The Long Neck, according to Gerry McGovern, is where the long tail meets your Web site. It's the understanding that 90% of your Web visitor are only going to read 10% of your Web content - and if they can't find it quickly, they won't even read that much. McGovern, in his latest book, Killer Web Content, explores the disconnect between the information companies have on their Web site and the words Web searchers use to land there. McGovern's company joins these two together to create what he calls Customer Carewords - the words your customers love and are looking for.
The graphic, from his Web site, uses the tourism industry as an example. In a Customer Carewords poll of over 1,000 people in 12 countries, people were asked to choose the tasks they most wanted to complete on a tourism website. 147 possible tasks were offered such as: planning a trip, vacation packages, getting here and around, accommodation, special offers, things to do and see, etc.
The top seven carewords, representing five percent of the total tasks, got 35 percent of votes. In fact, the top seven carewords got more votes than the bottom 120 carewords. This tourism Long Neck represents the essence of what a tourism Web site must do to be successful on the Web.
McGovern argues that too many of us have wed Web publishing to data management when they should actually be completely separate. Too many of us "dump" our information on the Web, offer a search engine and think "If it's out there, they will find it." (Or as Peter Drucker put it, weâ€™ve spent the last 30 years focusing on the T in IT and weâ€™ll spend the next 30 years focusing on the I.)
McGovern defines "killer web content" as the tiny fraction of the content you produce that, if properly written and published, will make your Web site a success. But if it's buried down deep with the other 95% of the content that no one is reading anyway, it will never be found. (And taking the wrong content out is just as important as promoting the killer Web content. The wrong content gets in the way of the right content.)
In an age of information overload, content management must be more concerned with what you donâ€™t publish. It is easy to put everything you have up. It is easy to take a print document and save it as a PDF. But thatâ€™s not management, and those who take that approach have no future as content managers.
At past workshops, McGovern asked Web managers to stand up if they could swear in a court of law that all of their Web site content was accurate. Nobody stood. I wouldn't either.
If you, like me, don't have the money to hire Gerry McGovern to poll customers on your Web site on the words they love, your own site statistics are a great place to start. See which pages are getting the most hits, which keywords are landing Web searchers on your site and how many visitors go directly to your main page (I'm assuming these are members or vendors who know your association well). For example, at MHA we get the most hits from Google searches - and the #1 search string is Mississippi Hospital Association, so the majority of searches landing at our site are for people looking for us (not the other 5,000 documents that we have posted). Our top four search strings are, in order: Mississippi Hospital Association, Ms Hospital Associaton, www.mhanet.com (which is not our Web site by the way - we're at www.mhanet.org) and Mississippi hospitals.
Phone calls from members and vendors are also a good indication of what they can't find on your Web site. Log calls in your area about requests for content and ask others to send you an e-mail when a member calls and asks for specific information.
McGovern talks often about what your "Web team" can do to make your site successful. Of course, in the association world, the Web team is often one person. And that one person generally has a laundry list of other responsibilities, with Web management just one of many (like myself). But as Web content becomes an increasingly critical part of any association's communication strategy, we're going to have to all force ourselves to turn an increasingly critical eye to our Web content and organization.