Return to: GROK Dot Com 10/01/2001

When Content Isn't King

A while ago, when heavyweights like Forrester Research proclaimed content the single biggest motivation in getting people to log onto the Internet as well as return to a website, folks started jumping on The Content Bandwagon. After the initial rush to pad sites with tons of content, folks are finally starting to examine both the role and the value of content a lot more critically.

Now that we’ve got some experience and some data, what we know is this: Not all content is created equal. There are times when content is at best pointless, at worst actually destructive to conversion rates, and in any case most definitely not King (or even Prince).

According to a UCLA study, the Internet now beats out radio, television and magazines as an information resource (only newspapers - by a tiny margin - and books ranked higher)1. People do come to the Internet to get content. But don't go thinking just because people go online for content, they want that content from your site or that providing it automatically will help your sales. Think of it as the online equivalent of the old "milk argument," the one that says 90 percent of the people who go shopping buy milk, so if you want to increase sales in, say, your hardware store, all you have to do is add a milk cooler.

There is a difference between searching for content and going shopping. When people want content on the web, they go to sites that specialize in precisely the content they seek. When they want to buy something online, they want sites that offer a simple, trustworthy and streamlined buying experience (as well as outstanding service and great value), The only content they want is stuff that will directly help them make a more confident buying decision. Anything else only confuses them, or distracts them from buying, or slows the sales process, or bloats your site.

In e-commerce, content provides a lot of what you'd get from a real-world salesperson. You gotta have it, and because it occupies a central place in supporting the primary sales goals of your site, you cannot give it secondary consideration in the planning and execution of your site. You must make sure you have the content you need - but only the content you need, and content that is going to earn its keep.

You need content that's clear, concise, vivid, compelling, and strictly related to your product or service or to your expertise. It must motivate the shopper directly toward becoming a buyer. These days, folks are even monitoring the effectiveness of their site's content by tracking which elements prompted the best over-all results2. When you back-up killer content like this with a site that excels at the 5-step professional selling process - as an expert salesperson in the offline world would do - you will have a site that doesn’t just lay there and hope people will buy; you will have a site that sells.

Content is not King when it exists simply for its own sake, or when it attracts unqualified traffic that isn't interested in making a purchase from you, or when it undermines your sales process, or when it adds distracting layers that impede your prospect’s momentum toward becoming a buyer. So if you jumped on The Content Bandwagon, consider putting your content on a serious diet. Only then will you find yourself with content that truly rules!

1 "UCLA Report Finds Internet Surpasses Television As Key Information Source." Harlan Lebo. 15 August 2000.

2 See "Optimize Content to Maximize the Bottom Line." Charlie Tarzian, ClickZ, 30 March 2000.

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 10/01/2001

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