Way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, televisions were black-and-white, and telephone deregulation was a gleam in Ronald Reagan’s eye, there was this ad that Western Electric, the monopoly Bell System’s manufacturing division, ran in major magazines. It showed a photo of a small electric fan wired to a phone, over the headline, “This fan tells a deaf person the phone is ringing.” The body copy explained that the fan was wired to the phone’s ringing mechanism, so that when a call came in, it activated the fan, and the resulting breeze told a deaf person that someone was calling.
So picture this: Deaf person in the room, phone call comes in, fan activates, blows a breeze, deaf person feels it, picks up the phone and says, “Hello.”
And then what?
Telephones then, websites now
Unfortunately, that seems to be the guiding principle of too many business’ websites.
They pay thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of dollars for search engine optimization, and hundreds, maybe thousands more, for sponsored links, pay-per-click and social media to drive traffic to their sites.
That’s like the fan and the breeze.
Then, when people get to the site, they find something like this (and this is a direct quote, from a local B2B landing page, with only the name omitted to protect the guilty):
“[Company Name] is a business solutions provider focused on assisting decision makers and senior management with transforming data into actionable information so they can more effectively utilize and leverage their information assets…We provide the oversight and measurement tools that provide visibility into data quality and integrity, true project priorities and associated costs.” That’s the “And then what?”
Are people your audience? Or just search engines?
So after all the cost to drive traffic to the site:
- What happens when it gets there?
- Does anyone know what products or services these guys sell?
- Is there any sense that there’s any kind of benefit for the visitor?
- Does anyone care?
- Will anybody still be awake after plowing through all that obscure, self-centered, highfalutin’ language?
If you can’t hold people with your landing page, they’re not going to stick around for the rest of the site.
Too many websites seem to suffer from a sort of Field of Dreams syndrome: If you build it, they will come, and stay, and buy. A look at the site’s analytics quickly shows that they won’t. The number of pages on a site that people go to is usually small. The amount of time they stay on any page is measured in seconds – and very few seconds, at that. This tells you that either the site’s drawing a disproportionate number of speed readers or that nobody’s the least bit interested.
Content isn’t king. Customers are.
Throughout the past century, the advertising industry developed many ways to capture and maintain people’s attention, talk to their wants and needs, persuade as well as just describe, and motivate response. Because too many people developing websites are technicians rather than marketing communicators – people who either ignore or never bothered to learn this knowledge – hang times on non-catalog sites are almost nonexistent.
So in creating your website’s content, divert a fraction of your attention from search engines to customers. What are the problems they’re grappling with that your business can help solve? How do you solve them? Why should they do business with you? What’s in it for them? Are you talking about them or about yourself? Can you say whatever you’re saying interestingly enough to hold their attention for more than a second or two – and persuasively enough to take the sales process to the next step?
Believe it or not, you can do all this and maintain your keyword densities, too.
Reverse the order
So when you (re)build your website, reverse the usual process.
Start off by defining your audience, analyzing their wants and needs, and figuring out how your products and services satisfy them.
Next, say it simply and persuasively – not to show what a wonderfully erudite, polysyllabic vocabulary you can marshal to impress the yokels by writing like a PhD candidate, but to create an empathetic link with your potential customers.
Then, and only then, is the time to see what tweaks you have to make to optimize the site for search engines and drive traffic.
It’s a way of thinking that works not only for B2C sites, but even for B2B sites. Because the net results will be infinitely better than, “And then what?”