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Knowing SEO exists isn't enough

Last weekend, I met someone who spends a lot of time promoting himself online. He has a website and is on several social platforms, though he uses Facebook most often.

He'd recently redesigned his website, and spent a lot of time talking to me about search engine optimization (also called SEO). He seemed to have a good understanding of what SEO was - sprinkling key terms throughout your online copy to increase the likelihood a search engine will rank it highly in its results, but he made a mistake I commonly see people make. The search terms he chose were his name and the name of the organization he was promoting.

It's not a widely-used last name, which he thought worked in his favor. After all, he immediately appears at the top of search results when people use it. That's if they remember it, and spell it right.

His organization is about five years old, and he has built awareness of his brand through one-on-one communication with a large audience over the years. He also has data that shows that most people that visit his site use the name of his organization to find it. If we drilled down deeper into that data, we would likely also discover that he's only reaching people who already know who he is.

Knowing about SEO is a great first step to increasing page views. But if you don't focus on the language people are using to find you, you're only reaching people who already know who you are. Let's say you need to replace your tires soon and want to research local businesses. Key words you're going to search might include "tires", maybe your town, and maybe even "car repair" or "mechanics". The likelihood of you searching for the exact name of a local tire company are pretty slim. After all, you don't know who they are yet. If you did, you wouldn't be researching online.

SEO is a great tool that can increase traffic to your site. Before you choose your key words, do some research on your audience. What key words do they use to search for services like yours? For example, a client of mine developing a website to attract students from other countries realized that although they used the term "post-secondary" to refer to a college or university education, others around the world called it "higher education". They adjusted their language accordingly, and increased their visitation.

As with any online communication, doing some preliminary research will increase the effectiveness of your efforts, and will get you more value for your investment.

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