There’s a story I often tell about an SEO audit I did some time ago. The company was getting all sorts of traffic growth with their SEO campaigns, but business wasn’t changing at all. They actually thought the SEO partner was sending fake traffic, and wanted me to look and see if they were getting taken for a ride.
(Aside: It’s troubling that the first thought was fraud, not conversion rate optimization or other factors, but such is the state of our industry)
It took less than an hour for me to find the problem. The vast majority of their SEO growth was coming from a single article. This article was getting roughly 80% of their traffic, and was growing every month. The traffic was very real, but not converting. I was just about to jump into conversion improvement mode when I noticed the title of the article and location of the traffic. It was about winterizing your air conditioning unit. As you can imagine the traffic was sourced from a lot of the northern states, and even Canada. The issue is that the company wasn’t an air conditioning unit manufacturer, they were a service provider in Texas. No amount of conversion optimization was going to help that.
This is what happens when keyword research gets separated from business strategy. The key is to write the info that the ideal consumer needs to hear. Be their media outlet, not just an industry mouthpiece.
Non-traditional keyword research can really help here. Listen to your customer service and sales calls to hear what your customers and prospects are asking about. Even more so, listen to the words they are using. There might only be 10 people who use that term, but if they’re the 10 ones you need to make the company fly, you need to use their words. Listen on social media. Search for your industry and look at what the conversation is about, especially in your area. Responding to one person on Twitter is good. Creating a post that thousands might read is great.
It’s also often worth experimenting with PPC before really targeting a competitive term too. Great content might take real money and effort to create. The audience is a little different, but if it converts on PPC it’s a good sign that you’re in the right place. Spend hundreds before you invest thousands.