What is Content Hierarchy? Everything You Need to Know

  • By Jackie Petre
  • 21 Sep, 2017

Let's talk about your content

We’re all familiar with the concept of saving the best for last. But when it comes to the content on your website, your approach should be the exact opposite. You may not realize it, but the order of your content often determines the rate of conversion your website sees. This concept is known as content hierarchy. Whether you’re a business owner who is creating services pages on your website or you’re just running a personal blog on the Internet, content hierarchy is something that affects the success rate of your web page.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is Content Hierarchy?

Content hierarchy is an element of content marketing that involves the strategic placement of the order of content on each page, putting the most important information at the top of the page and the least important at the bottom. This is done through all content-related mediums, from website descriptions to marketing emails .

Even this blog is an example of content hierarchy. Notice how we put the most important info—the explanation of what content hierarchy is and why it’s important—at the top of the page, while in-depth info—CTA and visual hierarchy—are farther down, for those who want to learn more than the basics. If readers walk away with one piece of info, this is what we want it to be.

Why is it Important?

Today, it seems like people are losing interest in what they’re reading more quickly than ever, thanks to an overwhelming amount of information available in an instant. In fact, today’s average bounce rate is around 40 percent, and people only stay on pages for about ten seconds. Think about your own Internet habits: you probably read the first few paragraphs before determining whether you want to read on. Or maybe you just scan the subheadings on each section to see if it’s worth your time. This is how most people consume content so you can see why it’s important to put the information you want consumers to read most at the top of the page.

With your content strategically ordered from most to least important, you have a better chance of attracting their attention and possibly getting them to stay on your page longer. And even if consumers are only on your page for a few seconds to read the first several paragraphs—or sentences—they’ll have gotten what they were looking for on your website.

How does Content Hierarchy Affect Conversion?

Content hierarchy is all about the strategic placement of content to grab the attention of readers and get them to stay on your site, consuming more information. You want them to trust that the information they are reading is true and applicable to them, whether they’re reading about a service they’re looking for or just learning about a new subject. If you can keep their attention long enough and gain their trust as a reliable source, you have a better chance of getting them to take action now or come back to you in the future.

Simply put, content hierarchy works to keep people on your page and consuming your information for as long as possible. In the end, hopefully you have provided what they were looking for and have compelled them to buy in to your product or service. This is why content hierarchy is important to a well-converting web page.

How do You Determine Your Content’s Level of Importance?

When you’re deciding what content should go first on your website, ask yourself: if visitors only take away one thing from my site, what do I want them to know?  This will likely be your most important content and should be ranked highest on your page. From there, think about all the information you want to include on this page and rank it from most important to least, while still keeping flow in mind. That is, make sure the content still makes sense in the order you’ve determined.

If you’re finding yourself stuck on determining the order of information, try doing a search for similar subjects. This will show you the types of questions people are asking about your product or service, and will give you valuable insight as to what the most popular topics are. For example, here’s a general outline of content hierarchy for a service page on a business’s website:

  • Establish a connection with the customer by relating the service to a common problem they have.
  • Explain what the service is that’s being offered. What unique features do you provide?
  • Provide an answer to why your service is different than competitors, and what the customer will gain from your service.
  • Answer any additional FAQs .
  • Include a friendly reminder of who you are in a brief business summary .

Of course, don’t forget to include calls-to-action throughout your content as well, for those who don’t make it all the way to the bottom of your page.

Decide on a Call-to-Action

We already touched on why content hierarchy is important to conversions, but how exactly do you work a call-to-action (CTA) into your hierarchy? The first thing to do is decide on the main CTA you want to stress. Do you want people to sign up for a newsletter? Call you to schedule an appointment? Whatever is most important is the CTA you should put at the top of your page, and, most likely, stressed a few more times on the page.

If you only have one CTA you want to focus on, continue to use the same one throughout your page. However, if you have several items you want to highlight, place them in the order of importance and put the less important ones farther down on the page. For example, here is how you could incorporate three different CTAs on a page:

Like your content, CTAs follow the same hierarchical rules, and should always be placed in the order you want action to be taken.

Don’t Forget Visual Hierarchy

Content hierarchy doesn’t just include writing. It also includes the visuals that grab readers’ attentions, from images and videos to logos and notifications. Visuals are a great way to draw attention to the points you want to highlight most, such as your CTA or a graphic that illustrates your main point. On a more technical level, there are scanning patterns and rules you can follow to improve user experience through visual hierarchy , but for the sake of brevity, we won’t get into those.

Have a Game Plan 

Even if you haven’t yet established your content’s hierarchy, it’s something that is probably already affecting the success of your website by either providing exactly what people are looking for or driving them to another result. Next time you publish a page on your website, make sure you have a plan for the hierarchy of your content beforehand. Adjusting the order of a page’s content is an easy fix down the road and is worth playing around with if your page isn’t converting well, but ultimately, it’s better to get it right from the start.

The Science Behind Digital Marketing

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Let’s start at the beginning.

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