Optimizing Keywords to Target Customers

As most of my colleagues know, I’m a lover of tracking – especially when it comes to SEO. Yes, we track changes in search engine rankings, inbound links, etc. but we also like to track referring search engine traffic and how a site is found. Why? Because this tells us if we’re increasing the number of searchers who visit a site for the first time – vs. visitors who already know the site.

To do this means going to the log files, looking at the keyword search results for how people find a site, and then looking at the terms themselves to determine how many people found the site from searches that include the site’s name (or brand name) and how many found it using industry terms (those that describe the product or service).

Good SEO will result in the number of visitors from industry-related searches growing larger and larger. That’s because visitors who find a site using industry-related search terms are highly likely to be first-time customers. In other words, new customers. In fact, Google Analytics shows what percentage of traffic for a particular term is from first-time visitors; typically the percentage is higher for industry-related terms and lower for site-name terms.

Consider a recent (new) client. They were very happy because more than 50% of their traffic came from Google and organic searches. Great job! Sort of…turns out 90% of their visitors found them for terms that included their company name. That basically means that their site functions primarily as an information source for existing customers and prospects who already know them. Even if prospects searched for the site because they saw the name on an ad or in an article, the site is still functioning mostly as an information source – not a “new lead” generation tool.

To optimize a site so that it generates new leads, it should be optimized for the terms that the target customers use when searching for the site’s product or service. As Dan Thies has expertly advised in his SEO Fast Start, the ability of a site to target customers is pretty much determined by what terms the site is optimized for.

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