Why Bloggers Hate SEO's & Why Blogging is the New SEO

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Story Text:

Aaron kicks off the start of a series on why bloggers hate seo's. It's off to a good start, and puts into perspective a few things for me...

  • Bloggers are envious of better business models - for the majority of bloggers, trying to make money is a uphill struggle.
  • The associate comment spamming with SEO - and thanks to some, that's not entirely surprising.
  • They associate poor quality results with SEO algo manipulation

Aaron lists others, but those are the main points.

The thing is though, that many bloggers are handing out the same types of tips on SEO that you see on outdated email groups, and the simple white hat "title, content near top etc etc" tips to their blogging readers. They may hate SEO's but they're very, very interested in the subject, and want to be good at it. Ironic isn't it?

The New SEO

I say "new seo", but it's not really, as we're talking about gaining traffic, not gaining traffic specifically from Search engines. There are similarities though:

  • It's all about attention - SEO's grab it by ranking, bloggers by links on high traffic blogs and word of mouth
  • SEO's tweak titles' for placement, bloggers for rss click throughs
  • SEO's like clean code, so do bloggers, but bloggers tend to like it more for the sake of it, than SE benefits
  • SEO's write articles for placement, bloggers for contraversy, links, attention - it's the same thing really...

The list could go on.

The thing is, as SEO get's tougher and tougher, SEO's need to learn to do what bloggers do, as the results of whoring for attention are often the same as whoring for links, and bloggers need to learn what SEO's do, because if they combine what they do with basic white hat SEO techniques, they'll do far better for traffic.

So, SEO's and Bloggers, whether either party likes it or not, share much more in common than they may like to think. Those bloggers that can get their heads around SEO, and those SEO's than can assimilate blogging into their skillsets will reap the benefits.

Die hard SEO's that shun blogging will suffer eventually, as they're missing something very important from their marketing mix, and likewise for bloggers that are too pig headed to learn from SEO's.

Funny old world innit?

Comments

unfair

I don't think its fair to say that bloggers hate SEOs, sure, we don't like black hat SEO tactics but there are plenty of good SEO's around who are also bloggers. Other than that though interesting points.

You have to generalize a bit

You have to generalize a bit Duncan, otherwise the post would have been a mile long with caveats :)

Also

You don't get as much attention when you don't use absolutes.

Remember, NEVER EVER trust anyone who uses absolutes . ;O)

message boards

it's not just bloggers. a lot of the reasons bloggers 'hate' SEOs also apply to people running forums. Blogs and forums are both extremely content-rich, but making money from that content is notoriously hard

I read the funniest blog

I read the funniest blog post the other day (from a blogger, to other bloggers) 'explaining' PageRank. It was wrong on so many levels.... But what really made me shake my head was that I found it through a web standards email list I'm on..... as if it was the inside scoop from Larry & Sergey...

That happens all the time

That happens all the time Chris

I've seen countless high profile bloggers link to complete idiots, writing complete rubbish, rather than deign to link to an authoratitive source on the subject.

> sure, we don't like black

> sure, we don't like black hat SEO tactics but there are plenty of good SEO's around who are also bloggers.

The same thing could really be said about bloggers :)
A lot of the blogs I see around are pure crap - just as some of the SEO but there are surely also good quality blogs to be found.

I also think that bloggers that have a problem with SEOs needs to wake up and smell the real world! What is so different in search from anything else? Yes, the most aggressive marketers gets the most attention. They do so in news, PR or any other "natural" medias. Comapnies that lean back and say: "Oh, what my company does is so cool and news worthy that the newspapers SHOULD just write about it on the front page every day" usually end up getting less coverage than the companies that say: "Well, we may have the best story but unless we push it noone will hear it".

You can't expect others to do your work! If all you want to do is blog, then please do it but don't complain about others that have a different focus. You do better blogging than I do, and I do better SEO than you do. Happy? :)

Some SEOs Love Blogs

Remember that some of us are very big on content, and a blog is an easy way to get your clients publishing on a regular basis.

Some of us are also rather fond of the concept of niches, and trackbacks and comments (even if they're ignored by search engines) are a great way to build a targeted audience.

And of course tagging... well, we'll see if that gets anywhere, but if it does, it could potentially be a very useful tool to SEOs of my ilk. Maybe this will work to grow your audience.

Die hard SEO's that shun

Die hard SEO's that shun blogging will suffer eventually...

I hope your wrong Nick.
I just can't bring myself to ... blog.

I have tried (really I have), but I just can't bring myself to do it.

