Manchester’s first-ever Mayoral election takes place on Thursday 4th May, and as with any major modern political campaign, digital is playing a huge part. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels have been set up to help spread the word through social media, while a new website – gmelects.org.uk – exists to give voters all the information they need in one place. It is this site that is the focus of this article, as it provides a useful example of what’s becoming a critical part of any digital campaign: educational content.
What is educational content?
As the name suggests, educational content is content that’s designed to provide information and help users learn something. It shouldn’t be confused with content that sits on an About page or similarly standard area of a website. Such content is just basic copy; it’s not necessarily designed to engage, push brand tone of voice, guide the user to an action or be pushed out as part of a wider content strategy, it’s just there to offer essential knowledge. Educational content is different. It should be considered as part of a wider strategy, along with any other kind of content you’re pushing out. It needs to be as engaging as any blog, Tweet or Facebook update you’re creating, and unlike an About page, it needs to play a part in the funnel. Amongst other things, the best kind of educational content is designed to help the user achieve a particular goal, whether that’s a sale, a sign-up or any other kind of ultimate action.
For example, if you run a business based around automobiles, you might use educational content to help demystify the purchase process. This might come in the form of an “Ultimate Guide to Buying Cars” or a quick and simple glossary of complicated terms. If you run a business based around a relatively new product or service, you might use educational content to help explain the process of using it. This might come in the form of a step-by-step guide or a video tutorial. Your educational content should be in a form dictated by your budget, goal and audience.
Why create educational content?
Beyond the obvious necessity to convey core information, educational content is also a great way to win traffic and engage users. Over the last few years, question-based search enquiries have risen dramatically, particularly on YouTube. Indeed, the free-to-use tool Answer the Public has zeroed in on this fact by offering an insight into the kind of questions people are asking Google depending on the keyword you search for. By using tools such as this, brands can understand what users are asking and craft content around them.
This helps a brand gain traction when tapping into Micro-Moments. Google’s long-running smartphone-focused marketing approach states that it’s critical for brands to produce educational content in order to give themselves the best chance possible of ranking in key positions when potential customers search for information. The search giant recommends tapping into searches based around consumers wanting to know something, go to a place, learn to do a thing or understand how to buy something. By creating content like this, brands can win traffic that may otherwise have gone elsewhere.
Even newspapers have got in on the act, taking advantage of searches around the opening times of shops on holidays by creating content about that subject. As a result, a search for ‘are shops open on Good Friday’ returned a host of newspaper websites, both in the main search results and the Top Stories section at the top of the page. Even a specific search for ‘is Sainsburys open on Good Friday’, ‘is Asda open on Good Friday’ and ‘is Morrisons open on Good Friday’ delivered the same results. Only Tesco beat the newspapers, ranking above the Top Stories section with its Store Locator page.
Educational Content in Action
Educational content is all about offering clarity and breaking complex information down into more manageable bite size chunks. The GM Elects website zeroes in on this sense of simplicity with a clean user experience that presents the user with four immediate options: REGISTER TO VOTE, I AM A VOTER, I AM A CANDIDATE and USEFUL INFORMATION. Immediately, the content is geared around making life easy for the user, allowing them to automatically identify where they need to go to satisfy any questions they may have. Adding further value is a bank of information that calls out further key facts on registering to vote, a timetable of key events, the role of the Mayor and the role of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
The website copy itself is clear and concise, providing everything that the voter would need to know in short paragraphs and bullet points. This approach is particularly important for users who are viewing the site on their mobile phone, something which is highly likely considering the out of home adverts that are in place across Manchester city centre. People are likely to spot these adverts, seek out the site mentioned on them through their smartphone, and take in the information contained.
By breaking away from the central Manchester City Council site, the GM Elects website has been empowered to take this simplistic and accessible approach. While it’s good for UX, there are drawbacks, notably in search. Google searches for the term ‘Manchester mayoral election’ have been high in recent weeks, so there’s a huge opportunity to tap into that volume.
However, new sites don’t have the same level of authority as older sites, so it’s more difficult for a fresh microsite to rank highly. As a result, the GM Elects site appears fifth for the longtail search term ‘how to vote in the manchester mayoral election’ and isn’t even on the first page for ‘manchester mayoral election’. The Council has offset some of the effects of this by using Paid Search to ensure visibility, but not all terms are covered, so there’s a risk that some users simply aren’t able to find the information they need from the official source. It’s one of the core judgements brands and businesses need to make when deciding how to approach an educational site, and in this case UX has seemingly been given priority.
Despite the search weaknesses, the GM Elects website is a strong example of how to create educational content designed to address specific consumer needs. When doing this, it’s important to ask yourself some key questions:
- What issues do you want your educational content to address?
- What role does educational content play in your overall strategy?
- What action do you want users to take after consuming your educational content?
- What platform is the content best fit for?
- How important is Search awareness to its success?
By asking these questions, you’ll get a clearer understanding of how you can use educational content to suit your needs and produce the kind of results you’re looking for.
What do you think of the value of educational content? Have you seen any great examples? Tweet us with your thoughts! @FastWebMedia.