It’s an old story, one you’ve heard before. SEOs have always struggled with how to define ourselves. Search Engine Optimization has never been a great name – after all, we don’t optimize search engines.

Search Experience Optimization was bandied about for a time, even by me, but it doesn’t really fit either, because not everything starts with a search. As we mature into a mobile first environment where searches are predicted rather than initiated, what we really do becomes about Findability.

As we mature into a mobile first environment where searches are predicted rather than initiated, what we do becomes about Findability. Share on X

It’s about being found when the need arises. Whether the person uses an app, a website, their phone, a voice assistant or a search engine, the results will be customized to their needs at the time. As a business, you just need to be found. It’s funny, the first agency I ever worked for – KeywordRanking in Raleigh, NC – that was their tagline. Be Found. I thought it was somewhat stupid at the time, so it’s funny to realize that they actually had it right all those years ago. If only they could have “found” a way to stay open. But I digress.

It’s always been hard to figure out where SEO fits into an organization, because SEO crosses into paid, email, analytics, social, applications, customer service, and every other area of business. The reason it does is because it was never just about search. SEO=Findability. Building a culture of findability within an organization is what a great SEO does.

Building a culture of findability within an organization is what a great SEO does. Share on X

We listen to customer service to find out what customers’ needs are. We consider the corporate branding and messaging to ensure we are speaking our customers’ language. We work with the technical teams to make sure the pages are free from roadblocks and “spider” traps. We research user behavior and language to help build effective mobile experiences, through PWAs and applications. We help write content that answers customer needs, and we optimize Amazon and Ebay listings. We discuss usability with the UX team to make sure that customers are able to navigate the site effectively. We obtain reviews when our company does a good job, and we do reputation management when they don’t. In short, we make sure our site (or our client’s site) is found in the best possible light when it needs to be found.

Findability is the new SEO. This is why SEO doesn’t belong in marketing; why it doesn’t “fit” in IT. It’s why UX isn’t the right place, and why it seems like it overlaps with social so much. Findability is its own department. It needs a seat at the C-level table, just as important as Operations, Finance, Marketing, and Technology. The sooner organizations realize this and begin building a culture of Findability within their companies, the sooner they will succeed in the new paradigm.

The key to success in 2018 will be to build a culture of Findability within your company. Share on X

This is what I said SEO will be in 2018. I wrote it for Search Engine Journal a few weeks ago.

“SEO is all about information retrieval. Studying and responding to the needs of relevance, timing, variety, and simplicity. The customer is the core; are you providing them with what they need in that moment? It goes so far beyond web, apps, and even voice.

SEO is the discipline that allows people and websites to access the potential of the internet. It’s about knowing when your site is the right result, and admitting to yourself when it is the wrong result. SEO is making your company and services more accessible to your prospective customers by studying what they need and creating the resources to serve them.”

I stand by that definition with one change. Everywhere it says SEO, replace it with Findability.