MISS Musings, MISS University

Search Terms: Understanding Your Customer

March 23, 2015
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The Internet has forever shifted the buyer/seller relationship. As David Meerman Scott shares in his best-selling book The New Rules of PR and Marketing, traditional media like advertising assumes that the customer is ready to buy, but today’s consumer want to be educated before they make any purchase decision. Think about what you would you do if you were in the market to buy, for example, a new car. What would you do first? Answer – you’d Google it.

What are customers looking for – and how to help them

Today’s businesses have the opportunity to go directly to their consumer, which is why an online presence is so important. Your website allows you to talk directly with your customer and share how you meet your customers’ needs through the products and services that you offer. But as my co-author Pat Gallagher and I share in our book Big Game Bigger Impact, too often companies focus on their product’s attributes versus the needs of their customers in their marketing, and then don’t understand why their messages aren’t connecting with their customer. First, you need to identify the needs of your customer and then demonstrate how your products or services fulfill that need. As marketing guru Seth Godin said very succinctly, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

Connecting with your customers through search terms

But how do you get customers to your sites in order to share how you meet their needs? Your site needs to be discoverable. There are a few different ways to rise in the ranks of Google, but today, we’re going to focus on specifically on search terms and how to think like your customer.

First, a definition. A search term is the exact word or set of words that a customer enters in Google or other web browser when they are doing a search. They are the natural language that a customer would use and not just keywords that online advertisers use to group like customers.

How to determine your own search terms  

The best place to start is what you want to be known for.

For example, when Soulstice Mind + Body Spa in Sausalito, CA introduced meditation to their suite of services, they wanted to be known as the go-to location in Marin County for meditation classes so they selected “meditation in Marin” as their most important search term. Learning where and how to do meditation in Marin County were two important needs of their customers. Or take Hawaii Islander, the premier online destination for all of your Hawaii travel needs. One of their popular customer services is customized travel itineraries that give the traveler a local’s knowledge of the best spots in Hawaii, so they want to be known for search terms such as  “how to plan a trip to Hawaii” and “Hawaii travel packages.”

Don’t know what your keyword phrases should be? If you are a Google Ad Words user, you can use the Google Keyword Tool for free. But if you are not, here are a few tips for identifying keyword phrases from the Wix Academy:

  • Be specific. When brainstorming keywords, chose words that describe what you and the services or products you sell. Are there words you can use to better describe for your business? For example, if you are known for your croissants, try “fresh croissants baked daily in San Rafael” versus just “San Rafael bakery.” Think about what differentiates your business from the competition.
  • Remember to put yourself in your client’s shoes. This isn’t what you’d Google to find your business but what your clients will Google. You might be describe yourself as an artisanal bakery but your clients might call you a coffee shop. Think like your clients do.
  • Get insights from your competition. Think of the terms your clients would use to find a business like yours online and then try Googling those terms. Do any of your competitors come up? If yes, you are on the right track.
  • Show off your specialities: If you have highly competitive terms, think about how you can be a little more specific to specialize. If you are a wedding photographer in Marin County, what else could you add that might differentiate you from the other wedding photographers. Do you have a specific style, like a photojournalistic approach versus a studio approach, that could set you apart? Showcase what makes your business special.

And in selecting your search terms, go multi-word. Here’s why:

  • Single word is too broad. Just typing in “meditation” or “Hawaii” would be too broad. For example, with our book Big Game Bigger Impact is about the lessons learned from hosting Super Bowl 50, so if we just selected “Super Bowl” as a search term, we would be very low in the Google rankings.  I’m looking for folks who are interested in the Super Bowl, but more specifically, those who are readers and would be interested in a book a particular Super Bowl – I need to be more specific.
  • The user is evolving. Research shows that users are typing in longer queries into Google. Users are more savvy and are more likely to be more specific in their queries so by having the right search terms, you can help the user find you quicker.
  • Search is customer driven. The goal is a 2-5 keyword phrase in natural language. Google has shifted away from keyword-focused content and more on natural language, so your search terms should reflect the way your customer would naturally search.

Put your search terms into action  

There are many things you can do with your keyword phrases on your website’s backend through meta descriptions and h1 and h2 tags, but even if you aren’t tech savvy, you can still make an impact.

  • Incorporate naturally. Ensure your search terms can be found on each of your website pages using natural language. And not just in the body copy; be sure to include in page and blog post titles, as image alt text, in your page descriptions, etc. Remember, it’s not about stuffing each page with nonsensical terms, which “turns off” the Google web crawlers. Search terms should be incorporated more organically into your site.
  • Write more. Google loves fresh content – it shows that a site is alive and well, and is a good source of information for Google users, so create more content that shows off those search terms naturally.

by Stephanie Martin

Stephanie Martin is the founder of marketing and communications consultancy, Martin Communications, and author of the book Big Game, Bigger Impact: How the Bay Area Redefined the Super Bowl Experience and the Lessons that Can Apply to Any Business.

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