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A Challenge: Content or Die

Posted on Jan 14th, 2010
Written by Lee Odden
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    Time after time, when I discuss the search and social media based opportunities for companies to reach new customers and achieve other online communications goals, it comes down to content.  Most companies understand the need to have a web presence and publish some kind of web site. For many, the creation of a web site is a one time event with minimal updates. Marketing budgets are tight and companies are frugal.

    For the most part, updates and new content on many web sites are limited to news, an occasional press release or product announcement. Site owners are happy with the design and employees are happy they don’t need to come up with new content. IT staff do whatever they can to minimize site maintenance (which often means shortcuts or templatization that makes page level editing difficult). Essentially, this kind of web site with static content is a tombstone when it comes to being a search marketing asset.

    When suggesting the need for new content, many web site owners either cringe at the idea, imagining resource issues, or they pay lip service and make a commitment that turns out to be a fraction of what the web marketing agency has in mind.   The importance of shifting from a dead end web site to becoming a content publisher (and promoter) is critical for any company that has customers and competitors active online.

    When a company marketer says this, “We don’t have anything new to publish.” it’s pretty much a death sentence for the web site.  Businesses that are actually involved with meeting the needs of their customers, that take the time to learn pain points and solutions, that innovate, that participate in their industry or community, have plenty of reasons and content to publish.

    It’s an important mind shift, which is why I used the stark title, Content or Die.  If the people responsible for the success of a company web site don’t have the resources or skills to make the shift from tombstone web site to active content marketing, the options are: hire people (internal or outside consultant) that can champion, implement and manage the change or get existing staff educated on to do so. Or things could remain as they are. Traffic dwindling, inquiries drying up and desperation.

    When presented with a reasonable argument, most business web site owners will agree that content creation and promotion makes sense.  The more useful web pages that are published, the more there is for others to link to them and to show up in relevant search results. This can easily be demonstrated by showing how the competition is dominating the search results. Additionally, more search traffic means more data to analyze in terms of conversion optimization and the creation of new content to meet customer needs as they move through the site and into the sales pipeline.

    These benefits are not realized over night. It takes a commitment, a plan, education and a bit of faith. The question is, “How bad does it have to get for a company to change?”.

    I challenge companies that are seeing declines in their organic search based traffic to re-evaluate their web marketing strategy. Where does content creation AND promotion fit?  Are you SURE the content you’re creating is achieving the maximum possible effect?  How much content is enough? How will you manage content? How will you promote it? How will you plan the editorial of  content to be as efficient and productive as possible?   Are you measuring customer interactions with your content ON and OFF the site? What feedback mechanisms are in place for your content creators to know what’s working and what’s not? How can multiple departments responsible for creating content work together?  How can you make the corporate approval process more productive and less like a stranglehold on your content publishing plans?  How are you measuring up to competitor content strategies? What content strategy is reasonable given current resources but IMPACTFUL enough to give you a competitive edge?

    I also challenge companies that are starting new web sites to take a fresh look at the content component of their web marketing strategy. Don’t make your fancy, flashy web site a tombstone for search marketing. Assess the landscape in your topical category and identify what kind of content structures, topics and audiences make the most sense for your own editorial plans. What will distinguish you from the competition? What are the most cost effective, yet high impact investments you can make to reach content marketing goals? What technologies will help your content creation, management and promotion yield the best possible results?

    How has your company and web site have addressed these challenges? Is your company a tombstone web site? What objections are keeping you from making these changes?