Well hello brilliant humans! And how are we, this fine day?
Yes, as my first post here in what? 4 years? I had to include mr. dancing banana!
So. Search engines as users...
Ammon is correct in his thinking and understanding.
I don't convey that concept on the notion that the people who attend my presentation, or follow me on Faceook or Twitter are completely clueless. Heck, I even convey it to every client in every audit as one of a few opening summary statements. Again, not because they are entirely loopy in their brains.
So let's explore that deeper, shall we?
Please pardon the extensive use of quotation marks in my longer response below. I include them to help convey how I came up with this notion of search engines as users several years ago...
I drive this as a primary message because Google has always driven the concept that we shouldn't chase the algorithms, that we should focus on users/humans/visitors/clients/customers/prospects...
Except, unfortunately, that inevitably leads people who have even a "somewhat advanced" understanding of SEO to, at the very least, occassionally ignore or discount critical factors that cause search crawlers, and search algorithms to choke, become lost, confused or to otherwise misunderstand something.
Since "they" are crawling a site, for the purpose of using that content for "their" purposes, and since "they" use the content to further "their" organization's goals, "they" are users.
Since "they" make ALL of "their" decisions through two funnels (search quality and spam prevention/reduction), the human mind, heart and soul are emulated formulaically.
If we do not ensure proper access based on bot access to content, and formulaic evaluations of what is discovered formuaically, "they" end up having to "figure it all out". And since we ALL, I assume, can agree that search engines often do a TERRIBLE job in figuring it all out, it is our responsibility to accept that the technical work is equally vital to the human usability considerations. Search crawler and search algorithm usability is just as important.
And because it is, I can't tell you how many highly advanced professionals within our own industry end up hiring me to do audits simply because they hadn't gone far enough in accepting that notion prior to my educating them. And even then, most agencies I get repeat work from don't have the energy/capacity/time for many different reasons, to dig deep enough into this factor as I have given over the years.
It's not rocket science. However it is search science.