A while back a friend of a friend who owns a small busi­ness in a lit­tle town (let’s call it Ennville) in the Mid­west reached out to me with an SEO ques­tion. He was look­ing to out­rank his com­peti­tor and reach the top of Google’s search results for a cer­tain query.

The fact that another com­pany occu­pied the first page on Google results for that one query bugged him enor­mously, so he went out seek­ing SEO advice to set­tle things with his com­peti­tor. By the time he pinged me, he knew a lot about con­tent opti­miza­tion, link­ing, and other fac­tors that influ­ence rankings.

I asked him about his busi­ness, his com­pe­ti­tion, and the query that he wanted to rank for, try­ing to under­stand the intent. The key­word that was top of mind for him was … “Vista Windows”.

He owned a small win­dow instal­la­tion shop named Vista Win­dows, and his com­peti­tor that occu­pied the first page of Google was a “small” soft­ware com­pany from Seat­tle, Washington.

I broke the news that he wouldn’t be able to out­rank his com­pe­ti­tion for this term and should focus his efforts on local, non­branded terms like “win­dow instal­la­tion in Ennville” instead. He should also con­sider sev­eral other Web resources besides his web­site to help drive busi­ness from search—Yelp list­ings, Google Places, Yahoo Busi­ness, etc.

The key take­away for me was that online mar­ket­ing man­agers should under­stand dis­tinctly the value of key­words that they pur­sue, the value of rank­ing for these terms, and the intent of the prospects who are search­ing for these terms.

The last I’ve heard of my friend of a friend was that he hired an agency to help him achieve the top rank­ing for Vista Win­dows. I wish him the best in that dif­fi­cult endeavor.