Browse any webmaster forum or read web tutorials and you will find that nearly all the experts these days recommend that you have lots of good content on your site. Sounds like good advice, doesn't it? But what does it mean?
Simply put, content is the stuff on your site. Good content is useful information or tools that your visitors will find helpful. It means different things to different businesses and the bottom line is that what constitutes "good content" depends on the goal of your site.
Below, I've attempted to categorize the different types of content:
Core Site Pages
These are the heart pages of your site, the pages that are the core of why you built a site in the first place. They explain your mission or goals, who you are, and detail the products/services/information available through your site. The best place to start with "good content" is making sure these pages are as complete as possible and answer all of a user's potential questions.
Typical pages that visitors expect to find on a site are:
If you aren't confident in your writing skills, consider hiring a professional copywriter to write or rewrite your pages. A good copywriter can tailor the style and the voice to appeal to your customers. It can make a difference between just getting traffic and getting traffic that converts into sales.
Make your core site pages a priority and ensure that they are easy-to-read, complete, and informative before looking at adding other content.
Complementary pages enhance and expand on your core site pages. These are the information pages that can really make a difference and help set you apart from your competitors.
For product sites, you might offer detailed product reviews, extensive "how-to" pages for product usage, special print-friendly detail pages, creative ideas for other uses, customer feedback and testimonials, or help pages that go over and above the standard.
For service sites, the complementary pages might deal with how you do what you do, your qualifications, common myths and misperceptions about the service, or do-it-yourself tips for situations where a professional is not needed.
For affiliate or advertising sites, complementary pages are the key element that will set your site apart from the competition. What will attract people to your site instead of the others? Is it a community, more detailed information, news or freebies?
Complementary pages can offer additional information about your company such as how long you've been in business, details of the clients you handle, industry recognition and awards, or even statements of your total commitment to customer service. These pages aren't critical to the operation of your site like the Core Site Pages are, but they help differentiate your site from others in the field and give visitors a reason to choose to do business with you.
People love the real person touch- if you don't believe that, watch a little "reality TV"! People just like to learn about other people. How can you relate that "real people" fascination to your website?
How do people USE what you sell? How do your services improve people's lives? A travel service isn't selling a hotel, it's selling fun in the sun or amenities that make your time away from home easier. Accounting software isn't just about the numbers; it's about getting tasks done faster and more accurately with more detail. A sporting goods site isn't just selling fishing gear; it's selling relaxation. When you think about the benefits, about WHY people want what you sell, it's a lot easier to brainstorm creative content ideas.
A large plastics manufacturer created a section in their site where people could send in amazing stories about how their trashcans had survived falling trees and hurricaines. A baby product site set up a photo gallery where customers could send in their cutest pictures of their baby using the company's products. A men's tie manufacturer invited customers to send in a picture of their ugliest tie along with a few sentences about it- and featured an ugly tie next to each wonderful new tie!
In all the examples above, the "human interest" content reinforces the brand- strong, durable trashcans, products babies love, ties that look great- while adding a little emotion and interest. By focusing on the people and using the product as a backdrop, you subtly reinforce the credibility of your brand.
Establish credibility and authority by including information that spans your industry. Many webmaster experts will encourage you to write articles about your industry- this is a great idea. Try not to simply parrot back what you've heard and read from others, but add your own opinion to the article. Yes, people are interested in your point of view! Articles can often be submitted to other information sites in your industry, which is a great way to get incoming links to your site.
Other author's industry articles are a great and fast way to build content on your site. If you aren't much of a writer or feel you have nothing to add to the information already published, collect the best articles from your industry and (with permission) reprint them on your site or link to them. While they are not unique content, they can add value to your site if you select them carefully. Don't reprint anything and everything available- be selective and only reprint content that you agree with and is helpful to your visitors. You want people to trust in the information that you are recommending they read.
News feeds related to your industry can be a good idea too. RSS is a way to syndicate your articles for others to pick up and a way for you to integrate headlines from other sites on your own pages. Watch for an article on RSS feeds in a future newsletter.
More to Come!
In part II of "What is Content?" we will look at ways to continue to add fresh content, such as allowing users to interact with your site and build content for you. We'll also look other tools and resources you can add to your site that will draw traffic to your site and keep it coming back.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 13, 2005
Scottie Claiborne is the facilitator of the Successful Sites Newsletter. She is a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences and the High Rankings Seminars as well as the administrator of the High Rankings Forum.
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