So instead of creating another crappy blog (man there are a LOT of them out there), I will abstain from becoming a blog-head and stick with SEO/SEM, besides I am good at writing ad text and page copy, not so good at writing about asinine things.

If continuing success on the www means I have to become a... bloger, I think I will become poor and bitter instead. ;-)

>>if continuing success Oh i

>>if continuing success

Oh i don't think that will be the case. Blogs are just one, and the most obvious one, of a whole bunch of things you might find yourself doing.

I do think the days of hardcore link campaigns are numbered though. Not this year, or next, but within 4/5 for sure - so you have to find other ways to get peoples (and engines) attention naturally.

I think at that point, we'll see a breakdown of the current SEO crowd like this:

  • Those that have the resources/knowlege to still bust algos - very, very few
  • Those that can blog, but not just blog, blog well and use it as part of their new participation marketing mix - quite a few
  • Those that cant/wont go that route, but do understand that they have to create something truly remarkable, and promote it.
  • Those that are still chasing links, despite it not working any more

All far off in the future, but not that far i think.

You might even break it down a little simper to

  • Those that can adapt
  • And those that can't

heh..

Those that can adapt and those that can't

I think most of us that have been around the www for a while are experts at adaptation, you kind of have to be to survive and prosper.

I personally see blogs as another fad, kinda like the hula-hoop (or web portals). Real big for a time, then after a while it will be notable when you spot (a good) one.

But hey that’s just my take on things and I have been known to be wrong on rare occasions... ;-)

I personally see blogs as

I personally see blogs as another fad, kinda like the hula-hoop (or web portals).

I think that is probably true...they are a bit overhyped, but I think the social feedback mechanisms that support dynamic sites and search engines like Google working harder to remove product catalog type sites from the regular results will result in it being much easier to do well with dynamic personal sites than static ones without a voice.

I don't understand that

the blogs as a fad way of thinking.

I chose to use "blog" software to write about stuff because it was the right cms for what I needed. The need for a simple cms system will never go away.

Blogs Suck

I knew that title would get attention.

A blog is a CMS. Limited enough to make it simple enough, yet complex enough to make it unique. Over time blogging gets too complicated, breaks into niches, and the niche attention gets controlled by "attention aggregators" like directories, portals, and SEs. That's when the SEO game begins.

So we are hearing the whiners as the stuff gets more complicated and cliquish and the SEs start wielding more power. Pay no attention - stick to your SEO.

Not blogs. Globs.

I don't hate bloggers and I don't hate SEO's but I do really dislike all the stupid so-called blogs that rehash and restate other blog content, pull it out of context, don't link to the source and offer no original content whatsoever. And they still expect to earn ad revenue? What drugs are these people on anyway?

There are blogs and then there are globs of total crap out there and anything true SEO/SEM's can do to push the authentic and credible stuff up to the front of the class, the better.

Also, as long as I'm bitching, feeds are clogged with globs too. Where once all I needed was email spam filters, now I need RSS feed spam filters. When I click on a feed link, I want to go to quality content that's relevant, makes sense (isn't a bunch of sentences yanked from some script and tossed together salad-style) and professionally offers its content source. Just tonight I found something I wrote on someone's autism site. Okay, they put part of something I wrote, which I recognized as being from two other sites that cut and pasted the same bunch of salad-sentences, and now there's this "whisper down the lane" so the last one makes absolutely no sense and is in no way like the original effect.

What sort of value is this to anybody?

they wouldn't do it if they weren't profitable

And they still expect to earn ad revenue?

and they get it. Google openly funds it. Dan Thies also recently posted that from his testing he has seen that intercepted search traffic to garbage content converts better than regular contextual ads.

What sort of value is this to anybody?

the advertiser converts well, the search engine makes cash, the publisher makes cash. searchers and legit publishers are the only ones really getting screwed in the mix.

but then

if all that is true, doesn't the return on investment of PPC go up? making it a better value?

For John

John, I can see from your post above that even if i spent an hour explaining my thoughts on participation, and pointing out that it's not about "blogs", it's about people, and that blogs are only one manifestation of a turn in the way people communicate, i'd not convince you that your being closed minded, and that burying your head in the sand wont make this go away. So i wont heheh!

However, this is a great example of how blogs may evolve to something more mature eventually.

Union Square just redid their site as a "blog" - and one of the partners explains why

Quote:
We realized that our [investment] thesis evolves incrementally as a result of our dialogue with the market, and that the best way to manage that was to accept that we would never get to an answer, so we should just publish the conversation.

