Keying in on Your Target Market
By Mark Munroe
I come to SEO from a product management and product development background. In a way, SEO is almost the exact opposite of product management. When building a product, you are trying to build a solution to someone’s problem. On the Internet, when someone is doing a search, they are looking for a solution to a problem they already have. SEO is simply a matchmaking process; match the sites with the solutions to the people with the problems.
I have therefore started taking a problem/solution approach to keyword research. This helps alleviate ‘keyword block’ (that phase where you bang your head against the wall trying to come up with keyword ideas). I start with the following 2 rather standard approaches:
1. Make sure the site can be found when surfers are looking specifically for the site in question. This is, of course, the most targeted traffic you can get and you better not lose it.
2. Make sure the site is found when searchers are looking for the site’s products and services. If the site sells treadmills, then you certainly want to be found when people search for treadmills (ideally by finding a 2-3 word phrase).
“Keyword block” is when you have trouble going beyond those first two steps. In fact many sites stop optimizing at this point and are quite satisfied if they get some rankings for their specific products.
While of course you want to be found when people are looking for your products, it would be a severe mistake to stop at this point. Your target market includes surfers who are not looking for your products and services and might not even know they exist. By expanding your keyword research to target those surfers, you greatly increase your opportunity for traffic. It is also great PR as it expands awareness among your target market.
My methodology to expand my keyword research is quite simple. This is where I pull in my problem/solution orientation from my product management days.
3. First I identify the problems that the product solves. I then use Wordtracker to determine how people search the Internet to get information related to the problems.
With this line of thought, you can expand your market considerably beyond where you were in step 2. Sticking with the treadmill example, you ask yourself, what problems does a treadmill solve?
* How to lose weight?
* How to improve cholesterol level?
* How to exercise in inclement weather?
* Many more….
The next step is to dig into Wordtracker to find the best keyword phrases people use when researching those problems. As an added bonus, these terms typically have less competition than the product-/service-specific phrases.
The great thing about this type of research is it gives you ideas about how to expand your site with relevant content that can attract many more customer prospects. But I am not done; I expand my problem/solution criteria into 2 more directions:
4. Are there problems that the products or services cause? Often there are. Think of all the problems a computer causes (if you didn’t have a computer, you wouldn’t have to worry about computer viruses). In the case of a treadmill, running can cause knee pain and other injuries. People are surely searching for solutions to the injuries associated with running. It makes sense and is certainly relevant to your site to publish an article on how to prevent knee pain. There is one more direction we can expand to with our keyword research.
5. Are there ancillary problems associated with your product that your product does not solve but is thematically related to your site? In this case, there are. For instance, runners who are planning to run a marathon are concerned with how to train. This is a problem to the runner and the product doesn’t solve it. However, it is very closely related to the product. Therefore the site can provide information on how to train for the marathon (assuming keyword research identifies a good term). Once again, you are on your way to building a high-content, high-value site for your customer. You will find that you can take this approach to almost any product. For radically new products that solve problems people are not necessarily aware they have, it may be a bit difficult. It is still possible to succeed with this strategy by focusing on the indirect and related problems. Simply make sure the content is relevant to your site, your products and your target market.
Remember, nearly every time someone searches on the Internet, it is to solve a problem. Sometimes the problem is solved with a product purchase, but other times information is needed to solve it. When that problem and information are related to your product, find the keywords, create the content and optimize your site.
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