SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization; as you most likely know. But what do those three words really mean anyway?

The Definition of SEO

Here's how SEO is defined on Wikipedia:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results.


Pretty simple and makes complete sense right?

That definition is also a broad blanket statement. How exactly does one "affect the visibility of a web page"?

Mechanical Optimization

You probably already know a little something about what I call mechanical search optimization. This term refers to how your web pages are structured technically.

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Proper use of Headings
  • Image Alt tags
  • Keyword density
  • Number of words
  • etc.

These days, making sure you have the proper optimization isn't that hard if you follow some basic structural guidelines and use tools like the WordPress SEO plugin for WordPress to gauge your per-page performance.

Doing this makes your web page more visible to search engines.

Human Optimization

When I talk about human optimization, I'm referring to the content as seen on your web pages and how real people see, skim, or read that content.

Do your page titles generate that first action of creating an interest in reading further?

Does your content evoke an emotional response from your readers?

Does your content present a problem and then offer an actionable solution to be put into practice by others?

Doing these things makes your web pages (and the content on those pages) more visible and accessible to actual humans.

Not only that, but if your content is original, useful, and to the point, it's likely to be shared more.

Search Engine Optimization "Tactics"

Make no mistake, there are baseline optimizations that can and should be done when creating content, but they should not be your only focus.

It's All About Content, Discovery, and Conversions

In a recent article on CopyBlogger, Sean Jackson sums it up perfectly.

Introducing “OC/DC” — the replacement for SEO

What people really mean when they say “SEO” is the idea of optimizing content for discovery and conversion across a wide spectrum of the web … not just search engines.


When I read that article it was clear that Sean had tapped directly into the emotional pain point that myself and many of my colleagues have been trying to express, but couldn't quite put into words.

His call to redefine the term SEO into something more in line with what search optimized content really means will quickly become a mantra for those of us writing our own content and who are teaching individuals and businesses the importance of creating original, useful, and optimized content to be shared with their audiences.

Sean goes on to offer a two part definition to his "OC/DC" terminology:

  1. External Optimization
  2. On-site Optimization

External optimization is focused on the type of traffic you want to attract to your site and the research and refinements of gaining that traffic.

This encompasses not only search engines, but also gaining traffic from social sites, other blogs, and content syndication sites.

On-site optimization focuses on the traditional technical aspects of SEO, but also on what you do with that traffic once they arrive at your site.

In other words, when someone visits your site from any individual source, what action is it you want that visitor to perform and how to you guide them to that action?

SEO is Dead - Optimized Content is Alive and Kicking

The term SEO has become corrupt.

It's unfortunate because in and of itself, it's a very descriptive and innocuous definition for something that still matters if your managing your own website and content marketing strategies.

But the days of creating a page with sub-par content and then using unprofessional tactics like buying links and comment spamming to drive traffic are over.

You may not have even known this was happening with your content, especially if you've previously contracted with an SEO company promising the front page on Google and "X" number of backlinks to your site.

Search engines are smarter and people are smarter.

Being Realistic about SEO

Now, I know that the term SEO is not going to go away anytime soon. It's just too common and well known at the moment.

However, in my workflow with businesses and individual clients, I am going to continue to promote the benefits of thinking about search optimization in different terms.

Specifically, the "OC/DC" terms...Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversions.

Photo by brewbooks