Are You Making This “Dangerous” Web Content Mistake?

In my work as a website writer, I get to see a lot of web content – some of it good, some of it bad.

Good content instantly connects with readers, seemingly hypnotizing them and commanding them to do what you want. Bad content drives readers away – and just as quickly.

But there’s a kind of content you probably didn’t know about. It sits right in the middle – in the space between good and bad.

It’s bland. Inoffensive. Doesn’t ask for much.

It’s not horrible, but then again it doesn’t really do anything but take up space on the page. Let’s call that kind of web content “politely useless.” And let’s also call it the most dangerous kind of content on the web.

Wait, what? “Dangerous?” How Can Content be Dangerous?

Because it lulls you, dear web pro, into a false sense of security. You think it’s doing great things for you… When, in fact, it’s doing nothing at all.

And here’s why that is.

Are You Making This Dangerous Web Content Mistake?

Why Visitors Come to Your Site

The people who are thinking about hiring you as a web professional – let’s call them your clients, even though technically they haven’t bought from you yet – come to your site with a job to do. What do you think that job is?

Learn about how great your company is? Read all of your hero slides just because they look fancy? Infinitely scroll through your infinite scrolling portfolio?

No.

Clients are coming to your site to see if you can help them solve their problem.

Now at first, a client might think their problem is they don’t have a beautiful website. They might think they need a new site so their business will look good.

What that client actually needs, of course, is something different. They need a website to drive sales and business growth, but hey… A lot of web designers have made a lot of money selling “beautiful,” so we can talk about perceived needs and actual needs another day.

Regardless of whether you’re selling to the needs your clients think they have, or to the ones they actually have, your content has an insanely important job to do…

Meet those needs.

It sounds simple, but in my experience only about 1 in 10 web professionals are actually doing it. The rest fill their sites with blah-blah-blah pages about their solutions, or their methodology, or the platform they build on, or the length of time they’ve been in business.

Dan. Ger. Ous.

Because all those things are features, not benefits. And feature-filled content just doesn’t connect.

(Hey, if you need a refresher, a feature is something cool about the thing you do: Responsive design; rock-solid hosting; SEO-optimized pages, and so on. A benefit is something good that will come from a feature: More chances to sell to visitors using a phone; peace of mind knowing your website won’t crash; better results in the search engines when people look for you.)

Let me be clear – you can’t sell on features. Not anymore, anyway.

Because, without hyperbole, everything has changed.

The Massive Shift in the Way People Buy

Thanks to the explosion of content marketing – strategically publishing content to attract clients – buying behavior has changed. It used to be, even as late as 2010, that an interested client might have contacted you to learn about getting a website built.

You, as the web pro, were given a chance to ask all the salesy questions – when do you need it, what kind of budget do you have, and so on.

And if you were lucky, you could convince the buyer to join you for an initial meeting. And that whole interaction would have been based on, really, nothing except the client’s need to find out more information.

Well those days are gone. (RIP, Those Days. We hardly knew ya.)

Today, when a client gets in touch with you – if it happens at all -it’s only because they’ve already done their research and they’ve decided a sales relationship with you is worth exploring.

In fact, one study suggests a typical client will be almost 60% of the way through their buying process before they ever contact you.

That, it should go without saying, is a big change.

How are they spending that initial time? Researching. Trying to figure out what they need to buy, and who they need to buy it from.

That means it’s more important than ever to use your website to anticipate what your clients want to know – and then give them the answers to those questions in a way that demonstrates your value.

In other words, your content needs to sell for you.

Dangerous Content Won’t Sell

These days, clients have the power.

So you’re not going to make the sale – you won’t even have a chance – unless you provide website content that shows your website visitors that 1) you understand their problems, and 2) working with you will solve those problems.

And dangerous content doesn’t do that. Doesn’t build trust. Doesn’t try to start a relationship.

It just sits there, when, in fact, it needs to be helping you land sales.

Coming Up

By now you’re probably saying. “It’s all well and good for you to tell me my content needs to sell, but what does that look like in the real world?”

Well I’m glad you asked.

Watch this space for more articles on making your content sell. In future posts, I’ll talk about changes you can make to your Home page, About page, Services page, Contact page, and Portfolio page… All of them designed to demonstrate the benefits of working with you, communicate your value to clients, and help you make sales.

Now obviously, some clients are going to leave your site – actually, you’ll probably never convince most of them to do anything but bounce.

But if you can reduce the number of people that leave your site without doing anything – in other words, convince more of them to start some kind of relationship with you – then your web business is going to be a lot healthier.

Good content can do that. Dangerous content can’t.

Comments

  • Martin

    Hi Aaron,
    great article! I totally agree with you especially when it comes to talking about what you can offer, instead of how great you are and how long you have been in the game. Also I think that nowadays, it is so easy to know what makes a good website by doing a simple research and I am sure that every serious client will do so. The key is simply to know what your clients need and also what they think they need.
    By the way, I am working in a web development company and we just put up our new website. After reading your article I thought “wow, we did it all right!”. Even though, I’d love to hear your opinion. It would be really great, if you could check us out and leave me a comment about what you think of our content and the way we presented it. Our website is http://www.homepage-magic.ch

    Best regards and keep them articles coming!

    Sincerely
    Martin Conde

  • Bob Burch

    Great post Aaron. This is one of the things I try and tell my clients when building their sites. It’s hard to sell the concept to most because they are rightly proud of what they offer and the company they have built. Because of this they like talking about themselves more than the needs of the customer.

  • Great article Aaron! “Dangerous content won’t sell” – I love it!

  • Travis Wiley

    Great article Aaron!! As a web guy, content seems to always be the headache – you content writers are life savers! Can’t wait for the next post!

  • raynadiane

    “Read all of your hero slides just because they look fancy?” No? That’s not it? Darn. :)

    This has shown up when I need it. I am working on my site copy and it was feeling, well, politely useless, and I think I was on the verge of copping out and letting it be. I think I will revisit it. I like living dangerously but not on my website!

    Well written as always – looking forward to your future posts.

  • Thanks for reading!

  • Thanks Travis.

  • Thanks Jonathan. I appreciate you reading.

  • Thanks Bob. I like to call that little disease “we-itis.” http://www.aaronwrixon.com/web-content-four-horsemen/

    The truth is it’s just _easier_ to talk about your company than to do the work to figure out what their customers want. But it sounds like you’ve already figured out which approach pays off. :-)

  • I don’t read German but in some ways I don’t have to—unless I’m mistaken your home page is all about the packages you offer and the features of those packages. Have a look at this blog post: http://www.aaronwrixon.com/web-content-biggest-problem/

  • Martin

    Thanks, that article really kind of rounded up this one.
    Yes you are right, we focus mostly on the features and (as mentioned in your article) the benefits of each feature. Even if we may throw around technical terms here and there, we always make sure that there is an easy explanation to it.
    Well thanks a lot again for both of these fantastic articles. I feel good knowing that we are headed in the right direction:)

  • Marama Carmichael

    Great article Aaron! Politely useless content that lulls you into a false sense of security… Scary stuff! I look forward to the rest of the series!

  • Das macht mich glücklich

  • Paul Higgins

    We’re never letting clients handle content ever again. Like Never. Keep up the great work Aaron.

  • Too late to say thanks for making me smile?