Determining Effective Search Terms

How difficult can that be?  Well, it does seem like an easy thing to come up with...  just use the words that describe what your product or service is.  Right?  Well, no.  Determining the right search terms for your website may be the difference between having a successful site and one that is just an expensive brochure.  

The main reason why this is so difficult to do is that most of the time the IT department (who is generally the one that gets "stuck" creating the website) is determining what search terms are chosen.  They will use the terms that they would use.  Often times these are not the same as what a potential client would use.  

When determining what search terms you should incorporate into your Web pages, there are four basic guidelines.  Let’s take a look at each of these individually. 

What Are Your Clients Looking For?  What you would search for is not necessarily what your client would look for.  For example, let’s look at a client of ours, Bodacious Basketry.  They make custom made reed baskets.  So, when we started to market their site, we used search terms like "reed baskets", "handmade reed baskets", "storage reed baskets".   The problem that we soon discovered is that the general population, whom we were targeting, used "wicker" when they were searching for baskets.  Most people do not know the difference between reed and wicker.  Once we made this change, traffic to the site increased.  

Be As Specific As Possible: Determine exactly who you want to target with your website and what search terms are they using.  If you are not sure what your clients or potential clients are searching for, ask them - "If you were looking for our type of product or service, what would you search for?"  The results may be very surprising. 

The Location You Do Business In:  The Web is world-wide and you need to keep this in mind when determining your search terms.  Your website may be accessed by people several states away or even countries away.  In some cases you can service them all, however, in a lot of cases you can’t.  For example Kustom Kitchens remodels kitchens and bathrooms.  Though the website is seen throughout the United States, they can only service people within a a 60 mile radius of Appleton, Wisconsin.    So how can  they use the Web effectively?  By adding "Wisconsin" to the search terms.  Instead of just saying "kitchen remodeling" we used "kitchen remodeling Wisconsin".  Unless people are within their service area, they do not want to talk to them. (Add-on: As of 1/10/05 34% of all Internet searchers add a local area to their search).

What Search Terms Are Your Competitors Using?  Visit websites of your competition and review their search terms and META tags.  (To view META tags click on "view" in your browser opening a drop down menu. Then click on "source" or "page source".  This will open another window. You are looking for "title" and "description" betweenand).  There are two reasons to do this: (1) to see if they thought of any search terms that you may have missed and should be using and (2) to see if they forgot any search terms you feel are important and can capitalize on.

October 1, 2004

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