Member Tip: SEO TIPS FOR THOSE WHO DON’T TALK GEEK

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.
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Member Tip Monday: How Do I Improve My Organic Search Listing As A Small Business?

Search engine optimization is like weather forecasting without models and data. You open up your window and look around. You make plans and try things and look for patterns.

There are people who are happy to give you tips, and there are best practices, but ultimately it’s something that’s always evolving as algorithms are anything but constant. However, optimizing your content and site to place well is essential to minimizing your marketing spend on getting found. Here are a few tips to make your small business competitive on a local level.

Improving-organic-search

Is It Harder for Small Businesses to Place Organically?

Google’s algorithm is aimed at showcasing “valuable” sites first. Since Google is not an expert in every field it looks for indicators of a quality site. These things include:

  • Decent load times (no one wants to wait even 2 minutes for content to load)
  • mobile friendly (according to Google, 82% of smart phone users use their device to find local businesses)
  • good content (as evidenced by shares, interactions, and links)
  • good outbound links (your site is not an island. Google expects you to link out to quality websites as well)

In non-organic search, large businesses have a distinct advantage over small businesses – money. From an organic listing standpoint, that advantage dwindles. What they do have over small are exposure and notoriety. People often think first of larger businesses and may share their content more readily because it comes to mind first.

Luckily, the advantage ends there. A small business can produce content that gets recognized and shared with the same ease (or difficulty, as the case may be) as a larger company. Yes, a larger company may have a larger audience and larger staff, but creating blog content and sharing it on social media requires the same effort from both groups.

Improving Local Search

The first thing you want to concentrate on if you have a physical business location is building out your business profile on Google and other directories. Ensuring you’re listed in local search is free and doesn’t require anything more than your time.

At a minimum, claim and build out your business listing on

When you visit these directories you may find your business is already listed. Verify the details and claim it, if applicable. Be sure to fill in anything that isn’t complete, including your business hours. Information from these sites feeds local search so don’t leave fields incomplete.

Next, check out other listings such as your local chamber, YellowPages, SuperPages, and industry-specific business listings such as TripAdvisor (if you offer food, entertainment, or lodging).

Here’s where things get a little tricky. There are data aggregators that pull information about businesses and feed them to other large companies (TripAdvisor included in that). Look at your business listing. Is the information about your business correct? If not, it can be cumbersome to change. Even if you go directly to TripAdvisor for instance, they may change it on their site, but that doesn’t fix a hundred others. In this case, Moz offers a yearly service where they will push out corrected information for you to the four main aggregators of business data.

Improve and Seek Out Reviews

There have been books written on this topic on how to create a referral mindset among your customers. But simply put, you need to make sure you focus on delighting your customers and making it easy for them to tell others about you. You must also ask them to do it. There’s a lot more detail in the implementation of these ideas but that’s how you’ll improve reviews on the most basic level.

Take the time to respond to reviews, good and bad. The good ones make you shine and the bad ones give you the opportunity to improve your offerings.

Think About SEO When Creating Content

You are writing for two distinct groups – search engines and people. People need good quality content (from their perspective) that addresses issues they care about, gives them the information they need, and entertains them. The content needn’t do all three at the same time but it should do one.

From an SEO perspective, you want your content to give your audience what they want because they’ll be more likely to share if you do. You also want to do everything you can to personalize it to your industry and local audience. Have you ever read a novel that is so rich in the setting and life it describes, that you feel like you’ve been there? On the other hand, have you read something that was so flat, that you didn’t even recognize it as a place you’ve been many times?

Place can be a character and you want people reading your website content to have a sense of the place you service. You can do this by mentioning surrounding areas, local events, and using insider language in your copy. These little things help customers identify with your site and tell Google that you are a local industry authority. You’re not a bot or a keyword stuffer.

A Final Word About Placing Well in Local Search

Finally, be smart about the keywords you want to rank for. There are some that are impossible. For instance, if you’re a local travel agency, ranking for “travel” will be Herculean task mainly because the first page is dominated by heavy hitters like Travelocity, Expedia, and CNN. Instead, focus on being a big fish in a small pond. Look to optimize your content by answering questions your ideal customer wants to know (or things they’d key into search, like the title of this article). Look for local opportunities like “best travel deals to Orlando from <your town>.” It’s a mouthful, but creating copy around long-tail keywords will help you achieve better local placement for free.


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. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

*Post seen on Montgomery Chamber of Commerce website.