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The Content Crisis

Dec 15th, 2014

Imagine walking into a store and seeing nothing but empty shelves.

What is your reaction? I assume you turn around and leave immediately – maybe asking yourself the inevitable question as you are walking away: “What the heck was that?”

Content Crisis - Empty Shelves

In our world – the world of digital merchandising – a website’s content (text, images, videos, etc) is the equivalent to the products on these shelves.

And similar to any person’s reaction to walking into an empty store, website visitors and search engines alike will walk away immediately if there’s nothing to see or explore.

And like any retail store who has to make sure there is enough inventory on the floor for all the eager shoppers to visually devour as they’re making their rounds through the aisles, we need the “virtual inventory” in order to create a great experience for the online consumer.

Content? What Content?

“What do you mean we need to give you content? What kind of content? And shouldn’t you be creating the content?”
Um, no. We don’t create your content. We take your content pieces and transform them.

Think LEGO. And We Are The Builders.

Content Crisis - Lego

Photo by Alan Chia (Lego Color Bricks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve heard about LEGO. The colorful little bricks that allow you to create (almost) everything from them?

We are your builders, and all we need to build your model, city or whole landscape is those little building blocks.

The bigger the project, and the more visibility you want it to get, the more blocks we need.

You Are The Expert.

YOU are the one who knows your business best. You know what makes you different from all the others, what sets you apart, how your approach or why your technique is superior.

And it really doesn’t matter what business you’re in: You can be a massage therapist, a contractor, a landscaper, an event planner, a dentist, a plastic surgeon or anything in between: Unless you’re in our business, we would never dare to say we know enough about your business to write a whole website’s worth of content about it.

You are around your business all day, every day. You know the ins and outs, you are probably pitching your services to more than a few people on a daily basis.
All you really have to do is gather all this information and put it in digital format so we can take it and fill the proverbial empty shelves. And you should take some pictures while you’re at it.

Images? Do We Really Need Images?

Yes, you do.

Most people are very visually oriented. Endless pages of text are exceptionally boring, and nobody (except Google) ever reads them.
Images make text easier to digest by giving the user time to breathe; they can be used to showcase your services, products or achievements and serve as proof of your work.

Remember the LEGO example above?
“I just built a model of the Queen Mary with LEGOs.” Sure you did.
If there is no visible proof you actually did it, your claim doesn’t bare much credibility.

Queen Mary Legos

This guy did it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mprinke/8685703657/
He used around 780,000 parts and it took him some 1,200 hours.

Can you imagine shopping online for a product without seeing at least one product image? Neither can we. But compare the two images below if you don’t believe me.

E-Commerce Site With Images E-Commerce Site Without Images

But I don’t have any images!

Hint: It’s the same as having no inventory in your store: Order more inventory

You have 3 options:
Take the images yourself!
Yes, it’s that easy (well, kind of). But please, get a halfway decent camera first. Presentation is everything, and nobody wants to see crappy iPhone pictures on your website. You are a professional, and nothing says unprofessional like low-grade images. Save the phone snapshots for facebook.
Pay somebody to take professional images. (In a lot of cases, we can do that)
Yes, some people still make a living doing this. Because they have the required equipment, the knowledge and the experience.
Buy stock images. Online image archives have massive collections of images.
But of course these images cost money. Nobody said life is fair.

But I don’t have any (written) content!

Of course you’re not a writer. Neither am I.
Content Crisis

(I didn’t have an image of an empty notebook. I took this photo last night.)

And we’re not asking you to write the next Harry Potter book or a screenplay. But we really, really need your content.

Here’s what we have found to work extremely well for our clients:
Record yourself when you’re on the phone with a potential new client (again, you know your business best!) and then transcribe it (or pay someone to do it).
– When out and about and during client meetings, keep recording what you’re using to sell your services or start taking notes.
Check out Wikipedia for entries related to your business. Don’t plagiarize! But chances are you are getting a couple of nice ideas should you get stuck. Maybe even ideas on how you are doing it better than the original article suggests.
If you are a licensed reseller for a certain brand or manufacturer, they will most likely provide you with all the product descriptions and sometimes even enhanced marketing materials like digital brochures and imagery.

NOTE: You are probably not the only one using the exact same content in this case. You still have to craft your unique value proposition to distinguish yourself from the competition.

We will not – under any circumstance – copy and paste content from any other website to help you “create” your content (we were asked to do just that not too long ago).

If you are a licensed reseller, the vendor will supply you with a list of products together with all the other relevant product information (since it’s in their best interest to sell more of their products).

In summary, there’s no such thing as too much content.

The more we have to sort through, the more creative we can get and the better the result is going to be.
The more material we receive, the better we can craft and present the main items, the easier it is to make a user follow the desired path and lead them to the conversion points.
And we might still have parts left over for supporting pages, future additions or blog articles.

If your website does not contain relevant content for your users to explore, it is the same thing as paying for a huge billboard that says “coming soon”. Or hiring (and paying for) a construction crew but not giving them the building materials they need to get started.

Please Remember:

– Search engines need text to read and to index. It’s how they know which search results to return when someone is looking for what you or your business have to offer.
If you want to be found under a particular search term on Google, you need to provide this key term (and all the others) in your site’s content.
Stop seeing your website as a liability, and start treating it as an asset.

PS: Don’t forget to proof read! Have at least another set of eyes look at it or sleep on it and read it again the next morning. We do charge a fee to proofread your content.

About the author:

Nina Khoury is a computer scientist, software engineer, data and information junkie and online marketer. She taught at various universities for more than six years and worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies including cisco, Intel and HP.

One Response to “The Content Crisis”

  1. Shipra Kaul says:

    The importance of content and the effective use of images are extremely important in order to entice the interest of web users. Excellently written article explaining the importance of both these factors in detail!

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