Russ Mann of Covario: your old-style website is dead – long live smarter content!

Russ Mann is CEO of leading independent search agencies Covario and Rio SEO. Covario is the only agency to win the OMMA’s Search Agency of the Year award twice.

In theory, most brand marketers have it all wrong. Most brand marketers don’t need a website, never needed a website, and didn’t need things like web analytics, SEO, or certainly not paid search or display ads to drive traffic to their websites.

This is because they took their websites that acted as basic billboards about their products and then tried to create experiences that were supposed to get consumers engaged and conversing on the site. The marketers then believed these engagements would magically drive consumers into chain stores or showrooms, distributors or dealers, and local retailers to eventually buy goods and services.

That’s where they got it wrong.

Marketers started thinking of their websites as “destination points.” Their idea – and there are a myriad agencies and ad tech tools providers willing to support this – was to buy a lot of display ads, rich media, YouTube video placements, paid search and paid social, to get all that traffic coming to their site!

And then what?

The reality is that most consumers ignore that “serendipity” style of paid media marketing. And even when they are searching or sharing, they may come to a site, consume only one or two pages, and then leave. They may or may not buy on site, or turn those “clicks into bricks” (i.e. go to a physical location and purchase something).

And with Google as the ultimate index to everything, consumers no longer need or want to “experience” many minutes on a website, traversing multiple pages over several minutes.

What marketers need to embrace is that the concept of a “website as destination point” is now dead. That doesn’t mean they need to take down all that great content, or stop worrying about page views and click-throughs. What they now need to transition to is the new concept of “web page as embarkation point!”

The new brand website should actually be viewed as a series of individual, actionable pages, which are hung together by a nav bar and a site map. The pages are not meant to be viewed or consumed any more than one or two pages at a time.

The key goal is to make sure each and every page has an actionable event in mind. Traditionally, marketers would be looking for a conversion event like BUY! Or REGISTER! But that’s the old school model – thinking of your site as the final destination point.

Now, if each and every page is an embarkation point, the big conversion events are items like SHARE! COMMENT! ENGAGE! EMAIL! The goal is to get consumers to take pieces of content – articles, product info, images, videos, coupons, offers – and run away with them, and share them on Facebook or Pinterest, or their own blog, or even through email, text or IM. And if they never return, that’s fine. They proliferated your content into the world in a unique and engaging way, and they brought your content to the places other consumers are most likely to find it.

In the “web page as embarkation point” and content marketing paradigm, every page needs to be uniquely designed for a few key functions:

Every page needs to be uniquely designed to be FOUND on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex and Naver, etc. This means applying the best practices of SEO, of having keyword and content governance, of standardized global content creation, distribution and marketing processes, and the like.

Every page should be designed to be FRIENDED and FOLLOWED on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and others. This means instrumenting share buttons and other elements that will tie your content to the social platform content to the end consumers.

Finally, and most importantly, every page should be constructed to be easily FORWARDABLE and analyzable for this function. More than 50 per cent of sharing happens through copy/paste of the URL into email, SMS text, and instant messaging. Most of this sharing is not captured or maximized by marketers. The content needs to be not only forwardable, but tagged or cookied in such a way that the marketer knows which content is being shared, by whom, where is it going, what is it doing, and where did it travel.

This part is absolutely critical to content marketing initiatives, and it will also have benefit to your SEO initiatives as well.
In summary, marketers need to accept that their websites are dying. The “website as experience” and “website as destination” paradigm is not applicable to many brand marketers in this age of connected content.

Instead, marketers should consider each web page or each piece of digital content as a unique piece to drive action – but not necessarily conversion. Every page or piece of content should be viewed as a starting point, and every article, ad, image, video, rating or review, or conversation should be expected to taken and distributed by consumers to their friends and families. In this paradigm of content marketing, it’s critical that every piece of content be created and instrumented to be found, friended, followed and forwarded.

That’s what smarter search, smarter marketing, and smarter content are all about. Your website is dead. Long live your Smarter Content!

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    Really interesting concept!

    Are there any good examples you can give of a webpage that succeeds as an “embarkation point?”

    Thanks