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We’ve all heard various experts toot the horn of various elements of SEO: “Content is king!” or “It’s all about the links.” Others tout their proprietary software tools or throw out terms like latent semantic indexing. The truth is, all of these things play a part in SEO (along with a bunch of other things), but if you focus on any one of these, you’re missing the bigger picture.

SEO is about communication!

Communication is defined as: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.

The communication process involves a sender and a receiver. As long as both the sender and receiver both understand the common system of symbols, signs, or behavior, the sender’s message will be understood. Sounds simple enough, right? The challenge with any communication is that the message has to be properly encoded and then passed along through the communication medium or channel and then decoded and interpreted by the receiver of the message. With search engine optimization, we are dealing with an intermediary (the search engines) who really aren’t our intended receiver at all. We have to make sure the search engines understand the message we are sending, or the communication process breaks down and never makes it to our intended receiver. This makes for a much more complicated communication process.

Google has made it perfectly clear that they are making every possible effort to improve the quality of its search engine. This means they are doing their best to decode the meaning of web pages and other web content — at the same time they are decoding the meaning of users’ search queries — all in an attempt to match up searchers with what they are looking for. They are trying to improve the web search communication channel. Our job as communicators is to create our websites and write content that makes it clear what we are trying to say. If we send the right signals to Google through the structure and content on our site, internal and external links, and all the other “seo” tactics, Google will get the message and move our site to the top of the search heap.

Don’t forget that getting Google to properly decode and interpret our message is only part of the communication process. Google is not the final receiver of our message, remember? Ultimately you want your customers to find your site, click through and complete the desired action (lead, sale, call, whatever).

Just getting your site to the top of the search engine for your desired keywords does not mean your intended customers will get your message. If your title and description is just a bunch of mumbo jumbo, you won’t get many people clicking through. Take care to use titles and descriptions that will convey the right message regarding what you have to offer. Once they click through to your site, the real communication takes place. If they don’t immediately see what they were looking for, they will back out and look elsewhere. If your message is not persuasive enough, the customer will move along to find something more convincing. Provide enough content and enough value to satisfy the searcher’s desire to find what they are looking for. Speak the same language as your site visitors and they will be much more likely to decode your message in the way it was intended.

An important part of the communication process is feedback. Try to get feedback from your website visitors. Obviously, when you get get a sale on your website, you know your message was successfully received (at least by that person). What if you’re not getting any sales? Or what about the other 95% of the people who didn’t buy? Provide other feedback mechanisms to allow your customers to give you feedback about your message. Provide clear calls to action and give them multiple ways to contact you and provide feedback. Use your website analytics reports along with tools like ClickTale and CrazyEgg to find out your site visitors’ behavior. Spend the time to close the feedback loop so you can refine and improve your communication process.

Don’t ever forget that SEO is about communication and the search engine is merely the medium to reach your desired recipient.