Last Updated on January 1, 2020
This is our Deep Dive Into Local from July 15, 2019. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
Join Mary and Carrie as they welcome Willys DeVoll to Deep Dive. Check out Willys’ agency & blog at https://willdigital.io/! Today were talking about creating the right kind of content for your local website, how to do it at scale, and how to create content for your brand/location when you might not have access to the website to publish it!
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Carrie: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Deep Dive with Local University. Mary and I are super excited to have Willys Devoll of Gusto and Will Digital joining us today. Hi, Willys. Thanks for joining us.
Willys: Thanks for having me.
Carrie: I’m really excited actually about this topic because we’re going to talk a bit about writing for the real world and for a real customer. I think a lot of times, marketers get bogged down in marketing content. And they’re not really having like a real…they’re not writing a real conversation. They’re not writing real words for real people. You and I, I think, Willys, talked about this a bit at Local University in Austin last year. And how it becomes this wall of words that don’t mean anything to anybody but the marketer that wrote them. And how business owners sometimes tend to talk in the language of their business, and their customers have no clue what they’re talking about. And I’m guilty of it too. Like, I’ll start talking schema, and markup, and DMB, and KP, and, my clients go, “What are you talking about?” Like, they don’t know what I’m talking about. And so I think this is really a timely topic to really talk about, stepping back from the, this is who I am and this is what I do, to the, this is what I need, this is how I buy it, kind of standpoint. My favorite thing to tell people about writing content is read it to your mother, or somebody who has no idea what you do, and ask them to tell you what it means. And read it out loud, read it out loud. I think that’s so important, for sure. So, I think, the first step is kind of how do you decide where to start with your content? How do you get started writing content that’s for real people in a real world?
Willys: yes, absolutely. And that’s something I think about a lot, because a lot of the conversation around writing content, about content strategy, around SEO, is about optimizing for very particular things. Whether it’s a particular metric, whether it’s just optimizing kind of up funnel traffic, and much less about the conversation of how to get what those optimizations are supposed to be. So what are the ostensible goals of all of this content that isn’t just driving metrics that we’ve kind of assumed are important. And yes, to your point earlier, Carrie, if I run a restaurant, the goal is probably some version of I want more people coming to the restaurant, and then coming back to the restaurant later. And that’s an important thing to explicitly call out even if it seems really obvious. And for a lot of businesses, those goals will be obvious. But keeping that top of mind and reminding people, whether it’s a marketing agency partner, whether it’s a freelancer, whether it’s people in house, that that’s always the goal, helps businesses stay a lot more grounded and creating language for actual people, namely, the patrons of the restaurant, the prospective patrons of the restaurant. Again, a lot of this sounds… This stuff sounds so obvious, saying it. But I do think it’s a really important reminder to stay grounded, and that being the goal. And then each piece of content, each decision about how to message the story, and what you offer, stays grounded in those goals.
So that’s a lot of what I wrote about in this article. And yes, remembering that these are real people that you’re writing for. As important as the Google search page is, as important as a lot of these other channels are, you still have to attract actual people who are going through these different services. And that’s something that a lot of businesses I’ve worked with, or even talked to more casually, in a good-natured way, but just missed because they’re looking at these hyper-specific optimizations instead.
Mary: Or a lot of times, I find that there’s too many people at corporate involved. And you can’t provide a clear message because the lawyers want you to say some kind of gobbledygook. I mean, for example, I had a chain of HVAC companies that, I kept asking them, “What’s your guarantee?” That’s the first thing people want to know when before they call you to see if they want you to come work on their air conditioning. What’s your guarantee? Well, our guarantee is here on this page. Well, nobody can understand that. What’s your guarantee? And they could never actually give me some words I could put on a page or in a meta description that explained their guarantee. And that’s sad. That’s absolutely pitiful.
Carrie: I think that one thing that we’ve gotten away from is talking to the people about the business that actually talk to the customers about the business. So guy in the C-suite does not talk to this customer. The people who answer the phone and answer these questions. So, Mary, the best person to talk to you to get the answer to your question, is the receptionist at the individual location who answers that question for people who call and ask her, “Hey, what’s your guarantee?” What do you tell these people?
Mary: Exactly. That’s if corporate will allow them to put what she says online, so that the customers can see.
