Business Speaker on Building a Great Website
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational keynote speaker whose topics include the cornerstones of an effective website. He’s a leading authority on self-employment and the author of Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley). The 16th, 17th and 18th chapters of this award-winning book (2012 Small Business Book Awards) are entitled Website Cornerstone: Focus, Depth and Value respectively (in Part 2 of the book: Plan Your Internet Presence) and are included below for your review. The book has a total of 80 short chapters, each ending with an Implementation Checklist. His perspective on content marketing and the importance of building a powerful, sticky and high-conversion website is summarized below.
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Keynote Speech about Building the Best Website
The best websites tend to have a few things in common. They have a narrow focus, they have a huge amount of information about that narrow focus, and they provide a ton of value for visitors. Patrick Schwerdtfeger understands these website cornerstones and describes them such that your attendees realize exactly what they need to do to improve their own online identities. The importance of these elements (focus, depth and value) extend beyond the visitor experience and end up improving search engine rankings at the same time. If website design is of interest to your audience, bring Patrick in to explain the process in a way that anyone can understand.
Chapter 16: Website Cornerstone: Focus
What makes a great web site?
There are basically three cornerstones to an effective web site. These three things encompass everything a web site needs. Provide these cornerstones, and your web site will excel at catering to both human beings and search engines alike.
We’ll talk about Focus in this chapter. Depth is the subject of the next chapter, and Value will be discussed in the chapter after that. By structuring your web site according to these three cornerstones, you’ll be well positioned to capitalize on today’s Internet economy.
Focus essentially refers to the keywords on which your web site is built. And it’s a critically important part of any successful online strategy. Yet, the focus I’m talking about is counterintuitive for most people and goes against their natural instincts. Follow along with me for a moment. Most people feel like they’re restricting themselves if they focus their web site too narrowly. They feel like they’re walking away from potential business by pigeonholing themselves with a narrow focus. This opinion may make sense on some level, but it doesn’t help anyone thrive in the online world. An example may help illustrate why.
Let’s assume you’re a financial advisor who’s trying to sell annuities, life insurance, and estate planning services. If you built your web site to present a balance among those three services, Google would interpret your web site to be roughly 33 percent about each topic. If someone did a Google search for life insurance, what do you think the search engine would do? If another web site was 100 percent devoted to life insurance, do you think that site would come up higher than yours? All other things being equal, probably. The search engines look for density of unique relevant content as defined by the words used in the search query and related words. If only 33 percent of your web site relates to the words used in the search query, your web site comes up lower in the search results than other web sites that are more exclusively devoted to that topic. That’s an oversimplification, but you get the point.
Now, if your site came up on page 7 of the Google search results for three different topics, do you think you’d get any traffic from Google? No. Absolutely not. Very few people ever get past the second or third page of search results. On the other hand, if you came up on page 1 or 2 for one topic, do you think you’d get traffic as a result? The answer is yes. Back in Chapter 2, we reviewed the common Internet saying, “go an inch wide and a mile deep.” That means you’re better off selecting a narrow topic and then building massive content around that topic. We’ll talk about the “massive” part (depth) in the next chapter, but for now we’ll look at your narrow focus, which is critical.
Let’s get back to our earlier example. If you specialized only in life insurance and if you managed to rank on page one for some related keyword phrases, you would definitely start getting traffic from Google. Once they arrive on your web site, do you think it would be possible to cross-sell them your other services such as annuities and estate planning later on.
Your specialty is simply intended to get you noticed online. You can even devote a small part of your web site to the other services you offer; just make sure you keep the overwhelming focus on your primary specialty. I once built a web site for a bank. The entire site was devoted to its real estate division, which specialized in 1031 exchanges (1031 exchanges are a particular type of real estate transaction designed for investment properties). In other words, the site was extremely focused and had 94 pages of content all about that specific topc. By comparison, my own blog (called Tactical Execution) had more than 500 pages of content. Amazingly, the bank’s web site got more than twice as many visitors from Google as my blog did. You would think the volume of my content would win. Nope. The smaller site’s focus gave that site the overwhelming advantage in the battle for search engine results.
