SEO can be expensive, so a lot of folks plan to start off with a DIY campaign. They think that because they are an expert in their field, they know exactly what to optimize for.

Unfortunately, that expertise is often a hindrance. Having a detailed knowledge about your field can actually make your SEO efforts go wrong! Here’s why: you already know everything about your business. You know what you do, you know what you offer, you know all the jargon and lingo and you understand it. You’re a pro!

But there’s a very good chance that your customers don’t, and that’s the problem. Because you’re an expert, you don’t think about what the average customer who needs your services is going to type into Google to try to find your website. And that’s a problem.


A Case Study

Take attorneys, for example. Attorneys practice law and use all kinds of lingo and jargon in their work. And if you’ve spent any time hanging out at a bar lunch (and I have, because I’m married to a lawyer) those attorneys have no problem just throwing those terms around. Because they are so common place to them, they don’t understand that regular people, people who need to hire an attorney, don’t know what those terms mean.

If you optimize your website for all these legal terms, you are setting yourself up for failure because the only people who will be looking for those terms are likely other attorneys. And if your clients aren’t other attorneys, you’ve failed.

Your experience and expertise has misled you down a path that can be hard to recover from.

And unfortunately, many industries have this same misfortune. Knowing your company, your business, or your industry can lead you to not understand what your customers are searching for. And the number one rule of SEO is that you need to KNOW what people are searching for.

Which means keyword research

Even if I think I know what people are searching for, I always start every job with keyword research. What is keyword research? It’s just the process of researching keywords to find out what people are searching for. It doesn’t have to be a guessing game or a mystery, the data exists!

There are tools you can use, both paid and free, to learn what your customers are looking for. One of my favorite places to start is You can even, kind of use, it for free. (There is a free level with a few searches a day, but it doesn’t always work.) Anyway, you can type in your keyword and if you’re in a specific area that you want to cover, say you only work in Nebraska and don’t want to know what people in Ohio are searching for, you can limit your search. And the program will show you how many searches there have been for that keyword recently.

Go ahead and give it a try, you may be surprised at what you find.

One of the most important, and I think one of the hardest parts of SEO, is figuring out what people are actually searching for.

Ask your friend and family for help

When you are wondering what people might search for when looking for your business, a good resource is your friends and family who aren’t in the industry, especially when they are people who may have needed the kind of services you provide. Asking for their input can be invaluable.

Tip: Do a Google search for what you think people are searching for and look at the results. Are the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) showing you sites that are similar to yours? If not, ask yourself why not. If Google doesn’t think your website is the right answer for a query, you’ll never rank for that keyword no matter how hard you try.

What not to to do

Assume you know what people are looking for without doing any research! You can’t be sure what people are actually looking for without doing research and you could be setting yourself up for a total SEO failure. I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who trusted their gut, and decided what keywords they wanted to use on their website.

Let me tell you the story about a web developer who really wanted to rank for the term “websites for writers.” She was positive that’s what writers were looking for. She created a great new page on her site, with great content, examples of her work. Optimized it with everything in her toolkit. And she never ranked for that keyword.

Why? Because she didn’t research that keyword and it turned out that the search term “websites for writers” did have search volume, meaning people were using it. But the search results for it were about resources for writers, meaning websites with resources a writer might use. There were no search results about web design and development, which mean that no matter how optimized that web page was, her site was never going to break into those results, because Google didn’t think people who were searching using that phrase were looking for web development.

That developer learned a very important lesson about SEO. (cough cough)

Need help with keyword research? Get an estimate for help today.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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