The further I get into the never-ending process of learning SEO, the more I realize that there’s an element of mystery that surrounds the practice. From the business owner wanting more online exposure to the designers and developers assembling something that will glimmer and function well straight out of the box, a working knowledge of SEO would fine-tune many people’s efforts.

Users would have more enriching experiences and find the best sites for their needs more often. Designers would have a product in need of less maintenance. However, it’s really a team effort fueled as much by the SEO consultant as well as those in other facets of the Web experience.

It seems that the biggest struggle for the SEO specialist lies in learning search engine machinations while remembering that we serve end users who take a less scientific approach to finding what they seek. This sounds like a paradox of sorts, which to some degree is true.

We could plant keywords throughout blog posts and meta data contained in the source code as some might do, but that has many times proven problematic in the end result. Couple that with the inevitable fact that search engine users have gaining increasing amounts of influence over what appears in SERPs (search engine results pages) and you have a situation that appears to have neutralized programmer effortsor have they?

The role of the SEO expert has shifted to one that involves more strategic planning for long-term impact. Like I mentioned before, not only have Web users adopted the ‘share’, ‘tweet’ and ‘+1’ in voicing their approval for other users, but more users (especially younger ones) have learned the more complex dynamics of search engines, such as domain-specific and exact-keyword searches.

Having a greater population of more savvy users ultimately means that content producers have greater accountability for the quality of their content, rather than trying to create it merely for scalability. Having a keyword focus in content creation still works, but today’s search engine users expect more, especially when they have endless options for attaining their desired content.

The real key to more dynamic SEO goes well beyond the blog post. Discovering your audience and making a personal connection with them has become more and more crucial. Keywords trigger your content’s visibility, but the ability to channel the interests and appeals of your target audience will take your SEO efforts to the next level. Once you’ve made your name and/or brand visible, then it’s a matter of finding out what comprises your target audience. Who are the key supporters and participants? Who likes to follow along and listen in on the conversation? Who might drop in occasionally, compelled or intrigued enough by your content or services, even if they have other goals?

The human factor of SEO has never been more apparent or had greater influence. These trends are here to stay and will only continue to evolve as the user population grows in numbers and intelligence. Keywords and meta data can inform our audience and supporters of who, what, when and where, but it’s up to each person in the creative process, from the designer to the end user, to understand why.