Yesterday I started a new series on Destination Search Engine Marketing, discussing the first of the seven building blocks in creating a Destination Website: Expert Information. Before I move on to the second building block I wanted to discuss the different types of expert information which can be added to your website.
There are a number of different types of expert information that can be developed for your website as a means of providing your visitors with additional, quality content. Depending on your site, some types of expert information are more applicable than others and not all will be a good fit for you. Each site must be evaluated to determine what kind of expert information will best serve the audience's needs and expectations. By finding ways to add additional expert information to your site you'll begin to build a site that can stand up above the competition.
When most people think of adding content to their website they think mostly of adding sales and marketing copy. This is the information they use to describe the product or service and then, hopefully, to convince the site visitor to purchase their products or services.
The content of most sales-oriented websites revolve around this kind of expert information. You understand that in order to sell whatever it is that you sell, you have to be truly knowledgeable about it. Page after page after page is dedicated to providing product descriptions, specifications, features, and benefits. Upon reading the on-page content we want the customer to be able to taste the food, feel the comfort, experience the thrill, and see the results. All in a few words.
When your words are able to make the visitor see, feel and understand how the product or service is going to meet their needs, then you're better able to make the case that you are the expert they should ultimately buy from. That's the job of the sales and marketing copy, to not only sell the product or service, but to sell you as the one to deliver it.
While the sales and marketing copy is an important part of most business websites, it's not the only kind of expert information that helps set you apart as the authority on your topic. There are all kinds of of other, non-marketing oriented, information that can be added to a site that does just as good a job at selling it as the sales and marketing information.
When most people think of product comparisons they think of the charts that shows two or more products at the top, a list of features or benefits down the side, and a few check boxes that show how one product (the one trying to be sold) is superior to the other (the competitor's product.) This type of product comparison would fall more squarely into the sales and marketing copy. That makes for good sales copy, but the reader expects already expects the information to be biased.
There is another way to do product comparisons that's not part of the sales hype that you typically see. And that's just a straightforward, honest assessment of how two products compare with each other. You can use the side-by-side format mentioned above or find another format that fits your purposes. Particularly, this type of comparison lends itself well to video, which is a great way for additional exposure in the "blended" search results.
Regardless of what format you use, be sure that the comparison of the products is honest, unbiased and clearly states the flaws of the product you wish to sell. One way to do this is to run both products through a number of tests and document the results. Make sure the tests are fair and as closely resemble real-life situations as possible.
Product reviews are similar to product comparisons, except you're not obligated to compare your product against a competitors, or even your own. But a review of your own product, using the same methods of those mentioned above can be incredibly valuable to the site visitor.
While the site visitor will undoubtedly expect the review to be positive, you can lend yourself credibility by pointing out some of the flaws of the product. If possible, take the flaws and spin them into a positive. By doing that you're not only showing credibility in your truthfulness, but you're also minimizing the negative point at the same time. The visitor knows what they will be getting, warts and all.
If you have too many products to review, then find a way to generate customer product reviews. These are becoming more and more important in helping shoppers make sales decisions. They'll expect you to sing glowing praises about your products, but what do other actual buyers have to say? Give them a voice and help them sell your products. Just be careful. If you're known to delete bad product reviews you'll get a reputation for dishonesty.
Tips and tutorials
There is a significant searcher base that isn't necessarily looking to buy anything, but they are looking strictly for information. Providing tips and tutorials in various formats (text, video, diagrams, etc) can help you create a site that is not only visited for the things that you sell, but also for the quality of information you provide.
This may seem counter-intuitive for a site who's main purpose is to make money. After all, why try and bring in an audience that isn't going to buy? That philosophy is short sighted. Certainly, we want our conversion rates to go up, not down, but providing this kind of information is an investment into future customers.
This kind of information builds loyalty, repeat visits and promotes branding. If a visitor is known to frequent your site for your information, then it's not to big of a leap to realize that you'll be the first place to they go to when it comes time to become a customer. They are familiar with your site, your information, and they trust you (which is why they keep coming back in the first place.) That goes a long way to beating out the competition that may well be unknown to them up to this point.
Another great form of useful content is industry opinions. People spend hours a day doing nothing more than reading opinions on the web from people they don't know. If the opinions are reasonable, well-considered and backed up with facts, then an opinion maker can become an opinion leader. You can use this not only to bring people back time and time again, but to engage with them in conversation. By building that relationship, you're building trust and respect which, again, bleeds over to the products or services that you sell.
Company and exec background info
Typically, we call this the "about us" page, but unfortunately, most of these pages are lacking the type of quality information that helps establish trust to the ordinary shopper. Many visitors look to the about us page to get a sense of security. They want to know more about the company they are considering dealing with, how long they've been around, their credentials, etc.
Don't make the mistake of letting the PR department be the only ones to have their hands on these pages. Avoid being "corporate". Let the personality of the company come through in this information and show the true faces behind the company. Visitors are not looking for a list of education credentials, they want to know they are dealing with real people that won't hide behind a corporate veil when they are in need of a solution.
"Ask the expert" section
This is a great way to not only provide expert information, but also to get some user generated content. Give your visitors a forum in which they can ask questions that get answered on the website. You can not only establish yourself as an industry expert but also build relationships with your potential customers. One note, don't be afraid to answer difficult or critical questions and don't ever be defensive. Doing so will only hurt your credibility.
These are only a few ways to generate content for your website that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional sales and marketing copy. Use this information to establish trust. Many visitors will gladly pay more for a product from a site they can trust vs. paying less on a site where they really aren't sure. Even if the competition is bigger and more well known, the information you provide can really help you establish that relationship with current and future customers.
There really is no shortage of what you can do or how you can do it. As noted above, you can invest time in building a library of videos, articles, and even image tutorials that will bring your visitors back for more, and build a solid, long-term customer base that'll have no need to go anywhere else.
Read more about Destination Search Engine Marketing:
Seven Building Blocks of a Destination Website
#1: Expert Information
#1b: Seven Types of Expert Information
#3: Website Design
#4: Unique Value Proposition
#5: Time and Presence
#7: Trust and Credibility
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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