What to do when your business is ranking for the wrong search terms?

pivoting your SEO strategy by Melinda J. Irvine

My writing business is ranking for the wrong search terms. And its all my fault.

Let me explain it to you.

So I’m a professional writer and specialise in B2B content strategies — SEO, eCommerce and blogging for SMEs and micro-business. But I also do technical writing (manuals, operating procedures, handbooks), plus resumes, CVs, and job applications.

But I’m not ranking for any of that stuff. Instead Google and the search engines are sending over people using search terms like …  ‘learn to become a writer‘ and … ‘tips for freelancers‘. You can see the anomaly here — I’m selling writing services to small business owners and professionals, but ranking for something completely different.

I wish I could get all frustrated and annoyed about it, but I can’t really — because it’s all my fault.

Back when I first started my writing business I setup web pages for all my writing services, but decided it would be fun to blog about the ‘freelance life’, personal productivity, and how to find work as a freelancer. In fact I did not write a single post about small business topics — or anything that my actual customers and clients might be interested in.

Crazy really.

As an SEO tool blogging works. On your website you setup your product or services pages and then write blogs that link back to each of those products or services. For example: if your website is selling bedsheets you might blog about the difference between cotton sheets and polyester, how to launder sheets, how to fold sheets, emerging design trends on flannelette sheets, dot dot dot.

After a while — because you’ve written so much content about sheets — Google starts to realise you’re in the business of bedsheets and starts sending loads of people interested in buying sheets your way. Of course there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s essentially how it works.

I know this stuff inside out, it’s what I do for a living. And yet here I am ranking for the wrong search terms on my very own website.

But the best (and worst) part about SEO is you can fix it. Meaning you can pivot your SEO strategy at any time and get your website ranking for new (or better) search terms. That’s the good side, but it also means that just because you’re ranking # 1 for buy bedsheets online Sydney right now, without persistent effort you’re unlikely to stay there.

So it’s time to pivot my own SEO and here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Stop blogging about the freelance life. Done. Over the weekend I opened a Medium account and now blogging every day over there to an appreciative audience of freelancers and writers. Even better I get paid based on readership and engagement — I think I’ve earned about USD$10 in my first few days. Yay.
  2. Start blogging for the people that own small businesses or manage an SME. Write content that makes it easier for them to do business and get their message out into the world. Happy to report I’ve factored a daily business blog into my writing calendar for my own website. Over the next 6-12 months I’m going to be tacking a wide range of smallbiz topics: how to build a library of essential HR documents; and writing mission, purpose and values statements; and breaking down safety and risk management into very simple terms. Honestly it feels great.
  3. Remember who I’m serving and why. This is the clincher. I worked for years in organisations where I was the only person in the management team who could string a sentence together. I remember the frustration and embarrassment of my co-mangers as they struggled to get the words they wanted to say out, and onto paper. And that’s who I’m still writing for today, anyone that has a wealth of experience an innovation locked inside — and a fire in their belly to get it out. They’re just not sure of the right words to use.

It’s so easy for all of us business owners to get distracted from our core business — we join committees, chase industry events and other shiny objects, or just get bogged down in compliance and operating policy. After a while we start to forget who our customers actually are. And if we deviate too far from what we originally set out to do, something in our belly doesn’t feel quite right — and things in our business start going amiss. Like ranking for the wrong search terms.

So I have my compass set now to true north, and back to writing for the people that really matter to me.


© 2019 Melinda J. Irvine

PS: if you made it to the bottom fo the page and read the whole thing, it’s definitely you.