You know all about your customer. Who they are. What they need – why they need it.
And you intimately understand your product or service. Why it is the best answer to their need. Why it is better than your competitors’. How it is unique.
(If you don’t? Please spend some time thinking about these questions. They are critical to the success of your business.)
But are you helping them along in their journey to buy? Are you there with the information they are looking for every step of the way?
If you are like most website owners, probably not.
Recently we completed an SEO content audit for a client who had strong marketing expertise and lots of content. But we pointed out some disconnects. They immediately saw the problem and commented that their site was missing the span of the customer’s journey.
It was clear on the site what their customers sorely needed. And their delivery results were detailed. But they hadn’t built the bridge to get the client from one to the other.
Many Different Entry Points
Customers don’t all arrive at your website at the same point along the path. Some are brand new, just realizing they have a problem. Others have researched and know of several solutions that might work. Or she’s talked to others and has some ideas. Maybe they are making the final decision between your product and a competitor’s when they come to the site.
Each of these people is looking for very different information.
And typing very different searches into Google to find you.
Stages of the Customer Journey
What are the steps? Think of a purchase that you’ve recently made online. You probably went through a process similar to this.
Learning – You just heard about something new that intrigues you and you are trying to learn all about it. You are interested in general info on the topic or even related topics. You are looking for photos, ideas, stories or other peoples’ experiences.
Researching – You realize this is something you have a need for. You are more focused now and doing some initial fact finding. What choices are available? What would best fit your situation?
Comparing – You have a clearer idea of what you want and are narrowing down to a few top contenders. You are probably reading reviews and fact sheets.
Deciding – You are looking for assurances that you are making the right decision. Case studies, reviews, testimonials and comparisons are all important.
Purchasing – Ah, the end of the journey. Hopefully it is clear, quick and easy.
Thinking About Your Customer
- Do you understand each of the different points along her journey?
- Do you have information (a page, blog post, FAQ, photo gallery, testimonial, case study, before/after) that answers his question at each point?
- Is there a next step clearly laid out for her?
- And is each page focused around a unique keyword phrase, so that the searcher easily arrives at the answer he needs?
Congratulations – you have a customer’s journey.
It may not be a straight line – someone may skip some steps. People enter at different points.
But if you have each covered in a journey with SEO and content on your website, you have a much better chance of answering their query with the right information at the point that they are looking for your product or service.
Let us know in the comments what part of the customer journey you think you might be missing.
Image: “Wonder of Nature” courtesy of JON_CF creative commons license
Sounds like a silly question. But we work with new clients time and again who do not have the username or password to access their own site. To make it easy for the owner, a web developer or marketing company had set up the site and handled the registration and hosting for them.
This is fine until the developer moves to a sandy beach in the Pacific, gets hit by the proverbial bus or makes a sudden career change. You need to make sure you have the keys to your website, just as you wouldn’t buy a house without getting the keys from the realtor.
Let’s talk about the key elements surrounding your website that you absolutely need to control.
Domain Registrar and Web Host
Some people get confused about the difference between your site’s domain registration and its web host. A domain registrar is the place where your site’s URL is reserved and managed.
The web host is where your actual web site files are located.
In some cases, they could be the same company. But in many cases, your domain will be registered with one company (such as Network Solutions) and the website hosted by a different company (such as GoDaddy). You need access to both of these accounts (username and password).
If you are not sure who your site’s domain registrar or web host is, there are websites that provide free searches to look up domain ownership records. You can go to http://whois.domaintools.com and type in your domain name.
The Registrar listed is the company that holds your domain name for you.
The Registrant is the owner of the domain – that should be YOU. Make sure you or your company is the name and address listed, not your web developer, an employee or any other person or organization. (Note that if your site is Private so that no one can see the ownership details, you may see something like @domainsbyproxy.)
If you or your company name is not listed, get in touch with the person currently listed and ask them to change it. Most will do so with no hesitation.
If this is not an option, your next step would be to contact the registrar and let them know that you are the rightful owner of the domain and need to change the contact information. Registrars will often ask you to fill out some paperwork and ask for verification documentation, such as a utility bill and a driver’s license before reassigning ownership to you.
Social Media Accounts
Even if someone else is helping you out with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and all the other ways you can communicate with potential customers, set up the accounts under your own name and an e-mail account you own.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Your site should be set up with both of these. They are free and they give you so much information about who is coming to your site and what they are doing.
If your web designer or SEO company has set these up for you, make sure that they have added your Google account as an Administrator. That will allow you to change the ownership to yourself. If you don’t have a Google account, it only takes a couple of minutes to set one up.
Some Others to Check
Here are a few other behind-the-scenes logins that you may not have thought of and should check on:
- WordPress or another content management or e-commerce platform.
If your site or any part of your site is built with WordPress or another content management system like Drupal, you will also need the user name and login to access the backend.
And you need ADMIN privileges if you don’t have them already.
Also, WordPress and similar platforms store your site’s content in a database. Make sure you also have the database name, user name and password.
- E-commerce platform — If your shopping cart uses Magento, Big Commerce or another system, check that it is set up in your name and you have the login details.
- FTP login – FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is another way to retrieve or upload site files besides the host’s control panel. For FTP you need a host name, user name and password.
Of course you need control over your own online world. It takes a bit more time, but your Future Self will thank you for it. This is why we always walk site owners through setting up their own accounts.
Did I leave you with some questions? Post a comment and I’ll explain. This Is Important.
Image: “Locked Heart” courtesy of Jose Manuel Rios Valiente creative commons license
Now that the sun is shining and the days are sparkling fresh, I’ve been spending more time in my garden. Perhaps you have also? While weeding, it occurred to me how similar SEO is to gardening in many ways. (Yes, I may have SEO a bit too much on my mind.)
Even just a bit of weeding makes the whole garden look better.
Your garden will bring you joy and visitors even if it is not ready for the Annual Garden Tour. And adding any bit of appropriate, visitor-centered SEO strengthens your entire site, increasing its overall quality.
Gardening is never “done.”
It never ends, does it? New plants grow and need special care, some die away for the season, there is always more to learn. SEO also needs continuous tending as the rules change, you observe how search engines react to your work and you understand how visitors find your site.
You need to clear out the big weeds to see the smaller ones.
There is a strategy involved and one area affects another. Sometimes one problem shields another from view and it’s just not visible on a first pass. Technical problems and errors often need to be cleared out before more subtle issues appear.
A variety of plants is more interesting.
To keep interest in your garden through all seasons, you need a mix of plants. There are so many ways to create combinations in your garden. And there are many different ways to let both visitors and search engines know more about your website.
A beautiful, well-maintained garden attracts visitors.
The scent, color and texture of a garden weaves a tapestry of seduction for onlookers, critters and insects of all kinds. A well-designed and carefully thought-through website likewise draws in both searching visitors and search engines.
How does your garden grow?
A tip of the hat to All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.