Both search engines and customers love fresh, updated information. Some people groan at the thought of having to work so hard at adding new content, but it's not as complicated as you think!

Fresh Information

Weblogs or Blogs

Blogs exploded on the scene about a year ago with services like Moveable Type and Blogger making it incredibly easy for anyone to publish on the web. A blog is basically a series of posts that appear by date posted- the oldest ones scroll off to an archive. It's basically an online journal. Setup is minimal and the interface is easy to learn- it's as easy composing a word processing document and hitting save BAM you are a web publisher!

Blogs are a hit with people who like to keep an online journal and personal blogs are a huge part of the blogging community. But blogs aren't just for angst-ridden teens and conspiracy theorists; they can help your business too!

Blogs can be integrated seamlessly into your site so that they have the same look and feel. You can use a blog to publish a running event calendar or comment on industry news developments. A blog can be strictly professional, announcing specials, daily interest rates, or new product info or it can be casual and create a "personality" for your company.

What can a blog do for your business? Think about what your customers want to know.

Newsletter

Start a newsletter! Ask visitors to sign up for your newsletter (never send unsolicited e-mails) and set up a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly schedule to deliver your newsletter. Then stick with it!

I bought some printer ink online from a vendor that offered me the opportunity to sign up for specials. Every month like clockwork, I get the latest specials in my inbox and it always prompts me to check my supplies before deleting it. If I didn't get that e-mail from them, I would have probably bought the next round from whoever came up in a search!

Your newsletter may be product offerings and specials mixed in with useful product reviews, or it may be a recap of what's going on in your industry. If you aren't a writer, find articles available for reprint in your industry. Make sure the newsletter has some value to the reader. Archive the newsletter on your site for additional content and make the archives available for browsing.

Most webhosts have some sort of mailing list capability, or you can compose and mail your newsletter in Outlook. There are many third-party mailing services that are idea if you plan for a large list- check out Constant Contact.

Interactive Pages

Forum

A forum is an incredible tool for building content and a community. It's not a task to be undertaken lightly; it requires a lot of time and energy and some technical knowledge (or a tech budget!)

If your industry has a need, or your product has a loyal following, a forum is a great tool to build content while drawing like-minded individuals together. A forum is great for market research, technical support, building a fan base, trading ideas and knowledge, and many, many other benefits.

Forums work best when you start off with a core group of people willing to post- no one wants to talk to an empty room! Try to get people from similar business or industry experts to post at your forum. It's exposure for them and helps to build a solid foundation for your information.

If you decide to start a forum, be sure to use one that is search-friendly, such as InvisionBoard or phpbb, and set aside a good chunk of time to promote it and administer it.

Feedback & Reviews

Unsolicited feedback is a powerful convincing tool! Let your customers tell other customers why they love you. It's much more compelling than your own claims, if handled well.

There are many ways to handle feedback- the easiest way is to simply set up a form to allow customers to submit their feedback. You can then publish the ones you choose (with permission).

There are many scripts and other software solutions that will allow people to review your products or service online. This can be risky if you aren't willing to take the good with the bad! Used well, it's a powerful selling tool.

Often people can be enticed to write a review or testimonial for your site in return for a link back to their site. This helps them with link popularity but it helps your site as well it shows a real person wrote that review.

Weblogs or Blogs (again)

Several blog programs come with a "comment" ability built in. This allows general users to create an account and post their comments to your blog. This is something to be careful of as you can get negative comments along with the positive.

Ask The Expert

This is a great idea that I've seen recently. Using forum software, users submit questions and someone at the company answers them. The Q&A are both published on the site for users to read once they are answered in a "knowledge database". This is less time-intensive than a full-blown forum but a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of what customers want to know while still adding content on a regular basis.

Summary

I've often heard the argument, "My site doesn't need to be informational, I just sell things." That may be true! There are plenty of sites that are lean and mean and built to sell; they usually rely on things like PPC advertising and offline promotions for traffic. That's a viable business model and it works well.

But if you are interested in building loyalty and interest in your company as well as repeat business and you want to get increased traffic from the "editorial" or free listings in the search engines, you have to offer more to your users. If you create a plan for content that offers value and interest to your customers, you can have a site that is built to sell AND drive repeat business.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.


April 20, 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.





Search Engine Guide > Scottie Claiborne > What is Content? Part II