Carrie: Sure. Absolutely I agree. yes, and sometimes they get in their own way, for sure. But I think, like, pulling that source of information back to the people that actually talk to the customers, the technicians, the receptionist, the customer service people that talk to them every day. Not only that, then using what they talk about, like, the questions that they get every day to develop your content strategy so that you can answer those questions. I think that’s, a great way to develop language. And also using the words that they use, like, HVAC, doesn’t mean a lot to some people. But words like furnace, that makes more sense to some people and also regionally. So, a boiler back east is not exactly a hot water heater. But the words are kind of interchangeable, depending upon what generation of people you’re talking to.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law were old-timer back easters, and everything was a boiler. Even though you don’t have those in Colorado, we had furnaces and hot water heaters, but they just use the word boiler because that’s what they use. So I think that, pulling back from the people who think they know, and talking to the people who do know what the customer is talking what is so important. And my other tip is to create a list of words not to use in the content. I think that’s important, especially if you’re freelancing, you’re copywriting out, these are the words we don’t want to use because people don’t understand what we’re talking about. I think that’s very helpful as well.
Mary: So Willys, how would you say that your thoughts on content relate to the E-A-T guidelines that have become so big with Google over the last few years?
Willys: Oh, that’s a big question. Can you say more, Mary? It feels like you’re moving in a particular direction there.
Mary: Well, no, I think that, a lot of agencies have been really concentrating on the fact that Google is telling their quality raters, that they’re interested in discovering expertise, trust, and authority on business websites. And I’m wondering what kind of content you think is best to kind of satisfy that for Google, as well as for prospective customers?
Willys: yes, sure. I hope this isn’t too evasive. But I think, part of the approach that I’m advocating for here is, you can look at those sorts of, writing for particular formats and optimizations. But that’s got to be so far downstream if you want to even do that effectively. Because if you want to, increasingly play ball with Google that’s increasingly sophisticated, increasingly personalized, and kind of segmented out based on what kind of business you’re dealing with. Google is kind of trying to emulate what real people are looking for anyway. And if you’re always trying to outguess Google, outguessing people’s psychologies, you’re always going to be at least two levels behind. And every so often, you’re going to hit it, and you’re going to get some absolute bonkers month of metrics. And that’s fantastic. But I really think the much stronger long game is to start at the same place that Google is, which is basically, okay, we know that people who are basically looking for a restaurant, or basically looking for a Dtrack [SP], share these three things that seem to be really important. And then try different things to succeed with small focus groups, loyal customers, even family members, you can kind of get to take a step back and test things for you. And then hopefully, that way, you can move in parallel with Google.
And then for smaller things, you can, make little adjustments and obviously do the technical SEO elements. But I really think people get too caught up and a random thing that someone in Mountain View says on a webinar or a tweet or what have you. And it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily inaccurate, but I think it’s just kind of chasing these little tidbits rather than the overall concept of kind of moving in parallel.
Carrie: Well, it’s what we used to call chasing an algorithm instead of just doing what you know works, and making it, a good site for users and doing the things that you know are right to do, you’re chasing this one little piece of this one little thing that we don’t know, we don’t understand this thing that is the algorithm. But we know this one little piece, so let’s chase this. And then you chase it, you get…you almost catch it, and then they’re like, no, we’re going to move it over here. And you can’t ever catch it, it’s like golf, right? You just hit the ball and chase it, right? So, I think you’re right. I think you kind of have to look more…especially for a small business that doesn’t have a team of people that are concentrating on rewriting their content and focusing their content every day of the year, every week of the year, whatever. And they really want to write something that works for them for a longer span of time concentrating on, answering the customer’s questions, I think, is important.
And, Mary, to your point about E-A-T, I think review content, testimonial content kind of ticks all of those boxes.
Mary: I agree.
