Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mousetrap or gourmet cheeseboard - how are you treating your readers?

This article is pure self-indulgence and doesn't tell you how to do anything in Blogger or any other tool.

But maybe it's a good day to ask whether your blog is a murderous mouse-trap, a grotty greasy-spoon, or a luscious gourmet cheeseboard.

Confluent: very cool Blogger-users

Luxurious cheese platter, with brie, grapes, pickle and more - decorated with flowers and on a wooden cheeseboard.
I have a lot of time for David Kutcher, who has a very useful blog-about-blogger (Blog-Xpertise) and offers more general blogging and web-consultancy from his company, Confluent forms.

They do some very cool things with Blogger.

They understand that for people who aren't either super-techs or large scale publishers using Wordpress just isn't realistic.

And they've proved that while Blogger is a great tool for getting started, it can be configured to do just about anything that needs to be done.

But they think your readers are mice!

But today I think they got it wrong.
"You need to think of your website as a digital mousetrap ... you need to get the mice to your site, encourage them to take the bait, snare them in your trap".

Photo of a house-mouse, with bright eyes, ears sticking up and tail waving
Initially, this sounds cute.

But stop and think about it for a moment.

How do people react when they're trapped: they panic, develop very negative emotional reactions to the place they're in, hold on to their valuables, and fight to escape. If they do escape, they tell their family and friends to stay well away.

And what's the end-game for a mouse that get's caught in a trap?  Best case, it's released somewhere in between the park down the road and the depths of Connemara - a long way from friends, family and familiar surroundings. Most likely, it meets an untimely death from eating poisoned cheese, or a blow to the head.

Is that really what you want for your customers  / visitors / readers / subscribers ?

If you want the "mice" to stick around, offer great cheese

Personally, I think of my website as an elegant cheeseboard - designed strictly for human visitors.

It offers a range of flavours and textures - the ones my visitors want, and some that stretch their palette a little.  It includes some pieces especially for visitors who are just getting started.

It's restocked regularly, with style and giving individual "cheeses" enough space, so visitors can find what they're looking for, and also notice other interesting tidbits while they're there.

It's open and accessible:   mice - and web-crawling-spiders - can visit any time they like.  More importantly, they can leave. And when they do leave, there's a nice taste in their mouth, and healthy cheese in their bellies (don't mention the cholesterol!). So they can go elsewhere, and tell their friends about the great selection over at my place. They're likely to visit again, too, because I made sure that they felt good when they left - the cheese was tasty and the environment pleasant.

There are a range of tools available - and I cut some of the the cheese into very accessible slices for those visitors who are just getting started, and leave some more robust chunks out for the mouse-about-the-town who's looking for more.

I have a warehouse of interesting ideas (in my pre-publication blog) just waiting to be finished and added to the platter.

No one dies at the end of a visit.

And I'm confident that, one day, I will be able to offer my own gourmet cheese in an exclusive section, that the mice will pay to get in to based on the trust that we've developed in the free-cheese paradise.

What sort of blog are you building, a mouse-trap or a cheeseboard?

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  1. Hi Mary and thank you for the comment. While I understand your humane sentiment regarding the mouse analogy, I think your site abides by the strategies I'm describing. Your right column has its top action items as "recommend this on google", "subscribe to our feed", links to your other social media links, [translate this page], click on an ad. Those are all mouse traps, action items that you want your readers to do. You are funneling them to methods to stay connected to you. The funnel is the mouse trap.

    Most websites and website owners have no idea which action items they want you to do, and approach it as a "throw it against the wall and see what sticks". Or in some cases they don't even have action items and their websites don't prompt the visitor to DO anything, just to wander off...

    You on the other hand have put in place your version of strategies to capture readers once they come to your site and to keep them coming back.

    We're not talking about "trapping them" in the sense of making it so they can't leave your site or close the browser window, because who would want to that person? What we're talking about is converting the casual visitor into a customer and a repeat customer.


  2. just saying, this mouse doesn't appreciate being hit with an ad before I even get in sight of the cheeseboard. 2 ads. There is a banner ad at the top, and then the post starts with another ad.

    1. It would be nice if the cheese was free, Diane, but I'm afraid that's just not how life works.

    2. I agree w/ Diana; in this case your goal is to create quality content, but also to earn a living doing so, otherwise you wouldn't have advertising. Your placement of those advertisements is intentional: you believe by placing them in a more forward position will yield you a higher click-through rate earning your more revenue. That is part of your mouse trap. You want to induce those clicks. The analogy wasn't meant to be cute, just an analogy for how to think of your site in a strategic fashion that is goal-oriented, using content and functionality to capture your visitors.

      Every good site is action/goal oriented, otherwise it's simply a vanity site with no purpose except to impress just once.

    3. Oh I agree with Diana too - it would be lovely if everything in life was free. But it's not, so we all have to adapt.

      This particular site is actually where I try things out, so I'm as much interested in look-and-feel and how people treat features as in the revenue. In fact, I generally make more from another site that had only one-sixth of the visitors of this one. Ironically they are relatively poor ad-clickers too, compared to other niches.

      Here my strategy for the moment is to grow a high-visitor volume site by writing content that will have a good search-engine lifespan. I don't want my visitor numbers to based on people always looking for new material, because these days I just don't have the time to create it.