Guide to Content Experience, curating the content environment
In today’s hyper-competitive digital reality, creating and publishing high-quality content is only half the battle, which must be completed by succeeding in ensuring that readers have a positive experience with this content. Therefore, English-speaking experts have coined an expression that is used to define the environment in which our content “lives,” namely the content experience, an aspect that is good to delve into in order to understand how to improve our site and how to provide readers with positive experiences and interactions with the page. So let’s find out all about the content experience, starting with the definition of what it is and tips on how to take care of all the aspects that relate to this topic and also impact SEO.
What is Content Experience
Let’s start with definitions.
Content experience is the overall interaction a user has with the content of a website or app, which is not only about the content itself, but also about the way it is presented and organized.
In other words, the content experience is about both the “what” (the content) and the “how” (the presentation and organization), affecting everything that ties in with the content and the context in which it fits: the way the page is structured and organized, the language used, the images chosen, the way it captures users’ attention and also creates engagement with the brand through elements such as personalization.
The bottom line is that we all – consciously or unconsciously – provide a content experience, which can be good, bad or ugly. Therefore, it is appropriate and sensible to avoid publishing disconnected content, instead trying to implement a focused effort to ensure that the experience is productive.
Understanding what content experience means
Content experience is not a new concept: developers have been trying to create a positive user experience for decades, and even Google puts “the user at the center,” for example with the Page Experience concept and criteria.
The very advent of search engines and the growing importance of SEO have made the role of content experience more central. In the early days, SEO was primarily focused on creating keyword-rich content to attract search engines, but over time, search engines (Google in the lead) have begun to reward sites that offer a high-quality user experience, thus including care in the overall content construction.
Content experience theory claims precisely that ensuring a positive content experience can increase user engagement, improve retention, and ultimately lead to higher search engine visibility.
In this view, the content experience is thus the overall experience of accessing, consuming, engaging and responding to a stream of brand content, across different devices, platforms and channels, through the funnel from potential customer to loyal customer. Successful content experiences offer a high degree of relevance, personalization, timeliness, consistency, and convenience.
Why it is important to nurture content experience
There are several factors that can influence the content experience, such as content quality, ease of navigation, site loading speed, mobile compatibility, and accessibility. For example, a site with high-quality content but confusing or slow navigation may not provide a positive content experience, and similarly, a site with mediocre content but good navigation and loading speed may fail to engage or retain users.
Summing it up, then, the content experience is a set of practical elements and sensations that the content makes users feel: it is a slightly different factor from user experience because it specifically refers to contents, to the emotions they spark inside whose receiving, reading and using them, but it is quite easy to imagine that it is not possible to provide a good content experience if we do not optimize user experience first.
Creating positive feelings for all users
Taking care of these aspects is crucial to improve traffic, generate products demand and guide the conversion funnel prospects towards the purchase point: the more the set of emotions sparked is positive, the better would be the engagement between the brand and its users that, subsequently, would be more inclined to come back to the site to get info or purchase services and products.
Content is not only writing
We know that the contents are fundamental to each site, to generate traffic and reach the business goals, yes, but also because they stand as primary hooking toward the user, so much so that one of the most historical quotes of SEO copywriting is “content is the king”: we can go further, though, and try to supply with our pages an experience that can involve the client through the whole process, both for blogs and eCommerces.
In practical terms, it means not only to write text and produce contents that ends with the reading or selling, but to find keys to continuously connect with users, in order to educate them and build a stronger relationship resulting in benefits for all the involved parts.
The look and arrangement of the pages impact on content experience
There surely are also practical factors that could generate a positive experience, that is the ideal final goal to reach for every kind of activity: one of these main factors is the look, even the aesthetic one, of both the site and pages, because even by that successful opportunities of the process can arise.
According to some researches, the 38% of people end the interaction with a site if the contents or the layout is not very attractive, and these first impressions can spark in the blink of an eye. An old Nielsen Norman Group research used to establish at 10 seconds the amount of time on the page an average user needs to spend to decide if he wants to stay or leave, but nowadays we actually have even less time to impress him!
Structure as well has deep impact on these elements: we are talking about the way contents are arranged, of how easy it is for someone to find what he needs once reached the site with a clear request in mind, of how simple it is to navigate.
All this (arrangements, navigation and care of the details) impacts on the potential clients’ ability to discover useful and relevant contents, and make hard for them to look for info or get answers results in a bad user experience. Subsequently, this bad UX translates in a poor content experience, that could penalize the site: just think about the fact that the 88% of online consumers are not that inclined to go back on a site they had a bad experience with.
The factors affecting content experience
To better understand which are the elements generating the most frustration for users we refer to a recent research led by the australian Dejan Marketing, that asked a sample of about 1500 people which were the most critical factors encountered during online contents reading. In the 40% of the cases, interviewer blamed online ads that keeps on popping up, closely followed by other problems that interrupts the natual reading flow, as we can see in the picture below.
Breaking the reading flow creates a negative experience
Other than pesky Ads and interruptions, a recurring elements provoking negative content experience is the lack of quality contents signals, such as poor care of grammar, spelling and style, together with the absence of quick answers in the text; apparently, then, readers are also careful about info integrity and it is very frustrating to them not to be able to fully rely on authors, editors, sources and so on. In Australia, the doubt of reading fake news, clickbait articles or deeply influenced by the author’s previous positions is felt by 10% of users.
There is also a more tecnical questions referral: the on page experience is negatively impacted by the slow loading of contents, the paywalls and by pop-up elements (intrusive ads or subscription boxes) that annoy the readers and does not let them feel positive emotions.
How to ensure a good content experience on the site
Ensuring a good content experience is not an easy task, but it is certainly achievable.There are various parameters and aspects that can help improve our site, as well as several tools that can help us understand whether we are providing a good overall experience
In particular, we need to look out for:
- Quality of Content. The first and most important aspect is the quality of the content, which should be well-written, accurate, informative and interesting. Above all, it should be useful and relevant to the target audience, effectively answering their questions and needs or solving their problems.
- Design and Layout. Not just aesthetics: the design and layout of the website or app can have a significant impact on the content experience, and for example, a clean design and intuitive layout can make it easier for users to find and consume content.
- Navigation. Navigation should be simple and intuitive; put another way, users should be able to easily find what they are looking for without having to click too many links or scroll too much.
- Loading Speed. The loading speed of the website or app can greatly affect the content experience: if pages are slow, users may leave before they have a chance to see (let alone interact with) the content.
- Mobile compatibility. As we know, the majority of people in the world use mobile devices to access the Web, so having a mobile-friendly site is also a key element of the content experience.
- Accessibility. The site must be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, ensuring, for example, that there is alternative text for images, that text is easy to read, and that it is compatible with assistive technologies.
How to understand and evaluate the content experience
There are then, as mentioned, various tools that can help us understand whether we are delivering a good content experience to our readers. For example, we can refer to:
- Web Analytics such as Google Analytics, to find useful data, such as average time spent by users on the website, bounce rate, and number of page views per session, to begin to understand whether users are interacting with the content in a positive way.
- Heatmaps, to visualize more precisely how users are interacting with the website: where they click, how much they scroll, and which parts of the website grab their attention and which ones they stay away from.
- Surveys to gather feedback directly from users, to ask them what they think of the content, whether they can easily find what they are looking for, and whether they have suggestions on how to improve the content experience.