Building a Website that Works For Your Users: Part IV
Content Marketing and A/B Testing
This is the final segment of our 4-part series on building a website that works for your brand.
Up to this point we’ve focused on making your website easy to navigate, pleasing to the eye, and easy to find through search engine optimization (SEO). But, just because your website looks great and visitors can find it doesn’t mean they’ll automatically find value in it. So, for our final piece, we’re going to discuss how to create content that helps visitors identify with your brand through content marketing.
You may have heard the term “content marketing” bandied around at conventions and at company meetings. What is it, why is it important and why is everyone talking about it?
At its core, content marketing is a new term for an old concept – making useful online content that visitors are searching for and want to consume. This could be blog posts, articles, features, videos, podcasts, or even infographics. Over the last five years this concept has enjoyed a surge of popularity because it’s an inversion of the traditional model of marketing.
Marketing Models: Active vs Passive, Inbound vs Outbound
The traditional method of getting the word out on products and services involved spending money on expensive media buys like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards, or smiling and dialing through cold-calling, telemarketing and outbound sales. This followed an “interruption” format, getting in people’s faces while they were trying to accomplish something else.
For a good chunk of the 20th century, this worked great. But buyers have become remarkably skilled at ignoring ads and telemarketers. Smart marketers realized the traditional method was becoming less effective and also noticed that people who are actually looking for a product are easier to sell to.
Who woulda thought?
In the end, savvy marketers realized that if you distribute content that illustrates your expertise and helps people, they’ll come back. It also doesn’t hurt that search engines love content, and the more content you create that’s relevant to your buyer, the better they’ll index you.
One could say this new model represents a switch from “push” to “pull.” Rather than “pushing” a message to passive buyers while they are doing something else (for example, cold calling a decision maker at work), content marketing involves providing useful, entertaining, or information-based media on a regular basis that encourages people to pull it towards themselves.
There are many different ways to produce “pull” content. Sharing informative and useful blog entries on a company site is an increasingly common practice. Or if your team has a pension for the creative, producing an entertaining video series for YouTube can further your website’s reach (search engines love rich content such as podcasts and video and visitor engagement is significantly higher).
Finally, creating a value-add, like providing a downloadable case study or e-book about industry trends is another method that many companies have found successful.
Instead of creating media for distribution to traditional channels like television and radio, content marketing focuses on pageviews, being found on search engines and distribution to major social media outlets. Tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are cost-effective (or free) ways to reach very different market segments.
But the most important thing is to create a two-way dialogue with prospective visitors and buyers. In other words, instead delivering product pitches to consumers directly, it’s often more effective to come at them sideways. By delivering information to consumers that is relevant, informative, and/or entertaining, trust is built. You’re now providing a low pressure and valuable experience that creates loyal customers who are receptive to your product and services.
Tips for Getting it “Right”
In designing your website, strongly consider having a dedicated blog page that’s as attractive as the rest of your site, as it may be the landing page that brings your target audience to you in the first place. Pepper your content through the rest of your site through links to your social media pages and value adds. This creates a balance of both company-focused sales material and useful consumer content.
Online stores like Mimimums.com have found great success with creating a balance of minimal content, story creation and subtle product introduction that puts their consumers at ease. This low-impact selling style produces high results and many large companies (like Apple) have readily adopted a sleek and simple design that doesn’t accost consumers with information.
Measuring and Refining
A common saying in the days of traditional marketing, “Half of my marketing budget is being wasted, I just don’t know which half.”
Traditional channels provided only loose approximations of reach and ad effectiveness. In this world, Nielsen ratings were the most widely cited ratings and they sampled only a small number of households. It wasn’t particularly clear if something was working and good marketing involved making educated guesses based on metrics that may be inaccurate.
For better or worse we have entered the “big data” age where every move, impression, and transaction online is tracked and logged. This results in a tremendous gain for marketers who can be informed of exactly how many impressions their ad received, how many people clicked on a link, and which website page receives the most traffic.
First Comes A, and then there’s B
Part of your optimization involves “A/B Testing.” In this system, two versions (an “A” and a “B”) are created of a web page or promotional email with only one minor difference between the two. Sometimes this difference is the day of the week or time of the day that the email is sent. Another recommended difference is altering the headline for emails so that they are more enticing or interesting to open.
With this variable isolated, the two can then be tested to see which performs best. The most effective version can then be used in the larger distribution.
Every market, audience and product is different so saying, “The best day of the week to send an email is Wednesdays, and the best time is between 2:15 and 3:47.” While that may be true for some industries, it is likely that your market will differ. So, in sending out promotional emails, invitations to read your new blog or any additional marketing content, vary your times and dates of outreach. Identifying the right balance and content for your clients is important and will have a far greater impact than picking one time and hoping for the best!
Over the course of this blog series, we have focused on a variety of important topics to consider when designing an online destination that works for your users, your brand and your business. Effective web design goes far beyond having a great look and feel, flashy banner ads and a nifty product. Follow these guidelines in creating your website, and your business will be one step closer to gaining happy and engaged customers.
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