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Platform Independent Online Publishing

A wood platform on the beach which is already under water.

Platform independence is a term known from programming. It’s not solely about software though. In reality it matters for website owners and online publishers as well.

In practice platform independent programming means that a piece of software does not depend on a certain browser, plug in or operating system.

Dependence on a single platform can make or break a business.

At a certain point in time platform dependence might seem the right way to go – think Google optimization today.  In the long run being dependent on a single service is a recipe for disaster.

Need an example? By now we see that some websites only “support” Google Chrome – the currently market dominant browser. They don’t work or are buggy on Firefox.

History is repeating. When Microsoft dominated the browser market with Internet Explorer many sites only worked on IE. It was a short-sighted decision as we know by now.

 

When gatekeepers close the gate or walled gardens degenerate

Any business person that has lost a substantial part of its visitors and revenue due to a Google penalty or tweak in the Google algo knows what I am talking about.

People who relied on Facebook and have seen organic traffic turn into a trickle for no apparent reason other than to make room for ads know it too.

In 2018 many publishers cried foul when Facebook – many of them depended upon for traffic – announced a major algorithm change to remove their pages from people’s feeds.

Platform dependency on Google is still common.

In countries like the UK, France or Germany where Google is the de facto search engine monopoly many people readily give up on their freedom by relying on Google traffic and ads.

On social media this situation gets even worse. Many legit social media participants create power accounts on sites like

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+

just to discover that they have been banned. I have also seen all kinds of legit users being axed for various reasons on social media sites. Other sites simply disappear due to

  • bankruptcy
  • acquisition
  • negligence.

Marketers (of course!) but also bloggers and even activists are often affected. Facebook has even banned gay-rights activists for not using their real names.

You have no rights whatsoever on social media sites. They can ban you on their whim. Being angry about it does not make sense. You have to prepare yourself for that.

Leaving for another “next big thing” service will only help temporarily.

At first startups innovate and grow backed by “venture capital” but sooner or later they have to squeeze out their user base.

Making money online from third party content and connections still largely amount to ads. These sites have to be squeaky clean to attract advertisers. You may not fit in anymore. Think Tumblr!

 

How to play by your own rules

How to prepare yourself for being platform independent in times when only a few sites seem to control everything, both in search as well as on social media?

  • Make sure to collect your contacts internally, that is using CRM software or similar tools.
  • Make sure to (be able to) connect with your peers using tools like Email, Skype etc. and NOT by using internal social media sites systems.
  • Make sure not to publish solely on third party sites like Blogger, WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter or Medium but make sure to have your own self hosted blog.
  • Make sure to have several major traffic sources, especially focusing on returning visitors and subscribers.
  • Make sure to brand yourself as a person or business. When people know you by name they will proactively search for you and seek you out.
  • Make sure not to rely on solely one ad provider, especially Google ads but try to get several revenue streams.

While I attempted to become independent from Google with this blog I failed to practice truly platform independent online publishing.

In order to stay independent for good you need to build your won audience using tools you control yourself. Feeds or mail have been such tools for a while.

Now Google even controls the inboxes of the global population through Gmail.

I invested much time and effort in some platforms like Google+ that either failed to become mainstream or that made it but throttle organic reach to sell more ads.

 

Connecting on your own terms

From now on I want to learn from my own mistakes and connect with my peers in a platform independent way.

Contact me by mail or comment below this post here so that we can connect independently of gatekeepers and walled gardens.

You can also tell me your favorite way of communication in case you prefer another channel. Tell me who you are and how can I contact you in future independently from any social site.

Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc
. are great tools but they own you. They own your content. They control your connections. They decide what you see and what not.

There is even a popular term for the sad state of the Web. We call it the “filter bubble” where you only get shown what the algorithms chooses for you based on your past interactions.

First published: September 14th, 2009. Last updated: January 26th, 2018. I completely overhauled the post without diluting the message.

 

The post Platform Independent Online Publishing appeared first on SEO 2.0.

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It’s not enough to ‘write content’. You have to publish resources.

Sometimes, having a great website with great content isn’t enough. Even if you’re doing everything right, you might still fall behind a stronger, faster, better-resourced competitor. In almost every niche, SEO is about more than just improving your site — it’s about beating every other site. If you want to win, you have to do more than put words on pages. To beat your competitors, you have to publish resources. Here’s my take on why, how, and what happens next.

SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum

To succeed in search, you need to make sure that your website, content, and brand is the best possible fit for your audience’s needs. You need to be discovered, and be chosen. That takes time, effort, and resources.

But you’re not the only one trying to improve your content. Your competitors are also working to improve their websites, pages, and brands. Depending on your niche, and your location, there might be dozens of other companies who can meet your audience’s needs. Or hundreds. Maybe thousands.

Many of those competitors have goals, targets, and teams. Some of them have livelihoods tied to their success. Some of them are huge businesses. None of them are sitting still. They’re all hungry to win.

But when a user in your niche searches, Google will only surface content from a tiny fraction of those businesses. An even smaller number of results will get clicked. In many cases, there’ll only be one winner.

So, even if you follow all of the best SEO advice in the world, you may still lose to competitors who have better websites, better content, and stronger brands. Perhaps they spend more time, money and resources on improving their SEO than you ever could. And if that’s the case, then the gap is only going to get wider over time.

In competitive niches, SEO is about more than just improving your site – it’s about beating your competitors. It’s a fight for survival.

To win, you have to stand out from the crowd. You have to do more than just write more posts, and optimize more pages. To win, you have to publish resources.

Good content might not be good enough

Since the early days of online marketing, we’ve had a relatively level playing field when it came to content. One of the great things about the internet is that small businesses can compete with giants in the search results, just by writing compelling, relevant, useful information around their areas of expertise.

In some cases, small, local, independent site owners can beat a big business and national chains by writing authentic, passionate, content about their craft. We see lots of examples where users (and therefore Google) reward their compelling product information, detailed how-to guides, and blog posts, over the often generic information produced by larger or less personable companies.

But that’s not always the case. Words can be bought. Money can be spent, at scale, to shortcut the challenges of writing and publishing quality content. Mass-production and outsourcing of content production is a common practice for larger, well-resourced organizations. It’s often the case that the larger the company, the more resource they have to write pages (even if they outsource the work), and they drown out other websites.

That means that whether you’re a blogger, a baker, a beekeeper, or even a big business, it’s not enough to ‘be good’, or to ‘do SEO’. Your pages, your posts and your content has to compete with everyone in your sector, and you have to beat all of them.

To win, you must solve searcher problems

It’s a helpful mental model assume that each keyword (or keyphrase) you want to rank for represents at least one question, and that many of those questions represent needs, desires or problems.

To be discovered, and to win for that search, you need to have the best page on the internet for helping users to solve their particular problem.

But what does that mean? How is that different from normal SEO advice, which tells you to “write great content”?

To make this practical, we’re going to need an example.

Introducing Emily

Emily runs a local, independent interior design business. She wants to grow her audience and her sales, so she uses SEO as a marketing channel.

A woman sitting on a sofa, holding a laptop, looking at and smiling into the camera.
Emily, our imaginary interior design expert and website owner.

For the last year, she’s spent a few hours per week writing blogs post about her latest projects, and describing her products and services. Traffic to her site has grown steadily, because of the hard work she’s done optimizing her site and her content.

But now her growth is starting to plateau. She’s sees bigger competitors outranking her, and, she’s not sure what she needs to do to move the needle.

A problem of saturation

The core of her problem is that she’s already reached everybody in her addressable market. She’s already ranking for local searches (like “interior design company [city]“), and, for people who look for her business specifically. But she’s nowhere to be seen for broader or more generic searches around her products and services (like for the keyphrase, “living room layout advice“).

To understand why, we need to think about the intent behind the way in which her audiences search, and the problems those people have.

Let’s take the keyphrase “fitted cupboards“, for example. A searcher who has typed this into Google may actually mean “how much do fitted cupboards cost?“, or, “what’s the difference between a fitted cupboard and a normal cupboard?“, or even, “what kinds of fitted cupboards are there, which might work in my home?“. All of these questions represent a singular problem — that the searcher isn’t an expert in the market, and they don’t know what their options are.

In the real world, it’s rare for people to just decide to buy some furniture, then act. It’s more likely that they’ll start by searching with questions about types, colors, materials, and other topics. They do research, and try to understand their options.