I think they're site looks great btw :)

For Nick..not to be misunderstood...

Nick,

1. The "blogs suck" was just an attention getter. I started blogs-as-seo in Jan '04. They don't suck ;-)

2. In the conversation above, I focused on the comparison of SEO and blogger, with bloggers trying to be SEOs. In that context, I see it as a circle that comes back to SEO (albeit the SEO tactics and strategies may be very different)

As for your thoughts on participation and people, I think we agree completely. However, as I have always believed, every published doc should support a strategy. The Union Square site strategy is clearly one which a blog can support (it's a VC company after all). Those guys dialog all day as their job. But where are the shopping malls A B turning on blogs? They are all about people and persuasion, right?

The culture shift required to get a traditional business (one with a website, like those shopping malls) to a participatory blog is HUGE. Nothing like getting them to make and manage CONTENT (horrible now).

Starbucks says the coffee shop is a community meeting place, and provides desks, lamps, bathrooms, wifi and power outlets for patrons even if they stay all day without buying. That's a blog as a business, and it seems to work.

Aside from those already in the dialog business, any business that moves their website towards the conversation model is going to have to rework their operations significantly. I believe that the re-working of THAT, will eventually be in the realm of the optimizer.

Beyond the optimizer

Any business that can draw visitors to its website for conversation and partipation is receiving the benefits of some first class creativity. Of course that person is going to be an optimizer, but in the same way as a good director is optimizing a movie's chance of being good. Good writers and editors likewise optimize the potential of their publications. Anyone who can perform these services for a shopping center mall website is a genius.
Finding ways to get customers to "participate" in your business is a super challenge. Perhaps sites could pay decent bloggers to manage online dialogue. Perhaps bloggers will one day be like radio talk show hosts. One thing is for damn sure: very few bloggers are going to be able to sustain commercial size audiences for very long. If blogging is not just a fad, eventually the good ones will capture the the majority of "reading time," a finite set.
Getting folks who see their website as just another ad to embrace value-adding content is more than optimizing; it's a new stage in web evolution.

Agreed. Good points :)

Agreed.

Good points :)

Integrity means little these days

The advertiser converts well, the search engine makes cash, the publisher makes cash. searchers and legit publishers are the only ones really getting screwed in the mix.

Yep. But none of that impresses me. People make money stealing and robbing from others all the time, but that doesn't make it my personal choice and I don't want to be tossed into the same pile as them, simply because I have a blog. (Not saying that happens. Am just expressing here.)

I have this thing about needing to actually earn my money by working hard for it. But aside from that, I can't help but think about our responsibility as folks who make our livings via the 'Net. Nick has a baby girl. I have 3 kids. A lot of you are parents. What kind of Internet thing are we building? Since so many blog owners use it as a tool to earn revenue or rank and there's not much need for a brain to earn it...well, you get where I'm going with this. This site, TW, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's an orignial, filled a need and attracted a wide audience that includes industry advisors and well-knowns. It's never been a slapped together shoddy presentation. It means zilch what I even think about it. I respect it (the whole team of writers here) for working hard and experimenting with the medium with some thought and a willingess to be unique.

The shame is that quality sites aren't a standard to strive for and nobody even agrees on what "quality" is. Even while a search engine gets a piece of the pie, they're also paying the salaries for employees who rework algorithms to fight the junk and who write blogs and guidelines on how to prepare sites that will survive in their engines for the long haul. How profitable is it, really, for search engines to keep indexing crap?

How profitable is it, really, for search engines..

Pretty damn profitable when your the source of a majority of traffic and ad revenue. Nick mentioned a quote sometime ago about cellular companies not liking effecient search because it sends the user to content not advertisements. The money it seems is to be made in the journey in the hallway that you walk through to get to the content.

At anyrate, I respect your ideals best of luck.

$$$

The scale of their ad serving and partnerships:

Yahoo! and Google bring in the lion's share of Internet advertising revenues, each accounting for more than 20 percent of the market.

... [In the second quarter of 2005] Google and Yahoo! each held a 27 percent market share. ...

Of the $1.4 billion Google generated in gross online advertising, $494 million went out to thousands of partners including America Online, Ask Jeeves, and iVillage. For its part, Yahoo's second-quarter gross online revenues of $1.1 billion paid out an estimated $378 million to its partners including MSN, ESPN, and The Wall Street Journal.

Maybe my point was unclear

How profitable is it, really, for search engines to keep indexing crap?

