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May 21, 2007

Tell me why you’re Different

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It’s Monday, it’s gloomy and I’ve got a question for you: If it’s our differences that make us unique, interesting and worth knowing, why do we try and hide them? As a site owner, why would you waste your entire home page telling customers how you’re just like everyone else?

You sell car parts too? You guarantee your low prices like everyone else? You’re located in the same neighborhood as all those other car places? Your site looks just like everyone else’s? Huzzah; let’s be friends.

Seriously, it’s all well and good and special that you’ve been able to match your competition, but that doesn’t make me want to buy from you. You have to set yourself equal and then you have to prove that you’re better. I want to know why you’re different, better, and prettier than those other guys. Why are you worth my time? Why should I care about you? Your site text, and especially your home page, is valuable real estate. It should be chock-full of reasons why you’re different and therefore better, not stuff to bore me.

While I was stuck in traffic All Day Saturday (thank you Just Another Meeting (J.A.M.) mentality. The one where you half ass your way into the conference room for your weekly Monday morning meeting (M3), spin around on your spinny chair a couple times (the same spinny chair you always sit in), and then shoot spit rockets at the wall while 8 of your peers agree that the best course of action for client X is the same course of action you take for every client. Don’t even pretend you don’t know exactly what he’s talking about. That process you pretend to go through in order to justify that you needed to have a meeting in the first place? Yeah, don’t do that. That method is broken.

Instead, Seth proposes the following:

"Instead of approaching that moment as JAM, maybe there’s a different way. Instead of focusing on how similar this time is to last time, instead of realizing that the similarities demand similar approaches, maybe, just maybe, the team could focus on the differences. How is this opportunity different? What could we try that might have a radically better outcome?"

As a search engine optimization company, it would be easy for us to look at the sites for Client A and Client B, decide they both need some traditional optimization work, and then present them with carbon copy site assessments complete with best practices and little value. And though that would save us a lot of time, we don’t do that. We realize that the strength and power behind every site is in the details. It’s about focusing on and highlighting what makes you different and why you stand out.

When you design your Web site, or even your business model, don’t make it a carbon copy of your competitors. Yes, there will be some similarities; there needs to be. Some degree of "likeness" builds trust and credibility for your company. But realize that in order for you to be successful you have to offer customers something they can’t get anywhere else. Make your uniqueness the theme of your site and break out of your routine.

It’s tempting to follow the competition or use the same formula today that you used yesterday. If it worked last time then, by golly, it’ll work this time. And it might work, but it’ll probably be boring and it won’t make you better. It won’t give users a reason to buy from you, do business with you or even remember you. It will just show them you’re the same as everyone else. Yawn.

And I won’t lie to you. It’s very possible that you’ll try something new and fall on your face, at least the first time. Not every change you make to your site or the way you deal with customers is going to be positive. Sometimes there’s a good reason that old philosophies have lasted ten years, but you won’t know that until you dare to switch things up. Change your site design, craft your landing pages and ad text from scratch, find a new angle, etc. You won’t know what you can play with and what you should not touch at any cost.

Kill the J.A.M. approach and mix things up. When you go into next week’s M3 pick a different spinny chair and change your scenery. When you’re redesign your Web site, make a list of all the things you need on your site and then throw away the old template. When you’re dealing with customers, know ahead of time what makes your product different and approach them in a new way. You may not always get the exact reaction you’re after, but at least you’ll get a reaction. Bored, glazed over eyeballs are useful to no one.

You get above average results with above average effort. As Seth has argued in the past, What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

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3 responses to “Tell me why you’re Different”

  1. pat writes:

    “poorly illustrated SEO insights sprinkled with fart jokes”

  2. SEO Honolulu writes:

    umm.. ok pat
    Anyways, I read Seth’s article this morning and thought he made a great point. The one thing that I think that needs to be figured into this equation is that sometimes, you have to go on the Xerox route when it comes to coding the website for usability purposes.
    I mean, either the navigation will be on top, down the left, or maybe down the right. But usability has to be a top priority in the optimization campaign.
    Otherwise though, one size should never fit all for the rest of the campaign :)

  3. Matt B writes:

    Heh. SEO_Honolulu, you seem confused… I think Pat was using his tagline to explain “why he is different” (which he certainly is) :P

    Great write-up Lisa.



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