When you create a website, you're trying to make several different audiences happy. You've got searchers coming in from the search engines, you want those search engines to rank you well, and you've got past and prospective clients. Referral partners are also out there looking at your site and sending business your way. Each different audience for your website has its own requirements, different things it's looking for, and unique needs.
You have to think about each audience you're trying to appeal to as you design and develop the different parts of your site. That includes navigation style, types of pages, text on those pages, design, coding, offers, and calls to action. You have to make sure that each of these elements balances all the others—so that there aren't too many pages with not enough content, or that navigation is so complex that it's hard for people to find what they're looking for.
It's easy to focus on one audience's needs over another.
Getting stuck thinking about one element of your site can result in an unbalanced site. And as you try to make your website do more, as you add complexity, it's harder and harder to keep the functions at equilibrium. The more elements your site contains and the more audiences you think about, the more difficult it becomes to keep everyone happy.
Focus on balancing everyone's needs and concerns.
If you focus on one of your audiences over the others, you'll wind up with a website that seems out of balance and doesn't meet some of your audiences' needs. For example, you can focus too heavily on writing your site content to appeal to the search engines and create a site that's so keyword-laden you look a bit crazy.
Instead, try to keep all of your audiences' needs in harmony so that everyone has a good experience and is impressed by your site instead of wondering what's wrong with it.
When you write, design, and code your site, think about:
1. Who is visiting it? Where are your clients coming from? Search engines bring searchers to your site. Past clients look you up for new projects or needs. There are potential customers who have been referred to you. And those who have met you at networking events or seen your booth at a trade show. Each of these audiences has different levels of knowledge about you and different issues that they want to address.
2. What do they want to know? Each audience has different needs, problems, and concerns. The search engines want to know what your site's all about, and they want to see your keywords. Past clients want contact information and to see if you can help them with their new need. Potential clients want to know if you can solve their problem, and they want to know if you're trustworthy and likeable. People who have already met you want to get more information on your services and find out what's next in the process of working with you. Think about why people are coming to your site and how you can help them along.
3. What you want your website to do for your business? Your website should be more than just pretty. It should do a job (or several jobs) for your business. Think about how it can most benefit your business—whether by bringing in new clients, getting noticed by the search engines, sharing your thoughts with the world through articles, helping you get the media's attention, or maybe some other function entirely. Whatever job your website must do, make sure that everything you put on it works towards making that happen.
4. Are you being accidentally contrary? Do any of the things you've put on your site for one audience contradict what you've written for another? You want to make sure that your site always makes sense, no matter who's reading it—or how much of the site they read. You also want your site to mesh with your printed marketing pieces, phone conversations, and the delivery of your products or services to ensure that your customers stay happy.
If you think about these 4 things as you're developing your website, you'll create one that keeps all of your audiences happy. The site will keep you happy in the long run, and you'll get more return on your investment in it as well.