So What’s SXO, Anyway?

Updated September 6, 2010

Doc Sheldon

In between playing around with plugins and widgets, I’m going to take a break and write a post.

I said on my About page that I’d go into a little more detail about SXO – search experience optimization, so now seems like as good a time as any. SXO isn’t anything new, as I’m sure some of you are already saying. What it is, is a change of perspective… a new mindset. Most SEOs have focused on only one or two areas, such as on-page and off-page, link-building, social media marketing, conversion rate optimization, semantic optimization… there’s more, but you get my drift. Most choose the areas that they feel are the most essential, perhaps the ones that will give them the quickest results, and leave the rest to others. One area that is probably most often shunned by the typical SEO is CRO – conversion rate optimization.

Most accomplished SEOs I’ve come across will readily admit that traffic, regardless of how targeted it may be, doesn’t pay the bills, without an effective conversion strategy. But perhaps because it’s more of a marketing schtick, a lot of them don’t get too involved in it. They look at conversion rate as a metric, but much as a racecar driver looks at the carburetor… necessary, even critical… but someone else’s job.

I’ve always thought there was some logic in focusing on the areas in which you’re conversant, and let others deal with their area of expertise. Sure, it’s helpful if a web designer understands the SEO’s basic needs, and vice versa. But it’s difficult for one person to be expert in several diverse areas.

However, as the web evolves, I’m convinced that our perspective has to evolve with it. It is becoming more and more difficult to compete effectively, in a sea of ever-increasing competition. Ignoring one single aspect can give the competition the edge they need, to push our site down a few notches in the SERPs. And we all know that even a few notches can be felt on the bottom line.

Stepping back to basics for a moment… what’s the main purpose of all our efforts?

  • Get targeted visitors to the site
  • Convert them to customers

Hmmmm… not too complex, when you write it down. But we all know there’s a hell of a lot more to it than that.  We have to get our pages into the SERPs, and placed high enough to get the visitors to at least see them. When keywords and search terms were the two biggest factors, that was a little easier to understand. Now, however, on the cusp of a truly semantic web, and with meta keywords having lost their punch, it’s a little more subtle. Verbatim keywords are no longer absolutely necessary, as the search engines have developed to the point of being able to determine what we meant to say, by the surrounding context of our copy. Big development, that! So we no longer have to be certain to have car in our copy, in order to show up in the SERPs for a query for car insurance. Auto, automobile and vehicle are equally valid.

And if we’re smart, and use some of the more recent technology, we can not only better our chances, we can also put more information in front of the user, to attract him to our site. Microformats, rich snippets, RDFa, CTags… the terminology varies, but the effects are similar… they put a LOT more information  into the SERPs, than was previously the case. To me, failing to take advantage of that capability would be like having a page title of “Home”, and a blank description. Why even bother to build a page, if you’re going to hide it in the jungle?

Looking at the big picture, and optimizing the user’s experience from start to finish… from search to conversion… that’s what SXO is. Every step in his journey that leaves him satisfied, also makes him more receptive to that final conversion.

And THAT’S what SXO is all about! Find him, attract him, guide him, advise him… and CONVERT him! More and more SEO firms are going to be adopting the SXO philosophy.

At least the successful ones.


  1. Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe says:

    Traffic doesn’t pay the bills – such a simple truth that is so ignored!

    Love the way you think, Doc.



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