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Contrarian Ideas about Content

I’m in the process of starting work with a new client, a tech company run by some of the brightest people I know. Job 1: re-work the website.

We’ve made a few recommendations to them. The problem is that in American business we just don’t know when to stop. More is always better. If you are an automaker and have a top selling electric sedan it won’t be long before you extend that brand to an electric coupe, an electric sports car and may be an electric SUV.

It’s the same with producing Internet content. Ideas that are basically sound get taken to the max. So you end up with websites that are all video,  or sites that have more animation than a Disney studio.

You end up with blogs that look like your high school intern wrote them. Oh, wait. Your high school intern did write them.

So here are a few thoughts on Internet content creation.

Video is good. It’s the thing. But it’s not the only thing. ADHD is a disorder. Fortunately, it’s not yet become part of the human genome. There are some people who actually still don’t mind reading.

A healthy mix of media and copy is good. You’re reading a blog on a page that has one video, although it’s been built to display more. Right now this seems to be the right combination of words and pictures. We know we can always change it.

Second, not every web video has to go viral. The fact is that in most cases there will be a limited number of people who are interested in what your business posts.

The American Double Eagle $20 gold piece is one of the rarest coins in the world. But outside of American historians or members of the Numismatic Society, I’m not sure who gives a rip. So a smartphone video of your four-year old pulling a Double Eagle out of a trunk in Great Aunt Tilly’s attic isn’t going to pull big numbers for you.

Rather than finding that one puppy out there that can open a box of cookies for your toddler with his paws, look for something relevant for the several hundred fans your product, company or website attracts.

Finally, it’s not necessarily about building numbers, unique visitors or page views. Unless he puts a million-dollar order on his gold card on the site, a unique visitor isn’t really much good to you.

What’s better: one unique visitor you never see again, or a million visitors that come back and buy from you each time, or at least visit your site frequently and learn about your products, services, and expertise?

What more important than unique visitors are sticky visitors. You want visitors to your site to come back often.

I help manage an annual conference. This will be our 17thyear. It’s a pretty arcane affair, aimed at the people who build and manage theelectronic payment systems that distribute various government benefits, like food stamps, now called SNAP, or unemployment insurance.

For 16 years we’ve attracted between 200 and 350 attendees. We always get pressure to jazz up the event to attract more people. But the reality is that if you were to go state-by-state and count, there are probably no more than 350-400 people involved in electronic benefits. Nationwide. And we’ve got most of them. And they come every year.

To us it’s more important that our attendees be sticky rather than unique. A unique visitor to us is worth about $600. Some of our people have been coming since the first show.  Accounting for the difference in registration fees over the years, that’s a $7,000 customer for us.

And we didn’t have to post one puppy video.