The pitfall of value-less content

You created your website because you wanted to deliver some kind of information to both your clients, and the general public.  You wanted to help solve your users’ problems, offer something of value to the world, and hopefully generate a few leads in the process.  Certainly, it’s a noble (and potentially profitable) goal, but are you reaching it?

So many companies fill their website pages with “fluff” – content that isn’t helpful to users, and simply wastes a few priceless seconds of the time they decided to spend on your site.

The average web user has a short attention span.  The average frazzled marketing assistant looking for a product, service, or vendor for their company has an even shorter attention span.  Typically, that user is taking away 5 minutes of time from doing their “real job” to see what you have to offer them.  They don’t have time to waste reading content that does nothing but pat your company’s back or drown the reader in internal jargon.

The links on your site are a promise to the user.  They say “if you click me, you will find something valuable and useful.”  When that user clicks a link and gets nothing more than 2 sentences of fluff content and a generic piece of stock photography, you’ve broken that promise.  That user is now disappointed and irritated that they wasted the time to click that link; and – justifiably – they leave your site.

Your website should inspire people to “snoop around,” not run for the exit.  If your user is short on time (and you should always assume they are), the site should at least offer them something that will inspire them to click that “Add to Favorites” button and (hopefully) check you out later.

If it Deserves a Page, Give it a Page

Don’t let all of this anti-fluff propaganda bully you into writing short, one-paragraph pages for your site.  If something’s worth writing about, it’s worth writing a decent amount about.  Ever give someone a really small gift in a really big box?  It’s cute in real life, but not on the Web.  When someone on your site clicks a link, they want to actually have something to read when they get there.

A common culprit for this is the “Overview” page for a particular section of a site.  Frequently when a user gets to this Overview page, all they get is a list of links to other pages in the section, and not much else.  That page provides the exact same functionality as your navigation (if it’s good navigation), except they have to waste a click and load time to get it.  In other words, it’s fluff.  Here’s how to make it content.

Sure, you can link to other pages in the section, but expand beyond links.  Write a paragraph that sums up the type of information – and value – that the entire section offers, and accompany each page link with a brief description of that page’s content.  Your users will appreciate the time you saved them from having to click five links to get what they want.

Sure, it’s not War and Peace, but it’s enough content to warrant the time it took the page to load, and it offers your users value by guiding them through the site.

Look up.  Take notice of how many times content and value have been tied together.

Real Content = Real Value

When writing your content, ask yourself some questions. What does this offer your user?  Is it educational?  Does it offer them a valuable whitepaper or download?  Does it tell them something about your product that might make them choose you over your competitor?  Does it help you generate a lead?  Does it at least make them want to read more?

If you can’t answer “yes” to at least one of those questions, you’re spreading more fluff.  Reevaluate the content, and whether or not the page even needs to exist.  Chances are, if you can’t find anything compelling enough to fill the page – you don’t need the page.  It’s always better to give your users 5 pages of solid, valuable content rather than wasting their time with 10 pages of fluff.

Content without value is wasted time – and time is the one resource that your users can’t get back.