Friday, November 30, 2007

Searchable wads of content: Pulling the plug on the Web site

I asked a question yesterday buried within another post, and didn't receive a bit of feedback. So, I'm elevating this idea to its own post. The question: Is anyone just putting up searchable, but non-browsable wads of content? Considering this as a potential strategy?

It seems to me that this could be a reasonable, simple, and cost effective strategy for a content producer. Just exploit search and syndication, and completely ignore building a navigable or browsable Web site at all. If 90% of your visits are coming through search and referral, and you offer feeds for regular consumers, what's the point of the Web site? How much time and money and energy should you be investing on the 10% coming through the methods of old? Perhaps reaching that 10% isn't worth the expense? I see huge amounts of time and effort being spent on designing sites that are increasingly becoming Internet ghost towns.

Your numbers may be slightly different, but we can see the trend line and we know where it's headed. At what point do you pull-the-plug on the traditional Web site? Seriously, you could have your content producers collaborate to develop content using something like Google Docs, have them publish to a central repository, accomplish pretty much 90% of what you are with your current Web site, and save gobs of money in producing your wad of content. Could it get much easier?

What am I missing?

9 comments:

Stephen Judd said...

Kevin,

I agree that this might be a viable solution for some, but another factor I consider important in web site architecture is discoverability. By that, i mean the ability to find related content that you may not be searching for, but that is relevant to you.

Suppose someone finds one wad of your content via search, what else that you've produced might they be interested in? I'm much more of a searcher than a browser, but when I end up at a site, via search or RSS, I sometimes find myself going off on a tangent that looks interesting, but I wouldn't have thought to look for.

Just a thought.

Kevin Gamble said...

I agree with that, but user behavior doesn't necessarily bear that out. If we're seeing pageviews of 1.5 per visitor then they aren't browsing much.

I also wonder if the going to other sites shouldn't be handled with relevant links within the actual content.

Thanks for comment!

Stephen Judd said...

For November, our (UNHCE) public stats show about 50% coming from search engines, 2.29 pageviews per visitor, bounce rate of 63%, and 70% new visitors.

For Extension, I think our clientele do have some expectation of having a "typical" site where they can come back to and navigate. In my work with non-techies, the resistance to RSS amazes me. Even internally, RSS is a tough sell. Most of our educators are very email centric, so we use FeedBlitz to allow them to subscribe to RSS updates via email.

All that said, I think what your talking about is definitely the direction the world is headed.

Bud said...

I discovered your blog through Planet Intertwingly, so neither your web site nor search played any role. It was the reading interests of Sam Ruby.

However, when I arrived here, I wanted to see who you are. That was a little more difficult. You may be getting 1.5 page views per visitor on the site because the content needs to be better linked for people like me. Alternatively, and perhaps my preferred hypothesis, people visiting your site arrive in segments. Only a very few want to dig in. Others are just trying to get a specific question answered and don't.

More generally, I agree with the idea that you should not be relying on your site to build your community (stated in a previous post). Rather, I think it is just part of your constellation of content that you are using to influence people. View it as the home store in a network of retail content outlets.

BTW, the site I am most involved in now is http://michiganinnovators.org, a nascent community site.

I've subscribed to your feed.

Kevin Gamble said...

Bud,

Thank you for your comments.

My post wasn't related to this blog at all. I get way more pageviews than that. Most people do not come here through search. But a blog is different than a pure-play content publishing site. Most do read through feeds, and most directs are people coming to leave comments (which is not very many).

My comments were directly related to some specific content centric sites where I know the metrics. They are very consistent: 75% search (and trending up), 15% referral, and 10% directs (and trending down).

Kevin

Bud said...

Kevin,

I had not caught the distinction, but I am a newcomer here. I'm very much enjoying your observations on community.

So, where does something like a blog fits on the spectrum of searchable wads of content?

Kevin Gamble said...

Good questions.

I don't view this as a content site at all. The metrics here are very different. First, it's about 2.5:1 reading this site through feeds. The GAs for this site are: 35% search, 25% direct, and 40% referral.

Those are very different from the "publishing" sites which run 75% search, 15% referral, and 10% direct.

One thing that is worth noting is that the widget artifacts that I have installed are almost never used. Some people do use the tag cloud on occasion, will occasionally click through to my profile (who is this clown?), but very rarely do people use the search widgets, and a few click through to the delicious bookmarks.

To be honest, I like playing with the widgets, but they really aren't necessary.

That was a ramble. Did I get at your question?

Bud said...

Yes, you did get at the question.

Your comments on widgets are quite interesting. I often think of blogs as streams of conversation (a pretty conventional view) with the content being worth the most at the time it is said. I'm not sure what the value of blog archives is.

another point though, the widgets may not be getting as much attention because of their positioning on the page.

Kevin Gamble said...

Good questions again.

Where the majority of daily reads and conversations occurs around the posts of the last day or two, it is interesting to watch the reads. On any one day at least 50 of the old posts get read. I almost never get comments but people do find them. It's most definitely a long tail.

As to the widgets -- it's interesting that the delicious and tag clouds are used the most but they are pretty far down the page. If I was thinking about placement I would move those up, and eliminate most of the others.