I was in a meeting yesterday, talking about a new Web site. The discussion turned to the terminology we were going to use for services. Different people in our industry use slightly different names for the same services.
I had statistics from inbound search engine links showing exactly what terms customers were using to find our site. There was no question which of the competing terms our customers were using. I had gotten agreement from management to use those terms on the new site to improve our search engine ranking.
A particular term surprised one person in the meeting. He said he had always used a different term and so had most of his customers. I believe him.
There’s a simple reason for the disconnect between his experience in talking to people and what I found via analyzing Web logs using software. People don’t talk the same way they Google.
If I ask a friend how to cook a turkey I’d say something like “Do you have any advice you can give me on preparing a turkey in the oven?” On Google I’d grunt out something more like “how cook turkey.”
Google has trained me to know that it ignores words like to, a, and and the, so I’ve dropped them from my Google search syntax. Over the years I’ve learned phrases that score good search results and I’m sure you have, also. We’re dumbing ourselves down to think like a search engine.
People don’t talk like they Google. Everyday intuition is sometimes inadequate for predicting how people search. If you want to know what words people are using to find your site use software like Sitemeter, WebTrends, Google Analytics and Google AdWords that parse referring URLs from search engines and analyze the search keywords inside the URLs.
If you’re using Google Adwords, be sure to visit the Opportunities tab and check for keyword ideas. I continue to find search phrases there I never would have guessed on my own. The latest surprise is that people are using the same search phrases they’ve always used to find our services but adding the word professional to the mix. Apparently some people have learned that without that keyword their searches are returning freebie advice and tools that aren’t doing the job they need.