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Briefly stated, search experience optimization is a combination of search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization, but that is far too simple an explanation.

As suggested by the name, it focuses on the overall search experience for the user. However, let's take a look first, at the overlaps between these pieces.

In the following Venn diagram, it's clear that neither all of SEO, nor all of CRO will have a direct effect on the user's perceivable search experience. In order to best understand where the demarcation exists, we need to define search experience optimization (SXO).

Search Experience Optimization

Definition: SXO is the use of various techniques to optimize the experience for the user, from search through conversion.

In other words, the user should be able to find relevant, focused results for their search query, easily navigate to and understand the product, service or information provided on the page, and achieve the goal of their search. Their experience has been optimized, in every sense, for the user, for the search engine and for the site owner.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) emerged as a practice in the mid-1990s. Essentially, it is typified by efforts to increase a page's visibility in the search engines' indices, in order to rank highly in the search engines' results pages (SERPs), with the goal of attracting more targeted visitors to a page.

Organic (unpaid) search results are the most common acceptable means to accomplish this, typically focusing on quantity or quality of visitors, or ideally, a combination of both.

Many SEO practitioners, however, have traditionally stopped their efforts at that point, preferring to let others take responsibility for dealing with those visitors once they arrive at the website.

Should "Search Engine Optimization" be renamed?

Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Web Spam Team explains in the video below:

play video

What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is defined by Wikipedia as the science and art of creating an experience for a website visitor with the goal of converting the visitor into a customer.

The percentage of visitors that are induced to perform the desired action (such as a purchase, or a sign-up) has traditionally been referred to as the conversion rate.

Obviously, site owners want to optimize that process, in order to maximize their gross sales and net profit. Much of the CRO process has traditionally been accomplished via marketing techniques and effective sales copy.

However, a conversion rate of 1%, applied to traffic of 10,000 visitors, is only 100 successes, whereas 20% of one fifth as many visitors will render four times the number of successful conversions.

When all is considered, the profit per conversion can be much higher than four times. Thus, CRO can not be optimally effective, on only its own merits.

Gaming Search Engines and Users

Much of the preceding definition should be familiar to you, as it is comprised of aspects of SEO, usability, and conversion. As in other areas of optimization, some practices can be employed that might allow some "gaming" of the system, but two critical facts should be considered:

Attempting to "trick" either the search engines or the user will:

  • Lessen the overall effectiveness of the search engine optimization effort (and the profit margin).
  • Have little effect on the areas in which the overlaps occur.

This presents a phenomenally important point of development in the general area of optimization. For the first time, it is not advantageous to game the system!

Recent and ongoing developments of semantic search, are allowing the search engines to deliver more relevant search results, which in turn, means more targeted users visiting a site. An effective conversion program can then increase sales dramatically, at a much lower cost per user for the site owner.

For the first time in this writer's experience, the search engines, the SEO practitioners and the users all have the same goal.

Every site owner should be analyzing their website from the standpoint of search experience optimization. If you're not practicing SXO, you're not maximizing your potential profits.

About this SEO tutorial

This tutorial was written by John S. Britsios (aka Webnauts), Search Experience Consultant at SEO Workers and was published August 28, 2010 and modified on Dec 27, 2012.

Copyright reserved. Not to be reproduced.