It's Time To Listen To The Advice You're Getting

While researching topics for this week’s Search Insider, I came across an article summarizing Google’s most recent updates to its Webmaster Guidelines. Clicking through to the actual document was the recommendation that Web pages should be created “primarily for users, not for search engines.”

That seems fairly obvious. Do businesses really need to be told that that the whole reason behind making oneself visible online is to connect with customers, who are actually people, not algorithms?

Sadly, the answer is probably yes. Throughout my career of asking questions about what works and what doesn’t in marketing, too often the answer boils down to (in some form), “Know who your customer is, and what they want.”



Seriously? Understanding that your customer is a person with a problem to be solved should be Marketing 101. But somewhere along the line, the basic principle of providing something valuable for someone else has gotten lost. Maybe it’s this era of Big Data. We’ve gotten so consumed with the ability to get as much information as possible that we’ve forgotten how to use that information to create the bigger picture.

Or maybe we’re just enamored with numbers. We’ve become so focused on the number of engagements — or possible engagements — that we’ve forgotten to put a value on those engagements in any meaningful way. There’s been so much value placed on reaching as many people as possible that the idea of reaching the right people has become devalued in the process.

Or perhaps it’s just a matter of looking for the easy way out. It’s simple to pepper a Web page with buzzy words and phrases intended to attract attention. It’s much harder to do the research, understand what a potential customer might need, and provide a solution. But, as with so many things, the path that involves the harder work often provides the best results.

Certainly some are doing this. They’re listening to the customers, creating Web sites that are geared to the people behind the search, rather than the search itself. But there are clearly many others who are not. (Why else would Google feel the need to state its first basic principle so plainly?) It's time to finally pay attention. I'm willing to bet the companies that do will still be around in a decade.

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