Karthik Donepudi

Karthik Donepudi

Organic Search Manager

Changing SEO to SUO

Why this change?

For nearly 16 years we got used to the term “Search Engine Optimization” when dealing with our efforts of promoting a website in a search engine’s organic/natural real estate. Back in 1997, when the actual term was coined, it was quite logical to include “search engine” in SEO as search engines were primarily the target audience for a website’s marketing efforts that included:

  1. Submitting the URL of a page
  2. Creating a meta keyword tag
  3. Creating other meta data

But now, I think the time has already come to consider a website’s promotional activities based on our target audience, who as we are fully aware, are now known as search users. Hence, the need for changing SEO to SUO.

Okay, what is SUO?

SUO (Search User Optimization) by definition is promoting a single or collection of digital properties including, but not limited to, Webpages, Images, Videos, News, Local & Shopping primarily based on “search user’s” behavior and needs on the search engine’s organic listings. This definition as we can see is primarily aligned with our core target audience needs and not on search engines and it might sound radical to exclude search engines as part of our marketing efforts. But if we think about it, SUO is purely a branch of an internet marketing channel to connect an audience looking fora website’s products, service or other offering, and helping them satisfy the needs they are looking for in terms of great search experience to a wonderful landing page experience.

I am a big fan of marketing and love listening to customer voices, their pains, joy, complaints and so on. You may worry about the impact of discarding search engines entirely but if we see and predict how search engines are moving, I can say with some confidence, search engines are already factoring some of the search users’ intent signals. If we make our search users happy, search engines will follow us because search engines too want happy search users in order for them to visit again.

Why should search engines always treat a “title tag” as one of the important ranking factor? Well, if we think about it, a title tag is the first touch point to a search user to interact with a web site. So are other elements like Headline, Keywords in Copy, etc. My point is that search engine algorithms contain many, if not infinite, ranking factors, but mostly they are set with the search user in mind. For instance, if search users are able to have a happy web page experience with minimum bandwidth issues from servers, users are likely to come back again in the future. This is why Search engines started to incorporate Page Speed as a ranking factor.

So to conclude, SUO (or SEO) should always be considered as a marketing channel for search users and not search engines. Always follow Search users’ trends, needs, wants and not a Search Engine’s algorithm updates.

I know this is not a lengthy post with lot of content but this is my first installment into changing the way we think about SEO. Oops sorry it is SUO now 🙂

Do you agree that SEO has evolved into more of a SUO practice? I am excited and happy to learn more about your opinions, feedback/suggestions or comments.

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  • Yes! I totally agree. Matt Cutts actually talked about this in one of his Google Webmaster Help videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZStQhWx8YPc), saying it’s better to think of it as “search experience optimization” instead of “search engine optimization” because, as you said, the focus should really be on optimizing the user’s search experience across a variety of digital properties.

    • Search Experience Optimization = SEO….
      So, why inventing another acronym?

      • Karthik

        Hi Gianluca,

        Great point, but SEO (Search Experience Optimization) will be disguised with traditional SEO(Search Engine Optimization) and difficult to identify and communicate . Since we should be focused on users and not on engines, Search Experience Optimization as the word is not directly telling about users. We should be obsessed about Users 😉


  • Juan Barahona

    Good post Karthik, since the introduction of rich snippets on the search results page, SEO has definitely shifted to a SUO. Now we need to optimize videos, news feeds, social media and any other digital assets and make them enticing to the customers and not to the search engines. Once you have the SEO foundation of your site in place, it’s all about delivering quality content and a good user experience.

  • Betsy Cohen

    I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate SEO’s into what I am doing!

  • Brett Dixon

    Yes Yes yes! I hate the phrase “SEO” it doesn’t describe what we do. We’re not trying to Google what it wants, we’re trying to give USERS what they want. Google wants the same thing, and in time, Google will become better at rewarding sites that do this.