused on the user, not search rankings.” This was in reference to site structure, page layouts, or AMP investment and there was always more than a hint of disdain.

If you’re one of these developers, it’s time to stop acting like SEO is a dirty word, because search is entirely about users and their experience.

Since I have an almost 4-year-old son and it’s currently just after bedtime, let me share a story to illustrate the point:

There was once a really smart and super fun developer named Brad. Brad loved to throw parties, but he was new to the area and didn’t have many friends, yet.

Brad did have one friend in town named Wendy who knew the area really well and had a lot of friends at work, the gym, different groups, and from her volunteer work. Brad knew anyone Wendy invited would probably be a lot of fun to hang out with, because she was a lot of fun, so he asked Wendy to handle the guest list. Brad focused on getting the space ready, baked some amazing food and desserts, and picked up plenty of ice and drinks.

Even though Brad was in charge of setting the space up, Wendy asked if she could bring a few things, too. She knew that some of her friends had dietary restrictions and drink preferences, so she was going to make sure there was something special for them without imposing too much on Brad.

The day of the party arrived and Wendy showed up early to help Brad finish setting up. She asked if she could change the music — her friends were more into indie artists than top 40. When the guests started to arrive Wendy said hello to everyone and introduced them to Brad. Once everyone got to know each other they had an amazing evening — the music was perfect, the food was incredible, and their drinks never ran out! Brad had been a wonderful host.

That evening after everyone left, Brad and Wendy cleaned up the apartment together and he knew this was the beginning of a great friendship with several of Wendy’s friends.

In summary:

  1. Developers make the party awesome.
  2. SEOs bring the right people to the party.
  3. Both developers AND SEOs make sure the needs of everyone at the party are met.

Got it? Cool.

We are dedicated and patient observers of human behavior. That’s all we do if we’re doing our job right (seriously, I used to study primate behavior for hours… SEO is exactly the same, but even more meticulous and way more exciting and helpful)! We obsess over people and how they want to find things. You obsess over people and how they want to use things. That’s awesome — we’re very similar. I don’t want to ruin your site, I want people to find and use it.

(Do archaeologists and anthropologists get into arguments like this?)

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