I get that search engines are rich and rule the world, but they also have to shell out some of that revenue to pay lawyers to handle all the lawsuits that come their way, and pay programmers to devise new ways to combat the content and sites that don't fit their definition of quality. I'm not willing to prostitute my sites just to make PimpGoogleDaddy rich, is all I'm trying to say. I'm not willing to walk out into the 'Net streets in my slut uniform looking for customers, just to make a buck. It's just not my "journey".

To carry your metaphor futher

Cool.. all the more Johns for me ;)

Some of us

just prefer working independently. And, we're worth paying top dollar for, heh :)

used car salesmen and prostitutes.

used car salesmen and prostitutes. The analogies are not helping.

?Then Kim said...

I can't help but think about our responsibility as folks who make our livings via the 'Net.

I think responsibility (in this context) boils down to self interest. There is no certainty that the Net (as we know it) will survive another 5 years.

So, if we want to continue to ‘make our livings’ on the Net, it is in all our best interests to produce and promote quality content. The kind of stuff that brings in users and turns them into good repeat users/customers.

Part of the mix

Like it or not blogs are part of the mix now. It's hard to believe but there are people playing in this space who weren't around when a 'google dance' meant something. There are also people who play in the space who only use blogs. However to be well informed in the space you need to know as much about as many pieces as possible, ALGO busting, domain parking and selling, PPC advertising, CPM advertising, contextaul advertising programs, link chasing and even blogging. You can read all you want about how to blog and how it's good/bad, but you really won't learn something until you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. So even if you play with it just to experiment, as nike says just do it.

The fact that well know SE reps like Matt Cutts are playing with blogs and getting first hand intellegence, really should be a wakeup call to people who think they are a fad and going to fade away.

fwiw

I think I disagree with some, or even most, of the above. I'm not sure, though, as this thread discuss a lot of related but not equal things.

Imho, and strictly speaking, there's no such thing as "blogs". A "blog" is a web site, and "blogging software" is a CMS, and that's that. However, "to blog" is the questionable art of updating your web site (more or less) regularly, and to use a timeline for your main archive structure. So, IMHO, blogging is a distinct publishing style, or an activity, not a technology.

So, "is blogging the new SEO?" Of course not. Blogging is blogging, and SEO is SEO. You can easily do one of those things without doing the other.

On the other hand, of course SEO's should (learn to) deal with CMS'es. And yes, some/most of the CMS'es that are marketed as "blog software" has order and hierarchy built in, so it makes SEO easier, but that's about it[1]. Internal structure is what a CMS is all about. It's what CMS'es are. Some of these software packages are even "SE(O) friendly", but you can not expect all CMS software to be SE(O) friendly. Eg. some of the stuff that larger media use is most definitely not.

As for "SEO and CMS'es" it is most evident to me that it will become easier and cheaper for the average site owner to employ CMS'es in stead of paying a web designer to develop a site by hand. Grab a piece of software off the shelf, install, and start typing. The consequences of this development could probably be a good subject for discussion by itself.

Just two Eurocent from here ;-)

---
[1] Ignoring for a moment the vast link farms like technorati, weblogs.com and all the other blog-specific web graph manipulation that takes place (pings, comments, trackbacks, etc). Bloggers are really nothing but black-hats with an identity crisis, as they dont realize that this is what they are.

CMS my arse.. Of course it

CMS my arse..

Of course it is in it's technical form. But claus, you cant (well, you can clearly) always look at things so clinically, becuase it makes the actual point hard to understand.

Blogging is more than a cms, and style of publishing.

It's a communications medium. People use RSS to track friends and websites they're interested in, they use trackback and services like technorati to follow those referencing their posts, they comment on eachothers posts.

To say it's "just a CMS" is to be correct, whislt rather uniquely avoiding/missing the point in it's entirety.

Yep, you're right about the

Yep, you're right about the tools, and i've just added a note to my post :-)

The "blogosphere" is the biggest gang of algo-manipulators there are, and they don't even know it. I think for the same reason that they might end up being excluded from the main search engines en bloc and confined to specialized "blog search". At least I can't imagine that the SE engineers don't consider this option seriously, seeing as the long tail is constantly getting longer than ever and there's very little fresh meat there (except for reposting and links, links, links).

---
Added:
Sorry for being clinical (cynical, even?) - I can't help it. I do try to understand what all the talk is about, but it's not very easy for me to be all that enthusiastic about blogs as such, not being a blogger myself. All I can do is to look at blogs from a non-blogger's POV.

