Finding Relevance Online

Finding Relevance Online

I’ve been thinking a lot about relevance in online marketing in the past day, since reading this statement from the D/C Strategic post I blogged yesterday: 

Whereas it was Survival of the Loudest. Now it is Survival of the Relevant.

Relevance is the buzzword du jour, but the case is well made in many places.  I thought I might add my voice to the fray.

Marketing has become a search for metrics to support our programs.  I’m often deludged with metrics requests from corporate customers for marketing metrics, to the point that they often ignore the importance of building the campaign, website, program, etc. on a firm basis.  Right, wrong or in different, we’re going to make sure we’ve got the metrics to support us should we ever end up having to explain ourselves to God or the fellow in the corner office.

True measures of relevance, hence real success, can be very tough to quantify.  A raw measure for web projects would be the traffic stats, but we’ve seen that these can be grossly flawed, depending how they are attained.  It still amazes me to here people quote unfiltered log stats, or even Alexa toolbar results as though they have any meaning. I make a point of having the current web stats at arms reach, and also make sure that I’ve put a little time into figuring out what they really mean. I do not go out of my way to make them accessible to others unless forced.  If you don’t know how to read traffic stats, I want to make sure someone who does explains them for you.  I will not be blindsided by my own numbers, ever.

On the web, every single one of your competitors is but a click (okay, a couple typed letters) away.  Customers hit one blip in the road, one minor flaw, and the likelyhood of them taking the detour to the enemy becomes higher. Simple, clean, easy to use sites make you relevant.  If the customer wants art, he/she will go to a museum.  If they want to be wowed technologically, they’ll go to a science museum.  As a screen writing professor of mine (sorry, forgot the name) pontificated once “If your imagery is noticable to the viewer, you’ve failed…utterly.”  On the web, if your customer is paying attention to your utterly cool design or checking out your code to see how your neat little Ajax app works, you’ve failed…utterly.

Relevance means that your customers are able to find you (that means you’ve got to also be relevant to Google, MSN, etc.) and that once they do, that they’ll be properly driven to complete the desired course of action you’ve set forth.  True relevance is getting them to do it again…and again.

So what becomes the measure of relevance on the web?  Do we hang our hat on Google position, or page rank, or do we look to Omniture, WebsideStory or even Google analytics?  The truth is that while I use all of these to get a well rounded view of the site’s success, the real measure is the call to action.  If you set clear goals and designed, coded and implement towards those goals, it’s a slam dunk. 

Relevance starts at inception.  If you can’t find the relevance in the initial idea, you’re never going to portray it online. 

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