Be Known For Your Content, Not Your Name!

If you manage your corporate website, which houses content from multiple departments or business lines, you probably recognize this scene: You’re summoned to a meeting with some internal web clients who own some of the content. They complain that they don’t have enough exposure on the site. They articulate the problem this way: “We get no traffic to our content!” This means that “Our peeps can’t find us!” The solution is obvious: “We need a prominent spot on the home page in the main navigation!”

You show them web analytics data: some of their pages get traffic—at least early on, just after there’s been an e-mail blast. You observe that the repeat visitor share is very low, meaning visitors come only once.

More importantly, you show them the fresh results of a user survey of their market segment (which they helped to design), showing that many in their target audience can’t remember the last time they visited your website. You mention casually that they don’t say that they have trouble finding stuff when they do visit. In the open-ended comments, the respondents talk about the information they need, but your internal clients don’t even produce that kind of information. You suggest that maybe the low traffic isn’t because of their content’s position on the website…

I’m not sure there’s ultimately any help for this situation. It’s hard to learn to put your users’ perspectives ahead of your own, especially if it means you have to rethink your whole content strategy. It underscores, however, a content strategy axiom of mine:

Be known for your content first, for your name second.

I can’t bear to hear anyone say one more time that “content is king,” but the truth is simple, if painful:

  • If your content doesn’t serve anyone’s needs, then no one will use your site, no matter who you are, no matter where you are on the website.
  • If they rely on your content again and again, they’ll probably get to know your name.

Here’s just one scenario:

  1. I do a search for something I need.
  2. I sift through a variety of links that look promising.
  3. I skip the ones that seem completely wrong.
  4. One link leads to something completely different from what I thought I was searching for.
  5. I click it and realize that it’s exactly what I needed all along without knowing it.
  6. I wonder, “Who created this fantastic thing that I never realized I needed? What else is here??”
  7. I become a fervent fan of this website, and I start to tell everyone about it.

I don’t mean to oversimplify: There are many ways in which people build relationships with websites. But underlying the strength and longevity of that relationship is always the degree to which the content meets the user’s needs.

Here’s the message for that department or business line:

Even if the user recognizes your department’s name apart from the identity of the whole organization, and even if your name is emblazoned across the home page of the website, and even if the rest of the website sucks, it is the quality and usability of your content that brings people back.

As always, I would love to have your feedback. How does this perspective square with other strategy branches, “online branding,” for example?

About: rsgracey

@rsgracey has spent his life moving from one area of interest to another, collecting knowledge, skills, and experience (and TOOLS!) for a wide range of creative and professional fields. If you need someone to help you "think through" any problem of information, communication, and the community, don't hesitate to call him in.

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