Carrie: And so, if you’ve got really great testimonials and good reviews, and you’re featuring that on your website, because I’m going to trust my peers saying that this is great versus the business saying, “Hey, we’re great.” I think I’m great too, but probably, meh, okay. But, I think there’s something to be said for that peer validation and working that into your content. Especially as a small business where we see reviews are so important. And reviews and understanding that five star across the board is not necessarily bonus time. You don’t get, like, extra points five star across the board. Actually, think that article Mike referenced in last week in Local said that, like, 4.5 to 4.7 is the sweet spot. So, it’s okay to have somebody say, “This wasn’t great, but they fixed it. And I’m really impressed with how they resolved my problem.” That’s awesome content, as far as I’m concerned, but convincing business owners that that’s awesome content is not easy. So how do you measure… Sorry, go ahead.
Mary: I know that we have had a lot of success with just FAQs. And specific FAQs for specific pages on the website. Carrie’s seeing a lot of success with getting rich snippets in a local area by answering specific questions about something in that area. So I think that’s pretty telling.
Carrie: Sure, yes.
Willys: yes. Go ahead, Carrie.
Carrie: I was going to say I think that that’s the piece that was missing before. A lot of business owners have said to me, “Oh, they’ll just call and ask us.” I’m like, “No, no, no. Make them call and ask.” you want that phone call to be, “I read all about you online, when can you come?” Not, “Tell me all about you.” The longer the call is, we say, the more likely it is to be a sale, but let’s start the sales conversation. Let them know everything before they call, I think, because then you’re more efficient in the value of the call, right?
Willys: yes, absolutely. And I think, from experience, and then there are several studies. I mean, it’s not clear exactly how rigorous they are. But certainly, from experience, it’s very clear that the vast majority of businesses are going to be most successful when the content that they put on primarily their websites, but then also to the extent that they can do it on other platforms too, start as conversational. So obviously, you’re kind of speaking into the void, because you’re not really having the one to one conversation yet when it’s just on the website. But if the customer, prospective customer at this point, lands on the site, and it feels like they’re being talked to in whatever way you can possibly do that in a format. You go a lot farther than just sort of putting up a big plate of, a list of what we do with some highly over-ambitious phrases around. Where we want to be 15 years from now, if we have venture capital funding, and this is a segment that never gets venture capital fund. I mean, we’ve all seen this, people get excited about their businesses, which is great, but then it just becomes a kind of strange proclamation rather than answering people’s questions, speaking in a plain tone about the actual offering that people will get if they come into the store, what have you. So, yes, I mean, FAQs are kind of the most natural extension of the conversational style. But even the value prop can be pretty conversational, it could basically just be an FAQ for what do you do. And if you think about it, in that way, it kind of ends up sounding a lot more human.
Mary: One thing that I’ve… Oh, go ahead, Carrie.
Carrie: I was going to kind of move it to the next thing. So go ahead, Mary, and I’ll…
Mary: I was just going to mention that I often look at corporate sites, big brand sites that seem to be written more for investors, or for the big shots in the company, than for actual customers. How does somebody go about, somebody that’s lower on the totem pole there, a local business, go about trying to fix that on a corporate website? Do they have any hope? Because I’ve never found a way to do it. A website’s concentrating on impressing new franchisees, or current investors, or trying to stroke the C-suite. And customers are kinda the last thing they’re thinking about?
Willys: yes, I think… of course, it’s very context-dependent. I think if you’re running three locations of McDonald’s, it’s going to be pretty hard for you to, call up Chicago and start shaking up mcdonalds.com. But no, I think, on the one hand, if you’re kind of, in a smaller situation, where there are a manageable number of locations, and there is some kind of conversation between, particular franchisees and the corporate office, I think you have some opportunity to kind of gradually gather a narrative and build a case around. These are the kinds of things we are consistently talking to customers on the phone about. And in this space, we have kind of similar chains that are doing this kind of question answering on their website, completely handing it off at the pass. And then it can deal with the more sophisticated, subtle, complicated in human conversations and actual conversation. I think that’s the kind of argument that can be persuasive. But yes, it probably caps out relatively quickly when you’re dealing with a huge corporate behemoth that’s over multiple, regions, or even countries.