A mismatch between her content, and her audience’s needs

The product pages and blog posts which Emily has been writing are designed to showcase her products and her experience; they’re not designed to answer those kinds of questions. They’re probably not “the best pages on the internet” for users who’re trying to understand their options.

Most of the people searching in this ‘research phase’ aren’t ready to buy yet, so Google is unlikely to show many product pages or stores in its results. It’ll favor informational resources, guides and media.

Emily’s pages are unlikely to be discovered by people who are asking those kinds of questions. Google will return the websites of competitors, household furniture chains, or media giants like Pinterest — sites which either spend more time and money on SEO and content than her, or, which provide types of content, advice and media which she doesn’t.

When those people do know what they want or need, and are ready to spend, it’ll be too late for Emily. Many will already have found inspiration, solutions, or other businesses in the sites and channels they moved through. They’ll have solved their problems without ever getting as far as searching for a specific local business, or encountering Emily’s website.

So, how can she compete?

As an expert in her subject, she’s better positioned to answer the questions — and solve the problems — of her audience better than many her competitors. But to do this, she’ll have to produce a different type of content. She’ll need to make something much deeper, more interesting, more engaging, and more useful than her current pages.

For example, the simplest version of this might be a guide which answers all of these questions, and which does so better than any other competing resource. That might mean writing long-form content, producing videos, creating an interactive tool, or some combination of each of these.

A resource like this is much much more likely to get the links, shares and engagement — which she needs to grow her visibility — than her day-to-day content.

The best version of this, most likely to transform her visibility, rankings and business, would be a piece of ‘10x content‘ — a resource at least ten times better than the current best result for her target keywords. In Emily’ interior design niche, that might be a rich, interactive, media-heavy browsing experience — something much more than just a textual product guide.

A chart visualising the effort vs quality ratio of 10x content, depicting that the minimum effort required to rank highly is somewhere between "professional writer over a day or two" and "The best thing we can create".
Image credit: ceralytics.com

Of course, regardless of the scale of her ambition, she still needs to think about SEO. The content production process should start with keyword research, and still needs to get all of the basics right. But, unlike her day-to-day content, she needs to go above-and-beyond in making sure that it comprehensively answers all of her audience’s questions.

If she creates something genuinely good, useful and helpful, then it stands a chance to earn the links, social amplification, and positive user signals that it needs in order to outperform the competition.

She must create content with different objectives

Until now, most of Emily’s content has been written with the intent to rank for a relevant keyword, then to try and convince the visitor that her products and services are the best choice for them.

But the objective of this new type of content isn’t to convince people to buy — it’s to make a resource which users will bookmark, link to, and share with their friends when they have problems. Remember, the majority of this audience isn’t ready or willing to buy — they’re still asking questions and learning about their options.

So, for this different kind of content, she needs to be much more impartial. Answering the questions of her audience means not trying to sell to them, and not trying to convince them that her products the best answer to their questions.

Instead, she has to genuinely help her audience, and provide them with the best answers. Sometimes that might mean helping them to solve their own problem without her, or, even sending them to competitors.

It doesn’t matter that those visitors don’t buy from her, or even if they’re not her core audience. Because over time, the links and citations she her content gets not only help her SEO, but they also grow her brand awareness. Then, when users reach the point when they’re ready to buy, they’re much more likely to think of her, or recommend her.

Solving problems is resource intensive

Creating this kind of content takes huge amounts of time, research, energy and expertise. It might mean that, instead of spending an hour writing a page, you need to spend ten, or a hundred hours. Maybe even more.

That’s a big ask, and not just in terms of the hours of writing. It’s not enough just to write more, because an enormous wall of text likely isn’t a good answer for your audiences. Creating something truly useful and valuable means doing more than writing a page.

To win, you must craft and publish a resource, like one of these examples of 10x content.

An image of the https://www.howacarworks.com/ homepage.
This incredible, multi-page guide to how cars work is a great example of ’10x content’

Because, chances are, at least one of your competitors already has. They’re already winning the hearts and minds of consumers in your niche — consumers who’ll no longer search for, and find your website. And they’re getting links, social shares and traction which pushes them further and further ahead in the search results.

If you want to grow, you have to create this kind of content.

