Understand What Your Site Content Can Do for You
BY Russell Shaw
Content is the primary reason that people visit your site. You're writing content to attract and keep visitors on your site (a concept known as "stickiness"), to get them to return again and again, and to sell your products. Your content can generate page views; the more page views your site serves up (and the more traffic it generates), the more money you can charge advertisers to place banner ads on your site.
Attract Visitors to Your Site Think back to the motivating factors that led you to create your Web site. Most likely, you created your Web site to let your current and prospective customers know about your products and your expertise. A site can also be a handy reference tool for people who may wish to invest in, or work for, your company. That's why it's important for you not only to have a visually attractive presentation, but also to make sure that your content is current, accurate, and well written. That means that your site mustn't refer to products you don't sell anymore or jobs with your company that have been filled, and it mustn't have embarrassing typographical errors or erroneous information. Before you post, double-check everything. Is the price on that part current? Is it in stock? Is the serial number correct? Web visitors can feel neglected when you don't take the time to polish your Web content.
Keep Visitors on Your Site A term currently in vogue in the online world is "stickiness," meaning the ability of a Web site to attract repeat visitors and to keep visitors on the site for as long as possible. Most commonly, stickiness refers to sites that keep visitors for a reasonable length of time. The stickiest sites provide more than just information; they provide a community environment, where people can shop, chat, and entertain or educate themselves. In his About.com article " Sticky Web Sites," Jason Zien points to several things you can do to make your site sticky. Here are a few examples:
Enable your site to create customizable Web pages for each visitor, based on his or her preferences or interests.
Include tutorials that show people how to use your products and provide a way for them to ask questions specific to each lesson.
Lead online chats in which you talk to customers in real time.
Provide streaming audio or video files on your site, case histories told by satisfied customers, maybe even a virtual tour of your plant or office.
Give Visitors a Reason to Return to Your Site If your site's visitors or customers perceive that they've obtained all the answers they will need on their first visit to your site, they won't have a compelling reason to come back. Think of a parallel to the offline world -- if no one came back a second time to a store, that establishment would soon go out of business.
Keep your content fresh. The best way to keep visitors coming back is to give them a sense of anticipation that the content and offerings will change. Adding some new products next month? Put a "Coming soon" banner or hot products section on your site. Post product updates and refresh company news on an ongoing basis. You could add news and interesting articles to pique your visitors' interest.
Place new features in a prominent place, so your format clearly indicates that your site is designed to add new items regularly. Each time you make a noticeable change to your Web site, you may want to add a "New" graphic to draw attention to new features and advertise that your site is regularly updated.
Create a sense of community. Visit cWWorkz's checklist to find a way to create a sense of community through Web-based, e-mail-based, and chat forums. Develop an e-mail list that your customers can voluntarily sign up for on your site. Send them e-mail to let them know about new features on your site, and then put a link in that e-mail message to the new pages on your site that you'd like them to visit.
Create interesting events. Other techniques for bringing visitors back include running contests, games, or sweepstakes; giving away products; creating interesting content such as product comparisons; launching a new site or redesigning all or part of an existing one; making announcements about your company; planning offline events such as speeches, conferences, and seminars; and featuring season-specific content. The type of site and audience you have will determine which ideas will work for you.
Sell Your Products E-commerce sites that provide a clear pathway between product information and a way for customers to buy are more successful. Make it easy for your customers to buy the products you're writing about by putting a "Buy now" or "Buy here" link on each of your product information pages. This approach means your customers won't have to spend time finding out where and how to buy your products. Web shoppers quickly leave a site that fails to make it easy for them to find what they're looking for. Since your customers presumably visit the product information pages because they are interested in your company's product(s), they are likely to buy, so make it easy for them to do so. This is part of good customer service, which also includes providing detailed product information to help customers make informed purchasing decisions.