While I am no search engine optimization guru, I know enough to see many SEO goofs that outsiders and neophytes make.  One of these mistakes is dismissing the importance of site visitor feedback and web analytics.

If you want to drive traffic to a site, pay attention to those who already visit it.  Sure, it sounds simple enough, but the other day I was reminded of how many sites don't follow this advice.

I'll focus on keywords.

The other day I was writing some content and wanted to see what keywords sites about the same topic were using.  After doing some quick keyword research in a search engine provided tool, I checked the other sites, and they didn't use words that people readily used to find sites like them.  Ugh!

Keyword research is just one way to find out which words people actually use.  I used an external tool, but a web analytics program should also provide such data.  When listing referring sites, most programs (even free ones) will reveal the keywords someone used if the source is a search engine.

Of course, this is much easier typed than done, but it seems strange to me how often sites ignore data that reveals how site visitors actually find a site and what lingo they use to find it. 

Just because a restaurant reckons that people will search for "Amsterdam eatery" doesn't mean that is what potential patrons will use to search for it.  What if they use "Amsterdam diner" instead?  An organization's internal lingo likely does not match that of its target audience. 

Granted, site visitors use different terms, but usually there are a few words that a significant amount of visitors use.  Thus, a site should not just target one or two, but if it does, it better at least target jargon that members of its target audience do use.

It is important to note that in some cases a site might justifiably target less popular terms.  In sectors where the popular terms are very competitive, a site may not have the ability to rank well with the most popular search keywords.  However, a site may do well by targeting less popular terms if it can rank well under searches for them.  That's where harnessing the long tail of search can kick in.

I'm not saying that keyword strategy is easy, but virtually ignoring research and analytics that reveal what site visitors actually use is just plain dumb. 

After my experience the other day, it seems that there are still many people who ignore this piece of advice.