Five principles of interconnected content

Published on
We talk repeatedly in content marketing about the importance of quality content. “Content is king” is the long-time mantra and the guiding spirit for our work. As an industry, we […]

We talk repeatedly in content marketing about the importance of quality content. “Content is king” is the long-time mantra and the guiding spirit for our work. As an industry, we have placed a large emphasis in recent years on the richness and appeal of individual pieces of content. When we sniff out good content, we fall over ourselves in excitement. Social channels allow us to share and promote a great video, a quirky list or an in-depth profile with increasing ease.

What we focus on less is the relationship between different types of content – the interconnectedness. Ensuring individual articles, graphics and videos snap together in a wider mosaic is as important as providing actionable and informative pieces of content in the first place. The whole should always be greater than the sum of the parts.

Let’s not neglect the importance of quality content as a thing in itself. The link between strong content and commercial success has long been touted. “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting,” wrote Bill Gates in his seminal 1996 essay. Quality content creates concrete opportunities for monetization.

Nonetheless, how you position one piece of content in relation to another goes a long way in defining the overall user experience. The particular alchemy of content arrangement – the ways different content types interact to create a richer experience online – is critical to the success of content marketing and bears increasingly close scrutiny. Understanding this process boils down to a simple question: What are the key production values we are looking to foster when we publish digitally? We can split our analysis into five parts.

Relevance:

This is the glue that holds your content together. Disregard for relevance shows a lack of respect for your site visitors. The relevance between one piece of content and another should always be quickly evident. Otherwise you will confuse and annoy your readership. You will also fail to hold your visitors’ attention, and miss out on potential conversions.

Be judicious in both your internal and external linking. If your article is about trading fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, don’t link to the first information site on international currencies you hit upon. Instead link intelligently and only when it makes sense, and prioritize links to relevant pages within your site. Weak links undermine the confidence of your site visitor. They also prove an unnecessary distraction, and drive otherwise qualified traffic away.

Wherever possible, keep it close to home by engaging your visitors with the excellence of the content on the page that’s already open. The fewer steps to an eventual conversion, the stronger the result all-round. Relevance cultivates engagement, and engagement paves the way for conversions.

Richness:

Promoting engagement with your main article by surrounding it with different content types on the same page directly increases the richness of the user experience. Embedded video neatly breaks up text. Text serves as a useful commentary to video. Summary boxes assist the reader in absorbing key points fast. Sidebars and graphics are engaging ways of fleshing out the core ideas of your main piece.

Maintaining richness in the content experience requires an element of restraint. Allow your content to breathe.

Make the layout simple and clean. Maintaining richness in the content experience requires an element of restraint. Too many jumping-off points on any given page can feel dizzying to the reader. Allow your content to breathe.

As soon as your reader sees you working to supply rich and relevant material within an already open page, she will thank you for it. Trawling around the web trying to answer a question is tiring and prone to distraction. Providing supporting materials on the same page is a wonderful act of content arrangement and an editorial power play as old as the hills.

Balance:

This is a key attribute in most every aspect of life, including content creation. Great dramatists are masters at interjecting sadness with humor. The most successful print magazines offer a range of different content features designed to match your mood.

It’s exactly the same with digital content. Mix up long with short, text with video, serious with light-hearted. Think of the last five pieces of content you have produced for your website, and seek to make the next item something that genuinely adds value by being a little different to everything that’s come before.

Utility:

We want to be helpful to people online. So many pathways to distraction already exist that the more useful we can be, the better we will focus someone’s attention – and the greater the chances of a successful interaction. Each piece of content must be targeted in answering the likely questions of our target audience. It should also provide access to related content capable of broadening and deepening our audience’s understanding of a particular issue.

Consider the thematic organization of the page. Do the related categories offer titles that a site visitor feels compelled to click on? Measure your clickthrough rates for all of the links on the page, and check how long the reader stays on the destination page. A clickthrough only carries value if the destination URL feels logical to the visitor.

Ensure your call to actions are strongly designed and clearly relevant to the general theme of the page. Do not view CTAs as a bolt-on or afterthought. Call to actions should enhance the substance of the page by giving the user clear ways to engage.

Choice:

Make your visitor feel he is in control within a well-designed content landscape.

People are more inclined to make a positive decision online when presented with simple, intelligent choices. Make your visitor feel he is in control within a well-designed content landscape. The options should never be overwhelming, but instead inspire confidence in your guest. The web remains choppy, and so connecting your content in a clear and confident way that leaves the final decision about where to go next with your visitor is optimal. Otherwise he will almost certainly leave your site or close your app.

Equally, remember that to be able to present your choices you need to get eyeballs on your content in the first place. A great piece of content that never finds its rightful audience is a little like the tree that falls down in the forest that nobody hears.

Build it and they will come is a fine premise, but it’s never wise to leave your promotion strategy unattended.

Push your best and strongest content through social media and appropriate channels, and ensure you have sufficient additional content in easy proximity to your main item. Build it and they will come is a fine premise, but it’s never wise to leave your promotion strategy unattended. At the same time, make sure your most visited search landing pages provide plentiful options for the visitor to go next. Spend time on your site in the mindset of a visitor. Take the lessons from the experience, and apply them rigorously in your navigation and design.

What are your tips for creating great interconnected content and an engaging user experience?

Enjoy our news? Subscribe to the Content Marketzine!
  Daily   Weekly

Richard PattinsonRichard Pattinson is Brafton's editor-in-chief. He has worked in the news and information field over the past 15 years, building and managing a variety of editorial teams during that time.
Author Profile

Blog