How Search Engine Optimization and User Engagement Optimization Go Hand-in-Hand
If you have a business with an internet presence and you’re not living under a rock or deep in a cave awaiting a zombie apocalypse, you’re probably aware of, and actively utilizing, the principles of SEO, or search engine optimization in order to maximize your site’s presence and make it more visible on search engine results.
What Is SEO Again?
To keep it brief, as an introduction for those not yet in the know, SEO is the art of getting potential customers to your website. There are a number of factors in this formula for optimizing the quantity of foot traffic you receive, such as social signals (links from social media), backlinks to your site posted on other quality websites, and relevant content that matches user intent (basically, that last one gauges how well you can provide people with the thing they’re looking for).
There are other tricks of the trade when it comes to SEO, such as using data tags and doing a whole bunch of coding stuff behind the scenes, but search engine algorithms have grown wise to this Scooby-Doo hijinx in their attempt to level the playing field and award higher spots in the search results to those who truly create genuinely good content.
The SEO Spectrum: Information, Navigation, and Transaction
One theory of SEO promulgates that there are three potential areas of the spectrum that searchers will fall into: informational, navigational, transactional. Informational queries are made by those searching to learn more about a topic, while navigational visitors are looking for a specific website, good, or service. Transactional visitors usually already know what they want and are looking to make a purchase.
Good SEO will optimize a website to attract visitors in all three of these areas, sort of like the way fast food chains have captured our hearts and minds at various stages of life; handing out happy meal toys, serving as an after-club refuge in the wee hours of the morning, and then remodeling their venues to look like a trendy coffee shop for mature millennials (perhaps you know which fast food chain I’m lovin’).
The way to do this is to create content with optimized keywords that attract people making different types of queries. For example, if you have a travel niche website dedicated to a specific product, you’ll want general, informational articles for those in the informational query stage, product reviews for those in the navigational, and affiliate links or a store for those in the transactional, and each component should be well supplied with words relating to that phase.
So that’s basically SEO in a nutshell.
Are We There Yet? (And What Happens When We Get There?)
But there’s a problem with this approach, in that it doesn’t address the question: what happens once people arrive at your website?
User Engagement Interaction (UEI) and User Engagement Optimization (UEO) are new internet acronyms emerging into the discussion, and they relate to the way that visitors engage with your content, optimally to the point of making a transaction—signing up for your email newsletter, buying a product, or signing up for a webinar.
Visitors on a sight with optimized UEI will leave comments, like content, click onto other pages, and share it with others. Successful UEI taps into human emotion, psychology, and social dynamics; it’s about creating an overall experience for the visitor.
Attracting Clients versus Building Relationships
In that vein, whereas SEO focuses more on machine-based learning in its attempt to utilize algorithms to attract clients toward a particular site, UEI is more about the nebulous science of relationship building—we say nebulous because it incorporates so many factors that elude quantitative analysis, such as geography, culture, belief, and politics.
To be honest, a machine could generate much of the content that maximizes a websites SEO, since it largely centres around tagging data, setting up links, and using keywords. However, UEI is the place where imagery, design, style, and website layout come together to make or break an interaction with a potential client, so it really requires a human touch.
UEI determines whether you can hold a visitor’s attention and keep them engaged with your content, which can be tracked by some statistics like their click-through rate, the time on your site, and the number of pages viewed.
Viral Content: A Key Indicator of UEO Success
One of the most awesome things that can happen to content on a website in terms of UEO is when it “goes viral” or “blows up,” whichever colloquialism you prefer to use. While SEO gurus are always attempting to crack this nut and decipher the inner workings of how to achieve this mouth-watering viral status, it’s really just something that involves the right place at the right time, which once again highlights that extremely integral component of UEO: the human touch.
While it’s hard to dissect the success of viral content, there are a few factors which easily come to the fore upon examination. Viral content elicits an emotion, whether its sadness, happiness, laughter or even offence. It’s timely and relevant, such as something going on in politics, sports, and entertainment. It’s easily connected to venues where these benign viruses can spread, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The headlines are catchy, the content is great, and the imagery stops people from scrolling down the queue of posts. Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to connect with people who are influencers—users with a popular following.
Reconnaissance Before the Campaign
If you’re a successful military general, you know (1) not to invade Russia before the winter hits and (2) to send out scouts before engaging the enemy. In a similar vein, masters and commanders of a website will want to develop a plan of attack for UEO in regard to their online presence.
A successful UEO project will start with gathering demographic information and really understanding the hopes, dreams, and fears of your target audience, if we may get a little grandiose with it. That knowledge will enable you to create an experience on your website that is tailored to a specific group of people with specific needs.
How to Create Relevant and Engaging Content
One of the first steps to optimize this knowledge of your target audience and created a customized experience is the creation of relevant and engaging content. You’ll notice we mentioned relevant content before when we discussed SEO, but when it comes to UEO, the content must also be engaging, prompting visitors to dwell within the experiential digital venue you’ve created, and carry it beyond your website to their social media and into their lives.
Here are a few tips for optimizing user engagement.
No, we’re not referring to a film that was popularly described as “Pocahontas in Space.” We’re talking about creating an avatar, persona, or mascot that represents your demographic, and that will be someone they can resonate with as you address their needs while digging deep to understand their thoughts and emotions. Perhaps design a storyline around this persona, and clearly express how they benefit from what you’re offering, without shamelessly plugging your product or service. If you’re looking for tangible word that can embody this thought process, it’s blog.
Engage with potential clients and customers on social media. There are many different social media venues, and each one offers a different advertising program that can potentially assist your business. While many people have multiple social media channels, research shows that certain people gravitate towards and use certain platforms more often than others. For example, professionally-minded people will be more likely to be active on LinkedIn, while artists might be more interested in engaging with the visual-centric Instagram.
Create awesome content that people want to read. Poorly written and sloppily formatted content may have pulled people to your site through the use of SEO, but once people start reading, if it’s not good, they’ll bounce off your site right away.
Learn how to tap into the emotions of your potential clients or customers. For example, if you know they have certain pain points your product can address, mention that. If you know they like humor, be funny. If you know they appreciate certain types of imagery, use that.
SEO and UEO: Art and Science
In conclusion, UEO can be thought of as a more of an art form, while SEO is more of a science. SEO is more about attracting potential clients and customers, while SEO is more about building relationships. If they were college degrees, UEO would probably be in the humanities department, while SEO would be in the sciences.
It’s hard to say if one is more important than the other. Without good SEO, you may not draw visitors to your site. But without good UEO, visitors may leave once they get there. Until further research, study, and discussion yields a more definitive answer, it’s safe to say that this coming year, SEO and UEO should go hand in hand: where SEO leaves off, UEO picks up.