I hear a lot of my SEO consulting clients ask a simple — but misguided — question:
Why aren’t we ranking for our target keyword?
I hate to answer a question with a question; it reminds me of when I went to a Buddhist Zen center, and every question was answered as vaguely as was possible (yes, yes, I get the non-duality of all existence, but would you just tell me where the bathroom is?). I know that it can be a frustrating way to start a conversation.
However, I’m not doing my job if I don’t point out the error in the question — instead of asking why you aren’t ranking, you should ask why the current top result is ranking. The answer is always the same; it’s currently the best answer.
Let’s talk about search queries for a second.
A query is just that — a question — and it’s what web users type to find answers. In fact, some early search engines would actually force their users to use the form of a question (I’m looking at you, Ask Jeeves).
Most business owners think of queries as magical keys for more business, but I find that you’ll get better results (very quickly, in many cases) by simply thinking of every search as a question. Now ask: are you the best answer for that question?
Let’s work with a concrete example, because I’m getting a little too Zen for my own liking (no offense to the Zen Buddhists, but I doubt they took offense in the first place). Say that you own a car detailing shop in Ohio. With a few exceptions, all of your customers are in Akron. All of your customer reviews are from around Akron.
You might want to rank nationally for the key phrase, “car detailing,” but that’s simply not happening. People who type those words into Google are looking for car detailing services near them, or they’re looking for general information. In any case, you’re not the right answer to that question.
Now, you probably already know that, but you might not realize that you might not be the best answer for “car detailing in Tallmadge,” which, for non-Ohioans, is a city near Akron. There are probably plenty of detailing shops in Tallmadge proper, so Google doesn’t want to lose credibility by sending users all the way to Akron for their detail work. There’s a good chance that you’re only a good answer for “car detailing in Akron,” at least until you do some more work.
So, is your little car detailing shop out of luck?
Of course not. Maybe you’re the best detailers around, and maybe you’re the only shop qualified to handle vintage Ford trucks. Maybe you’re opening a new office in Tallmadge.
You need a dedicated page that’s set up to get the “car detailing in Tallmadge” keyphrase, but if you want to get to the top of the search results and stay there, you can’t just spam the keyword. Write real content about your shop — tell visitors why they should make the trip from Tallmadge to Akron, let them know about your specialties, talk about the experience of your staff.
Your website is a sales pitch, after all, and it’s a sales pitch to your customers — not to Google. If you provide real information (and you don’t just try to copy your Akron site while replacing a few words), you can rise through the ranks pretty quickly. In niche markets and small cities, the process is remarkably easy as long as you don’t attempt to game the system.
If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, most of these blog posts will boil down to “make quality content,” but you also need to think about your audience — and the questions they’re asking — in order to see a return. In the next few blogs, I’ll provide a few tips for content creation and keyword research. And yes, we’ll get into Google Keyword Planner and Webmaster Tools and all of that stuff, but for now, focus on asking the right questions. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk; then you’ve probably already figured this stuff out.
And by the way, I apologize if you found this blog post by searching for “car detailing shop in Ohio.” We, uh, don’t do that here.
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