Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been around since the first major mid-nineties search engines – Excite, Lycos, AltaVista and the like – began cataloguing the rapidly growing collection of webpages that make up the Internet.
Since then Google, a relative latecomer founded in 1998, has come to dominate the sphere of Internet search, and the efforts of SEO professionals the world over. So when one of Google’s leading figures, Matt Cutts, opens his mouth and suggests that the term itself isn’t really relevant anymore, people tend to pay attention.
Cutts was responding to the question ‘Do you think that Search Engine Optimisation should be renamed?’ on the GoogleWebmasterHelp YouTube channel. He says: “A lot of the time when you hear ‘SEO’ a lot of people get this very narrow blinder on and they start thinking ‘link building’… I think that limits the field and limits your imagination a little bit.”
He goes on to say: “You could think of not search engine optimisation but search experience optimisation… once [users] land do they convert well? Are they happy, do they want to bookmark [your site]/ tell their friends about it?”
SEO – Search experience optimisation?
With search engine optimisation now such a ubiquitous term, it seems unlikely that any alternative terminology is going to take hold any time soon. But Cutts’ suggestion of ‘search experience optimisation’ is certainly apt for the array of optimisation activities carried out by webmasters and SEO agencies. Whereas the former suggests that all efforts are being carried out for the benefit of the search engine itself, the latter indicates rightly that it’s all done for the user and their experience of the site.
Focusing on the user instead of the search engine is the only real workable strategy these days. Firstly because Google and other search engines have really made it par for the course, by constantly honing their algorithms to favour those sites that are the most user-friendly and accessible.
Secondly, and more importantly, it makes good business sense to focus on user experience. Because the more you tweak and craft your site so that is appealing, functional and intuitive to users, the more likely they are to use your services and to keep coming back for more.
Whatever your views on the re-branding of the term search engine optimisation, you can have your say and join thousands of others in on the discussion on the GoogleWebmasterHelp YouTube channel.