"Findability" vs SEO

March 30th, 2011
I talk with clients quote often about SEO. My biggest problem with SEO is the acronym - Search Engine Optimization. SEO has nothing to do with optimizing search engines. Search engine companies do a pretty good job of optimizing themselves, usually optimizing away all the work we do to help clients improve their page rankings. 
Instead of an acronym like SEO, I like the word "findability." Improving your website's findability involves search engines, of course, but search engines are not the only way people find your website. If your website is the center of your integrated marketing program (and it should be), every other channel of communication should drive traffic to your website thereby improving its findability. 
For example, your print advertising should include your web address, as should all of your traditional media buys. Brochures, flyers, letterhead and all other collateral material should include it as well. When someone asks what you do or where you work, your first response should be, "Here is our web address." Email newsletters, once thought dead, are making a comeback and are a great way to send traffic to your website to get more information about a story or to download a white paper or case study. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to cast a net to draw visitors back to your site. As much as people would like to see a vast range of sites from which visitors were referred to your website (including organic Google searches), direct visits to your website are perfectly acceptable. In a way, they are preferable as they reveal that your other channels are effectively driving traffic straight to your website. 
As far as search engines and "optimization" goes, the goal here is to optimize your content, not just for the robots, but for the humans as well. It is tempting to manipulate your site's content to get Google's attention hoping that your efforts will land your website on the first page of Google results. But if the content is so obviously written for the machines, your human visitors won't find anything there that is beneficial. Even if Google rewards your optimization techniques, without a subsequent conversion of visits to transactions, the reward is empty and meaningless. The key is to provide content that your visitors can use. If Google isn't cooperating yet in helping people find your site, start looking for other ways to improve your "findablity."