I‘m frequently asked some variation of the following question: “...how can you do effective search engine optimization on my website if you don’t know my business?” This question reflects a legitimate concern. I’m going to give you the answer. I use a very old technique that has, for reasons I don’t understand, fallen out of fashion. Wait for it … ready? I ask questions. Lots of questions. I listen to the answers. I take notes. When people begin to freely speak about their business it isn’t long before you hear and see the passion. But it’s more than just asking questions. It’s asking the right ones. Like what makes you different than your competitors? I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t every web designer/SEO consultant ask that question? I would hope so. But here’s the thing. The answer, I mean the real answer, often doesn’t come as a direct result of asking the question. It comes later when defenses are down and the tension has left the room. I look for eyes to light up and words to flow freely. This doesn’t always happen. But I always expect it to. And when it does I know I found the answer I’m looking for and the key to making their website stand out. I’ve found the why.

The Deep Dive

It’s also about intangibles. I call this process of asking questions and immersing myself in my clients’ business the deep dive … and my commitment to this process is how this nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn found himself in church one Sunday morning. You see I was hired by a local church to redesign their website – to bring it into the 21st Century (their term not mine). We had several meetings where I asked lots of questions and took copious notes. That’s my normal process. I heard words like welcoming, non-judgmental, accepting. I’m pretty sure that most churches these days would use the same words to describe themselves. I’m also pretty sure that the description is not always accurate. Toward the end of the meeting the Pastor turned to me and nonchalantly said “why don’t you come to services next Sunday. We start at 10.” I didn’t hesitate. “Great idea,” I answered.

Sing Hallelujah

Now I’m used to going to Sabbath services at my local synagogue where 10am means 10ish and those who show up usually err on the side of ish. I couldn’t assume that church goers had the same lax interpretation of time I was used to so I dispensed with the ish and arrived at 10 sharp. It was a beautiful Spring day. The Pastor, who was stationed outside as parishioners were arriving, seemed genuinely happy to see me. He seemed happy to see everyone. In fact, everyone was happy to see everyone else.

Conclusion number one: this church really was welcoming.

Inside the choir was singing. I love singing. The service this morning featured a sermon delivered by a guest pastor from Boston. Thoroughly inspiring. I was introduced to a man who had moved to the area from Texas and chose this church because he and his husband were – here is that word again – welcomed.

Conclusion number two: this church really was accepting.

After the service, we moved into the church meeting hall for coffee and pastries – and more singing. I took the liberty of wandering off by myself. I do this sometimes because it gives me the opportunity to pick up tidbits of information I can use to craft a powerful message for a client website.

The Takeaway

Back in my office on Monday I organized all the information from my deep dive and forwarded the list to the church’s web committee. None of the ideas on the list had been discussed during any of our meetings. The committee was thrilled. So was I. So was the Pastor who kept saying, “what a great idea.” The truth is they were things I thought of during my visit. See what I mean about the deep dive?

And Now Back to You

What do you think of this deep dive idea? Did the company you worked with to build your website or do an SEO campaign take the extra step? If you’re in the middle of the process now it’s not too late to ask them to. I’d like to know your thoughts.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Röck

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