A recent conversation with a potential client of mine made me aware of a gap between many businesses and their clients. Upon inquiring about Dave’s website (all names and company titles have been altered for obvious reasons) he informed me that his website that had only been up a week, was on the front page of Google. At this point I was surprised. Was this possible? A new website and you’re already on the front page? I had to probe further.

I made him show me. Sure enough, when we typed in “David Witmeyer Wholesale Furniture Springdale” in the Google search he came up on the front page. Now, this is a good place to start, but there was something that my friend wasn’t understanding. He wasn’t thinking like the consumer. For the majority of internet users, such a specific term is rarely going to be punched into the Google search bar. If you think about it, those that enter such a specific search term will be customers that are already familiar with your company. That is why large companies like Adobe, or Wal-Mart aren’t too concerned about SEO. But I’m willing to bet that is not the case for your business.

You have to start thinking like a consumer. We all use the internet pretty much on a daily basis. Hundreds of search terms are entered by us each month. If you stop and think about the types of words that you enter when trying to find a service or product it becomes clear just how important search terms or “keywords” are to the success of a website. I compiled a list of 10 recent things I searched for on Google.

1- pizza Spanish Fork

2- magnetic camera mount

3- apartments Arlington

4- word combinations

5- Coldplay discography

6- Best Music Here

7- urban photography

8- outdoor guide

9- video rentals Clinton

10- physical map of Idaho

I would recommend any business owner interested in SEO to make a similar list. Keep it going for a week and then analyze the data. While you are a business owner by day, guaranteed that more often than not, you are “shopping” when you use the internet. These keywords will define what businesses you find and where your money is spent. Slightly changing a search word can have a big impact on whose website you land on. Knowing which words are most used and what type of person will use those words is what an SEO specialist can help you determine.

Now, looking at my list, it’s interesting to note that 6 of the 10 are very specifically looking for a product or service. The 2nd search term, “magnetic camera mount,” is noteworthy because I happened to be looking for a product that I was hoping existed but I’d never seen it before. What I discovered was a small business (in my own home town even) that offered such a thing. Now, if their website had listed their product using different words or maybe a specific model number, I may have never found them. That is the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity—words are everything online.

Note that 3 of the keywords (4, 5, and 8) were clearly in search of information. Now, a business owner might write that off because information online is generally free and may not lead to an immediate sale. I would caution this type of thinking, however. A large quantity of internet searchers will simply want information. But if your website is the one that provides it, well, now they know about your site and that it provides reliable information. This is valuable in branding and creating a trust with potential clients. You can turn visitors into money by adding ads to your sites.

The final fact I will point out from my list is the 6th search term “Best Music Here.” It’s the only search term which I used that has the actual name of the company. I only knew about it by referral from a friend. The ironic thing is that I couldn’t remember their name at first so I searched using what I thought were the optimum keywords, but I still did not find them. Let me restate that: I was interested in the product they provide and yet I could not find them online!

For any business owner this scenario should be the scariest one possible. I practically had my credit card in my hand, knew what I wanted, was ready to buy and yet, I could not find their website. So the company left their success in the hands of my friend’s willingness to text me the specific URL of the website. What if my friend hadn’t responded? What if I had stumbled upon a competitor’s website first? I assure you that this happens all the time. If your competitor is making a prominent scene on the search page, and they offer the same product as you, people will choose them over your company by default. The easier path is usually the one that the consumer takes. So start thinking like the consumer and put yourself in that easy path to be found online.