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It's About Answering Their Questions, Stupid: What Goes on the First Page ?


The other day, Stephen Downes posted the graphic above--without comment, which it didn't really need because the graphic says it all. And the graphic reminded me of a wonderful recent blog post by Kivi Leroux Miller on creating website content your visitors really want, which suggests that most people who visit your site or blog or whatever come with specific questions and your job is to answer those questions. Usually the question is NOT "What is your mission statement?" by the way.

The thing is, to answer the questions, you need to be listening. Usually when we think about what to put on a website, we consider what WE want to share, rather than thinking about what it is people want to know. It's the same problem we have so often in training. We spend so much time focused on the knowledge we want to transmit, we don't stop to find out where the questions are.

For many of our online tools, we have stats that can give us insight into where people have questions. This morning I helped a client think through how to re-organize the front page of a wiki they've been using to share professional development resources with staff. Rather than guessing what was important, we took a look at the "Popular Pages" in stats. That told us what people wanted when they come to the wiki, so we put those 7 most popular pages up front and then put everything else deeper in the site. Voila--less cluttered.

Google Analytics is another invaluable tool. What keyword searches are bringing people to your site? What can these searches tell you about the questions people have and how can you answer them immediately?

Comments and emails are another clue--what are people asking about? What seems to interest them the most?

The danger I continually find with social media is that we still have this broadcast notion of content that can trip us up at the oddest moments. We need to stop thinking that social media--or any online content, for that matter--is first and foremost about us. The best stuff is always, always about our users. We just need to start listening to their concerns and questions and responding to that. Then we can't go wrong.


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Yes, great post!! You've said it so well, something that can't be repeated enough!

Thanks, Rachel!

Michele, this is a great reminder for all of us - and I love that the infographic concisely explains my ongoing hate relationship with university websites. It's absolutely true that we must deliver what are visitors are asking for, rather than what we feel like sharing, especially if we want them to do business with us.

Hi Lisa--I have to say that I laughed out loud when I saw the graphic. My 18 year old is heading off to college next week and every time I go to her university's site to find something, I can't because of all the useless crap that's on the front page and the poor navigation. Don't even get me started on how deep you have to go to get to info on how to pay your bill! You would think they'd have a big fat button that says "PAY TUITION HERE!," especially in a recession! :-)

Michele, thanks for the suggestions on how to find out what people are looking for on your site. I'm going to have to check out the page views for the new website I designed for my school and see if I made good decisions!

Let me know what you find out, Claire!

Good post Michele - very relevant, especially now when most people work on the cusp of information overload.

Interesting thoughts re: use of Google Analytics. Here's some food for thought: recently, I did some SEO work for three separate organizations. As I normally do, I checked their GA metrics. Sad to day in all three cases, the use case that most visitors carried out was Google >> [Company X] Index page >> Current Vacancies...


That's a sad sign of the times, Michael. . .

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