Many who manage web sites invest great effort and expense in search engine optimization (SEO), the practice of optimizing the content and format of a site and its pages so as to attract the most search engine traffic.

SEO is important to online businesses, because qualified web traffic can translate into eyeballs (if a site sells advertising) or sales (if it’s an e-commerce site) or potential clients (if the site is run by, say, a consulting firm).

I’ve been around the practice of SEO for about 15 years (before it was even called SEO), and I’ve come to believe in a central truth about it:

If you want search engine traffic, the first thing you have to do is deserve it.

This means providing honest, substantive content.

This also means offering well-executed services and a customer experience that serves the visitor well.

This concept is approximately equivalent to customer-centeredness in marketing or user-centered design in software development. A business has to make a profit, try to grow, strive for market share — but business success in the long term is hard to come by without a strong customer focus, or user focus in the case of web traffic.

By all means, optimize your site for search engine traffic, but be aware that few businesses make it for very long by tricking Google.

Do what you can to direct web traffic to your site, but make sure you deserve it.

AB — 5 May 2011

Daylife cover exampleI read today in John Blossom’s ContentBlogger about Daylife, provider of content-development and -management applications that allow a publisher to create instant content portals — see “Life With Daylife: On-Demand Feature Content Development Grows Up.”

Blossom says Daylife permits a publisher to quickly put together content, marketing, and advertising resources from both internal and external sources. He believes this kind of toolset can allow publishers to duplicate the Huffington Post‘s successful integration of marketing elements and editorial content.

Daylife describes its management interface as simple and intuitive, designed for non-technical editorial personnel for point-and-click interaction.

It seems to me that the Daylife model offers a useful option for news organizations that are struggling to find a new and workable business model. Blossom says,

[A] service like Daylife cannot replace all of the editorial value of a traditional newsroom and more robust editorial content development platforms, but when it can provide most of the robust functionality that people expect from an online publication today along with access to deep and high-quality content, it’s time for publishers to think more actively about how they can use tools such as Daylife to enable their content to succeed in any number of topic-specific “instant portals” and other efficiently managed content presences far more actively.

AB — 21 July 2009