Monday, January 31, 2005

Sharing the Experience

A joke, to begin:

How many hippies does it take to change a lightbulb?

Five. One to change it, and four to “share the experience, man…”

As silly as that picture is in my mind, there’s really some relevance to that saying. And it draws attention to a very common problem many websites have. They are all to often focused on the products.

What do you mean? I thought we were supposed to draw attention to the products we’re selling?

Let me explain…

The best websites out there on the net are the ones that are most full of good content. Content is, of course, all of the products, pictures, information, and instructions that are on your website. There’s a very complicated and technical term for these things.

We call it “Stuff”.

But what’s the difference between bad stuff and good stuff? Well, the best stuff is stuff that your visitors find the most valuable. The stuff they can use. Products are an important part of that, but there’s a lot of additional informative content that could be added to a site. With good and useful content, people come to your site. Search engines will index it better because there’s some real information for the spiders to sink their teeth into. If it’s content-rich, it can also be keyword-rich.

So, what kind of stuff can I put in my website that will draw the people there?

That’s where the experience comes in.

It’s vital to have a clear picture of what your website is really all about, really what the focus is. Because once that’s determined, the content of the website will follow. All too often, site owners want to focus on the gear, the products. But that’s not why people are there. They’re at your site for the experience.

Let’s look at that closer, by example. Let’s say that your site is full of CD players, boom boxes, home stereo speakers and mp3 players. If I asked what this site was about, you might say, “Selling audio gear”. But that’s not right. It’s really all about “enjoying music”.

Another example. Let’s say you’re selling tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. Your site’s focus would be “enjoying the outdoors”.

What you want to do is draw the experience from out of the products. People are excited by experiences, not hardware. There are certain experiences we already enjoy, and others that we want to try. We see products as ways to enhance that experience, for example, someone might buy a new golf driver, not because it’s so wonderful in and of itself, but rather because it’ll improve her game. Someone else buys a new car because it’ll make his commute more enjoyable.

Once you’ve determined what experience your site is enhancing, then suddenly new options for content, for stuff, opens up. Let’s go back to our outdoors shop as an example. If their focus, their experience, is “enjoying the outdoors”, they could provide a lot of great articles full of wonderful, usable information. Things like:

· How to set up a warm and dry campsite
· How to get great wildlife pictures
· Where are the best places to camp
· How to not get eaten alive by bugs and mosquitoes

These kinds of articles will draw in people and search engine spiders. And as they ad more and more articles to their archive, the spiders and the people will come back, because the site is constantly changing and evolving.

Where can you get such articles? One option is that you can write them yourself. If you’re passionate about your business, you’ve probably got more experience in the focus area than you might even realize. Just tell about it.

There are also a lot of other sites where people share their own articles, mostly in exchange for a link back to their site. is a great place to begin a search.

So, think about “sharing the experience” of your website with your visitors, and watch them come back again and again.

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