If you represent a small business, or independent site owner, this undoubtedly sounds like an unrealistic requirement – especially given that these pieces are often the work of more than one person. You’ll need input from designers, developers, writers, subject matter experts and more, otherwise, you content might fall flat.

That’s a lot of work, right? Well, maybe not.

It’s only a lot of work if you’re doing it from scratch

In the examples I’ve referenced, one of the common themes is that these pieces often don’t look, feel, or behave like conventional text-on-a-page content. They have structure, layout, and design components.

That’s often one of the scariest, and most resource-intensive requirements for publishing these kinds of pages.

blur pattern line paper close up brand designer font focus sketch drawing design logo diagram handwriting detail document wireframe mockup
10x content often requires complex, sophisticated layouts and page structures

Until recently, this was one of the largest barriers which prevented smaller and independent content creators from taking on their better-resourced competitors.

But as the tools available to us continue to become more powerful, intuitive and accessible, this kind of content can become a lot less challenging to produce.

The continued evolution of WordPress is making it easier for content producers to construct more complex, sophisticated layouts, without needing development resources.

You still need to do the hard work thinking up and authoring the content, but the construction part of the process is getting easier and easier. In fact, we may not be away far from a time when the technical resource required to publish 10x content goes away entirely, and the playing field between small and large business becomes just a little bit more level.

Cue, Gutenberg

WordPress’ new ‘block editor’ has caused waves and divisions within the community.

The premise is that, rather than writing in a big content editor, you compose your content from blocks. Blocks structure and contain content, and can also have styling/presentation settings.

Love it or hate it, it’s important to understand that Gutenberg is rapidly becoming the backbone of a new era of structured content publishing. Even beyond WordPress, Gutenberg is being adopted as the de-facto content editing experience on the web.

Why is this relevant to us? Because, Gutenberg is (the early stages of) a framework which will make the production of 10x content cheap enough, fast enough, and easy enough to enable everybody to compete on equal footing.

The 'Row Layout' tool in WordPress' block editor
Block editor features like the column selection tool enables authors to structure their content more easily

One of the most common objections to adopting WordPress’ new editor is that people say they like to just write. The added complexity of thinking about blocks, structure and layout – of composing a page, rather than just writing it – is an imposition.

That’s fine, if you’re writing just for enjoyment.
But if you want to grow your visibility, grow your audience and rank higher in the search results, then your content needs to compete.

If you’re going to beat everybody else in the search results, you need to do more than just ‘write pages’. You have to use every opportunity, and structuring your content with blocks is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.

Instead of just writing, you must compose. You must consider the structure, layout, design and flow of the stories you tell, and publish resources. Gutenberg gives you the tools to do this (and when it doesn’t, chances are that there’s a block plugin which will).

What about other page builders?

Gutenberg isn’t the only tool which allows you to structure content. Other extremely popular page builder plugins (like Site Builder and Elementor) provide similar functionality.

But each of these (and many other) products will increasingly find themselves ‘reinventing the wheel’, as the WordPress editor’s core capabilities begin to deliver the same kind of functionality.

At some point, these tools will likely need to reinvent themselves, and become an interface layer on top of Gutenberg. That’ll be necessary if they want their content and structure to integrate seamlessly with other plugins, and, if they want to produce the kinds of structured data which will power the search engine results pages of the future.

It won’t matter which design tools you’re using to compose and lay out your content; the back-end will all be powered by the block editor, and you’ll need to shift from writing to publishing with blocks.

Changing roles and workflows

Switching from writing to publishing is a big leap. It means changes to processes, mindsets, and skill sets.

It won’t be enough to just write, to ‘just be a writer’. If you’re trying to grow your visibility, you’ll need move out of your comfort zone and consider layout, user experience and design.

Your writing environment will need to shift from starting in Microsoft Word or Google Docs (then pasting your content into WordPress), to working directly into the editor. Because you’ll need to compose the structure and layout of the content as it’s written, as part of a combined, iterative process. It’ll be hard to produce a 10x resource if either the structure or the content is added an afterthought. Your words, and how you present them, need to be considered in parallel.

All of this represents a difficult shift in workflow; most good writing happens when a person is ‘in the zone’, and distraction-free. Having to write and consider layout together is a complex process; but it’s what it’ll take to beat your competitors. We’ll need to re-train ourselves to take advantage of these new opportunities.

