What’s missing?

This question is so much more effective than “What’s wrong?”

Looking for something wrong means being critical. Looking for something missing means being creative. Instead of looking for problems, asking what’s missing looks for solutions.

“What’s missing?” is an invitation. And we all like those.

When I’m asked what’s wrong with a website, I look for an answer to what’s missing instead. And it’s almost always the same thing: an identity.

I’m speaking not so much of the site’s brand as humans perceive it – although that’s often absent as well – but as the world’s most important artificial intelligence sees it.

Google Knows What’s Missing

You’ve created your website out of nothing. Google’s job is to view it as something – but what? How can it know what’s important and which searchers should be sent to you?

Google is hoping that your site has a specific purpose: “This is where locavores find organic produce,” or “People learn how to play better attacking chess here,” or “The best free sci-fi e-books are announced here every Monday.”

Sites like that have a purpose. Yours doesn’t. That’s because your site is missing a content strategy. Which means that Google has no idea what you are up to. Which means that strangers won’t discover you. Which means you’ll never thrive the way you were meant to.

(I say Google as a proxy for all search engines. But in the same way that Amazon dominates the world of e-books, Google dominates search so much that you can ignore the others.)

Here’s what you need your content strategy to answer: How do you want to be known?

Your content strategy is the first part of your site’s search engine optimization – its SEO. SEO is the secret voodoo that tells Google what you do and why you do it better than other sites that Google might send its searchers to.

Good SEO Needs Three Things

  1. Strong content that answers questions people ask (a content strategy)
  2. Effective internal tags and links (how your site is organized in a machine-readable way)
  3. External links to demonstrate authority (links to your site from other sites – especially high profile ones)

For maximum Google affection, your SEO tactics also need to include making your site faster and more mobile-friendly. But these three basics matter more first.

The quick skinny for your content strategy is to make sure that each page and each post on your site answers exactly one question. Don’t “muse.” Don’t journal. Answer questions. Because the people on Google are always asking them.

Then ensure that the sum of these posts gives your entire site a recurrent topical theme. This doesn’t mean stuff the same keywords over and over across your site, but it does mean write strong cornerstone content that’s thematically related, addressing how you want to be known from numerous angles. Write often about different aspects of the same topic, but not in the same way and not with the exact same phrasing. Google is smart enough to understand synonyms and varying word order. This makes each page independently useful to Google while still identifying your site’s overall purpose.

Google’s bots are smart, but they’re not mind readers. Give them a content strategy they can understand.

Items #2 and #3 in that list above? Tags and links? That’s coming soon. Want to make sure you don’t miss those? Click for the latest digital strategy insights.

(Can’t start creating better SEO because you don’t have your website yet? First things first – you need a domain name.)

Glenn Miller's Newsletter – The Recess Bell

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