It's a relatively hard-to-define and heavily underutilized term, but micro-content is something that we all know and use on a day-to-day basis even though we not be aware that we have it in our lives. In a nutshell, micro-content can be defined as the opposite of long-form content. Whereas long-form content includes blog posts, extensive research data and articles, micro-content is made up of much smaller, bite-sized snippets of content that engage the reader or tease them with something that they may be interested in. With Google's mobile optimization algorithm change already rolling out, now may be the deal time to start getting ourselves familiarized with the idea of micro-content.
What Counts as Micro-Content?
There are quite a number of things that can be considered micro-content and each one of them can be used in their own way to direct traffic to a site or to engage an audience on their own merit. Some of the more common pieces of micro-content that exist are:
- Vine Videos: These small snippets of video can do much more in five seconds than some articles can do in a half a page of content. Their short length and small file size makes them easy to classify as micro-content.
- Twitter Updates: Twitter only gives you one hundred and forty characters to get your message across. Termed "micro-blogging," Twitter was one of the first sites that was dedicated to the hosting and production of micro-content.
- Photos from Instagram: Pictures are one of the most engaging media around and by combining it with social media and making it searchable through hashtags, Instagram has created a very viable format for micro-content.
As you can see, there are many forms that micro-content can take. These are just the most common types of micro-content available on the Internet. The term is inclusive and not exclusive, so new forms of content (such as snippets from infographics) can easily fit into the archetype of micro-content. Now that you know what it is, you can figure out how to build your own. Developing micro-content, as with all types of content marketing should be built around the framework of a content strategy to be most effective.
Tips for Creating Good Micro-Content
Good content creation has its own set of guidelines. Whilst good micro-content should follow all the accepted ideas of what good content is supposed to encapsulate, micro-content has its own set of guidelines that lays on top of the idea of good content. We know from previous experience that good content should engage the audience and bring something new to the reader's life, whether it's new information or a different way to look at something they already know. Keeping this in mind, we can create a few guidelines for developing good micro-content that has these tenets at its heart.
- Images are Your Best Friends: A pictures is worth a thousand words and some of the most moving and emotionally poignant pictures are the ones that you don't need words to describe. Images count as micro-content because they can evoke feelings and encourage action simply by their presence. They are relatively small in file size as well as able to engage an audience quickly. Visual sensory information is usually one of the more powerful motivators for some people and images as micro-content capitalizes on this fact.
- Keep Posts Short: When it comes to social media sites such as Twitter, you don't have much of a choice here. On other social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, you have as much words as you want so you can go to town on what you're saying. Longer posts usually don't engage an audience very much. You have to be concise and to the point with your micro-content to get a response. Ideally, you should try to keep the amount of hashtags on a post down to not more than two (since those posts are the ones that get the most interaction).
- Get Stackable: Making your content short doesn't mean that it's a one-shot chance to get the audience's ear. Human beings, especially those of this digital age, tend to have very short attention spans, but tend to get into a trend much more quickly than their predecessors. By building your content around small videos or apps that sync with other types of social media, you can bring immersion to the user, while at the same time keep your content to a minimum. This requires practice and research to figure out what works best, but combining different arms of social media makes for a great way to have your separate micro-content pieces play off one another.
- Write Well: Even though you may not be doing much writing when it comes to things like Vine videos or Instagram photos, your micro-blogging will still be something that you need to be adept at doing. You have a minimum of words in order to get your message across. Think about it as headline copywriting: trying to catch the reader's interest with just one line. It's a very challenging and much-overlooked skill, but one that is invaluable in the world or micro-content. To be able to connect with your audience in just a single sentence can be challenging but it's worth the effort.
- Build Content for Your Audience: Probably the most important thing that you should keep in the forefront of your thought process when developing micro-content is that you're doing this for the benefit of your audience. You have to make sure that your content connects to your core audience and engages them. It has to bring something positive to them or give them a new point of view that they haven't seen before. It's already hard to do that when you have a thousand-word blog post, but it might be easier if you have less fluff to worry about and get to cut directly to the chase. Your audience is what drives your traffic, try not to forget about them.
Why You Should Optimize Your Micro-Content
SEO optimization of micro-content is important because it makes your micro-content searchable. Many times, when a user is doing a web search for a certain type of content, all it takes is a well-done piece of micro-content to attract them to your site. Once they're there, the long-form content can keep them interested and encourage them to subscribe. Depending on how you build your content strategy, your micro-content can be used as a leader to bring traffic to your site (via search engine results) and your longer content can engage the reader more fully and give them the idea that this is a site worth subscribing to.
