The web is abuzz with all sorts of optimization these days. We have search engine optimization, landing page optimization, email optimization, website optimization, broadcast media optimization, social media optimization and so on. But what does it all mean? And is there really anything to it? There is actually a very simple way to cut through all of the fancy talk and get to the bottom line.
According to the dictionary, the word optimize means to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible. To make the best of.
Therefore, when you optimize a website for search engines, for example, you are enhancing the site to be as effective as possible so that it ranks well with the search engines. Not incredibly complicated, right? However, there are two big ideas here that stem from this simple explanation.
Big Idea #1 – Ask “How”
Any time we are optimizing something, we are trying to make it the best it can be. This is a great thing, but it is too general of a statement to act upon. When there is talk of optimization, the easiest way to cut through the clutter is to start asking How are we optimizing? You should know what functional elements may be altered, and what the process of optimization looks like.
Four things typically guide the optimization process:
Ideally, you want all four — and you want them in that order. You need someone who has experience with whatever it is that you are optimizing so they know how things work and where to start. Intuition then guides and interprets research, which leads to improvements. Experimentation is the actual testing of what your research and intuition have concluded is likely to help. If you do not experiment, you miss out on what could be the biggest gains of the optimization process.
Big Idea #2 – What Optimization Cannot Do
The whole idea with optimizing is to make something the best it can be. But you need to go into it with the understanding that not everything can be the best. For example, say I have a mid-1990s family sedan. I can tune that car, paint it, wax it, detail it, add embellishments, and make it the best 1990’s family sedan that it can be. But it will never be a 2014 sports coupe. I could spend a lot of money but the sedan will never perform like the sports coup.
Everything has limitations. Every website, email campaign, or social platform has inherent limitations. A B2B Facebook page is fundamentally different than a B2C page. Both can be optimized but they will always be distinctly different. Every website template has strengths and weaknesses and can be better optimized for some things more so than for others. For example, one web design may be predisposed to donor experience optimization while another is more SEO friendly.
Optimization can produce profound results if it is pursued methodically and realistically.
What are you optimizing next?