Perhaps it was the dot-com hype or perhaps barriers to entry on the Internet are just way too low. Whatever the reason, intelligent and otherwise successful entrepreneurs continue to throw money at websites as if they were buying billboard spots on the strip in Vegas. And more often than not, placing good content on those sites is an afterthought.
It shouldn't be. Here's why:
Your website's content defines your product.
Your website's content is your location.
Your website's content supports your price.
Your website's content promotes your offerings.
In short, your website's content is a microcosm of all things marketing. Your content should be the heart and soul of your web-based business unit, even if that unit is part of a larger offline framework.
There is a common denominator amongst all people buying something on the ‘net: they want relevant, timely information and they want it now. When a searcher lands on one of your business pages, it is because he either a) typed in your URL with a purpose in mind (to seek relevant information in a quick, efficient manner) or b) clicked over to your URL with a purpose in mind (to seek relevant information in a quick, efficient manner).
You cannot escape this dynamic, nor should you try by building a site around funky graphics, fascinating color schemes, or excessively long "resource" (i.e. links) pages. Searchers and the search engines they rely on are not looking for this kind of pseudo-content. Without the presence of easily retrievable and highly relevant information (read: "good content"), all the charm and good looks in the world will not make a website perform.
Creating good content takes a little sweat and a lot of dedication. Better rankings and more qualified traffic will not happen over night. However, the following time tested methods will help you build a content rich site that, in the long run, will bring traffic that is willing to spend:
1) Think about ways to make your site "sticky." Produce or syndicate content that is useful, current, and demonstrative of your unique capabilities or offerings. Be sure to address your target market's information needs in a way that is not easily duplicated. Write articles, give away a useful download authored by you or a colleague, or teach a skill. You will establish your credibility as an expert—a must on the web—and enjoy more repeat traffic as a result. In turn, your target market will get to know you better and trust you more.
2) If you have time, motivation, and a love of writing or journaling, consider publishing a blog. However, I give this advice with caution because it is—like so many things on the Internet—very easy to start and even easier to forget about completely. But if you are disciplined enough to post thought-provoking commentary on a regular basis, blogging may be your ticket to good content. Everyone from nine to ninety is doing it, and there is a good chance your target market is too.
3) As your mother said, you can't please everyone all of the time. The answer: niche! When you target one or two highly specific markets, everything you do online has more impact, mainly because you get to know your audience more intimately. Think in terms of easy market research—specialty forums and blogs abound. In turn, creating relevant content and sales copy will come more naturally and help you avoid the hard sell.
4) Even if you choose not to formally optimize your website for the search engines (although I hope you do), spend a few bucks and do some keyword research over at Wordtracker or KeywordDiscovery (.com). Then use your findings to brainstorm ideas for building relevant content. The idea is simple: give people what they want and they'll keep coming back to you for more.
5) The search engines' single most important goal is to return relevant content to searchers. That content is returned in the form of links to individual pages. Therefore, the better you are at mapping relevant content to strong themes on each of your pages, the better you will do in the rankings.
6) Do not write just for the search engines if you publish articles. Indeed, utilize key terms in your copy if they flow easily and are topically appropriate, but resist the urge to use articles as a vehicle for spamming. The search engines don't take kindly to this; nor will your visitors appreciate your obnoxious writing style. Authenticity will take you a long way down the path to creating excellent content.
These exercises in targeted content building will jump start your Internet marketing success, forcing you to constantly review your offerings and the way you communicate their benefits and features. By staying on top of the content game, you stay in touch with your target markets, and that is always a win-win proposition for anyone trying to get noticed on the world wide web.
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Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a virtual consulting firm providing business communications and Internet marketing services to the progressive entrepreneur. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit http://www.snap-va.com for more information. Click to follow Karri on Twitter.
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