PART 1: Prepare
You may have asked yourself, at one point or another, what IS web content? Or you may be the type of person who likes clear descriptions that are spelled out for you, A through Z. Either way, this chapter is for you.
After reading Chapter 1, you know WHO your website is for: just one person at a time, your VBV. But what needs to be on that website, for your VBV? The content, of course – tailored to the needs of your VBV.
But what exactly IS web content?
It’s simple, really. Web content is all of the things that people see on your site. It’s all of the STUFF. It’s your logo and your nav bar, your headlines and paragraph text. It’s your blog posts, about page, and footer links. And it’s all of the images, the photos and illustrations and graphics, that are on your site, too.
It’s EVERYTHING on your site.
GOOD Web Content
You might be thinking: “Great. Web Content is EVERYTHING on my website. That doesn’t really help me. What is GOOD web content? What does GOOD web content do?”
Glad you asked! GOOD web content shares information you have with the people who are looking for that information – your VBVs. That’s it! You’re just sharing information – having that conversation we talked about earlier.
Now, to be GOOD content, you must share your information clearly, concisely, and accurately. Not coincidentally, these are three things that will help your content rank high in SEO, too.
Don’t assume people know what it is you are selling. Only you know the ins and outs of your product or services. If you don’t tell your VBVs what you are selling and tell them all of the details about what you are selling, you won’t make any sales.
Let’s break down what’s in those three terms: clear, concise, accurate. You can look them up in the dictionary if you’d like precise definitions! But instead, let’s get that conversation started and write a few words:
1. Write down what you sell in one sentence or less. Will your mother (or someone else who is of an older generation, but who would still be interested in your product) know what it is you are selling? Will she be able to tell someone else what you sell? If not, reword and rework. (PRO TIP: The real work of writing is in the editing!)
2. Examine that sentence/phrase again: does your sentence make your product stand out from the competition? Does it tell your VBV why THIS is the product/service for them, versus any other? If not, work on adding a descriptor clause – i.e. for smart women, or fresh from the farm.
3. If someone picked up your product and then read your description, would they have a moment of clarity? Or a moment of, “huh, this doesn’t really match up?” If you think someone else not familiar with your product or service might be confused as to what’s in the box, work on refining your phrasing to be more specific.
Think about it: in the last few months, is there a product or service you thought you wanted, but on closer inspection, decided not to purchase? Why? Was there not enough information? Not the right kind of information? Examine these transactions and use them as guides to help you craft your own content.
So, GOOD web content clearly, concisely, and accurately shares the information you have with your VBVs. What if you want to do better? Read on.
REALLY Good Web Content
REALLY GOOD web content shares information in a way that makes your VBV feel something.
What you feel directly influences your actions. It’s why people asking you to sign petitions on the street are armed with statistics that make you feel mildly guilty. Or why you skip through those Save the Animal commercials with Sarah McLachlan.
Feelings come into play in almost every purchase you make. Think about it: how often do you make a purchase that you don’t feel something about?
↣ Food shopping? You like eggplant but your daughter hates it. Nix. But, cherries are on sale! Into your basket. (Sales elicit strong happiness emotions in most people). Feelings firmly in play here.
↣ Clothing shopping? You like skinny jeans, but you know they look terrible on you. You feel really GOOD in that button down you tried on. Even though you don’t really need another, you buy it. Feelings? Check.
↣ Book shopping? You like mysteries but hate war fiction – the violence keeps you up at night. There are those feelings again!
Stumped? I’ll tell you the one thing I think you might buy without feeling something: toilet paper. That’s it.
You can’t even lump in other cleaning supplies. You can’t stand the thought of parabens. The design of the hand soap bottle makes you want to hide it under the counter, even though it’s on sale. You love verbena! And Mrs. Meyers has a new lavender verbena scent – you just can’t resist the fabric softener. Into your cart it goes!
You’re having an emotional reaction, even when you’re buying dish soap! And laundry detergent! And, if those fluffy puppies get you to buy Quilted Northern, your feelings are in the game when you’re buying toilet paper, too. It is probably safe to say that every purchase you make has some emotion or feeling attached to it.
Good Feelings and Bad Feelings
As you probably know all too well: not all feelings are created equal – there are good feelings and bad feelings.
Let’s revisit the guy with the clipboard on the street. You’ve just given him a donation. Why?
- Maybe you’re bad at saying no.
- Maybe you feel guilty saying no.
- Maybe you feel bad for the people this guy is trying to help.
- Maybe you think he’s attractive!
- Or, maybe you truly want to support the cause.
Numbers 1-3 fall on the bad feelings side of the spectrum, while 4/5 fall more towards good. But all of those emotions got to you part with your money! Why?
Bad Feelings and Money
Guilt, feeling bad for someone, and a sense of urgency, feelings that most of us would put on the bad side of the feelings spectrum, are all great motivators in the moment. If you’re caught off guard, and presented with a scenario that makes you feel one of those three ways, you’re more likely to hand over a monthly donation to the clipboard guy. These guys KNOW this works, and they use these feelings to collect money for the cause.
