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Simple SEO - Watch Your Language! - Part I

I was doing some online research related to a potential new client recently and was struck by the disconnect between the prospect’s stated objectives and audience, and how they appeared in search results based on the terminology that their potential clients are likely to use when searching for what they have to offer. Then I went through the same process with a few existing clients and found similar results in most cases. While their web sites “look nice” and navigate well, they’re not currently populated with the right words and phrases to draw potential customers to their sites–or to help them “pop up” high in search listings. Obviously that’s a big problem and a concern for most businesses with an online presence.

While SEO (search engine optimization) can seem foreign and complex initally, the concepts are really quite straightforward and logical. Basically:

  • Consider the words and phrases that your customers or prospects might enter into a search engine (like Google) when they’re in need of your products or services
  • Make sure those words or phrases are featured prominently in your web site–on the home page, in headers, in blog content, etc.
  • Change content frequently so search engines continue to crawl your site, find those terms and bump you up higher in the search results
  • Watch visits to your site increase (and, hopefully, inquiries, connections and sales as well!)

While this is certainly vastly simplified, the beauty of SEO and online marketing is the ability you have to quantify results through analytics that tell you how people found your site and what they did once they got there. Doing your own searches based on desired key words and phrases can also give you important information about how your business ranks compared to competitors. And, you can evaluate competitors’ sites to determine what words and phrases they believe will drive people to their sites (and then do your own searches to determine whether their strategy is working).

This is where I’ve found a big disconnect in many cases. That disconnect relates to a common issue that I find with businesses large and small in all of their communication activities–they don’t think from the outside in. In other words, the words and phrases that they use to talk about their products and services don’t necessarily align with the words and phrases that potential prospects and customers use. And that can be a big problem, especially when it comes to SEO. If the language you’re using to describe your company and its services on your web site isn’t the language that potential customers use, your chances of coming up high in their search results are severely limited.

This is exactly the situation I discovered with the potential client I’m researching. They use an accurate, but technical, term to refer to their primary service offering. When I enter that term in the search engines, they show up within the third page of listings–not bad. But, I don’t believe that their potential clients are likely to use this term. So I considered other potential terms and phrases that their desired market would be likely to use when interested in what they had to offer. When I entered these search terms, unfortunately, their site didn’t come up–after dozens of pages of listings they were nowhere to be found. But their competition was.

While I don’t want to reveal the industry or nature of this company’s business, a simple example from another market may help. What words or phrases do you think a person with stomach pain is likely to use when searching online for information–”stomach pain” or “gastoenterology”? “Chest pain” or “myocardial infarction”? Bottom line–it’s not your words that matter, it’s theirs.

How do you determine what words and phrases consumers use when they talk about your products or services? There are several ways you can gain insights into this–I’ll talk about them in my next blog.