SearchEthos : rethinking search on the internet & SEO practices

best practices for search usability and SEO

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

Search engine optimization uses specific techniques to improve a web site's visibility on the search engines. This can result in better rankings for specific keywords. For example, a well-optimized site might rank in the top-10 results for a search on the keyword "widgets" or keyword phrase "blue widgets".

SEO is a part of a larger field known as internet marketing. But there is also the term "search engine marketing" which can either mean 1) the same as SEO or 2) using paid placement (buying a location on a page that appears for certain search results) or other advertising on the search engines via services such as Overture or Google's Ad Words, etc.

Some businesses equivocate "search engine placement" (SEP) with SEO. That is, they use them interchangeably. SearchEthos believes that SEO is more than simply rankings or placement on a search engine and we encourage our clients to look beyond a top-20 placement. Our ultimate goal isn't simply high rankings; it's qualified traffic that revisits and fulfills our clients' objectives. In an ideal world, a site would be optimized for both the search engines and your public. The larger picture is the overall experience provided to your public (beyond the mechanics of how the search engines dissect the data on your site and rank it for relevancy to your major keywords).

What could be more important than top-10 or top-20 results? As we said earlier, a better target goal for any website is qualified traffic. Not simply getting "hits" but attracting traffic that's specifically looking for the unique something that your site provides. Also, if you're getting top-20 results for keywords that aren't relevant for your site's content or public, your efforts are misplaced.

It's always worthwhile to ask "What kind of overall experience are my visitors having?" Do they hang around the site? Return for more visits? Contact you with specific feedback or requests? How easy is it for them to navigate through the site to find what they're looking for?And most importantly, did you achieve your ultimate objective from their visit- whatever that is. It could be a sale or purchase (conversion); joining a mailing list; request for more information or feedback; visiting other links (other sites); etc.

Good SEO encourages optimizing your site for both the search engines AND your public. Why? The better search engines such as Google care about the quality of results they provide to their public. This isn't entirely altruistic. If they provided results that weren't relevant, the public would go elsewhere. Or if a better search engine comes along that provides more relevant results, the public will go elsewhere. A site's relevancy (for particular keywords) isn't simply computed by on-page attributes or linking popularity (the number of sites that link to it). These neglect the simple fact that web sites (and the Internet) are still used by humans, primarily, and not machines.

What does it matter if a machine or an algorithm is satisfied? If your user (visitor) isn't happy, they won't return. In a better world, the search engines would return results that rank a site for both its tangible content and the slightly intangible overall experience. Sites that are easy to use and explore, as well as responsive to their users' needs, would rank higher for their content than those that placed the content obscurely or made it difficult for users to locate or find (because of their old browsers, technical limitations of their internet access, computer equipment, software, etc.).

In closing, good search engine optimization uses practices that make it easier for both

  • the search engines to access a site's content & index it, and
  • users to navigate and find what they need in a simple manner.

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