Since Google unleashed Panda and Penguin on the web in 2010, the drumbeat has been consistent from webmasters everywhere: content is king! While this argument is in fact true, it leads to an intriguing discussion about site content and site appearance. More specifically, which factor is more important for the visibility and page rank of your site. Should you be focusing your efforts on creating quality content, or designing a website that is visually appealing?
If you ask most webmasters or marketers, the answer you are likely to receive today will skew in favor of site appearance. As Search Engine Land points out, the simple answer to the question posed in our headline is absolutely. Creating fresh, relevant content for your website will always be an important part of your overall marketing approach. However, few people are going to start reading your content if it looks boring, appears unprofessional, or feels too oriented toward making a sale.
Judge a Book By its Cover
Your parents probably told you as a child not to judge a book by its cover. While this is applicable to social settings and human interactions, it is largely irrelevant in the world of content creation and web design. Web surfers are accustomed to interacting with engaging content on laptops, smartphones, and tablets. High-resolution images and HD-quality videos grab the attention of visitors.
A major factor behind the relevance of site appearance is that ingrained human emotion. Our parents told us not to judge a book by its cover, but we still do it with regularity. Visitors to your site are no different. That basic human instinct carries over to the web. If your site appearance doesn’t grab the attention of visitors in the first few seconds, they will click back to the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and move on to the next page.
Content presentation is a deciding factor that will hold your audience’s attention long enough for them to start reading through your content. Once they start reading your content, then the quality of your content takes over and holds their attention. But it is those initial seconds on your page that makes or breaks the success of their visit.
Content is Increasingly Visual
Websites will always rely on quality content to drive conversion rates upward, but not all content has to consist of large blocks of text. Webmasters are turning to infographics, instructional videos, and humorous content to create engaging materials that capture the attention of visitors. If you don’t believe us, take a look at the alterations on social media sites over the past couple of years.
Take Facebook for instance. During its early years, the timeline on Facebook consisted primarily of text updates that offered commentary and opinions from users. Today’s newsfeed is image friendly and encourages people to share videos and photos. Pinterest, the image-intensive platform that encourages users to share everything from memes to recipes, is now the third most popular platform among social media sites according to Venture Beat.
Why are people creating more visual content? The answer is simple. There is no need to waste time and energy telling consumers about your brand when you can simply show them. Likewise, you don’t need to talk about products or services when you can illustrate it in action. Additionally, people leave your site having learned more about your company and brand after interacting with visual information.
Benefits of Good Presentation
It’s one thing to tell you why site appearance is more important than site content, but it’s another thing to offer you some benefits. There are a variety of search and social benefits site appearance can offer your site and brand. First and foremost, you can increase SERP click-through rates. Google’s Instant Preview offers users a sneak peak at the page they are considering visiting. As they look at the previews of the top three rankings, are they more likely to click on the page with visual pop or the lackluster page?
Good presentation can also help decrease the bounce rate on your website. The best comparison we’ve heard in this case is that of the sales-heavy page and a dark alley. If visitors click to your site and it is littered with advertisements and sales pitches, and devoid of quality imagery and content, it is similar to walking home from the club and turning down a dark alley. In both cases, the only think you want to do is get out of there as quickly as possible.
Last but not least, good visuals can translate to more shares on social media and more links to your content from other sites. Web surfers enjoy sharing humorous, inspiring, and emotional content on social media. Few people read a 1,500 word blog post and share it on social media with a comment that reads “this changed my life.” People want to share engaging content that is easy on the eyes and entertaining for others.
Factors to Consider When Creating Visual Content
As you sit down with your marketing team and webmasters, take some time to answer a few questions about the quality, content, and purpose of the images you want to create. The first thing to consider is the manner in which you will present the content. Take a few moments to outline the presentation of your content before you actually create anything. What about your idea will make it unique, readable, or compelling to viewers?
Once you’ve answered that question, focus on creating something that people haven’t seen before. Try to avoid taking current themes, memes, or concepts and simply repurposing them for your site and products. If you want to garner attention for your brand and company, think outside of the box and invest in the presentation of your visual content to create something fresh and new.
By no means are we suggesting that site content is irrelevant. Your content needs to be good, but it is the site appearance that will first capture the imagination of your visitors and keep them around long enough to interact with your content.