I’ve spent much of the summer having conversations about content. I’ve talked about it with those at the creative end and the technical end. I’ve had conversations about consumer-focused content and B2B. During these conversations, three themes kept coming up: the importance of the journey, the importance of social proof, and the increasing importance of how pages are structured.
First off, let’s just take a moment to define content. In this context I’m not just referring to blogs or articles. I’m talking all content on a website. All the corporate stuff, the customer stuff, and the product and service listings. Everything.
Journeys as a corporate metaphor have been used so much that they are now beyond cliché. However, for content, journeys are not a metaphor they are critical for planning, optimisation and effectiveness.
Whether the traffic that reaches a page is driven there by organic search, email, paid media, a link or from another page on the site, content consumption happens within a sequence of events. Typically referred to as the user journey, it doesn’t really matter what it’s called, the important thing is that it is understood. You cannot effectively create content without understanding what brought someone to it and what they were hoping to achieve.
Too much content is created without critically thinking about people’s intentions. Yes, at the most commercial end of the content spectrum, a huge amount of effort goes into understanding intent, maximising click-throughs and optimising calls-to-action.
I’ve been guilty of this. I’m guessing many of you have too. We all know the content we’re talking about. The stuff that ranks well in search but perennially delivers low click-throughs, little dwell time and incredibly high bounce rates.
However, content that doesn’t sit at the sharp end of the sales funnel rarely gets this attention. That’s understandable. Resource is limited and you want to invest it where you’ll get a return. Perhaps it’s time to push some resources higher up the funnel? You’ll likely find quick wins and, although it might take time and the subsequent data will be unclear, widening the top of the funnel should deliver increased numbers at the bottom.
Show not tell
This is an old and trusted marketing maxim. It speaks to providing social proof. People buy things that lots of other people buy. Review sites from Trustpilot to TripAdvisor and Glassdoor exist because people want the reassurance. Influencer marketing, and regulators’ insistence that commercial partnerships are explicitly stated, is another example.
Whether it’s review scores, third party endorsements or case studies, we know that social proof is a valued and important part of the sales journey. And yet, case studies often sit at the rarely visited bottom of a page. You know, the place to which no one scrolls. Review scores are shoved in at the top of many of the most commercial pages but the reviews themselves sit much further down. Influencers, and the landing pages associated with their campaigns, often offer discounts. In effect ignoring the impact of social proof for the volume driven by price reductions.
I suspect one of the main reasons we underplay social proof by placing it out of sight, is because pages have always been built with big benefits and calls-to-action at the top, followed by advantages and features, and then all the rest. There is an opportunity here to test how effective reviews, case studies and endorsements could be when they’re actually seen.
Page structure feels like the big project no one wants to touch. We all know that in an ideal world a page would only have one H1 tag. That H2 tags would always denote the next level down in terms of headings. But we also know that when building pages in a necessarily rigid CMS, the temptation exists to use an H tag as a styling element to achieve a certain look rather than its original intended purpose. Let’s all take a quiet moment to admit we’ve all done it and continue to do it once the precedent’s been set.
Well, Google’s been pulling H1 tags into search results. It’s delivering specific excerpts from sections of webpages in search results and sending people directly to those sections when they click on the result.
As search engines continue their efforts to deliver the best possible results, the structure of webpages will become critical. In essence, search engines are trying to make sense of data and the more structured it is the easier that job is.
Perhaps it’s time to grab the nettle and tidy up your site structure.