‘Search Engine Optimization’ according to an SEO 5 years in the making

It’s been 5 years since I properly set foot in the SEO world back in January of 2016 when I started working at a digital marketing agency in Hong Kong.

To mark this event in my personal career calendar, I laid out some thoughts on what I think the definition of SEO is.

Unhelpful answer from an SEO novice

I should have counted over the years whenever I was asked by someone what SEO means. Maybe my memory is completely off but I do recall more people having no clue what it was than the people who had heard of it.

When asked what SEO is, I think I probably gave a very unhelpful answer along the lines of ‘optimizing a website for search engines.’

But my thoughts have evolved over the years into a philosophy of sorts.

Having been an SEO for 5 years

Since about a year ago, my answer has been ‘SEO is about optimizing for user experience.’ To me, (at least with Google) search engines ranking factors are focussed around users and their experience.

For instance, slow site speed is inconvenient for users so is a negative ranking factor. Thin content doesn’t provide enough information to users so again is a negative factor. In this way, I’ve explained the major ranking factors from a UX perspective.

I’m quite satisfied with this answer but I want to at this point perhaps give a broader definition of what SEO is – and I feel it’s about ‘managing a site well.’

Having worked on my own content site and on others, I think a well-managed site naturally ends up being optimized for search engines, for users. Even aspects of a site that are not visible to search engines or users should be managed well and ethical best practices should be adopted throughout.

Of course, this isn’t easy, even with small sites. But it’s a definition that rings true for me, at least for now.