Is Your Web Content a Marketing Liability?

Distracted by all the social media buzz, it’s easy for a company to lose sight of the fact that their website remains the mother ship of brand expression and commerce. The standard marketing approach – particularly among B2B firms – is to create a brochureware-esque “Who We Are / What We Do / Why You Should Select Us” web presence, which forever serves as a handy repository for press releases, case studies, white papers and other expressions of thought leadership. For many firms, “build it once & fill it with stuff” is considered effective website management.

What often happens – soon after LAUNCH COMPANY WEBSITE is crossed off the corporate to-do list – is that companies don’t apply the same standards of excellence or levels of scrutiny to the content generated post-launch that were applied during development of the website’s original core content. For a host of political and practical reasons, inappropriate and ineffective web content gets posted; sorely outdated content is granted lifetime tenure; and assorted layers of information…in WORD documents, PDFs, YouTube videos, podcasts, webinars…all obscure the company’s core messages and brand positioning goals.  With apologies to poet Robert Browning, when it comes to website content, less is absolutely more.

If the brand police were to issue citations for website content-related abuse, some of the most common violations might include:

Vagrancy – If your most recent press release, example of news pickup, or last blog posting is more than two months old…website visitors will wonder “Are these guys still is business?” or “Is this how they will keep up with my needs?” If a company can’t produce and maintain a fresh inventory of content, then it’s better off from a brand perspective without having any content at all. Dump the dated material and put a bullet in the blog.  If you’re unable to trash the old content, at least bury it in an archive tab so it’s not as visible.

Prostitution – If your white papers, case studies, newsletters, webinars and other tools are nothing more than re-labeled sales pitches…website visitors will classify you a self-promoter and discount the credibility of all the information on your website.  Admittedly, it’s often a battle to convince a CEO or Sales VP that your company needs to produce content that enables prospects to draw their own conclusions…but pursuit of this cause is well worth the effort, if only in terms of professional self-respect.

Hoarding – If your company believes its content is so proprietary that visitors must be registered and approved to gain access to it, then you’re a prisoner of Web World 1.0, and here’s a news flash from 2011: Online content is no longer used by sophisticated marketers as a lead generation carrot.  (Of course not…they now trick people using email.)  More importantly, your company’s intellectual capital – showcased in website content – is its most valuable asset. If you restrict access to content, potential customers are more likely to move on to a competitor than they are to request permission to see it.

Marketers will increasingly be tasked with having to feed new, relevant content to the online beasts that now rule our world. But rather than thinking about this as an endless, thankless responsibility, we should be grateful that we now possess a more defensible rationale for our continued employment. Long live the internet.

Gordon G. Andrew is managing partner of Highlander Consulting, the home of Marketing Craftsmanship®