Bill Gates’ Prophecy - If you’ve looked into online marketing at all, you’ll know the number one rule: “content is king.” In just one of the many moments that proved his genius and foresight, Bill Gates apparently coined the phrase almost 19 years ago in an essay dated January 3, 1996. In the essay, Mr. Gates showed incredible insight, especially because the essay was written during a time when dial-up connections were the norm.
- He starts off by stating, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet… the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate.”
- He goes on to say that to be successful online, we would have to provide “deep and extremely up-to-date information,” provide this in a convenient manner, use multiple media types, including audio and video, and engage our audiences at a level never before seen offline.
- He observed that at the time, publishing content online was “little more than a labor of love… on the belief that over time, someone will figure out how to get revenue.” He then basically describes what is now known as “click-through rates” as a way to measure ad effectiveness and gain ad revenue.
- He ends the essay by predicting a number of things, including:
- As webpage loading times go down, people’s annoyance at ads will “diminish and then disappear.”
- Content providers will be able to charge just a few cents at a time for information they provide to attract a wider audience.
- The Internet will be “a marketplace of ideas, experiences and products – a marketplace of content.”
The Prophecy Fulfilled
These points continue to be the same ones echoed today by the most respected online marketing “gurus.”
All the elements of effective content are still exactly as Bill said: useful, up-to-date, easy to find and read, makes use of multiple types of media, and is personally engaging to the audience.
Getting PPC and other ad revenues is now a very real thing, pretty much exactly as Bill described, including the use of analytics.
In short, content is still king. The Internet has truly become “a marketplace of content.” If anything, this has even surpassed Bill’s wildest imagination by far.
Bill was talking more about transitioning from paid print and TV content to paid Internet content, earning mostly from ads and paid subscriptions. But modern marketing experts have long realized that content is not only effective, but absolutely essential for all businesses today – whether you’re selling socks or swimming lessons, pancakes or Pacific islands. The “opportunities” that online content provided went far beyond his expectations.
However, therein also lies the problem. Content has overshadowed everything else, including, for many, the actual “selling” part. This is called “conversion,” which is taking the leads generated by your content and actually converting them into sales. Without this, you’re stuck in Bill Gates’ 1996 where you provide quality content and get nothing in return.
Remember how good content should be useful and up-to-date? This means that people will click on the content because it will address a need that they have – whether to solve a specific problem or simply learn more about something they want to know about. Whatever the need, your business’s product or service should be able to address it.
For this conversion to happen, the easiest way for both your business and your customers is to create an effective “call to action” (CTA). This can come in the form of a “contact us” kind of call to learn more about your product or service and an “order/subscribe now” call. Another example is a signup form to get a free guide or information and tips, which you could offer to get more likes or follows on social media.
Unfortunately, a vast majority of small businesses lack this all-important CTA on their website. According to an infographic created by Column Five Media, a whopping 93% of small business websites do not even display the business email address. 91% do not have Facebook widgets and 94% lack Twitter widgets. About half do not even list their phone numbers.
Even businesses admit that they’re not making full use of the content they provide. Business 2 Community cited data from TrackMaven showing that 42% of B2B marketers and 34% of B2C marketers don’t think their use of content is very effective. Recognizing a problem is the first step; taking action is the next. Read our next blog post to find out how to make effective content and call to action combinations.
See what I just did there?