I started blogging five years ago as an experiment. Over the years, I built a decent following, made it on a few “best of” lists and established a solid bank of content. I never wrote a post for money or allowed advertising; I was in full control of the site and the content.
That changed last week when Blogger (a Google blogging platform) rolled out its new Dynamic Views template. Almost instantly, I saw the future and it was an eye-opener. The new technology is a game changer and has the potential for causing a significant “rethink” for marketers. Two features in particular make this innovation noteworthy.
The first is the visitor’s ability to change the layout of your site. Although dynamic content and websites have been around for years, this is the first tool that I’ve seen that has the potential to turn over complete control of the user experience to the visitor. It enables readers to organize your blog in seven different layouts (try it by clicking the image below).
The second, and most concerning, is the “Flipcard” view (see below). In a sense, it allows visitors to “flatten” your website. Suddenly, the majority of your content (good and bad) is visible above the fold and can be scanned in about eight seconds (the average time spent to view a Web page). Visitors can quickly sort through thumbnail images or blog titles searching for relevant content.
This new, disruptive innovation arrives at a time when corporations are just now beginning to appreciate and understand the value of content marketing and blogging.
According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound Marketing report, nearly 40 percent of U.S. companies are now using blogs for marketing purposes—and for good reason. B-to-B companies that blog generate 55 percent more traffic and 67 percent more leads per month than those that do not.
Those blogs are reaching an ever-growing population of readers. The global population of readers grew 65 percent last year, according to Hubspot. And they are consuming more, as 46 percent said that they were reading blogs more than once a day. To keep pace, more content is being produced. Emarketer reports that there are 31 percent more bloggers today than there were three years ago, creating an estimated 160 million blogs on the Internet at the end of 2010.
What does this mean for the content marketer?
The speed at which audiences move around online will get faster. They will be more difficult to connect with, engage and keep. Further, we are going to have to be prepared to give control to readers in order to be successful. Based on my experience, here are a few things marketers need to consider:
Flag post – An average reader spends 86 seconds on a blog. To “stop” a visitor who is on the express train to “contentville,” we will have to rethink the titles and images used in posts, and we’ll probably have to live with higher bounce rates. Suddenly, getting the reader’s attention is just as important as getting them to engage.
Relevancy – Turning over control of the site to the visitor also comes with the reality that we are now writing content the visitor wants to read and not necessarily just espousing our opinions or services. Communicating the company point of view is still important, but now it has to be done using the audience’s language.
Understanding the reader – Google Analytics gives us the demographics, but that no longer will be enough. We’ll need to understand what appeals to the reader by monitoring comments, how they’re sharing links, and where they’ve come from, and where they are headed. We’re merely a morning stop along the way and to get to engage, we have to know how to get their attention.
Content production – Producing good-quality content has long been a challenge. Now with the ability to flatten sites, the lack of content will be visible in an instant. Marketers will have to create a content calendar and rely on trustworthy sources for output.
Timing – According to Hubspot research, link-sharing among blog readers reaches a peak at 7 a.m. Comments on blogs top out at 8 a.m., and by 10 a.m. blog reading begins to decline. As the data suggests, when content is posted and distributed matters. New internal processes will have to catch up with external audience preferences.
The real game changer is that this technology will quickly make its way into corporate website design. For years we have tried to figure out the “user experience.” Visitors can now create their own unique experience, actually seven of them, and do it in real time. It is a great opportunity as well as a great challenge, and it’s one that marketers can’t afford to miss.
by Scott Gillum
President gyro Washington, D.C. and Head of gyro’s Channel Marketing Practice
Follow Scott on Twitter @SGillum
Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network