As a nation, we are fixated on deciding winners and losers. This is the season for determining winners and losers. We are in the midst of yet another presidential election of enormous consequence; the MLB pennant race is heating up; and the U.S. Open is concluding just in time for the NFL football season to get cranking.
This language of sports has infiltrated business. Other companies are referred to as competitors, and there are often discussions of level playing fields. There is always the undertone of winners and consequent losers.
It is no wonder that SEO has adopted the language of sports and competition. For many years, SEO has been about competing and winning valuable top rankings. This required beating out the competition.
What gets lost is that a dynamic that focuses on winners and losers is binary. The assumption is that if one party wins, another loses. Can there be multiple winners? Yes! Of course, there can be. I’d like to suggest that the current SEO playing field is moving toward a scenario where there are multiple winners — the search engine, the business and the customer.
Here is how I see this working. First, we must assume that search is part of a marketing ecosystem that includes customers, products, multiple vendors and other intermediaries including search engines.
Each has a separate focus and drivers.
The customer wants to purchase the best product at the cheapest price. The search engine’s business success is predicated on gleaning lots of search requests and delivering information and directions to goods that make the customer happy and willing to search again.
The business wants to sell its products and grow its revenues.
Now, here is where SEO comes into the picture. By including plenty of accurate content on well-designed product pages, the site owner provides lots of red meat for the customer and will be rewarded with a higher ranking than the businesses that appear to offer less relevant information. High-quality information allows the customer to make a clear decision and walk away from the transaction happy.
This benefits all parties. The customer/searcher will return to the search engine again based on the prior experience, the business enjoys the benefit from the sale and the customer has a satisfactory experience.
You might say: “Fine, this is all good, but isn’t the business competing with others who offer the same goods?” When you move beyond a limited transactional approach — goods for cash — and consider the totality of the customer experience as unique, then you destroy the purely goods-to-goods model.
Search, with its continuing focus on delivering what the users want, is begging for this type of rethink.
The job of a good SEO is to act as a matchmaker. As an SEO who works with e-commerce retailers, I am always amazed at the efforts put into creating gorgeous sites that ooze the brand’s personality that are then flawed by horrible SEO.
The practice of SEO today is far more than twiddling a few lines of meta information or creating a technically sound site that indexes easily. These are the table stakes. The ante for even getting in the game.
Now, SEO must play a role in articulating the brand and personality for each product on the site in a way that creates a unique and satisfying experience for all of the parties in the ecosystem.
It is a tall order, but the rewards are huge.