All of this may feel understandably uncomfortable. It’s a huge disruption to how we currently write and publish content. But competition will drive change; as other site owners take advantage of these tools, you may be left behind if you choose not to.

“This isn’t fair”

If you just want to write great content, that’s fine. You’ll still be able to reach, help and convert your audiences.

But if you want to grow your reach in a competitive market, but really don’t want to think about blocks and layout, you’ll have to over-invest heavily in other areas of SEO in order to attract, convince and convert audiences — because your website and content will feel comparatively bland to your audience, when held up against your competitors’.

This isn’t necessarily fair. If you have the best product or service in the market, but you can’t (or choose not to) invest in creating rich, ‘top of funnel’ problem-solving content, then, you’re going to struggle to compete against people who do.

In a perfect world, you’d rank first, automatically. But Google is an imperfect system, and it relies on content — and the ways in which users interact with it — as a proxy for quality. That’s unlikely to change any time soon; so for now, you must play by their rules.

What’s next?

If you’re reading this post, you have an advantage over many of your competitors. Chances are that you have a WordPress website, and that you’re familiar with the Gutenberg editor.

That gives you a head start.

Take this opportunity to think about what publishing resources might mean for your content, website or business.

Master the block editor, using advanced layout tools like groups and columns.

Explore new approaches to writing and content production, which bake the design of the piece into its ideation and production.

Surprise and delight your audiences with rich, interactive, problem-solving content, which makes them remember, prefer and recommend you.

Grow your visibility, your rankings, your traffic, and your revenue.

Get there first, because if you don’t, your competitors will.

Let us know how you get on?

The post It’s not enough to ‘write content’. You have to publish resources. appeared first on Yoast.

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How to Communicate the Importance of SEO to Your Boss

If you’ve been in SEO for any amount of time, chances are you’ve ran into others who just don’t seem to geek out about 404s, redirects, backlinks, spiders, canonicals, and indexing the way you do. Instead, when you discuss any on of these elements in public, you probably just get a blank, confused look in return.

This is pretty standard, but when you’re getting that same look from the decision makers in your company, that may be more of a problem.

SEO is an important component to any business’s success. Many small business owners and CEOs, however, are often uninformed and uneasy about diving into SEO. They know that they need it, but they don’t know how it works or understand the great time commitment and value of it.

|Related: 

Should You Go In-house with Your Online Marketing or Outsource the Work? hbspt.cta.load(1849295, ’84f12287-756a-4e9d-9f4b-902c6bdbc794′, {}); |

Whether you work for an agency or an in-house marketing team, trying to convince executives to bolster their SEO budget can be a good challenge. There are some simple tricks, though, that can help you communicate the importance of SEO and the reasoning behind your tactics and choices.

1.  Help Them Understand the Terminology

Every field has its own industry jargon. The SEO industry isn’t any different. The same way your eyes glaze over when the accountants start getting excited about their extensive spreadsheets, someone from another department will easily get lost when you start busting out the industry lingo.

Coming into the SEO conversation with this realization will help you lay a good starting point.

Take time to teach and educate your audience about the basics of SEO and clearly define any and all jargon terms. Clarifying, defining and discussing relevant metrics can also be handy in helping your audience get a better grasp of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

2.  Explain Exactly Why You’re Taking a Certain Course of Action

SEO involves a lot of work that happens behind the scenes and doesn’t often yield instant results.

Many people in business have a hard time trusting SEO because it doesn’t deliver the kind of results they want in their desired timeframe. It can be difficult to convince the boss of your proposed course of action when there is a lack of tangible benchmarks and no set timeframes.

As you explain why you chose to do something or why you made a certain decision, try to keep the overall big picture or goal in mind and to explain both what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

For example, if you discovered an epidemic of duplicate content on the site, you might immediately set about rewriting the content or redirecting unneeded pages the ones you want to focus on. Your boss may then question you about that. After all, why not leave those pages alone because the more content – even duplicate content – is just more exposure, right?

Communicate SEO3.jpg

Well, since you’re an SEO professional, you know all the reasons why duplicate content is a bad idea.  And when they ask about it, you could fall back on the old standby reasoning: “Because Google hates it.” But that’s not enough to satisfy your boss’s need for information.

