A common misconception about websites is that just having one is enough: it doesn’t need a lot of text, images, or updated entries. However, that misconception costs businesses untold amounts in sales. In today’s exceptionally competitive marketplace, where small and large businesses are competing for dollars in ever-tightening budgets, websites need to be informative, engaging, and build credibility for the business to drive sales – and that requires quality content.
Content is more than just an About page and a Services page, and it certainly isn’t a static thing that stays the same for years. Unlike a print brochure, a website must be viewed as a living marketing document and updated with photos, graphics, and of course, words. When done right, quality content establishes businesses as credible sources, gets businesses found in web searches (ah, the ever-changing Google animal menagerie update!), and ultimately convinces customers to buy from that company instead of a competitor.
For example, visit a large technology company’s website, like Tibco. The website features white papers (more on those in a minute), blog posts, articles, case studies, videos, and webcasts. For a customer looking for a data analytics solution, visiting Tibco’s site offers a ton of information that isn’t necessarily a sales pitch but does educate its prospects and customers on what to consider. A search for “enterprise analytics” (one of Tibco’s specialties) puts the company at the top of Google results. This is the power of content.
While technology companies are extreme examples of content, smaller companies can still produce interesting content that drives visitors and converts customers. Here are just a few takeaways:
For technology companies, white papers are typically 5-10 page long reports on a particular technology trend. They don’t read like a sales brochure; they read like objective, third-party documents. White papers describe trends in the marketplace, problems customers are having, the solution (conveniently the technology company’s solution, but in generic terms), and then the specific solution: the technology company’s product. The specific solution is the shortest part of the white paper.
In the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, white papers are often called special reports in public and bait pieces in private. They’re written about a variety of topics, from skincare to finances, and usually require a website visitor to submit an email address. They’re very effective for generating leads as well as increasing search engine visibility, and if they’re well-written, they’re great for improving credibility.
Blog Posts, Articles, and Case Studies
Another important component of website content are shorter but still very well-written pieces, like a regularly updated company blog, articles or press releases, and case studies or customer success stories. Blog posts allow companies to optimize around keywords and offer tips to their customers, while articles and press releases not only keep content current but ensure that the company appears like a formidable force. Both business-to-business (B2B) and B2C companies can benefit from using blog posts and articles on their websites.
For business-to-business companies, case studies allow a prospective customer to step into the situation and see if the product or service would solve an existing problem of hers. For example, a payroll company may interview an existing client to describe the problem the client faced before engaging it, what the solution was, and how the client is doing now (saving money, being more efficient).
Multimedia: Videos, Podcasts
Product photographs are a fantastic way to illustrate a company’s lineup. However, videos are gaining traction as companies demonstrate how to use their products, how they perform services, or offer tips that are related to the core line of business. These videos are also good for search engine optimization purposes, in addition to being credibility builders.
Companies are also turning to podcasts as supplements or in place of company blogs. These audio files allow prospects and customers to listen to interesting content, like interviews or tips, on their MP3 players. Anyone with a good-quality microphone and a good script can produce one, too.
Ultimately, a mix of both print and multimedia content is what keeps a website fresh, interesting, and engaging. Customers are more likely to buy from companies they trust, and the content is key to gaining that trust.
Christine Parizo is the principal copywriter at Christine Parizo Communications (www.christineparizo.com), which specializes in white papers and case studies for B2B technology companies and marketing copy for entrepreneurs. A former technology journalist and paralegal, Christine now spends her days crafting snappy yet grammatically correct white papers and case studies, searching for misplaced punctuation, and staunchly defending the Oxford comma. She’s written bylined articles for various business and technology publications and was named Western Mass Women Magazine’s 2013–2014 Professional Writer Woman to Watch. Christine holds a bachelor of science in journalism and public information, with a minor in advertising, from Emerson College in Boston. She lives in West Springfield, Massachusetts, with her husband, two small children, and two mismatched cats. Follow her on Twitter @cparizo.