We’re always looking for ways here at Bethel to boost our search engine rankings. That’s what SEO (search engine optimization) is all about. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to stay on top of the latest best practices because the algorithms that search engines use to deliver page results are constantly changing.

When the challenge overwhelms me, I call upon the simple advice to think about our users first. Because writing pages with your users in mind is one of the best strategies for making your pages count.

Write for one person

The best advice for making your pages friendly for users and search engines is to write for your user, not the search engine.

When you picture a single person in your audience and write the page as if you’re talking to them, you’ll naturally use relevant words and phrases. Search engines will see that you’re writing real information that’s focused on your audience. It’s what they want—to deliver webpages that are written with their searchers in mind.

Use meaningful titles and subheadings

Page titles and subheadings provide the best clues about your page content. Users scan your headings to look for what interests them. They want to know quickly if your page is helpful and meets their needs.

Search engines look at your subheads to see if they match what you’ve promised in the title. They’ll also make sure the content within each section fits with the heading. All this to say, they’re looking for well-organized, relevant content—just like your users.

Link keyword phrases

When your users scan a page, they notice linked words. It makes good sense, then, to link words that will help them predict what they’ll find if they click through. Another way of saying it is that your links should have a good information scent.

Search engines look for the same thing. They want the words you’ve linked to match the page content underneath. They also scan the words on either side of your links to makes sure they’re surrounded by good information that’s relevant to the context.

Define your uniqueness

I’ll admit that this one is harder to do, but I feel it’s important to strive towards.

When we get specific about what we offer that’s different than our competitors, we have a great opportunity to reach a right-fit audience. When we produce genuine content that serves the needs of our users, it becomes more valuable than nearly any other SEO strategy.

To stay relevant, our distinctives need to get more distinct. We need to spend more time being real about who we are and targeting that message to a more specific audience.

Again, this can be a challenging and time consuming process. But it’s worth the effort.

Just as I was wrapping up the first draft of this post, a coworker passed along a great Forbes.com article by Ken Krogue (The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content). And I think he states the point quite well:

“But what does Google want? They want relevant, real content on the internet that people want to read and tell other people about.”

For Ken, it’s rather matter of fact.

There’s a lot you can do to boost your rankings, but putting the focus on your users should be the first place to start.