Time is the one thing we all want more of, yet no one can create more of. It limits what we can accomplish all too often, and it forces us to work faster and smarter. There’s way too much of it when you’re trying to boil water, and not nearly enough when planning vacation. It’s safe to say that humans, generally speaking, can be obsessed with time. We pay attention to it. Numerous devices exist to help us track it, “manage” it and remind us of its passing.
Time is elusive, but finite. It’s elastic, but unforgiving. It can be our friend, or our enemy. And one thing is for sure…we could all do better when it comes to managing it and investing it in places.
There has been a trend for some time now, specific to managing time with email, to close your email down, and only reference it a couple times each day. Email is a time suck. Your inbox will rarely be empty, there will always be something unresponded to, and everything will always be an emergency (or so those sending emails often claim). And it makes some sense, too. If you want to get something done, you need to focus on it. often a straight run on one project of 45 minutes or so will see you get more done than a couple hours trying to get work done between bouncing in an out of your inbox. On a personal level, this makes a lot of sense. But on a business level, how do things look?
Where do you invest your time?
By far the number one area to invest your time in is around your content. This is what people are actually looking for online. And most websites can improve the quality of their content. Not saying it isn’t already good, but wouldn’t great be better?
And yet, so many websites seek shortcuts. Guest blogging (so I don’t have to write it), content farms (see last excuse), User Generated Content (repeating the excuse and adding “it’s more topical”), content feeds for ecommerce sites (I have too many items to tweak every one individually).
So again, time can be against you in some of these cases. It does take time to create unique, useful content. But if you focus on the things visitors are really searching for, you’ll find a narrower area to start from, making the work much more manageable.
This one can take time, and at the very least, you want to pay attention here to respond in a timely manner. Funny thing, though, is that most of us in the industry tend to think of response times via social media as needing to be measured in minutes, when it’s unlikely the average consumer thinks that way. They might be upset, and sure they’d like you to respond immediately. But in situations where genuine problems exist, even responding within 24 hours is often more than enough to help turn the situation around. Most consumers are just happy you responded full stop.
And creating content for social media takes time. Where does it come from? Well, I can think of a couple areas: link building and seo for starters.
By learning to streamline your social media program, or even outsourcing it to trusted companies, you can see real time savings and still engage directly with people who respond.
Usability (User Experience)
Now we’re probably all guilty of not spending as much time as we could focused on UX testing. But it’s a critical area. So critical its worth rerouting time and money from other projects to nail this one. Many websites face a common issue, though: it’s too big a job.
Here’s a moment when you need to realize time is your outright enemy. The longer you don’t invest in this critical work, the farther behind you fall as your own site grows, and your competition moves forward. You will have ever more work in this project, which takes longer and costs more. If your biggest competitor did UX testing and reworked their website based on that feedback, however, and suddenly started taking your rankings and traffic, would that make it a higher priority? If you’re saying yes, just wait a bit for your old nemesis “time” to work it out…because this scenario will probably come to pass and force your hand.
People still focus on this. They invest time and money in the pursuit of links. I get it, as links are still useful. Both as signals to search engines and for direct traffic. But ask yourself if the amount of time you invest in chasing links justifies the returns those links get you. What if your content and UX were so good people loved you? And they shared your URLs across social media all the time? You’d get all kinds of useful links, naturally. So lean on those areas to build links. Put your time into them and see the rewards.
Still gotta be done, but…how much time is actually needed? In truth, for many businesses, not a whole lot these days. This doesn’t mean companies should ditch their inhouse teams or drop their consultants and agencies. The work being performed is important and needs to be done. But again it comes back to balance. If you have a person working full time on SEO, do you have 3 people working full time on content creation? Do you have a team doing usability work? Across the business, how does the balance look?
Let’s look at bloggers as an example.
Most don’t do SEO. Of those that do, many simply devote minutes to the activity via a plugin in WordPress, for example. The point here is their focus. It’s on creating content, not SEO, or link building. And it works for many as their traffic grows, visitor numbers increase, etc.
In the end, how you invest your time is your choice. But I’d encourage you to think about what expected returns you’ll get from the work you do invest in. The landscape for businesses is constantly changing online. Mobile is big, local is big and wearables are set to explode. How is your time investment in planning or executing in those areas these days? More work, same amount of time. Which do you choose? Maybe grab a coffee, take a little time and think it through…but don’t take too long, of course.
Sr. Product Manager