While social media widgets, RSS feed, blogs and events calendars are great tools – nothing remains more important and critical to the success of any website than content. On the web – Content Is King! Having a website that is chalk full of quality content not only creates long-lasting relationships with visitors but with search engines.
Good content can help build good customer relationships. When a user arrives at a website there is a small window of opportunity to make a lasting first impression. And if they find bad or no content – they will leave. After all, most people venture to the internet in search of information. Poorly written, or zero content not only reflects poorly on a website but the company as well. A website with good, well written information improves website ‘stickiness’ and builds confidence in both website and the company or expert who is providing it.
But great content also helps build a solid relationship with the search engines. Most sites are indexed by Google or Bing at least once a month. Robots scan your site searching for the best information to provide to user search queries. A website that has only four pages of photos and videos won’t rank as high as a site that has multiple pages of good content plus the photos and videos. It’s like checking out a manual for a car. Which one is most is deemed the most useful? The manual with the least number of pages – or the one with lots?
It’s also important to keep in mind that search engines only read – they don’t look at the photos, or check out the videos. To really improve the positioning of your site on the search engine results page, give the search engines something to sink their teeth into – good solid written information! It sends a message to the search engines that the site is reliable and an authority on the topic.
Let’s define good content. Copy that avoids jargon, techno-speak and boastful sales dabble encourages credibility and reliability. Original content is always best, but swiping a well written article from another credited source doesn’t hurt either.
Based on useability studies, there are some very clear guidelines for writing for the web. Definitely no more than 500 words to a page. Write in clear short sentences; stick to 3 sentence paragraphs; eliminate any extraneous words – such as ‘forthwith’ and ‘thus’ and above all, remember the keywords. If lack of time is the main reason for not adding new content to your website – hire a professional web writer. Not only does it eliminate the burden of getting it done, but a good web writer is a creative whiz at effectively using keywords.
Website Content should be refreshed regularly – at minimum every three months. So create a plan. No need to load up forty frequently asked questions in one shot. Sitting down and writing them in one afternoon works, but rotating them over the year is a better idea. It adds new content for the search engines and the user will want to keep coming back to see what you’re thinking now.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions are at the top of my list because it’s easy to cover topics from the complicated to the most mundane. And they can be broken into bite-sized pieces. Just ask your staff, they are sure to have at least 40 things that can be covered in an FAQ page. But there’s no need to load them up all at once. Better to limit them to 5-6 questions per page and rotate them over several months. Don’t annoy a user by forcing them to scroll to the bottom of the page only to find their question isn’t there. Line them up at the top of the page and let the user click on the question that relates to them.
Testimonials: I get asked this a lot.. would any company actually post a bad testimonial? Well no, but that’s not the point. The fact that someone took the time to write a testimonial is what counts. Testimonials are there for customers who aren’t ready to bite. A good testimonial is specific, addresses a question or an objection.
Better yet, use a testimonial from a sceptic. Those ones really stand out because they sound credible. Brief or lengthy – it’s best to have a combination of both. The aim is to convey honesty and information. Most websites restrict testimonials to a specific landing page. Consider cleverly populating them within your website, matching testimonial to product page.
Testimonials also play a role in the consumer purchasing cycle. Everyone reads reviews – and not just from the experts. A lot of consumers want to know what other people have experienced or think. Testimonials are like having your own individualized ‘Consumer Reports Page’.
And in terms of search engines, customer reviews are becoming more and more important. Directory sites such as Google Places and Hot Frog – encourage users to add their own experiences to customer profiles. A good rule of thumb, if it’s important to a search engine, it’s important for your website.
Tips and ‘How To’: ‘How To’ and Tips – such as ‘Five Easy Steps To A Successful Launch’ is not only great information, but can be a seguey to addressing those annoyances and pet peeves that occur every year. Don’t give away the shop. Instead, impart small pieces of information that will generate someone to pick up the phone and ask the next question.
And ‘How To’ and Tips are ripe for photos and videos. Short three minute segments that address cleaning out a bilge go a long way to building good customer relations. No need to strive for a high-quality professional video production. Video tape the mechanic with your ‘point and shoot’ while he’s elbow deep in an engine. It’s realistic – and it’s true.
A video doesn’t replace actual words. It might not be appropriate to cover everything in the video but the actual copy is important not only for the search engines (remember they don’t look at the photos or check out the videos), but those folks that don’t have high speed.
Ideally, videos should be loaded to a video sharing site such as YouTube and then linked to your site. It’s a two-way boost. Videos are bandwidth hogs and will slow down the download speed of your website. And if the website is on a video sharing site – there’s a greater chance of getting found by search engines and more users.
Manuals: Everyone is looking for a manual on an ancient motor that is no longer made. And manuals are great, but loading thousands of pdf files unto your site is not necessarily the best solution. Portable Document Files are not read by search engines either – although they keep threatening to do it.
So, keep the balance between a website that is search engine optimized and is good for the user. Provide an option for the user, to either read the instructions on the site or download the instructions for their own files. Again, keep in mind user experience and don’t make them scroll and search for what they want – keep it simple and make it useable.
Don’t even think about monetizing the manuals. If it’s a question of giving away too much expertise then pick the minimum. Remember it’s about user and search engine content – gaining credibility and getting the customer to ask for more.
Product Reviews: Why not? Theoretically your company is an expert in the field, so why not add a product review from a staff member or the manufacturer? Users are savvy. They know it’s about tooting the old horn, but it’s also about learning – and it’s easy enough to pick up a new piece of information.
Don’t be shy about adding product reviews that might not be so complimentary. It might be a new product that is still working out a few hic-cups. Product reviews are a great way to not only alert your customer to a potential problem but provide a makeshift solution. Now that’s quality content and great customer service!
And all this content – which is often referred to as static content because it doesn’t get changed that often and is the basis for your website – can be submitted to any social media site, blog site or press release site. Interactive media is a great way of informing the world that there’s new content on your site, positioning yourself as an expert, driving traffic to your site – and gaining those ever important links back to the site.
The internet has become an important resource, so position your website the same way – as an important resource. Add good content that will enhance the user experience and alert the search engines to your reliability and credibility as a resource. Avoid sticking stuff on the website – because where else will it go? Add good quality content. It will enhance all of your online marketing efforts.