If you want to throw a party on your blog, and you found a way to get Google to attend, how would you dress – casual, semi-formal or formal? Let’s take a look at what that means, so you can decide.
First of all, we’ll just assume that you’ve written a great piece of content, sure to be shared, and you now just want to be sure that your party is memorable, that everyone has a good time and tells all their friends how great it was. Now we just pretend for a moment that we’re throwing a party, just to give a different perspective. All you really have to do now is decide what sort of atmosphere you want, given that Google is on the guest list. So bear with me for a bit.
Here, you do things the way you always do. Make your guests feel welcome, provide good food and drink, music, entertainment… whatever your shtick is. You meet your guests at the door, spend some time circulating among them and when they’re ready to leave, you thank them for coming and wish them a good evening and a safe drive home. You’re a good host.
Of course, the guest from Mountain View has attended a fair number of parties before. They probably note that you’ve done a nice job of creating a pleasant atmosphere for everyone, and if asked, will tell people exactly that. But the odds are, after they attend their next party, yours will fade from memory, since it wasn’t really anything special.
This is a little different situation, so you’re going to do more than just invite guests into your home. You may do some decorating and move furniture around to adapt your home more to the visitors and the night’s activities. Rather than whipping up some chips and dips, you may decide to hit the corner deli for a few trays of their special hors d’oeuvres and finger sandwiches.
In other words, you’ll try to ensure that all your guests (especially that Google person) are comfortable and are moderately impressed with how efficiently you’ve put together a very pleasant evening for everyone. As they’re leaving, you may walk each out to their car, recommending the easiest route back to the freeway and seeing them safely on their way.
Again, this isn’t your Google-guest’s first rodeo. They’ve been to some pretty nice parties, so while the impression you convey may be thoroughly positive, it just isn’t reasonable to expect them to still be talking about it for weeks or months and a dozen parties later.
This is your chance to make a big impression on all your invited guests, especially that bigwig from Google! You go all-out, preparing your home for the party. You rent/borrow/buy a large dining room set to handle all the guests, have a full-service caterer prepare and serve a memorable dinner. You buy a couple of cases of very fine champagne, plan an eloquent toast, even hire a marvelous harp and violin duo to provide atmosphere. Your valets and butler for the night greet your guests as they arrive, parking their cars and taking their coats. All in all, a stellar job as host, aimed at providing a perfect experience for all your guests.
Going the extra mile, you’ve even had the caterer come prepared to serve the guests their selection from a menu of three choices: fish, fowl or red meat. About an hour before the planned dinner hour, the caterer offers the choices to each guest, so that their selection can be prepared to their preference.
Your visitor from Google has attended a lot of parties, many of them formal. Only in very rare instances, however, have they been so impressed. The ability to select their preference for dinner was a nice touch, and the Chateaubriand they opted for was indescribably delicious. And they certainly had never been offered a Pinot Noir as wonderful as the Bollinger Grande Année 2004 you provided. This is a party they won’t soon forget. And they’ll certainly be sharing the experience with their friends back at the ‘Plex.
Okay… What’s the Point in all this?
You’ve probably stumbled to part of my analogy by now, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Certainly, making your visitors’ experience pleasant and productive is an obvious goal for any website. But the key is to surpass their expectations so that they’re left with a lasting impression. Go that extra mile.
The invitees to a party at your home arrive with expectations of a pleasant visit, something to eat and drink and a particular experience, whether that’s meeting others or simply a night of diversion. Provide that and they’ll probably happily accept your next invitation.
If you offer your party guests more than they could possibly have expected, however, you can be assured of making a more lasting impression – one that will have them eagerly anticipating their invitation to your next soirée.
The same is true of your website.
How Do I Do that?
People arrive at your site seeking something, right? Whether they’re looking for a product, information or entertainment, we all know that filling that desire is the secret of our site’s success. As anyone running a highly competitive online business (say a real estate or pharmaceutical business) can tell you, though, there are a lot of sites offering that. If you want to create a reputation for a great site or a fantastic party, you need to go the extra mile. Provide them all that and then some.
And strangely enough, there’s a way to do that and get significant benefit from the impression it makes on Google, as well.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear me say that inbound links aren’t the entirety of a linking strategy. Linking out is extremely important, too. Anyone that hasn’t realized that just hasn’t been paying attention. Google doesn’t enable us to get any benefit from hoarding link equity.
If you’re one of those people that likes to chase Page Rank, you are undoubtedly already making some effort to direct your inbound link equity to internal pages that you want to rank with. Odds are, though, that you’re primarily considering your interests and Google’s viewpoint when you decide where and how to place those links.
As a buddy of mine likes to say, “search engine’s don’t buy nuthin!” The only conversions you’ll be seeing will come from your visitors, so make those links helpful to them, not the search engines. When someone comes to your site to see your awesome blue widgets, tell them all about them. Show them some great images, maybe a video – show them your great USP – do all the stuff you should already be doing. Then, add a link or two to other sites with valuable information or similar products.
Yes, you read that right. You may even offer a link to a competitor now and then. I wouldn’t do it a lot, and only if it’s a site that really offers some valuable information or instruction (or their product’s price is higher or quality is lower). But it’s not necessarily a bad idea. High quality niche blogs, how-to sites, Wikipedia, comparison sites… these can all add a great deal to the user experience.
Of course, as always, you need to be careful about the quality and relevance of the sites you link out to – that goes without saying. The point is, what you’re trying to do here is enhance the user’s experience. Provide them with as much as you can, then provide them with a couple of sources of more information.
What you’re doing is becoming not only a resource, but a hub. This doesn’t happen by adding a link to a blog post now and then. It needs to be consistent. And the quality of outside information you’re linking to has to add value to your users. They’ll see it, they’ll remember it, bookmark it, come back to it and recommend it. But equally important (or at least, nearly), Google will see it, too.
Your site, John’s Blue Widgets, linking out to Frank’s Widget Maintenance Blog or a Wikipedia page on the Widgets establishes a citation that shows Google that you’re adding relevant value. Even non-linking citations do that. But by adding the link, you’re also creating even greater value for your visitors, which enhances your chances of engagement.
And there’s even an outside chance that one of those sites you link out to will return the favor down the road. That’s generally a good thing.
This theory isn’t new or ground-breaking, it’s been around a while. In fact, Rand did a Whiteboard Friday on it with Marshall Simmonds back in January of 2010, and it wasn’t even new then. But it is probably one of the most ignored opportunities around. I highly recommend you give it a try – you may be surprised by the results.