Last month, I wrote about informational content and how the majority of searches on the Web are informational rather than navigational or transactional. This time, I’d like to explore the different types of informational content that you can use, and some ways you can incorporate it into your website.
I came under fire last week because many people felt the research I quoted was too old, so I want to be clear up front that the rest of this article is filled with my opinions. These are time-tested, observationally effective, strategies, but they are not backed up with any empirical research.
Content Location, Location, Location
Where to put the informational content is just as important as having it at all. Too many sites cluster it all on the blog, creating an inconsistent voice and authority that unbalances the rest of their message.
Blogs are great, and most sites should have one, but they’re not the only informational content location available. It’s very simple to create a resource center or learning center, with how-to content, definition-based content, and other useful informational tidbits.
Content Case Study
Consider a doctor’s website we’ve been working with. They had many pages that contained primarily transactional content (i.e., they were trying to get potential patients to make an appointment) with a little bit of informational content thrown in. These pages were getting ok rankings and traffic from search engines, but they weren’t converting well — even through PPC.
The first step we took was detailed keyword research. We realized that potential patients were more interested in the how than in the what.
The next step was to look at the intention behind the searches. What we realized is that (as expected), the majority of searches were for informationally-oriented content. They wanted to know what was involved in the procedures, how long it took to complete, what the recovery time was like.
The doctor’s content had previously focused on himself: his certifications, experience, and style. While people wanted to feel confident that their surgeon was capable, that was secondary to answering other specific questions about the procedure.
Our first strategy was to add this information to the existing pages: how each procedure is approached, what the recovery times are, how much they cost, and before and after photos. The structure didn’t change much, and it looked something like this:
Keep in mind, these structures show only the portion of the site we were working with; a number of other pages, including “about,” “certifications,” “blog,” etc., were still also available.
While this strategy improved organic positioning (because we were actually using the keywords people were searching for), it didn’t improve conversion. For PPC listings, it actually reduced conversion. Something had gone terribly wrong, but what?
Using A Scalpel Rather Than A Sledgehammer
After detailed review of the website’s conversion paths, bounce rates, exit pages, page views and time on page, we started to see a different picture form. What had happened was that people’s actions indicated they liked the new content, but instead of convincing them to make an appointment, it was overwhelming or distracting many of them from making an appointment.
In a nutshell, the pages we had created were too long-form for the main portion of the website. What we realized was that the informational content we had added was good, but it wasn’t broken down enough.
Informational Content Has Its Place
Our next step was to go back to the keyword research and take another look. While it was true that the keywords indicated an intention for informational content, it wasn’t necessarily procedure-specific.
In other words, people were interested in recovery time for specific procedures, but not because they knew what procedure they wanted, but because they wanted to know what their options were.
We realized that what we needed was a procedure information center, where we broke down the different questions — not by procedure, but by question. So, instead of having one page that indicated how much it was for a specific procedure, we listed all of the options for that part of the body in one place.
Then, we carefully linked the main procedure page to this information so that whether people entered the site on a specific procedure page or the “how much it costs” page, they ultimately found whatever it was they were looking for. That structure looked more like this:
While it looks much more complicated (and it is to maintain!), this actually streamlines the client experience. By limiting the content on the main procedure pages to just a simple description and some quick links to what to expect, how much it costs, and recovery time, we found that people were likely to take one of two paths: (What to Expect -> Procedure -> Appointment OR Procedure -> What to Expect ->Procedure -> Appointment) through the site; but, both ended in a request for an appointment.
The key was to make use of page anchors to take the patient exactly to the part they requested (e.g., http://www.site.com/what-to-expect#procedure-1, for example) and then include a link at the end of that description back to the procedure page they had come from.
Think About The Medium As Well As The Message
Our next step after launching this was to consider some alternative ways of consuming content – videos, podcasts, infographics, etc., and determine what worked best for our audience. But that is another post entirely.
The key is to know your audience, to give them the right forms of informational content, and to present it on the website in a way that is easily accessible and useful.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.