Picture this. You’ve spent months planning and building your website with a development team, from wireframes and sitemaps to learning your fair dose of techie speak and daily meetings. Your digital marketing strategy is written and includes customer personas so detailed that they might get up and walk straight out of the document. The design is shit hot and you can’t believe how far you’ve come from your “traditional” colour pallette and 20-year-old logo and fonts. You’re primed, ready and on the edge of your boardroom seats as the site is put live. Then you see the bounce rate…
You’ve most likely fallen into the trap that so many businesses do. All your time has been spent thinking about how to get people to see your shiny new site, your amazing products and your exclusive launch deals. Very little, if any, time has been spent thinking about what your customers want to see.
This is where Content Hierarchy comes in.
Very simply, content hierarchy is: the order of content on marketing collateral. Essentially you should put the most important information for your customers at the top and the least important at the bottom.
A slightly different “3 second rule”
One of the biggest reasons content hierarchy is so important is that you only have 3 seconds to grab your audiences’ attention before they move on. We’re all fickle, have millions of resources at our fingertips and expect to be given what we want when we want it, not to have to work hard for it.
To put it into context – think about your ‘turn offs’ online. What makes you leave a site immediately or stop mid-transaction no matter how invested you were? Mine are: seeing something I really want on Instagram and being asked to leave the channel to buy it; paywalls on publications’ websites (sorry!) and no subtitles on videos in my social media feeds.
Know what your audiences want
It is vital to align your goals to your customers’ goals. You need to know what your audiences want to see and do. What you think is most important might be secondary to their needs.
Gone is the era of the About Us page. Pop ear defenders on your egos for a second. *Whispers* Your brand story may be important to your recruitment objectives or to your board of directors but does it really matter to the customer? I’m not saying you should delete all information about your business from your website, and for some companies this is a huge part of their appeal to their customer base, but I would suggest re-assessing whether it should be the primary message.
A great example of somewhere really understanding their audience’s needs is Eureka! on their homepage. They’re an interactive children’s museum with a focus on learning through play.
What they’ve got so right here is clearly showing the three key things any customer wants to know – when they’re open, where they are and how to get there and how to buy tickets. The tickets tab is already open and you can buy them directly from the home page without navigating anywhere else. The calls to action sit under a compelling image that gives you a flavour of what to expect at the museum and a bold brand message too in the four words: “Explore. Discover. Play. Learn.” Their approach and ethos is really important to parents and teachers and is a major selling point and deciding factor to them visiting Eureka!. They have married brand messaging and key customer actions together beautifully. You don’t have to look far to see more stylish work in this area with their big “Buy tickets” button in the top navigation being designed to complement the colour scheme and even their cookies notice blends in seamlessly too.
It does take courage to think about your content in this way. It can seem daunting to make changes to pages that have taken teams hours to plan and optimise. As long as you can base your decision on facts (see the section below about research) and you can show how the changes support your company’s goals, you can be bold and brave. You will be glad you were when you see the results.
As easy as ABC?
It is vital that you substantiate what you think your customers want with data. ABC = Analytics Before Content.
Research helps you understand what your audience wants and will help you set meaningful goals. Keyword research will give you vital insights into what your customers (current and prospective) are searching for. You should use this to inform all your online content to not only get people to your site but to show Google your content is relevant, thus boosting your ranking. Look at how people currently use your website – which pages work well, which don’t? Analyse the performance of content on social media and in print advertising. Carry out customer focus groups and actually ask them what they want.
Monitoring and measuring should be continuous to optimise the performance of your content. Always look at how specific pieces of content are performing, test along the way and don’t be afraid to make changes.
Don’t leave it as an afterthought
Content is often left as the last thing on a project to do list. Flip that focus. Thinking back to the inverted pyramid image at the start of this blog showing how to structure your content by level of importance – move content hierarchy into the “highly important” segment of any project.