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Write to satisfy demand, don't write about you
2011-03-16: I have a client with a brand new website who has brought me on board to generate traffic, and the site is all wrong.
It looks fabulous. 99% of people would look at it and say it was great. It was developed by a friend of mine who came through the same Internet computing course as me and whose work I admire greatly.
But it's wrong. I'm working on the SEO for the site and .. it's never going to successfully find potential new customers and generate new enquiries. It's always going to waste time and money while the client desperately tries to generate traffic.
The website is about the client, not about the customer.
What's the first thing you think about when you want to develop a website? What to put on it.
What do you put on your website? Your products, your services, about me, prices, delivery, testimonials.
Then what?
It has to look nice.
And there you have it. A site that looks nice, and is about you. 99% of websites.
Instead, here's how I build websites.

First: Write about what people search for

Find out what people are searching for online that we can profitably help with.
Google handles many hundred millions of searches every day. That's a powerful river of customer demand you should ride .. or .. there will be ten results on the first page of every query. So if not you - your competitors.
That search data is easily available, and the gathering of that information and making decisions about what to prioritise for your business is called Keyphrase Analysis. It looks at what people are searching for online in your market, creates core keyphrase clusters, analyses the strength of the competition, and merges that with information about your profitability and strategy to come up with a priority list. Those become the pages on your website.
In other words, write pages about the things people search for.

Second: create customer pathways

Make sure people who arrive to our home page having used those target search phrases can easily find pages that satisfy and convert them into enquirers.
That's about customer journeys, navigation, usability and persuasion.

Third: get out more

It's no longer about your website. It's about your entire online presence.
In your heart you know this, it's just, few people know how to make it real. The time when you could build a website, tick it off your to do list and move on are definitely gone forever.
To start with, there's social media. That blurs the boundaries between what's yours and what's your customers. Now, you have an online presence that includes your website along with whatever you are doing on the likes of YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, forums, your blog, and eBay. You are big or small accordingly.
Then there are various tools for monitoring and managing how your customers interact with those online properties, but mainly your website. In other words, you can use your customers to tell you what's good and what's bad about your website. In other words, it doesn't actually matter what we think looks good, reads well, or 'works' according to research. What matters is managing your website and improving it based on their behaviour, and we do this with tests where some customers see (for instance) one photograph, others see another, we monitor conversions and when the experiment is over we choose the best photograph and test something else. This isn't small: this is hugely powerful.
Putting up a website is OK, but you have to go where the people are and tempt them to come and see it. It makes the social media cloud your introductory space, and your website your conversion machine.
Whenever you are in public, you are in character as your brand. Would your brand be on mySpace? Would it be on Facebook? What would it do on Twitter?
What you end up with is not a brochure that happens to be on the web. You get an online marketing system that
  • listens as much as it talks
  • engages with your customers wherever they are online
  • naturally generates free traffic
  • lives your brand values online
  • naturally converts visitors into a flow of free enquiries
  • builds and develops as we observe customer behaviour and interactions
That's a big difference.

By John Allsopp
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