SEO Revisited: How SEO (Still) Works in 2024

Content marketing is still something that a lot of companies, large and small, continue to invest in. The ultimate goal, of course, is sales. But, along the way to a sale, content marketers must first capture attention, drive traffic to a website (in most cases), and deliver on the promise that their copy promo or social media post suggested.

SEO, or search engine optimization, has been a big part of this process. And, while I certainly consider SEO when crafting content for myself or my clients, I’m not a slave to it. Here’s why.


While SEO (search engine optimization) can seem foreign and complex initially, the concepts are really quite straightforward and logical. Basically:

  • Consider the words and phrases that your customers or prospects might enter into a search engine (like Google) when they’re in need of your products or services.
  • Make sure those words or phrases are featured prominently in your website–on the home page, in headers, in blog content, etc.
  • Change content frequently so search engines continue to crawl your site, find those terms and bump you up higher in the search results.
  • Watch visits to your site increase (and, hopefully, inquiries, connections, and sales as well!).

While this is certainly vastly simplified, the beauty of SEO and online marketing is the ability you have to quantify results through analytics that tell you how people found your site and what they did once they got there. Doing your own searches based on desired key words and phrases can also give you important information about how your business ranks compared to competitors. And, you can evaluate competitors’ sites to determine what words and phrases they believe will drive people to their sites (and then do your own searches to determine whether their strategy is working). There are also a myriad of tools that can help you do this quickly, accurately, and cost effectively.

The Marketer/Audience Disconnect

When talking with potential or new clients, or analyzing clients’ digital presence, though, I often find a disconnect. That disconnect relates to a common issue that I find with businesses large and small in all of their communication activities. They don’t think “from the outside in.” In other words, the words and phrases that they use to talk about their products and services don’t necessarily align with the words and phrases that potential prospects and customers use. And that can be a big problem, especially when it comes to SEO.

If the language you’re using to describe your company and its services on your website isn’t the language that potential customers use, your chances of coming up high in their search results are severely limited.

Place a Priority on Engagement, Not Education

This is exactly the situation I discovered with a potential client I was researching recently. This company uses an accurate, but technical, term to refer to their primary service offering. When I enter that term in search engines, the client shows up within the third page of listings. Not great. But certainly something that could potentially be improved upon to get them to the first page. If, and this is a big if, their target audience actually uses that term.

From what I can tell, they don’t. So I considered other potential terms and phrases that their desired market would be likely to use when interested in what they had to offer. When I entered these search terms, unfortunately, their site didn’t come up. After dozens of pages of listings they were nowhere to be found. But their competition was.

That’s not good.

Here’s the thing. When you’re marketing, especially in a digital environment, focus on engagement. You’re not teaching classes here. You’re not, or shouldn’t be, on a mission to get your target audience to use your jargon. Instead, you should use the words that they use.

Change Your Perspective: Think Like Your Audience, Not Like Your Internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

While I don’t want to reveal the industry or nature of this potential client’s business, a simple example from another market can help illustrate how what they’re doing may be problematic. Healthcare is a service we’re all familiar with. Some of us are more technical when thinking about our healthcare needs than others. Chances are, though, that the majority of potential patients seeking service use common words and phrases when searching online.

So, for instance:

  • What words or phrases do you think a person with stomach pain is likely to use when searching online for information—”stomach pain” or “gastroenterology”?
  • What words or phrases do you think a person with chest pain is likely to use—”heart attack” or “myocardial infarction”?

The bottom line—it’s not your words that matter, it’s theirs. At least if you want your potential customers to find you online. I’m guessing you do.

How do you determine what words and phrases consumers use when they talk about your products or services? There are several ways you can gain these insights. We’ll take a look at them in our next blog post.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results at reasonable rates.

In addition to content creation we specialize in helping B2B clients raise awareness and drive website traffic through a strong LinkedIn and X presence.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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