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To what question is my business the answer? That’s the question to ask if you’re trying to write sales copy that wins you customers and propels your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

If you want to be found on the internet, then position your business as an answer or a solution. After all, that is what people are seeking when they use search engines.

In this post, we’ll apply this thinking to an actual sales page written by a recent client of mine. covered-in-this-postWe’ll use tools like Google AdWords and Answer the Public to determine where Ben’s copywriting choices are creating inefficiencies for his business. We’ll develop ideas to improve the SEO value of his website and come up with new customer acquisition scenarios.

Let’s get started.

Case Study: Launching a New Service in the New York City Market

Ben is a New York City web developer who was launching a new service for small- and medium-sized businesses. In exchange for a monthly retainer, Ben would provide year-round website security updates, monitoring and support — a useful service in a world where 30,000 websites are hacked every day.

Ben sent me a rough draft of his sales page. It was nicely designed, and the headline read, “Welcome to Website Support Bliss.”

How would you determine whether this copy is any good? Ask yourself the following:

  • Does it suggest a solution to a problem?
  • Will the right customers find it in an internet search?
  • Does it express that problem in the same language your customers would use to describe it?

Let’s apply these questions to Ben’s sales page.

Question 1: Does the copy suggest a solution to a problem?

Ben’s headline — “Welcome to Website Support Bliss” — referred to an obvious problem: Website issues. Who hasn’t had those?

But…do people go searching the internet for website support? Think about the last time your website crashed — or if you don’t have a website, think about the last time your internet wasn’t working. Did you search for website support or internet support?

I wouldn’t bet on it. And that leads us to the next question:

When people google this problem, do they use the same words you use on your website to describe it?

This is where it helps to use the Keywords Planner in AdWords. I entered website support and found that the term gets just 140 searches on average a month in the U.S.adwords-graph-for-website-support-keyword

I started brainstorming alternatives. Would Ben’s target audience search for website support for small businesses? Another keyword research tool, Answer the Public, suggested otherwise. It showed me that people using the search terms website, support and for are often looking for help with child support! Take a look:answer-the-public-results

Of all these searches, only one — the last — is potentially relevant to Ben’s business. If you’re using Google Adwords for keyword research, make sure to avoid irrelevant variations of your keywords by selecting “exact match” or “phrase match” under your match settings. Google uses broad match by default.

So that keyword is out. Now what?

Website support gets only 140 hits a month. What keywords would help Ben capture customers who needed him? What were those customers searching for?

My next try was website maintenance. This phrase got an average of 1,000 searches a month. So did the phrase website securityadwords-graph-forwebsite-security-keyword

Figure out intent by searching for your keywords yourself

Now it’s time to put on your psychologist hat and consider intent. Think about intent as the internal motivation or question behind a person’s keyword search. As Google puts it, “The perfect search is giving you what you were looking for. Not just the words you typed – but what you were actually looking for.”

My next step was to get a sense of the intent behind google searches for website maintenance and website security. I typed these terms into google in order to see for myself what content other businesses, advertisers and bloggers were offering to people performing these two searches. That would give me some clues about intent.

The search results included lots of paid ads for vendors like Symantec, as well as an ad for a web designer. Ben’s new service was about website security, not web design. Were people intending to find a web designer when they googled website maintenance?

As I pondered this I thought of something Ben had said: “A lot of the people who want to work with us have just had their website hacked, and they had no one to go to for help.” (And they naively think their web designer or hosting service would be there to help them.)

Pretend you’re the customer

So I put myself in the shoes of that customer. What would I do if I were a small business owner and my website crashed and I had no idea how to fix it? What question would I ask of Google in that situation (while simultaneously calling my web hosting company and being put on a 30-minute hold)?

In my panicked state, would I type in website maintenance? No way. Website security? A little too abstract for my present emergency.

I’d type WEBSITE DOWN.

I entered website down into the AdWords Keywords planner, which told me there are 5,400 monthly searches on average for this term — about 5x as many as website security.

adwords-graph-for-website-down-keyword

There were 5,400 monthly searches for “website down” — 5 times as many as for “website security”.

Figure out how your customer will react to the problem

Related search terms got even higher amounts of traffic. The terms Is it down and down for everyone were even more popular. This suggested to me that one of the first things people want to know when they can’t access their website is whether it’s just down for them, or down for everyone. That made total sense. I now understood what goes through a person’s mind when they first notice their website is down.

This thought process had me barking up a certain tree, but surely there were other search terms for this scenario as well. I checked search traffic for the terms website hacked and what to do when website crashes. The numbers were smaller, which gave me more confidence that website down was the right term to focus on.

What had I concluded? Ben’s business was likely to be found by panicked small business owners experiencing a website crash. Having done my AdWords research, I decided to replace his original headline — “Welcome to website support bliss” — with “Is your website down?” The rest of the copy would expand upon the problem and offer Ben’s service as the right solution.

Tip: Use a supplementary keyword research tool to round out your AdWords research. In the case of website down, I visited answerthepublic.com to see long-tail queries. At least one query didn’t have much to do with a hacked or crashed website. The query was: What is slowing my website down? You can use this information to test the relevance of your keywords. If you’re running a paid ad campaign, you can also tell AdWords to NOT serve your ads to people searching for “slowing my website down”, etc. As discussed above, all you have to do is replace the broad match setting with a phrase match or exact match.

Consider what your keyword research is telling you about your marketing strategy

Another thing I learned from my research is that the search term website down, while getting more searches than my other initial terms, is not as sought-after by advertisers. In other words, competition for this term is low. So Ben had an opportunity, as an advertiser, to bid for this term at an attractive cost.

Another important takeaway: If your website crashes and you google website down, are you going to be satisfied to find a website, like Ben’s, offering a year-round retainer service? Does that solve your problem RIGHT NOW? No.

So how could Ben those panicked prospects on his site? I recommended his team write a blog post providing immediate fixes for people experiencing website crashes. That way, he could get those people onto his website and cultivate some brand awareness.

Conclusion

Keyword research empowers you to answer the question, To what problem is my business the solution? And it enables you to present your solution in the same language your customer speaks.

Keyword research also has the unexpected benefit of alerting you to blind spots in your marketing strategy. In Ben’s case, keyword research showed that many of his customers would come to his site in a state of panic. He was selling a service that would help them avoid that panic in the future. Did he need to modify his offering to include on-the-spot website damage control?

This is how keyword research informs not only your copywriting strategy but your business strategy as well. When you use the Google AdWords keyword research tool to write “SEO optimized” copy, you don’t just create a better website — you create a better business. ♦