When businesses first started using the Internet for marketing, the goals were simple. At the time, content was a second thought since simply having a website was enough to put a business ahead of its rivals. As the Web has grown, however, so has the number of competitors and the expectations of consumers who using the Internet for shopping and information. For modern Internet marketers, it is vital that a website be geared toward satisfying consumer expectations for engaging, high-quality content and functionality that make e-commerce simple. This article will focus on five ways that business owners can use their content to make their websites more than just another website.
- High-Quality Content
The best place to start any content marketing strategy is with a source for high-quality content. Producing high-quality content helps in several ways. There are literally trillions of Web pages out there, so to help find the best for search results, search algorithms are getting better at determining good content from shallow content. This means that writing longer content with a good writing style will get a site ranked higher than a one with short, poorly written articles. Aside from the SEO benefit, high-quality content gets readers to come back. Consumers realize that there is a dearth of good content on the Web, so they'll return to a site that consistently delivers what they're looking for. High-quality content also gets shared more, thus exponentially increasing the reach of the message. Whether a business chooses to produce a blog, video series, infographics, etc., the quality of the finished product must always be the primary concern. A little bit of great content is better than a truckload of crummy content.
- Up-to-Date In-Store Information
For businesses where the website is linked to a local business, connecting the online and in-store experience is a great way to give consumers another reason to visit a site often. A recent study from Loyalty360 shows just how important the connection between online and in-store impressions can be. Its survey found that 47 percent of U.S. online shoppers are frustrated when in-store impressions are different from online impressions. As a specific example, the study noted that 60 percent of U.S. online shoppers are frustrated when websites display out-of-stock items. Up-to-date product availability information is an example of the kind of information that makes a website more than just a website. For example, Gamestop has a feature on its website that lets users search the inventory of all of its stores to find used or new items they want. This up-to-date information saves the consumer time and effort, which ensures return visits to the site. Research has shown that consumers are beginning to expect this functionality more and more from small and local businesses.
- User-Generated Content
If the Internet has taught us one thing, it's that people like to see content made by ordinary people. Businesses can use this to their advantage by making their site into an outlet for user-generated content. The simplest way to do this is to enable reviews and testimonials on the site. People trust online reviews almost as much as they do recommendations coming from someone they knew. And so long as it's easy to do, happy customers will leave good reviews. Another way to utilize user-generated content is to encourage people to submit images or videos of themselves using the product or service. A recent study from L2 found that 18 percent of brands already use user-generated content on their homepage. Besides making a company or product seem more personable, using consumer-generated images shows people that a business cares about its customers and trust them enough to use them in images.
- Exclusive Video Content
When deciding on a content mix for a content marketing strategy, business owners should try hard to include videos where possible. Video content is always popular on the Web and gets shared often. However, businesses need to get away from the habit of simply embedding videos from other sources onto their sites. It may seem like a good way to add videos without all the effort of content creation, but in practice, it's more likely to generate return traffic for the content producer instead of the site that's embedding the content. To illustrate, if a site embeds a YouTube video with interesting content, it's likely that the viewers will simply go and subscribe to the YouTube channel, rather than returning to the site that first showed them the video, thus cutting out the middleman. When a business produces its own videos (which it can put on its own YouTube channel and then embed the video on the site), the consumers have to return to the business if they want to see similar videos in the future. Additionally, there is an SEO benefit for creating content first. Search algorithms know where content originates (for the most part). This way, the content creator gets the top result, and not one of the thousands of sites that embed the video afterward.
- E-commerce Integration
Trying to segregate e-commerce from other website functions is a common mistake. According to the L2 study mentioned above, nearly one in four brand blogs doesn't have e-commerce integration. One way to judge the effectiveness of e-commerce integration is to ask: If a website has a blog discussing a certain product, how many steps does it take to get from the blog to finish buying the product. The more steps it takes, the more likely it is the consumer will fall out of the sales funnel. At a minimum, there should be a link from the blog to the specific product mentioned in the post. The user shouldn't have to go searching the site to find an item mentioned on the blog. A better option would be a widget that would let customers add the item to their carts without having to leave the blog. They may find other items to buy if they keep reading articles, so you give them the option to add items, but let them check out whenever they want. It also works in reverse. If an item in the shop has been mentioned in blog posts, it should be easy for consumers to see those article links, open them (in a new tab or window), all without disrupting the shopping experience. Improving the e-commerce integration of a site will boost revenues and ROI for internet marketing.
The point of all of these changes is for business owners to make their sites more valuable and useful to consumers than any similar sites. The average Internet consumer has become more selective in the sites he or she uses, and providing an unrivaled experience is necessary if a business depends on return visits. Making a website more than just a website isn't about a fancy or flashy design. Rather, a smarter design that makes a site more user-friendly with high-quality content worth returning for is all that is needed to make a business or brand stand out among the rest. For more ways to create better content, read this article on Why Your Content Should Be Your Edge.