Carrie: So I think there’s a few things that you could do measurement kind of sticks in my brain, like, how can we show them, this created a lift, because we use this kind of voice or this kind of language. When you don’t have access to the website, that’s really hard to do, but you might have access to your own social media. So maybe you start crafting that information and brand voice on Facebook, or via your Google posts or something like that, and then showing the lift and interaction if you can get it, maybe that helps start persuading that C-suite that, maybe we need to change our story, or our voice a bit to meet the customer, not the C-suite. Because honestly, the individual Domino’s owner does not care about corporate, he just wants to sell pizza. All I want to I do is sell pizza. I don’t care what corporate wants on the website. Just sell pizza, right? So, I think there’s things you can do. What are some mistakes people make as they start to craft that voice for their company? Because I know that there’s kind of, like, you could get off on a tangent or go down the wrong road. You see this when you get those people that have very confrontational brand voice and it backfires on them. Which I think when it works it’s really cool, but when it doesn’t work, it’s bad.
Willys: yes, I mean, the good news there is, in the Domino’s example, any company of that size, and companies much smaller than Domino’s, but certainly the Domino’s size, have thought quite a bit about what Domino’s is supposed to sound and feel like. So, at the individual location, there’s absolutely going to be guidelines that you can call a corporate office and get very easily about what Domino’s is supposed to sound like. So, yes, then it’s just a matter, to your point, Carrie, of which platforms do you really own and where do you have the freedom to kind of exercise that voice in the ways that you find most appealing to your particular customer base? And then, yes, over time, how can you measure those enough to kind of reasonably extrapolate out and start building the case for a bigger change? But yes, it really is, I think, a place where very small businesses have a big advantage because they inherently own all the platforms. And the fewer platforms you own to do this kind of work, the harder it is to build the case because it’s just really hard to tell what’s working and what’s not. Unless you have the flexibility to move based on the feedback you get.
Mary: yes, I have a soft spot for the tiny little businesses. One of my favorite clients over the years has been a single person garage door business, that initially he came to me wanted to rank in this huge area around the city he lived in. And I talked him into trying to narrow that down into places closer to him. And he did that. And he eventually gave up trying to fake these additional locations. Because he was getting so much real legitimate business from his one really good listing. And his website that he wrote himself where he says, “I’m Brad and I personally guarantee my work,” and shows you his picture. I mean, I think that that’s a lot of what agencies need to try to help small businesses get back to, is being human, being local. And saying, “Yes, I am accountable for what I do online and offline.”
Carrie: I have a locksmith that’s in the same position, and, garage door guys and locksmiths are kind of in this, no, no category in Google. They get persecuted a lot, but there’s a lot of garbage in the same category. And we’re in the process of rewriting his content into, “Hey, I’m Will,” picture of Will. “This is my car. When you call, I show up. I don’t sell your lead to anybody.” He’s in Nashville, so he’s, fighting against a lot of lead gen, crap locations and things like that. And I think that, you’re right, the small guy has so much flexibility and control that that inherently is their advantage over the corporate. So, corporate might have the behemoth website and the corporate marketing team that does all their stuff for them. But say, like, locally, we just had our Strawberry Days Festival. corporate Domino’s, they don’t give a flying F about Strawberry Days Festival. But all the local pizza guys were all running Strawberry Days Festival specials. And Domino’s was like, well, we got this carryout deal that corporate will let us have. They can’t be flexible with what’s going on in the local area. So, I think, there’s definitely something to be said for tackling those mom and pop conundrums. Mary and I like those. We also like sticking it to the man, so you know. I like it when my client out ranks the Home Depot and all kinds of things, for sure, because I think that there’s a lot more opportunity there. They can do whatever, they want because they own all the pieces, for sure.
Willys: It really is feasible in this space. I mean, you don’t want to sound pollyannaish about it. But for the kind of, single practitioner, a locksmith, a garage door guy, whatever it may be, realistically, they don’t need the maximum number of leads humanly possible in this space. It’s just it’s well beyond what they can probably implement. It’s well beyond, anything they can possibly scale to in the near term future. So if you say, “Okay, I’m not going to go for every little traffic optimization technique, but I am going to double down on I’m a single practitioner, I’m from this community, I personally guarantee the work.” These sorts of things that, again, if you’re just reading through press releases about the Google algorithm, you’re not going to get to, but intuitively are absolute, gangbusters winners.
