Search Engines now function as the personal oracles of many, many people. They are the deliverers of wisdom and the filterers of nonsense—so we hope with each query and the subsequent clicks. Their growing importance in just about every academic and professional endeavor (and everything else in between and/or outside) puts a lot of pressure on their ability to be both efficient and relevant, which makes undertakings in Search Engine Optimization all that much sweeter: optimized content brings with it not only convenience (being on the first page of the SERP is very nice for both the website owners and the searchers) but also an aura of authority that, ideally, is well deserved (if it is not, the ruse will be discovered very, very quickly).
Getting to the first page, screen, list, etc. is directly proportional to the degree of trust a searcher is willing to endow to the results; and this means that, if you are one of those lucky ones who manages to get in the top 10, you better have some notable skill, rapport, and/or authority within your field(s) of interest. If you don’t, you ought to—because people are looking to find information of much higher quality than hearsay and are interested in only the best of the relevant. In other words, optimized content better be meaningful and useful content as well, or the entire enterprise goes bye-bye, or at least ends up on a blacklist.
To any individual person, nearly the entire Internet is superfluous; that is, for every search query put forth by someone, there are many, many more that will never be entered by that person; and s/he will neither notice nor care. There is already too much noise in the world for everyone (i.e. information that is of little to no interest, depending on the individual in question), and no one is going to protest when an information source muffles it to the best of its ability. Search engines have this responsibility, and the importance of this needs to be understood.
Humans, seriously, do not like maelstroms of data or tons of options. To paraphrase an expert’s comment on the present-day situation, all the noise is like an orchestra without a conductor. Search engines seem like they could be up for the job, but why should anyone, or anything, bother? Can’t we just let the storm of data go its own merry way? We could, but some thoughts regarding the amount of frustration and burdens human beings and organizations can experience in light of information overload should make one reconsider:
Because of all this stuff, being listed on the primary SERP should carry a whole new meaning. Many search engine users (maybe not I so much) have little time for nonsense; they likely have other obligations in the realm of social media and/or in the whole real life, real world thing that they’re always logged into in varying degrees.
If you want to be a harmony among the dissonance, not only must you have optimized content that search engines like, but you need to be worth building a relationship with—and this is only possible if you are trusted.