Understanding every aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) is not unlike trying to have a conversation about the mysteries of the universe with a 3-year-old. Sometimes what is being said makes no logical sense whatsoever and then you catch these rare glimpses of unbelievable genius that you think you’re hallucinating. But with SEO and with a 3-year-old, just when you think you understand how it all works, they want to play a different game.
For that reason, we’ll skip over the details of how to rank well and boil them down to this: you must create content that is found, enjoyed, and shared by your audience. This article will focus on how to understand what your audience is looking to you for.
SEO Should Never Trump the Audience
Content strategists will tell you that you must become a thought leader in your area. As simple as this sounds, it confuses a lot of business people. Your SEO strategist will ask what your keywords are for your business and extrapolate long-tail keywords from them (most use analytic software or Google to do this). They will then tell you what people are searching for from a keyword perspective.
The next logical step is to pass off those keywords to your content creator. But often this is where the disconnect occurs. One of the most common mistakes I see businesses make is confusing the keywords of the audience they serve with keywords people would use to find their business. For instance, if you are a lawyer specializing in patents for pharmaceutical companies, you need to ask yourself what people would search on to find you. Some of these terms and questions might be:
- Patent attorney
- Corporate patent attorney
- Patents for pharmaceuticals
- Patents for drugs
- Help to obtain a drug patent
- How can my company get a patent?
Before selecting any of these, you’d want to check out the search numbers involved on Google or some other keyword tool. What you wouldn’t want to place for was words like:
- Pharmaceutical company
- Big pharma
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Or any other word that would return company results.
- Do you see the difference? It’s subtle but a common mistake.
Businesses often try to place for what their ideal customer or client does and not what they do. It’s a very fine line.
Becoming a Thought Leader (on what?)
You want to establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry you serve, not a thought leader in your ideal client’s industry. For instance, if you were a healthcare recruiter who only worked in healthcare, your content would focus on things like:
- How you find and place the best people in healthcare
- Why a healthcare-specific recruiter is better than a general recruiter
- Best interview questions for a healthcare company
- What questions to expect in an interview for a healthcare company
Since you serve two groups of people – those hiring and those wanting to get hired – you would want to create content for both. These topics are things people who would be in the market for your services probably search on. Creating content around them would set you up as an expert in the field of healthcare recruiting.
Niche marketing is very important to SEO because often the smaller the search (in terms of the number of people doing it), the cheaper the keywords. Plus narrower searches often yield better results as people are further along in the sales process or need assistance and are willing to pay for it.
What doesn’t work is creating content in your client’s niche. In this example, you are an expert in the recruiting field, not an expert in something like hospital administration. You may place people in those positions but you don’t want to place for their words. You want to place for words like healthcare recruiting and hospital jobs, not hospital administration (unless it’s hospital administration jobs).
Keywords Are Just Questions
The easiest way to think about keywords is to think about what people would type in to find you. This might be very straightforward (short-tail keywords) like “mechanic in Clearwater” or it could be more convoluted (long-tail keywords) like “what do I do when my car makes a weird sound?”
Make a list of terms people would use to search for you and what you do. Now add to that list with all the problems you solve for in the form of questions. Remember you want to appeal to your ideal audience, but you should be creating content that makes you an expert in your industry, not your client’s.
Solve Problems for Bonus SEO
While you’re creating content that sets you up as an industry thought leader, don’t forget to solve customers’ problems with your content. This is particularly successful in achieving shares. For instance, a caterer may create a how-to video on chopping veggies or meat the correct way. Don’t worry if you create content that helps your audience do some of what you do by themselves. If they see you as a good resource, they will return and at some point, need your help. When they do, they’ll seek you out.
In order to have good-ranking content, it must be found, enjoyed, and shared. Google bases a lot of its search rankings off of human interaction with your content. You can achieve good organic results by setting yourself up as a thought leader in your industry (not that of your ideal client’s), solving your client’s problems, and giving them helpful resources to meet their needs (in your area of expertise).
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. Christina is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.