by Steve Kellas

All too often, I have discussions with business people and marketers about ‘SEO’ and what is clear is that we still think that ‘SEO’ and SEO copywriting are some kind of magic process you follow in order for huge numbers of ‘hits’ to arrive on our websites.

These hits, we believe, magically turn into ‘sales’ and this will make us all rich and famous.

This is all wrong.

We believe in a myth. But I wasn’t really sure how to articulate the solution until yesterday. I was re-reading the excellent Beginners Guide to SEO by SEOmoz. Updated for 2012, this guide should be required reading for anyone even thinking about putting a site on the web.

Chapter 6 of the Guide is where I found my inspiration. Tucked at the bottom is a section titled ‘Search Intent Flavors’ (or Flavours to us Commonwealth readers) and in it they cover off the reasons that people search.

It’s all about People

The first thing that came to me is the way we unfortunately refer to people when we talk about websites: hits, users, unique visits, searches.

Let’s agree to stop it right now.

We are talking about people. Once you put the focus back on them – the people doing the searching, our (potential) customers – you realise that all this talk about ‘keywords’ and ‘ranking’ and ‘pandas’ is misleading.

Why are people searching anyway?

Because they need something.

They want to find, learn, buy, understand, praise, vilify, support, cancel, check, book, read, and a hundred other verbs.

I like how SEOmoz categorises the reasons that people search.

  • Transactional searches
  • Navigational searches
  • Informational searches

The difference between these types of searches is important to understand because you will see WHY your potential customer is searching for your business and HOW they perceive the content you offer.

SEOmoz describes each type of search along these lines:

Transactional searches are ones that involve finding a local business, completing a specific task or buying something online. The example SEOmoz gives is a search for a Greek restaurant nearby.

Navigational searches occur when the person searches for a specific website or brand name in order to arrive at the correct web address. Loads of people do this.

Informational searches are just that – people searching for information, and no further transaction is needed.

Match your SEO copywriting to the intent

If you are a local Greek restaurant, you need to make sure you’re using the right words so that you’re found when your customer-to-be enters their search (in their own words).

That means thinking about these 3 types of intent and figuring out what words people will use to find what they are looking for.

I suggest that you want to use ‘Greek restaurant’, your location, your restaurant name, and several variations of ‘Greek food’ and your menu items as potential keywords. Be honest with yourself about why the majority of your customers are coming to your website. Write content for them.

When you match up their intent with your content, you are doing what Google describes as ‘quality content’.

This isn’t magic, of course, it’s just good marketing. So, when you start to get all caught up in the buzzwords of SEO, just come back to the basics: it’s for people.

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