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Have you ever checked your referral logs or analytics and saw a search query that someone found your site for and wondered why you ended up ranking for that search term? Have you ever seen that search query show up more than once in your referral logs and analytics reports? If you’re like me, I’m sure you have.

What happened?

SEO Theory’s Michael Martinez says this.

Search engines don’t stop ranking your pages at the end of your list of carefully chosen keywords. If they find expressions your page is relevant to that you didn’t think of, they’ll give you some exposure you didn’t count on. The difference between a real long tail strategy and a faux long tail strategy is the absence of popular head terms in your search goals.

What most business owners, and even a lot of SEOs, don’t understand is that the magic that happens in search happens when the searcher enters a search query in the search query box and clicks the Search button. It does NOT happen when you optimize your web page.

So what does that mean exactly?

Well, you can optimize your pages endlessly, do all the keyword research you can think of, and build link after link after link with the very best anchor text possible and still get traffic for search queries you didn’t think of. That happens because search engine robots are looking for content that matches search queries. They are not looking for search queries that match your content.

That’s an important distinction. But what does it mean in terms of search? Here’s what I think it means:

Quit chasing keywords. Instead, chase the customers that are important to your business – the ones most likely to buy your products and services. You cannot guess every search query those customers will use to find you on the Web. What you can do is write great content that attracts the people you want to do business with. Then promote that content where those people hang out.

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