Search Experience Optimization – A New Strategy

Updated October 20, 2010

Doc Sheldon

Stepping out of sequence for a bit… Part Three of the Search Experience series will be coming shortly. I’ve been really busy, so I’m pulling this one out of mothballs, just to keep the juices flowing.


SXO, or search experience optimization, is not just a new name for an old idea. Rather, it is a new name for a new perspective. It is an all-inclusive strategy, encompassing all those aspects that have previously been separately pigeon-holed into:

Each of these categories have traditionally been addressed as separate practices, each having their own strategy. Most optimization practitioners have focused upon one or two, but rarely, if ever, all at once, under the same control.

Avoid potential conflicts

At times, the immediate goals of one can even conflict with another, so a lack of consolidation proves to be problematic. In order to achieve the maximum overall efficiency of all optimization efforts, a common goal must be focused upon.

The SXO concept is really quite simple. It focuses on the user experience (UX), from the moment a search query is typed into the search engine window, to the moment the user has completed the desired action and exited the page.

Search engines have long stated that their primary concern is the quality of the user experience. But SEOs are usually concerned mostly with getting their site in front of the user, so that he will click on the link to their site.

And the CRO is primarily concerned with converting a visitor into a customer. To the CRO practitioner, the reason for his visit only matters to the extent that it affects his receptiveness to the conversion efforts.

Once the user arrives at the site, his experience is affected by the quality of the design and on-page SEO methods, combined with the effectiveness of the CRO techniques. These three, design, on-page SEO and CRO, are those that often clash.

However, by uniting all these aspects behind one common strategy – search experience optimization – it is possible to greatly improve the productivity of the optimization efforts. Indeed, the consolidated offering renders much more value than the sum of its parts.

Optimize the user

Any marketer will tell you that psychological impacts play the greatest role in the success of any sales or marketing  campaign. The subject’s receptiveness is tremendously affected by their mood, satisfaction and trust level.

Therefore, the visitor’s satisfaction with the previous step in the process, plays a great part in how he will perceive the next. If he feels that the search engine gave him results that don’t meet his needs, he will automatically become more resistant to any conversion effort.

Conversely, if his search experience leaves him feeling satisfied that his needs are being met, thus far¸ his resistance will lower, as subconsciously, his confidence level in the process has increased. This is where SXO reaps tremendous benefits.

By optimizing the quality of the entire user experience, from search through completion, the potential for success is greatly improved. It is a win – win – win situation, for the search engine, the user and the site owner.

  1. The search engine is no longer fighting against the SEO, but in unity with him or her, to provide the user with the best SERPs (search engine results pages) possible.
  2. The user is more likely to receive search results that satisfy his needs, without repetitive searches. A smooth, efficient search process will improve his confidence level, achieve his desired result more quickly and easily, and leave him with a heightened receptiveness to conversion.
  3. The site owner receives more targeted visitors, more receptive to conversion, which will improve the site’s productivity, in terms of bounce rate, conversion rate and revenue.

In summary, search experience optimization is the most effective strategy for the effective optimization of any on-line presence, as it will unite all the facets behind a common philosophy, achieving much better results than implementing each individually.


  1. Paul Novak says:

    Boy can I ever understand about being busy. Just when I thought I was going to have some extra time to get personal projects finished, customers come a calling.

    At any rate, I’ve always had a bit of a problem with breaking SEO down. It seems to me that since it all serves the same eventual purpose, it’s really just SEO period, and everything else is just all the parts the make up the whole. I can understand breaking it down into specific categories and giving them their own attention, but with me it’s just easier to put it all under one umbrella and address whatever aspects seem the most useful for a particular purpose.

  2. I understand what you’re saying, Paul.

    In reality, I think that only the large agencies are typically going to be in a position to address all aspects of optimization. My point is just that it all meshes. If the SXO perspective is adopted, instead of looking at it as a bunch of stand-alone jobs that have no real relation to each other, then everybody wins.

    As an SEO that specializes in on-page and natural link-building, I wouldn’t be the best one to manage the conversion funnel. But that’s no reason that I couldn’t form a working relationship with another person that specializes in conversion for a project. I’d certainly rather pick that individual than have the client select one, that I’d have to work with, whether he saw any value in my targeting efforts or not.

    As a business management consultant, I had a number of consultants that I brought in on projects, because they were more qualified than I in some aspect of the project. It worked out well for them, for me and for the client. I think the same philosophy can work well in putting together an SXO project.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. It makes sense that you want your blog to really match up with the search terms that you’ve optimized. Particularly, I think it’s really important to make sure your theme is well organized and a good user experience for the reader. Many times I arrive at a blog and it seems like the theme was just an afterthought.

  4. Hello, Richard-

    Having content that is relevant to the search terms for which we optimize is absolutely critical, for many reasons. First of all, a failure to do so can result in being considered spammy by the search engine, and can leave our site subject to relegation to the supplemental results, and in extreme circumstances, can cause penalties. Obviously, visitors are also easily put off by the feeling that they were tricked or misled.

    Having a theme that’s easy on the eyes and easily navigated are important parts of the user experience. The search engines do look at usability issues, but your visitors do, too. I know that I’m immediately tempted to back out of a site, when the pages feature purple text on a pink background, for instance.

    Thanks a lot for your comment, Richard. Stick around and make yourself at home! If you haven’t already done so, grab my RSS feed. No cash reward, but we do have some good stuff planned, that you won’t want to miss. 😉

  5. Paul Novak says:

    Another aspect is the regular addition of content.

    Hehe, just had to bust your………….. chops Doc.

  6. You’re too late, Paul. My chops have been busted plenty, on many fronts. You’ll need to take a number. 😉

    Granted, fresh content is important, both to the search engines and the users. This post, though, was more directed at the need for a paradigm shift to focus on the user experience, and what that can do for us from a sales and marketing perspective.

    Strangely enough, I’ve taken more than a little flack for my SXO position. I guess some folks just prefer that nobody rock the boat.

    Every boat needs a little rockin’ now & then, though, just to see if it’s still sea-worthy.

  7. Custom cable assembly says:

    Hello Doc! Your topic is really an all-inclusive kind of strategy. SEO is not only done by posting your links into forum sites. A natural link-building and having a good interaction among your fellow blogger and having a two-way benefit will surely help you an enough and good traffic. Thanks a lot for your deep explanation. ~from Jeff 🙂

  8. Thanks for commenting, Jeff.
    SXO is all-inclusive, to be sure. And obviously, not every SEO practitioner is likely to be up-to-speed on all aspects. That’s when a collaborative effort can be very handy. I regularly work with others on three other continents, and it works very well. My stance is that the all-inclusive perspective creates a win-win-win- for the SEs, the users and the site owners. It helps provide a more positive user experience, which generally means a more receptive user. By taking responsibility for the quality of the experience from start to finish, we also achieve greater control. In my book, that translates to a better conversion rate… hence, a better ROI.

  9. Great to see you here, Oliver! Thanks for stopping by – I hope you won’t be a stranger.
    It sounds to me as though you understand the benefits perfectly. Whether we’re selling a product or a service, or just trying to enlist more subscribers for a newsletter or blog, it’s still to our advantage to maximize the quality of the user’s experience.
    BTW, if I can help you any with any of the issues that Ana pointed out, just let me know. I’d be glad to help. Any friend of Ana’s….;)

  10. Oliver Tausend says:

    Hi Doc,

    what you say makes perfect sense to me. We have to take the user-experience into consideration. Applying that consistently will definitely lower the visitor’s resistence to convert into a consumer or customer. Seeing SEO as working against the search engines doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Take care