Don't optimize your website...yet
By Alan Berg, CSP www.alanberg.com
Too many websites try to optimize for search engines, regardless of how much business they can, or do get from such searches. While it's a good idea to optimize your site, first you need to have an optimization strategy. I like to optimize first for the people who visit your site (prospects and customers) and then for the search engines.
Think about all of the ways someone can get to your site: WeddingWire, EventWire, MarthaStewartWeddings.com, Brides.com, search engines, email marketing, your printed marketing pieces (business card, brochure, postcards, etc.), blogs and much more. Regardless of how they get to your website, it has to read properly and contain the content your visitors want to see. When you optimize first for the search engines your site often reads in a very robotic style. I equate it to how Dustin Hoffman spoke in the movie "Rainman" and you definitely, definitely don’t want to do that. It's a very repetitive style, not conversational at all.
Optimizing for your visitors first
What does it mean to optimize for your visitors? Write to them, in a conversational style, about who you are, what you do and most importantly, how they’ll benefit by connecting with you. When I'm helping a client optimize their site, one of the first things I do is read their site, out loud, with them. Your brain doesn't get "tongue-tied" the way your mouth does. When you hear someone else read your site's text, out loud, it gives you a much better understanding of how your site actually "reads" to the people who visit, again, regardless of how they came to your site.
Are you talking to me?
Try using the words "you" and "your" more than you use "I", "we", "me", "us" and "our". Of course you'll have to use the words "I", "we", etc., just try to put the focus on your site's visitors - your prospects and customers. It's really easy to turn around most sentences to be more "you"-focused. For example, instead of saying "When the bride walks down the aisle" or "When the guests arrive", say "When you walk down the aisle" or "When your guests arrive".
An easy way to see which "voice" your site is using is to print out all of the pages on your site. Then, take two different-colored highlighters and highlight the words "I", "we", "me", "us" and "our" in one color, and “you” and “your” in another color. When you look at the pages you’ll see, in living color, who you’re talking more about… you or your site’s visitors.
Then, satisfy the search engines
After you optimize the content on your site for your visitors, then you should make sure that you’re using the keywords that are used most often by your target audience when they’re searching for services like yours. Don’t guess at it. Do your research first. You can use the free Google AdWords Keyword tool (just search that on Google and you’ll find it). You enter the word(s) or phrase(s) and it will return how many local and global searches there are for those words and phrases. Find the ones that most closely match what you’re selling and make sure you’re using them in natural text on your site. Don’t just “stuff” the keywords in, make it sound like natural speech. As I mentioned earlier, read your site, out loud, to make sure it sounds like you’re speaking to your visitors… not the search engines.
When you optimize for your visitors first, then search engines, your prospects and customers will feel more welcomed, regardless of how someone gets to your site. That should lead to them sticking around longer, which should lead to more of them contacting you, which should lead to more appointments, which should lead… to more sales!