Search optimization focuses on how people search; its foundation stone is quality Web content. Search engine optimization focuses on how search engines work.

In an age of information overload, how is your Web site going to be discovered? Because if it's not found, it might as well not exist... and all your effort will have been in vain.

Every day, millions of people use search engines to find things. A significant majority of these people will not go beyond the first page of search results, and most people will stop searching by the third page.

However, if you want to succeed with search engines in the long term, you should not primarily focus on how the search engine works. Rather, you should focus on how the brain of the searcher works. Because if you understand how people search, you're halfway there to getting found when they search for your content.

It all comes down to a small set of words. (I call these words "carewords"—the words people really care about.)

Searchers are the modern equivalent of hunter-gatherers. They go out hunting and gathering content in order to complete a task. It's very important to understand that searching is just the first step in this task completion.

Making sure your content is found in the first page of search results is a great start, but it is only a start. Until the searchers have completed the task they came to your Web site to complete, nothing of substance has been achieved.

People want to make a reservation, renew a license, find out more about a course, etc. Therefore, we need to see search optimization in the context of the task.

In reality, what you need to focus on is task optimization. How many customers bought your product today? How many citizens availed of your service today? How many students applied for a place at your university today?

In future articles, I'll talk about how you can optimize your Web site for how people search. I will explore why linking is so crucial to success. I will explore how you can create content that significantly increases your chances of being found, as well as increasing the chances of task completion.

I was recently thinking of renting a holiday home in Spain, so I searched for "Spanish holiday homes." I clicked on the first search result, and this is the text I read:

Spain Holiday Rentals
Holiday rentals in Spain for holidays in Spain
Spain Holiday Rentals directly from the owners. Rent Spanish holiday homes - a holiday villa or perhaps a holiday apartment in Spain. Spain vacation rentals for holidays in Spain are easily located by searching a Spain holiday home on our Web site. Spain Holiday Rental offer Spanish holiday homes for your next Spain vacation.

This content is excellently written from the perspective of search engine optimization. The carewords (Spain, holiday, rentals, etc.) are prominent and repeated often.

However, this content doesn't seem credible to me. I don't get a sense of trustworthiness from it. In fact, it read to me like spam, and that made me quickly hit the Back button.

Remember, getting people to your Web site is just the first step. Having them complete the task is ultimately what it's all about.

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image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern ( is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.