August 1, 2013 – Did that headline compel you to read more? I thought so. It’s well known in the communications business: list content with attention-grabbing headlines and hints of short steps to satisfaction drives traffic to websites. That, unfortunately, is what counts in the minds of many as success: the number of people who visit a website.
Eyeballs on a website are not, per se, a sign of success. They are certainly an indicator of interest, and I’d be the first to admit that more visitors to a website is better than fewer. More important, though, is click-through rates and other indicators which show just how much time visitors spend on a web site, how they use the content, what impressions they get out of it, and most important, whether there is the beginning of any ongoing interaction or engagement between the visitor and the site owner.
A rule of thumb in the communications business is the “90-9-1” principle. That is, 90% of people will only look at content on a website or a Twitter feed or Facebook or other social media platform. Another 9% of people will react to what they find by posting comments. Only 1% of people will actually create new content for the web or social media channels. If there’s a way to move that 9% figure higher, it will have to be through content that drives viewers to react.
As the cliché goes, it’s one thing to lead a horse to water, it’s another to make it drink. List content is good at getting people to open up web pages. The alluring headlines practically dare you to turn away and not improve your life (professional or personal) in 3 or 7 or 12 ways. But list content doesn’t guarantee that people will stay on a website, interact with its owners, and eventually engage with them over time through an on-going relationship. What will do that is new, well written, and relevant content that provokes, inspires, and motivates people to comment and stick around and to form a community on a particular theme.
It’s gotten to the point where some websites seem to consist almost exclusively of list content. While I appreciate much of what Ragan’s PR Daily and other trade publications produce, it’s off-putting to see a series of headlines like “6 ways to develop a nursing blog”, “The history of social networks in 6 seconds”, “9 ways to jazz up your content”, or “12 most common worries to stop sweating during presentations” (all from Ragan, all in the last three hours). Surely life isn’t as neatly packaged as that.
A plea, then, to web and social media content producers: trim back on list content but develop better narratives that don’t require bullet-point reading techniques. If you need help, I have 5 sure-fire ways to do that.
Oh, by the way, I don’t really have 3 ways to improve your life spectacularly. But you did read this blog, didn’t you?