Writing For Search Engines Is Really About Writing For Your Customers

Search engine optimization is sometimes characterized as a practice that panders to an algorithm. In reality, an increasing number of potential customers and readers are using search engines to find content. It's a misnomer to say that SEO is about writing for search engines. Content generation is really about writing for your customers.

According to Nielson / Net Ratings, 46% of Web sites are found through search, and 55% of all online purchases result from Web sites found through search engines. Savvy SEO professionals think about content creation as writing for this audience.

The implications of this approach go beyond SEO. Creating Web site copy and articles based on search data is similar to the greater movement in business of listening to your customers, taking their feedback, and continually plowing what you learn back into building a better product. This is a key component of Total Quality Management (TQM). Organizations that adopt TQM philosophies have processes that continually collect, analyze, and act on customer information.



Harley-Davidson is an excellent example of a company that has turned around by engaging its customers. Their "Live by it" campaign re-established the Harley-Davidson brand by pulling customers into the experience, and giving them an opportunity to share their opinions and thoughts.

Getting into the heads of your customers can be accomplished by analyzing how people are finding your Web site. The search that led to your site is a suggestion of how your company is viewed from the outside world.

Businesses often use language to describe their products or services that is very different from the language their customers use. Communications and positioning decisions are often made from within an organization, and are subject to a group-think mentality that does not always account for the opinion of stakeholders on the outside. A pharmaceutical company may realize that patients describe their symptoms in ways that are very different from how they are presented on the company's Web site. Companies on the cutting edge of technology face a similar problem, as the industries they specialize in may not have even existed years ago. Can you be 100% sure that people will recognize you as an "interactive design agency" as opposed to "user experience consultants"? The answers can often be found by analyzing search terms.

Once a company has this information, it is important to act on it. Incorporate some of that language in your Web site copy. Speaking the language of your customer can attract similar customers in the future. However, incorporating keywords used by people finding your Web site through search is not always straightforward. Online newspapers and magazines must strike a balance between maintaining editorial freedom and attracting search engine traffic. One solution is to use one headline that targets specific keywords and another sub-headline that can be less restrictive.

If the mission of every business is to get and keep customers, then paying attention to how people find your site through search can reveal critical insights into the psychology of your customer base. Taking action on this information can lead to more traffic as well as future business.

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