The Theory of Relevance
In my last article, I described the first of three vital considerations for your web presence, “Does my web presence pass the visual credibility test?” I mentioned, “Viewers have more choices than ever, and that is largely paralyzing to them. With so much digital white noise and content clutter, it’s no wonder that web users make quick decisions about what’s worthy of their time to click-through and what is not.”
If a viewer makes that determination that your website is in fact worthy of their further consideration, their thoughts then turn to the next question, “Is this website relevant to what I am searching for?”
This question of relevance is tricky, and it’s a bit more challenging than the visual credibility question in that our assumptions can lead us toward a false sense of security. We so often view relevance through our own lenses rather than through the lenses of others.
Consider relevance from the standpoint of others
This seems like such a simple tenet to follow, but it’s deceptive. It’s actually quite challenging. If you are a brand owner, brand marketer, or have any other role associated with a brand’s messaging, you understand all there is to understand about your product or service. But we forget the steps that the non-experts take in considering what we have to offer.
Often, we jump ahead to our key differentiators from other products and services, and we lose our target audience in making that leap too soon. Vinyl yard fencing may be a more durable product. It may be easier to install than wood fencing. It may be a more expensive purchase, but it lasts significantly longer than the alternatives. But, if I am doing research on fencing because I simply need a fence and I need to determine if I can install it myself or if I need to hire a contractor to install it, I am not yet concerned with the value proposition of vinyl fencing. I need my initial questions answered before I can consider the subsequent options.
That’s what we often forget when we are presenting our brand’s relevance. And we do that because we haven’t immersed ourselves in the mindset of the novice, the uninitiated, the curious, and/or diligent consumer who is searching for a solution.
The remedy to this misalignment doesn’t require an advanced degree, nor does it necessarily require a high-priced outsider. What it requires is, quite simply, old-fashioned imagination (that faculty of forming an image or concept from someone else’s point of view). In this case, imagining the thought processes and decision-making process flow of someone without your knowledge and expertise.
Content that is relevant is relevant because it meets the viewer where they are not where you expect them to be.
Overwhelming content is as irrelevant as inadequate content
There is another approach that some brands take to website relevancy, and it involves throwing as much content as possible to a viewing audience in order to meet every eventuality.
Often the thought process behind this approach is rooted in a fear that whatever content is excluded could potentially have been the content that mattered to a website viewer. In other words, if targeted content is aimed at the wrong target, then you may fail to grab that viewer’s attention. And since you often only get one chance for that all-important first impression, you make it count by providing the maximum amount of content to the maximum amount of potential viewers. It’s the shotgun approach to content.
This same outcome can also be the result of too many cooks in the kitchen, too many voices who are vying for what’s important to them to be included on the website.
Whatever the path to the inclusion of too much content, the effect on the viewer of that content is a sense of being overwhelmed. And an overwhelmed website user will abandon a page or your website altogether.
Relevant content is aligned content
The real (or perceived) needs of your target audience matter a great deal when it comes to what you choose to include or exclude on your website. Given the vast and ever-growing volume of available content on the web, it is crucial that you give careful and intentional consideration to this second filter, relevant content.
This alignment is hard-fought. It doesn’t happen in a breezy moment of inspiration. It doesn’t happen in isolation. And it certainly doesn’t happen without the humility to set aside one’s preconceived notions and assumptions.
Identifying, creating, and promoting relevant content that satisfies users’ needs will also carry with it an added organic benefit. It will contribute to search engine algorithms meant to determine the relevance of a website to a searching public. And that is certainly worth that hard-fought effort to achieve alignment with your target audience.