On the 21st of April, 2015, Google's search algorithm began judging mobile and non-mobile optimized sites differently. Whilst search engine results based on PCs will not change, the mobile results will give preferential access to sites that are mobile optimized based on Google's new algorithm demands. What this means is that a large volume of traffic directed from mobile-based search engines will be available to optimized sites and completely blocked from non-optimized sites.
What this means is that mobile optimized sites will have the edge on non-optimized sites in terms of getting their content out to more users and tapping into search results from the mobile market. Micro-content is one of the best ways to engage a user on a mobile device because of the type of content and the minimalistic amount of resources needed to deliver the content to the user. Having a site that is optimized for micro-content will be even easier to optimize for Google's new algorithm update for mobile compatibility.
6 Optimization Tricks for Micro-Content
Because you're going to have to develop your content around a couple different platforms, you're going to have to use every trick in the book available to you to reduce the workload. You're probably not going to want to rebuild an entire site just for redirection to a mobile device. Aside from it being time-consuming, it can lead to redundant situations and problems with your content coming up as duplicates. Optimizing your content for mobile platforms can be achieved in a much easier fashion by taking advantage of a handful of relatively simple tricks.
- Deliver Content via Apps: Your website has its own look and feel, but developing mobile apps based on your website content is something that more sites should try to utilize. You still deliver content to your subscribed users, but you make it far easier for them to consume and interact with your content. Apps make connectivity much easier between you and the audience and allows your audience to become even more immersed in your content. Apps can, in some cases, replace your primary marketing page on your site by delivering your content in an unadulterated form to your audience.
- Use a Content Management System: Your content is going to be the same on both your website and your mobile site, but the difference will be in the presentation and the layout of the information. By utilizing a content management system, you can keep the base of the content and simply "fix" it to suit whatever platform is accessing it at any point in time. By clever use of style sheets you can have a layout that is great for a full website while at the same time keeping it simple and readable for your mobile users so they don't get overwhelmed.
- Use the Swipe Function: Micro-content can be delivered in bulk. Snippets can be sent, each on their own page so that their individual impact is not lost. What we have to remember is that to optimize for mobile content, we need to ensure that it's easy to get from one page to another. The best way to do this would be to utilize the swipe function available in mobile devices to allow a switch between pages quickly and effortlessly. It also increases the user's immersion in your content since they don't have to go hunting at the bottom of the page for a link to the next one.
- Play with Cards: Modular design is one of the most innovative things that mobile site development can offer to a webmaster. With clever use of modular development, you can categorize your micro-content into tabs or cards where similar content or content under a particular heading can be kept for easy reference. Navigation of a site based on such a modular design is enhanced on a mobile device where the user can simply select a large tab instead of trying to click on a minuscule link in order to access the content; a frustrating and time-consuming exercise.
- Keep Headlines Short and Sweet: This is the key to micro-content, keeping things short and sweet. In many cases, your headlines WILL be your micro-content and in such cases it would be best if you kept the length down to a minimum. Consider Twitter-length headlines as what you should be aiming for and anything less than one hundred and forty characters would be a benefit. Short headlines allow you to utilize the limited screen space on a mobile device without forcing the user to have to scroll to see the end of your headline or micro-content.
- Don't Leave Stuff Out: User experience on a mobile device is what you should be considering when you're developing your mobile optimization tactics. Try not to penalize users for using a mobile device and instead ensure that they can get your content without having to worry about discrepancies between the PC site and the mobile-friendly site. It might require some creative coding and some redesign of the page, but it's worth it to have your users get all of your content all of the time.
How Micro-Content Benefits You
All of these steps seems like a lot of work for a potentially small benefit. Are mobile users so prevalent that we need to do all this to make them feel comfortable? The short answer is yes. In 2013, it was estimated that as much as 73.4% of users of mobile phones were connected to the Internet. As of January 2014, thirty two percent (32%) of American users had an e-reader and as much as forty-two percent (42%) owned a tablet. In 2010 there were as much as five billion mobile phone connections worldwide. When you look at these numbers the results speak for themselves.
Google's new update is poised to change the face of the Internet, and in order to keep up, we have to optimize our websites or risk losing the traffic from these mobile users that may account for a significant amount of our overall traffic. Micro-content is a great way to keep your content strategy moving while at the same time not falling victim to the mobile-compatibility update. It's come down to whether you value your traffic or your long-form content more. Personally, I think the traffic wins this round.
Are you actively using micro-content on your site yet? Tell us about how you did it in the comments.