As the nature of search engine promotion has expanded and matured, the label “search engine optimization” hasn’t seemed to cover what some companies and individuals feel they do. But what should come to replace it, if anything?
The venerable phrase “search engine optimization” originally emerged to cover the optimization that was done for crawler-based search engines. Now directories are a big part of the search engine mix, as are paid listing services. In many cases, you aren’t really “optimizing” for these other venues, but you certainly are doing work that can influence how sites are listed.
Personally, my preferred successor term is “search engine marketing.” I’ve been using that since the middle of last year in some cases, especially when describing what’s taught at the Search Engine Strategies conferences.
I like the term because I feel it encompasses many things: optimizing for crawlers, managing paid listings, submitting to directories — you name it. All of these activities are marketing on search engines.
I’ve never really pushed that term much in my writings, primarily because I didn’t want to introduce yet more jargon into an industry that can already be confusing to newcomers. Indeed, it’s only been until relatively recently that I’ve felt the phrase “search engine optimization” or the abbreviation “SEO” has begun to mean anything to those outside the immediate industry.
I’ve now changed my mind, primarily due to a poll that happened on the I-Search mailing list in September. Various terms were suggested to readers, and “search engine marketing” came out on top, with 39 percent of the votes. Just behind was “search engine optimization,” with 35 percent.
It was close enough to make me think about sticking with SEO just for consistency. However, the desire for a broader term is clearly there, so I’m going to make the change in my own writings. I’ll still make use of “search engine optimization,” but this will begin to diminish over time and be replaced by “search engine marketing.”
What do you think? Do you believe that Search Engine Marketing fits the bill as a replacement for SEO?
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