We say Tomayto, You Say Tomahto: When Keywords Don’t Mesh with Client Messaging

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As an SEO project manager, I recommend keywords to clients based on the following inherent principles:

  • Popularity: How frequently do people search using this term?
  • Competitiveness: How difficult could it be to position for this term?
  • Relevance: How relevant is this keyword to the products or service the client offers?
  • Conversion Potential: How likely is someone searching on this term to convert on the client’s site?

The dream keyword is one that’s frequently searched upon, yet relevant enough to achieve targeted, qualified traffic that’s likely to convert. Who could argue with that?

You’d be surprised.

One of the first obstacles SEOs can run into is when keywords don’t mesh with client messaging. What does it look like when websites take the common terms that 99.9% of searchers use and transform them into something more “branded”? Here are just a few examples:

  • Software becomes a Solution
  • Snow Removal becomes Snow Management
  • Herbal Teas become Herbal Infusions
  • Wool Sweaters become Handknit Creations

You get the idea. Unfortunately, what happens when you can’t use the descriptive words on your website that searchers use?

You won’t get found.

As a marketer, I understand that certain words can be at odds to the image your business is trying to convey. If you sell “discount children’s clothes”, then how can you also harness traffic for “cheap children’s clothes” without using the word “cheap” on your site?

There isn’t an easy answer. Sometimes, we have to discard high-traffic keywords with tons of conversion potential because they just won’t fit with branding goals.

While I might be able to understand not using the word “cheap”, I have also seen clients reject entirely reasonable keywords because of branding expectations that are dramatically out of touch with their target market.

This is unfortunate, because for all I know, a “handknit creation” could be a gigantic raspberry-colored thneed that’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss novel.

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