Content Actually is All Around (Not Just on Your Blog)
Isla McKetta Sep 12 2013
Yes, blogging is fun. Anyone who enjoys long-form writing can have a field day extolling the virtues of a product or (even better) building authority with significant posts that address the needs of your audience. But if you think your content only lives on your blog, you’re missing something.
I can think of seven other places you have (or should have) amazing content: home page, landing pages, site navigation, product descriptions, shopping cart, email, and offline. Social media is content too, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I’m going to be using Boden as an example throughout this post for two reasons, 1) I really love their clothes so I spend a lot of time on their site and 2) they have a really well-developed brand voice (which we’ll blame for my closetful of Boden clothes).
Boden isn’t a client so I don’t have access to any of their audience demographics, but I’d wager that their main customer is a woman in her late 20s to early 40s who likes good-quality clothes that are a little different but have a classic sensibility. More fun than Banana Republic, Boden is more conservative than Anthropologie.
What makes Boden’s content so wonderful is that they really know their customer and speak to her (and him, although I’ll focus on the women’s fashions today) in a voice that resonates with that core audience. This voice is pulled-together, British, and a little quirky. Here are some examples.
I’ve highlighted in green a few places that Boden expresses the British aspect of their voice. I love that they say “Great British Style” right at the top of the page. Here’s a brand that owns their identity. Because they know their customers are into the Britishness of the brand (keep in mind that this is the American site), they celebrate the royal baby on their page (note the wonderful phrasing).
True to a brand that is meticulous about details, they carry the Briticisms through their site like the spelling of “catalogue” and the use of “trouser” over “pants.”
Examples of the quirkiness are underlined in yellow. Note that no one ever wrote phrases like “fluttery feeling” or “big things for little people” for SEO purposes. No, these phrases are written to connect with the customer (as they should be).
And take a moment to look at the pictures. The one in the upper right of the girl making a face—her clothes are buttoned-up and proper, but she’s clearly having fun with the camera, as are the kids with the phone booth in the lower left. Remember that pictures are content too.
Landing pages and site navigation
For landing pages and site navigation, I’ve again used green to highlight the Briticisms. Of course, it’s a lot easier for Boden to get away with descriptions that include words like “cosy,” “corking,” and “jumpers” than it would be for Anthropologie to start writing web copy in French because British English and American English are (at least for now) mutually intelligible.
I actually have a tiny issue with Boden on the labels they use in the left site navigation—it always takes me a moment to remember to look under “knitwear” to find their sweaters—but because I have a relationship with the brand, I do take the time to look.
This language might affect Boden’s search rankings. They don’t show on the front page of Google when I search for “women’s sweaters” nor do they show when I search for “British women’s sweaters.” So Boden will have trouble attracting a random customer who isn’t already aware of their brand and that is something they could think about. I haven’t looked at any SEO factors to see if there are other reasons they don’t rank in the top 10.
But because Boden has built a strong relationship with their customers (if I’m any example), my guess is their repeat business and word of mouth are excellent.
Looking at the pictures on this page I feel like I could be out and about in London. That’s exactly the posh, urban experience I’d associate with this brand.
Boden’s product descriptions are actually kind of weak. The name of this skirt, the “Notre Dame Skirt” is enticing although I’d add that it’s a pencil skirt. The language in the description is straightforward and I know what the skirt is and what it looks like without seeing the picture, but “must have” and “on trend” are pretty played out these days.
Pro tip: When you’re writing product descriptions, write a whole batch of them at once looking at pictures of the items. Then, if you can’t recall the picture of the item when you’re editing the description later, you know you have to rewrite the description.
What I do like about this page is the product grid. I love that I can see all the colors the skirt comes in at one time so I don’t have to switch from the purple skirt page to the green and pink checked one—no wait, the purple. And the product pictures are still great.
Also fabulous is the inclusion of a video. I have to admit until I was writing this post I neither noticed the videos nor ever watched one. But the video is a few seconds long and it shows the model moving in and turning around in the skirt. Gone are the days when you had to wonder whether that model was holding her arm across her abdomen to hide a side zipper that bunches.
Shopping cart (or other conversion page)
Okay, this actually isn’t Boden’s shopping cart; I neglected to take a screen shot on my last buying spree and my closet’s getting a little full. Instead, this is the order confirmation, but they are very similar. The only thing missing from this page is the box where it told me I had a $10 credit. It didn’t tell me why I had a $10 credit, which is a little mysterious, but I’ll take it if it comes through. UPDATE: Although the credit was only intermittently mentioned in subsequent emails from the company, I did get it. YAY!
