Paul Boag, a fairly famous Web guy, claimed to not get the value of SEO. I can’t blame him sometimes after I see what SEO agencies pull on companies.

But when done properly, I’d argue that SEO can help. It’s not just about making a “semantic” website, a skill that web designers tout way too often. There are some ways that SEO can help with the user experience when done the right way.

1. SEO helps you speak the customer’s language

Don’t you feel more comfortable when someone speaks your language? How much more settling is it to see the phrase you typed into Google appear in the headline of the page that you clicked on? How much more comforting is it when the content answers the exact question that you were asking?

In these times of shorter attention spans, fractions of a second are crucial. Would you rather your customers spend time unpacking your “ME ME ME” jargon or spend that time doing other things with your website? The choice is up to you, and many make the choice to stick with the jargon. (It’s surprising how much of this that you still see. Or maybe it isn’t so surprising.)

2. Customers are looking for you in their time of need

The act of the customer finding you is valuable. It’s empowering. It’s why people love hunting for information, products, and services all on their own in Google.

While social media and other forms of marketing are good at generating demand, there’s something to be said for handing the power over to the customer. It’s not either/or.

3. SEO helps people find what they’re looking for

Of course, this goes south when you’re not actually offering what the searcher is looking for. That’s actually a great way to associate negative feelings with your brand!

You must do your keyword research carefully and make sure that you find that balance between what you offer and what the searcher intends to find. When this is done judiciously, it’s a powerful thing.

Can SEO be found elsewhere?

A lot of good SEO practice can be found in other disciplines. Great product designers can build something that people can’t help but remark about. Great web designers can make sure to honor accessible design, design great experiences, and coach you on best practices for the Web. Great copywriters and subject matter experts write content that’s worth reading. Great PR professionals can get people talking and linking.

All of this must be encouraged. I’m right on the sidelines cheering on these leaders.

But search marketers can give you that extra bit of insight to help you find opportunities in your marketing strategy. The real risk is in finding someone who is honest and good at it.