How Do You Decide Between Client-Preferred Search Terms and Terms Customers Use?

Customers don’t always know best when it’s about keywords. How can you convince them that their preferred terms may not be the best for SEO?

Video Transcript

David: Okay, so that’s one of your questions.

Onawa: One. Well, it’s the same place, kind of, but it’s come up with a different project where the preferred term has changed. But do people still search for the old term? Yeah, I had one, and you mentioned your writer is doing it, and that actually makes a lot of sense because I sent off my keywords, and somebody else wrote it, and then the client was like, but this is what we like to say.

David: Right.

Onawa: And so, at this point, I put in notes, and I think the search result, how many searches for what term, to try and say, like, look, please just do this a little bit so people will find you that need to find you because they used one, whereas people in the general population spread it out. I get the preferred term, and I am 100% on board with that. But what if your audience is searching for something else?

David: Right. So, I don’t know how many times I’ve had arguments with clients about how they want to refer to themselves versus how their customers are referring to you. That’s a tiresome old argument that every time it happens to me, I get frustrated that I still have to have this conversation. So, you’re not alone, number one. You’re not alone. What I started doing with my keyword research documents when I turn them in is I give bar charts with the keywords, but I don’t give them the values of the numbers. So, what that ends up looking like is, here’s a list of keywords. And remember, with our keyword research process, we’re taking a list of keywords, and we’re saying this is a topic, and the topic goes to a page. So, we’re not building a page per keyword; we’re building a page per topic, and the topic has many keywords. And so, I can go in and say with the bar chart, look at how many more opportunities there are. I call the number opportunities. I don’t want to call it search volume, nor do I want to imply that this is the number of visitors they’re going to get. I call it the opportunity, and the number only means something in comparison with another phrase so that they can see more people look for pizza than pizza pie. Right?

I have one client in particular right now, with particularly challenging circumstances where there are a lot of people searching for a phrase that they really want to avoid because of certain connotations, but it is the most accurate. And so, what I did is I walked them through the chart and said, I understand you don’t want to call yourself this, but look at how quickly it diminishes to call yourself that. And so they picked a phrase that was far less, but they could live with it, and at least there were people searching for it. And then here’s what I do. Because part of the process for optimizing a page is going back to the page later, and because we’re approaching the page topically, not keyword-wise, we’re not repeating the same word ten times on the page, right? We’re using variations of that word on that page. Google will pick it up and start serving it for words, even words they don’t want to optimize for, even words that aren’t even on the page. And then you can show them the data out of Search Console and say, okay, we’re showing up for this, but we’re still showing up for that. And look, we rank on the second page of search results for that, but we didn’t even optimize for it. See how many more people are looking for that. They get a taste of what the potential is, and they start to see that it’s starting to work, but they want more. And now you can say, okay, now let’s pivot. Let’s pivot and talk about it in the way that customers are looking for it. But sometimes I too have to kind of say, all right, well, I want you to be an informed customer and understand that number one, we’re not focusing on one word, right? If we just mention one word on the page, that’s not going to help us. We’re talking about a topic. And two, as long as we can show that there are people searching for it, well, there’s potential for growth. The potential might not be as great if we optimize for something else, but at least we’ll get there, right? And so sometimes, I, too, have to compromise and say, okay, that’s not the best word, but at least we’re going to get somewhere. But I had this conversation just yesterday about the idea that our clients are often experts, and they use jargon, and we don’t want to have to educate our customer before they can become a customer. I have a client that is trying to help people with some very specific medical issues. And so, they’re using Latin phrases that describe the medical malady properly. That is exactly what it is in a medical textbook, but people call it that. And so, we have to worry about being so technical. We only show up for other technical people and not really for the customers who they can really help, who don’t know Latin or did not go to med school. Right? Or aren’t an engineer and don’t know the proper term for a particular medical or metallurgy process or whatever it might be. Right? SEO is marketing, and good marketing speaks our customers’ language. I guess I’ll say, too, that when we repeat the optimization process, we might eventually find there’s a better phrase to optimize for than we originally even showed up in our data, and that’s when we pivot. But I don’t typically ask clients to approve keywords. Number one, I don’t want them to obsess over a keyword. I usually ask it this way, “Does this accurately describe what you have to offer?” That way, it’s not I want you to obsess on one keyword where they’re Googling themselves all day long on that one keyword. Why hasn’t David done anything? Why don’t I rank number one for this word yet? Oh, my God. Right? I just want to make sure that I’m not misunderstanding something. And sometimes they’ll point out, I see why you think that’s what we offer, but that’s not exactly what we offer. Oh, that’s really helpful, but I try to phrase it that way. Not “Cclient, will you approve this keyword list?” Instead, “Client, does this accurately describe what you have to offer?” And so that kind of helps get the right keywords into content. Does that help, Onawa?

Onawa: It does. I think in the one case, everything got written, and then the client went back and was like, no, no, no, no.

David: Yeah. This is where the reminder that we provide value by telling clients no. If we are just sycophants who just take what the client approves and only publish it. Then we’re competing with anybody who’d be willing to do that same thing cheaper than us. Our clients are paying us for expertise, and with our expertise, we have to tell them you just unoptimized your page. Right? And if I publish this, people are not going to find you. Are you okay with that? Yes. Then why are you paying me? I’ve only asked a client that once, and I fired them a month later, but because of other things that were related to this. But I would push back on them if they unoptimize their page and use the data to say, this is not how your customers are looking for you.

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