Instead, explain a little more about how Google works, how the same content would literally compete with itself on the search engines, and all the other reasons beyond “Google doesn’t like it.” They’ll have less questions when you pre-load them with the right answers.

3.  Craft the Right Explanation for the Audience

Depending on the size of your organization, you may have regular meetings with a variety of audiences. People from the IT department to the marketing department to the executive office will want to know what’s going on and why SEO matters.

People in IT would like to know the technical details as well as any fixes or bugs that need to be worked out. The marketing department would be more interested in how SEO is attracting the right audience to the website, and the executive leadership will likely care less about what your SEO plan is, as long as it boosts the company’s bottom line.

If you want higher support and buy-in of your SEO plan, you need to know your audience. Then you can format your presentation in a way that “speaks their language.”

For example, a meeting with IT personnel may entail how certain technical implementations will be needed to make the website more mobile-friendly. A similar meeting with leadership may involve discussions about the time and resources that your SEO plan will need, the opportunities that it will open up, and the potential ROI that can result should the plan be successful.

4.  Document, Document, Document

When talking to others who don’t know much about SEO, you may get a lot of blank stares and sarcastic remarks. For all they know, you could just be taking advantage of their ignorance and making things up.Communicate SEO1.jpg

This is why you need documentation and data to back up your SEO strategy, your reports, and your claims of success. Again, it is important to focus on particular metrics that would be most beneficial and interesting to the audience. Keep your explanation simple and limit SEO jargon.

5.  Build Your Personal and Your SEO Credibility

It can be difficult to prove the power of SEO to executives. It can also be just as difficult for you to be taken seriously.

How do you build your own credibility so that leadership will listen to you?

It begins by being a leader in your department. Write articles on behalf of the company, answer questions customers may have in the company’s website content, and provide valuable industry resources, such as how-to guides.

Like we mentioned above, you need to document all of this to show how your SEO efforts help contribute to increasing the company’s bottom line. To accomplish this, you may try the following:

Record conversion data from organic search traffic and equate those numbers to revenue. Get set up on Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console, so you can monitor revenue from contact forms and e-commerce, which will speak to leadership and the marketing department.

Report on how you are doing compared to competitors. Compile a list of 5-10 competitors who are currently beating your company for the top 10 keywords and show what the average monthly search volume of those keywords or terms are. Showing these lost opportunities can be enough to spur any executive to bolster and support your SEO efforts.

How CEOs See SEO

Many business executives know that SEO is a crucial component of their company’s success. However, they may not know or care to know how SEO works.

That’s why they want someone to do it for them.

However, you can geek out on them all day long about how this or that is doing great and blowing the competition out of the water, and they just won’t seem to get on board with your enthusiasm.

Again, they just care about the company’s bottom line.

Some CEOs have some knowledge of SEO and understand how it basically works. It is still a good idea to rein in your zealous enthusiasm and spare them of all the stats and numbers. You can touch on the SEO topics they are familiar with, but avoid the urge to go too deep. As much as they may be interested, they have busy schedules and want to know if the resources going to SEO is paying off.

The best way to deal with this is to agree on some clear key performance indicators before the campaign even starts. Since SEO takes time, monthly check-in meetings are also good ideas to keep leadership informed and reassured that you are gradually but consistently moving toward those KPIs.

It can be hard to get support for an SEO initiative. It can also be frustrating communicating with others who don’t understand the nature and workings of the search engines. Knowing your audience, proving the value of SEO, and always using data to back-up the successes of your strategy are some ways these difficult and frustrating conversations can become more successful.

 

Got some buy-in on SEO already? Are you ready to push for more social media action? Download your free Social Media Checklist and make sure you’re ready to get started.

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The post How to Communicate the Importance of SEO to Your Boss appeared first on SEO.com.

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The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People

A matchstick lightened up in front of dark background. Looks impressive.

How do you optimize websites for people that is actual readers who are suffering from chronic attention shortage?

You need to make them findable, intriguing, readable, engaging, usable, popular or in short “fire up“.

“fire someone up – Fig. to motivate someone; to make someone enthusiastic.”

A shocking reading statistic from US libraries says: around one fifth of Americans don’t read books at all.

