SXO: A New Approach to Search Optimization
As User Experience becomes a key element in search analytics, a new approach to web and content design is necessary.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The buzzword has been around for well over a decade, growing from a relatively simple system of adding keywords into webpages, to a complex science of creating content that will be ranked well by Google’s ever-evolving search algorithms.
You’ve also probably heard of User Experience design (UX). This is the concept of using a combination of research, analytics and iterative design methods to create websites, applications and other software platforms whose structure and layout best serves the needs and desires of users.
These two concepts form the basis of Search Experience Optimization (SXO). And SXO is reshaping the way designers, content specialists and developers are conceptualizing the websites, apps and software they create. Put simply, it involves them working together to blend search-optimized content with user-centric design.
So, what does SXO actually involve, and how can it be realized? Let’s take a look.
SXO: User-centric search optimization
In SXO, it’s all about the ‘X’ – the Experience.
When discussing SEO and SXO, we’re essentially talking about how Google’s algorithms search for and rank websites in terms of what they calculate users want. SEO and SXO are approaches to web content that try to provide Google’s search algorithms with what they are looking for.
And for a long time, Google has been very focused on not only trying to provide users with what they know they want, but to have it delivered in the most ideal way possible.
Google doesn’t want to present users with Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) that are just packed with websites that contain information that’s simply related to what they searched for – it wants to provide content that serves their specific needs, and is designed in a way that will cater to those needs in the most fluid and engaging way possible.
The user shouldn’t have to work hard to get the content they want; it should be a seamless experience of engagement. And the best way to make that happen is through making sure that a number of key elements are present.
The content that is presented on a webpage – be it in a blog post, a product listing, or even a gallery of digital images – should serve some kind of need.
This might be a specific, rational need, such as instructions on how to fix a bug with an iPhone.
Or it might be to present a beautiful array of images – after all, entertainment serves human needs too.
What it shouldn’t do is be useless – and the best way for content to not be useless, is for it to be original. Google ranks originality highly in its searches.
Beyond being original, it’s also important that content provided is credible.
Credibility can be a very hard aspect to quantify, let alone evaluate. But what can be quantified and evaluated is the popularity of a page, the number of times it has been shared or visited by others, and the use of links within that content that tie the page to the wider ecosystem of the Internet.
Badges of trust or accreditation from well-known third-party verifiers or agents can also help to build levels of trust for users.
Having a webpage that has these characteristics will lend it credibility in the eyes of Google, and that will elevate its standings from an SXO perspective.
This is the area in which traditional UX plays an especially important role: the design of your website needs to be easily-accessible to users, across platforms and devices.
A website that has been developed through an SXO approach will be intuitive for users to navigate – and will avoid unnecessary complexity and noise.
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