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This chapter is from the book

Engaging with Web Visitors through More Targeted Search Referrals

Until now, we have focused on using keywords to attract a target audience to your content. But keywords are not the only parts of Web content that determine whether your content is relevant. A user can find the content on a page (with the same keywords) relevant one week and irrelevant the next. You might ask: How can that happen? If keyword usage determines relevance, how can attracting users to your pages though keywords drive users to information that they find irrelevant? Well, language is a lot more complex than creating a simple matching algorithm between keywords and users. If it were that simple, Web writing and editing would be a matter for technology and would not require human decisions. Fortunately, making good content decisions based on a variety of variables, including keyword usage, requires humans.

Suppose that a visitor to one of your pages has viewed all the information on it, but there have been no new updates since then. The content might still be relevant to the visitor's interests, but no longer relevant enough to reread. In a marketing context, users might come to your site one week to see what you are offering, and the next week to see how those offerings fit their needs. Once they are aware of your offerings, if you simply drive them back to the same page through search, you're creating an irrelevant experience—one that could end in a bounce and a bad user experience.

There are many more variables that affect relevance than we have space to list. Those are for linguists to determine, rather than writing instructors. But we can point you to one important variable beyond keywords that affects whether visitors will find the content on your pages relevant: purpose. If you tune your pages to the activities your users hope to accomplish when they arrive on your pages, you have a much better chance of getting them to engage with your content. Engagement is one way we measure relevance: If people click a link on your page, we can at least say that link is relevant to them. Sometimes engagement is merely a question of reading the content. Sometimes it's clicking a link. Sometimes it's getting users to comment or fill out a form. There are countless calls to action that a Web site can have—another key difference between print and Web. In print, you simply want to get your reader to read and comprehend your information. Perhaps you want the reader to be entertained or merely informed. However, you never want the reader to interact with a book—to write in the book in hopes that you will write back.

But on the Web, engagement or interaction is typically exactly what we want users to do. If all we want them to do is read and comprehend, we can provide PDFs for printing and reading offline. But good Web content is interactive. It compels the visitor to take action. So, in addition to tuning your page's content for keywords, you also must tune it for the interactive purpose of that page. The real trick is mapping the keyword phrase to the page's purpose. This isn't as hard as it might seem. It is merely a question of adding a verb to your keyword phrase that describes what you want users to do when they get to a particular page. For example, one page can have keyword phrases with learn in them, another page might have keyword phrases with shop in them.

The question is: How do we help users land on one of our pages that is relevant to a keyword and related to their purpose in seeking the information? We will attempt to give some answers to this question in this book. But a word of caution: There are very few general answers. Different environments demand different answers to complex search questions. You will never achieve perfect engagement levels; because of the complexity of Web interactions, some visitors will bounce. But we can give you a framework for answering the question, and improving your engagement rates with writing that is more focused on the purpose or user goal of the page.

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