Hardly a conventional or thoroughly professional title for a blog on SEO management strategy, I know, but learning why this page has been written at all is the key to you understanding strategic SEO, quickly.
When I'm not referring to myself as Mr Biscuit but consulting with business and website owners about their SEO strategy, I'm always looking for opportunities to drop bombs (just like the one that follows) which will blow a business proposition wide open:
Let's assume that your target website visitor doesn't know you or your company name; they don't know your website address, telephone number or your postcode - what do they type into Google to find a business that does the kind of things yours does? This is an earth-shattering, game-changer of a question (one of many similar thought experiments which you can find in The Art of Search) that lets me get down to business quickly and totally bypasses the obligatory
...yeah, but how does Google work? questions.
Being able to think like the Customer and loading your website with the kind of content that other people, who you want to become your Customers, will search for is all SEO really boils down to. Forget what the snakeoil salespeople or blokes down the pub would have you believe and try to move beyond the mindset that forbids writing webpages about anything other than your company or tries to get you to write using trendy corporate buzzwords, technical jargon and marketing gobbledygook.
Always remember - your website doesn't exist for your benefit but that of your Customer.
This blog post is a webpage that's been optimised for SEO, it's been written to be understood by search engines and written to be highly relevant not to the widest possible marketplace but to a far, far smaller one. This targeted content has been written specifically to attract the attention of just one person. This one person doesn't know my name is Steve or that I develop websites or that I write about SEO - she just knows me as Mr Biscuit.
She has a name and it's Alana; I know that's her name because that's what it says on the badge that she wears whilst working at Tesco in Batford. My followers on Twitter may be familiar with my thing for chocolate biscuits (especially the chocolate Hobnob, a biscuit that I have come to regard as the king of biscuits) but to followers on Twitter I'm St John le Pop, not Mr Biscuit. Only one person calls me Mr Biscuit and it's Alana - I earned the name through a combination of her shift pattern and my biscuit obsession - biscuits are all she seems to see me buy. So one day, with a welcome flourish of customer focus, Alana chose to inform me that she'd dubbed me
Mr Biscuit, we both have a laugh about it and I leave the store feeling a little bit more than a customer and certain that it's not only the Tesco Clubcard data centre that's building a picture of my shopping.
OK, back to SEO strategy. Let's develop my local shopping scenario by projecting a line of thought and I want you to imagine that, one day, Alana is really bored, very bored indeed; so bored that she decides to try and find out where the people who shop with her in Batford come from. Bored she may be but I'll argue that this scenario is no different to legitimate market research and, regardless of who's doing the searching, if you want your website to be found by someone the only way to do it is to begin by imagining how they think. As a pleasant and helpful Tesco employee she's clearly observant and appears to have begun to notice patterns of behaviour with her shoppers and has, very possibly, made up names for other shoppers and not just for Mr Biscuit. A Google search would be a good place for her to start, wouldn't you agree? So go on, ask yourself, what would Alana start searching for to find me and fellow shoppers like me?
The Tesco store in Batford sells petrol so, although the store will attract a lot of passing trade, to many it's a convenient local store. At lunchtime the local high school opens the floodgates and the store is awash with schoolkids buying meal deals; a small business park is close by and many office workers pop out for lunch. The demographic of the regular daytime Customer must be people that work in Batford, therefore, it's logical to predict that Alana's first search, to learn more about her Customers, would be a search for
businesses in Batford or
companies in Batford. However, just how many companies have photos of all their employees on their website and just how comprehensive would Alana's search strategy be? With the more obvious searches exhausted she'd then begin trying other lines of enquiry. So, how soon before Alana searches Google for
Mr Biscuit instead?
Clearly, this scenario isn't an example of a high volume search with a commercial outcome but it does, nevertheless, define strategic SEO and clearly illustrate the way your website needs to drastically change right now in order to secure the level of search engine visibility we all hanker for. The key to SEO is not to write about what you do with technical jargon or corporate gobbledygook but to describe the benefits you offer using the words your Customers understand and want to hear.
To champion this new way of thinking and achieve this new level of performance, management strategy needs to drastically change. Appointing, resourcing and empowering a Search Commander in your business and wrestling the ownership of a website away from the marketing department are critical components of this SEO management strategy. Perhaps change on this scale this isn't search engine optimisation at all but, in fact, business optimisation.