The Real Invisible Web
By: Dan Jeffers - Search Engine Optimization
Why You Can’t See How Damaging Your Web Content Strategy Really Is
People usually talk about the “invisible web” in terms of web content that is difficult to surface using search engines. That’s not important right now, though. Not to you. What’s important is that you see a whole category of web content that other people don’t, and you don’t realize that it’s invisible. You do, I do, everyone who produces web content does.
We see our own web content, and the content of groups we think of as competitors, in ways nobody else does. We see it with all the optimism and self-doubt, the fragile comparisons, and the unstated associations that come with being the source, the author of this content. It is ours, it is ourself. Or at least some kind of offspring. We may know pretty well what all is wrong with our content, but we can explain. Just listen to us for a second, and we’ll point out that we had not choice but to put all that irrelevant material on the front page. We really want to be more engaging, and we’ll get to it. But our press releases are just there already, and what’s the harm in posting them up as blog posts?
Our optimism, our plans, all the associations and explanations are invisible to visitors to our website or social media accounts. They only see what’s right there on the page. Though we all sort of realize this, I don’t think we give it enough credit.
Nobody Stays To Find Out
In real life, we can usually ask people to overlook things. If you walk into a store, and it isn’t what you expect, you’re still in the store. The salesperson can ask if you found what you wanted, giving the owner a second shot at satisfying your expectations. The store may also be full of things you never knew you wanted, but now that you’re in the store…
Online, this does not happen. Sure, there are websites that people go onto and explore, but these are well-designed to encourage that behavior. An unfocused, off-target, disorganized website is abandoned within 2 seconds. If a visitor wants something specific, and doesn’t see it clearly on the first page they come to on the website, that website disappears from their universe.
Your Competitors May Not Do Any Better
We fully advocate doing a competition review. Understanding how you stack up against your online competitors is a critical part of web content strategy. BUT. Many websites are bad. Probably, many of them belong to your competitors. Just because they are your competitors in real life doesn’t mean they are the biggest competition for online attention, either. It could turn out that many people searching for your service end up thinking there isn’t really any good answer, and spend their time focusing on something else. Every other website that comes up during their search process is competition.
If your direct competitors are using the same bad practices as you, then you are probably ALL effectively invisible. In this case, the competition review may give you a false sense of security. You may come away thinking that you can reach people be being a little bit better than they are.
But the reality is that you and your competitors may all be part of the invisible web. To succeed, you need to look at yourself as an uninformed visitor might. Someone who doesn’t know your name, and isn’t committed to the belief that the solution must be on your website somewhere. If you can retain this person’s attention for at least 2 seconds, you may become part of the actual, visible web that they experience.