Writing an article that gets read by tens of thousands is exhilarating. If you’ve written an article, it’s hard not to obsess over the analytics. It’s the same type of thrill that keeps gamblers glued to slot machines, or addicts in search of cocaine.

That exact obsession took hold when my post about eliminating social media buttons went viral. I had tens of thousands of visits on the first day. Hundreds of people thanked me for providing a new perspective, while others lambasted me, saying that I was an idiot. I loved every bit of it.

When revenues correlate with pageviews, the high is twice as strong. Like an addict, it sends people and companies out in search of more. Both pursuits are dangerous, and can end at the door of a snake oil salesman.

War of Keywords

I am acutely aware of the power Google has over the internet. It has crusaded against keyword stuffers, link farmers and black hats since the release of the Panda search algorithm. It has been a violent, one-sided battle that the search giant has dominated.

Casualties from Google’s Panda 4.0 update began to surface in blog posts this week. What is different about this last round of updates? It includes a huge amount of major web properties. Most notably, eBay, which lost 80 percent of it’s organic search rankings. Ask.com, RetailMeNot and Yellow Pages also saw a steep decline in organic rankings.

Having built and managed several websites, I understand the allure of search engine optimization, but it is important to draw a line between best practices and gaming the system. I’ve noticed eBay’s content absent landing pages, and it likely contributed to the drop in rankings.

A Fruitless Exercise

So, let’s get to the point—websites are for humans, not robots, or spiders, or aliens. Unnatural link building is a waste of time, and writing garbage, SEO blogspam is a fruitless exercise.

Spend your time and energy focusing on legible typography, a strong information architecture,  and making your site accessible for the visually impaired. Build websites for humans, for your audience, your customers and your friends.

3 thoughts on “ Websites are for Humans ”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts. The way you challenge the dominant paradigm is really inspiring. The world needs more people who think about the ‘why’, rather than just do what everyone else does. I also appreciated your article on social media buttons, even though it made me feel guilty about how much time I have spent trying to customize them. Keep up the awesome work!

  2. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the push-back against social media was suggested by iA about 2 years ago. http://ia.net/blog/sweep-the-sleaze/

    My previous comment never saw the light of day on here. I hope this one makes it through given your proud stance of ‘loving every bit’ of feedback/criticism.

    1. Hi Terry, I did not approve your previous comment because didn’t make sense on this post. It was relevant to my previous post, Why I’m Done with Social Media Buttons.

      Also, you’ll notice on that post that I mention Information Architects, and explicitly referenced the article you mentioned as you can see below.

      WHAT MAJOR WEBSITES DON’T USE SHARING BUTTONS?

      The one that immediately comes to mind is Information Architects. A design group known for devout minimalism. Oliver Reichenstein, IA’s founder, wrote a scathing article on social media buttons called, Sweep the Sleaze.

      Reichenstein is right, “If readers are too lazy to copy and paste the URL, and write a few words about your content, then it is not because you lack these magical buttons.”

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