You're probably writing content for your site for many different reasons: so the search engines will see your keywords and rank you highly, to enlighten visitors and potential customers, to answer questions, establish yourself as an expert in your field, and so on. But do you know the main purpose of your writing?
According to Stone Reuning, web pages typically have one of two purposes, though they're often a mix of the two. Abbreviated in marketing speak as “push” and “pull,” you need to decide which purpose you have in mind before you even start writing. So let's look at both of them and see what they mean.
A page designed to “pull” is written to attract, entertain, and inform readers. Most how-to articles fall under this category. The idea is to bring readers in and keep them there, examining and exploring. This is the kind of page you might comfortably associate with someone who is still making up their mind about what to buy; they're still in the information-gathering stage.
A page written to “push” is an entirely different animal. Intended to sell, these pages often feature multiple calls-to-action and lots of persuasive language. These pages are designed for readers who are closer to making purchases. They may already know the advantages of buying a particular class of product, like a laptop or digital camera; you just need to show them why they should buy YOUR brand or version of the product.
I mentioned earlier that web pages are often a mix of push and pull. That only makes sense. As Reuning explains, “Say you write an article about some feature of your product and how it's useful to solving a particular problem. If you fail to include a 'call-to-action' and the reader gets to the end, they're not going to know where to go and therefore, leave your site.”
One of the biggest mistakes that beginning salesmen make is failing to ask for the sale. On the web, you ask for the sale with your call to action, whether it's a visible link, icon, registration button, offer of a ten percent discount if the reader buys before a certain date, etc.
But Internet users typically do not want to see advertising and a hard sell. They get that from ad banners on lots of websites, and have learned how to tune that out. Often, they're looking for information, but they want to be able to make their purchases easily when they're ready to buy. This means you may have to play a balancing act between push and pull as you write your content.
If you do decide that you need to write some content that does double duty in this way, you should still be clear about which goal will dominate the piece. If you don't have a target clearly in mind, how will you know when you've hit it? As Reuning notes, “the big point is to understand the purpose of a page before writing it. Are you trying to entice new people into your site or are you trying to motivate them to take action? Don't simply go at it with the idea of giving the search engines some great content to gobble up.”
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