It happens on television, too! As Seen on TV commercials are peppered with urgency: Don’t wait! Call today! Free Shipping! Order now and we send you a second set, free! Refrains of, “I will remember you…” in Ms. McLaughlan’s haunting voice over a slideshow of abandoned animals makes you feel tortured, sad, or guilty. Again, the people running these commercials KNOW that these emotional appeals work, so they use them!
And you’ll find these motivators on websites, too. But if you’ve ever given a donation, bought something from a TV commercial, or signed up for a web service under one of these guises, try and remember how you felt afterwards. Tricked? Jipped? Regretful? Not exactly positive emotions. But they did work…
So, if they work, why should you avoid these motivators? Because they don’t create relationships. We’ll talk about that a little more in the next part.
Good Feelings and Money
Instead of just relying on the easy (sleezy?!) feelings, it’s much more advantageous for you to tap into the positive ones, perhaps a feeling of want! or happiness or hopefulness. These positive emotions elicit a positive response that makes your VBV feel positive about what you are offering, whether it be a product or a service. This is good, because when you make a purchase you feel
a. Feel positive about the company
b. Tell everyone you know how great the product is, or
c. Make a repeat purchase
A is good, B is great, and C is even better! A is your starting point, what you’re aiming for: getting your VBV to feel something.
B essentially means that you have an unpaid ambassador to do your advertising for you. Hopefully, they are active on social media and like to share their purchases and experiences. All free, positive exposure for you! With the power of the internet and review sites like Yelp, can you see the power of positive over negative?
Think about it: When’s the last time you were about to try a new restaurant, get a haircut at a new salon, or checkout a local shop? Did you check Yelp or Google reviews? Did what you read influence your decision? How so?
C, repeat purchases, are your business’s new best friend. Why? Because it is 100 times easier (and less expensive, from a marketing standpoint!) to convince a buyer to make a second purchase than it is to find a new VBV. But repeat purchases only happen if your VBV feels positive about the first transaction!
How do you think you can incorporate good feelings into your content? What could you tell your VBV about your product or service to make them feel:
What other emotions do you want your VBVs to feel when browsing your website, making a purchase, or using your product?
Bottom line? The more positively you can describe what you are selling, the more likely you are to make your VBV feel something GOOD.
Once you make your VBV feel something GOOD about you or your product, you’ve made a connection.
And once you’ve made the connection, it is much easier to ask them to do something. Which means (you guessed it!) we can do even better than REALLY GOOD web content.
The BEST Web Content
The BEST web content accurately and emotionally describes what you are offering and then (and ONLY then), after making a good, positive connection, asks your VBV to do something: press purchase, sign up for your newsletter, or maybe watch a video for more info.
The asking and the action are both important here. By asking your VBV to do something, you create a connection point (more on that below!) and increase the likelihood that your VBV will eventually press the buy button. Why does signing up for a newsletter (or watching a video, or even just clicking through to the next page) make a VBV more likely to make a purchase? Two reasons:
REASON ONE: Generally accepted marketing advice says that it takes an average of 7 “touches” for a VBV to buy. A touch can be a website visit, an ad they see in a magazine, someone mentioning your name/service, or an email they get from you. Collecting their email (either through a freebie or a newsletter signup) means that you can put yourself into their inbox and create more touches! If a VBV visits and leaves without giving you their contact info: poof! They are gone. Even if they were interested in your product/service.
REASON TWO: The field of psychology has coined a concept called “priming” in regard to how we, as humans, take action. Essentially, priming your VBV is a lot like priming before you paint a dark color: an action before the final action that makes the outcome more easily achievable.
In painting, this means literally painting a coat of primer over the old color, so that you can get better coverage on the final coat. In the case of online purchasing, clicking on a button once “primes” your VBV to click on a button again, because they a). have already built trust enough in you to sign up or watch something and b). humans are creatures of habit and tend to do things that they’ve already done once more easily than something completely new.
Both of those may sound a little kooky or strange. But really, they are none of those things – they are simply the way humans work.
Timing is Everything
Like a perfect date proposal, timing is everything when it comes to making a connection.
If you ask your VBV to do something right away, at the top of the page, without telling them what’s what and without making them feel something, they simply won’t. Why would they? They don’t know what you are offering, haven’t placed any trust in you, and they don’t feel any connection to your product or service.
Think about it: how often do you arrive on a website and enter your email for the newsletter before at least skimming the home page? Who wants another junk email in their inbox? NO ONE. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Connection is important. It gets your VBV to engage with your content or give you their email so that you can stay in touch. But without accurately describing your product and then making an emotional connection, asking your VBV to do something is useless. This connection step is often labeled a Call to Action – you’ll find out more about those in Chapter 6.
CHAPTER WRAP UP
Whew. That was a long one. Ready for the summary?
What does web content do? Web content accurately and emotionally describes what you are offering and then asks your VBV to DO something.
Got it? Good. Now, on to the next W: Why Do You Need a Website?