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SEO Experts and Content Strategists: Stop Fighting!

I’m sick of fighting with SEO experts. Not because I dislike them, or because I think they’re wrong or they’re stupid. I’m sick of fighting because I know they’re right.

Every SEO expert I’ve ever met has known more about what Google will respond to than I do. They know more about how to get people to the site, and more about how to get Google Quick Answers, and more about how to make sure our content is what appears when people are searching for topics related to us.

So why are we fighting?

What We Say is Not What We Mean

Here’s what a typical SEO/Content Strategy argument looks like, in my life:

Me: Here are my recommendations. First, we need to cut way back on content.

SEO Expert: We can’t do that – those pages get us good SEO.

Me: Can we move the content to these other, more relevant pages?

SEO Expert: Those pages are too far down in the IA. How about, instead, we raise these other pages up in the navigation?

Me: We heard from users that they don’t care about those pages, so we shouldn’t raise them up.

At this point, everyone silently glares at one another, trying to figure out how we ended up with pages that users say are unimportant, but Google says we need.

Rinse, repeat.

Here’s what we are actually trying to say though:

Me: Here are my recommendations. First, we’re hearing from users that they can’t find what they need on the site.

SEO Expert: Meanwhile, we’re hearing from Google Analytics that plenty of users are finding what they need through search.

Me: Let’s take the information of what people are searching for and put it on the same pages as the key ones people try to navigate to, so that people coming from Search and people coming from the Homepage will move smoothly through our user journey.

SEO Expert: Let’s also set up an IA strategy so that we create a site that isn’t too deep for Google to understand.

At this point, everyone grins, writes down their action items, and goes to have a beer.

We Must Agree on How we Measure Goals

Our objectives are the same: we all want to create a good experience for end-users. The problem is how we measure our goals. Often, the SEO team is using measurements such as page view or entrance from Google search. But content strategists are more interested in longer term engagement.

There’s no way around it – if we optimize for engagement, we will likely create more niche pages, and we’ll have fewer visitors. But the percentage of those visitors who convert or otherwise engage will be much higher. In order for SEO teams and content strategy teams to stop fighting, everyone needs to be comfortable with that decision. They all need to work together and associate success with the same goals.

And then, we all need to go get a beer.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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