People Search for Answers, not Keywords

Ian Lurie

75% of all those online will use a search engine to find you. But they’re not looking for keywords. They’re looking for answers.

lightbulb head

You may be inclined to modify your entire site to get that top spot for ‘mufflers’. It’s a nice, juicy keyword. If you get the top ranking for it, your boss will smile and you’ll be off the hook for a few weeks.

Here’s the problem: People don’t search for ‘mufflers’. They search for things like ‘low cost mufflers’ or ‘muffler for 57 Chevy’ or ‘How do I know if I need a new muffler’.

Your boss may smile at first, but when he realizes he’s not selling anything he’ll start frowning.

Keywords Don’t Matter. Answers Do.

Keywords do matter of course. But only if the keywords or phrases themselves help someone answer a question.
Here’s a real-life example: A site doesn’t rank in the top 5 for any competitive phrases in their industry. Their organic search traffic triples, and their conversion rate from organic search improves by 5:1.

How’s that happen?

They are giving their audience answers, not keywords. They focused on making their site search-friendly, so that the search engines can properly access and categorize their content.

The search engines reciprocate by giving them high rankings for the most relevant phrases.
Their visitors get what they want and respond accordingly.

Answer-focused SEO will help your entire internet marketing strategy. That’s more important than the happy feeling you get from a #1 position, trust me.

So focus on answers, not keywords.

Keywords are important. Don’t get me wrong. You have to pick the right ones. But crushing your site’s will to persuade just to get 2 spots higher on Google does you no good.

Related posts:
Keyword Diversification = Happiness
Keywords Ain’t All Dat

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. But, but… #1 position is the best… and stuff… and… oh, I give up. You’re right.
    In other news: That picture is truly disturbing, Ian. I’m gonna Stumble this in hopes that it will disturb someone else too. =D

  2. Searhers looking for Answers to their questions, not Keyword Phrases
    It's interesting to think about how People Search for Answers, not Keywords according to a post on Conversation Marketing."…75% of all those online will use a search engine to find you. But they're not looking for keywords. They're l…

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