layer cake website

The Four Layers of Website Content

 

“Are you primarily working with clients on their Facebook & Twitter content?” This question came up in a Q&A after a lecture I gave at a digital conference in Tel Aviv.

The answer? “Actually, no, we’re too busy working on core content issues,” I answered.

What is core content, you ask? To answer this, we need to take a look at the following chart I frequently refer to in my presentations:

The Four Layers of Website Content

It all Starts with the Core

 In almost all B2B websites, one of the most visited page is the “about” page. If you don’t believe me, check your analytics.

This should not be a huge surprise, we all like to know whom we are doing business with. I find more and more website that are very busy with the top layers of content of their websites. That is a good thing, but not on the expense of keeping the the core pages of the site fresh and engaging.  Failing to do so, will screw up the entire balance and UX of the site.

The Core

The core content on a website will typically provide the fundamental information about the company, the service or product. It may include webpages such as “About”, “Contact”, “ Team”, “product information” etc. The main challenge in these types of pages is to balance the need to be informative and SEO friendly without being too dry, and to be able to create engagement. On the other hand, content managers should avoid the trap of trying to look too cool and slick while creating a user experience that compromises the functionality and accessibility of the core content.

The Service Layer

More and more users expect to get service online. This can be done through an enclosed log-in area. It might be a fancy dashboard with functional features or just plain access to premium information. The service layer information can and should provide consistent and coherent fresh content. Examples are “my.subaru dashboard” or “my-real-estate-mls-portal”.  Although the data and numbers are usually machine generated, there is a place for customizing content language and creating a distinct experience.

Inbound Repository

All of the content that serves the site’s inbound marketing efforts needs to be stored somewhere and the best place for it is in your website. Blog posts, posts with videos, press releases, interviews, surveys and courses, all should be in the website.  The benefits of having this type of content on your site are enormous. It helps your SEO ranking and brings search traffic to the site. It helps build authority and it enhances trust both for users and for SE bots. The content, while situated on the site, can always be distributed on social media platforms and draw even more traffic and clout inwards. With the help of good inner linking and tagging, it could also help the other content layers.

Promotion Funnel

Landing pages, shopping carts, remarketing generated content are all typical examples of native, yet non-organic content elements. While online marketing geeks like to keep them isolated, mostly for tracking needs, they could be woven more organically into the site’s fabric and bring even better long term results.

Lately, more and more site owners realize that their content needs to be redone from the ground up. The core of the content needs to be kept fresh and relevant. That is even more critical to attend to before turning to work on all of the content layers.  Sometimes, this process can open a whole can of fundamental questions about the business and the brand. Positioning and messaging are suddenly on the table for discussion again. But no need to panic. This is a great opportunity for companies to freshen their marketing narrative and to re- focus. This is highly critical work that should impact many other aspects of a business.

web content mistakes

Website Content Marketing: 5 most common mistakes

“If you build it they will come”. This mantra tends to be misunderstood by many online marketers.  When it comes to website content, it is crucial to deploy a well thought out the strategy, to use the right platform and the right content distribution channels. BUT that is not enough!  If you build it, they won’t come – unless you do a whole lot more.

Once the initial, core content is created, you need a consistent and ongoing content effort. That takes dedication and long term vision, as well as lots of trial and error. Some of the content will strike gold and bring visibility and traffic, while other content efforts will fail to achieve what you hoped for. Anyone who builds it and waits for them to come, will be doing just that. Waiting.

Here are some common website content pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Me First

Have you ever been on a date with someone who only spoke about themselves? It’s annoying, right? Self-absorbed folks tend not to listen to others or to show interest or empathy to the needs of others. Everyone wants to be heard. When your website messaging is all about you and how great you are, it influences your audience’s  perception of you and can reduce trust in your brand.

Instead,  focus on your audience, their needs and their interests. If you convey to them that you understand their needs and desires, you are much more likely to  win their trust and successfully engage with them.

  1. Too Much SEO

“Landscaping services, Landscaping services in PA, Landscaping services in Philadelphia, landscaping for your landscaper . . .yada, yada, yada” . . .if your website optimization efforts interrupt the natural, organic  flow of your content, you are overdoing it. Not only will your audience find it awkward but chances are that the Google bot will recognize that your site suffers from keyword stuffing and other SEO tricks meant to artificially raise your site ranking. And Google might punish you for that. The best  strategy is to consistently develop content with your user’s experience in mind. Resist the temptation to overdo SEO.

