What makes a site stand out from the crowd?

March 8, 2007

Topics: Search Marketing.

If you pick most markets on the web, you’ll always find dozens of options to choose from. Barring certain very tiny markets, you will have competition. The only real question is how much competition you’ll have and how YOUR site will be differentiated from theirs.

Some clients will claim that they are OBVIOUSLY different — company X uses 20% nylon fabric in their seat covers where OUR seat covers are 100% cotton!

Sorry, folks, but that’s fine print. Fine print is a good start, but even though your differentiating factors may be related to it, it’s not necessarily the right place to focus.

It’s a jumping off point, however. Knowing your products are fundamentally different in some way can give you ways to pursue a more visible, search-friendly means of separating your site from the herd.

Choose your focus

If you want to be unique, you should find a unique characteristic and stick with it. Don’t bill your site as the best source for safe children’s games but sell exactly the same products everybody else does. You’re diluting your message by allowing options which don’t fit your profile into your store.

Make it visible

If you’re selling children’s games, and your particular product focus is that they’re safe, make that OBVIOUS. If you downplay the importance of safety in your game selection, you’re lacking in clarity. Your visitors need assurance that you’re providing what they’re looking for. You can provide this assurance by writing text which clearly emphasizes your specialty and by repeating this information when appropriate on your product descriptions.

Identify your competitors

Not every similar site is necessarily a competitor. Not every site you THINK is a competitor is necessarily competing with you. Look very closely at the sites of those businesses who are:

  • Selling the same products
  • Located in the same area
  • Advertising in the same publications

Look closely: examine every possibility. The worst thing you can say is “Company X is offering THIS function. We need to do this, too.” Instead, say “Company X is offering THIS function. We can do something else which is better.” You don’t need to offer a function just because everybody else in your topical area is providing it. You’re always best off providing better functionality than your competition. Not MORE functionality; BETTER functionality. Look for anything they provide which is useless, hard to understand, or just adds to site clutter without being useful.

So what does make a site stand out?

That’s a tough question, isn’t it? Being different can make you stand out – but doesn’t necessarily make you successful. Being unique will make you stand out – but if you’re TOO unique, you might not find your customer niche.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that it’s even your website which will make your site stand out. The products you offer and your service may do you more good in the long run than any website choices — but a good website may help you gain new customers faster.

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2 Comments on “What makes a site stand out from the crowd?”

  1. Well, I’d say it’s both. You’re right that I didn’t really address the SERPs question — but, if that hurdle is met, I’d say that there’s still a problem to overcome. Once you’ve convinced somebody to click on that SERP, you’ve got to deliver what you claimed quickly if you want to turn that search visitor into a new customer.

    Delivery to the site is definitely a SERP question — but commitment will still depend on what the site offers on page.

  2. A great question, Joe. However I think most visitors are looking for your site using a hunting dog – read search engine. So you’ve got to stand out from the crowd in the eyes of that hunting dog.

    Once that hunting dog has delivered a short list to its owner, then the owner looks at the Title and the snippet in the SERP. This is the first point where you’ve got to stand out from the crowd. If you win that small battle, then what counts is what they see when they click on the link. Hopefully it’s good enough to hold their attention and encourage them to do some exploration – in other words it’s got to be sticky.

    I guess what I’m saying is that standing out from the crowd is more an SEO question than a on-page view question IMHO.