alphabet-150x150As business owners we’re so immersed in our work we often lose perspective, and don’t realize that the rest of the world sees what we do differently than we see ourself. Does your website talk past your prospective client, or do you connect from the moment she searches online? This is the fourth of Four Questions for your Website’s SEO: Getting a handle on how to make your website – and your business – better.

Mirror your customer’s language so they find you

Despite the innumerable changes to how search engines match a query with web pages, search engine optimization remains essentially language based. You can help the pages in your website get found by including the same (or similar) terms your prospects are using to research services or find answers to their questions. Some intelligent guesswork will help get your website displayed in the search results, which is where your information needs to be.

When developing a website, take the rough draft you have written and use keyword research tools to home in on the words your prospects use. Language recognition by search engines has reached a level where synonyms and related words sometimes work; still, take the time to understand how your prospects think and talk about your services.

For example, my client had written copy for her website assuming it would focus on “fundraising consultant.” The picture that emerged from researching keywords is that there are few online searches for “fundraising consultant”; however, there are lots of searches for “nonprofit consultant,” “fundraising professional,” “philanthropy,” and “grant writer.” Armed with this information the client was able to refocus the copy to discuss her work in a way that makes sense to her prospects..

Does your website speak to your readers specifically?

Sometimes, choosing the right words depends on the type of person you want to connect with. When I tried to understand why a website for an environmental group was not doing well at all for the term “water quality,” through keyword research I discovered that the people who search for “water quality” work in the water filtration business; whereas people concerned about the environment search for “water pollution.” Making that distinction enabled the organization to communicate effectively with its members and the community it serves.

Three free resources I recommend in order to get started in keyword research are UbersuggestGoogle Trends, and your competitors:

  • Ubersuggest is a quick way to get a list of keyword ideas. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find when searchers are using a location, e.g. “web designer Maryland.”
  • Google Trends is a bit tricky to use, but great for seeing regional usage – in this country and worldwide.
  • Competitors that have been successful might already know the terms that work best: Which keywords do you see on the top ranking sites? Variations of those terms could be the place to start.

This article discusses how your keyword research can also be used in deciding how to structure and name the sections of the website.

The biggest challenge you will face in researching keywords is keeping an open mind. When you explore the actual language people use – across the web, in social media, and in direct conversation with your client – you might be surprised by the phrases that surface. If matching how you write to how your prospects think sounds like dumbing down, it’s the smart thing to do. To be successful with your online marketing, be flexible and use language that resonates with your prospects.

Creating an online presence for a consultant is a huge challenge. I hope by exploring these questions you are equipped to make your marketing strategy successful!

See the other articles in this series:

Part 1: Call to Action

Part 2: Be a Hero

Part 3: Think Local