Welcome to the first a 4-part series that will focus on the aspects of a successful website. Today I’ll be addressing the topic of content.
Before I get into the topic I’d like to address what I consider to be a successful website. To me, a successful site is one that accomplishes all of the following goals consistently on an ongoing basis.
- Revenue generated by the website (directly or indirectly) exceeds the expenses of operating the website.
- Positive cashflow (revenue minus expense) is growing year over year at least 15% (please note: this doesn’t sound like a lot but due to the power of compounding, your profits will triple over 9 years at this rate)
- Your customer base is consistently growing and you have a way to communicate with and solicit repeat business
* Please note: I do realize that not all websites are in existence to earn additional revenues and some websites may be created solely for the purpose of reducing expenses (e.g. online technical support, online help, etc.). The criteria of this type of website is essentially the same, however, its goals are reached by reducing expenses as opposed to increasing revenues.
Once any of these goals are no longer being successfully accomplished, it’s time for a refresh; your website has either aged too much and is no longer current or competitive with other companies in your industry. Remember, just because your site is doing fantastic for you today, it can all change overnight when one of your competitors takes charge of their Internet presence and revamps it entirely!
Before getting into discussing the importance of content, I’ll identify the four main dimensions that I intend to address during my four-part series:
Informs leads and clients about your products and services.
Graphical elements that make up the design of the website, reflecting the image of your business to your leads and clients.
Determines how information is organized so that leads and clients can find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.
Enables your leads and clients to perform a task on your Internet presence (e.g. send an email, request a quotation or callback, etc.)
Now, it’s time to talk about content. First of all, what is it? Simply put, it’s any type of content that helps any of your website visitors to make an informed decision, regardless of if its text, image(s), audio or video file(s).
I’ve chosen to talk about content first within this series because it’s typically the aspect that is most neglected, and also the aspect that is usually most underappreciated in terms of value that it can bring to a project. How many times have I been approached with web design projects whereby the customer simply requests that I “throw together” a site based upon some disorganized and outdated content along with a handful of low quality (and often blurry) images? I would tell you but I don’t like being responsible for making people cry.
The truth is that most people are just “too busy”. But what is “too busy”? I mean, what does it really mean? Can someone be too busy to eat? surf the net? watch TV? If you’ve lied your way through answering those questions, shame on you! The truth is that nobody is too busy, merely placed their priorities and expended their time elsewhere. This is irony at its best because if “individual with excuses” was to spend their time creating interesting, engaging and up-to-date content for their site, they would actually be less busy because their sales would increase dramatically and individuals wouldn’t have to spend so much other time trying to find additional customers that fall out of the sales funnel due to poorly organized and unappealing content. Alternately, they may experience a “good” problem, they’d be busier and more successful selling more of their products and services to valuable customers that need them.
If you read online about creating valuable content you’ll find out that everyone and their grandmother has created an approach to preparing high quality content. Don’t believe me? Check out the grandmother approach outlined on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_content_lifecycle. Find one that works for you and stick to it – just don’t sit down, write for half an hour, stand up, walk away and wash your hands of the task declaring it as complete. Take your time, do a good job, consider what format is best and plan it out. If you’ve got a 5 page website, you can expect to invest at least 20 hours in planning, creating, reviewing, revising and polishing your content before it’s ready for the web.
How much content should you write and how do you choose what format is best? Here are a few simple rules to help you out:
- Keep textual content to a minimal.
Be efficient with your writing. People’s attention spans are short when they are surfing the Internet and nobody wants to read pages and pages of content. Interest them with as little text as possible, have links to additional details if it’s necessary for their decision but do not inundate them all at once with too much information or you’ll lose the majority of your leads before they’ve even considered your products or services.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a thousand pictures.
Think about it when you surf the net. Looking at pictures helps you to get a feel for a product or service a lot quicker than reading paragraphs of text. Watching videos gives you an even better understanding of a product or service than looking at dozens of photos. Consider this carefully.
- Accept that there are exceptions to the rule.
If you are selling something that the specifications are critical to the deciding factor, textual content may be more important and keeping textual content to a minimal may not be advantageous. Accept that there may be exceptions to the rule and that my article cannot address all specific situations. This is where your common sense and brainstorming comes into play.
Now it’s time for an example. Take a look at the following information, taken from the various Internet presences of the Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts (a client of ours and Ottawa’s best martial arts academy). They’ve done a tremendous amount of work ensuring that regardless of which format they are communicating with, their message is very efficient, clear and easy to understand.
Text from their website:
OAMA Muay Thai offers the best quality Muay Thai in the Ottawa region. All of our world class experienced and certified Krus (teachers) have trained with the best in the world and give everything into each class they teach in order to ensure OAMA’s Muay Thai program stays at the top! Whether your goals are getting in shape, gaining knowledge of this incredibly powerful art, or becoming a world champion, it is all possible with OAMA Muay Thai.
The OAMA Thai program is broken down into distinct classes to provide the best training possible from the novice to the pro-fighter. Our Basic Muay Thai program includes the Conditioning class and the Technique class. The conditioning class focuses on training methods to develop a well conditioned body. This might include: skipping, push-ups, crunches and bag work as well as other conditioning exercises. The technique class will focus primarily on punching and kicking techniques and prepare the student for the Advanced program. The Advanced program is for those students who have that competitive edge and the desire to be in the ring. Advanced classes will teach specific techniques such as elbows, knees, and the clinch and include sparring in the ring. Enrollment in the Advanced program is based on a minimum 9 months basic training and/or approval from your Kru.
Competing in Muay Thai is completely optional and no pressure is ever put on students to do so.
Photos from their website:
Video from their YouTube channel:
Which one of these has the most significant impact on your opinion of their services? I won’t make the decision for you, but you’ll quickly nod in acceptance that the rules I’ve outlined above are entirely valid and you’ll thank me for opening your eyes about how vital it is to take the time to prepare high quality, well planned out marketing content for your company’s products and services for the web and all other traditional means as well.
So there you have it. Most of you who have read this will agree with what I’ve said, but walk away and do nothing with the knowledge that you’ve just gained. Being “too busy” is just too convenient of an excuse. Those of you who are serious about your business will realize that “too busy” is an invalid excuse and have already started to dissect your marketing materials with similar excitement and bewilderment that you experienced when you first dissected a frog in chemistry class. Good for you! I’m glad that I’ve ignited a spark inside you that will help you to make 2012 your best year yet. Until next week, when we talk about design, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Get busy and have some fun while doing it, after all your business is about to transform like you’ve never seen before.
CEO, N-VisionIT Interactive