Sorting out the “keywords”, or search terms, which you need to focus your efforts on, is a fundamental part of web marketing. As I’ve written often enough, you don’t necessarily want to concentrate on “blue widgets”, even if that’s what you sell, because the competition might be too great, or there might be alternative meanings for “blue widgets”. So where do marketing managers turn to for inspiration? Here are two common destinations which need great care.
Firstly, looking at the search terms which people used to get to your website. In Google Analytics, go to Traffic Sources > Keywords for a list. There will probably be some great ideas here, but think about it: these may well be search terms which you’re already doing very well for and which aren’t, in fact, entered into Google that often. I like to investigate the traffic graphs for any which look interesting. Often I find that my site did very well for a short period of a week or two on that search term, and then nothing. This probably means that my site was high in the results for that short period (Google often gives new pages a temporary boost), and therefore the search term might well be worth putting some effort into. Each term merits individual consideration in this way.
Secondly, marketing managers often call the sales department and throw the problem at them. After all, nobody knows better than sales what terminology customers are using, surely? In my experience, this is a terrible approach. Sales departments are notoriously some of the least IT-literate people in the company, and despite talking to customers all day long, often have little in common with them, particularly if the customers are engineers or other technical people. If you’ve got salespeople who can put themselves in the position of a customer better than you can, I’d be very surprised.
More importantly, sales departments have little interest in such arcane matters as search terms, and will spend as little time as possible on your request. But having made a list which consists of all 100 types of widget which you sell, they’ll later start asking “why aren’t we number one on Google for Blue Widgets then?”. Best to leave them to what they’re good at.