So far, we’ve talked about several things you need to do in order to get your website up to snuff in Google’s eyes, as well as your readers’. Perhaps you’ve got some technical website issues that you need to overcome first, or your existing content is a bit boring to the reader. Those are easy enough to fix.

At this point (or often before), people are ready to jump feet first into “doing SEO” on their website. A lot of times, when I work with a new client, the first thing they do is hand me a piece of paper and say, “I want to be #1 on Google for these terms.”

A recent example is a friend of mine who told me, “I need your help to be #1 for ‘mental health’ and ‘schizophrenia’.”

Hm, well those are certainly lofty and ambitious goals. However, there are at least a couple problems with this:

  1. Most people don’t just search for one or two word key phrases. The results you get are WAY too generic to mean anything. Instead, they search on the “long tail” (which I’ll explain in a future post). For instance, they search for longer phrases, like “symptoms of schizophrenia” or “online mental health support groups”.
  2. The competition for “schizophrenia” and “mental health” on Google’s search results page is brutal. Searching “mental health” alone brings up 404 million results. Wikipedia is often the #1 or #2 slot, and they are darned near impossible to beat without a LOT of content, links, and hard work.

So instead, what we need to do is find out what people REALLY search for and focus on those. It’s way easier, and there are benefits too. This is where keyword research comes in. (I can hear the groans out there as I write this.) Can’t we just jump in and start writing a bunch of content and “SEO” it?

What Your Customers Search For Probably Isn’t What You Think

I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, “Oh I know what my customers search for, so let’s just do that.” I have a client that told me that very thing. His company builds libraries and library furniture. I did a quick bit of research and found over 400 key phrases. I printed them out, and said, “Here’s what your customers search for.” His eyes about popped out. Yes, it’s a long, daunting list, most of which he hadn’t even thought of. Looking at several, he said, “Wow, people actually search for these terms? I had no idea.”

Yup, that’s the idea.

Unless you do a little digging, you just don’t really know what people really want, and thus you’re missing a whole BOATLOAD of opportunities out there. We’re going to take you through a few exercises in the next three or four weeks that show you how you can find these jewels quickly.

Generate Ideas for Content

Content is king in the world of the internet. If you have no useful content, you lose. Period. You have to generate content (articles, blog posts, videos, news releases, etc.) I get stuck ALL the time trying to think of something else to write about. It’s hard coming up with ideas. That’s why I love keyword research. You can easily come up with a long list of ideas for content to create for the rest of your life.

With some simple keyword research, your customers are actually telling you exactly what THEY want to hear about. You do a little digging, and BAM! There are 23 new ideas for videos and blog posts. Turn over a couple other rocks (mind you, this takes just a few minutes), and BAM! There are more gems.

But don’t worry quite yet – we’ll show you how you can do this quickly, easily and it costs nothing (just a bit of time). You can even hire a teenager or your high school son or daughter to help with this part if you want to.

The More You Do This, The More You’ll Be Found

People often get so narrowed into being found #1 for specific terms that they forget about the infinite variety of ways that you might get found for. You will be surprised by the variations and permutations of ways people express their search patterns on Google. Truly you’ll be amazed. “I got found for THAT?”

The best part about all this keyword research stuff, is as you start generating the content around those key phrases, the more you’ll be found for variations you never thought of, nor did your research turn them up. It just happens, and people will find you.

Google is making it harder for those of us who do online marketing to know exactly what keywords we’re being found for, because they hide the data in Google Analytics. If you have a Google Analytics account, look at your keywords. You’ll see a large percentage of them say “(not provided)” meaning that Google is hiding those results from you. Anyone who is logged into a Gmail or Google+ account (or any other Google account for that matter), their search terms get dumped into the “(not provided)” category. So you really have no idea what words you’re being found for.

This is all the more reason to do keyword research, shoot for lots of words, and get found under lots and lots of terms.

Next week we’ll start showing you how to do start the looking.

Note: This is a series of weekly articles designed for the novice to learn step-by-step how to improve their position on the search engines. Each step takes approximately 15 minutes, and are all easy to implement. If you, the reader, takes each step one by one each week, you’ll soon be getting better search engine results, and hopefully more qualified visitors to your website.