– By Louise Raffa
So what has your website done for you lately anyway?
If the answer is not much, you’re not alone. So many companies, both large and small, have websites that simply don’t give them the results they’re looking for.
Your website speaks volumes about your organization. At its core, it is a public conversation between your company’s people and your customers, both present and future.
So what’s behind a great website?
Well, first is design. It’s pretty obvious that you need an eye-catching website. First impressions count, and good graphic design can give a great first impression so people stay on your website.
But design alone isn’t enough. How many gorgeous websites have you visited once and then forgotten about? Right. I can’t remember either.
Second is usability. What exactly is that? Well, according to Steve Krug, the industry’s widely accepted Usability Guru (who wouldn’t love to have that title on their business card?) it means making sure that people can interact well with your website; pretty straightforward, right?
But the third and most important is content. In 1996, Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king”. Since then people have repeated it, hashed it around and tried to pin down its relevance in the digital age.
One of the basic things that businesses need to know about content on its website is this. It’s not about you. It’s really not. It’s about your customers and potential customers.
The old style of web content (but one that we still see a lot of!) used a broadcast model, which treated the company brand as a battleship blasting its message at targets (the customers).
In Rethinking Marketing, Harvard Business Review talks about a complete reinvention of marketing towards an interactive, relationship approach:
“To compete in this aggressively interactive environment, companies must shift their focus from driving transactions to maximizing customer lifetime value. That means making products and brands subservient to long-term customer relationships.”
(in other words, business IS personal. It’s about the people. But then you probably knew that already.)
So how can you improve your web content?
Give the people what they want. Content is the stuff – text, data, graphics, video and audio – that people want on the web. Content is something people turn to as they decide what to buy, who to hire, and an unbelievable amount of other life and business decisions. You’d better know what they’re looking for. How? Put yourself in their shoes. It’s not really what you want to say to them, it’s figuring out what they’ll want to know, or need to know.
Remember that you’re having a conversation. Websites are about engaging people. Instead of thinking that you’re targeting people, think about attracting people. Would you go to a cocktail party and talk about yourself in a nonstop, rapid-fire way…and in the third person? Your website shouldn’t either.
Serve it up the way they like it. Busy people want information at their fingertips, without having to scroll through paragraphs and pages. Break up information into pieces so that people can grab and go. Clean, concise, no nonsense.
Make your web content part of your overall content strategy. What’s content strategy? Glad you asked. Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy For the Web says that “content strategy guides your plans to create and deliver useful, usable content for your online audiences, when and where they need it most.” And yes, there IS a lot more to this than meets the eye.
Revise, update, and revise some more. Relationships take work. And they evolve over time, so why would one of your main communication tools be any different? Learn to listen. Evaluate results. Breathe fresh air into your web content on a regular basis. Then drink in the benefits of success.