Explaining Keywords to Your Clients

Everybody knows what keywords are, right? Likewise, everyone knows what it means to target particular keywords and why one would choose to target certain keywords over others, of course. If you’re laughing or shaking your head right now, then you know where I’m going with this…and you’ll want to keep reading to get a little help when you need to explain these concepts.

If you’re an SEO or search marketer who has to explain your field to those who are far less versed in digital marketing, you know it can seem like you’re teaching them a foreign language. Learning a foreign language can be made easier by cognates (words in different languages that are derived from the same root). Likewise, if you’re explaining SEO concepts to your client and can relate them to other concepts with which he’s already familiar, you can spend less time  explaining and more time bringing experience – both yours and his – to bear to create the best possible marketing campaign.

Mike Moran, writing for Search Engine Guide, focused on the concept of keywords to teach this point to his readers. Typically, it’s not too difficult to explain keywords on a basic level. Nearly everyone who’s ever used the Internet has used a search engine, so typing keywords into a search box is a familiar experience. It’s simple enough, as Moran noted, to explain keywords in this way. You would then continue by noting that “Google shows pages and ads in response to the [keywords] that were typed,” he wrote, and if you want your marketing message to be seen, “you need to know which keywords…your customers are using.”

That easy enough to understand, surely. But what if you could explain keywords in a way that lets your client, or the person to which you’re explaining them, apply their own experience and understanding? Consider an old-school marketer with no real background in digital media. Is it possible to explain the concept of keywords in a way that fits into their already-considerable background in the general field of marketing?

As it turns out, Moran discovered that there is a parallel concept: market segments. He observed that “when I explain to them that search keywords are their primary means of market segmentation for search marketing, they bring a enormous amount of knowledge to the party. Because marketers know what market segments are. And they know what to do with them.”

I know, this probably sounds a little crazy, but it actually makes sense. Normally, a marketer would think of demographics as a marketing segment. Tell someone marketing video games that you’re trying to reach 14-year-old boys who live in cities, and they’ll know exactly what kinds of games appeal to them. Keywords make sense as market segments once you realize that they also carry clues to their users’ interests – clues around which you can structure your content.

Moran notes that you might have to provide a few examples before a non-digital marketer gets it. He then describes how “the owner of a bed and breakfast might target ‘lodging’ as their keyword rather than ‘hotel’ because his customers are expressly looking for alternatives to hotels, which is why that segment of searchers uses the more unusual word.”

And what happens after it clicks in their head? Then “they understand why some segments (keywords) might be better targets than others. They know why they would want to analyze conversion rates and click rates and other metrics by segment, because they are always doing the same thing when they use market segmentation for any other reason.” Suddenly, you no longer need to explain the trickier stuff, because you explained the basic concept in a way to which they could relate – and which, in their world, pretty much implied all the rest.

Cherish these parallels when you find them. They’re the Rosetta stones that lead to greater understanding between your world and your clients’ world. Good luck!

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