Blog Archives

Don’t Skip These 3 Critical Steps to Building High-Quality Content

I’m just going to say it: A majority of online marketing content is fundamentally flawed. That’s because it’s being created to achieve shortsighted goals based on clicks or because the person or organization creating the content doesn’t understand the business, school, or nonprofit it’s been created for.MarketoonistContent

When I think of the first, I think of cat videos. Sure, we all get a chuckle out of them, but who do they serve? If you’re PetsMart or the SPCA, these videos are rich content for your customers. For everyone else, it’s click bait. While cat videos might increase your clicks or grow your “readership” (I put that in quotes because cat videos aren’t likely to help your business, school, or nonprofit), they’re bad marketing.

The second type of content is worse, in my option, because it reputes to provide value but doesn’t — at least not content created with long-term brand recognition in mind. In a new The Brand Journalism Advantage podcast hosted by Phoebe Chongchua, I highlight the three most important building blocks to creating high-quality web content. Sadly, these steps are completely ignored by many organizations.

Identity, beliefs, values

As I explain in the interview, I tell anyone who will listen that meaning in life starts with three things. Those things apply to web content as well. You need these three building blocks to tell your best story, whether that’s your personal story, the story of your startup, or the story of your latest product or service. You need them to humanize yourself, your organization, and your audience. You need IBV:

  • Know your identity
  • Know your beliefs
  • Know your values

“Of course, I have those,” you might respond. Do you? Do you know them? Have you written them down? Does everyone in your organization know them? Does everyone believe them.This is a step in the content development process that is often skipped. But I think it is the most important. Take Apple Inc., just because everyone knows them.

What is Apple’s identity? It’s a technology company based in Silicon Valley, the cradle of world’s high-tech innovation. Remember when Apple changed its identify from a computer technology company in 2007? Can you say iPod, iPad, iPhone?

What are Apple’s beliefs? It believes “technology should just work.” That means it should be intuitive. It believes technology should inspire. It believes technology is hip or cool or tight, however you care to phrase it.

The difference between knowing it and knowing it in your bones

What are Apple’s values? It values design, so much so that it is integral to its products from the outset. It values simplicity. It values imagination and creativity.

The Apple’s of the world have IBV in their bones, from the employees who design the iPhones to those who package their computers in those oh-so-precise boxes. But what’s important, what’s key, is that EVERYONE knows this about Apple, even you do — although you might not have thought about it explicitly.

To be a good content creator you must understand these three traits about the person, product, or service you’re writing about to make a story sing. Rather than ask “What,” ask “Why.” That’s a much more important question. It gets at identity, beliefs, values. It’s infused with motive. And emotion resonates with people.

Learn more, including how I’d help save a financially troubled company in 30 days with just $1,000, a cellphone, and a laptop — all part of the podcast.

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

Are 75 Words Killing Your Website?

Gandalf, web content, road sign, obstacle

Content should be a road sign to “go,” not an obstacle.

Don’t waste the first 75 words on your homepage introducing yourself and explaining who you are and what you’re about. Readers won’t make it to where you want them to go. Imagine you’re visiting the website of a hospital. You don’t care about the CEO. You want to schedule an appointment, see what the office hours are, or connect with a physician about your ailment.

Save introductions for a side column or an “about” page. If you want more visitors and for visitors to stick around longer, that prime real estate should be about them and their needs not about you. The Internet is backward that way. What can I say? If it could, it would eat its salad before its entree.

A grizzle veteran of the Internet wars (akin to the “late night” wars) once told me that as content creators our goal should be to map the road signs for our guests. If that’s true, then introducing yourself on the homepage tells visitors to “Stop. Do not pass.” at the precise moment we want them to “go” and find the product or service they came for.

Out with obstacles

If you’re a business: long introductions can kill sales. You don’t want to plant obstacles in customers’ paths. The more hurdles customers’ have to overcome to find a product the more will lose their way or give up. What if you’re not a business? The rule still applies.

If you’re a university or nonprofit: publishing the dean’s or executive director’s message on the homepage is a “No, no.” Prospective students and clients who visit the site know they’re unlikely to ever meet or interact with one of these top administrators. They want to know about the students and faculty in the school’s programs and the good works the nonprofit does.

Offer visitors a road sign

If you’re a city, county, or state: skip to the services that people want like paying parking tickets, filing a home remodel application, or tracking down a phone number or email address. Visitors will come away feeling that a bureaucracy can be a breeze, which means they’ll be more likely to come back. When a city was founded and why it’s so great is interior page information for “about,” “history,” or “visit us,” pages — or, even, fodder for the chamber of commerce’s website.

Too often, I see homepages filled with distractions, false links, and barriers fit for a Tough Mudder. Think of it as bad customer service. Instead, let the first words on your page be about the top tasks and topics visitors come to your site for. Intuit what visitors need. Everyone is flattered by that kind of attention. Do they want to search? Get married? Make a reservation? Offer them a road sign.

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.