And if you go around the community and ask, “Okay, if I told you this person was going to come, get you back into your house after you lost your key, would you rather they do the sorts of things that really match well with the Google algorithm, or personally guarantee the work, it’s this guy that maybe a friend of a friend knows, he’s lived here his entire life?” It’s very clear which one’s going to win. So, yes, it’s hard to initially track some of this stuff, because the sample sizes are going to be small. And because a lot of this stuff is softer, it’s not going to be clear which screen is really doing the work, it’s going to be a kind of preponderance of good content. But it definitely works over the long term. And we see this time and time again, especially with these smaller businesses.
Mary: One of the things that the little guy, local location has, that he can really affect are his reviews. I mean, just be one of the best of your kind. And people will find out about that. this is not the typical Walmart. Our Walmart has a manager that cares, our Walmart has this, our Walmart has that. So, I think that’s one of the big advantages they have because a lot of times with a big company, the brand itself is getting all the bad reviews from every bad player across their universe. And you can stand out by making sure that you really are one of the good guys.
Carrie: Well, that goes into the feedback loop of, taking care of your employees. So, yes, you’re part of…you’re a cog in a bigger wheel, like a Walmart location, or a Ralphs or whatever. But you’re taking care of your employees, they’re super happy to be there. And they do things like help out that single mom who is short on her grocery budget, and you get in the news for that, and that just snowballs into this thing that can really help you at your specific location. So, yes, the little guy has control over everything. But there are things outside of the website that the bigger guy or the franchisee, or whatever, can control as well. And reviews absolutely are one of them. And making people feel valued in their jobs, and also making customers feel valued in their choice to shop there, or to go there, or to use you. And, the biggest compliment Mary and I get from our clients is, “Too busy, can’t talk.” That’s my favorite, like, you know. “No meeting this month, too busy. Too busy, can’t have a meeting.” We’re like, “Okay, you go, Clark. Go do your thing. Next month, hopefully not.”
Willys: yes, and the other thing too, is taking care of your employees. There is this kind of, pretty broad ecosystem of how all this stuff kind of plays with each other. And on reviews, I’ve seen more and more lately, and maybe this is a good idea for some kind of semantic clustering research project or something. But, you’ll see on reviews for places that are really succeeding, instances where people very clearly were engaging with a business online, then they visited or purchased or whatever it might be, and wrote a review that is inflected by how much research they did about the place online before they interacted with the business. So it will be like, “I was skeptical, but Mike really is one of the nicest guys in the business.” They’re not wrong. And it’s like, okay, they were reading all these other reviews, they were reading the website. And so, you get these really is or it’s not wrong, or these…they’re kind of old fashioned phrases a lot of the time. But yes, the more you can kind of use the reviews to get more good reviews, which in turn inflects kind of the overall web presence. But then the web presence sets the contextual frame for people’s interactions, which are then more positive, or the in-person interactions kind of confirm what you already said you did. And yes, it does become this kind of big ecosystem of, hopefully, success. It can go the other way too, but…
Mary: Can go the other way.
Willys: Do it the right way. Hopefully, it’s a positive feedback loop that helps the business.
Carrie: Sure. And, that feeds kind of into that ecosystem of, more and more when we do branded search, we see sites like Indeed and Glassdoor. And those places where you can review an employer come up, and so that feeds into that ecosystem, “Oh, they have happy employees. That’s a place that I would like to do business with.” So you’ve got the reviews that are on your own site, and you’ve got the content that talks about the customer. And they’ve got their phone number and their hours up to date, and their, knowledge panel, and they’ve got posts that talk about offers and deals, and they’ve got great reviews from their employees. That’s all building this ecosystem of content that’s convincing somebody to use that business, whether it’s to shop there to hire them, or whatever. And so, I like the idea of not just thinking of the content that we create or the content that we encourage to be just on our website. I think we need to think about all the places where we can create content and, not press releases.
Mary: No, not press releases!
Carrie: The only way a press release, in my opinion, is valuable is if I’m talking about news, in Ithaca, New York, a new business opening, and I send it to the newspaper in Ithaca, New York, and they put it on their website. That is the only value of a press release as far as I’m concerned. People still talk about them. Clients come to us, “We’re opening a new location, do we need to do a press release?” No. This is not SEO anymore. Stop doing those. Sorry, rant over. Well…
Mary: So, do you have any more recommendations for SMBs in particular? Well, essence, I think that’s where all of us kind of are trying to help them out more than the big brands.
