You Are Not Your Customer

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If there’s one single lesson I could impart to all the folks who come to me for online, website, and business advice, it’s this:

You are not your customer.

They don’t think like you do. They don’t want what you want. They don’t believe what you believe. Their values are not your values. They don’t behave the way you do.

And they certainly don’t behave the way you want them to.

I’ve been doing this online thing for a while now, and I want to share with you the most common ways in which you’re probably wrong about what you think people are willing to do on your website. Then let’s list some specific approaches you can take to deal with it.

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Keeping Control

Access Denied

It’s important to understand what’s important, particularly when you use the services of others to perform some of your work. It’s simply too easy to give someone more control than they need, or more control than they deserve, and end up regretting it.

It’s actually surprisingly common to hear of businesses impacted because they gave excessive control over important aspects of their online presence to the wrong people. At best, this can result in lengthy and costly legal proceedings, and at worst, it can result in losing your domain and everything associated with it, including your web site and email address(es).

As I write this, the popular and important site is apparently in this situation. While I don’t know the specifics, I want to use it to highlight a series of important lessons we can learn about what’s important, why it’s important, and the most important thing of all.

Let’s look at how much control of our websites we give away at several levels: our content, content management system access, backups, email, hosting, DNS, and domain registration. Do you know who controls access to each of these crucial elements of your business and the ramifications of each?

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Leverage your Feed

RSS Feeds

In Automatically Publish to Your List, I discussed how your site has what’s called an RSS “feed”. We used that feed as a way for an email service like Aweber to notice when new posts are published, automatically get the new post from the feed, and send it to your mailing list.

The example site I used was Not All News Is Bad (NANIB). To send to the NANIB mailing list, I need do nothing more than publish a new post; the rest is automated by virtue of using that feed.

However, RSS feeds can be used for good or evil. They can be used to automate things like mailing lists (good), make it easier and more convenient for the interested to consume content (also good), and make it nearly trivial for thieves to steal and re-publish the content you just poured your heart and soul into (evil).

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Automating Social Media

IFTTT: New Applet

I’ll be honest: the title is an oxymoron. Automating posts to social media sites isn’t very “social” at all.

But sometimes, it’s the most pragmatic approach to getting your content in front of the people who want it. As part of Not All News Is Bad, I elected to automate posting the daily entry to its Facebook page.

Let’s look at the thought process that lead me to this decision, and the mechanics of how I set it up.

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Creating Content by Curation

Creating Content by Curation

As I’ve noted here several times, one of the common stumbling blocks people face is what to publish. I’ve stressed my belief that regular, fresh content is an important aspect of overall website health and “find-ability”, but that does mean coming up with something every so often.

It’s a valid concern, because it’s not always easy. For example, it’s been a couple of months since I updated this site.

I recently began a new project of a less technical nature, and it dawned on me that the approach I was using was not only appropriate for many types of web sites, but it’s also one many people don’t consider.

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Add Google Search to Your Site

Google Custom Search Engine Home Page

If you have much content at all – say, anything over about three pages – people are going to want to search your site.

Most content management systems have search functionality available. For example, in the sidebar of the “Ask Leo! on Business” home page is a “Search (Using WordPress)” item using the WordPress native search functionality. The problem is that the quality and flexibility of the searches provided by CMSs varies dramatically. Most are, to put it bluntly, quite poor.

Google, on the other hand, understands search. Fortunately, they also offer a search function you can install on your own site. We’ll use that on our example site,, replacing the WordPress-native search function there now.

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