Google–not you–decides where customers & prospects enter your site. Roll out the red carpet anyway.

By Micah Solomon – keynote speaker, customer service speaker, customer service consultant, and #1 bestselling author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization.” Visit with Micah at http://customerserviceguru.com

Here’s an online conundrum: How you greet prospects and customers is crucial—but these days, by and large, you don’t actually get to decide where you greet them. Sure, in 1995 you could put up a homepage and expect people (those who had heard of the Web) to enter your site through the door you had expressly prepared for them, but times have changed.

Google, Wikipedia, and other aggregators of information are now in charge of where most of your visitors will land. And, of course, Murphy’s Law will ensure that they land on some arcane, highly technical back corner of your website—one that definitely doesn’t put your best foot forward.

Let’s outwit Murphy with this three-pronged strategy:

1. Anticipate that ‘‘lost’’ visitors will arrive (via Google, links embedded in Wikipedia, etc.) on obscure inner pages of your site, so respond by making each page of your site extremely welcoming. Include:

• The name of the proprietor (and often a portrait with some words of welcome)

• A live chat link

• A ‘‘first time here?’’ tour button

• A ‘‘contact me now’’ button

2. Consider paying to reduce the wrong points of entry, via Google Adwords and other vehicles that allow you to specifically direct potentially lucrative visitors to where you want them to go.

3. For visitors who, happily, do arrive directly at your main home page, provide different experiences for new (unrecognized) visitors than for returning customers—just as you would in the physical world. For returning visitors, welcome them back and invite them to personalize their visit. For new visitors (or ones you can’t recognize), welcome them with a ‘‘New here?’’ screen and invite them to start a dialogue with you: take a guided tour, receive some free information—anything to keep them from wandering off before you (gently) extract some way to keep in touch.

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