I will setup a blog again sometime soon. I actually did set up a Blogger blog in October 2002 and abandoned it again: That's three years ago, so it's not as if it's something new to me.

I doubt it

I think a serp without blogs on many subjects will be "less". Some great content is out there on blogs, not necessarily in the post itself. As you say, a blog is a cms, why exclude one type of cms created content and not another. Wikis and forums are also user contributed, and also tend to link quite a lot and have RSS feeds. I used to think blogs were nothing special, and have said so, heck I had a blog before they were called that (check archive.org .. um, second thought, dont, heh) so couldn't see why there was a fuss all of a sudden. I think where the fuss is not with the technicalities but the what blogging implies. It is a holistic thing, you cant see what it is by looking at the parts.

SE's

Yeah, you know? I think claus is right!

Move all engadget, gawker, slashdot, SEW, TW, out of the SERPS - that's make them just sooo much better.

You know those folks in their 30's/40's that are walking around with thin lizzy t-shirts on and saying that all new music is "just noise"? Kinda like your parents almost certainly did when you were a teenager?

This conversation reminds me of that picture a lot. Things have moved well beyond the days of static websites - some will move with it, some will be left behind.

I know where i'll be..

...

Blogs are special because they're giving so many new people a voice - which obviously raises the evil twins of relevancy (to you) and quality (perhaps also that's an individual judgement). That doesn't stop several very vocal bloggers being ignorant dickheads, but even idiots say things worth reading sometimes.

To remove blogs from the main serps is to mean that a lot of potentially great info isn't as readily available (I wouldn't tend to go do two searches every time I was looking for something just in case a blog had written it up for example). I'd love to be able to flick a switch to include or exclude blogs, but not to have them totally seperated.

And someone needs to make a proper blog search that works (and preferably excludes links from blogrolls) because they're all pants, quite honestly.

stooooop

... please :-) I did not say that the content found on blogs was all bad. Some of it is good, and some of it is extremely good, but there's this very long (and growing) tail that's, well, let me just say "less valuable". But (and I didn't say this, sorry) that's just the same with ordinary websites - except here the long tail don't grow quite as explosively, methinks.

What I tried to say -- and here lies the difference -- was that the blogosphere (with all the automated tools and crosslinking and stuff) is quite some challenge for an automated SE algo. Stuff that would be considered "no-no" or "blackhat" if it was "websites" are just the way the "blogosphere" works. Automated large-scale manipulation of the web graph itself: Link farms - huge automated ones. Crosslinking and blogrolls - millions. And; they're even useful to humans.

That's the problem. It's not about "quality of content" as you can have excellent quality (for a human reader) on any blog, just as well as you can on a traditional website.

The only thing I tried to suggest was that search engines face a serious challenge here: As "blogs" or "CMS" or whatever are getting mainstream -- and I agree with Nick here; that stuff is only growing -- so are the linking schemes that were previously considered no-no.

So, one way to solve the problem is to isolate them, at least algorithmically[1], as one type has to be measured in, say, "Watts" while another type has to be measured in "Miles".

---
[1] Of course, they can still be included in the same SERPS even though they might be ranked differently.

WOW

You know those folks in their 30's/40's that are walking around with thin lizzy t-shirts on and saying that all new music is "just noise"?

Actually, I wear an AC-DC T-shirt (my thin lizzy wore out some time ago) and I like most of the new music (not a big fan of rap though) ;-).

If 'blogging' is just regularly updating content, well I guess I was wrong then, I have been blogging for years and years.

IMO - The CMS-Blog software is just a tool that some will use and others won't. Just like some have embraced the WIKI and Podcasting and other tools that make publishing and creating content easier than ever and others have never used a WIKI or seen a Podcast.

This whole thing reminds me of the old 'discussions' about which was better, hand coded HTML or using a WYSIWYG like Dreamweaver or Frontpage. I say, to each their own...

Nothing wrong with TL, or

Nothing wrong with TL, or ACDC for that matter lots! Just trying to paint a picture :)

Quote:
MO - The CMS-Blog software is just a tool that some will use and others won't. Just like some have embraced the WIKI and Podcasting and other tools that make publishing and creating content easier than ever and others have never used a WIKI or seen a Podcast.

Ahhh.. but like claus, you're entirely missing the communications point. Conversation is key. Drupal is not a blog, though this site clear is very blog like because

  1. We post regularly
  2. We link generously
  3. We're RSS enabled
  4. We allow comments
  5. We're part of the conversation

It's that last bit that's important if you didn't get the hint heh..

