The question may seem a bit silly because the purpose of SEO is simply to become more visible in search engines, attract more relevant visitors, and sell more! And yes, that’s absolutely correct. That’s the primary purpose of SEO. But I would argue that even if search engines didn’t exist, most of what we do with SEO would still make sense to optimize.
There are only a few exceptions – things that we probably wouldn’t bother with if search engines didn’t exist.
In this article, I will take a closer look at some of the many things we do – things that benefit your website and online business in more ways than just SEO.
Reason #1: Google’s goal is to satisfy search users Fundamentally
Google aims to find the information that will satisfy the majority of their customers – the search users – when they perform a search. They don’t really care whether your website or mine ranks best. They just want those who search on Google to be satisfied with what they find. That way, they perceive Google as a good search engine.
So, a significant part of what we do with SEO is about making users more satisfied because that’s what Google values. And that’s precisely why SEO is important – even if search engines didn’t exist or if you are completely uninterested in search engine traffic, it is crucial that the visitors to your website are satisfied.
Through structured SEO work, you create a good and targeted plan for what is important to optimize so that your visitors become happier. It has a positive effect, regardless of whether they come from search engines or not.
Reason #2: Technical SEO is not just about SEO!
One of the crucial aspects of SEO is the technical part, and most of it also impacts how visitors experience a website.
A good example is website speed. Most people are very impatient, and no one wants to wait for slow websites. Numerous studies have shown that fast websites sell much better.
And Google knows that too. So, they make search users happy by directing them to sites that load quickly. Therefore, fast websites, all other things being equal, typically rank better than slow ones. But even if Google didn’t exist, I would recommend everyone to optimize their website speed because it leads to more sales.
The same can be said about mobile-friendliness.
It has been several years since the number of mobile users surpassed desktop users. And logically, Google changed its evaluation criteria from primarily focusing on how a website performs on desktop to measuring mobile performance. They want to ensure that the majority of mobile users reach well-functioning websites.
But precisely because many customers – including yours, for sure – now use their mobile devices to access the internet, it is essential to ensure that your website functions optimally on mobile devices. You should optimize it regardless of whether Google exists or not.
The last technical example I want to mention is navigation. It refers to the links on your website that guide visitors around.
A good internal navigation structure, in a format that is easy (or even possible) for search engines to read, can benefit SEO significantly.
Users should be able to click their way to all pages, the pages you link to the most will likely receive the most traffic, and linking related content makes it easier for users to explore areas on your website that they find particularly interesting.
Google also reads the navigation structure and uses it to interpret which pages are the most important and how they are thematically connected.
On the other hand, there are certainly some technical details that we probably wouldn’t bother with if search engines didn’t exist, such as schema data, meta-descriptions, or hreflang.
Reason #3: Keyword research can be used for much more than just SEO!
Most people associate keyword research with something directly related to SEO, and it is indeed connected to SEO, but not exclusively. In order to optimize the content on your website and ensure that the most relevant search users find you, it’s important to understand how they search.
However, keyword research can be used for much more than SEO. Even if search engines didn’t exist, it could be used for many things that can improve your business.
Whether you do SEO or not, it’s good to know what your customers call the products you sell. For example, most people call a faucet a “vandhane” (in Danish), even though the technically correct term is “armatur.” The same applies to many other industry terms. If you only use the technically correct term, many people won’t understand what you’re talking about, and as a result, you may sell less.
But keyword research can also be used to identify the product variants that most customers are interested in.
For example, I have done a lot of work in the fashion industry. And if we delve into a specific type of clothing, such as dresses, it quickly becomes clear that customers are looking for much more than just “dresses.”
As you can see from the small sample of search data on “kjole” (dress), there are actually more people searching for “hvid kjole” (white dress) than just “kjole,” and there are many searches for other color variants and types of dresses.
Data like the above can be used, for example, to evaluate which category pages would be good to create on your webshop. But it can also be used for product development. If you currently only have green, black, and red dresses and you can see that many people are actually looking for white dresses, it might be a good idea to add that color to your inventory.
I have also used keyword research for many other things that are not directly related to SEO.
For example, I have delved deeper into the details to identify related interests. A good example is when I did a lot of work for a major health portal.
They had many articles about diseases and treatments. One thing my keyword research uncovered and documented to the client was that many people searching for information about treatments also wanted to know more about side effects. By integrating this information more prominently into their articles, they became more valuable to readers. And it would have been wise to do so even if Google didn’t exist.
I have also used keyword research to conduct political analyses for a US presidential candidate, election analyses for Danish media, and much more that has nothing to do directly with SEO.
The point is that even if search engines didn’t exist or if you don’t consider SEO important, you can still benefit greatly from better understanding how your customers express their needs.
Reason #4: Good content not only helps with SEO!
Good texts sell. Period! And if you need to explain some slightly more complex matters, the right formatting with good structuring, clear subheadings, bullet points, and summary info boxes are elements that can make it easier to read and understand.
Some information is best presented in long articles. Some information is better suited for an FAQ format, a dictionary, a blog post, or a video.
Over the years, Google has become better and better at understanding this. So, it’s not just about your texts but also about the format and how they are presented in a way that makes them more readable.
Whether you focus on SEO or not, it’s wise to optimize your content in a way that makes it easier to digest and more helpful.
Reason #5: Good links attract customers – not just from Google!
When it comes to links and link building, most people associate them with SEO. However, good links – links from websites where your potential customers visit – have value beyond Google. If they click on your links, it can lead to sales, completely bypassing Google.
If you focus your link building efforts on obtaining links from relevant sites – which is also beneficial for SEO – you are likely to attract direct visits from readers of those pages who click on your links. The value of these visits can be significant.
I recall a major client in the construction materials industry whom we worked extensively with a few years ago. As part of our SEO tasks, we helped them acquire numerous links. One day, we took a closer look at the sales generated solely from clicks on these links and were pleasantly surprised to find that it amounted to nearly 20 million kroner per year!
So even if Google didn’t exist, creating all these links would have been a tremendously profitable business move.
Increased user engagement boosts sales! User engagement encompasses various parameters that indicate how engaged visitors are on your website. There has been a long-standing debate about how much it matters to Google, but in my experience, it definitely has an impact, albeit to different degrees for different websites.
Even long before Google started considering user engagement, we worked on optimizing it. We simply didn’t call it user engagement back then; instead, we referred to it as action and conversion optimization (CRO).
Regardless of where your visitors come from or how much it directly strengthens your rankings on Google, it makes perfect sense to focus on optimizing user engagement. If your visitors bounce less, return frequently, spend more time on your site, and add more items to their shopping carts, it ultimately improves your business.
In fact, this is an area I often recommend companies to work on BEFORE investing too much money in SEO and advertising. If you can double your conversions, all marketing costs are essentially cut in half – both paid advertising and organic SEO.
Prioritize SEO – regardless of import search visibility is to you!
There are many more aspects within SEO that are important, even if you don’t prioritize search engines or if they didn’t exist.
The purpose of this article is simply to emphasize that SEO work has benefits beyond just SEO itself. SEO serves as a valuable framework – a guiding principle – when optimizing your website and business. Regardless of search engines, it leads to better user experiences, more leads, and increased sales.
Therefore, you should also consider whether your SEO expenses should be viewed as part of your marketing budget. Since much of it is actually related to web and business development, it should be included in your budget considerations.