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SEO Best Practices: Does the Site Feel Sterile or Human?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Dodgeballseo best practices does the site feel sterile or human

It’s no secret that many people are browsing the internet because they’re looking to do business. But that doesn’t mean your company website should be cold and impersonal.

Think about it: you’d never want a face-to-face meeting with a potential client or customer to feel sterile, distant, or fake. Making the same effort to be personable, interesting, and approachable in your content marketing will make a stronger first impression that’s better for business. Here are some steps you can take to make a shift toward warmth.

Welcome People into a Good Story

In their book, Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut write:

“It is no secret that a story is a powerful way to convey a thought, feeling, or idea. Storytellers from Aesop to Jesus knew that using tales and parables made it easy for broad audiences to understand, recall, and even spread a kernel of wisdom. So, where do strength and warmth fit in? There is a significant body of research demonstrating that our brains are wired for stories. We can tell our friends what happened in our favorite movies far more easily than we can reel off the five points of a strategic management plan, because the devices that make stories work—heroes and villains, plots and subplots—stick with us. That makes them the very best way to get in the circle: Everyone likes stories. We have all been listening to them since childhood, and doing it relaxes our critical faculties and lowers our guard. In that respect, sharing a story with others is an inherently warm experience.”

So, in making your website content less sterile and more human, figure out whether your site is telling a good story. You can do this by asking questions like:

  • What journey is someone on when they’re learning about our products and services?

  • What questions do they have?

  • What has been frustrating them?

  • What are they excited about or looking forward to?

  • What threats, worries, or painful experiences can we help protect them from?

  • How can they use what we offer to be the hero for their family, their workplace, or their community, by achieving the goals they set out to achieve?

Once you have the answers, you’ll have insights into web page layout. Putting the “hero content” (about how you can help the customer be the hero of the story) above the fold, means site visitors will get the most compelling reason to stick around first, in a way that feels much more warm, helpful, and approachable than shouting BUY NOW!

Show People Who You Are

One of the easiest ways to remind people they’re working with people is to show them. Pictures of people can really bump up conversion rates, which, in turn, can improve search engine rankings and SEO. One company saw a 95% increase in conversion rates by making one change on their website: swapping out pictures of paintings with photos of the artists who painted them. Turns out seeing the real people behind the art was far more compelling for potential buyers.

You can do this on your site in a few creative ways:

  • Photos of your team providing your service on landing pages and service pages

  • Pictures of people enjoying/benefiting from using your products

  • Photos of the people customers are chatting with when they use live chat

Pictures of your team having fun, enjoying what they do, or having a warm interaction with a customer, teammate, or community member will go a long way toward improving your website performance.

Choose Stock Images Wisely

It’s true. Stock images get a bad wrap. And rightly so. In many cases, it’s immediately obvious that the frowning guy in a button-down shirt isn’t really a customer who’s in need of your product and services.

But if you need to rely on stock images to protect customer privacy, to align with your aesthetic, or to stay within budget, you can make more strategic choices along the way. Here’s what marketing expert Neil Patel recommends when choosing stock images:

  • Make sure expressions look genuine, not forced, rehearsed, or staged

  • Use high-quality sources for stock images (free isn’t always better)

  • Test pages with stock images and see how they perform to be sure you’re on the right track

If pages with stock images aren’t converting, try swapping that image out for a different style, using a colorful custom illustration, or comparing the stock image page performance with one that has real photos of your team. Do more of what converts, less of what doesn’t.

Invite Dialogue and Feedback

One of the best ways to learn how your branding and website come across is to ask. Create content that invites dialogue and feedback through:

  • Welcoming headers, subheaders, and page titles

  • Simple forms that make actions clear

  • Conversation-focused CTAs

  • Engaging with customers’ likes, comments, reviews, and messages promptly, positively, and proactively

Making your online customers as much of a priority as folks who meet with you in person means your website should feel warm, inviting, and personable. Don’t be afraid to use relatability, humor, and honesty to great effect in whatever content you create.

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