Five years ago, I wrote an article for Professional Marketing, the monthly publication of the U.S. branch of PM Forum: The Professional Marketing Forum, entitled “Adapting to the Monkey Mind: Creating Successful Web Content.” A year later, in 2006, Twitter was launched — and since then we’ve seen a virtual explosion in the use of social media, blogs, microblogs and other communications tools, from Facebook and LinkedIn to YouTube and Reddit.

(For more information on the use of social media for businesses, check out this Q&A that I wrote for one of my clients last fall.)

Instead of becoming stale (five years is forever in internet years!), it turns out that the message of my earlier article has become more relevant than ever. As website visitors are both seeking and receiving increasing amounts of information every minute of every day, your own website needs to get better and better at attracting visitors, keeping them there and — most important of all — motivating them to act: to buy your product, to pick up the phone and give you a call, or to pass the word that you are a reliable source of high-quality information and services.

The best way to accomplish this is to recognize that website visitors come in three main types: lookers, searchers and readers. If I were to compare these groups to animals roaming the African savannah (or their modern counterparts, diners at the local all-you-can-eat buffet), I would call them nibblers, grazers and omnivores.

The first and largest group — lookers/nibblers — come to your site seeking to establish your validity and credibility. They want to know that your firm actually exists and that it does what it says it does.

The second, somewhat smaller group — searchers/grazers — have specific information requirements. They want to read the bio of a particular attorney they met at a conference, or they want your high-level take on recent legal or business issues and events.

The third and smallest group — readers/omnivores — will devour your entire site, will literally read it word-for-word.

The problem is, too many websites are written and designed for the last group. There is a tendency to post everything online, at once. Lawyers who are justifiably enthused about their practices want to tell the full story — what they do, how they do it, when they do it, for whom they do it, and so on — in infinite detail. The fear is that any single, potential client won’t realize what great things can be done for her, or her business, because it wasn’t specifically mentioned or described on the website.

That may be true for a few, individual visitors. However, you’re more likely to turn off and turn away the vast majority of visitors who just don’t have the time or motivation to wade through pages and pages of detail.

For more information on how to satisfy all three groups at once — and to hear me confess that sometimes the text isn’t that important — take a look at the entire article.

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