by Sarah on May 12, 2010


It was almost impossible for my husband to contain his excitement Sunday. His eyes glowed and you could tell something big was up.  I got the feeling this was no ordinary Mother’s Day gift.

At his urging, we quickly put on our coats (can you believe it was in the 50’s in May?!) and followed him quietly through the woods, avoiding sticks in the path that would give us away.  Fortunately the same wind that whipped around our ears stole our noise as well.

And there – on our little pond, (which is not more than a home for goldfish and a snack stop for our local great blue heron) – they were.

Not one, but two sets of Canadian geese parents, carefully shepherding their little grey-yellow puffball gosling as they explored the waters.  Twelve in all!

Not many things could beat this for a Mother’s Day gift – two families deciding our little pond was safe for their babes.

But as the wonder of the moment began to settle, I started thinking – how did they get here? Were they hiding in the rushes in nests while we walked blithely by?

Hard to say – maybe they waddled (do geese waddle too?) through the culvert under the road and found the pond after their eggs hatched.

In any case I was both thrilled by the unexpected visitors and intrigued with what signs I may have missed over the last few weeks . . .

Hmm. Just like search engine optimization (SEO) . . .

In wildlife watching, I’ve learned that sometimes it helps to lose your center focus a bit (the way we tend to usually look at things) and let your vision widen and relax into peripheral vision.  This way you can pick up little movements around you with a wider lens.  It’s like you kind of let your eyes unfocus and your scope expands.

Tactical SEO requires doing the same thing. While it’s important to be strategic, start with a focus and a plan, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and open to opportunities you may have no clue are hiding there in the rushes, so to speak.

To find that sweet spot of keywords, you often have let your focus drift so you can see things you may not notice on the periphery.  You have to look beyond the expected and be prepared to embrace the unexpected.

Here are 3 ways to do what I mean with some concrete examples:

  1. Watch your analytics.

Just like those geese, visitors you aren’t expecting often show up.  A great place to see this is in your analytics reports.  For example, you may be optimizing your site for “menopause help” but find that because you have so much content about women and hormones, you’re also getting younger women dealing with hormonal imbalance finding you through Google. Even though you weren’t originally planning on targeting this market, you may decide it’s worth pursuing further.

  1. Go deep into your keyword research to find unexpected niches

Keyword research always starts with brainstorming.  And it can be very frustrating when you start with what you think is your target audience and hitting dead end after dead end . . .   Not enough traffic for this phrase . . . Too much competition for this one . . . Aarrgh!

But if you keep going, digging deeper and deeper with a good keyword research tool, you may find nuggets that you can really work with.

For example, I started a website about family fitness based on some initial promising keyword research.  But as I finessed my techniques, I realized that I was up against some tough competition with these words.  However, as I kept going with my research, I found lots of promise with specific activities that involved kids and parents.  These keyword phrases did not include “family” nor “fitness” but provided lots of opportunities for talking about how families can exercise together.  And they had solid traffic with a lot less competition.

If I hadn’t keep unpeeling the layers of keywords and looking for new angles, I might have had to slog it out with “family fitness”. Or, even worse, give up and go watch my chickens peck for ticks outside.

  1. Add qualifiers to keywords that may have too much competition and turn them into longtail keyword phrases.

This last one is pretty similar to the example above. Except it doesn’t abandon the initial phrase you’re working on.  A classic example is the monster keywords “lose weight”.  Now this is a tough place to get rankings since it is such a competitive market.  However, if you qualify it a bit, you may be pleasantly surprised.  Keyword phrases like “healthy ways to lose weight” or “lose weight in the winter” will most likely have a lot less competition and may also get some good search traffic.

So if you’re hitting a dead end in keyword research, try adding some qualifiers to your phrase and see where it goes.  You may find the devil is in the details – and your success as well.

Who doesn’t love pleasant surprises, especially ones that even make you giggle and slap your forehead because they were hiding right under your nose.  Just like the two families that mysteriously appeared in our freshwater haven, keywords and the markets using them may suddenly appear in your optimization process if you relax your focused vision a bit.

The key is to be ready to take advantage of them when they show up . . . and widen your perspective sometimes so you can see them.

Enjoy discovering some great market niches!  And check out my latest favorite keyword research tool here.


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