It’s time for the first meeting with the customer. You may be a seasoned search marketer, but you’re still a little nervous. How do you achieve that perfect balance of getting the information you need while still exuding an aura of consummate professionalism, knowledge, and generally make yourself seem like the search Dalai Lama?
First, realize that the real Dalai Lama feels no need to prove himself, he just *is*. Project an aura of confidence, and realize the most elusive concept in our industry. It is not about you, it is about the customer.
Sidebar: Even if you’re an in-house marketer, you can still use these techniques. Pretend your VP of Product Development or someone similarly entrenched in the product/service is your “customer”.
Similarly, that first meeting should be all about the customer. This is your best chance to get an outsider’s perspective of how your customer views their products and what language they use to describe them.
After this first meeting, you’ll be an insider, and asking some of these questions will make it seem like you don’t know what you’re doing. So let your customer do most of the talking.
As you listen to the answers, jot down key phrases, jargon, and abbreviations they use to inform your keyword research later. Don’t forget to ask them to clarify anything you don’t understand.
Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of questions you should be asking; merely a sample of questions for keyword research purposes.
Question 1: I’ve reviewed your website, and have learned about your business. However it always helps to hear you explain it in your own words. So, Mr. Customer, how would you describe what you do?
The answer to this is likely to be the same words you read on their website or see in a brochure. Point out any jargon that you don’t understand, as this will set the stage for later, when you tell them they need to change the way they describe their product.
Question 2: In your opinion, what is it that makes your product/service special? What differentiates you from your competitors?
These are their value propositions; the key elements that need to come across on their pages to compel a conversion. If one of them is that they offer the lowest cost, then you know to research keyword modifiers like [cheap], [low cost], [price]. Alternatively, if they’re not low cost, you know to avoid these keyword modifiers. More on this in my next article.
Question 3: What do you think are similar services/products that you do not consider competitors?
The keywords that come out in this answer will help you refine the research. Often, keywords that are very similar may have a completely different meaning in a particular clients’ industry.
For example, “phone lines” and “phone trunks” are very different and each appeal to a distinct target market. You’ll only want to explore the right one in your research.
Question 4: Which products/services are most profitable for you? Are there other reasons (inventory, seasonality, location) that you would want to push one product/service over another?
Again, the answer to this question will help focus your research. Spend the most time expanding and refining the products that the client indicates are most important. This can sometimes save you from exploring an entire product line, if the customer says something like, “Product A is a necessary evil. We have to carry it, but we also have to price it below cost.”
Obviously, that’s not an area you want to focus on. You’ll include some keywords to be thorough, but you’ll spend more of your time on the “money” keywords.
Question 5: What do you think are your top ten most important keywords?
Ask for ten keywords. The reason for this is that some customers think they need to rank for their entire keyword universe of 1000 × 10100 keywords.
On the flip side, there are clients that think they only need to rank for one keyword and it will solve all their problems. Chances are that’s a virtually unattainable keyword like “tablet”. This question will help you determine which type your customer is, as well as let you know what keywords absolutely must be included in your final research.
Asking these five questions will complete a formidable amount of your keyword research before you even sit down at your computer. It will also help you focus priorities and set realistic expectations with the very first client meeting.
Next time: how to take what you’ve learned and conduct the research.
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Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.