So today is a special day. My father celebrates his 70th birthday — aside from my outing his birthday and age (fortunately he probably won't see this), today will be just another day for him. Needless to say, he's not one for celebration. In fact, I think he sees most days as just another day, but in a good way. Let me explain.
My father comes from a time long before the web and computers. He didn't go to college, and fortunately grew up in a day when you could do a lot more with your life without a college degree behind your name — though I think he'd manage just as well even today. As a young kid in the 70's, I remember hanging out at his gas station, and then I spent a fair amount of the rest of my childhood, on through high school, growing up around a Chevrolet dealership as he worked his way up from mechanic to Service Manager, which he fulfilled for longer than I can recall. And not just any Service Manager — he was one of the top 65 Service Managers for GM most of that time as well. I'm sure he considered those to be "just another day" kind of days as well. As you can imagine, I got a huge dose of customer service throughout my life.
My father is true old-school, coming from a time when you did whatever you needed to to take care of the customer. And it shows. The dealership he was at continued to provide customers with loaner cars when their car was being serviced for an extended period of time, they had customers that would come in from all over to buy or get their vehicles serviced, and my father would go out of his way to help a customer with whatever they needed. To this day, I struggle to remember a time when I went anywhere with him and someone didn't come up to him to say hi or thank you for something he did. While he's left the dealership and now semi-retired, he continues to work, and more importantly, continues to practice these old-school ways.
So what does any of this have to do with the web? In this modern technology world with websites, e-commerce and search engines delivering all the information we seek, there are still some important elements of the pre-web era that we need to carry-over. I have no doubt that much of my father's success in life has been his "do what it takes" attitude, especially when it comes to taking care of customers and dealing with people. The web often removes some of that personal connection of a brick-and-mortar world, but that's no reason not to do everything you can to take care of your site's visitors.
SEO has become about so much more than just content optimization, choosing the right keywords and search engine spiders. SEO is really just one aspect of search marketing, and marketing in general, and successful SEO practitioners realize this. It's important to make sure that a website focuses on the needs of the audience. Is the site laid out in a way that meets the needs of the visitors? Is the site focused on selling products or services, or is it focused on helping the visitors solve their problems? Is the site nothing more than an electronic brochure or shopping cart, or does it provide visitors with useful information to help and educate them?
Set out to "do what it takes" to satisfy and help your visitors. Give them a great, user-friendly experience and give them the information they need to solve their problems. As the web continues to evolve and mature, the most successful sites will stand as a resource, providing information to help site visitors. Sure, low or at least competitive pricing may be important, as will a user-friendly return procedure, but gaining their trust up-front will come from helping them out with nothing expected in return.
Oh yeah, and this useful information, this resource you put together to help your site visitors and customers, could serve as a tremendous lead generator and traffic pull. What happens when you put together the definitive source of information on a particular problem or need? If it is done well, then you have probably created great linkbait that will naturally encourage people to link to that information.
Hopefully you'll also make sure that the information is easily accessible to search engine spiders, and with a little keyword research before developing this content, you'll also have great insight into the optimal terms and keyword phrases to title and pepper this content with. And don't forget that this keyword research may also point you toward the content, the problems and issues, people are looking for.
What's old is new. Whizz-bang on the web may be entertaining, but at the end of the day, people are looking for substance. They are looking for information. And for those who are willing to do what it takes, many of these people will be more than happy to tell everyone they know in person, but also to blog about it, to link to it from their MySpace or Facebook page, to write reviews, or whatever else. It's great knowing that some things do stand the test of time. Deliver a great experience, and you'll be rewarded many times over.
Thank you, dad, for teaching me the importance of delivering on your word, for doing whatever it takes to not only satisfy but to exceed expectations, and for always finding joy in whatever I do. Happy birthday dad.