Listening goes both ways

It’s often said that people who provide services should listen to their clients, should become familiar with their needs. You have to not only listen to what they are saying but also sometimes to read between the lines. Professional arrogance – ‘I know what clients want better than they know themselves’ – will eventually lead to zero clients.

“Lousy copy, please, stuffed with keywords …”

It’s not so often said that clients need to listen to those who provide services. One website owner who contacted me wanted his web copy stuffed with keywords. I explained that not only would this not be effective as search-engine optimization, but it would lead to bad copy – contrived, boring to read, and unreadable. I sent him a sample of good copy, but it was not what he wanted. He had no doubt that what he needed was unreadable copy that the increasingly sophisticated search engines would reject without hesitation.

Following recent search-engine improvements, websites with third-rate articles were badly hit. Affiliate marketers and others are learning that there’s no substitute for good, useful information, and that there’s no point trying to trick the search engines. It’s a welcome development. Writers aren’t at their best when they’re told to instruct, entertain – and stuff the text with keywords.

“A dollop of cream for a dog’s dinner”

Another client asked me to write copy for a website that was a mess. I gently pointed out the problems and suggested improvements. It’s hard to write copy for a home page that fails to make clear what the purpose of the website is; is aimed at two or three different types of visitors, and is a chaos of items all demanding attention. I did not hear from the client again. I suspect that he was so attached to a website into which he had put a lot of time and thought that he was unwilling to hear what I was saying – and it was what any visitor to his site would have told him, if asked.

So yes, people who provide services must listen to their client, but the client should also listen, or may waste a lot of time and money.

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