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.
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?
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.
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.