The power of a website comes from the people using it, not the people making it. – Chris Edwards
I’m planning on creating a niche site on a particular topic – so it made sense to review what’s out there on website design – what are people talking about now?
Not a whole lot that’s new, apparently.
As a first pass it feels like there are three things you should start by considering.
Let’s start with intent. What does that mean?
These days almost everyone goes to Google as a first step to doing anything.
But what is it they’re trying to do?
Well, it could be any number of things – from is that discolouration on their arm a wart to how to change a washer on a specific brand of tap.
There are billions of people searching for billions of things.
Trying to figure out their intent is probably not the best idea in the world, come to think of it.
Instead, the world of internet search actually seems to function a bit like the way a market operates.
The function of a market is to match buyers and sellers through the discovery of a price that both can settle on.
The function of search engines is to match people with questions and people with answers with a page that one creates and the other uses.
It’s usually a mistake to think that you can control a traded market.
And I think it’s probably just as big a mistake to think you can control an information market – especially as Google and other search engines get better at figuring out what people want rather than what they ask for.
What does this mean for my new site?
Well, it probably means that I should create a site that I want to use – something that answers questions that I have.
That’s the core – if you start off trying to create something that you think someone else needs then your site isn’t anchored anywhere, it’s simply floating free hoping for an audience.
But if you start with a site that “scratches your own itch” you have an audience of at least one and that’s a start.
From that anchor point, it’s time to think about searches.
The general advice on searches seems to be look at what people seem to ask for on a search engine.
Type in a couple of words and autocomplete suggestions drop down – presumably showing you what other people have searched for before.
Now, a good tip I came across was the a-z principle.
Let’s say your site has to do with horses.
You type in “horses a” and make a note of what comes up in the suggestions dropdown.
Slightly unexpectedly, these results include the words arse, ankle and glue.
Do that for the remaining b-z options and go through them.
I’ve done this for the site I’m thinking about and need to go through the result – but you would think that this approach will give you a useful list of search terms that are being used – the voice of the people, in a way.
I think then what might make sense is to look at these terms and keywords in a connected graph – how are these terms related when you put them down with nodes and links.
If you want to think about planning content this kind of graph can give you an idea of the area you need to cover and perhaps tell you how much you need to create.
With some niche areas you can write a small amount and rank pretty well.
With others, you need more and also need to be prepared to keep it updated to keep the search engines happy.
A third thing to keep in mind is what stage is your user at in their journey?
This transcript on search intent is quite useful and explains that people might be looking just for information or actively seeking a business relationship.
They might be carrying out a transaction, like buying something on Ebay or looking for local information, like an event.
The stage they’re in will affect the intent they have when carrying out the searches they do.
So what you’ve got to construct in your site is the thing they interact with when they’re in a particular stage.
For example, your content comes up when they’re looking for information and they can find your contact details and check how credible you are when looking to do business.
These three points are just a start – something to consider when building a new website.
There are enough sites out there and many of them will be competing with you.
At the same time it’s an information market – you will find a match with people looking for the information you’re putting out there.
You might as well try and build your site for those particular folk.