Search Engine Optimisation: Little more than a necessary evil?

It’s a rare and foolish businessman who picks a dark alleyway down which to position his pride and joy. He wants it out there on the high street, tempting in interested passers-by, confident that once they’re inside they won’t be able to resist buying a little something.

In much the same way, SEO is vital if you want your website to tempt in potential customers that you might otherwise miss.  After all, what’s the point in spending all that money on making it look beautiful if no one can find it?

BUT! (can you tell this is the important bit?) – all SEO does is get potential customers in through the door.  Once they’ve reached your site, its job is done; in fact, at this point SEO often becomes a downright hindrance.

What’s wrong with SEO?

In an ideal world, the only people your website would need to appeal to is your customers (that is after all why you’ve built it).  As it is, you must also pander to the major search engines, jumping through their ever moving hoops.

And all too often that distracts from what you’re really trying to achieve – the conversion of ‘visitors’ into ‘customers’.

Internet users are a fickle bunch: they have less time, less patience and more alternatives.  They’ve come to your site looking for something, and if they can’t find it straight away, they won’t put much effort into searching – why should they, when it’s just as easy to visit a competitor’s site as it is to visit another page on yours, especially if they can’t tell immediately which page they need?

That’s why the current focus on SEO-above-all-else drives me crazy.  To go back to the real world analogy for a moment, it’s like filling your shop window with sandwich board-wearing students, desperately beckoning over customers, only to ignore them completely once they’ve walked in through the door.

SEO isn’t Content!

Because, ultimately, it’s not the sophisticated design, or the beautiful photography, or the clever advertising, or any of the other glamorous elements of your website that’s going to make it work for you – it’s the content.

By all means include SEO, it would be foolish not to.   But only if your site is well written and logically laid out, with care and attention, will you turn those hard won visitors into customers.  Only by understanding how they think, and what they’re looking for, will you ensure that they don’t gaze at the wallpaper admiringly before going elsewhere.  Only by making sure that the information they need is, without any fuss, exactly where they expect it to be will your website investment truly be money well spent.

So remember:  You’re not building your website for Google; you’re not building your website for your employees; you’re building it for your customers!

Which leads us on to….

 

Website Content – Not just a pretty face 

Over the last decade, all but the most stoically traditional business has come to realise that the internet can no longer be ignored as a hugely important sales and marketing channel.  Regardless of whether a company still insists on conducting all their business face-to-face, a website is (almost without fail) any potential customer’s first port of call. 

It’s undeniable that the design of your website is important – it is, after all, the first thing your potential customers see, and it’s frankly impossible not to judge a book by its cover.  Your website design will suggest to your audience what sort of a company you are; are you innovative, reliable, businesslike, youthful etc?  Any website design agency worth their salt will turn your corporate identity into a series of visual cues, reassuring your customers at every turn that you’re the type of company they’re comfortable doing business with. 

Answering this need, myriad website design agencies have sprung up, most capable of delivering a great looking and perfectly functional website – many now offer additional services such as promotion, SEO and Google Ad Words.  

But this isn’t enough to ensure that your website delivers the maximum possible benefit into your business. 

More than just a fancy suit 

Whilst advertising and SEO will certainly drive traffic to your website, they are by no means the end of it.  Once there, you need to convince your visitors that it’s worth taking the next step – whether that’s placing an order, asking for a quote or getting in touch. 

The visual identity of your website is just that – visual; it’s the online equivalent of wearing a suit to meet clients, to reassure them about how seriously you take things (or, as is often the case in our industry, not wearing a suit; you know, to show how creative and utterly blue-sky we all are).  What you wear is important – but what you say is considerably more so. 

The content on your website is your opportunity to sell yourselves to your customers.  How can you help them achieve whatever it is that they had in mind when they found your site in the first place?  How can you explain to them:

  • How they can benefit from what you do
  • Why they should be interested in how you do it and 
  • What sets you apart from your competitors

all whilst ensuring that it’s 

  • relevant
  • easy to read and 
  • simple to find the right information? 

Well written web copy does exactly that: far from repurposing material that has been written for brochures and presentations (this is one of the most common mistakes when creating web content – internet users absorb information online completely differently to offline, and you’ll do more harm than good if you just use whatever text you have to hand), a good digital copywriter will take the time to understand your customers and your products.  Using this understanding, they’ll work closely with you to disseminate all the information you want to include on your website, helping you to arrange it in a way that will be of maximum benefit to your customers.  

A well-heeled village idiot 

Your copywriter will help you to work out what goes on what page, what should be included and what can be left until the next stage, how to efficiently arrange the links between pages and how to structure the site as a whole. 

They’ll write copy that appeals directly to your customers - answering their queries, allaying their doubts and convincing them that the best possible business decision is to take things further.  

They’ll make sure that there are no mistakes, no grammatical errors; that your website, in its entirety, presents exactly the face you want it to. 

They will, in essence, ensure that your website is more than a slightly confused salesperson in a smart pair of togs.