With each search algorithm update, the focus is becoming more customer centric, and search engine optimisation is fast becoming search experience optimisation.
The phrase was coined some time ago, and while its prevalence is growing, the approach it defines is already becoming a central part of the way people interact with your brand. There have been massive shifts in organic search rankings with recent algorithm updates, of which one has focused on sites deemed to be spamming the results by buying or obtaining links that are designed to boost their rankings. So, if all of the links to your site come from a single far off city, watch out!
Other updates have focused on penalising sites with poor quality content, or providing more useful, relevant local search results. Another important factor has been site speed, and the introduction of mobile rankings - your website will be boosted if it provides a mobile friendly version.
Can you see the pattern emerging here? Each update is aimed at delivering value and trustworthy results to the searcher. If your business is providing good quality content, on a quick mobile friendly site, and earns links due to the quality of your content, you will see a boost in your rankings. In doing so though, you are providing a good experience to your user base; people will enjoy reading good quality content and are more likely to link or share it, and if it is presented well, they will enjoy it all the more. In short, happy customers means a happy search engine, and a happy search engine means better rankings.
This focus on experience is now leading to search and conversion optimisation converging, the in and the out as it were, such that every step in the journey a user takes from finding your brand to purchasing or engaging is important. Each step is part of their experience with you, for good or bad.
In many respects, this is something of a return to more traditional methods of generating business. If you provide a good service, people will recommend you, if you don’t you will be penalised. If you pursue dubious methods to force a higher ranking, you will be found out, to the detriment of your brand.
It seems funny to think that while the above advocates a customer first approach, it wasn’t being pursued in the first place. Of course businesses are only viable because of their customers, and yet many companies push search for searches sake. As time goes on though, those that focus on optimising their experience will undoubtably come out on top.