The Business SEO Battle: Ranking by Numbers or Intelligence?

Best practice is all about optimizing content for logical human behavior and user experience

Nate Burke

May 4, 2021

Search engine optimization (SEO) has come a long way, with continued developments, advancements, and algorithm tweaks giving business owners, brand agencies, and marketing gurus more than just a digital headache.

But traditionally, SEO has been a numbers game, with ranking positions the all-important deciding factor. However, with the purpose of the activity to reflect and cater to user behaviors, can SEO really be simplified to numerical values?

For any business operating online, SEO is an essential element of the digital marketing mix. Forming the foundation of website designs and content output, SEO helps businesses build an online presence by increasing the chances of web pages and products appearing in visible positions on search-engine results pages.

Over the years, the activity has advanced significantly. Of course, it has come a long way since the early days of cramming as many keywords as possible into text or using spam websites to back-link to yours in an attempt to gain authority.

And while many of these activities are now frowned upon and can, in fact, negatively impact SEO rather than help it, the motivations are the same. For instance, using keywords in website copy or product descriptions is still key to ensuring they rank for the right search terms. Similarly, back links remain the golden ticket for website authority, albeit from genuine and trustworthy sources.

The difference is that today, SEO is much more intuitive. Best practice is all about optimizing content for logical human behavior and user experience. For example, keywords that are integrated into copy in a much more natural way are likely to gain more SEO points than a page that uses the old cramming approach.

The reason for this shift is all down to advancements in intelligence, which are enabling search engines to assess and score content in more sophisticated ways than previously possible. Ultimately, today’s ranking assessments understand pages and content in ways that are similar to human usage and interactions.

For example, Google’s rollout of featured snippets has shown significant insight into how the search engine is being used, and in turn, how businesses must adapt their content to reach the top-ranking positions.

Emphasis on Q&A style-results in position zero (the information at the very top of Google search results) of results pages is clear evidence for users turning to the platform for question queries, for which they want quick and straightforward answers. And with these featured-snippet boxes taking up significant space on the top of the results page, pushing other organic results farther down, it is essential for businesses to include such content into their optimization strategies.

Additionally, there is a strong case for using pay-per-click (PPC) ads to ensure higher visibility on pages that are becoming much harder to rank on organically. This is also true for product searches because the search engine prioritizes shopping results when a user’s query is interpreted as an intent to purchase. Therefore, shopping ads are a great way to ensure your products are visible among competitors in the most prominent position on the page.

Evidently, intelligence in SEO is enabling it to reflect user behaviors and intentions more accurately. And while this is a positive change from a consumer perspective because results are only becoming more relevant, convenient, and useful, for businesses the playing field is more complex than ever.

So, with ranking criteria constantly being adapted and advanced by search engines, there are ways for businesses to leverage their own intelligence to improve SEO activity.

For instance, the backbone of any effective SEO strategy is data and insight. For many, collecting this information requires a trial-and-error approach, whereby businesses implement tactics and learn from what is and isn’t working.

But as search engines become more complex and intelligent, it can be difficult to get things right, or to really be able to assess activity without waiting months in some cases. Therefore, businesses should use their own data and insights to inform any decisions or activity. This can be a key way to ensure you focus on the right channels, customers, and keywords.

For instance, using lead intelligence gathered and analyzed by a sophisticated management system that takes into consideration all sales channels, including owned and third-party marketplaces, can provide valuable information on which channels your customers are using most frequently, and what products or services are most popular.

This information can then go on to inform the channels you should focus your SEO efforts on, and which products or services will provide the best ROI.

In SEO, the numbers will always be important, as ranking positions will always determine the success of any efforts. However, intelligence should be given just as much attention because it is only with the latter that efforts can be streamlined for more effective results.

About The Author

Nate Burke’s picture

Nate Burke

Nate Burke is CEO of Diginius, a software and solutions provider that empowers organizations to achieve the maximum impact from their online sales and marketing activities. Burke founded Diginius in 2011. He is known as an early e-commerce pioneer and entrepreneur. He launched his first internet business in 1997 and is a two-time nominee Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He has a BA in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Alabama.