When you go to a site - you are ‘pulling’ the content. To get to a page at all, you have to decide what you want to read about, get some words in mind, type them into a search engine, choose from the results, and then get to a page to read the information/watch the video etc. Or you might see a link on another page/Twitter etc and decide you want to follow that link to read the content etc.
All of that takes effort. All of that means you actually have to do something. That’s ‘pull’ content. You are pulling the content to you.
If you see a poster while waiting for a bus - you are choosing to look at it but it is there. It’s in front of you. You are not really pulling it. The effort is minimal. Your eyes just happened to hit it. Similarly, if you publish a press release and send it to everyone you know - that’s push content. You are shoving it out and hoping someone will pick it up. Push content is usually not as successful as pull. Often, if you just shove stuff out there, it's more luck than judgement that someone picks it up.
So the real question is: how pointless is push content? Well, there is a massive poster industry that says it is not pointless at all. Same with press releases - sometimes they are picked up and turned into news stories that are pulled by an audience. So push just turned to pull.
And when writing for the web, that’s the skill. Turning push to pull.
Any push content can be turned to pull. All you need to do is find what your audience actually wants. And the more pull your content has, the more successful you will be.
The push: Look at this shiny thing! If you buy it, I will make a stack of cash.
The pull: this shiny thing does this, this and this (and will make your life easier etc) and this is how easy it is to give me money so you can have it.
Turning push content to pull is easy: concentrate on what the audience wants.
Push content is also known as 'vanity publishing'. We’ve all seen company sites where a board of directors grin inanely at you from most of the homepage for no discernible purpose. The text is jargon-heavy, self-serving and doesn’t tell you what they do, what you can get from them or anything useful. Most of the time, you wonder how you managed to make it onto that page at all and skip out as quickly as you can.
Sometimes you need to know who is on the board of directors. Most of the time, the first thing you need to know is ‘am I on the right site?’
Vanity sites hardly ever do that. And that makes a bad website. All push and no pull usually ends up with low results.
Example number 2
The push: this is a photo of a guy with a massive psycho grin
The pull: this person is human, has a background, is trustworthy and it’s worth you working for his/her company or giving him/her your cash
Take a look at some new, funky digital agency website. They’ll probably have an ‘about us’ page that’ll include pics of parties, people on beanbags etc. Not only are they introducing you to the team, they are showing you their lifestyle. They don't have portrait shots. And of course, you had to actively choose to go to the link that tells you about the team. They are not slap-bang on the homepage.
Is it worth having pictures of the team on your homepage? Depends what you want your audience to get from you within seconds of coming to your site. If you push information to your audience they don’t want, you'll have a higher chance of losing them.
Love your audience
You can take a piece of push information and turn it to pull if you:
- use the language your audience is using - that will allow them to find you in the first place
- think of what your audience wants to know first and not what your company thinks it wants to say first (that’s the crux of user-centred content and design - there’s a blog post coming about that soon)
- keep to all the usual web rules of good content: clear, targeted, interesting
And remember to make it easy: respect your audience's time, internet connection and any disabilities they may have. Then your audience may just love you back.
Next week’s blog post: why editors need to care about design