I remember the first day back at my sophomore year of college. It was the weekend before classes began, and the new students were moving into the dorms. There were cars and trucks all parked out along the street with students unloading furniture, bedding, clothes, and everything else a growing college kid needs to survive in the almost-real world.
I remember this day vividly because a bunch of us guys were
scouting out the hot chicks, generously helping the new batch of coeds unload and unpack. Later that afternoon, when it was only us guys within ear shot, a buddy of mine claimed, "I got dibs on the red head." I remember thinking, "Whatever, dude!" Nonetheless, everyone knew Jon had claimed Shannon and she was hands off until he said otherwise.
It wasn't long before Jon and Shannon started dating, and a few years later they married and are still happily married today.
You Aren't Special If You're Last In Line
Dibs are a great thing. It makes us feel special. Like calling "shotgun" to get the front passenger seat, dibs allows us to lay claim to something we otherwise may not have been entitled to: the last piece of pizza, the larger bed, the first shower before all the hot water is gone, and the hot red head that needs a nice, strong college man to help her move into her dorm.
Unfortunately, too many business owners let "dibs" on their website go to everyone else, except those that matter most: the target audience. All too often site design and content is developed for the boss, or the marketing team, or even the search engines. But the audience--the people who the site is supposedly intended for--get left out. They don't get dibs, they get whatever is left over.
Does that seem right to you?
Your audience is your "A" Girl
I knew someone once who had a philosophy on his women. You could have an A-Girl, B-Girl, and C-Girl. A-Girl could in no way know about B- or C-Girl. B-Girl could know about A-Girl, but couldn't know about C-Girl. C-Girl could know about both A- and B-Girl.
Don't laugh, this is true.
This was obviously his way of attempting to build a playground in a minefield. I'm not sure how that worked out for him, but it will work as a good analogy here.
Your audience absolutely must be your A-Girl. Your content must be for her. Your visual presentation must be for her. Your site architecture and usability must be for her. And she doesn't need to know about your B- and C-Girls... the search engines, or that guy that pays all the bills and has really strong opinions.
What you write, how you write, and the overall presentation you put together on your website shouldn't be based on the boss' opinions or what we think the search engines want. Those don't have to be totally disregarded, but your audience, your A-Girl, comes first. She's the one that matters. And if she catches a whiff that the site isn't for her, she'll be out the door and onto the next site in a matter of minutes.
Keywords are important, and as I noted a few weeks back, your content isn't good content unless it's optimized. This is very true, because optimizing for your audience is the same as optimizing for the search engines. The problem is when C-Girl becomes too prominent, A-Girl is sure to notice.
Building a perfect relationship
Your keywords should be present, but not obvious. They should be a part of your relationship with A-Girl, but not overbearing. If you suddenly start giving your girlfriend gifts, she may suspect you're covering for something else. Same is true here. If you add too many keywords to your pages, they become overpowering. A-Girl isn't dumb.
Keep your content persuasive. Just because someone knows you love them doesn't mean you don't ever have to tell them. Your content should tell your audience what you want them to do. Do you want them to purchase? Download? Learn more? Add to cart? Failure to have calls to action throughout your content will lead to a stagnant relationship. The audience won't know what you want them to do next and, sooner or later, they will wander off.
Overall, you need to maintain value in your content. If you're just adding text for the sake of B-Girl or C-Girl, A-Girl will realize that there is nothing there for her. You have to keep your audience engaged. You do this by writing content that helps them learn, grow, improve, understand, etc. A relationship that does not help each side to grow is a dying relationship. If your audience isn't getting anything new, just the same content they found on every other site, they'll soon grow bored with you.
Your A-Girl needs dibs. She needs to be the first priority on your website. Sure, you can build a site that pleases the higher-ups, and can write content that is optimized for search engine placement, but your audience must come first. She's too important for anything less.
This post was inspired from The Princess Bride themed presentation I gave in early 2010 at SEMpdx's Searchfest titled Inconceivable Content: The Dread Pirate Robert's Guide to Creating Swashbuckling Content, Pillaging the Search Engines, and Commandeering a Treasure Trove of Conversions. If you enjoyed this post you also might enjoy other posts inspired from the same. Search for "inconceivable content" on this blog to find them all.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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