You often hear SEO pros say to ‘think like your users’ or ‘think like a search engine’ or ‘think like a Google engineer’. Why? What do they mean? And which one is correct?
Actually, they all are. Let’s start with the first one. Why should you get into the heads of your users and try to think like they do?
That’s really a no-brainer. Whether you publish a website to sell your products/services or build your brand, it is your customers (and potential ones) you want to reach. Therefore, you provide a website with content that your users need or want. You draw those users into your site with keywords, the words your audience uses in searches to find the products and services you offer. You also draw traffic through referrals from sites your users visit. It’s all about the user.
So why think like a search engine?
Unless you want to waste your time building webpages few people will see, you need to consider the search engines. Can they quickly and easily crawl through your site, indexing page after page? Can they understand what your pages are about and trust that your site is a quality source to recommend? Unless the answer to both questions is yes, you probably don’t get much search traffic, if any.
When someone types a query into a search engine, they expect to quickly find what they’re looking for. If not, they will search elsewhere. Therefore, a search engine must provide relevant results to survive.
That brings us to thinking like a search engineer. How do search engines determine the most relevant webpages among the millions of websites online for over a billion queries made each day? If tasked with improving the relevance of search results, what changes would you make? When you start thinking like a search engineer, you better understand what your site needs to make it visible in search engine results for the keywords your targeted audience uses.
How do you know what keywords they will use? You think like your users.