The short version
Some business websites have a section called "news" or "events" that they're using as a blog, or not using at all. I think this is usually a bad idea, and I'll tell you why.
As part of my job, I look at a lot of business websites. Something I see more often than I would like a news page or website events page being used to house a blog or (worse?) an empty page. Why does this happen, and does it even matter?
Why do some websites have news pages?
Some companies genuinely produce a lot of news and know that they have an audience who are interested in that news. Company news usually consists of things like new hires, company events, awards and new products. Larger companies often have a steady stream of information like this.
Other companies have a news page because that's how their website was set up. They purchased a ready-made website with a news page enabled, and since they're not terribly technically savvy, it's still online to this day. Depending on the company, it may be filled with company news, material that's actually closer to a blog, or be languishing away, completely empty.
This news section, called "Daily News", is a daily picture of a dress. If you were really looking for news, this would be frustrating.
Does it matter?
Let's take a look at each of our cases above in turn.
#1 Your website has a news section because you produce a lot of news
If this is the case, congratulations! Your company is obviously doing well to be producing all this activity, but remember...most company news is of interest to a limited number of people, and those people are likely to either a. already work for you, or b. not be your target audience. This is fine if you are aware of this and happy with it, and is frequently the case with really big companies, like Johnson & Johnson, above. The news section may be completely informational, in which case, if it is being frequently updated and written with a smidge of personality and character, is completely fine.
If, however, this news is freely available and pretty obvious to all visitors to your website, you must ask yourself some questions.
- Are the majority of visitors likely to be interested in company news?
- Is the news section in a place where it might be confused with a blog?
- If somebody accessed the news section thinking it was a blog, would they be disappointed?
- If there also a blog, is there any risk of visitors becoming confused about which is which?
These questions are important, especially for smaller companies, because of one of the most important factors on the internet: expectations. And what really cheeses visitors off is unmet expectations. In other words, if a visitor accesses a news section thinking it is a blog or expecting news and getting something else, they are likely to be even more disappointed than if they didn't find either option in the first instance, especially if in comparison to your product or service, your news seems somewhat boring or tame.
Luckily, there is an easy way to solve this. I would always, always advise companies who actively want a news section to...
- Consider removing it from the website and adding it to a "suppliers" area or internal internet (intranet)
- If that's not possible, consider removing it from the top-level categories (especially if you also have a blog there) and adding it to the footer or as a sub-section of the corporate/about us menus
Zillow add all blogs (including non-general interest engineering and research), to a sub-menu of "More". It's clear to see that with multiple blogs, they might not all be of interest to a target user (a person who wants to buy , sell, or rent a property).
- Another option, especially for larger companies, is to have a "corporate" blog or section, distinct from the consumer-focused blog. This works well for companies with a large volume of news items
- Consider adding news items to the regular blog tagged and categorized as such, so that visitors can easily choose to read them - or not - and get rid of the stand-alone "news" page. This works best with a lower volume of news items
CoSchedule take yet another approach - they divide their blog into 4 "streams". "Product" is comparable to "news". It's easy to avoid Product stories if you want to.
#2 Your website has a news page because that's the way it was set up
For most small businesses, this is a more likely explanation as to why you have a news page. The thing is, most companies have some degree of news, and when you're talking about your own company (your baby!), it can be hard to admit that the news is actually not that interesting to a prospective customer.
Which one applies to your news page?
A. If it's empty and you foresee it will stay that way, axe it! You can do this by hiding the page (for Wordpress, Squarespace here), so it's not a terminal decision, or talking to your developer. If you do make any changes, check and double check the end result and functionality by navigating around your site in an incognito tab.
B. If you have a low volume of news and, with serious reflection, you've decided that it's not so interesting to a potential customer, this may be another case where you should get rid of the section completely. See A, above for more information.
C. If you are using the news section as a blog, consider renaming it "blog" and continuing. This will mean that the content of the section will reflect a user's intention upon clicking the word "blog". Many visitors don't click on a "news" button because they assume that company news (new hires, awards, new products, etc.) are not of interest to them. A section called "blog" paints a completely different (and more interesting!) picture.
D. If you have a low volume of news, but you think it could still be of interest to visitors, consider option D from above - incorporating it into an existing blog, if you have one, tagged appropriately. Remember - finding a home for company news shouldn't be a reason to start a blog - you can read more about why that is here.
Website events pages
Website events pages are even stranger beasts, probably because the case is so clear-cut. It can sometimes be a little difficult to separate some types of news from blog articles, but an event is an event - and 90% of companies don't have them (or at least not frequently enough to warrant a page for them!).
The answer to this is über-clear - does your company host frequent events that your target customer can choose to attend? The definition of "frequent" will have to be your decision, but I'd like to see events that are at least monthly, if not more frequent. If you do, you can definitely have a company events page on your website. If you don't, you should not have a page entitled "events", no matter what it contains!
A top-level "events" category that deserves the real estate - this company has almost daily events.
If you do host events, your choice now will be where to put the events page. Inexperienced people often cram too many top-level categories on a website. The negative effect of this is that it can make your website feel cramped and dilute the impact of the other top-level categories by presenting too much choice.
A modern website with lovely, clean menu items. Nothing is here that doesn't have to be.
The bottom line - if you're putting your events page as a top-level category (or anything else as a top-level category, for that matter) make very, very sure it's worth the real estate in terms of returns and business benefits. With a one page website, this is less of a problem, or if you have well-organized sub-menus. If not, consider adding the new page to the footer.
If your business does not host frequent events, then get that page outta there! The same solutions to #2 - a, b, c, and d apply here. If you are guilty of an "events" page that is actually a blog, consider renaming it. If it is empty, get rid of the page, and if you have some events in it, but not many, consider relocating it - appropriately tagged - to the blog, or finding another way to broadcast your infrequent events - like a newsletter or via social media.
I hope that's cleared things up for you, or at least given you some food for thought.. Like most other things on your website, do it properly or don't do it at all. You've got limited space online, and lots of competition. Consider your website as your digital shopfront, and don't clutter it up with unnecessary options and choices or inadvertently confuse would-be customers by promising them one thing, and giving them another!
If you're unsure of what's right for your website, email me to set up a no-obligation chat, or leave a comment below.