Content is at the crux of all we do in marketing. So it’s no surprise we, as marketers, invest heavily in it. Regardless of our role on the marketing team—whether we’re creating the content or leveraging it to meet our goals—we understand the importance of content. It’s crucial for driving traffic, generating demand for products, and moving prospects down the funnel and toward the point of purchase.
But do we ever stop to think about how all of that immensely valuable content is experienced by our prospective customers? How it’s consumed? And how the experience around our content can impact what hard-earned visitors do next?
The unfortunate answer is no. Most marketers haven’t thought about their content experience. In fact, they may not even fully grasp what we mean when we refer to a “content experience.”
Content Experience Explained
Every piece of content that’s created and put out into the world has an experience around it. Whether any care has been given to optimizing the experience is another story. That experience can make your prospects’ lives easier and send them on a path to make a buying decision, or it can fall flat and cause potential buyers to look elsewhere. Smart marketers will create the right conditions for a potential buyer to engage further.
Let’s take a look at content experience in the wild.
Think about a common pain point your prospects have. Open up another browser window and type the pain point into Google. Bonus points if your content comes up as one of the top search results. Click on any article and begin reading.
Now ask yourself:
- Did you find what you were looking for easily?
- Was the content well presented? Was it in a format you like?
- Was it generic? Or did you feel like the author was speaking directly to you?
- Were you guided to another article you found useful?
- Were there too many pop-ups? Was the article optimized for your device?
What you experienced, good or bad, is a content experience.
It extends beyond what the content looks like and into the realm of user experience and personalization.
Our Content Experience Definition
At Uberflip, we define content experience this way:
A content experience is the environment in which your content lives, how it’s structured, and how it compels your prospects and customers to engage with your company.
That’s a mouthful, so let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and how they work together.
The First Component of Content Experience: Environment
A content experience is the environment in which your content lives.
One of the most prominent and easy-to-understand parts of the definition is the environment.
Environment, for our purposes, is the wrapper. It’s how your content is packaged and presented to the world. We judge people based on how they dress. We judge books by their covers, wine by the label, and we judge content just the same.
- Is it beautiful?
- Does it look professional?
- Does it capture my attention?
- Is the presentation and layout engaging?
- Is it consistent with what I’d expect from this company or brand? Do I trust this company?
Appearance affects the experience. In fact, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content / layout is unattractive. And those are first-impressions that take mere seconds to form. According to Microsoft Research, the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave. So yes, the look and feel of your content matters.
It’s the difference between reading an article in a Google Doc or reading it on a beautifully designed blog with images, graphics, bullets, and subheads that all complement each other for easy reading. It’s also quite literally the placement—where exactly the content lives. For instance, is the article found in a resource center or in an email? And is that email plain text or HTML? In this way, look and feel intersects with UX when it comes to the content experience.
The Second Component of Content Experience: Structure
A content experience is how your content (as a whole) is structured.
The next portion of our definition of content experience is the structure.
Structure, then, is how your content is organized and whether someone can find what they need when they come to your site with a question. Is the content organized in a way that’s intuitive for your prospects? Has it been grouped together by topic, role, or industry and is your content in more than one place?
Here, content experience leans heavily on user experience. Organization, navigation, and curation will affect your prospects’ ability to discover useful, relevant content. For example, organizing your content by content type (i.e., videos, infographics, white papers) is not necessarily how your prospects search for information. It’s more likely they’ll search by topic. The inability to do so leads to a poor user experience.
A poor user experience results in a poor content experience. And you can’t afford that when 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
Organizing and curating your content into different sections of your resource center will ensure greater discoverability of your content and ultimately lead to a better experience for the visitor, but also for those internally who intend to use and share your content.
The Third Component of Content Experience: Engagement
A good content experience can compel your current and prospective customers to engage with your company.
Your content experience can either compel action or lead to a dead end, and as marketers, you’re going to want the former. How do you compel action? Through personalized and relevant recommendations and calls-to-action (CTAs) that are tailored to the buyer’s interests. What’s more, Demand Gen Report says that personalized content generates 20 percent more sales opportunities. Providing consistency in the experience leads to greater trust, which over time works to compel action.
Ultimately, if the content presented is customized, consistent, and relevant, and you make the extra effort to personalize your CTAs, you’ll drive prospects and customers to take action. That’s the power of a well-optimized content experience.
Everyone Has a Content Experience
Now that we’ve worked through what a content experience is, it’s important to note that a content experience isn’t something you lack. We all have one. And it exists beyond your blog or your resources page. Anywhere your content can be encountered, it can be experienced. And wherever and whenever that occurs, so too does a content experience.
When a prospect receives your confirmation email after subscribing to your blog, that’s a content experience. When they watch a video on your website, that’s a content experience. When they pick up a product sell sheet at your booth at an event, that’s a content experience.
Each of these encounters adds up to how your audience—whether they’re customers or prospects—feels about your company. And all of these experiences build the trust needed to establish a meaningful relationship between them and you.
And isn’t that what good marketing is supposed to do?
So now you have our content experience definition. Find out who's responsible for it in your organization by downloading the Who Owns the Content Experience? ebook.
About the Author
Christine is a Content Marketer at Uberflip, where she focuses on creating content for content marketers (and digital marketers, and demand generation marketers, and really all sorts of marketers). She also wrote the (e)book on Content Experience.Follow on Twitter More Content by Christine Otsuka