Establishing Authority Through Comprehensive Content
A few years ago I decided to buy a bike to get around town and force myself to get a little exercise every so often. I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 15 years and knew absolutely nothing about them — how to choose the right size frame, how many gears you need for commuting, strengths and weaknesses of each different major brand.
So I started by looking up bike shops in my area and visiting their websites, hoping that I could get a sense of what I was in for when the time came to buy. I live in Milwaukee, a pretty bike-friendly city, so there were quite a few shops right in my area — which is why I was surprised when not a single one of them had any kind of content geared toward actually educating potential customers on their sites. Aside from the brands a particular store carried and the prices of different models I’d find there, I’d have to either do my own research elsewhere or go in knowing nothing.
Eventually, after visiting a few of the stores, I went with the one that I felt did the best job of informing me about what to look for — I trusted their suggestions when it finally came time to buy because they had shaped my entire understanding of the product I was looking at, what was important and why. Still, it was a missed opportunity for any of these shops not to have started that process the very first time I visited them online. If I had found information educating me not only on the products they sold, but on other factors important to my future purchase, I would have gone straight to them in the first place.
Become the Definitive Resource for Customers, Not Just Their Destination
We’ve talked before about the importance of creating compelling content on your website, but you should think on a broader scale than just “will this individual page address this specific query?” Ideally, the question is “does my website answer every question a user may have about my product?” And while it’s tough to really answer every question a user may have, you can start by identifying some of the main ones and building out from there.
Take for example this page on the 2014 Accord for Middletown Honda. The basic copy on the page is informative, highlighting some of the basic features and specs a car buyer may be looking for, and there are some good pictures of the interior to give the user a sense of how the cabin and dashboard are laid out. But what if after getting some general information on the new model I want to know specifically how it differs from last year’s version, or if I never buy a car without having looked at reviews first? Based solely on the copy on this page, I’d have to go back to Google and search for that information separately — but by anticipating these questions and signaling that I can find the information I’m looking for by clicking on any of the buttons on the right of the page, the dealership can keep me on their site while I continue my research.
Being familiar with the products and services you offer, you probably already know quite a few of the major questions your customers are likely to have at any point in the sales funnel, and there are some easy ways to confirm how these questions translate to searches. Google’s Keyword Planner will help you narrow down which specific queries and long-tail keywords should get the most attention, for instance. I also like Soovle for the way it breaks down suggestions based on which search engine is being used. Once you’ve got some of the major questions covered, you can also simply brainstorm possible reasons a user may have to leave your page/site in search of information elsewhere, and start to create content to fill in those gaps. For example, looking at the Accord page above, I may consider adding a table with comparison info showing how it stacks up against the other top 5 vehicles in the mid-size sedan segment.
Better Content Means More Engagement
Obviously there are significant benefits to things like time on site and bounce rate when you link additional content up to a page like the 2014 Accord one above — bounce rate dropped to 41% compared to around 86% on similar pages for the same vehicle without the additional info — but the real value is that you’re able to exercise control over the user’s research process. Not only do you build trust by signaling that you know what information they need in order to make a buying decision, but you also get the chance to shape their understanding of your product or service precisely how you want rather than having it defined by other reviewers, companies, or internet users.
This can also help you establish trust in your brand as a whole — if you are considered the definitive source of information on X, Y, and Z, people are more likely to trust you when it comes to your other products and services. When they do come into the store to buy, they’ll be more confident in the purchase because they’ll feel well-informed, and this information is now guaranteed to synch up with and support your own sales messaging.