Willys: Absolutely. I think one big thing is, writing is so tied for a lot of people to the English classes that they hated in middle school or high school, or they weren’t as successful because they just they weren’t interested, or they had trouble or whatever. It comes with a lot of trauma for a lot of people. that’s all fine. I think, given that, for the people working in this field, who really want SMB, single-location owners to succeed. It’s important to say, over and over again, we’re not asking for, Melville here. This is not art writing, this is not highly technical, legalistic, writing, it’s not specific or scientific. You just have to say what you would say to a customer in a very, very, very slightly differently tweaked version on your website. And it’s this, hi, to your example earlier, Carrie, “I’m Dan, I do this thing. I personally guarantee it.” This is not overwrought, complicated writing.
Mary: I’ve been doing it for 20 years. I got trained here. the real story.
Willys: Yep. Yep. Because if you’re already doing it with customers, and it’s working, there’s absolutely no reason to go back and do some overwrought corporate speak. I mean, it not only will it not help, it will probably actively hurt the business. So, just do what you’re already doing. And put it in words, which, almost everyone is capable of doing. And, that’s kind of a hard hill to climb for a lot of people just because it is just like, “Oh my God, I have to write. I can’t believe it.” But it’s…
Mary: Well, I think sometimes the agency or the SEO, just interviewing the person on the phone gives them the information they need to actually do the writing part of it.
Carrie: Well, I have my clientsjust send me like five bullet points on a topic. And I can turn that into content for that page. But I want my client to start the…because I don’t even know where to start on some things. Like, I had a client that sold industrial die. I have no idea where to start with that. And they’re like, “Well, we’re corporate, our clients are corporate, blah, blah, blah.” I said, “yes, but they’re still just people and they have the same visceral reaction to things they can understand.” I would like to talk for a couple of minutes, Willys, on structure of content on a page. Because one of the biggest downfalls of content creation are paragraphs of content. It’s this wall of words that we meet when we land on a web page. What are your tips for kind of getting beyond that stuff that nobody reads?
Willys: yes. Sure. I mean, I think this is where…and I didn’t want to talk to specifically about this in the article because I think it gets a little too jargony. But thinking about how you structure the content on your site as a design project first, before you’re even thinking about the words. So think about…and, you can do this with actual users. But think about the people that you think you can convert, whether it’s a prospective customer, or maybe someone who you want to kind of pullback in. And the journey that they’re going to go through looking at this content, interacting with it and making decisions. And that’s going to be pretty different for different kinds of businesses. If it’s, a Domino’s, right? It’s probably a pretty short, Google Domino’s, Google pizza, whatever snap decision instructions ongoing. Whereas HVAC is probably a longer process, for instance.
But if you can map that out, and even if it’s just, you’ve got three loyal customers, call them up, ask them, “Hey, the next time you’re in, can we go through kind of like how you found this business? Or if I showed you a few screens, could you tell me does this makes sense, is this consistent with the service we’re actually offering.” And from there, you’ll have a kind of, you know…you can make it a diagram, no words at all, right? But basically, shapes of like, “Oh, they started this screen, typically. And they kind of go through these three things.” And then you can get a really specific sense of at each point, what question you need to answer, even if it’s what the heck is this? At the very top of the funnel, and then all the way down to, “When are you open so that I can come in?” And then, if you have that level of definition on the questions that you need to answer, I think it becomes very easy to avoid paragraphs because if the thing you need to accomplish. at this particular point in the user’s experience, is when are you open? Who in the right mind would write a paragraph? I think paragraphs often come from not sufficiently defining the problem and what needs to get solved. And so it’s just everything in the kitchen sink. Oh, we do this. We started at this time, 14 years ago. We changed to this new building, and we had the staff member. And that all might be well and good, but it’s not sensitive to exactly where the user is when they see this thing.
Carrie: yes, I used to speak on a panel a long time ago with Scott Brinker, who’s really kind of a brilliant conversion rate, kind of guy. And he used to tell a story about Bronto, which was email marketing. And they increased their signups for their particular product that they had, by making their signup process multi…their form, multiform with just a couple questions on each one. And it went from like a two-page, two-step, to like a 14-step. But it laid out like a timeline of how things work and filling in this information. And this is why we need this. And it increased their conversions on that form. So it’s not you would think shorter is better, but one form with 30 things on it, it’s like, you know the doctor’s office questionnaire where you’re like, “Oh, God! Again!. No.
