A riddle: I help people make buying decisions; when I’m good I keep them engaged on your web site; when they like me they come back often and when they don’t they keep away from you for years. Everyone believes that they do a great job with me and in bad times, my people are among the first to go. Who am I?
I am the content of your web site. But before you stop reading, please hear me out. I want you to have a level of content-ment to help you though these tough times.
People interact with your content, and not just on your web site. They provide a measurable trail that can help you fine-tune your content to meet their needs – and yours.
Natural search is when search engines such as Google look at your content and provide unpaid links to you site. Think of these sites as your surrogate home page: It’s where people make the first decision about your site: to visit or not to visit.
The phrases that users type in those search engines can tell a lot about what they are looking to find. Look at the most frequent and least frequent words and phrases that they use. Watching the trends that develop over time allows you to be ready to capitalize on emerging customer needs.
This does, of course mean you need some type of web measurement, or analytics service coded into your web site. While I prefer the larger players like Coremetrics, Omniture and Unica, free and low price options like Google Analytics and Clicky can yield a significant amount of data to help grow your web site.
How to Listen to Your Visitors
The search engine on your web site (on-site search), is another great source of aggregate customer data. Customers are literally telling you what they can’t find and how they looked for it. Too often, I find this stat ignored. If you received three phone calls about not being able to find web content, how would you react? What if you knew 20 people left your site yesterday after not finding what they needed because you call the product by a different name? Would you react differently and why?
For example, I looked for a cable on a major e-commerce web site to connect my “HD TV to cable.” Yes, I know the spelling is wrong, but it is common. I found five pages of televisions, but no cables. They called it an “HDMI cable”. Every web site I’ve been tasked to research has a constant flow of these examples.
Trending weekly or daily search data will show new needs emerging with your customers. The lesson here is to show your customers the love they want, before you loose them.
Another example, if a hardware company gets queries on cables on their site, it means (1) people can’t find the cables or (2) you don’t carry cables and have the opportunity to grow a high-profit add-on or aftermarket business. There are other benchmarks to ensure you are interpreting the data correctly, but the basics are there.
There are a lot of companies that jump on these opportunities and count how many times users “convert” to sales. Total the sales that otherwise would be lost and you quantified a success.
One site I measured showed $26-million savings in the first year. A big part was analytics including this type of search analysis. We grew content to meet demands. My team developed over 200 subject matter experts who contributed what they learned and five editors who made sure everything was grammatically correct (among other things). The next company I was with decided content wasn’t important. (I am now elsewhere).
Too many companies’ fire content people in tough times because they think anyone can write content. Monkeys can write content. Content professionals write pertinent content. Loosing content that is pertinent to your visitors results in less sales, less engagement, and simply loosing growth potential. And we all know it costs more to get a customer to your site than to keep existing customers happy and coming back.
As you grow, you will need to determine what types of content work best for your customers (Flash, text, video, etc.). That will need a significant amount of research, but will result in content that is measurable.
Google “video” says that they serve up over 4.3 billion page views every day from their content-based advertising network. What do they know that you don’t? They know that pertinent content is the basis for any business model on the web.