The Human Element of Search

Well today I finally caught up with the hype, controversy, and promise about Sphinn, and have to say… even if it’s a popularity contest, it’s a great little resource for all things social media and search marketing related. I’ve got nothing against great link-baited content and insider voting dominating a search marketing professional-geared site, because for the most part, everything I’ve read there has been good. If anything, I must applaud all the effort on behalf of the SEO community to get the site as lively as it is after only two weeks.

One of the first great resources Sphinn turned me on to today was Sebastian’s Pamphlets, in particular, his post about determining the value of search engine rankings based on human traffic which ultimately led me to another great post, using Google’s webmaster tools to determine how well your SERPs convert users. Though he also shares a link to a clean way to check Google search engine rankings, he stresses that it is far more important to focus on how people use search engines, rather than raw search rankings alone.

While this should really inspire a “Well, duh” moment, the reality is that the SEO world is often a positions-focused one, with a site’s position for particular search results the sole determinant of the success of a website (how many SEOs have you heard guarantee “top 10 in Google” as the sole benefit of their service?).

In reality, user conversion, usability, and clickthrough optimization of a page is as important, if not moreso, than the actual search engine positions that a page will get. It’s easy to write a page and stuff keywords in the title tag and content. But to make a page that really is relevant to a user’s search, answers their need, and moves them through the buy process seamlessly while encouraging trust? Much harder.

Take a look at your homepage. What does it say? Does it give you a clear sense of personality… say, clean-cut professional, serious business or funky casual? Does the site tell you what it’s about and where to go? Does it appeal to you in a way you can’t really explain, but just say, “I like it” ? If not, then you might not be addressing the underappreciated human element of the internet, which influences the decisions of the search engines more than you might expect.

Thanks, Sebastian, for being forthcoming with a fascinating spin off the regular analytics process and Sphinn, for trying something different in the opinionated, bullish, and information (but not always knowledge) saturated search marketing community.