Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Year, New Content?

It's being predicted by pretty much everyone that 2016 is going to be driven by content and user experience, so that's probably a good place to start my December posts.

First, I know I preach this a lot, but KNOW. YOUR. DEMOGRAPHIC. Who are you selling to and why do they need your service? Provided that you know the answer to that, your next questions are, "How do I make my page memorable, in a good way? What is going to make my audience want to come back to my site? What is going to make them tell their friends to subscribe to me too?"

I personally love anything that can teach me something, and this goes for most people. New and interesting information is memorable and engaging and will encourage people to come back for more. Your page isn't just selling something now, it's offering an opportunity for growth, learning and bettering oneself! Seriously though, brains are most engaged when they're being challenged by or introduced to something new. Don't get caught up in traditional "teaching" here. You don't have to write articles, have a page of trivia about your products or even have a blog to engage people by showing them something - or someone - new on each visit.

For instance, as a very productive way of keeping your page fresh and engaging, I really encourage you to make customer reviews available as an option for your customers to write and edit and view. I personally will not buy anything online without reading reviews or receiving a personal referral. Good reviews make it easier for consumers to trust you, and lets them know what they can expect - Afterall, there is nothing scarier to human beings than the unknown... and the thought of wasting money... If you have someone keeping up with replying to these reviews, good and bad, with notes of thanks and helpful solutions to issues, your brand will seem more personable and people will be confident that you stand by your customers and your products. It's good when consumers can see the person behind the web page.

A page featuring staff introductions or bios is an almost equally fantastic add-on to give people a look into your corporate culture and give the impression of holding yourself accountable for your customers' experiences. If I have an issue or a rave review, I don't want to contact "customer service," I want to talk to Amy, or Peter or Joan! People I can communicate with, but I can't have a productive conversation with a computer, or with a service worker who has a generic script they refuse to waver from and who goes by the name "service," or "info." Even online, always treat people as though you're seeing them in person. That is what builds loyal shoppers. Always ensure that replies sent from the administration contact you provide on your page are sent in a timely manner. The fastest way to lose credibility is to leave a customer without solutions, or appear as though you don't care or don't know how to address their concerns.

If you're looking for something a bit more cutting edge, then depending on your market you can even try advertising using information that isn't particularly useful... Adam Ruins Everything and BuzzFeed's YouTube Channel, in my opinion, are good examples of this. They often advertise by teaching people something new, but the information is more of a conversation starter than something anyone would use to accomplish daily tasks. That being said, this is effective because it's informative and entertaining, and encourages interaction. People are social creatures, giving them something they can share and talk about is an amazing way to increase your brand presence. Doing this can lead you to walk a thin line though - You don't want people coming to your page only for weekly updates, you also probably want them to buy something. Be careful if you choose to go this route! Remember your end goal and know your customer journey!

Along with all of this wonderful content you are surely going to produce, don't forget to have strong basics - Easy to see, easy to read and accessible buttons for subscriptions, sharing, purchasing, etc. Be aware of your load times for each of your pages. It takes 7 seconds for someone to decide if they're buying from you. Seven. Seconds. Does your home page even load in seven seconds? Do you know? You should probably check... Now. Go do it. I'll wait here.

.... Back yet? Awesome. Let's continue:

Is your web site as easily accessible on a mobile phone as it is on your computer? Have you looked at it in different browsers? Your webpage should offer the same seamless, easy and enjoyable experience no matter where people are accessing it from. This is a hugely important part of your user experience! Keep in mind that 60% of web browsing is done via mobile - 60% of your potential leads. As for browsers, I know that the 3 browsers I get traffic from to this blog are Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox (in that order, according to my data). Where is your traffic coming from? Take a look from each customer's perspective, what a waste it would be to be losing conversions because of a simple HTML or formatting error!

If your website includes a search, go to Google Adwords and take a look at the most searched terms related to your industry. Try them out and see if your search feature actually brings up relevant results. There is nothing more frustrating to me than a search that can't actually help me. I will leave your website immediately, I swear. For instance, I ran into this recently trying to buy a Christmas gift for my boyfriend - I tried to search for Milwaukee heated jackets on and while they do carry Milwaukee heated jackets in a high visibility option, I had to wade through pages of non-heated high visibility clothing before I found it. Why is the option that fits ALL of the keywords not first?! AUGH. So, if this scenario could also describe your site, please fix it. Hire someone with a superior combined knowledge of SEO and coding if you need to. Just fix it. People who are frustrated by one experience will rarely return for future purchases. Especially for those consumers in a constant time crunch (parents, business owners, shift workers), your search function is going to be depended on more than old-fashioned page to page browsing.

User experience and content marketing are undeniably linked. Despite existing under separate titles, both are influential in how much your customers invest in you, how much of your traffic becomes conversions, how often they return and how many friends they mention you to. By ignoring either one, you will be making your job much more difficult in the long run. It costs 10x more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one - Promote yourself through content marketing to give your audience a reason to stay, and optimize your user experience to prevent them from finding a reason to leave.

This post was featured in Brett Clay's online daily paper "The Selling Change Daily" on January 18, 2016. Thank you!!

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