Go for pow over wow

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I probably won't receive much favorable feedback from the more artistic corners of the Web design community, but I think it's important for marketers to stay extremely focused on their very specific goals for any Web site, as there is a dangerous tendency to place an emphasis on style over substance, sizzle over steak.

Although this article is about improving on the user experience rather than the search-engine optimization crawler experience, the parallels are significant.

Sites that are content driven and don't rely too heavily on techniques like Flash to communicate a message are more favorably interpreted by the bots from the engines, while also creating a clearer path for a visitor from a conversion standpoint. When reviewing a site to weigh the pow versus the wow, there are two important questions to consider:

What are the expectations of the typical site visitor?

This is a bit of a trick question in that I believe there is often a disconnect between what searchers want and what marketers think they want. Lately I am seeing this quite frequently with real estate development Web sites.

The real estate developer is caught up in the aura of the project and in setting the appropriate tone with site visitors. While these are important objectives and painting the right picture in the eyes of prospect is important, it shouldn't come at the expense of a slow-to-load, difficult-to-navigate Web site that has little or no chance of doing well in the natural search results.

What is the primary objective of the site?

This question should be the driving force in the development of the site. Is the goal to be a glossy brochure site promoting or advertising a product or service? Or is the goal to accomplish a particular objective, such as cultivating a new sales lead or consummating a sale with an interested buyer?

If the answer is that an action step needs to occur, then the site should be conceived from that perspective. The site still needs to establish credibility, but a lot of fluff can often be removed that gets in the way of conversion activity.

This is not to suggest that all creativity should be thrown out the window, but priorities need to be recognized and clearly communicated to the Web designer. For situations where there is not an opportunity to start from scratch, it is often possible to modify a site to increase its effectiveness.

Driving qualified traffic to any Web site in a cost-effective manner is challenging. Creating a site that makes a compelling case for the visitor to take the desired action step is imperative.

Andrew Wetzler is president of More Visibility, Boca Raton, FL. Reach him at awetzler@morevisibility.com.

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