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The Brochure Dump

By Expert Author: Henry Perry

"So what do we put on the website?"
"Oh, let's just toss the brochure copy in there and throw it up on the Web."
AGH! If only I carried a rolled-up newspaper, and humans were as responsive to nose-hits as dogs. Taking copy from the print medium to the Web should be added to the list of The Seven Deadly Sins of Business. Yet it's so prevalent that I've heard young, finger-on-the-pulse web development professionals spout this nonsense.
So, the Blue Ferret is going to explain why this practice of "dumping" brochure copy onto websites is a very bad idea. Now, there are several more nuanced reasons why this practice doesn't work, but I'm only going to cover three big ones.
SEO - Bring Them To You
Gone are the days of, "if you build it, they will come." Websites must now seek out their visitors, like backwards germs. More often these days, this is done through the use of SEO and online advertising. Spiders are called to the site, who plumb its content for keywords and report back to their Googly masters.
The art of keyword insertion in SEO is a tricky one, changing day by day. Using a static, stale chunk of brochure copy someone wrote two years before as the face of your brand-spanking-new website is like trying to dump a Vespa engine into a 57 Chevy.
Part of your website may get indexed, and the rest will sit there, doing nothing, bump-on-a-log style. Effective website content contains relevant keywords, is updated when industries change, and is never left sitting carelessly out in the wind.
Attention Span - Keep Them Interested
Thanks in large part to blitzkrieg media and overnight delivery, we've become a nation of impatient people. Sometimes this works in our favor (information access), and sometimes it works against us (rush hour, anyone?). Hand a prospect a brochure, they'll take anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds going through it. That amount of time allows the reader to skim a bit and determine if the brochure is something they want to keep, read in depth later, and perhaps make a purchase.
What this means is that the company who offers the brochure can relax a little. Brochures are typically given to prospects who've displayed some interest, so the initial hook is already thrown. They know they've got time to build up interest. They can concentrate on a benefits focus, as I'll cover a little more in the next section.
On the Web however, viewers have an average attention span of less than ten seconds. I've even heard numbers as low as 0.3 seconds spent per homepage visited. That's a fundamental disconnect with the time people give brochure copy. Website content needs to reach out of the screen, grab the viewer by the eyeballs, and say, "HEY! Stop surfing! What you need is right here!"
Trying to read copy written for a brochure on a website results in one thing and one thing only - boredom. And with billions of websites out there, what kind of reaction will boredom engender? That's right. Click.
Different Focus - Give Them More
As I said before, a brochure has a benefit focus. One of the core elements in all business writing - talk about what benefits your product or service give the user. A brochure is a snapshot of your product; there isn't the space to go into long details about how your company made it, why they decided to do that, and so on. The reader's looking for how it benefits him, some information about the company making it, and maybe who else uses this product. That's it. And that's all the room you'd have on a tri-fold, 8.5x11" brochure.
A website is multipurpose, but at its core is conveying information to the viewer. There are no space restrictions here. You can put release notes, case studies, schematics, product comparisons, industry standards, testimonials, and (of course) promotional literature all on one site. The important thing to remember is that it all has to interconnect. Benchmark Tests must use the right Specifications. Specifications have to match with Benefits Statements. Benefits Statements have to correlate with Customer Guarantees. You get the picture. Brochure copy is simply too small, too lean to use appropriately on a website.
A brochure could be seen as one aspirin - easy to swallow, simple to digest, with only one purpose. By comparison, a website is an entire shelf of pharmaceuticals, all working together to produce an overall improvement. There's simply no way brochure copy could be recycled onto a website without severely damaging the website right out of the gate. So don't do it.

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