Four Reasons The Mobile Web Will Force Us To Become Better Content Marketers
The digital landscape is changing -- and so must our content marketing strategy. Columnist Patrick Armitage discusses how content marketers can adapt to the mobile revolution.
Are you noticing that you’re reading more on your phone than ever before?
I’ve noticed that I’ve graduated from mindlessly scanning 140-character tweets and flipping through Instagram photos to tackling full-on #longreads during my (non-driving) commute, while standing in line at the grocery store, while eating lunch, during commercial breaks, and at any other moment to distract me from my own thoughts.
The internet killed print. And signs are pointing to the phone killing the e-reader.
So just what are the implications of more people reading on their phones? And further, what effect will these new reading habits have on your content and content strategy?
Quite a lot, actually.
Here’s how and why mobile content will make you a better writer and content marketer.
Mobile Content Requires Understanding Your Audience’s Reading Habits… Through Actual Numbers
If you haven’t paid attention to how site visitors consume your content, the rise of mobile should get you started. When’s the last time you checked your Web analytics to see which devices your audience uses on your site?
Right now, the Web is undergoing a shift in the mobile experience. Mobile readers are quickly gaining ground on desktop readers, with a majority of digital media consumption now taking place on mobile.
Google recently confirmed that a majority of searches worldwide occur on mobile devices, and even Google’s recent project to speed up the mobile Web is a direct response to creating a better mobile experience.
Mobile traffic may not outweigh desktop traffic on every single site, but chances are good that mobile traffic is growing more rapidly.
For example, although 80 percent of our company’s website traffic still comes from desktop users, we’ve seen 30 percent growth in mobile traffic in the past three months, while our desktop traffic has only grown 10 percent.
(Note: A portion of this growth is attributed to launching a new, mobile-responsive site during that time. It bears repeating that a mobile-responsive site is the cost of entry for everyone now — our mobile traffic bump notwithstanding.)
Either way, that’s a 3X jump in mobile vs. desktop in a relatively short span of time. Consequently, our content strategy will need to change, not if, but when our mobile traffic surpasses our desktop traffic.
Reason #1: Understanding Your Audience’s Reading Habits Will Make You A Better Content Marketer
You can no longer write content without first considering the consumption habits of your reader. We’ve long defaulted to just thinking about the desktop user. But now, if the majority of your readers are mobile users, and you’re still giving them a desktop experience, you’ve created a disjointed, sub-optimal experience.
Looking at the gradual shifts of your user behavior will make you a more considerate, thoughtful writer. Again, if analytics tells you that the majority of your referral traffic is mobile, but mobile users’ bounce rates are higher than your desktop users, you’re clearly not giving your audience the experience they want.
Take stock of your website traffic. If mobile traffic is surpassing desktop traffic (or about to), then it’s time to start adjusting your content for mobile readers.
Vigilance is critical, as there are significant implications when creating an optimal reading experience for your mobile user. It’s not just shorter paragraphs and punchier copy — it’s also rethinking calls to action, mobile-friendly form submissions, better user behavior paths and conspicuous social sharing cues.
Relevant Content Is About Form, But It’s Also About Function
The definition of “relevant content” is changing.
Relevance isn’t just about the topics relatable to your audience. Relevance now has two meanings: relevance as it relates to content and relevance as it relates to the medium on which readers consume content.
Writing content that your audience relates to is one of those sacred tenets of content marketing. This is a key principle of content marketing and should be your primary goal, regardless of mobile vs. desktop or form vs. function.
But relevant content served on the wrong medium won’t work anymore. Remember: The medium is the message.
Say you just wrote a 1,500-word blog post for your business. It’s the best piece of content you’ve created all year. But if the majority of your readers typically discover your content on mobile devices, and their engagement (social shares, bounce rates, page views, CTA actions) and time on site with longer pieces is worse (thanks, analytics), the likelihood of your article being read stem-to-stern is scant.
Reason #2: Balancing Form And Function Will Make You A Better Content Marketer
Sometimes the margin between good and great is just that little extra effort. In this case, a little thing (like considering your content channel before creating content) could be the difference between engaging and losing a reader.
Regardless of your content’s merits, if you’re not thinking about your user in the context of how they arrive at and consume your content, you’re missing out on an opportunity for capturing a loyal reader.
Content That Can’t Be Shared Isn’t Shareable Content
Follow me here: Shareable content, if not easily shareable, won’t be shared. It’s that simple.
Neglecting to make your content easily shareable is a missed opportunity. Creating content is 50 percent of the battle. The other 50 percent is promotion, and if you’re not making social promotion easy for readers, you’re missing the lowest-hanging promotional fruit out there.
Reason #3: Easily Shareable Content Will Make You A Better Content Marketer
Making it easier for your readers to share content via social is just the beginning when thinking of creative ways to share your content. By thinking of other ways that your content can be shared, you’re scaling your initial content investment.
The brands and companies that find ways to make it easy for their readers to share content will develop effortless promotion channels.
I’ll provide a quick example:
Redef is a media company that does a fantastic job making their content (and brand) infinitely more shareable. For example, Redef’s daily newsletters lead with sharing CTAs at the very top. Further, each article has sharing icons and the ability to save the content for reading on Pocket or Instapaper later.
Content marketers that can attract readers and convert them into social followers or newsletter opt-ins are creating a bond with their readers that’s stronger than any paid advertisement.
We’re more likely to read a tweet from a friend or trusted source that says, “You should read this,” as opposed to the original content creator that says, “You should read this.”
You Simply Can’t Ignore The Importance Of Headlines Any More
Think about how you read and make your reading decisions on mobile.
The only reason I read what I read on the mobile Web is because of the headline. I’ve carefully curated my news and social feeds so that I only have to go to a few outlets (Twitter, select newsletters, Feedly, Nuzzel) to get the news relevant to me and delivered by the outlets I’ve deemed worthy of following or opting in to receive their content. From there, it’s a competition for the headline that’s most likely to grab my attention.
The stats further support the importance of headlines: Eight out of 10 people will read your headline. Two out of 10 will read your content.
When people read on mobile, they’re often reading in harried, distracting environments (waiting in lines, in the bathroom, commuting and just generally killing time or trying to avoid conversation). The pull of a headline becomes even more important where attention spans are already compromised.
Reason #4: Writing A Great Headline Will Make You A Better Content Marketer
Believing that the first headline you come up with is the best one is not a winning content strategy. The mobile reader is strapped for attention and time. With a smaller screen to work with, headlines have to be shorter and snappier, and they must engage the reader like never before.
As readers use Facebook, Twitter and other tools to get their content, marketers are competing against a dizzying stream of other content. The headline is everything.
Write lots of headlines before deciding on one. Analyze what headlines have performed better than others (Twitter’s a great place to A/B test headline formulas). Do research on what makes a great headline. Google “writing strong headlines” and start reading.
Great writing starts by getting readers to read the first sentence and then compels them to the read the next sentence and the next. The headline is your first sentence. Make your readers want to read more.