From search to rich and relevant content to superb user experience, search engines are redefining what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and what it ought to be. In the 1990’s when the term “search engine optimization” was coined, web admins busied themselves making their websites as ostentatious and striking as they could utilizing the available technology at that time.
Webmasters at that time and until drastic changes where incorporated in the algorithms of search engines, were just busy optimizing their pages for search engines just to land on top of the heap and gain first-page rank on search engine results page (SERPs). The resultant effect of this is the many abuses of webmasters using existing page optimization methods to get high page rankings at any cost. During those times, SEO were used primarily to increase page rankings and not enhance user experience. SEO came to be used to find smarter ways to manipulate and exploit the seemingly lax system of rules to get higher page rankings. Because of this mentality of circumvention, search results became highly suspect and shoddy while SEO developed ill refute.
Desperate Times, Desperate Means: Google Brings Order
We don’t want to sound melodramatic but yes, those were desperate times. Gaming the system and sort of rigging it just to rank of page results, webmasters took full advantage of algorithmic flaws, generating search results that Google’s bots “thought” to be best, but that people were essentially tired of.
Google banged its fist and made clear that Google’s algorithm would not be there to be duped with shortcuts and circumvention, but to be utilized and followed with one specific goal: improving user’s search experience.
In May of 2010, Google introduced Mayday, an algorithmic update wherein significant portions of mid-tail and long-tail traffic got slashed especially those that lacked sufficient off page support. Websites with extensive but thin content took the brunt force of this algorithm update heralding the Panda update.
February of 2011 saw the Panda update, a key algorithm update that has hit websites even harder affecting up to 12% of search. This time around Google’s main objective was to reward sites having quality content over sites that are just well optimized for SEO, and heavily penalizing websites with thin or duplicate content.
Another game-changing algorithm update was the Penguin update in April 2012. This algorithmic update intended to decrease search rankings of sites that do not follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by utilizing shady SEO techniques, such as keyword stacking and stuffing or link farming.
September of that same year saw Google introducing the Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update. Previously, because of a loophole, owning an exact match domain can be an effective way to increase rankings in search engines wherein keywords are included in the domain name, producing search results as grotesque and self-gratifying as www.i-am-the-best-seo-specialist.com. The EMD algorithmic update was Google’s way to shut that loophole.
The following year, in 2013, Google started using Hummingbird. Hummingbird is Google’s “intelligent” update that not only considers each searched words but also able to judge context – the intention of the person doing the search, to intelligently guess what they are trying to find out.
The use of keyword synonyms have been extensively utilized and optimized with Hummingbird; instead of the usual listing results with exact phrases or keywords, Google shows more theme-related results.
It’s All About Improved Search Experience: From Plain SEO to Search Experience Optimization
From Mayday to Panda to Penguin to EMD to Hummingbird and anything in between, Google has indeed introduced a lot of algorithm updates; these changes have arguably changed drastically the SEO scene. Almost always in any changes that Google made the overriding goal is improving user experience. All said, it’s time for search experience optimization.
No, we don’t mean SEO is dead. Search engine optimization is rapidly evolving and constantly changing. And search experience optimization is just a morphed version of search experience optimization.
The term “search experience optimization” isn’t really a new term. Ben Potter, in a blog has written a pretty interesting article regarding search experience optimization in which he candidly pointed out that the first mention of the term is from an article on seoworkers.com albeit in a different context.
So what exactly is search experience optimization?
The subtle subterfuge of using “experience” instead of “engine” in search experience optimization emphasizes the need to improve the experience of users that are looking for something online which you offer in such a way that piques their interests to your product or attracts them to your website.
Simply put, search experience optimization is all about:
- Creating quality content that searchers and readers like.
- Quality content is relevant, truthful and accessible.
- Constantly analysing your website’s analytics to find out what searchers don’t want when they land on your page, and proactively do something to change it.
- Create structured mark up and rich snippets which people can view to make it easier for people to choose which page to click.
- Truthfully communicating to your viewers.
In essence, search experience optimization is what SEO stands for now, making people searching the web happy by giving truthful and relevant information in search results. In modifying what SEO means and adopting the new term’s core principle—improved user experience– we position our interests to that of the users and, ultimately, to search engines.
With all said, signs point towards search engine and more importantly, Google, rewarding this actions and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future – a future in which more sophisticated algorithms will be used in identifying and rewarding those who endeavour to make search a better environment.