And because the degree to which a site is recommended among Internet users plays a significant role in SEO, this will soon lead to even fewer people going to your site in the first place.  This is where the cyclical nature of SEO becomes more apparent.

This, then, begs the question: How do I make my site useful to visitors?  The answer to this may not come speedily, and it will continually evolve over the lifetime of your site.  As your industry and customers transform in big and small ways, so too will the criteria by which visitors gauge the usefulness of your site.  That's why our little craft project from our last post will serve you well for years and years to come.  From now on, you will look at every website decision through the lens of that one question: Is this useful to our customers?

With very few exceptions, you can abide by one simple rule concerning the content and functionality of your site:
If it's useful to the customer, include it.  If it's not useful to the customer, get rid of it.

It's okay to be brutal when it comes to the usefulness of your site's content.  If you have information on your site that you're pretty sure none of your customers (potential or existing) want to know, remove it.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that more is better.  Sometimes, when it comes to content, more is just more.  Likewise, when you catch wind of something that many of your customers are asking about in phone conversations and meetings, take note of it, and find a way to talk about it on your site.  Consider a few easy first steps:

  •  What kinds of tools do your clients use in their businesses?  Provide them with a brief list of shortcuts or tips on how to get more from those tools.  Everyone likes saving time.  If your shortcuts are helpful, chances are your customers will send their friends and colleagues a link to your site.
  • Are most of your clients located in the same area?  Are they all in the same business?  If so, think about adding an updated list of local meetings and events relevant to their industry.  Sure, they can find this info at a variety of other sites, but it would be a lot easier for them (and better for you) if they could get it all in one place: your site.
  • After they buy from you, what's the next purchase your customers will likely make?  If you aren't selling it (and as long as your competitors aren't either), continue to make life easy for your customers even after the cash register bell rings by pointing them in the right direction.  If you sell motorcycles, consider dedicating some space on your site to information about motorcycle insurance, which kind to buy, who to buy it from, why it's important, etc.  Not only will this make your site more useful, but your keyword SEO might attract some prospective buyers who were looking for insurance on a bike they haven't bought yet.
  • One of the best ways to be useful is by answering questions, hence the intrinsic value of FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages.  These pages are not only incredibly useful to your visitors, but the content is going to be naturally keyword-rich.  It's a potent two-for-one: high SEO value (good for getting more people to your site) and high usefulness (good for keeping people at the site and leading to conversions).

These are just a few of the literally thousands of ways your site can be made more useful to your customers.  As with many parts of the optimization process, you will probably have better examples that are specific to your business, because nobody knows your customers like you do.  So be creative, be daring, be fun.  But above all else, be useful.