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The First Online Marketing Question Is, What Are My Keyword Phrases?

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Thank You, Readers!

Monday I posed an online marketing problem. If you are in business and launching a blog, upgrading a website, or creating a new website, what is the first question you need to ask yourself? We got great responses from brilliant people like Andrew and Joanna Young and Cath Lawson and Tara Joyce and Alina Popescu and Karen Swim and Barbara Ling and Dennis Salazar and Steve Sherlock and Mary-Lynn Foster and Dennis and Fred H Schlegel and George Ajazi.

These responses were so good, in fact, I will reprint them as part of a post on the branding and marketing discovery process on Friday. For now, I hope my Word Sell respondents will see why my question ought to come first; how my question immediately puts all other discovery questions into crystal clear focus so that issues that must be addressed before launching or upgrading a website or blog are in fact addressed.

The Answer – What Are My Keyword Phrases?

Business questionPretty anti climactic, eh? Mundane though it might be, until you know your primary keyword phrases, you cannot create content that will impress the search engines (search engine optimization) or attract human readers. Whenever one of my business blog consulting clients or prospective clients tells me s/he wants a blog or a new website, I ask, What are your keyword phrases?

What Is a Keyword Phrase?

Hey, not everybody knows the answer – especially entrepreneurs, who have other things on their mind like running their business. Simply put, a keyword phrase is a phrase a potential customer would use when searching online for your products and services. There you go – nothing to it, right? Well, when I ask people, What words do people use on Google when they’re searching for your products and services?, I generally get anything from a blank stare to a tentative guess. Fact is, few people have a clear grasp of what words searchers use to find their companies online.

This is why determining keyword phrases is so foundational to any online marketing effort. Without knowing the right keyword phrases, it is not possible to write content for a blog or website that speaks effectively to human readers – and to the search engines that make your words visible to them. My one, simple question about keyword phrases opens up a much needed (and long overdue) discussion of fundamental marketing and branding issues.

  • What niches do we serve?
  • How do we describe what we do?
  • How do our customers describe what we do?
  • What do our customers want?
  • How do our competitors answer these questions?

After framing the discussion around my initial question, we are in a position to ask penetrating discovery questions, and I’m hard pressed to think of better ones than those my readers offered on Monday. We can ask our questions with assurance that the discussion will center on the task at hand – determining precisely where customer needs and company value intersect. The intersection’s coordinates? Keyword Phrase & Central.

If, instead, we launch into a generalized discussion about objectives and value propositions, we wind up with web content that reflects just that – a lot of verbiage about value and benefits and corporate philosophy. At its worst, such content can best be described as what David Meerman Scott calls Gobbledygook. At its best, the content is useful and persuasive, but nobody sees it because the pages that it resides on are not built to attract the desired readers. Start with what gets people to the site (keyword phrases), and then move to the issues of why they should do business with you once they’ve found you.

Why It All Starts with Keyword Phrases

"Start Connecting"

"Start Connecting"

When you start with the right group of keyword phrases, you build web pages that attract human readers and raise your visibility on the search engines. Yet by and large, entrepreneurs and small and midsize companies don’t start with keyword phrases, even though they come into play in the earliest stages of programming a site.They probably don’t select a web developer based on its SEO capabilities. They seldom hire a professional copywriter, much less one experienced in writing optimized content. Companies might sign up for their developer’s SEO (search engine optimization) package after the blog or website is built, or they might get the idea a year or two down the road that maybe they should tune up their site for Google. In the meantime, their web pages languish in Google oblivion – and the few human readers who find these pages find little if anything to get excited about.

You can do SEO after the fact, but it’ll be a clunky vehicle: you can’t change a tractor into a Corvette just by swapping out a few dozen parts. Optimizing a website or blog is not just a matter of rewriting a few paragraphs of page content. It involves things like incorporating keyword phrases into meta descriptions and page URLs, and building internal and inbound links with keyword optimized anchor text. It’s easier, faster, cheaper, and more efficient to build the proper content in up front rather than try to slap it on later.

Blogs to the SEO Rescue

Most folks already have a website, so starting at the beginning with their keyword phrases is not always practical. However, most folks do not have a business blog. Here’s an opportunity to start from scratch and start optimizing for the search terms that count for you. You have to take advantage of blogs, because if you’re out of sight on Google, you’re out of mind with customers. And blogs are a search engine’s best friend. To carry the transportation – SEO analogy a little further, if you add a blog to your website domain, it’ll be like strapping a jet engine to your lawnmower. Harness that blog power with the right content and you can mow down the competition without breaking a sweat.