Why Do Websites Fail? The Problem with Website Content
Let’s get a few things straight off the bat:
- Every site that fails has a unique combination of reasons why it fails.
- Generalizations are never perfect.
- ∴ This article should be taken with a grain of salt.
But wise moderation like that has never stopped us before and it’s not going to stop us trying now!
In our years of working on the Internet, we have seen many websites succeed or fail and of course there are common patterns that come up again and again. Projects that ultimately fail to meet their goals run into obstacles like incompatible corporate culture, bureaucracy, poor design, poor execution, or lack of resources. However, there’s one obstacle that we have seen that trumps the rest and it’s the one that should be the easiest to avoid.
Many companies are unable, or unwilling, to produce good content for their website.
It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s a usually a red flag from early on. Some companies are too busy to produce content. Some don’t have the expertise. Others don’t have the time. These are legitimate reasons. We’re not trying to be confrontational, but this is the way that it plays out sometimes.
The problem is this: unless your a lingerie company, great website content isn’t inherently sexy and there are more interesting things that seem like they should be able to fix the problem. A new digital agency can give you flashy new visuals that will make your audience drool when they hit the home page. The big trade publications trumpet the latest trends like going mobile or being responsive. Your website traffic might be underwhelming, but there are 1.1 billion active users on Facebook so maybe “we should just go there.” The problem with this thinking is that if your content can’t draw your audience in, they wont stay with you whether or not its pretty, or if its on a smart phone, or if its on social media. Bad is bad no matter how you slice it.
Your content is your website’s most important asset and no one knows what you have to offer better than you do. People aren’t coming to your site because it looks pretty or because it loads quickly. People come to your site because they think you have something they want and they are giving you an opportunity to fulfill that need. Just take a look at Craiglist. They are arguably the ugliest site on the Internet yet they have killed newspapers in spite it. They do it because they have meaningful content and no one else can deliver it better than they can.
Are you giving your users what they need in the way they need to get it?
Before throwing more money at the problem, take a look at your website content. Is the most important information the easiest to find? Does your site encourage your users to act to meet your business goals? Are you giving your users the information they really need? Are you giving them too much information they don’t even want? Your website content is important and it needs a purpose – a content strategy. So here are a couple tips for those that are looking for the right path.
Know Who Your Audience Is
This is the most important aspect of creating a website and somehow it is often the most neglected. If you don’t have a clear idea of who is coming to your site, it is much more difficult to hone your content to appeal to them. If you know how they behave online, you can tailor your site to be more like the places they already visit.
How old are they? How much money do they make? How much time do they spend online? What are the other brands that they follow? How are the other brands communicating with them? What social networks are they active on?
Speak With A Purpose
Your website needs to have goals and the website content should work towards meeting those goals. Don’t write just to put words on the screen. That will be the fastest way to get your users to leave.
Do you have an ecommerce site? Show users the products that they are most likely to buy. Are you building a community? Encourage people to write in or upload photos. Are you advocating for a cause? Give your users specific actions to take. These types of content should be a priority. Everything else should be pushed to the side.
… And A Few More
Content strategy is a big topic and there are many ways to get better at it. If you’re interested in going deeper into the rabbit hole, here are a few more resources that will help you on your way.
- Content Strategy: Optimizing Your Efforts For Success, Smashing Magazine
- Developing a Coherent Content Strategy, Outbrain
- The Importance of Having a Website Content Strategy
Does your content have a strategy? Do you know what your audience wants (as opposed to what you want to give them)? Leave a comment below!Jeff Magill · Jun 14 2013 · Content Strategy