3 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making
The task of putting out periodicals requires a discipline rarely put into online publications. We don't think about it as analyzing each issue, but in fact that is what we are doing. We put great pains into deciding what goes on each cover. How should the features flow? Should we make the product reviews into a holiday section? Can we fit more call-outs into an interview?
Websites are less demanding on a day-to-day or even an annual basis, certainly for most B2B publishers. Most any CMS invites you to let things run on autopilot, where you're simply placing content in pre-determined fields and hitting "publish." How often do you consider grouping an editorial section in a different way or making room somewhere to promote a hot article by completely rearranging your webpage? Probably once every few years -- or never.
The process of preparing my upcoming session "Self-Audit Your Website for Revenue Opportunities" for next month's SIPA Marketing Conference in Las Vegas has been instructive. I have the luxury of doing what most publishers rarely include in their workflows -- being analytical about their websites. Since I analyze online publications for a living I have an informal list of more than 30 potential red flags to look for that I'll be sharing at the conference. Here are three you should consider now.
It's Not About You
The primary options on too many websites are choices like This Issue, Search by Issue, Table of Contents and all sorts of archives. Nobody cares about your organizational tools; they want content. Stories are important or useful on their own merit, or not. In which issue they appeared matters to few but the editor. Put your best articles out there. Have your news front and center.
Archives are best used as a source for getting more mileage from evergreens and for finding content you can repurpose. Not many B2B publishers have the editorial budgets for as much good content as their websites should offer, so use what you already have. There is no reason you cannot also have an archive somewhere and list old issues by date. Just be aware that once you are making better use of your past articles, the only people using the archives will be your own editorial staff and the occasional grad student.
Nearly half of the B2B publications I see online send me to articles with no way out. Once you read the article, your only choice is to return to the master menu at the top in order to find something else to read. If you want to keep people on your site, make them true readers and not merely visitors, and build value for advertisers, you need to offer suggestions. Nobody has the time or interest in sorting through your menus or doing a new search unless they are absolutely determined to find a particular nugget of information.
The best way to provide additional choices to readers is by using contextual content based on a strong, underlying taxonomy system. If I'm reading about fuel storage in Germany, offer me more stories on fuel and/or storage facilities and/or fuel use in Europe. The fallback everyone uses is Most Popular, because that is what open source CMS systems offer. Better than nothing? You bet. But since that is being offered to everyone regardless of what article they are reading, guess what? Each click makes these articles, er, more popular! A middle-schooler's dream: perpetual popularity.
Ignore Marketing 101
Speaking of dead-ends, have you looked at your registration page lately? It never ceases to amaze me how smart publisher will take the trouble to get a site visitor to sign up for her free, sponsored newsletter (or other offer), and then provide nothing but a boring, vanilla form to fill in. Here you have a prospect about to buy -- even if they are only giving you their personal data as the price of admission -- and you are not taking the opportunity to have them take an additional action? If nothing else make this a welcoming, bright, maybe even fun page. Make them feel part of the family.
The hard part is getting them here. Attempting an upsell is easy. A checkbox can qualify them for your upcoming conference. Or you might find they are about to purchase something, which you can use as lead-gen for one of your advertisers.
Hope to see you at SIPA's conference where I'll give dozens of other tips. The program includes top speakers covering topics such as subscription renewals, predictive analytics, keyword strategies, improving open rates, webinars and more. Tell them Andy sent you and get a $100 discount with code SMCBFFM.
Follow Andy Kowl on Twitter: @AndyKowl
Related story: Beat Big Data with Deep Data
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.