When Clients Want to Use Vague or Generic Keywords

Sometimes, clients want to use keywords that are too vague or generic. Here’s how to help them understand that as an SEO professional, you know best

Video Transcript

Onawa: I had a question. I had a project come up that had just the most profoundly generic business. It was like project management or something. Okay. It was so generic, and yet they wanted to use their own words that nobody else was using to describe what they were doing.

David: Right.

Onawa: But also, you use some of the words; there are probably like 50 words on the home page – like nothing. And you put in project recovery, and you come up with heroin recovery centers in the area. Or like project management was like construction project management. I did leave some instructions to specify something and to warn a bit about that generic nature that they were going to maybe get people that were not looking for them. So, what advice do you have to combat somebody’s business that is so amazingly generic in its…

David: Yeah, great question. In the Curious Ants process, we have a keyword research process. One of the things we get out of that is data associated with words that allows us to say nobody searches for this, but a bunch of people search for that. And so, whenever I deliver a keyword research report to clients, I make sure there’s a visual graph that shows a comparison so they can see, oh, wow, there are a lot of people not searching for that. This is kind of one of these basic principles of SEO. SEO responds to demand but does not create demand. If people are looking for us, we can help them find us. But we can’t tell them to find us with a word that we like to be found by. So, if I have a client that is just, “No, no,  I want to rank for this.” Number one, I want to remind them that rank doesn’t exist anymore. And I have a whole article on Curious Ants about rank being stupid. And it basically goes through all the reasons why you should not focus on rank when you think about SEO. So, let’s say you end up ranking for a broad term, like project management. Good luck ranking for that. That’s going to be almost impossible anyway. But let’s say you do. And that’s not really what you provide. That rank is not going to help you get customers, and that’s ultimately the point. But worse, if no one’s searching for it, we can get you to rank for something, but if no one looks for it, you’re not going to get any customers, either. I have a client. A law firm client. They’re like we want to rank for catastrophic injury lawyers. And I’m like, the data shows that nobody uses that word. Because everybody thinks their injury is catastrophic, right? So don’t describe it as catastrophic because everybody thinks I got a fingernail broken. Oh, no, it’s a catastrophe, right? We don’t want small cases. We only want big cases. We got into the rank for catastrophic injury lawyer, and we could show them they got nothing out of it. But what I do because that’s a painful process months in. Now we rank for it, and you’re getting nothing, and they hurt. But what I’ll do is I’ll do Google searches and say, are these your competitors? If someone found you amongst those people, could it become a customer? If it’s well, sort of, then you go into your keyword research that shows here is what people are looking for. Would this be better? Yes. So, going to Google and showing them the search results can help with this process. Showing them data associated with the words they don’t go into and reminding them that SEO responds to demand, it doesn’t create demand. So, if nobody’s searching for it, what you have is so unique you’re first to market with a product that no one knows exists yet, then you may need to look at other marketing channels besides SEO because SEO can’t help that business grow. You need to talk to a PR firm and get that word out. Because you developed something completely new, be proud of that. But SEO is not going to be the way to promote that. So, I love SEO, but it doesn’t solve everybody’s marketing problems. So, when you’re selling SEO, make sure you don’t get yourself into the problem of, oh no, I’ve got to create demand for a product no one knows exists yet. That’s not what you can do with an SEO. You could try. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. I’m not a specialist in PR. It’s not a great campaign. Now, if you get clients from a boss or a sales team, and you have to do it, then show them the data and push it back up and remind them, hey, we can’t make this promise because these numbers don’t exist. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I went out on my own because I was tired of sales teams coming and saying, hey, will you SEO this? I can, but it’s not going to do anything because nobody was looking for it. They just sold the project, and it hurt me to take money from someone and not be able to help them. Does that give you some help?

Onawa: It does, and I have checked different searches and trends and things. And there were some that were clearly much better. So, I did try and note that. As well as cautioning them a little bit, too. But it is kind of the first one where I really had to caution them because some of their phrasing was so generic.

David: Don’t just look in Google Trends data. Go to Bing Webmaster tools.

Onawa: I did. I did.

David: Yeah. That’s great data, even if it’s smaller. It’s still really good. But, yeah, don’t be discouraged. That’s a super common problem. It’s kind of like what we talked about. Clients who know about link building can almost hurt themselves. Clients who think they know their search keywords really can hurt themselves. I don’t know how many times… Recently, I did a big keyword research project. And they’re like, yeah, but we don’t want to describe ourselves that way. And just totally ignored everything. And it’s just like, I got paid, but I don’t feel really good about getting paid for that. And I’m particularly proud of that.

Stephanie: I think where I draw the line on that is if I’ve warned them, and I try to give three warnings, and if they still say, no, do it our way, I make them put it in writing. You have to send me an email saying do it this way, not what you’re suggesting. Because you’re going to be unhappy, and I’m not taking the fall for it.

David: I actually have it in my agreement. That if you don’t take my advice, results will be hampered. Stephanie: There you go.

David: So, you don’t have to take my advice. But if you don’t. Don’t expect things to work. I’ve been wrong many times before, and it could be I’m wrong. Don’t be discouraged, and Onawa, these are common SEO problems.

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