Optimizing for the Searcher Experience
Are your digital marketing efforts focused on exploiting technology or empowering people?
Some years ago I came across an interesting idea describing an alternative definition to to the acronym SEO (which usually refers to “Search Engine Optimization”). This author (whom I am unable to find and credit) posited the notion of “Search Experience Optimization”, and described a concept that was much more focused on exploring the psychology of search marketing rather than exploiting opportunities in search technology. What was most engaging to me was the author’s ability to tie motivational and consumer psychology research into hypotheses for how to attract the attention of people and encourage their engagement through their initial use of search portals like Google, Yahoo etc. The most interesting aspect of the article was that it was heavily focused on the individuals engaging with search engines, and not on the engines themselves. While this seems a less-than-groundbreaking concept today, at the time it revolutionized the way Deep Ripples approached SEO.
Search Experience Optimization is more than ranking high in the SERP’s. It is first and foremost about producing relevant results through the creation of compelling content and an engaging, empowering experience. Showing up in Google or Bing, while not irrelevant, is barely more than an introduction to the digital marketplace. In the past couple years the digital marketing industry has become wise to this, and de-emphasized search engine optimization as a “silver bullet” solution and stressed the importance of content marketing, online PR and social media. This has been a much-needed evolution towards a more integrated solution of online attraction, attention, engagement and enrollment, but what is often overlooked in the swell of techno-centric fads is the most critical aspect of marketing – people. Search, social, content, PR, – these are merely channels and platforms that people currently use. While these channels will continue to rise, fall and evolve, it is always people that are the driving force.
Not a “consumer”, not a “prospect”, and certainly not a “user” (what a horrible thing to call a person!), but “person”. Considering the personalized nature of the internet and it’s experience through personal and mobile devices, we would do well to stop thinking in the aggregate and remember the web is uniquely experienced by individuals. The personal experience of the internet is one of the reasons why a traditional division of sales (one-to-one) and marketing (one-to-many) tend to fall flat online, especially in B2B. A company doesn’t visit your website – a person does, and this person has his or her own expectations and agendas in doing so. Regardless of your brand, product or service, people aren’t engaging for your benefit, but for their own. By serving their interests, you can earn the opportunity to form a mutually beneficial relationship – but only if you can show you understand their needs.
For business’s that run on relationships (as most do), it would be wise to remember that if your message doesn’t speak directly to the individual experiencing it, their experience will be brief and insignificant.