The New Definition of SEO: User-Focused SEO and Its Goals

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? There has been a range of different definitions of SEO, yet through it’s evolution most of them have not changed to keep up with the changing search landscape. So, we thought it was time to redefine SEO with users at the center of the strategies – just like Google does.

At its core we believe SEO strategies, above all else, must provide value to a website’s target personas, and the brand as a whole. So everything we do is rooted in long term value.

Goals of User-Focused SEO


In the new definition of User-Focused SEO, there are two primary goals that all the strategies roll up into.

  1. Create targeted and valuable experiences and content to earn high-value traffic.
  2. Increase conversions and user satisfaction by creating an environment that allows the user to connect directly with the content that best matches their intent.

Note: When planning, strategies, design, and content don’t support these goals of the new SEO is difficult to do correctly.

Three Consistent SEO Variables


  1. There are more than 250 variables that Google uses to determine where your website should rank amongst others who are targeting the same keyword topics.
  2. Every change that you make to your website has some affect on how Google values and ranks your website – even changes that you think are small or inconsequential change your website’s overall value and relevancy.
  3. Because a website does not operate in a vacuum, each change might not be enough for you to lose (or gain) rankings, but it does cause a new ranking value to be calculated by the search engines.

Note: This means that SEO consistency, and integration in all strategies and updates is key to success.

Traditional SEO vs The New User-Focused SEO


definition of seo old vs new

Benefits of User-Focused SEO


  1. Helps manage online reputation.
  2. Protects against traffic loss during site migrations and redesigns.
  3. Protects against being penalized by search engines.
  4. Lowers risk of ranking loss due to algorithm update.
  5. Increases ROI and conversions.
  6. Increases user satisfaction from those coming from search and referral channels.
  7. Better matches user intent with content sets.
  8. Improves website usability and brand satisfaction.
  9. Increases not only traffic quantity, but also traffic quality.
  10. Earned social shares and engagement from influencers.
  11. Earned links and citations on high-value websites.

Adding a New Persona To All Campaigns


In order to create a successful marketing campaign, it is important to understand who you are targeting. When SEO is an important part of the marketing mix it’s important to define and include Googlebot as a persona to help drive SEO integration and value.

You can learn more about how we defined the Googlebot Persona here.

Parts of the User-Focused SEO Framework that Defines SEO


Client Alignment Training
What: This includes continuous knowledge sharing and training sessions with clients about the ever-changing SEO landscape.

Why: This is done to help align internal client teams, educate the client about valuable SEO stragies, and align belief systems, so that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Define Success Metrics
What: These are the primary and secondary goals of the campaign

Why: Used to help define strategies, distribution maps, and align campaign focus across channels

Define High-Value Keywords
What: Defines the set of high-value keywords to optimize for, and build value around. These high-value keywords are defined based on their traffic value, conversion value, persona value, and brand value.

Why: This will give us a list of high-value keywords to focus on and build the content strategy from.

Read more about how we define high-value seo keywords and our keyword research approach.

Baseline Measurement
What: This is a measurement across your primary search KPIs.

Why: This is done to provide a baseline for measuring the success and value of the marketing strategies.

SEO Value Score
What: An audit of 100+ weighted variables built on an algorithm that correlate with SEO value. It identifies opportunities for optimizations that can contribute to site health, crawlability, and the search engine’s understanding of how relevant your website is for your high-value keywords.

Why: This is used to help uncover site issues that would keep the search engines from understanding the websites authority, relevancy, or crawlability.

Competitive Audit
What: This identifies your real competition for both informational and commercial search queries. It runs off a framework that helps you build smart strategies from insights gained from analyzing real competitive sets.

Why: This helps us understand keyword difficulty as well as strategies the competitive set is using to drive traffic, gain rankings, and increase conversions.

competitive seo framework for the new definition of seo

Define Content KPIs
What: These are the primary and secondary goals of new content assets.

Why: These will be used when defining content strategies, distribution maps, and aligning campaigns across channels.

Define Persona Target
What: These define the target demographics and psychographics of the user type that a website wants to target.

Why: This is used when determining what type of content to create, what topics to target, and where the content should be distributed.

Onsite Content Audit
What: Analysis of current content sets utilizing GAP, ROP, Keyword, and Intent Analysis.

Why: This helps align user and search engine needs, with goals and KPIs of the content sets.

GAP Analysis
What: This analysis uncovers gaps in current content sets and topic targets, and those which have been identified as being important.

Why: This helps inform content creation strategy, and can help inform site hierarchy based on current content sets.

ROT Analysis
What: This uncovers low value content that is classified as either “redundant”, “outdated”, or “trivial”.

Why: This helps inform content creation strategy for deletion, creation, or rewriting current content sets.

User Intent Analysis
What: This helps align user needs of those coming from search results, with the content set they land on.

Why: This is used to ensure the users intent is being met with the content they land on when coming from a search result. Having a higher user intent score can increase user satisfaction and give positive signals (such as low bounce rate) to the search engines, that the page is ranking for the correct keywords – this helps solidify rankings.

Tagging Updates
What: This includes title tags, description tags, and header tag updates

Why: This is used to align the tagging of the content, with user and search engine needs for page relevancy and hierarchy.

Onsite Content Updates For Legacy Content
What: This includes updating content sets to reflect priority keyword targets.

Why: This is done to better align the search engines and the users with the value of the content set and what the page is relevant for.

Define Content Type For New Content
What: This helps define the content types that will be most effective in the campaign.

Why: Each type of content has strengths that help it be more effective towards accomplishing a business or marketing goal. This tells us which type, or combination of, content we should be using.

Topic Definition For New Content
What: This helps us define the topics for the new content sets.

Why: Once the type of content is defined, and we know who we are targeting, we can define the topics for the content. These topics are defined using a similar model as the keyword definition stage, and takes into account traffic value, conversion value, persona value, and brand value.

Distribution Map
What: This is a “map” that helps define content distribution.

Why: This helps define the channels that each piece of content should be distributed on to drive goal completion and KPIs.

Content Creation
What: This includes creating new content that is not currently on the website.

Why: This content can be used for onsite keyword targeting and traffic gains, conversion rate optimization and goal completion, as well as within social channels to build community and brand.

Social Channel Utilization
What: This involves utilizing social channels as a distribution source and engagement medium for new and existing content.

Why: Social channels can be used to help socialize and distribute content. This results in better user-metrics and inbound links that contribute to authority and relevancy, as well as community building and brand positioning.

Digital PR
What: This is inclusive of identifying high-value content partners, putting together an outreach strategy, and executing an outreach program to build links and ranking metrics.

Why: This is done to help build relevancy and authority for keyword rankings, to drive traffic, and increase brand value and awareness.

Social Channel Optimization
What: This is about optimizing social channels and social content.

Why: This is done to help build a strong foundation for content on social channels, which helps them rank within the social channel. An example of this would be optimizing videos for YouTube distribution.

Align With Google’s Goal


When defining SEO we wanted to make sure we took Google’s goal into consideration. Their goal is to connect users, with the most relevant and contextual content. The job of the modern day SEO is to help websites create valuable contextual experiences built on a strong foundation that aligns with a websites primary persona targets and user journeys. Defining the job of the SEO professional in this way aligns with Google’s goal, and helps Google find, understand, and rank the best experiences – ultimately driving valuable traffic to your website.