Content is only king when there’s context

“Content is king”. That is a rule of thumb adopted by website creators because they know that high quality content helps to attract and retain customers by positioning the company and by building relationships with people.

Seth Godin, in his excellent free ebook Everyone is an Expert, says that people aren’t searching for anything online… they’re going online to make sense (page 9). That’s a brilliant distinction and it supports the belief that content is king. We need content to help us make sense.

It used to be that content would get piled on top of content on the first page. Website owners wanted links to many things on their first page to help position the company as the expert. They wanted people to click to their home page and see that there were many options to choose from.

But lately, things are changing. Businesses still know that content is king — that people will still go to their site to find trustworthy information to help them make sense. But those businesses are beginning to realize that overwhelming people with links on the first page is not the way to greet prospects and customers.An excellent example to show this difference can be found by comparing the websites of software giants Oracle and SAP.

Here is a screenshot of Oracle‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_Oraclehomepage

It’s not easy to tell from here but there are 72 “primary” links on this page (“primary” meaning highlighted in the main body of the page, not the smaller ones in the the header or footer). 72! That is a lot for any web visitor to read through even if they are sorted the way Oracle has them.

Here is SAP‘s home page.

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_SAPhomepage

Again, it’s hard to tell at this size but there are 10 primary links (with only 5 ever showing at a time).

What a difference! Oracle’s page has an overwhelming number of links that could turn off any prospect or customer. SAP, on the other hand, has a simple, clean site with only a few links.

In my mind, SAP has made a huge change. My advice to Oracle? Better fix your site quickly!

It is so important to guide your visitors rather than to simply present them with all of their options at the beginning. The whole web 2.0 environment has a clean look with much fewer links. Just click to web 2.0 companies like Skype, Facebook, Box.net, Flickr, and LinkedIn to see how these companies are using a minimal amount of links to greet customers.

The point of this blog is not to simply suggest that your homepage should have fewer links. Rather, it’s to illustrate much more important concepts:

  • People want to be guided. They think they want all of the options but they really don’t. They want a way to get to the right options quickly. The thinking used to be that businesses give all the options up-front to reduce clicking through a long content pathway from one page to the next. But people would rather click for quick sorting and clear, “bite-sized” content. It creates longer content pathways (by requiring more pages on a site) but it makes choosing easier because each click narrows the choices they have to make.
  • Content is only king if it is useful. If content is presented en masse, it requires effort and it can be difficult to place that content within a context. Content becomes more useful when it is presented in manageable pieces within a context. And that context is created with high-level choices presented to the website visitor right on the homepage.

Recommended reading: Ready, Fire, Aim

The subtitle of this book is compelling: “Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat”. Although I have my doubts that the strategies are as broadly applicable as suggested, it is a good book nonetheless with nice clear steps for start-up business owners and entrepreneurs to walk through to grow their business.

Client Spotlight: BlackHorse Fund

AaronHoos_BusinessWriter_Client_BlackHorseFundIn the world of investing, equities pale in comparison to the much larger foreign exchange market. The nature of the market can be riskier and far more rewarding than what most investors are used to. Forex fund BlackHorse is a private fund that pools investors’ money to trade currencies.

BlackHorse Fund contracted me on a long-term basis to work with them. They have a bunch of proprietary systems and methods so I can’t really tell people what I do for them. Still, I can say that I create a bunch of internal and external content and I create and implement a large portion of their communication strategy.

Needed: Business partner matchmaker

It’s funny how often this idea has reared its head in my life. If I had the time and inclination, I might actually do something about it. But for now, I’ll release it to the world for someone else to run with.

We need a matchmaking site for business partners. Like eHarmony.com, Match.com, Lavalife.com; that kind of thing. I think it can help business people find good fitting business relationships. The idea would be to figure out what your business style is and find people who complement it.

  • Are you an idea person in need of an implementer?
  • Are you a highly dominant “Type A” personality who needs people who AREN’T subservient “yes men” to work with?
  • Do you like to take an idea and run with it?
  • Are you a good starter or a good finisher?
  • Are you a visionary?
  • Are you a sales person?
  • Are you a manager?
  • Are you a detail-oriented person?

Everyone possesses some combination of work-and-personality styles that makes them good at some parts of business and poor at others. When we find the right match, business magic happens.

I’ve got a few clients and/or business parthers where it works like that: When we work together, it just clicks. We play off of each other really well. Our skills and ideas of success are complementary. We get stuff done.

Conversely, from time to time I take on a client or I partner with someone and it doesn’t work for some reason. I’ve learned to end those projects early. I ended a couple of them before they even started in July for exactly that reason. The people were nice, the projects were good, but I knew that we weren’t clicking so I put an end to it before we got too far down the path.

So it seems to me that we could match up business people who need to partner (with service providers, employees, joint venture partners, etc.) based on a series of compatability qualities. Off the top of my head I’d say something like:

  • Project management style (starter? manager? finisher?)
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • Placement along a vision-versus-action spectrum
  • The type of people you like to work with
  • The type or projects you like to work on
  • What you bring to the table
  • What areas of weakness you possess

Note to LinkedIn: This wouldn’t be hard to implement on your site. You’ve got the structure and the client base already.

There. The idea is now out there. Here’s hoping that we’ll see bizHarmony.com in the near future!

Note: After publishing this I went to see if there was indeed a bizHarmony.com; after all, I wouldn’t want to have someone click it and be taken somewhere inappropriate. Turns out, there is a bizHarmony.com (although they are more in the M&A space and not exactly what I’m talking about).

Testimonial

“Aaron did a great job for the content we needed written. He understood our goals and provided material that fit, requiring very little tweaking. We will be using him in the future.”

-Raj from Khera Communications