Something weird seems to be happening in the world of marketing.
Perfectly sensible clients, trained in strategic thinking, market analysis and sophisticated sales & marketing techniques have suddenly started putting their brains in neutral when faced with the task of making creative decisions about their company’s website.
If they were looking at a script for a TV ad they’d be saying things like “No, that doesn’t quite represent the humorous personality of our brand”.
If they were looking at a sales letter they might say “It’s almost there but the headline doesn’t really sell the offer hard enough.”
If they were looking at a brochure design they might say “That body copy is hard to read, make it black and slightly bigger”.
And yet, it seems to me, a lot of these critical faculties seem to fly straight out of the window when they’re faced with a website.
Because the SEO people have scared them. Blinded them. Addled their brains.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. SEO is vitally important. If nobody can find your website, nobody can read about how wonderful you are. You must do SEO. No question. (And, by the way, I’m just talking about on-page SEO here, not off-page, linking back from other sites etc.)
But SEO isn’t everything.
You must not let SEO drive the entire structure and content of your site.
You must not let it totally dictate your copy and headlines. You must not let it turn your website into a me-too, pile of bland garbage.
You must not let SEO turn your site into a glorified Yellow Pages entry. But so, so many sites look and feel exactly like this now.
On-page SEO works by ensuring that your site features the words that people use when searching for your type of product or services. These keywords can be in the headlines, the copy, the links, your site’s URL and so on.
But the problem is, everyone uses broadly the same words to search for you. And these tend to be boring words that simply describe the sort of product or service they’re looking for: cheap shoes, call centre services, freelance copywriter Cambridge. That sort of thing.
These are the keywords that get you zooming up Google.
So what most of the SEO boys do (and they are boys, usually, with scraggy beards) is replace your vibrant, engaging SELLING copy with a load of keywords.
So your site races up the ranks. But its selling power has been killed at a stroke.
The headlines and copy become bland and generic. Your site feels just like everyone else’s. Because the SEO boys have ensured it IS just like everyone else’s.
Because it uses exactly the same words.
Your powerfully unique proposition “We deliver in six hours or your money back: guaranteed” is replaced by “Courier and Parcels Service Manchester”.
“Are you making these five crucial mistakes on your website?” is replaced by “Website Design and SEO Service Aberdeen”.
“Heineken Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach” is replaced by “Beer”.
It really has become that crass. Astonishingly so.