 

Online reading habits

Likewise people on the Web don’t read. They mostly scan pages and read just a few words here and there if they click the headline at all.

8 out of 10 people do not even go beyond the headline and bounce immediately in the worst case. Many return to search results to click something else.

Google even counts the number of people who hit the back button or do not even click after viewing search results. Your site gets downgraded based on that data.

 

My shameful past

Let me confess: I didn’t read books until I was 16. I didn’t even read newspapers or magazines until I was 14.

We didn’t have the Internet or mobile phones back then so I wasn’t reading websites or SMS either!

To make things worse my mother was a linguist focused on teaching language and editing literature.

These days I roughly read a 500+ pages book a week. Sometimes I read two or three books at once.

 

A miraculous transformation

How did that miraculous transformation happen? My case seemed to be hopeless like with the rest of this miserable one fifth of the population.

Why didn’t I read at all as a teen? It wasn’t that I couldn’t read. I could read in three languages by the age of 14.

I didn’t want to read. I didn’t think books were attractive enough for me. I didn’t appreciate books and I didn’t think reading could enrich my daily life.

It’s not a story about me here though. My point is that you can make books or reading in general

  1. findable
  2. intriguing
  3. readable
  4. engaging
  5. usable
  6. popular

so that everybody will want to read and enjoy it. You have to treat the people who don’t read like disabled people.

It just happens that roughly the same number of people is also really disabled, almost 1/5 fifth in the US and the UK.

People who don’t read lack a basic human experience. They don’t have access to a whole universe of knowledge.

It’s our task to enable these literally disabled people to read again or at all. Librarians seem to have given up on them already.

With websites and mobile phones being used by almost everybody it’s far easier to make people read in these times. How? You need to make your site

findable

You have to ensure the findability of your content – be it text or mixed content (text and images) or solely images.

Even images without text can make people read. Image captions are a good start.

How did I finally start reading?

When I was 14 my mother pointed out an article to me about my favorite sweets in the weekly magazine my father had subscribed to for years.

I have looked at the magazine covers for ages but didn’t even read when they featured barely clad women.

The mags always lay around the living room. Thus my mother only needed to point it out casually. She didn’t have to get up, search for it and peruse dozens of other magazines to find it.

Nowadays it’s not as easy to be around where the hard to reach audience stays.

One day it’s Facebook, next day it’s Instagram, third day it’s Snapchat.

Don’t just stay in your ivory tower or library and claim that everybody has to come visit you. Spend some time on outreach efforts.

You can publish quotes from your favorite authors on social media. Indeed on sites like

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

aphorisms work best!

Don’t just optimize for Google. Work on your internal search. Tag your content.

Make sure your images and quotes can be found on Pinterest or Twitter.

A picture quote which is popular on Pinterest saying: "sometimes it's better to react with no reaction".

intriguing

Now you agree that just staying where you are and waiting passively may not be enough.

You will probably wonder how to make people who never read become interested in what you want to see or rather read then.

One of the most likely candidates for your help are dyslexic people. These people are really disabled in that they can’t read fluently.

People who can’t read or comprehend fast need books or graphic novels or other forms of text that don’t require huge chunks of text.

Song lyrics or even poems can be a good starting point! They have to pick them up where they are though.

The Beat Generation may be a good start for young people or those who have failed to reach their full potential like many non-readers probably have.

Another typical non-reader is what I’d like to call the “tough guy” who is “too cool to read”.

“Real men” sometimes believe that reading is somehow compromising their manliness.

Survival or bodybuilding resources probably won’t hurt.

You need to intrigue them. Don’t just attempt to make people read what you think they should. Give them what they want in print or online form.

Even clickbait can help. Don’t give away everything in the headline. Consider this example: “Ursula K- Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88”.

A headline that gives away the hwol news already by sacing that "Ursual K Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88".

Why would I click that link? I already know why she was famous and how old she was when she died. I know that she’s dead in the first place.

How about “the #1 reason why Ursula K. Le Guin will be remembered” instead? To find out you can click through actually read that article!

We are intrigued. We wonder: is she already dead? What did she do that made her so memorable? We want to know!

readable

Symbol for for an eye reading from a distance. It divides its attention between three short paragrphs.

