Marketers use “bots” to crawl the web and “scrape” contact information from recently updated websites. Then they send spam telling website owners how much they need better Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. They promise to build website traffic by improving SEO. It’s an empty promise. Because SEO involves a lot of guessing.

Search Engine Optimization is:

1. Figuring out what words your customer will use on Google or Bing – any search engine – to find you and your company. It’s part research, part intuition, and a lot of hard work.

2. Putting those words in the right places so the search engines will see them. It’s all about writing headlines, subheads, copy, and coding.

The right words

I received an email from India that was critical of the SEO used by, a local home remodeling company. I had just completed a new website for Bridgewater as a first step in executing a new marketing plan. I asked the sender for a list of keywords he used to form that opinion. He sent me this list:

    • garage doors
    • kitchen restoring
    • kid’s playroom
    • kitchen design
    • family room
    • water construction
    • garage construction

The sender explained that “using all these keywords can help you gaining more traffic and visitors on your website.” (sic) The only keywords that work for Bridgewater are “kitchen design,” “family room” and “garage construction,” which we already use. I’m not sure what “water construction” means. And I’m suspicious of keyword lists created half a world away.

So here’s the bottom line: The words you choose to define your company may not be the words your customers or potential customers use. You have to think like your customer. And even then finding the right keywords is not an exact science. That’s why keyword research tools were invented. Companies like Google, Bing, and WordTracker offer keyword research tools that show you how many people have been using specific words in their searches. Some tools give you hints at alternate keywords that may work better.

I was sure that “video producer” clearly defined one aspect of my business. After researching using Google’s AdWords I found that using “YouTube” together with “video production” would get me to my target customer quicker. I’m using “social media marketing” followed by “website design,” “website development,” and “marketing ideas” as my key keywords.

The right places

Search engines “see” the text you use for headlines, subheads, and copy. The first sentence you use to describe your services is seriously important. The text you use to update blogs is equally important, because every time you add or refresh textual content the search engines “see” it.

Search Engines See Headlines Like This

And subheads like this

And text passages like this. Using the right keywords for each of these is a fundamentally sound strategy.

Keywords are the building blocks that search engines use to assemble and display content about your company on the search page. For example, here are the results from a search for “western Caribbean weather:”

Western Caribbean Weather – 7 Day Forecasts – Current Conditions . . .
See Western Caribbean weather forecasts and climate for every major
destination including current conditions, temperatures and seven-day outlooks.

The example above was ranked #1 in Google. It shows three keyword/SEO tactics to emphasize relevance:

    1. “Western Caribbean Weather” appears in the title (the words you see at the top of your browser that identifies the page),
    2. the URL (web address)
    3. and again at the beginning of the description.

Now here’s the caveat: Only a search using the exact phrase “Western Caribbean Weather” will enable this page to come up #1 in the search.

About being #1

Everyone wants to be #1 in the search results. When you do a search you’ll see a section of results shaded in a color, followed by more hits. The “fold” separates the “top” area that includes the top searches – with a beige background – from the rest of the screen. Companies that end up #1, #2, and #3 – above the fold – are paying Google or Bing to get that higher rating. Buying clicks from Google or Bing can be a good idea, with many options available on a “pay per click” basis.

Bottom line: SEO is not an exact science.

To be successful, begin with your customer in mind. Research the keywords you think they’ll use to find you, and select the best ones. Use these keywords in headlines and sub headlines, and in the first sentences in anything you post. And it might also make sense to apply these keywords throughout your marketing.