Mary: I don’t remember.
Carrie: …No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m adopted, I don’t know.” So I think if you can, like, ask one question and say, okay, you’re at this part in the process. And this is why we need to know this. And you kind of lay the content out like that, I think that’s a brilliant way to do it that kind of makes it interactive for the user. So they’re actually doing something while they’re reading. So instead of just scrolling down the page. So, I think there’s a lot of different ways to present content. The SEO side of me is like, “Yes, but we like all these words on the page.” And there are ways to present the content in an interesting way and still put the words on the page. If you can’t figure out how to do that, you need a better design and development partner. Because, the good ones, you say, “This is what I want to say, and this is how I want to say it.” And they go build it for you. Mary and I used to work for an agency, and anytime we went to the design development department and said, “We want to try this thing this way.” It was always, “Nope, can’t do it. See you later. That’s not how we do things.” And we’re like, “What?” And so we would do things, like, I would try and build it to, like, show our boss what it would look like. And then he would have to go to the design development to get around their no wall. But, I think there’s so many things that we can do to marry SEO with that better experience for the user.
And I think it starts with content. Because if we don’t have content on a website, it’s probably not going to rank very well, unless it’s a huge link… has great linking. So how do we present that content in a way that doesn’t present this wall of words to the user, because they don’t read that stuff? They need to consume it in small pieces, like, I like bullet points for making your point and, creative use of bold and italics to really pull the main points out of the content. And so, I think not only is the content written for the user important, but presented to the user in a format where they’re actually going to consume it is also… Like, those are like a 50/50 piece. I can write it for them, but if I just give them a wall of words, they’re not going to consume it.
Willys: yes, and one thing that comes up all the time is, if you’re sacrificing the actual experience of a prospective customer for nominally better SEO, you’ve completely missed the boat. You can’t be optimizing SEO at the cost of someone who’s already expressed intent. Getting through to actually making a purchase or a visit or whatever your particular goal is for your line of work. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s much more valuable for you to get the people who are already there through successfully, than get, a couple more clicks at the top of the funnel. yes, I mean, the acid test is, and maybe eventually, I’ll kind of write out more specific guides for particular verticals, or whatever it might be. But I think almost every business can get better at a lot of this stuff very quickly, by just when they’re putting new content on or they’re looking at existing content that they think is a vulnerability. Just ask, “Would a human talk this way?” And if a human wouldn’t talk this way, you have to fix it. That’s step one. Let’s talk like a human and you can tweak it later, you can get in different keywords or whatever might make it a little bit better on the margins.
But first and foremost, it’s got to be, imagine what these people are doing. They’re in the car waiting for the kids to come out so that they can drive them home. Okay, they have 37 seconds to read this thing. It has to kind of emulate a human conversation because if it doesn’t, your web presences are out of that kind of positive feedback loop that we were talking about before with reviews and what have you. If they’re just out, people are going to gloss over. So, that’s the acid test. Would a human talk this way? And until you get to the, credit card payment screen or whatever, that has to be kind of wonky, and probably you’re using a third party for, anyway. Everything should pass that test and work on it until it does.
Carrie: For sure.
Mary: Those are great words. And with that, we probably should wrap this up.
Carrie: Wrap it up? yes, okay. Because we could go on about it… I could go on about it all day long.
Willys: yes, me too.
Mary: I know. I think we all could.
Carrie: We could just share horror stories. I think that would be fun.
Mary: Well, we’ll have to do this again.
Willys: yes. I would love that.
Carrie: What not to do, and here is why. Well, Willys, thank you so much for coming on with Mary and I today and talking about content because, like I said, I think it’s the building block. It’s the base of how we sell people and I think it’s probably one of the things that is the worst on most websites, to be honest. So, anything we can do to help people do it better, I think is very helpful. And so, thank you so much for coming on the Deep Dive with us and we’ll see everybody on the next one. Have a great day everyone.
Mary: Thanks, Willys, of Will Digital.
Willys: Thank you both.
Carrie: And Gusto. Bye.
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