I’m not a big sports buff (#understatement), but I have heard the phrase “play all 4 quarters.” What that means is that you bring your A-game throughout the entire contest (4 quarters in the case of football). You can’t start out strong and then just rest on your laurels. If you do, that’s when the competition sneaks in a comeback.
Just ask the Browns.
The same can happen with our content. It has to come out of the tunnel, so to speak, strong with a compelling headline and opening. But it can’t stop there. It has to continue to provide value and make the visitor want to continue to read to the end of the content…and hopefully click through to more.
In order to do that, it not only must be an excellent piece of content but it must also satisfy the searcher intent. In other words, it must not just contain the keywords they searched on but the information they want to find with those keywords.
Different searchers require different content–even those searching with similar keywords. For example, if a searcher is looking for how to maintain a motorcycle battery, it wouldn’t do them any good if they landed on a battery product page no matter how stellar the content on that page is. Similarly, if they searched for 2013 honda goldwing replacement battery, landing on a tutorial wouldn’t give them what they hoped to find.
Fulfilling intent in all “four quarters”
When a visitor lands on a page on your site, they see what’s at the top of the page. If they like what they see they’ll start working their way down until they either follow a call to action to another page, get what they want and leave, or leave having not had their desire fulfilled. Like a football team, your content has to score in each of the “four quarters” to avoid that last scenario.
Quarter 1 – Headline
The headline (your h1 tag) at the top of the page is typically the first thing any visitor sees that is page-specific. Think of it as the kickoff. The page headline must immediately do two things:
- Catch the visitor’s attention
- Let them know that the page will fulfill their intent
If the headline doesn’t quickly do both of these things, most searchers will leave before you can say “We Will, We Will Rock You.” That makes this your first and most important piece of content on the page. Make it count.
Quarter 2 – Intro
Just like your favorite football team, you want to start the “game” strong. You want to move the reader down the
field page and avoid any turnovers exits.
To do this, the first paragraph or two of your content must fulfill the promise made by the headline. It should, in a compelling way, give visitors a preview of what they will find if they continue to read the content. It should reassure them that the content will satisfy whatever need they went to the search engine with.
Quarter 3 – Body Content
In football, this is the part of the game where spectators can get bored and consider leaving if the game is not exciting.
The same is true of your content. Of course, it must continue to meet the searcher intent by providing the specific information the visitor came for, but you also need to be sure to keep them engaged.
The easiest way to do this is to break your content up into chunks, using multiple headings, bulleted lists, and images or videos. But it also has to be interesting! Every paragraph should compel the reader to keep reading or to take some other action, which leads us to the final quarter.
Quarter 4 – Call-to-Action
Creating a page without a call to action is like failing to make the game-winning field goal with one second left on the clock. Or if we can break away from the football analogy for a bit, it’s like having a door without a way to open it. You never want to leave the visitor to figure out what they should do next. That’s just an invitation to leave.
Instead, you need calls to action to get them to proceed to other key areas of your site. Each page can have multiple calls to action, all leading to different content, depending on what the needs and goals are, but at least one significant call to action is required.
Win the Game and the Championship
No game is won in the first few seconds. Every second counts in sports, in life, and yes, in content.
If at any point your content does not compel the visitor to move down the page or to take another specific action, it’s not fulfilling the searcher’s intent and you’re setting yourself up to lose.
In some cases, such as a blog or a contact us page, the content itself will provide complete fulfillment of the searcher’s intent. However, you always want to give searchers more than they came for. Searchers can get what they want from any number of sources. But it’s those that give them more than they came for that have the chance to win the championship: A long-term customer.