The Difference between Search and SEO, and Why It Matters for Marketers

This week’s a-ha moment came when two people from different areas of my life said similar things that had wildly different meanings.

Marketing Person A: SEO is the foundation of everything.

Marketing Person B: Search is everywhere.

See what I mean? On the surface, these appear to be the same thing, but they’re not. Let’s take the easier one first…

Search is everywhere.

This statement is true. 

I can verify it in my own life. 

Whenever I open my phone or laptop to any app or website, I see a search bar. 

I take it so completely for granted that it’s almost invisible to me. The only time I notice it is when I want to search for something, can’t find the search bar, and then get annoyed because… you guessed it… “It’s supposed to be right here!”

But why? Why do I take it for granted and why do I get annoyed when it’s missing?

Because my frame of reference for the online world is, “When I want something, I’ll just search for it.”

That simple belief is a core truth missed by most marketers. 

The most useful takeaway from this section is: 

Think about how you navigate your online experience, especially the things you take for granted, and then organize your marketing according to those underlying beliefs because millions of other people behave similarly.

And now for the second one…

SEO is the foundation of everything.

This statement is partially true.

It’s true in the sense that it’s important to optimize your content for search. And failing to do so makes you nearly invisible to searchers.

It’s untrue in the sense that optimization isn’t the core principle. The core principle is as I mentioned before… people search.

So it naturally follows that it’s important to optimize because people are actively looking for answers and solutions.

That’s my little journey into semantics for the day and also my thoughts on how acronyms tend to obscure ideas.

Just one more… 

What Really Drives SEO

The acronym SEO stands for search engine optimization. The acronym implies that the optimization must be done for the search engine’s benefit. 

That’s only partially true. 

Yes, optimize according to best practices for sites where your people are searching. 

But don’t lose sight of the fact that all search is driven by people who are using tiny scraps of time to hopefully find solutions to important problems.

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