“I know I have to dumb down my website,” a business owner told us. He had built his own website, and it contained some good information. We had some suggestions for ways to make the site communicate better with search engines and perhaps also with prospective customers.
Dumbing down wasn’t actually what we had in mind. However, I could see where he was coming from. The highly technical language on his homepage was not, we felt, what people would type into the search box at Google. We also thought that his site visitors might not actually be staying to read all the good stuff he had on his website.
Does that mean it has to be dumbed down? I certainly wouldn’t put it that way. Clear, strategic, and responsive to the needs of your visitors doesn’t equal dumb.
Here’s another way to look at it:
You need to communicate with robots
Before you even get a chance to share your knowledge with human visitors, you have to make it clear enough to search engines that they’ll offer the site to people. If you’re offering geothermal heat pumps, “high efficiency home comfort systems” isn’t really a smarter way to put it — but it’s harder for search engines to figure out.
Think about what people might type into a search box when they need what you have to offer. You might offer arthrocentesis or synovial fluid aspiration, but we’re willing to bet that “arthrocentesis” is not the first Google search people make when they are going to end up needing your services.
Again, going with “joint pain” for the first keyword you work on is not dumb. It’s not even dumbing down your description of your services. It’s just using terms your clients and the search engines will recognize. You honestly can’t expect an algorithm, however, artificially intelligent, to see “joint pain” and think “arthrocentesis” when considering what page to show the searcher.
You need to answer “Am I in the right place?” before you answer anything else
Visitors who reach your website via search will spend a few seconds (5-12, typically) deciding whether they’re in the right place before they settle in to read what you have to say. That means that you have to show what you offer immediately. Your homepage is greeting visitors, offering them a seat, maybe giving them a cup of coffee — not dumb, but different from meeting them at the door with a disquisition.
When it comes to health and wellness, we know that people usually lead with a problem. The Mayo Clinic offers 33 different causes for fatigue, including jet lag and cancer. Chances are good that people suffering from all 33 of those conditions will start a search for a solution by typing in something like “Why am I tired all the time?”
The landing page they reach at your website — if you have the solution to one or more of those problems — should make it clear immediately whether you have something to prevent jet lag or support for cancer screening.
You need to provide plenty of the information your visitors want
Give your visitors what they want: your knowledge and expertise. Whether it’s knowledge about the new shoe styles or about the relative safety of competing hip replacement devices, make sure they can find their way to the things they want to know. Your navigation and site search tools should lead people to their destinations quickly without requiring them to read through lots of varied information to find the answer to their questions.
Organize and present your information to your visitors in ways that will be useful to them. Make sure, too, that your website does its job for your company as well by offering your goods and services to visitors along with that useful information.
Then your content can be as smart, sharp, clever, and even erudite as you want…and as your visitors need.