  1. Marketing Clutter

Left brained digital marketers tend to get obsessed with marketing technologies and numbers. “Measure everything” is a good practice, but overdoing it can inhibit content flow and creativity. I was recently in a meeting where the marketing team techie had been A/B testing. He amended the site to such an extent that the UX team member was understandably upset about the site losing its delicate design balance – which was what made the site work in the first place.  When it comes to digital content, don’t let the numbers distract you from your creative path.

  1. The Template

With the successful adoption of open source CMS platforms, such as WordPress, the web  is beginning to look like a collection of cloned websites. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The success of the themes marketplace makes it incredibly easy for marketers to create wonderful, responsive sites. Now it is their job to tweak and to adapt the templates into telling their unique story and to create a memorable experience. This can be a challenge if you are playing it safe and relying heavily on the template defaults.

  1. Frozen in Time (Inactivity)

No matter how beautiful your website may be, when a user visits your site for the second time and observes that there is no change since his first visit, there is no incentive for him to visit again.  A website is not a brochure! It needs to change, to evolve and to be dynamic. Otherwise, the Google bots will not rank you well  and users will not be tempted to visit.

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”Robert Cormier

writing on boring subject like riding a bike

5 Ways to write an interesting article … on a boring topic

Ever need to write an article on a really boring topic? You probably worried that the outcome will also be boring and no one will want to read or share your writing.  No need to panic.   Here are 5 tips that will help you spice things up and make your digital article writing on a boring topic, easy as pie.

writing inteesting content for the website

Mindful Writing

Take your reader hand in hand on a journey. Make them feel that they are having an exclusive, exciting, meaningful, inside experience.

  1. The” Clean Slate” Method or “Playing it Dumb.”

Before even starting to write, clear your head of any pre-existing knowledge on the topic. Now put on a set of ignorance glasses through which you will look closely at the topic of the article. This perspective makes anything look a bit strange. It can lead to a fresh and innocent perspective on the topic.

Let’s say, for example, that you need to write about the water level on the Delaware River in New Hope, PA.  If you don’t live on the river or kayak there every so often, that could sound really boring to you. But try playing dumb and ask questions out of ignorance. For example: You can ask “Why should I care about the water level?” The answer, “So your butt will not get scratched when you go tubing!” A mixture of ignorance with humor can be a great ice breaker that will help ease into a more serious discussion.

  1. Make it Personal

People can get bored reading an article, but they love a good story. So tell them one and make it personal. For example, let’s say you are trying to write about a math conference for a university website. You can start your story with the anxiety attack you had when you heard about the assignment – when  it  took you back to your high school pre-calculus class. You could tell how son’s school calculator is so sophisticated you wonder if he does math in school or goes to class to learn what each button actually does.

  1. The Outstanding Angle

Even the most boring topics include some odd or outstanding facts or numbers. Shine the light on these issues and you can find a great story to tell. Let’s go back again to New Hope, PA where I happen to live right now. What if you need to write about the D & L Trail – Delaware Canal Towpath? Your research shows you that many people before you have covered this topic already and have provided all of the interesting places on the trail. So how can you avoid just repeating the same information? How could you provide something unique? You could stand it on its head and write about the great places the trail misses. For example Bowman’s Hill, which is less than 0.5 a mile from the trail, is a must stop to anyone who is hiking in the region. Or write about where to go after a nice walk – like that little coffee place that the locals like.

  1. The “Official Quote” Method

When the topic appears to be extra boring and writing is even more challenging, you can always resort to quotes. Official quotes from Wikipedia, official census statistics or funny quotes from famous people will do the job. For example, if your topic is “urbanization in the 18th century”, you could start by quoting the “official” definition of “urbanization”. Then you can argue or defend the relevancy of the definition for today versus the 18th century. Ask and answer the question. Why was the topic important? Is it still relevant to us today? And what about the future, will it still be relevant?

  1. Mindful Writing

People might prefer living the experience than just reading about it.

To deliver an actual experience to the reader, you can use mindfulness and meditation techniques. This can get the reader not just interested but also emotionally involved. Take your reader hand in hand on a journey. Make them feel that they are having an exclusive, inside experience. Here you are, riding your bikes on the canal path. The warm spring wind brings you back to a fun childhood memory of riding your bike with friends. Suddenly you realize that you’re smiling. You are not quite sure why.  Is it because of the picturesque canal on your right? Is it the blue sparkling waters of the Delaware River on your left? Who cares? As long as you can feel the story, you are in.

 

This post is based on a previous post written with Gil Slovik from the content Hub (Hebrew)