3 Ways Content Rots When You Don’t Think Like A User

June 22, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

You are a rock star.

As a business owner turned content marketer, you are all about helping your content be found. You’re watching your keywords, creating personas, and making sure nothing gets published unless it’s been hit with the magic SEO stick. You know that it’s a waste of time to create good content only to lock in the basement of bad SEO, so you’re doing you’re part. Your pages will get in front of users!

Only…they’re really not. Because you’re putting your content where your users aren’t or trying to force them into unnatural behaviors. Because you know better. Or, at least you think you do.

Bad robot.

There’s a disease many of us suffer from. I’m not going to try and give it a clever name (mostly because my attempts failed), but it’s pretty easy to recognize. It’s when a business owner starts making decisions based on THEIR actions instead of those of their customers. It’s when that business owner thinks because THEY do something one way, that they’re audience must naturally do it the same way.

Only, often they don’t. Because your customers are not your Mini-Mes. If they were, they wouldn’t need you in the first place.

Below are three questions you must ask yourself to ensure you’re putting content where your users are looking for it. Because, if you’re not, well…we can talk about all the time you just wasted later.

Are you optimizing for the right screen (Example: mobile vs Web)?

When you created your Web site, you assumed that your customers would be finding you via the traditional Web and that they’d be using their home computer to access your store/ read your blog. But is that what’s happening or are you finding a growing segment of your customer base is accessing your Web site via their mobile phone? Are they bouncing off of conversion pages? Have you checked?

If not, it’s time to open up Google Analytics to discover what percentage of your traffic comes from mobile, their average time on site, how many pages they view, what device they’re using, etc. This isn’t novelty information anymore. It’s an indication of how users prefer to view your content and a sign that you may need to work around an experience you weren’t expecting.

Don’t get me wrong. Every Web site should be concerned with mobile usability in today’s environment, but for some sites, mobile becomes even more important when you spot trends that users would prefer to convert from mobile than the traditional desktop. It’s not that they’re looking for directions; it’s that they’re trying to make a purchase, trying to access walled content, or trying to partake in some other conversion-heavy activity. This may mean creating an app to help them do it or architecting your site around a different kind of user. But if you don’t look, you don’t know.

Are you using the right medium (Example: email vs RSS)?

It’s not that RSS is dead or dying, it’s that RSS isn’t for everyone. If you’re reading this, you are a geek. Congratulations. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. What you have to ask yourself is if your CUSTOMERS are geeks or if they’re normal people. Basically, do they sleep with their phone by their head or don’t they? Because if they don’t, then forcing them to ingest your content via RSS will not work because they don’t see the ‘simple’ in RSS. Instead, it’s going to alienate them and make them feel disconnected from your brand.

If you’re not serving a tech-savvy crowd, take the additional three seconds in Feedburner and offer your audience a Subscribe via Email option so they can keep up to date with your brand via their inbox. Heck, even if you are serving a tech-savvy crowd, give it to them anyway. You’d be surprised how many people prefer to receive information through that archaic email technology than through RSS. Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it works for them. This isn’t about you.

Are you posting where they’re listening (Example: on-site vs off-site)?

It’s fantastic that you’re putting fresh content on your site every day, but is that where people want to go to find it? Or are you trying to corral the cats running around the Internet?

Before you can engage users (that’s what we’re all doing, right?), you have to know where they are and where they want to be reached. The Web allows us to exist in a much more fragmented place. We don’t go to NYTimes.com to get the news anymore, we follow @NYTimes on Twitter. Or maybe we follow one of their reporters. We don’t show up to the local lunch spot to check the specials, we go to their Facebook page to see if they’ve been posted there. We have far more control over how we consume content and the channels we use to do it.

Your stellar content is wasted if you’re not engaging users the want they want to be engaged. Post that content on your site, but don’t ignore the outside satellite communities that your analytics are telling you. Where are customers coming from? Which communities are linking to you? The people passing around your content – which sites are they from? If your audience prefers to be reached in their satellite communities then posting your content on your own island and then YELLING about it isn’t going to work.

Everything starts with creating content that users are interested in. But once you have that content, it’s not enough to simply put it on display and wait. It has to appear on the right screen, in the right format, and be where users are ready to accept it. Otherwise, your great content doesn’t matter. No one’s seeing it.

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