- Why do people search
- The evolution of search and the consumer journey
- The 3 most important principles of any marketing strategy or campaign
- Why is SEO important?
- Good SEO today
- Why is the search important?
In 2009, Bill Gates made a speech at a private dinner where he famously said, "The future of search is verbs."
Gates didn't talk about the words people type in search boxes. Instead, he talked about why people search.
Before we can understand why searching is important, we need to take a step back and understand why people search.
Why do people search
People used to look for a list of documents that contained the words they typed. This is no longer the case.
Today's seekers seek to solve problems, get tasks done, and "do" something.
You might want to book a flight, buy something, learn the latest Taylor Swift lyrics, or browse cat photos – but those are all promotions. Or, as Gates called them, verbs.
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When a user starts a search, they are really starting a journey. Marketers love to talk about something called a "consumer journey".
It's just a fancy way of referencing a user's path from the start of their task to completion – and most of those trips start with a search.
Consumer travel has played a bigger role in finding little by little over the past decade.
Originally depicted as a funnel where users move from awareness to viewing to buying, this old consumer journey is out of date (although we still use this model for illustration and to facilitate people research).
The evolution of search and the consumer journey
The modern consumer journey is no longer a funnel, but looks more like a crazy straw – with various twists and turns that represent the different channels, media, and devices that users interact with today.
To accommodate this new model, searching from simple words on the page to understanding user intent had to evolve at every stage of the journey.
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Search is no longer just about keywords, it's about delivering the right content to the right user at the right time on their journey to help them complete their task.
For the users, it's all about the verbs. Search engine marketers are all about helping the user on their journey (and ideally influencing them a little along the way).
If you stick to the crazy straw model, today's consumer journey is no longer on a single device.
Users can start a search on their mobile device, do further research on their tablet or work laptop, and finally shop at home from their desktop.
Search isn't just limited to computers or phones.
Users can now search from a wide variety of devices including watches, glasses, bluetooth speaker assistants, and even kitchen gadgets.
In today's world, even my refrigerator has its own Twitter account – and search engine marketers need to understand how different devices relate to each other and play a role in a user's search experience.
There is some healthy debate as to whether this has always been the case, but in today's ever-active, hyper-connected world, SEO has morphed into what we call "real marketing".
Gone are the days of hacks, tricks and attempts to reverse engineer algorithms.
Today's search engine optimization focuses on:
- Understand personas.
- Data-driven insights.
- Content strategy.
- Technical problem solving.
The 3 most important principles of any marketing strategy or campaign
The search touches on all three areas:
However, the search is heavily focused on the first phase: getting dressed.
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"If you build it, they'll come" might apply to baseball fields but doesn't work with websites.
It is no longer enough to have a fantastic product. You need to actively attract customers through multiple channels and points of sale.
Because of this, despite some claims to the contrary by clients or design agencies, any website is actually an SEO site.
If a webpage is attracting, engaging, or converting visitors, that page should have an important SEO component.
Why is SEO important?
OK, user, travel, search, verbs – understood.
Users are important, and many of them start out with a search, so searching is important.
But why is SEO important?
Isn't SEO just a developer thing?
I heard there is a plugin for that.
Can't Google and Microsoft Bing easily find my website?
We started this story with a quote from Gates, but it was Google rather than Microsoft that took the philosophy to heart.
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Things like Hummingbird, Panda, Penguin, RankBrain, Mobilegeddon, Possum, Pigeon, Entities, and AMP were essentially all attempts by Google to tweak its search algorithm to go from words to actions – and help users get all of the tasks done to focus on – but they are not that easy to understand.
SEO has come a long way since the days of metadata.
Sure, there are many best practices that should be "addressed" by the development team or a plugin (or built into a framework * cough cough * angular, responsive, I look at you) – but often they are not. t.
Today's websites are more applications than websites, and applications have many fancy features that don't always work well with search engines (hi, angular, and responsive).
Good SEO today
Good search engine optimization can not only focus on content, it can also help:
- Navigate through multiple versions of the same page.
- Solve technical problems that make content invisible to search engines.
- With the correct server settings.
- Integrate with social media, content, creatives, user experience, paid search or analytics.
- Find ways to speed up your website.
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A good SEO professional understands not only the searcher, but also the competitive landscape. It is not enough just to understand what the user is doing. Search engine marketers need to understand what other options are available in the market and how to fill the void to provide a better solution to the user's task.
We have come a long way from keywords on pages to full service marketing. SEO pros can wear multiple hats when helping connect development, information architecture, user experience, content strategy, marketing, social and paid media teams. It's give and take – all in an attempt to create something that works for search engines and users.
There are plenty of cautionary stories out there about things that sound as simple as a website redesign or a new CMS system that causes a website's traffic to drop or go away and businesses get mixed up.
The simple fact is that most website changes these days affect search engine optimization – and only by incorporating search engine optimization beforehand and throughout the project can a company hope for positive results.
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Why is the search important?
Search matters because users matter.
As technology advances, SEO professionals will constantly be grappling with new search methods, new search devices, and new types of searches (like voice searches or searches in my oven), but the only thing that stays constant is why people search. The verbs don't go away.
One day we could be overrun by AI or upload our consciousness to the singularity – but until then we still have problems to solve and tasks to do – and some form of search will always be involved.
Selected image source: Paulo Bobita