How to Pick Keywords – Ask Your Customers

Jan 25, 2013

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How to Pick Keywords – Ask Your Customers

Every business wants to rank well on Google. The higher the better. What’s harder to determine is where to rank well.

True story – I did some consulting work for an accounting firm. Before I arrived, they hired a big name SEO company, paying $4,000 per month earning them the number one position in 24 search phrases. I was impressed and eager to see the long list of leads it produced. But there were no leads. Shocked, I took a closer look. I discovered the keywords they ranked in were totally unrated to the services my client offered. The irony is, the SEO company followed standard protocol in keyword selection. But by adding one simple step, an hour or two of extra work, they could have saved my client a ton of money and heartburn.

What Are Keywords?

When someone does a search on Google, they type in some words and trigger the search. These words are called keywords. And when a company wants to rank well on Google, they need to decide what keywords they want to be found under. Then the company applies several techniques, call SEO, to show Google they are the best online resource to show people who are searching with those keywords. But no matter how skilled we are performing SEO techniques, we won’t get the results we want unless we first pick the right keywords.

The Standard Keyword Selection Process

Typically, an SEO professional will select keywords by balancing three main ingredients: traffic, competition, and relevance. You want to rank high where there are lots of searches. This is traffic. Think of it like putting up a billboard next to a busy freeway instead of a dirt road. Next is competition. You’d rather have your billboard where you don’t have to compete for attention. Lastly, it’s important to have your billboard next a road of travelers who are likely to be interested in your offer. If I run a family dental practice in Denver, I’m probably don’t want billboard space in time square, New York. There’s lots of traffic, just not the kind likely to ever do business with me.

It’s fairly easy to spot where the internet traffic is, and even where the competition is low. What’s much harder is determining relevance. It’s hard because we have to guess what people are looking for when they only gives us a few words to work with. It’s looking beyond the “search action”, and into the “search intent”. This is where the trial and error begins. Like any good scientist would do, you make a guess, and then test to see results. And as your SEO marketing evolves, the “guess n’ test” model continues. I’m sure you can imagine the costs. Guess n’ test can be an expensive process, especially when it may take several months to witness full results. But is there a shorter path?

Ask Your Customers

A savvy in-house SEO director has a marketing research tool that an outside SEO company rarely has—access to the clients. When selecting your keywords, why not talk to your clients? Here’s how:

  1. Make a list of your best clients. These may be the ones who buy the most, but it could also be the ones who are the lowest maintenance, or smaller accounts that have higher margins. Use your judgment. Ask yourself which clients you want more of.
  2. Call them up and ask them a few questions. Basically, ask them what keywords they would use to try to find your services.
  3. Compare their answer with your traffic and competition data.

It’s that easy, yet surprisingly few SEO directors, even in-house ones, will take this simple extra step.

As a bonus, here’s a call script I’ve had success with:

Hi John. We’re calling to ask a small favor. We consider you one of our best clients, and we want to attract more clients like you from the internet. So I’m calling because I’m hoping I can ask you three and a half quick questions.

Pretend you’ve never heard of our company. What search words would you type into Google to try to find services like ours? Thank you.

And if you had a need, but you weren’t familiar with services like ours, what words would you type in to try to find what you needed? Thank you!

And finally, I have a short list of phrases we think people might Google to try to find us. Which of these do think you’d most likely to type in? Least likely? Thank you, so much!

In short, when you’re picking keywords, remember to talk to the kind of people you’d like to attract. You may be surprised at the level of insight you’re able to gain. You’ll probably save your company some time and money, or you’ll at least confirm you’re on the right track with the keywords you selected.

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