I really loved the question put forward to Matt Cutts as to whether Search Engine Optimisation should be called something else. The answer of course is Search Experience Optimisation – which makes complete sense as that is what SEO’s are doing. They not just making websites more accessible to search enignes and worthy of inclusion. They are also helping sites to become more user friendly improving:
Semantic relevance so that users find the right pages when they click through from a search engine
Accessibility of content so that the user is overwhelmed with choices and can find the information they want very easily. The flow of information is also a smooth transition so that they progressively learn more about the organisation and it’s offering/knowledge as they navigate through the site.
Engagement of the users so that they want to share or book mark the content i.e. the content is value adding and thus worthy of inclusion in search.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) via multivariate testing of different landing pages that use different graphic, page layouts and copy.
Unfortunately SEO has been tainted by practitioners that engage in a business of making unrealistic promises on web traffic so that people get burned. There’s also the underworld element of sites being spammed or hacked in order to unethically gain rankings and search traffic that results in a negative experience for search users. So from Matt’s point of view, even if you did rename the E for Engine to E for Experience not much would change as everyone else would jump onto the bandwagon.
He also mentioned that as soon anyone discusses SEO, they all seem to think it’s all links. I’m not surprised as it has created a cottage industry for link acquisition outfits to manipulate Google and Bing in ways that are no often justified. To make it worse, low quality links have been successful in manipulating Google. Thankfully, Penguin and Panda have made our job easier as low quality links don’t seem to be working as well and people are starting to believe that cheap SEO really doesn’t work – it never has.
I would go further to add that link building should be called something else Link Acquisition or Link Development.
The latter can be split into Link placement i.e. sites you have pre-existing relationships and are therefore trustworthy in that they are highly discerning on who they link to, they have no adverse history with the search engines, they don’t sell links and they care about the content. Since you have some degree of control over how the links are placed, this facilitates crawl management by helping the search engines and web server by:
a. providing additional access points into the different sections of the website
b. mapping the semantic relevance of search phrases to the right landing pages
Link attraction is more demographic focused and thus targets the people you want to build a relationship with via search. The difference here is that there will be far more emphasis on developing content that is engaging, social media outreach and media relations to attract coverage. Of course people are more likely to link to the content rather than boring or not so boring landing pages. The job of the content is to attract media attention which may include mentions and links from sites and people you have never ever heard of. Hence the term link attraction. The PageRank earned can then be channelled through to landing pages of semantic relevance for both users and search engines.
Overall I think improving user experience via search is a far better way of describing what SEOs do and also helps to make the distinction that Link Acquisition is a separate discipline altogether that is undertaken by specialists in networking and viral content development.