Monday, February 20, 2012

Write for the reader first, then for the robot.


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This is some pretty insightful thoughts from web developer, Christopher Butler, on planning and writing website content:

"Only by clearly identifying your prospects can you go about creating content that is truly valuable. Oh, and despite the obvious importance of search engine optimization, please don't misidentify search engines as your prospects. Robots don't read, people do."
In retrospect, this is like, 'Duh. Of course content that is written directly for your audience will work.' If you're reading this post right now, I'd put money on you being a real person—not a Google crawler bot. And if your content is compelling—full of the passion you feel for your craft—it's sure to get some people interested.

This is exactly what Mr. Butler discovered when he took a look at the analytics on his company's website. While some visitors to his site that came from a search on Google or another search engine did convert into leads, it was the visitors who came as referrals from other sites that were a higher conversion number. And not only that, but converted at a much higher rate.

Once again, I smack my head and say 'Duh!'

When we make decisions we rarely do so in a vacuum. Do you remember the last time you made a big purchase? Did you just up and decide to buy based on some rhetorical logic in your head? Probably not. Like me, you probably asked around to your friends and family, browsed for information online, sought critical reviews from industry leaders, even asked your Facebook or Twitter network what they thought.

We are social creatures. We love to know what others think (maybe even too much) and our decisions usually come when we feel we've got the right people on our side telling us it's a good idea.

So when our favorite tech blogger posts a link and recommends a new product from this crazy start-up site, we usually jump on it. And we're much more likely to sign up for their newsletter, or their free trial, or even just go ahead and buy the product than if we had just Googled 'new techy do-hickey' and they popped up in the first couple results. We want to trust we're doing the right thing, and what better way to know that than to get there via a recommendation from someone else.

So I suggest taking Christopher's advice: figure out your audience and write for them. You can worry about the robots later.


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