posted 30 Jan 2007 in Volume 10 Issue 5
Killer Web Content
Authors: Gerry McGovern
Publisher: A&C Black
Putting up a website – even one intended to conduct e-commerce – is easy, these days. It isn’t simply that pretty much anyone can do it, but the plethora of tools available means that, very often, a site designer does not even need to be conversant with HTML, the language that holds it all together and one that ‘real’ software developers look down upon with disdain.
However, putting up a website of any complexity does take a lot of thought and planning beforehand if its purpose is to be met. Sadly, too many websites have had too little thought put into them – both in terms of content and layout – undermining the purpose for which they were originally designed.
Everyone surely has a hit-list of websites that seem to have been designed to infuriate, rather than facilitate. That’s why Gerry McGovern’s new book is subtitled, ‘Make the sale; deliver the service; build the brand’ – that’s what most corporate websites ought to be about.
Indeed, with many retailers now reporting that their High Street sales are falling while their web sales (however ineptly designed their website) are rising, all organisations need to develop, refine and re-invent their web strategies – continually – or risk being left behind.
In many respects, McGovern’s book seems simple – perhaps too simple. It contains nothing technical and nothing that ought to be difficult to understand. The basic message is this: the value of website content cannot be underestimated – but it often is.
Lesson number one is this: “The people who really matter to you are task driven and time starved. Keep it simple: relentlessly focus on the task,” advises McGovern. In other words, websites that try to be all things to all the many different people that may visit them will fail. So, keep the site – and its content – focused on a minimum of objectives.
The second lesson is related to the first. Web users are impatient people – they need to be able to get what they want from a site, or find out how it can help them, quickly. If not, they’re off to the next website.
One of McGovern’s key concepts, therefore, is ‘carewords’ – key words that the mass of people use to find the information or websites they want. “Let’s say you are thinking of flying somewhere. What might be your carewords? Low fare? Cheap flight? Research indicates that 400 times more people search using the words ‘cheap flights’ than ‘low fares’,” says McGovern.
An airline might complain that using the phrase ‘cheap flights’ would ‘cheapen’ its brand, but they don’t have a choice – the carewords belong to the potential customers, searching for a cheap flight. If the language of a website does not match theirs, they either will not find it or, if they do, they will be frustrated when they get there. So how to find out your industry carewords? Simple:
1. Prepare a list of potential carewords;
2. Ask a number of people to choose their favourite carewords from that list;
3. Analyse the results.
That ought to be straightforward enough for even the slowest marketing department to follow.
Seek and you might find
Closely allied to carewords is the subject of search. Just as organisations need to carefully consider the carewords with which their target customers think, type and read, so they also need to write the content on their website with these in mind, too, as these carewords apply equally – especially, perhaps – to web searching.
“You need not so much understand search engines, but... how people search,” writes McGovern. “Find out about how people search and you get a window into how they think,” he adds. But McGovern’s advice on search goes into much greater detail than just this.
If a website’s content repeatedly uses the phrase ‘deluxe hotels’, for example, it will lose out because people seeking such an establishment are 40 times more likely to use the phrase ‘luxury hotels’.
But the search strategy needs to be more than just this. Indeed, McGovern goes into some details about the various strategies that need to be deployed in order to get noticed on the web – arguably the most competitive business environment ever devised.
Much of what McGovern recommends is not rocket science – although many rocket scientists insist that rocket science itself isn’t too difficult, either. Neither is building a user-friendly, workable website, but it’s surprising how many organisations nevertheless get it wrong. Killer Web Content should help them get it right.
Indeed, the book itself is an example of how complex information can be simply presented to make a powerful, yet easy-to-follow case.
Review by Graeme Burton.