Obviously, a web site with both content and focus offers the best alternative, but the comparison of the bank’s web site to my own illustrates the point. Focus is critically important for a successful web site. Think about your business. Think about your expertise and select an area where you can become a true authority. Use the keyword research tools we discussed in Chapter 13 to identify the most efficient keyword phrases and then build your web site around that narrow focus. The next chapter is all about depth and it deals precisely with the volume of content on your web site. It’s the second cornerstone of an effective web site.
Website Focus: Implementation Checklist
Select one focused area in which to specialize.
Review your targeted keyword phrases.
Build your web site as focused as possible.
Resist the instinct to cover everything.
Ensure one keyword phrase dominates.
Cross-sell other products or services later.
Compare notes and ideas with a colleague.
Chapter 17: Website Cornerstone: Depth
In Chapter 16, we discussed Focus and the importance of selecting one specialty to form the foundation of your online identity. In this chapter, we’ll move on to the second cornerstone: Depth.
When someone puts a few keywords into a search query, the search engines look out into the Internet and deliver web sites that have a large quantity of unique relevant content containing the keywords entered along with words that are related to the keywords entered. Incidentally, if you’re curious how the search engines know what words are related to the keywords entered, they simply look into the search history to see what other words were commonly included in searches that contained the same keywords being searched for by the current user.
Let’s say someone searches for the word “mortgage.” The search engines quickly see that previous searchers also included the words “refinance” and “purchase,” for example, when doing searches for “mortgage.” As a result, the search engines know “mortgage,” “refinance,” and “purchase” are all related words. Bottom line: the more content you have on your web site about those keywords, the more likely you are to come up high on the search engine’s results page.
So how do you accumulate all this content? That depends on whether or not you like to write and produce content.
If you enjoy writing content, let me offer a word to the wise. I recommend that you write an outline of all the topics you could cover before you start typing. The reason for this is simple. Without an outline, all the knowledge in your head is interrelated. If you just start writing, you’ll peripherally mention too many different things too quickly. After just three or four posts, you’ll run out of things to say. If, on the other hand, you write an outline first, you’ll force your mind to organize the knowledge you have and structure it into a series of specific topics. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself subdividing topics into more and more minute details you could cover. I did this once myself. Within an hour or two, I had a list of almost 60 topics I could cover. After that, whenever I had some extra time, I’d pull out my list, select a topic to write about, and then cross it off my list.
If you hate writing or find that you just don’t have that much to say, I offer two suggestions. First, go to a web site like EzineArticles.com (we talked about this in Chapter 2) and do some searches for your favorite keywords. You’ll quickly find hundreds or even thousands of articles about those keywords. You can use these articles as inspiration for your own writing. They can give you a ton of ideas quickly.
You can also post these articles directly on your own web site as long as you include the author resource box, linking back to the author’s web site. That’s the way it works. That’s what those authors are looking for. They’ll be thrilled with the added exposure. If you decide to publish other people’s articles on your own web site, don’t expect the articles to improve your rankings with Google. Search engines look for duplicate content when indexing the Internet, so your reproduced articles won’t give you better position on the search results page. They only benefit you in terms of the extra information they allow you to offer your visitors.
My second suggestion is to get others to create content on your behalf. I have two clients who accept articles written by their customers for inclusion on their respective blogs. Both parties win. The customers get a chance to demonstrate their expertise in front of a new audience and my clients get unique relevant content for their web sites. You can also hire young writers to blog on your behalf. This cutting-edge marketing strategy has taken no-name companies to prominence in record time. You could hire a few 23-year-old college graduates to write for your blog and have lots of content quickly. At the beginning, pay them per post. In time, pay your bloggers bonuses according to the amount of traffic their posts receive and the amount of time their visitors spend on the site. These things are easy to track using tools like Google Analytics (discussed in Chapter 33).
One way or another, if you want your web site to get high rankings by the search engines, you need to build massive unique relevant content around your narrow focus. Think about which strategy works for you and start accumulating content today. One last note: never take content away. Only add. Always add. Over time, you want your web site to grow and grow. That’s the beauty of blogs—just keep adding more. (We’ll talk more about blogs starting in Chapter 26.)
