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Content Really Is King

By Bob McElwain
Posted Friday, October 17, 2003

Here's a news flash for you: Content is king! You have heard this so often, you may tend to overlook the meaning of this simple statement.

On your website, pretty matters only marginally. It's crucial to have sharp, original art that enhances first impressions. For this gives visitors a fast, easy way to recognize yours as a professional site. They see in a glance that serious business is transacted here. However, it is words that sell, not pictures.

Information Is All That Matters

When a visitor touches down on your site, he or she is looking for information. The original purpose in creating the Net was to make information more readily available. While the scene has changed dramatically, the fundamental objective of web users is still to find information.

You must provide what is needed, and do so quickly. Else your visitor is gone in seconds. Sure, you want to sell your product. But except under special circumstances, such as reordering a renewable product, your visitor did NOT come to your site to buy anything.

They may be thinking about making a purchase. Your product offerings may be the primary reason they clicked through to your site. But they do not come initially prepared to buy.

They come for information. Period. A well designed site will provide what they are looking for immediately. Then seek to lead them to the appropriate sales presentation, and ultimately to a purchase.

If your visitors do not quickly find the information hoped for or expected, they'll never see your order page, or even one offer.

You Need To Establish Credibility Fast

In an online business, you have a cyber store or office. It's wise to remember that while the rent is cheap, it is only cyberspace. Your visitors can not reach out and touch or feel any part of your grand facility. They can only view what you choose to show them.

You can not panel your cyberspace office. And excepting art that enhances first impressions, graphics are no substitute for walls of teak. It is up to the page content to demonstrate your credibility to your visitor. While all pages on your site can not be equally effective in accomplishing this task, all must do their part, for there is no telling upon which page a given visitor will land.

Expertise Is Next On The Agenda

All you have time for in the first screen a new visitor sees is a hint of credibility. The full demonstration needs to be filtered in later as your visitor lingers.

Given this initial thrust and direction, the need changes immediately to demonstrating expertise. To put this another way, here's what needs to happen in the first few seconds after a visitor hits your site.

The first impression matters most. It must include the beginnings of the demonstration of your credibility and expertise. Your visitor will leave immediately if at least sufficient positive indications of each can not be picked up in a glance at the first screen.

Sell Yourself Indirectly

Apart from those vital images to be grasped immediately at the top of any page, credibility and expertise need to be demonstrated throughout. But always indirectly.

Whether you are selling products or services, let your content "prove" you are who you claim to be. Demonstrating credibility and expertise go hand in hand. Note the use of the word, "demonstrating." You must SHOW these characteristics. Saying they are so is a sales killer. Your visitor will not believe the claim, rank you as a charlatan, and leave immediately.

Content Matters

It's got to be great. Not necessarily great writing, but solid, useful, practical information. It needs to provide simple explanations easy to follow. It needs to include what your visitor hoped to find.

It is in providing this information that you continue to demonstrate your credibility and expertise. Honest discussion enhances credibility. Persuasive reasons for conclusions demonstrate expertise.

If selling products, make sure you have all details required for a novice to make the buy decision. Possibly on a 'more info' page, easily skipped by those who don't need it.

Stick your neck out and make sound recommendations. But be sure you mean what you say and back it up with facts or opinions properly supported.

Give Them What They Want And Need

Your visitor did not arrive to learn of you, but in search of information. Provide it. Be complete. Separate facts from opinions to enhance credibility. Demonstrate your conclusions to enhance the image of your expertise.

All of the above must happen, beginning in the first screen on every page. And they must be reenforced throughout the site. But always indirectly. Do so, and increased sales will demonstrate the merit in this approach.


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