Earlier this week I was chatting with one of my clients who was having difficulty finding a match for a piece of furniture he inherited. As he described what he was looking for, and how he was searching, I realized this was a perfect example of failed SEO.
Follow with me for a few minutes, and I will show you why his failed search is the same problem your clients have in finding you. Then I’ll show you how to fix it.
The Company Writes Perfect Copy (They Think)
The furniture company or auction house describes the various pieces of furniture in their collection.
First, because the period of the piece is between 1780 and 1820, they label it Hepplewhite, Federal, or Sheraton. Because furniture in this style is characterized by contrasting veneers and inlay, they list the Amboyna Veneer, Satinwood, Mahogany. The shape is properly described as Demilune, and since it has drawers rather than a simple flat surface, it is a Cabinet.
Therefore, the exact, proper search to find the desired furniture would be:
Amboyna Veneer Hepplewhite Demilune Cabinet, or
Satinwood Sheraton Revival Demilune Cabinet
The Client Writes the Perfect Search (He Thinks)
Not being an expert on the various historical styles of furniture, he starts his search with Antique. Then he describes the shape as Half Round. Since it acts as a table, he calls it a Table. The wood on the top looks like burl, so his carefully crafted search was:
The Problem Becomes Obvious
Because the company specializes in this industry, the authors of the web pages use the proper words and exact phrases for their products and offerings used in their business. The client on the other hand is unschooled in the vernacular of the antique furniture market, so searches by shape, color, form and function.
The content on the page is perfect. The search phrase is perfect. They just don’t match. Therefore the search engine doesn’t connect the two.
The copy writer did not think about how a client would search, so she didn’t include that content. Instead, she described her product the way she would search for it.
It would be great if this were an isolated incident, but unfortunately almost all the websites I visit are written for the owners, not for the clients.
Save Your Site From Certain Death
Remember, people come to your site to solve a problem. If someone knew nothing about your business, how would they describe what they are looking for?
Examples might be:
“spray for car dashboard so the sun won’t crack it”
“round shovel for planting potted flowers”
“spaghetti sauces that don’t cause reflux”
“toys kids can make for themselves”
“safety equipment so building inspector will approve construction”
“shiny buttons for my website” (OK, maybe not that one)
The challenge is that you can’t ask your clients. After all, they successfully found you. The ones you are after are those whose searches failed, but for that very reason you don’t know who they are anymore than they know about you.
Begin by going to the places where you are likely to find your particular clients. This might be chamber of commerce meetings, business conferences, or trade groups that your clients would attend.
Don’t try to sell them. Instead, ask for their help:
- Tell them you are trying to understand how people outside of your industry understand your products and services;
- Describe a situation typical of your clients;
- Ask them what words or phrases they would Google to find the answer to that problem;
- Record all their answers;
- Go back to your office and search for each of those terms;
- Gauge where your site is in those results;
- Re-write your copy to include those search terms.
You have several options for adjusting your copy. You may choose to write a whole page describing the types of problems people experience that you can solve, using the words and phrases from your research, and then relate them to the lexicon of your industry to educate your potential clients. This is often referred to as a “cornerstone” page.
Alternatively, you might sprinkle them throughout your page. If you have pictures or visual content, the alt tags and captions might be a great place to add this copy because it will come up in image searches. For example, the caption for the furniture I described at the beginning might be changed to “This Amboyna Veneer Hepplewhite Demilune Cabinet is a beautiful example of the antique half-round table with cabinet drawers of that era“.
You Aren’t Done Yet (or Ever)
Writing the most carefully crafted, elegantly word-smithed text will do you no good if your potential clients never find you. This is not an exercise in college english. Write the way other people think.
Times change. TV shows may educate people about your industry – just think what HGTV has done for landscaping and home remodeling. News events may alert them to situations they should be take care of. A movie or TV ad might propel products like your into popularity.
Whatever the situation, how people search for you will constantly change and evolve. Your content needs to match it, so if you get in the habit of asking and testing, your website results with reflect your success.