Category: Practice management

So You’re An Authority

Gavel showing authority

Let’s assume you’re an authority in your business world. If so, these questions should be easy enough to answer.

Questions for the Accounting Authority:

  • What’s your specialty?
  • Who (what kind of person) would say that you really make a difference for them?
  • What plans do you have for maintaining your reputation?

These questions all have to do with face-to-face interaction.

Now let’s look at your authority from another perspective, namely, that of the person who finds you via your website.

Here are the same questions about your authority website:

  • Does the visitor sense immediately that you are an authority and with what specialty?
  • Is it clear who (what kind of person) will benefit from your expertise/ experience?
  • Does the visitor know what to do at your website to get the most value out of it?

If you’re confident in your answers . . .

. . . to these questions, you may truly be an authority and you may have an “authority website.” Congratulations are in order!

But because we can all make improvements to our sites, here are seven review questions to help in that process. You may want to address them now, and save them for future reference.

1. Does your site cover your topic thoroughly and accurately?

Unlike many internet marketing sites, an authority site isn’t built overnight. In fact, it probably has dozens of pages, added over time, that deal with your specialty in all its facets. Not only is the information interesting, accurate and useful, but the pages include outbound links to other well-established resources for even more value.

Do your visitors trust your site? Here’s the telling question – do they refer your site to friends and colleagues?

 2. Does your site “skim” and “scan?”

Internet readers, no matter how profound the subject, expect to “get the message” immediately by skimming from headline to headline and picking up key content via subheads and perhaps a few lists of bullet points. If they are looking for a specific answer to a particular questions, they want to be able to “scan” your site to quickly locate that answer. (FAQ are an important resource for people in a hurry.)

Research shows that by the time readers reach the middle of an article, half of them have dropped off! So write in what the Nielsen Norman Group calls called the inverted pyramid style. It focuses on  high-value content at the start of a post or article, so the reader will have gathered the main point even if he or she does drop off.

3. Can visitors easily get to what they are looking for?

People don’t just accidentally land on your website. They have come following a particular key word thread or as the result of a search. They are looking for something particular. Can they make an immediate choice from the landing page – whether it’s via a navigation link or a click on a sidebar or an illustration — that will take them closer to their target?

If they have to pause to figure out which of your (clever) menu items is really what they’re looking for, you will lose them.

4. Can they get there fast?

An authority site loads fast, delivering readers to the content they’re looking for without frustrating wait times. (Free “speed checkers” like Google’s PageSpeed Tools give you ideas about what may be slowing your site down and suggestions for how to improve its speed.)

5. Can they get there on their smartphone?

More people access the internet today via smartphone technology than via personal computers.  (According to CNN, it happened for the first time on February 28, 2014!) So your site must be “responsive,” i.e., it needs to automatically adjust to whatever device is accessing it. (Of course, it’s valuable to find out how YOUR target market prefers to access your site.)

6. Can visitors access your authoritative content in the format they prefer?

Some people prefer to read, others to watch a video tutorial or listen to a podcast. Can you re-purpose your content into different formats, and give people a choice?

7. Do visitors know what you want them to do?

Yes, visitors arrive looking for answers to their questions. But surely you want to engage them in some sort of dialog. Do you want comments? Do you want them to sign up for a white paper, or subscribe to your newsletter?

Make it clear what steps you want them to take.

While you may prefer an understated call to action, don’t hide it too far down the page! “Above the fold” is still the most valuable real estate on the site.

In any case, in EVERY case, content is “front and center!”

The seven questions are all meant to help you refine your site – as necessary!  Your authority site needs constant attention to stay up to date, both from a content as well as a design point of view, so you’ll probably be looking for another checklist soon. In the meanwhile, see whether these suggestions make sense.

Virginia Nicols
The Marketing Machine®

P.S.  You will have noticed that this post assumes you have a website. Moreover, it assumes you have a website that is designed to appeal to the people who need YOUR services. If you’re not positive that your current site does the best possible job of this, you may want to invest another few dollars to make sure. At The Marketing Machine we’ve put together a short book specifically for professionals focused solely on the role of the Website as The Hub of Your Marketing Plan.  You can use the book as a checklist to confirm the effectiveness of your own site. Get more details here.