Readability is a huge problem with both books and websites alike.

In these times our attention spans are extremely short.

Small screens on mobile devices make reading even more difficult.

We can’t focus on longer paragraphs or even sentences anymore.

This is also an issue with truly disabled people. They may have cognitive deficits.

I have cognitive deficits myself when I’m tired or when I experience pain from migraine attacks. I can’t read properly then.

Other people may be perfectly average but have difficulties when reading while on the go, holding a baby on their arm or trying to multitask in general.

Keep sentences short. Don’t complicate things to sound smart. Your website should be written for everybody.

It’s not about writing a thesis in college. It’s about reaching a wider audiences. Twitter is a good exercise.

Make your messages work in 140 characters and write like that for the rest of the Web.

Authors like Ernest Hemingway or Paul Auster have used simplicity to reach millions.

Simple word choices, short sentences and paragraphs won’t suffice though. You need to format text.

  • blockquotes
  • lists
  • bold text
  • text-marker effects

have proven to work best to enhance website readability.

engaging

There is this old social media cliche that “you have to engage in the conversation”. It’s true.

That’s like you have to write on the Web. Write in a conversational tone. Talk to your reader.

Become a buddy of your reader. Imagine sending an SMS to your ideal reader. Say “hello”!

Ask questions in your articles, not just rhetoric ones. Add calls to action asking for feedback!

Appeal to emotions by telling stories and speaking about real people like yourself or your family.

Cover worthwhile causes. Don’t just promote yourself and push what you like. Publish what others love.

You are meant not to judge a book by it’s cover but we all do. What’s on top and gets seen first counts.

Make a good first impression by placing attractive visual content on top of your page, each page.

usable

A neo sign saying entrance shedding only a dim light below so that we don't see an actual door.

OK, you have done everything right. Now the fire is already burning. Your site and content are findable, intriguing, readable, engaging…

What’s the problem then? Your site may still fail as a whole. It can be all of the above but when it’s not usable it’s wasted.

Usability or in modern words user experience matters on many levels. Can everybody access and use the site?

Or is it rather built for healthy white males, speaking English as seems to be the case with the new WhiteHouse.gov website?

Some of these non-readers may be actually disabled – blind for example! Don’t slam the door in their face!

When you fail to provide alternative text to your images and make the page navigable using the keyboard you lose that person.

Others may be healthy and enabled at the first sight – but like me often sick and tired (no pun intended). After staring all day into the screen

  • I can’t read long paragraphs anymore
  • sift through huge mega menus
  • or even deal with bright colors with a lot of contrast.

Don’t be overtly creative when building sites. The website is not the artwork, it’s the frame the artwork is in.

Keep it simple with low cognitive load by not reinventing the wheel.

Just place the logo on the top left, the navigation on top and the content below. Don’t add more than 6 menu items.

Cut out or limit the blinking ads and misleading “you may also like” partner stories.

popular

Facebook demographic by Sprout Social. All kinds of audiences ar epresent. High school kidsfrom the nner city and older suburban dwellers.

Even when the fire is burning and almost everybody can use your site it’s still not enough to succeed with your website.

You of course need to become popular. You can become popular in general but also in your niche or area.

Popularity can be relative. A popular restaurant in your neighborhood does not have to be Mc Donald’s.

Consider popularization as explaining science to larger audiences. It’s about understanding. Keep it simple!

When scientists write for each to get reviewed by their peers nobody else will really understand them.

Many bloggers and website owners write like scientists only for their colleagues. They ignore people outside their industry or beginners.

Remember to publish for average people as well.

Cover topics that matter for many people. Use language even your mother can understand without cryptic acronyms and insider lingo.

Don’t assume everybody knows what you are talking about and provide context on top. Try to explain things in a way even kids can get!

Last but not least simplify the linking and sharing process without only focusing on third party sites.

Let people link to your site easily and share your content by mail or using messenger apps.

Allow copy and pasting! Sometimes it’s even impossible to select a headline or text quote due to bad design.

 

Are you enthusiastic now? I certainly hope so. Of course I tried to use the FIRE UP approach myself here.

Did it work? I have no idea! You have to tell me below in the comments or using your favorite social media channels!

The post The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People appeared first on SEO 2.0.

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