.

"...you're entirely missing the communications point."

Maybe, I'll have to think about it for a while. :-)

Bloggers are really nothing

Bloggers are really nothing but black-hats with an identity crisis, as they dont realize that this is what they are.

So THIS is why Nick let's me post here! LOL

This conversation is good, but it makes me feel like I'm some lone stupid person who blogs only for the fun of it. I've never had an alterior motive, I don't use my blog for any type of SEO push and the darned thing was launched because some friends urged me to do it, thinking I'd be good at it. I have 3 other web sites to worry about. If nobody read it, I would no longer keep the blog. It's there for that purpose, not for some form of SEO.

Nick, on the music thing, I'm past the age 40 point and it's not that the music is "noise" (I listen to most of it - even RAP.) It's that there are no longer any cool album covers (like "Yes" did) or ones with secret messages on them, or songs that when played backwards, held secret messages. For the longest time I thought Paul McCartney WAS dead. In my day, LOL, you didn't just listen to a band. You were part of that band's consciousness and soul. :)

It's that communications theme again.

In the mix

Call me an ignorant old bastard, but Phil Lynott still rocks. Actually I just ripped the "Whiskey In The Jar" album the other day :-) Ripped around 50 that day, from Louis Armstrong over Elvis to Sinéad O'Connor's "Collaborations" (pretty new, it rocks too) so the stuff I listen to spans a few decades. Haven't ripped any of my classical CDs yet, but I guess if we include those, then it's centuries :-)

Hey, but take a look at the UK Top 40 - what's that: Barbra Streisand, Paul Anka, John Lennon, New Order, Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and freakin' Oasis at #39. You even got Depeche Mode as #4 on the singles list!

Not sure what this has to do with blogging, but hey, music is a wonderful thing :-)

In my day, LOL, you didn't

Quote:
In my day, LOL, you didn't just listen to a band. You were part of that band's consciousness and soul. :)

It's that communications theme again.

It's more true than ever, because of the communications capabilities of blogs and forums. Bands have sites, fan sites, places where they post mp3s, opportunities for fans to get in touch with them.

Some of them do it because they think it's a good way to keep in touch with their fan base, and some of them do it for that reason and because it's good marketing -- especially in an age where doing it yourself gives you more control and a bigger profit.

Good point

gwerty! Just have to watch my kids to see that happening. I was one of those neurotic ones who put plastic on all my albums to keep their covers safe and had 8-track tapes and these huge speakers clanking around in my car. I guess if you never had that stuff, you don't know what you're missing. Today they have fan sites, but I only had Tiger Beat magazine.

hey harryc

hey Harryc where are you?

Excellent summary and dead-on by my read. Tough sell to the clients used to dealing with "webmasters" (who have no strategic sense) and Web Directors (who need loyal support teams and typically fail to align with the executive management's view of the business compared to their own "vision" of the business) and "SEOs" (who appear to be always working a second, unilaterally-beneficial angle...even if it really only "seems" that way).

Today I call it a web optimizer but the client conversation is just as you describe, and hopefully engaging of their own staff and resources.

Websites and movies

Hello John. I'm down in St. Petersburg Fl enjoying the departure of Hurricane Wilma and the arrival of autumn's first cold front.
I see a website like a script. Imagine it as a movie which begins when someone somewhere gets the idea that they want something that your site provides, say dating advice. Let's call the someone our hero and the movie "The Quest."
When our web script hero decides to undertake the quest, he first consults the know-it-all seer, the search engine. So in order to even play a role, our website has to make an appearance in the search engine.
Now our hero lands on the site. He's nervous, in a hurry, impatient and has the option to say at any time, "Fuck you, I'm outta here." (fuith). The site is cluttered - fuith. Type is too small - fuith. Too much selling and not enough information - fuith.
On the other hand, he quickly sees what how the site is laid out and something soon catches his eye: overcoming shyness. Perfect. Just what he was looking for. He scans several articles or blogs that make sense and sees a recommendation for a book. He decides to buy the book. The End. Our hero is happy and our site owner is happy.
The point is that no matter how clever you are about getting people to your site, it makes no difference if they hate being there. And no matter how cleaver your site is, it makes no difference if no one lands there. It's all part of the script: SEO, usability, design, content.
If I had to have just one, I'd go with content. If I had to dump just one, it'd be design.
All of this is mostly theory on my part. I'm working on a site called www.mybrandvault.com. Check it out and let me know how well I'm putting my theory to practice.

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