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August 11, 2010
What's Happening on Your Website?
 
As a PR pro, been to your website recently? We mean, really to look around, gauge what's happening there -- or might be happening? 

A problem with websites is that a lot of energy gets invested into creating them initially, so we step back and look at our handiwork, put out a sign (SEO tactics) to let people know we're there, and move on to other things. The website doesn't change and can well become increasingly static, or out-of-date. This is particularly so at a time when blogging and social media, truly interactive activities, are becoming so prominent on the Web.

Your Web site may not be speaking to your publics as it once did, and needs to be revisited if not remade. Web site awareness is now a prime tenet of PR 1.0. It's your storefront, and you wouldn't want your storefront to have a faded sign or ragged awning, would you?

Our thoughts turned to updating websites upon reading Mandy Boyle's post, "It's Not always About the SEO," on the Search Engine People blog. Boyle is a graduate student at Marywood University and wise beyond her apparent years when it comes to website strategies. 

"You wouldn't host a dinner party with just yourself, right?" she asks. "Think of your SEO (Google) strategy the same way. Sure, you can make a delicious pot roast and include all the best sides and desserts, but no one who comes to your party can actually enjoy it unless it's on the table. You have to serve it up. Show off your skills as a host or hostess. Make your visitors feel like they're part of the party!"

This is the sort of infectious enthusiasm that needs to go into website design and be maintained on your site these days. Nearly every day should be a "party" on an effective site. Is it giving visitors reasons to tarry there, grasp your message, and either connect with your organization or return periodically?

Boyle offers some pointers for retaining visitor interest:     
  • Once the visitor gets to my site, how can I offer value?
  • Am I making information available that's useful?
  • Does the visitor feel safe on my site?
  • Does he or she feel considered?
  • Is the information I'm putting out there interesting enough to be shared?
Website design isn't as much a function of aesthetics as it used to be, but more now of interactive appeal. Does your site invite roaming and give an interested visitor material to take away? Web sites now are more like vestibules than storefronts, or should be. You might have an organizational blog attached to make yours into a reading room.         

"When crafting an SEO (search engine optimization) strategy, blog post, or even a tweet," Boyle advises, "take the time and think about how it affects more than just rankings."  

A site can be high on Google, but low on engagement appeal. And the latter is crucial to Web success

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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