End Searcher Optimization: The New SEO

  |  June 22, 2007   |  Comments

Just when about everyone in the industry thinks he knows a little something about SEO, it changes.

Seems the world isn't waiting for anyone to catch up.

In a recent ClickZ column, long-respected SEO (define) guru Mike Grehan suggested we search Ask.com for "Spider-Man 3."

There we glimpse into the future of search engine results. Welcome to universal search.

Mike speculates: "With the three-column approach, I can't imagine why I'd ever scroll down the page, let alone click through to a second (did people really click through to the second page in the Fred Flintstone SEO era?)."

How's that for a punch between your peepers? Grehan continues:

End users are lazy and don't have a clue what they expect to see when using search engines. I know. I'm an end user, and I'm as stupid as the next one when it comes to using search engines. But think of my delight when I throw in a vague two- to three-word query and find a page that answers even more of my potential questions before they've been asked.

What does it mean for SEO professionals moving forward? It means we've finally reached point where better marketing counts -- and not H1 tags.

Yeesh, and you thought optimizing for those pesky text and link spiders was hard. How are you going to optimize now? (Do I even need to mention what's happening to online traffic costs?)

It's telling when search engine results answer more questions and give a superior visitor experience than the majority of so-called optimized pages. Search engines have been doing one thing most SEO efforts and marketers refuse to do: they're aggressively focusing on end searchers. What a concept.

These new algorithms try to anticipate their wants, needs, and time, possibly even pique their imagination. Search engines are merely a reflection of what people want; complex algorithms and crawlers are only a means to that end. Search engines are bigger visitor advocates than most sites.


So what's the answer to the challenge ahead? In his column, Grehan asks my brother and me to come up with fresh descriptions to replace the tired SEO/SEM terms people love to churn out in decks and at seminar parties.

I don't want to change things too much. So let's keep it simple. Instead of SEO, let's try ESO, for "end searcher optimization."


We don't optimize the search engines. We want to optimize the end searcher.

Though the principle is easy, the practice is a bit difficult. There are many searchers, all with different buying and searching styles and different preferences, all in different stages of the buying process. (Yes, you do have to optimize for all of them, or at least those who will affect your conversion and sales.)

Here's an example of two end searchers shopping for their next smart phone:

  • Tara Presenter. Tara's the classic competitive; she always wants to be a step ahead of her colleagues, clients, and friends. While she's not an early adopter (too many bugs), she's interested in owning something that functions better and smarter than the smart phone she has now. She wants people to be impressed when she sets it down on the conference room table. She wants a few features she can brag about and show off.

  • Mike Value Shopper. Mike's the classic methodical buyer'; he wants value. He wants the most for his money and couldn't care less what others think. He wants reliability and practicality. Price is important. To make a decision, he needs an abundance of data and the ability to compare phones side by side.

Now that we know about these two end searchers, it's our job to present relevant content to them. On a universal search results page, they'll be attracted to two different things. Tara will be attracted to:

  • Crisp, detailed images

  • A 3-D view

  • Articles and content referring to "best smart phones" and containing information relevant to her need to impress

  • An executive summary of the smart phones she would consider

  • Content referring to new features and benefits in smart phones

Mike, however, will be attracted to:

  • Links to objective third-party reviews

  • Customer reviews

  • Comparison charts

  • Available deals and offers

  • Detailed spec sheets

Knowing the different types of end searchers also helps us plan the substance of the content they need and the media to deliver it. For a recent client launching a whole new business line, we went through all the content we'd planned for each of the personas and decided which piece of content had to be delivered as an article, a blog post, an image, a video, and so on. This type of optimization is a far cry from H1 and meta tag optimization, but it isn't a far cry from what we'll need to drastically improve the end searcher experience.

Meet Bryan at SES Training Classes on August 8 in Boston.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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