When it comes to understanding the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) to a business the pendulum swings from "ignore it completely" to "understand and chase every Google update".

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly a website that is structurally flawed, slow to load and fails to display properly on mobile devices is losing an important chunk of online business. Similarly, a website that is search engine optimized to the gills but then fails to understand what those who find it actually want to do once they are there, is winning only one half of the online marketing game. 

How to reconcile these two approaches requires a nuanced understanding of what SEO does and what a business exists for. Stripped of all its esoteric mumbo-jumbo SEO is there to help a business find its audience at the moment that audience is actively looking for it. A business, in turn, exists to solve a problem. 

From this perspective search itself, for all its many iterations through Google updates over the years, has always been focused on delivering the best relevant results in response to a searcher query. Search becomes the bridging point between a business and its audience. This, logically, means that search is marketing. But that's not all it is. 

Human Behavior Determines Search Use

The biggest threat to your business losing that bridging connection between itself and its audience lies in factors that are far outside the remit of search itself and, by association, any SEO activity you may engage in. Following the 2018 EU $5 billion antitrust enforcement against Android, Google is now making the placement of default search engine choices on its mobile devices free to competitors.

The majority of mobile device owners are not search experts. They don't truly understand how search engines work which means qualified choices are based on purely subjective criteria. On that basis even at a conservative estimate, Google mobile search will experience a reduction in usage. The warning bells rang as far back as 2015 when it was flagged just how few mobile devices actually use Google search. 

Back then Google search was dominant on mobile devices as it was the default setting that few mobile device owners bothered to change. In the years since Google has had to change that policy and the impact of that has not yet become obvious. In addition, mobile device owners use apps and social media accounts in lieu of a search engine to find what they need. Social media accounts connect them with friends and enable them to ask for recommendations while specific apps make it easier for them to engage in search behavior. 

How To "Search Proof" Your Business

The reason we are even talking about search engine optimization (SEO) right now is because, initially, as the web grew finding anything at all in it required the help of a search engine whose crawlers had indexed websites and organized the information they contained. 

The web however, no matter how global in size, always has the most direct impact at a local level. The personal devices we use are geolocated and, increasingly, so are our laptops. This makes searching for something location-determined. The recommendations of friends and the ability of apps to know where we are at and use that knowledge to provide useful information make search the means through which we find solutions to problems we experience locally. 

Google rose to prominence because of the quality of its results. Search results that are delivered within the tight boundaries of a location always have the potential to be higher in quality because the two bugbears of search: disambiguation and veracity can be resolved that much faster when the information from which a pool of answers, to a search query, is drawn, is limited by nature. 

The limitation imposed by geographic boundaries reduces the level of ambiguity that is created by massive amounts of information that is similar in nature but does not amount to the same thing. It also makes it easier to filter what is real from what is fake. The context of local search then makes it easy to come up with a formula that helps "search proof" your business. 

Whatever happens to search next, whatever fresh updates occur in Google's algorithm or whatever app, recommendation engine or even human-word-of-mouth channel is used they all require the same two key ingredients to work:  

  • Experience - A taste of what your business does, how it does it and why it does it.
  • Confidence - A sense that your business is capable of totally solving the problem the searcher is facing, easily, quickly and at level that is good value-for-money.

Find ways to make this come through the content you create. Truly connect with those who come to you to find the solution they need to the problem they experience and you will find that fretting over SEO will be a thing of the past for you.