Search engine optimization has been through a lot of change over the last few years and is now completely different from what it used to be.
However, search engine optimization (SEO) is a discipline that still suffers from its history.
The term, search engine optimization, has always been fatally flawed. It implies that we optimize for search engines. The problem is that search engines don’t buy products, people do.
SEO has always had the objective of improving a website’s organic rankings by working on its accessibility, authority and content. But fundamentally what these three pillars are actually aiming to improve is the customer experience.
The role of a SEO expert should be to make sure that a website fulfils user intent and offers the right experience. Content and context being key.
Therefore shouldn’t the term SEO be refined to focus on the customer rather than a search engine? The term, search experience optimization, seems to be far more fitting.
What are the components of search experience optimization?
Search experience optimization could be split into different services:
– Search insights: helping brands understanding what customers search and measure competitor’s performance
– Technical SEO: good foundation is still important to succeed
– Content: creating content that fulfills user intent is key.
The best way to understand why is by looking at how Google has evolved.
The journey of Google Search
Since its official launch in 1998, Google Search has evolved massively becoming a lot more customer-centric.
While the experience that we have today might be taken for granted, it took Google’s team years of research and development to reach this quality.
The first thing to understand is how big the internet is. 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. While a big part of this content is created on social media platforms, Google still has to crawl through:
– 864,000 Wikipedia pages that are added or edited every day
– 2,070,000 WordPress blog posts that are published per day
– 432,000 hours of video that are uploaded on YouTube every day
– Approximately 170,000,000 active websites
– Average web page size of approximately three MB
We’re talking here about searching the most massive, barely structured, mass of data on earth and you have a tool which can get you information in seconds.
In the early days, Google was measuring simple things like keywords occurrences, backlinks and other technical factors. But to deliver the best results Google has developed many different algorithms to improve both their understanding of people’s intent, how they interpret the content and the experience of a page and how to serve their results.
After years of work, Google is now the most reliable search engine. And through computer power and machine learning technology, it now focuses more on engagement factors than ever before.
And as previously mentioned we know that engagement is influenced by two things: content and context, which create the experience.
A good search result fulfils user intent. Like Google, it’s time for us to evolve too by redefining SEO to search experience optimization. At least until we can come up with a better name!
Ben Dubuc is the head of search at FCB New Zealand.