When writing content for web pages the emphasis is either marketing to people or optimizing for search engines serving users who are the people looking for your products, services or articles.
And yet, it’s those users who may not be properly targeted. Content writing for SEO is a rules based methodology consisting of structure and characters, keywords and calls to action. People are searching for answers and solutions, products and services or simply something to do, like listening to podcasts.
Your job as a content writer is to provide answers, solutions, and convince people that there is something worthwhile to do inside brief search engine snippets or quick audio responses. It’s kind of like screaming out the windows of race cars to bystanders. There is simply not enough time or space for persuasion in a fast-paced user environment where the competition is right next to your website.
Meeting and Finding Your People
So, say your website is a race car looking all snazzy and colorful and high-performance-like and it’s whizzing by a grandstand of people sweating in the hot sun and nobody is paying any attention to it. In web terms, this behavior is unacceptable, but common.
Regardless of whatever that search engine snippet presents about a web page, or page title, or referral link from a credible source, or how well designed the user interface is, if the person doesn’t feel a connection to the content, they won’t stay long. If the web page doesn’t provide users with what they need or want, they won’t stay long.
If the ugliest race car on the track comes zooming past the grandstand packed with sweaty, sunburned, hungry fans while spraying them with huge hoses of water and tossing out free hot dogs, that race car has done its research. It knows what those people want.
The flashy parallax web page featuring photo-shopped twenty-one year old female models posing with perfectly shot high-end cosmetics product images is turning away an entire target market of customers of both genders over age 40 known to have more spendable cash. And, chances are the website isn’t accessible.
Business website owners are always promoting their business. They worry about how to do that, what they can afford and where to advertise. I rarely ever hear a website owner discuss where their customers are located. When I visit their homepage, I often don’t find where the content addresses specific people by topic, location, solution or connection in some way such as a common interest or critical need.
Marketing to people starts with knowing the people you want to market to and then understanding what they need now. This is a basic first step.
We aren’t taught to consider next year’s website customers. We’re not taught to plan for new technologies that may require massive changes in the design, development and delivery of digital content. We’re not taught how to meet the needs of our users today and earn their loyalty.
We’re not taught to go the distance.
This is why companies fail. Investing in businesses today is for the present. Get in, make back the investment in two to five years and move on or retire with a nest egg. Smart customers know this. When I perform a requirements-based website audit, there is never a plan for the future by any client. It just doesn’t occur to them to plan for future users.
Identifying Your Target Market
Website owners think small. They plan small. But the Internet is not a small space.
A habit I hear often in my work is copying what other websites do. Clients insist that their new design should look like their competitors’ websites. I’m provided with a list of those competitors and even when I can show the failings of those websites, the client still demands that their new site be designed the same way.
So, in a line up of identical or similar products in one vertical, where nearly every website user interface is the same, how do these businesses expect to succeed? Hiring content writers who craft marketing baloney based on top keywords is one tactic if the whole point is to drive in clicks. However, those clicks have a job to perform. They serve a purpose. They’re your ruby slippers if you attach intent to the clicks.
Somewhere over the rainbow is your next target user.
Finding your way to your customers, readers and listeners can be fun if you think big, plan bigger and go outside the office to where the humans are. For example, if someone is running for office, they are traveling to be with the people they hope will vote for them. They will promise anything. We know that. But the lesson is that they go outside and talk to people in diners and train stations. This allows them to get eye contact, shake hands and ask questions to help them understand what people need.
When was the last time your web site marketing team got outside to do that?
Crafters are another example. They design and make stuff for a living. To sell their handmade crafts they have options like Etsy, Shopify and Amazon Handmade, but they also can set up tables on weekends at festivals and events that invite crafters. I have a hobby business with an item I created specifically based on the experience of making a basket of samples and one in particular proved to be immensely popular with the people who stopped by my table. Based on their feedback I came up with a final product that is my best seller today.
How many developers are invited to test with people during the design phase?
Successfully planning your content around the needs of your users depends on how well you know who they are now, and will be in the future.
The Neglected Target Markets
There’s a sad trend by businesses, or in some instances, employees, to present barriers to sales based on religious beliefs or racial biases. For websites, barriers have existed for disabled persons and older users. If your company wants to make a human connection, inspire loyalty and achieve long term success it’s helpful to know more about where your users are now and in the future. Create a common bond to drive loyalty. Inspire and motivate referrals through action and example.
For instance, companies are starting to hire employees who are autistic because they are finding talent and a wealth of knowledge brought by these individuals. Some cosmetics brands are not limiting their marketing to women. They invite video makeup tutorials made by men too. Podcasts aren’t limited by visuals, which decreases biases by color, age and gender.
Two neglected target markets are persons over age 50 and disabled or special needs computer users who use assistive computer devices. In 2014, the USA had 108.7 million people over the age of 50. By 2024 that number is expected to increase by 19 million, 53.5 of which are women. That’s an enormous target market of older women. What are their needs and how can you plan to meet them?
By 2050 the US population is expected to reach 439 million. What percentage of your future customers will be the same or different from the present? How about scaling that back to 2020? Based on how quickly computer technology and fads change, some SEOs, web programmers, web designers and computer companies are racing ahead to see what’s coming and how to be prepared.
Study trends in areas you may not have considered, such as the changes in how countries are governed and weather patterns. The UK has different guidelines for website accessibility and online privacy. Some countries don’t rely on anything but mobile devices to access the Internet. How will changes in global trade practices change your present business model?
When marketing and creating web content, think beyond the distance of a whisper.