Why You Can't Fight Search-Engine Results

Searchers ultimately control what a search phrase “means” and what types of content are relevant for a search query. A business selling furniture pads might be 100 percent certain that they sell “protective pads,” and therefore have the right to rank highly for searches for “protective pads.” But they’d be wrong.

A quick search in Google shows that nine out of 10 of the results for “protective pads” actually refer to sporting goods like knee pads for skaters. For a bit of diversity, one listing for incontinence pads also shows up on page one. At the bottom, the “searches related to protective pads” section displays some suggests for furniture-related queries. Google doesn’t consider any sites featuring furniture pads highly relevant to search queries for “protective pads.”

So, if you sell furniture pads, do you want to hang your SEO hopes on the phrases you think you should rank for, like “protective pads?” Probably not, and here’s why.

Search engines are in the relevance business – their web search products are popular because they have the combination of relevant search results and usability features that searchers want. It’s one of their core missions, then, to identify what meaning all the different combinations of search queries have for the majority of searchers.

In the case of “protective pads,” Google has determined after years of collecting search data that searchers are more likely to click on sports-related pads pages, with a small minority of people looking for incontinence pads. Google has also determined that if searchers are not looking for sporting goods, they’re most likely looking for furniture, hence the related searches section.

Searchers choose the pages that are most relevant to them from the search search results and search engines learn to deliver more of those kinds of pages to increase the relevance of their results. What any business thinks it should be relevant for just isn’t a factor in the algorithm.

Rather than trying everything you can to rank for phrases that the search engines don’t consider relevant to your niche, focus on keyword markets you can win.

First, search for the phrases keyword research has identified as good targets for SEO to make certain that your business is in one of the niches that search engines consider relevant to those queries. Then apply SEO strategies to maximize traffic, leads and sales through organic search for the phrases that are most likely to truly drive success. 

Jill Kocher is a seasoned SEO professional and all-around technogeek. By day, she manages Resource Interactive’s SEO practice here in Chicago and serves as contributing editor at Practical eCommerce. By night, Jill landscapes her home in the far northern suburbs of Chicagoland while enjoying a glass of wine and thinking about SEO some more. Family discussion centers primarily around SEO, analytics, social media, mobile apps, android, iOS, how-was-your-day and cats.

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