A Web site is only as good as the content it contains. If you spend all your Web site development resources on building the technology that contains your message and don't clearly think through the message you want to convey, your site won't be effective. Part of your Web strategy and design planning requires that you think through the type of content that would be most appropriate, who your audience is, and how you'll create that content and keep it fresh and interesting. See the checklist steps that follow to make sure that your site reaches its target.

Understand What Your Site Content Can Do for You
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.

Tailor Your Content to Your Target Audience
Who are your customers? What kind of content do they expect to find on your site? Keep in mind the purpose of your site: Is it an online sales brochure, a newsletter or magazine site, or a tool to sell your products? The answer will help determine what content you should include in it.

Choose Web Site Content from Three Main Categories
You need to decide how you want to position your company. There are a number of different approaches you may take. Examples of the types of content you could include are contact information for the company, company history, profiles of key people, frequently asked questions, press releases, customer testimonials, product features and dimensions, product comparisons, case studies and articles about your products or services in action, and helpful tips. You could post articles that spotlight your knowledge and expertise in certain area. Such copy can extend your reach and invite inquiries from people interested in hiring your services. The same can be true for a product that requires considerable aftermarket servicing. You can use your Web site to build trust in your products and expertise. Once you complete your research, make a list of the content you will feature on your site. Like your other marketing pieces, you need to decide on the tone of your content. For example, consider whether you want a friendly or folksy tone or a more factual style. Consider what kind of image would best reflect your company's style.

Establish Your Content Budget
Within the context of your overall budget, come up with a range of how much you want to spend to put content on your site, and then to maintain it and keep it current. It usually costs more to commission content than it does to refresh it or check it periodically for accuracy. Don't forget to consider the costs of taking people away from their primary responsibilities to create content.

Create Your Own Web Content
You could generate your own text and graphical content by drawing on your existing in-house talent or by hiring outside content creators. Creating your own content gives you a greater level of control over the information that is featured on your site. You'll need to evaluate your current resources and decide whether the alternative of hiring people to create your content is feasible.

Acquire Web Content from Outside Sources
You can acquire both text and graphical content from outside sources through syndicated companies that share their content. Obviously this content will likely have a broad appeal, and if your company fills a niche market, you may not find content that is appropriate.

Find Out What Web Content Is Working
Your Web site is your only face to many of your customers. If you post your original content and forget about it, they will be able to tell. You need to keep refreshing your features to make sure your site is up to date and keep the interest of your customers. The only way you'll know whether your site is meeting your customers' needs and how it might need to be changed is to keep monitoring it after it is built. You can use a number of methods to make sure your content is right for your audience. Log analysis tools to track traffic patterns on your site, keyword tracking, and surveying your customers can all help you make sure that you don't waste your resources on content that no one is reading or that turns your customers away.

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