The info at the top of the page is pretty plain, but most people likely don’t read it anyway. What I like about this page is that the Briticisms continue and here it’s not just spellings and word usage (“despatch” is an example of both), but the tone. The use of the polite, professional conditional phraseology, “Should any problems develop…we will, of course, try to contact you” is distinctly, delightfully British.
Do I write this way? Yes, I do. I even talk this way and I like it when people talk to me this way. I like it when Boden communicates with me this way because there’s a civility to it. I could reread the collected Jane Austen or I could buy sweaters… easy choice when I need a quick fix.
And then there’s the lovely personal touch that the email is signed by a real person. I assume Teri is a real person… I’d never contact her, but this makes me feel like I could reach out directly to her if I needed to.
The finishing touch is their “no quibble guarantee.” Don’t you love it?
Think about the content you have on any page where you want your customer to convert. Are you conversing with him or her or are you talking at them? Make sure your brand voice carries through.
Although I edited this email a bit to hide a redundant table, now you can see just how much fun I had at Boden that day. But what’s really fun is the email itself, starting with the “good news” bubble at the top. Who would have thought? Just as I was dreading getting this confirmation email showing me how much I spent, instead I get a delightful reminder of a “lovingly packed parcel which is now winging its way” in my direction. It’s a simple touch that might be too whimsical for most brands, but it’s perfect for Boden.
And if I “fancy a chat,” there’s Teri again, ready to help me.
The odd bit about this email, and this is a tiny complaint, is that the “despatch” I enjoyed earlier has been changed to “dispatch” here. Perhaps I’ll ring up Teri after all.
One of the things we as Internet marketers often don’t think enough about is how our clients connect with their customers offline. In the case of Boden, I particularly like their catalogues and their mailing envelopes.
In the past few years, I’ve really liked how Boden has started to humanize their brand. First off is a note in the front of every catalogue from Johnny Boden himself (I forget if he’s real, but like Peter Pan, let’s pretend he is).
And then they started introducing the models. Here you see Geirdre. On a later page from this same winter 2012 catalogue, there’s a quick question asking Geirdre what her favorite dream is. She answers “The one where I’m a Bond girl.” I don’t know that I particularly care what her dreams are, but I appreciate the spirit of it, that I now feel more invested in her. I’m even imagining how I might try to pronounce her name. All of that investment brings me closer to the brand.
And the product descriptions in the catalogue are better than the ones online. For example, the description of this cardigan not only tells me what the aesthetic of it is, but it gets into the finer details of material, construction, and care instructions without being too dull.
That said, Patagonia still does product descriptions better.
This bright yellow envelope is from a purchase earlier this summer when I picked out three or four dresses I could potentially wear to my brother’s wedding. By the time the envelope arrived, I was lamenting how much I had spent and hoping that none of them fit. But then there was this happy little note on the outside of the envelope telling me to “try everything on, and admire” myself in the mirror. I did. I still sent a couple of dresses back, but I think of this envelope when I wear the one I kept.
This copy is engaging and practical and it suits the brand perfectly. Even “bloom through the gloom” was perfect for the rainy day I received this package.
Think about every opportunity you have to communicate with a customer. If you can even make returns fun (and maybe even convince your customer to try the clothes on instead of packing them up and sending them back), you’ve won the content game.
What’s the lesson here? It could be that I am a neurotic shopper. But see how Boden engaged with me every step of the way to make the experience easier? See how much I love the brand? You can’t buy loyalty like that and I promise you that I reward them very well.
The real lesson is that you should let your content show off who you are. Should you go and change all the spellings on your site to British English? Absolutely not. But you should think about the language and tone you use and that your customer uses and speak to him or her in that way on every single page of your site.
The other takeaway is that content is made up of all the words and all the pictures on your site or any other marketing material you have. That means social media too, but that’s a whole other post.
These are opportunities and most of you are missing them. Don’t.
Sr. Content Strategist
A content strategist and novelist with an MFA in creative writing, Isla lives to write words and organize them in a way that resonates with an audience. She co-authored Clear Out the Static in Your Attic: A Writer's Guide for Turning Artifacts into Art. Read More