I'm not trying to coin a new phrase here, just looking at SEO from a different perspective. See, I never really liked the term Search Engine Optimization. That seems like the job of the math geeks behind the search engine algorithms. Its their job to optimize the search engine, not mine.

To be more accurate, SEO should be called WO, or WSO: Website Optimization. That's what I do, I optimize the website in order to help it gain more exposure, increase traffic and get more sales.

But what are we optimizing the website for?

Back when the term Search Engine Optimization was coined, we were optimizing for the search engines. Rankings was the goal. Very few in the SEO industry cared much about what happened to the site beyond that. If they could achieve top rankings on Excite and AltaVista, their job was done and they were a success.

But today's SEO goes so far beyond optimizing for the search engines. Rankings matter, but so does site performance, visitor engagement and conversions.

Instead of optimizing the site for the search engines, we are really optimizing it for the search person. let's look at what SPO (Search Person Optimization) means.

Search Person Optimization = Rankings

Yes, rankings are important to the searcher. The searcher has gone to the search engine first because they are seeking information. If you provide information want then you want you also want to be at the top of the search results so they can find you. The more relevant your site is to their query, the more the searcher will be served by your site being there.

Search Person Optimization = Click-thrus

It's not enough to be at or near the top of the search results. A top ranking is just another car on the showroom floor. You have to make the searcher want you; you need to entice them to click on the search result link into your site. Throwing keywords in a title tag can help get you rankings, but that's not enough to get the click-thru. You need to optimize your title tag to be compelling enough to make the visitor click your over someone else's.

Search Person Optimization = Visitor Engagement

Once the visitor lands on your site you need to keep them there until they take the action(s) that you desire. Not every user will, of course, but that doesn't mean that you cannot make improvements. Tweak your site so that you provide more of what more visitors want and need, or ensure they are more likely to take the action you're looking for.

Search Person Optimization = More business

As you improve the SEO aspects of your site, thereby increasing rankings, you will in turn, increase the traffic to your site. Traffic alone can increase the amount of business you get, but improving the site itself you are able to get more conversions without ANY increase in traffic. Add traffic increases to that and your sales go up exponentially.

The thing to keep in mind is that search engines don't buy your product or services, people do. You're not optimizing your site solely for the search engines, or at least you shouldn't be. You need to start optimizing the site for the people who come to your site through the search engines.

January 14, 2010

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Good article, although, when I first got into SEO my first thought wasn't "wow, number one for there main keyword, go me", it was "what's the point in optimising a website for a search engine, when the websites not that usable, the structure is poor and thre is no real sence to the navigation". I've been doing website optimisation for people rather than search engines for over a year now, and I have to admit, I have seen much better results in terms of click throughs, sales and product visability.

Great comment, Martin. That's the way its supposed to be done. Those that don't look at how their visitors interact with their site are leaving out a big factor in success.

You've just skimmed across many existing industries and tried to coin a term?

Stoney, I like your thinking, for it brings us back to the main point, which is to make the site findable and useable by humans. And as search engines become more 'human-like' then it makes sense to optimize for humans.

One very important thing I've learned form my previous company is Usability of website. We are always after how the user navigates and use our site so they can find what they are looking for.

Insightful post Stoney. I like it when you call the process "Website Optimization". It's like how I call my services. As a matter of fact, I use two terms instead of SEO:

1) Website Optimization, which means on-page SEO
2) Website Promotion, which means off-page SEO

The ultimate goal of SEO should be attracting, retaining and converting the targeted traffic. I should say that I've always had noticed the confusion people have when talking about SEO when they aren't specialized in the so-called search engine optimization methods. They've heard that SEO works. So, they come to you and ask for it, but many don't know what it really is that they refer to as SEO.

Yes, this is good. The search engines don't purchase the services and products featured on websites; people do. One thing I have to stress over and over again to my clients is that a strong, well written description tag can do wonders for clearly communicating what they offer to their target audience. But they also need to understand that the content on that page must then back up the description. It's all for the people.

Great post; thanks so much!

Well said! I also somehow didn't like the term Search engine optimization....though I don't even like it to be called SPO...

I'd myself call it Search Engine Rankings Specialist (SARS) or SE Rankings expert for SEO but then there are very few people people who really play well with keywords and understand search engines.

You need to optimize your title tag to be compelling enough to make the visitor click your over someone else's. I see that you are trying to say that the person is being presented with companies all offering the same widget--so show that I'm different, but when the competitors who are in places #1, #2, #3 and #4 have title tags that are keyword loaded, I still don't have a lot of faith in the searcher to make it past them simply because of their sheer position.

Am I being naive?

A lot of searchers don't make it past the #1 position even if it's not the best result. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about that. They are impulse clickers. But that doesn't make them impulse buyers. So #1 may get more clicks but #5 can get more sales.

This got retweeted 130 times? This article is nothing more than a lame-ass rephrasing of something any intelligent SEO has been saying for a long time now.

So, for try SPO we must try SEO first?

Thanks but I'll stick to Rahman's explanation of things as it's very similar to SPO. I always end up optimizing for search engines and thanks to you I'm now reminded that people buy, search engines don't. Cheers.

I see a lot of sites with very good search engine positions but then the traffic that they get isn't really that good. This only shows that we must strike a good balance between ranking on a keyword and engaging other people go to your site. SEO without SPO is useless.

Uhhh, so you're trying to coin a new phrase...

Let's stick with SEO. No matter how you phrase it, the concept is the same. We don't need anymore useless acronyms.

You got me, Steve, I was trying to coin a new phrase. Forget the first line of the article, you saw right through me. ;-)

You have to be able to juggle your customers (people you are trying to sell to) and search engines (google, yahoo, msn, etc), the most important thing to consider is if your product is truly relevant to that particular keyword it still must get people to buy what your selling.

Yes, you right, Stoney. Need to make optimization not only for search engines but and for visitors and all will be good. thanks for attention

Sure, maybe we don't need a new term, but you make a very good point, Stoney. Why do everything to make your client's site appeal to search engines, when the point, from their perspective, is to appeal to their visitors? I always found "SEO" to be a little disingenuous, anyway. Who cares what search engines (a.k.a. Google, let's be honest) want, what do the users want...?

I agree no matter what term we use the target is the same. Improve a websites perfomance for SE and visitors

Thanks martin its really nice stuff but i think searching searchers is dependent on your targeted country in which you get business

Realy good stuff... Most people with an online presence get caught up with links and forget about onsite SEO, more importantly SPO, this artcle reminded me that both are equally important.

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