Forget Panda. Ignore Penguin. In fact, disregard SEO overall. If you think I’ve lost my mind, hang with me for just a minute. At least for a moment, let’s not talk about search as a result unto itself. Instead, let’s talk about why search matters to your business—and why it may not be doing its job. Your website is your company’s best salesperson. Or it ought to be. But no matter where you rank, too many sites fall down on the job at connecting search results with business results. And after years of optimizations, enhancements, and tweaks, don’t you wonder why?

Aligning search results and business results often boils down to connecting two questions:

What do you want your customers to do?

What do your customers want to do?

Strange though it may seem, the second question may be easier to answer. The search terms customers use to find your site, the landing pages through which they enter your site, and the devices they use to access your information—whether desktop, tablet, or mobile—work together to uncover key drivers of consumer intent. Add in other sources of information such as customer service calls/emails and consumer reviews of your products and services to paint a clearer picture of customer needs. The first question, though, seems to trip up a good many businesses.

While they often want customers to “engage” or “share” or, heaven help us, “buy,” it’s amazing how few businesses I speak with who consistently achieve these objectives and consistently connect those with the bottom line.

The problem isn’t that these are bad goals. They’re perfectly fine. For instance, “engagement” is a great thing. Getting potential customers to return to your site and to your content again and again often reflects purchase intent. Sharing is pretty awesome, too. Your customers’ friends, fans, and followers offer opportunities for increased sales, while search engines value social shares as important markers of quality content. And the value of “buying” speaks for itself. The problems arise when businesses fail to align those goals with those of their customers.

Usually you want to sell more stuff. Sure, you may be a lead gen type and want to collect more email addresses or a non-profit and want more donors. But whether you’re selling products, gathering leads, or enlisting actions, you’re trying to close a deal. You provide the customer something they value—products, white papers, a better community—in exchange for something you value.

But if your website, your landing pages, and, yes, your search engine results pages don’t help your customers achieve their goals, you’re unlikely to reach yours. So, as you plan to encourage engagement, promote sharing, and drive conversions, remember to ask why your customers should care to do those things, what’s in it for them. Then adjust your landing pages to highlight the things your customers care about.

Not only does putting your customers first benefit you from a business result standpoint, but, Google has also made it clear that its Panda and Penguin updates prefer pages that offer users high-value content. So, not only should you see your business results improve, but you should see your search results improve, too.