Think Like Your Target Audience When Choosing Keywords

Posted by on November 21, 2011 in SEO [ 5 Comments ]

Keywords are arguably the single most important component of any SEO campaign. The keywords you select determine what search queries your site will rank for, which in turn dictates who will find your site. If you choose the right keywords, your site’s ranking position should improve, traffic will increase and your conversion rate will pick up in the long run. However, if you target the wrong keywords, your site will ultimately rank for unrelated search queries and the wrong type of visitor will find your site. If you find yourself in this position, you won’t be able to grow your online business.

There are a lot of best practice rules for keyword research that site owners have to keep in mind throughout the process:

  • Target 2-5 keywords per page
  • Choose keywords that reflect the content of each individual page
  • Incorporate both broad and long-tail keywords into your site
  • Think like your target audience! If you fail to understand user intent, the rest of the best practice tips will only take you so far.

While most companies have this down, many still struggle with the idea of “thinking like the target audience.” It sounds simple enough, but this is actually one of the trickiest parts to targeting specific keywords. Consider a few of the issues you may run into, and then consider how most companies solve this problem:

The Same Search with Different Phrases

People are going to search for the same product or service using different search phrases. For example, “SEO company” and “search engine optimization firm.” The two are really just synonyms, but a potential SEO client could search using either. That is why it is important to incorporate variations into your keywords. You might consider your product a “business finance software solution”, but a potential customer might be looking for “business accounting software.” Both keyword phrases mean the same thing (more or less) and an uneducated customer might use the two interchangeably. Failing to incorporate common keyword variations into your site means you risk alienating a section of your target audience that searches using different terms. Obviously you can’t target every possible variation of every keyword you decide to target, but you want to make sure you cover as much ground as possible without overdoing it.

To get a good idea of what related keywords people are searching with, I’d recommend using the Google Keyword Research Tool. It will not only give you keyword variations based on the initial phrase you are targeting, but it will also tell you the search volume for those keywords. That gives you a good idea of how much potential each keyword has. Keep in mind that the more people searching for a particular keyword, the stiffer the competition will be in your industry to rank well for it!

Different Searches with the Same Phrase

On the other hand, people are also going to search for different things using the same or similar phrases. Does “BPM” stand for beats per minute or business performance management? If someone searches for “dog grooming” are they looking for supplies, a local dog grooming location or maybe even a grooming school? You have to think like your target audience to make sure you aren’t targeting the wrong keywords that will attract the wrong visitor. For instance, on my company’s site I could have targeted “SEO consultant” as a potential keyword. After all, I do work as an SEO consultant and offer SEO consulting services, so why not leverage the power of my brand to drive more consulting business?

Understanding User Intent

Here’s where user intent comes into play. Yes, I want to earn more consulting business but for myself as an SEO consultant, not for my company. I would much rather get a year-long contract with an SEO client for my company than a onetime consulting client. That’s why I target keywords like “SEO services” and “SEO company” as opposed to “SEO consulting.” Someone looking for an SEO company wants to hire that company to handle their site’s SEO. Someone looking for an SEO consultant might just be looking for a how-to lesson or help with a specific project.

The tricky thing about user intent is that it is hard to nail down. It has taken me years to realize the subtle differences between someone searching for “SEO lesson” versus “SEO training” (hint: a lot of people searching for “SEO lesson” are looking for a guidebook or how-to video. People who want training are usually looking for a workshop.) It’s important to remember that your keyword research isn’t finite. There are no laws against re-optimizing your site and incorporating new keywords to better reflect your understanding of your target audience. The more you know about your target audience and their search behavior, the better you can position your site to meet their needs.

One of the best ways to infer user intent is to look at your site’s analytics. What keywords are driving visitors to your site? Are there keywords that produce a decent amount of traffic that you aren’t actively targeting? Those might be worth a second look.

Photo provided by Brick Marketing

About the Author

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing a Boston-area SEO agency. With over 12 years of Internet marketing experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and by publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or

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