Build It And They Will Come—Not!

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On October 11, 2006, Posted by , in Design Stuff, tags , with No Comments

It sounds so perfect. In fact, someone should make a movie around such a wonderful concept—whoa—slippin’ back into the eighties again.

While the concept sounds quite nice, it is rarely the case and it most likely will not be the case for your website. The fixation on search engine results has clouded the vision of site owners—and often Web experts are to blame. There is an entire Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry that is built around it. You may get the impression that if your site can be in the top ten in the “big three”—Google, Yahoo and MSN—then all your wildest dreams will come true.

You’d have better luck if you vote for Pedro.

It doesn’t matter that you are the first search result for “thing-a-ma-bobs” on (insert favorite search engine here) if either 1) people simply aren’t keying in “thing-a-ma-bobs,” or 2) you don’t offer thing-a-ma-bobs.

Now before you think I am advising against SEO efforts, let me clarify that it is important—but it’s importance is more along the lines of having a decent yellow page listing. In fact, here are a few similarities between a search result page and the yellow pages:

  1. Both involve a potential “customer” looking for something specific based on either the search phrase they enter or the category they turn to in the yellow pages.
  2. In both cases, the customer has already made a decision to seek a product or service. You don’t have to convince them of their need or want.
  3. You are listed among your competitors. You MUST stand out. Something must differentiate you. Why should someone click on or call you?

Points 1 and 2 are in your favor. Point 3 means at a minimum you need to have a usable, well-designed site. To truly stand out you must offer even more…

  1. Provide useful information—useful in the viewer’s mind, not yours.
  2. Offer something of value.
  3. Encourage viewers, and make it easy for them to spread the word.
  4. Depending on your market, try viral marketing.
  5. Take advantage of online communities.

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