Conflict of Interest
Users vs. Search Engines

A few days ago (at the time of this writing) a blogger asked a very legitimate question: does SEO conflict with user experience? In other words: is your content meant for people or for search engines? What do you value the most: visitors or readers?  Page hits or user engagement? What are you betting on: quantity or quality?

To be clear, the (short) article referenced above does not answer the question it poses; it merely leaves you with a bit of advice on how to answer the question on your own. The blogger assumes that as far as reading goes, search engines and human readers have the same requirements. If and when those don't align, then  the reader's interests should have priority.

Here's the problem: search engines can't read -- the way you and I can. Google doesn't have the slightest idea what you and your content are talking about. Spider bots don't understand your content, or care. All they can do is try and map it to patterns they can recognize. The more boring and flavorless the copy, the better.

Here's another problem: in order to map your content, the search engine looks primarily for hints. The more hints it finds, the more structure it can map to what it knows, the better your content will eventually rank. This in turn ensures that the most bland, perfectly quantized content will come up on top.

It is true that Google is getting a little better every day at deciphering the articles and blogs that it cannot otherwise understand. But it still cannot read them like your readers can. It probably never will. Until it does, if you want to be read, write content for humans.


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