Guest Post: Do you know the stories of your most desirable visitors?

I first heard the noise during the brief pause between commercials. I was sitting at home watching TV. Tom and the kids had gone to watch my son’s soccer game, and this was a rare chance for me to enjoy some weekend alone time. What I heard would change that. It was the sound of water dripping under the sink. I instantly pictured water seeping into my wood floors, warping them, molding them, ruining them.

When this woman — let’s call her "Sally" — gets to her computer and opens Google, what keywords is she going to enter? She might type in "emergency plumber," "weekend plumber," or "water leak help."

If you are a plumber, are you interested in hearing from her? Do you work weekends? Do you maintain a fleet of trucks around the city? If so, these are keyword phrases that will compliment your business strategy very well. How would you have know to target these keywords if you didn’t know her story?

The Source for Search Keywords

I have a lot of respect for people who create search engine keyword lists. They sit with you for an hour or so, asking questions about your business and your customers. Then, they go away for a day or two, returning with a list of hundreds or thousands of keyword phrases, prioritized by potential value to your business. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Unfortunately, this is what they usually have to work with:

Sally is a 44-year-old female living in an upper-middle-class ZIP code in suburban Dallas. Her family income is between $150,000 and $200,000 per year. She is married. She has three children between 12 and 18 years of age. Her home is 15 years old and has three bathrooms, five sinks, and a sprinkler system.

Based on this, can you predict what is Sally going to type into Google at any given moment? It’s hard to say without knowing her story.

Segmenting Misses Opportunities

I’ve been thinking about remodeling our master bathroom. We’ve lived in this house a long time and it’s time we started updating it. Mary down the street just finished hers and said I should look for a plumber that can work with the new materials used in modern bathrooms. Apparently it was a problem for her.

This is the same Sally. Same income. Same ZIP code. Same house. But she is going to search very differently, and remodel projects are probably going to be very desirable to a plumbing business. While terms like "bathroom remodel" may be very competitive, a search professional may find valuable terms that focus on bathroom materials such as "plumbing for tile counters," or "toilets on wooden floors."

Same person, different approach.

Naturally, such insights will also affect the content you choose for your site. Your search professional should be able to help you prioritize content based on your customer commentaries.

The Power of the Customer Commentary

The four sentences that I began this post with contain a power that demographics alone can’t deliver.

First, the "story" is written from the point of view of the prospect – the potential visitor to your Web site. This means that it is written using the vocabulary of the customer, not the vocabulary of the business or industry. Sally would rarely say something like, "I suspected the elbow pipe was leaking around the seal and my wood floors were being ruined."

Second, it tells us exactly why she is searching for a plumber, giving us more potential keywords to investigate. In the hands of a talented search professional, phrases like "emergency plumbing," "after hours plumber," and "how to shut off water" could be parlayed into hundreds of otherwise overlooked opportunities.

Third, it highlights the importance of Google Maps and the "seven pack." Because Sally can feel her wood floors rotting, proximity is going to be a key motivator in her selection of a solution. In most searches, the map is a convenience to the searcher. In Sally’s situation it is crucial to be in that list of seven.

Aren’t these stories too specific to be helpful?

You may feel that these stories are too specific, and that you would be missing a great many searches by focusing on a few specific customer commentaries. If you are the only plumber in your area, you may not need such detail. Chances are, you are not. Furthermore, your competition is learning every day how to make the search engines work in their favor.

Neither of these stories omits the broader keyword phrases that you would be interested in. However, your ability to specifically target those customers who fit your strategic advantages will ensure that you stay one step ahead of your competition.

If you’re going to be depending on search engines for leads and sales in 2010, you need to help your search term research along. Write the stories of your best visitors in their words and find those valuable search terms that everyone else is missing.

Brian Massey is The Conversion Scientist™ and he has the lab coat to prove it. Brian develops visitor personas for businesses of all sizes so that they can focus their marketing dollars in the places that will deliver the leads and sales that help them grow.

All opinions expressed in guest blog postings are those of the specific post’s author, and may or may not reflect those of Brian Combs or ionadas local.