If your SEO is targeting the search engines, you are doing it wrong

If I told you to stop doing SEO, would you call me crazy?

I bet you probably would.


Stop doing SEO.


I want you to stop doing SEO because when you do SEO, you are trying to please robots.

And I’m pretty confident your target market is made up of humans.


Stop thinking about the ‘search engine’ part of ‘search engine optimisation’

I don’t actually want you to stop doing SEO. But I also never want you to be fooled when it comes to SEO.

It seems to me that the problem with the term ‘search engine optimisation’ is really in the name.

Because SEO includes ‘search engine’ in the name, people often mistake the point of SEO and believe the goal is to make the search engines happy. This mistake is perpetuated by people out in the market who don’t explain SEO well or, worse, who make it seem that SEO = keywords + rank.

And that’s a lie.

A filthy, nasty lie.


Rank matters, but content matters more

All search engines, be it Google, Internet Explorer, Firefox, the new Microsoft Edge or any other you choose to use, are powered by algorithms. These algorithms are there to help the search engine do one simple thing: connect the user (i.e. the searcher) with the content most relevant to their need (i.e. their search, also known as their query).

All the schmucks I am calling liars and all their dirty tricks are missing this most critical aspect of SEO:

Search engines, especially Google, most like the content that best serves the humans.

If you are more worried about a good ranking than providing relevant content, then you are going to be fighting a losing battle.


There is exactly 1 company on the first page of Google. (It’s Google.)

The lie that gets told to most people about SEO is simple.

Be #1 on Google.

So simple.

So appealing.

So make-believe.

The idea of being ‘#1 on Google’ is that you would be ranked in the #1 spot for the search results for some set of keywords.

But which set of keywords? And are those the right keywords?

That’s the rub.

Doing your keyword research can absolutely improve your SEO and, yes, keywords are still very important to SEO.

But Hummingbird (Google’s current algorithm) is comprised of more than 200 major components. It is this complex mix of factors together that weigh the relevancy of a page for a query, which ultimately determines how you rank for any given search.

Read that last part again.

How you rank for any given SEARCH.

Not ‘any given keyword’ but ‘any given search.’

That’s one of the best parts of what Hummingbird did to search. It allowed the search engines to use what’s called ‘conversational search.’ Essentially, it allowed the search engines to look at and judge content the way the actual humans who are using the search engines do.


Don’t optimise for search engines – optimise for humans

The truth is, good SEO isn’t for the search engines, it’s for the people using the search engines.

Google’s own guidance on how to do SEO is straightforward: have original, high-quality content. It’s not really ‘search engine optimisation’ Google is asking you to do. What Google wants is ‘content optimisation’.

What’s the difference?

Content Optimisation is SEO for humans.

The beautiful thing is, by optimising your content for your human readers and prospects, you are making the kind of content that the search engines are looking for anyway.

So stop doing SEO.

Start doing content optimisation instead.

Image by Steve Rainwater on Flickr (CC by 2.0).