When I first started my career in marketing, the Internet existed, but it wasn’t the ubiquitous powerhouse it is now. Even then, I knew it was going to be a game changer, but like many people in those days, I had no idea how much impact it would have.
One marketing practice that arose specifically because of the Internet is SEO – search engine optimization. SEO is generally defined as the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of website traffic through organic search engine results.
I say organic, because the searches that Internet users conduct are usually organic. They supply the search terms they are looking for — ones they think logically describe what they seek — in hopes of finding what they want. However, the work that goes into companies identifying search terms customers will enter, and the process of adding them to their websites, is anything but organic.
SEO: Making a Match
Search engines are advanced computers, often driven now by artificial intelligence (AI), that process search terms and return results based on the likelihood they match what the Internet user is seeking. That’s where SEO comes in. The goal of a marketer is to identify which terms their customers are most likely to enter when looking for the firm’s web pages. With that information, marketing pros (and anyone writing web copy) can add search terms — called keywords — to their sites.
In adding the terms that will drive customer traffic to a site, the company is “optimizing” their site for search engines, hence the term SEO. A whole industry has sprung up around SEO, keywords, and how they can best be used to attract target audiences. Here’s where it gets interesting.
In the early days of SEO, companies could do pretty much what they wanted, and a practice called “Keyword Stuffing” came into vogue. Some marketers would add top keywords to their site repeatedly, hoping the repetition would drive the right “eyeballs” to their sites.
Consequently, site descriptions such as this started to appear: “We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.” (As you can probably imagine, the site sells custom cigar humidors.”
Search Engines Up the Ante
Search engine companies caught on to this scheme and started penalizing firms that repeated keywords on their pages too many times. Firms tried other methods, like creating sentences that were loaded with keywords but made little sense, but that practice tended to turn site visitors off — and could potentially be flagged by search engines as well.
Today, both of these activities are strongly discouraged by Google and other search engines. Google has a page under its “Quality Guidelines” titled Irrelevant Keywords. As Google explains, any practice that attempts to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results “results in a negative user experience and can harm a site’s ranking.”
Keywords that Work
Given that keyword stuffing is a detrimental practice, what should a business owner do? It’s far more valuable to spend time, preferably with the help of a competent marketing partner, identifying keywords that matter to customers and inserting them into copy in a sensible place. The problem is that the most popular keywords for your product may also be very competitive. That means other firms — often your competition — use them too. That reduces the likelihood of you ranking high in results.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore them. You include them, but you can also identify and use high ranking keywords that you would never consider. For example, preventive maintenance is a type of maintenance performed by manufacturing and other industry firms. Many people mistakenly think the term is preventative, not preventive.
As a result, “preventative maintenance” is a very popular search term. Yet since companies and their marketing firms prefer their website copy to be error free, they are hesitant to use the term preventative maintenance. This creates the proverbial “perfect storm” of opportunity for marketers of preventive maintenance services, provided they can find a way to get preventative onto their sites without looking like they didn’t proof their copy.
That’s a discussion for a different day, but I hope we have given you some food for thought. And in the meantime, if your company could use help finding your own perfect storm of keywords, give us a call at (404) 445-1842 and ask for Jennifer Koon.
This post is courtesy of MMC Content Manager Jennifer Farwell