For years, surfing the internet has been less about finding the right wave, and more about braving an unforgiving storm for the perfect ride. The old days of casually surfing from one wave of information to another in a state of quasi-spiritual exploration are largely gone. They have vanished like the unpromising contents of my spam folder. Today, surfing the internet involves not only finding the right wave, but means avoiding danger, ignoring the thunder of crashing waves on all sides, listening for warning sirens and, of course, balancing that with an appropriate amount of time on land. Sound overwhelming?
The internet can be an overwhelming place for both the user and the website owner. As a website, how do you appeal to me, the internet surfer dude? By promising to be the right wave.
On the internet, the right wave is the site (or sites) that has the ability to meet my need, whether that need is information, a specific service or product, or entertainment. It doesn't have to be a need I'm looking to meet at the moment (I may not know I have the need). Sadly, sometimes the right wave or right site fails to stand out from the rest. It rolls out of sight. It's never enough just to show up on the first page on Google.
Like waves, the best websites are intuitive. They have a clear Call to Action that not only gets (and keeps) our attention despite the noise, but entices us to perform the action it requests. The best Call to Action is tailored to the site's goals. It may say "Click here for Free 30-day trial" or "Get a free quote today." The beauty of a great Call to Action is that it doesn't tell lies or promise "free iPods" to push conversions, it tells me how to get what I need. A great example of this is Squidoo's homepage. Within 2 or 3 seconds of being on the site, I know that I can potentially create my own personal web page in 60 seconds, and all I have to do to get started is type in a subject of my choice, and push the "Get Started!" button. If I'm looking to express myself online Squidoo promises to be the perfect ride. And it does so in a quick and simple fashion.
Search Engine Optimization is, at it's heart, about helping website owners and companies represent themselves as most relevant to the surfer's experience. But it's also about helping websites promise the perfect ride. When you have a clear, distinct, and enticing Call to Action, you are placing a button within your site that says, "Surf Here." Or, if you have a little more room, it may say, "Surf Here for the Perfect Ride, Dude."
Promising to be the right wave generates traffic. Promising the perfect ride generates conversions. Search Engine Optimization exists to help the website do both.