We build businesses. Even little ones.

We build businesses.
Even little ones.

What to do when weird search terms bring people to you

I was looking through a new client intake form recently and one of the things that was mentioned was how, for no clear reason, one of her highest traffic search terms had nothing to do with her website at all.

(For confidentiality’s sake, I won’t tell you the exact phrase, but consider it along the lines of “cute puppies”.)

So. Imagine the scene. You run a business blog, or a NASCAR fan site, or an online career coaching practice.

And despite your efforts to write on topic 95% of the time, the #1 search term bringing people to your site isn’t “marketing” or “NASCAR” or “career coaching.”

It’s “cute puppies.”

All because somewhere in your content archives, you happened to use the words “puppies” and “cute” too close together while writing about something completely unrelated.  Maybe it managed to get some linkbacks, which caught Google’s attention, too.

Google can be really trippy sometimes.

Why we’re bothering telling you this

You’d think this wouldn’t be a particularly big deal. But we get more questions about this than you’d expect, primarily because it throws a monkey wrench into both a) stats and b) peace of mind.

The stats part has to do with bounce rate and time on site.

If you’ve got 1,000 people coming to you every month for “cute puppies” and 3,200 visiting your site for legitimate reasons, the puppy seekers tend to leave your site almost instantly.

When a fair chunk of your traffic leaves instantly, it’s harder to get a sense of how long real visitors are staying on your website.

Your stats software may be telling you 70% of your visitors leave without clicking on any other pages, which sounds ominous. (Take out the puppy seekers, and your real number may be close to 20%.)

And when it comes to time on site, your real visitors may be hanging out for 5 minutes on average, but because of those damnable puppies, it looks like a lot less.

The peace of mind part has to do with frustration.

If you’ve been working yourself to the bone trying to get visitors to your site, you want to see results from that. You want to see a lot of traffic for terms that are important to you.

And if the most successful result you’ve achieved is accidentally creating a worthless traffic magnet … well, it sucks.

Plus, every month that you notice you’re getting 300 hits a month for your most important keyword, and 3,000 for the puppies, the suck can begin to stack.

Again, you’d think this wouldn’t be a particularly big deal. But like a desk with a wobbly leg, it’s one of those little things that can get under your skin.

What you can do when weird terms bring people to you.

Option One: Change the page so it’s not relevant to that keyword anymore.

The SEO lovers out there will already know that, but a fair chunk of people loathe SEO enough not to have considered that. Pop into the page, take out the puppy reference, and you might be good to go after that.

Option Two: Milk it.

If there’s any way to adjust the page so that it brings attention to a call to action that some visitors might conceivably take, then you can do that.

Example: We get quite a lot of traffic for terms like “I’m scared.” We took the page people were going to and edited it to link to our Emergency Turnaround Clinic, which is on topic for scared entrepreneurs.  Who knows?  Maybe 10% of Google searchers might also have their own business going on.  Score.

But depending on the term, this approach may not be possible. At one point we ranked for “mangoes”. Chances are high that people typing that into Google have no interest in small business marketing. Sometimes it’s just a lost cause.

Option Three: Do nothing.

You probably have better things to do with your business than tweaking your pages to remove weird search terms. Things that would bring more traffic to the keywords you care about or things that will move your current traffic closer to buying from you.

You can always just focus on that instead.

The cute puppies will take care of themselves.