Content is king or is it design or SEO?
The debate rages on.
Let’s get some clarity on this.
Content is really how you get traffic and keep readers coming back to your site by building trust and loyalty.
So is content king? No
Then, what is the real problem?
Evoking Online Trust
In the online environment interactions rarely happen without trust. So why is it that people decide to interact? Well, the decision to interact happens before someone actually listens to what you have to read or say.
Seth Godin lists the following factors as evoking online trust.
Word of mouth: The most effective, by far. If I’ve heard good things about you from people I know, the entire relationship changes. You get the benefit of the doubt.
Direct interaction: Have you previously touched me or interacted with me in some way beyond the passive? The way I feel about that ping will alter our interaction. If this is the first time you’re reaching out, you can bet a piece of spam is read differently than something that comes via mutual introduction.
Graphics: What do you look like? What does it remind me of? With so few clues online, we read an enormous amount into every pixel, every typeface…
Tone of voice: A variation of graphics, it has to do with your copy, with your video, with the urgency of your offer. Urgency rarely leads to trust.
Scarcity: Is there a perception that early birds gain? This also hooks in with metrics, like the progress your Kickstarter has made so far, or the number of social links you display.
Offer: What’s in it for me to listen to what you have to say? Do I gain more if I listen with a sympathetic ear?
Size of leap: What are you asking me to do? It’s significantly easier to earn the trust that is required to follow you on social media than it is to get me to give you my credit card. When you hook your new idea to an old idea I already trust, you benefit.
Fear: This is related to the leap. Big leaps are scarier, requiring more trust, and thus more skepticism.
Social ranking/metric: Results on the first page of Google are more trusted. People with a lot of Twitter followers as well, which is one reason both metrics are aggressively coveted and sometimes gamed.
Tribal affiliation: Are you one of us?
Perception of transparency: When I can see the metrics, or understand your intention, or when the message carries with it the hooks to those ideas, I’m more inclined to trust you. (This is a cultural, not a universal, bias).
Longevity: How long have you been showing up?
Mass acceptance: When I sort of hear of you from my friends, when I recognize you from a hashtag or the logo on a shirt or from a TV show, you come out ahead. TV celebrities walk in to the room with a lot of trust.
You will be judged, best to plan on being judged in the best possible light.
Revealing initial impressions
In the online world, you really only have a couple of seconds to grab someone’s attention.
The fact is that visitors to your site in that space of time form judgements about your business, your site and you. Now all of this happens even before they begin to read your content.
Studies by Pamela Briggs and Elizabeth Sillence show that this is very much the case.
Elizabeth Sillence’s study involved asking participants to discuss trust related first impressions of health related websites they visited. In deciding whether they trusted a website or not participants sited 94% design related factors as opposed to a 6% that were content related. In other words the idea that content is king is a myth as far initial user impressions go.
Red flags of mistrust – Content is king myth
What were the design elements that led to mistrust from the studies?
1. Inappropriate name for the website
At times genuine domain names can be inappropriate and clever names can be confusing. Take a look at a few examples here.
2. Complex, busy layout
3. Lack of navigation aids
4. Boring web design, especially use of color
5. Transparency of motivation for site. No Pop up ads or overly commercial elements or advertising
6. Markers of knowledge and expertise. In other words social proof, citations, testimonials, references etc.
7. Slow introductions to a site (splash pages, slow-loading flash introductions, etc)
8. Small fonts
9. Too much text
10. Corporate look and feel
11. Poor search facilities/indexes
12. Personalised tailored experience. Interactive forms, discussion boards and ability to ask an expert.
13. Markers of social identity. Sites written by people like themselves who shared similar experiences and interests.
According to the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab 46.1% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company. Design plays a key role in generating trust from your audience and one the biggest influences that the eye is naturally attracted to are images.
You have probably heard the saying – A picture is worth a thousand words.
So if you think that design or the visual component of design isn’t important you would be ignoring the vast majority of your audience who are visual beings. Consider these statistics:
- 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. (Sources: 3M Corporation and Zabisco)
- 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. (Source: Zabisco)
- Visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action. (Source: 3M Coorporation)
Also keep in mind the fact that a social media post that focuses on visuals generally gets the most shares and engagement. You can get a great snapshot via infographic here.
Bringing people to your site and creating a positive first impression is only half the battle. You now need to keep them there and help move them forward in a relationship with you. Without a website that is optimized for conversions you will end up wasting all the traffic coming to your site.
You will notice that search engine placements did not really get mentioned as trust factor simply because search engine placements and SEO is a source of traffic. SEO and potential search engine rankings benefit the content marketing process and is not an isolated tactic.
So how do we engage in a process to build a relationship that results in customers and repeat buyers?
Get them to opt in to your email list. This is where conversion optimization comes in. It is a process of turning new website visitors into opt-ins and paying customers and first time customers into repeat customers.
This is where content comes in. Your content needs to help engage in a conversation that’s already taking place in the heads of your prospects. The content also needs to channel the existing desire in the audience, for a solution and benefits to a specific service or product. Brian Clark talks about this more here and shares a “circles of trust” diagram as below.
Data supports the fact that building an email list and email marketing plays a crucial role in taking prospects further in the relationship and converting them into customers and repeat customers. You can learn more on email marketing here.
So while content that generates social and search traffic is a part of any content marketing strategy it is the ability to capture the audience’s attention and convert them (or get their email address) that will ultimately build a profitable audience that converts into paying customers and evangelists.
So are there any red flags on your site that would reduce trust and building a profitable audience?
P.S. If you have a moment, sharing this article with your Twitter followers would be a huge help.
I know I am shamelessly asking you to retweet my article, but it’s easy – Just click to tweet Tweet: Which is more crucial for a site over time? Content or Design? . Thank you. 🙂
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