Savvy enterprises are moving from a single website to a two site model, the second one being a media outlet designed to build brand equity and loyalty among future generations of customers.
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For businesses of all sizes, the single-website model has failed. Too strong of a term? Of the 1.8 billion websites living on servers somewhere in the world, more than 90% are altogether inactive, having, in essence, been abandoned by site owners. And I’ll go out on a limb, here: I’m betting that a high percentage of the ones that are getting regular updates are performing well below expectations. The question is why?
To answer that question, I first need to review something called a sales funnel, which is a metaphor that marketers use to organize potential customers in terms of their readiness to buy, sign, or join. People at the bottom of a funnel have made the intellectual and emotional journey necessary to make a commitment. In contrast, people at the top of the funnel may have never heard of your product or service and may not even realize that they need it. Of course, there are potential customers at various stages of readiness within the funnel.
A key point, here, is that there are exponentially more prospects at the top of the funnel than at the bottom. And for marketing teams to hit goals, they can’t just wait for people to straggle in and ask to speak to a sales person. Rather, marketers have to go up to the top of the funnel, engage the masses, and systematically nurture them down into the funnel.
What Commercial Websites Do Well
For most organizations, a website is an online sales brochure, with page after page about products, features, and company information. A well designed brochure-style website will do a good job of convincing bottom-funnel types (the ones ready to buy) to end their search and make a purchase.
In other words, a, brochure-style website sits at the bottom of the funnel, targeting people who are already shopping for whatever it is you’re selling. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t be visiting your website to begin with.)
Where Traditional Websites Fall Short
Product pages tend to have relatively little text on them, and the text they do have is not tuned for search (SEO). Consequently, it’s extremely unlikely that a corporate website is going to get much—if any—organic traffic from search engines. The traffic such sites do get will come from people searching for your company by name or product category. In other words, if you’re selling your own brand of mountain bikes, Google is smart enough to rank you on searches for “mountain bike brands” based solely on your product-page content.
The key takeaway, here, is this: If someone is searching for “mountain bike brands,” they’re already deep into the funnel.
Where Blogs Come in
The blog concept enables brochure-style sites to generate search-engine traffic among people further up the funnel—people not yet ready to buy. Blog articles can be any length (Google tends to give top rankings to articles having around two thousand words) and can be on any topic.
So for a mountain bike company that wanted to build its brand with future generations of customers, it could write articles about fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports in general, all topics that would appeal to a broad audience further up the funnel—people who may have never considered mountain biking as a hobby. Furthermore, such articles could be tuned to mesh with Google’s algorithm and could be of sufficient length to provide real insight and thought leadership.
Where Blogs Fall Short
There are a couple of problems with blogs, as they are currently implemented:
· Most companies don’t have the expertise necessary to create thought leadership content in quantity across a range of top-funnel topics. In other words, “we’re experts on mountain biking, not cardio vascular science.”
· Most companies don’t have the resources or corporate commitment to a long-term content program without a clear and measurable ROI. So an occasional article gets added to the blog, which article, more often than not, is about mountain biking, making it mid-to-bottom funnel, rather than top funnel.
The image to the right gives an anecdotal representation of what I’m talking about—tons of bottom-funnel content, a small amount of mid-funnel content, and nothing at the top, where the really big audience exists.
The Website-Organization Problem
Suppose this mountain bike company commissions an expert to create an article on nutrition for extreme athletes and posts it on the company’s blog. And because the article is relevant to a broad audience, is the right length, and is tuned for Google, it gets a high placement on a number of important search strings, causing organic traffic to land on the article on the company’s site.
While the article did its job—attracting readers—the website will likely fail to do its job—converting the top-funnel visitor into a bottom-funnel customers. Why? Because the chasm between the top and bottom is too large. Readers interested in nutrition will be on a tiny content island in a sea of mountain bike advertising. So nutrition visitors will leave, likely never to return. (For a deep dive into this concept, check out Why Websites Don’t Work and Media Outlets Do.)
Abandoning the Multi-Tool Concept
Back in the day, referring to something as a “Swiss Army Knife” was generally a complement. But in an age where specialization has taken over, most of us now view Swiss Army knives for what they are—bad knives, bad forks, a dysfunctional toothpick for anyone with normal sized teeth, etc. Better to just pack a knife, a
fork, and whatever other utensils you need.
So also is the case with online destination sites. Your product site (often referred to as a passive site because, once it’s built, it will likely require little maintenance) should be used for what it was designed—convert bottom-funnel types into customers.
It’s in this context that a second site becomes necessary—a veritable media outlet designed specifically to attract the masses, sift out the ones who are likely to buy something, and route them through to your passive, product site. As for the rest—the ones not yet ready to buy—a portfolio of on-point content will be available, enticing them to stay, look around, read/watch more great stuff, all the while, developing an affinity—even a loyalty—to your brand, so that when they are in the market for a mountain bike, they’ll come straight to you.
Marketing as a Profit Center
In their book “Killing Marketing,” Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi argue that many marketing articles of faith should be abandoned. And in their place, a singular concept should be adopted—marketing at a profit. Put another way, marketing should be run as an independent business responsible for generating revenue, all the
while building the company’s brand and growing its bottom line.
While Rose and Pulizzi didn’t invent the two-site model, they’re likely the ones shining the brightest light on it. Red Bull, Lego, Johnson & Johnson, and John Deere are all brands the two authors highlight which have perfected the marketing-at-a-profit concept, which in some instances, goes far beyond a second site/media outlet. Lego for example has become a major producer of motion pictures, which are designed to sell toys. Or are the toys designed to sell tickets and popcorn? Either way, the model works.
If I have a problem with the approach Rose and Pulizzi are espousing, it’s that its best suited for the grotesquely large and well funded. But if marketing at a profit is the future, what does that mean for tens of millions of smaller businesses who can’t follow in Red Bull’s path?
Your Very Own Media Outlet
One approach to developing your own second site, or media outlet, is to simply build a second site and organize it as a media outlet—light on page design and organized around content categories. (To learn specifics on media outlet design, check out What Is a Digital Media Outlet?) However, based on their very design—multiple content categories—media outlets need more top funnel content—a lot more. So simply putting up a second WordPress site, for most companies, will likely mean two sites that aren’t effectively attended to.
The key then to making a media outlet work is copious amounts of great content at a price small businesses can afford. Mojiifed is one platform that was designed with this concept in mind. Setting up a media outlet takes minutes. Stocking the site with content involves a quick trip to the content marketplace, where you can drill down on target content by titles, tags, or keywords. And you can be pushing content into your social platforms, quite literally, within an hour of your start time.
Mojified includes a powerful post editor, enabling you to augment subscription content with your own, custom content. And you can include personal ads and links that route visitors through to your passive, product site.
To learn more, visit us a mojified.com.
To see a two-site model in action, begin at Scott Christopher Communications. Note the advertisement on the right side of the page. Click on that, and you'll land on the passive site associated with this media outlet.