How to Use SEO to Rank for a Keyword You Hate

This can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, but sometimes SEO needs to be done for keywords your client does not like.

What is the first basic goal when kicking off an SEO campaign? We know the ultimate goal is usually leads and/or sales, but let’s set that aside for a second. After setting up analytics and getting all of your ducks in a row, it’s time to roll out the strategy to increase keyword ranking and drive website traffic.

Keyword research helps to select the primary keywords to target and drive a high volume of relevant traffic to a website. What happens when the keyword research comes back with several words your client hates? Has your agency presented strong high volume keywords people are using to search for the client’s services and the client says they do not want any content on their website that mentions those same keywords?


The senior living industry is a great example to explain this challenge further. All senior living communities dislike the word “Nursing Home.” They do not refer to their communities as nursing homes and there are many negative stereotypes and myths about nursing homes. Instead of “nursing homes,” they prefer terms such as Senior Living, Retirement Community, Assisted Living Community and Independent Community. They also hate the use of “Facilities” or “Homes.” “Community” is a wildly accepted term, but unfortunately people have been referring to retirement communities as nursing homes and facilities for years.

Individuals typing in these despised keywords are very much the type of consumers these communities want to attract. This is where the chess match begins…

nursing home search volume

SEO Marketing Agencies want to write content about Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities but clients don’t want to associate themselves with those terms. They would rather say “Active Senior Community” or “Life Care Community,” but we know that people are not searching for these phrases. Website traffic will not greatly increase if you target only these words. So what to do? Here are a few of our ideas:

  • Consider if you can write content that clearly defines how the client’s services are different from the keyword being searched. Example –  “You may be searching for a nursing home but our Life Care Community is much better than a traditional nursing home in these ways…”  Sometimes the services might be similar. Just be honest and write about that. Address the ignorance (sorry to be harsh) of the search and inform of the other choices.
  • Write blog posts associated with the keywords such as “Nursing Homes of Yesterday Compared to Today’s Senior Living Communities.” Highlight this blog post on the home page of the website.
  • Add in keywords to webpages in more subtle or creative ways with FAQs, image optimization and captions, testimonials, etc.
  • Get inbound links with the keyword in the anchor text. At Epic Notion, we work with a number of senior living communities. A community in New York doesn’t want to be known as one of the Staten Island Nursing HomesOK, that was to get a link, but that trick drives home the fact that it is difficult optimizing for important keywords when a client rejects them. Not the first time I have done that, and might not be the last time… in this blog post.

It is important to educate your client and work on a strategy together. They need to understand that there will be terms they may not like but need to be a component of the SEO plan. You need to be respectful of their brand and messaging. Speak with them about each type of tactic you want to use and find out what they are comfortable with. For example, the client might not want to be called a Richardson Assisted Living Community if their address is not actually in Richardson. (Sorry again)