Website Depth: Implementation Checklist
Create an outline of topics you can cover.
Subdivide your topics as much as possible.
Write about a topic when you have time.
Visit EzineArticles.com to get ideas.
Consider publishing other people’s articles.
Invite your clients to contribute content.
Consider hiring people to write content.
Pay bonuses for high-traffic posts.
Never remove content. Always add more.
Compare notes and ideas with a colleague.
Chapter 18: Website Cornerstone: Value
Why would your web site visitors come back to your site again and again?
The answer is Value. If visitors get value from your web site, they’ll come back a second time and a third. More important, they’ll tell their friends about your site. That endorsement is worth far more than any advertising you might be doing! Before we get into the details, let’s get back to the three cornerstones of an effective web site and review our progress.
In Chapter 16, we discussed Focus and the importance of selecting one specialty as the foundation for your online identity. In Chapter 17, we discussed Depth and how to accumulate massive content on your web site. In this chapter, we’ll conclude this topic with a discussion about Value. Generally speaking, Value comes in one of the following three forms:
1. Updated content
2. Value items
3. Resource tools
Updated content refers to those pieces of data that change over time and can be updated on your web site. Interest rates, stock market quotes, real estate values, horoscopes, news feeds, blog posts, podcasts, and birthday reminders are all examples of content that can be updated. If a web site had one of these examples, you could visit the same site on different days and get different content each time. Obviously, the type of content you could display on your web site will depend on your field, but I encourage you to think about things you can post on your web site that will update automatically. These days, a lot of web platforms offer fancy “widgets” you can add to your web site quickly and easily. In this context, widgets are little pieces of code you can copy and paste onto your web site, adding functionality for your visitors.
The Facebook “Like” button is a great example. Visit widgetbox.com and search for your favorite keywords to find widgets in your field. That way, you could incorporate updating content on your web site without having to update it yourself. Blogs are an excellent example of updating content and the best part is that you’re in complete control over the content you’re offering. Is it more work than a widget? Yes. But the possible upside is bigger as well. Blogs are a powerful tool in modern marketing and you might want to consider including one in your marketing strategy. (We’ll talk more about that starting in Chapter 26.)
Value items include things of significance people can get on your web site. It might be a report about your field. It might be a few instructional videos. It might be a series of educational articles or a PDF document with important definitions in your business. From a slightly more sophisticated perspective, it could be a Facebook application. It could be a mobile application. It could be a WordPress theme or a unique ringtone. Of course, these examples involve some actual coding, but the marketing potential is huge and many companies are building their audiences by offering these sophisticated value items to web site visitors.
Resource tools include any Web-based functionality that helps you do something. As you might imagine, there’s a wide variety of examples of these kinds of tools. At the simplest level, resource tools might include mortgage payment calculators and calorie counters. On the more sophisticated end, these tools could include any of the web platforms designed to help you manage your life. Online banking platforms come to mind, along with web sites such as OpenTable.com, EverNote.com, and BaseCampHQ.com. Again, these last examples all involve extensive coding to create. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer your audience tools they can use. In many cases, you can use widgets hosted by other platforms and incorporate those into your web site. Again, visit widgetbox.com and do a search for your favorite keywords. You might be surprised how many resource tools are available, and most of them are absolutely free.
Updated content, value items, and resource tools all represent things you can offer to bring visitors back to your web site again and again. Get creative with the ideas we’ve discussed here and develop your own proprietary blend of value to provide your audience. It all helps to build your traffic and solidify your position as an authority in your field.
Focus, depth, and value are the cornerstones of an effective web site. The last three chapters dealt with each in turn. Keep these concepts in mind as you build out your online identity; they are important not just to your web site but to your Internet activities in general. Focus, depth, and value will provide enduring guideposts for your journey.
Website Value: Implementation Checklist
Consider updated content in your field.
Think about information you could share.
Visit WidgetBox.com to look for examples.
Consider value items you could provide.
Allocate time to create these value items.
Consider resource tools you could offer.
Incorporate functionality on your web site.
Let focus, depth, and value define your site.
Compare notes and ideas with a colleague.
End of chapters – click here to buy the book on Amazon.