Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Online Content: Two Purposes - One Process

Content is always promoted as one the most important aspect of an online presence, either to create an immediate arms-length interaction or a more personal interaction. For some it simply represents their brand and a means of qualifying them … at least that’s what customers say. An example of a more personal interaction might be a new home real-estate web site, which is designed to provide only the barest minimum of details about the new homes (Why?) they want you to visit…they can only sell you a house when you visit the sales office.  On the other hand, companies that sell products online must provide a lot of detail about a product to help customers make immediate, impulse purchase decisions. In other cases, such as special services or commercial services, a business may want to provide significant content to qualify them as a capable provider, and this is designed to result in a more personal contact or online inquiry as well.

In a sound marketing strategy the goal of online content can have two very different purposes, depending on what type of business you operate.  One may be the need to satisfy an immediate demand and or a transaction and/or another may seek to initiate a more personal form of contact like a visit or a phone call.

Clearly, different types of businesses demand different content strategies for their web sites based on how they stream potential buyers into the sales funnel.  Not only does the type of business have an effect on content, the size of business has some relevance in the process as well.

Large businesses can afford to apply appropriate resources to updating and maintaining all levels of content regardless of the type of business they are in. Small business on the other hand is much less capable of assigning resources from an often over-worked staff to maintaining the online content. Small businesses are often caught up in the day to day process of managing the enterprise and are overwhelmed with hiring and firing, managing finance, sales, product development, and more. As a result, their most important marketing medium is left to languish from lack of resources. Large businesses can suffer from this same approach, but for different reasons, they may just be indifferent.

This may seem like a simple problem to solve, all it takes is more resources for small businesses and to focus on the problem, right? Wrong…more often than not the content needs a skilled hand in ensuring that the content reflects your business goals, is well worded, is optimized for Search Engines and is consistent with your marketing strategy.  Doing this on a consistent basis over time is a considerable investment  and must be carefully managed to take advantage of buying cycles, seasonal products, changes in the economy, competition, and changes in company  direction.

We don’t have the scope in this article to address all of the factors that can benefit your online presence as it relates to your specific business demands and sales funnel, but we can provide some simply rules for preparing content.

Research shows that visitors often scan pages looking for relevant content. As a result, how you say it can almost be as important as what you say.  Using a strategy that prizes scan-able text is essential to creating effective content. Here are a few simple rules for updating and changing online content regardless of the type or size of business you have.

  1. Try highlighting important words through bolding, increasing the font slightly or adding hypertext links to serve as one form of highlighting
  2. Insert meaningful headings and subheading by pulling titles and terms from the body copy. Try to make your headings simple and easy to understand.
  3. Use bullet lists from time to time but be judicious in their use. Too many will defeat their purpose. While consistency is good in bullet throughout the site, more than one list on a page can create a conflict in focus for a reader. If two bullet lists are required on a page, try and use different means of laying out that second list to create differentiation.
  4. Focus on one idea per segment or paragraph.
  5. Avoid compound sentences and industry jargon. Keep ideas short and easy to read.
  6. Don’t write in proposition style. This is where we create a need and then present the conclusion as a result of a need.  The conclusion often needs to go first to create impact and grab the “scanning” reader. 
  7. White space is the most valuable resource on a page; it helps readers focus their attention. Don’t waste it by adding too much content!
  8. Above the fold (a newspaper term) defines the most important area in any web site. It’s a bit of a moving target with today’s varying resolutions but suffice it to say long scrolling pages should be avoided and your most important content should be seeded at the top of the page. 
  9. Keep online content clear, use simple language. Even the most sophisticated reader will appreciate clarity and focus. Allow your content to be accessible. 
  10. Finally, don’t ignore accessibility guidelines in the design of your online presence or how you communicate with all of your customers.   As we are entering the “Baby Boomer “age, many of your aging customers may need to be accommodated in some manner. You don’t have to have a physical or mental disability to require accessibility accommodations.

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