You’ve spent the last several months creating the world’s most fantastic website. Great design, sophisticated code, cutting-edge css, and a fancy content management system – your new website is a platform ready to offer up the most exciting and insightful bits of information known to man. Congratulations! Except… As every one of our clients has heard us preach at least once, “The best website in the world is worthless without an audience.” Without strong content, regularly updated, your traffic will be short-lived.
What will that content be? Fortunately, if you have a viable business model, you already have a topic of interest to your potential customers. Certainly, a wholesaler of lug nuts has vast stores of knowledge that will fascinate most any lug nut retailer. For the design or development shop, though you don’t have a physical “product” to pimp, you do have a vast pool of materials to promote and discuss: your portfolio, your philosophies, customer news, industry trends and much more. Just put your creative cap on and create.
Whatever information you supply, three guiding principles will leverage that content’s capacity to pique audience interest: consistency, variety and organization.
Consistency is key. To capture an audience and keep them coming back, you need to provide an incentive. Sites that do not create an experience worth revisiting don’t garner much activity. So, to compel your audience to check you out more than twice, update regularly. Certainly, you could incentivize with interactive material, a cutting-edge interface or the like (and these can be great additions to enhance “stickiness”) but if the focus of your site is to provide a portal to your business, then frequent content updates are vital.
Consider updating on a schedule. This will work for you and your visitors on a few different levels. It will get you in the habit of creating new materials, massaging your portfolio or writing new articles or blog posts on a steady basis. It will also help you avoid the deadly new website pitfall, the “lots of updates in the first month – then silence” syndrome. For your audience, consistent updating will create a schedule of sorts to follow. Whether it’s once a day, once a week or monthly (the latter is probably too infrequent), your audience will learn to return on a regular basis to see what’s new.
And what’s cool is, repeat site visits multiply into more site visitors. From SEO to the opportunity for publicity, every update gives the public new material with which they can interact. In the era of Social Media, give them something to talk about and your business reaps the rewards. Plus, Search Engines enjoy change, too. Not only will you receive residual benefits by having your announcement slathered all over the internet, but Search Engines will see that your site is active and relevant, and your ranking should improve.
Mix it up. Variety is the spice of your website’s life. It keeps you from getting too bogged down in a single topic or category; enables you to expand your own realm of interest and (hopefully) influence; and offers your audience the unexpected. Variety of content will also capture the attention of a much wider group of people.
Alternate your subjects (e.g. a new portfolio piece this week, a new client announcement the next, why a certain piece of software rules, how deep is your love for the color fuchsia, who you agree with, disagree with, hope to never see again). Sure, if you have several major announcements to make, go for it, but if you are able to spread them out and alternate between content types, you will be less apt to alienate any one subset of your audience.
Write like a journalist. Though developing your own style is certainly important (many dedicated readers will revisit sites more for their style than their substance), recent studies (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html) prove that the whole “keep it above the fold” mentality has not gone the way of the dodo.
Strong materials organization is indispensable. Yes, your site has scroll bars for easy navigation. But the attention span of the modern web user is measured in nanoseconds. Make your bullet points early and high on the page, and get to the gist of your information as soon as possible. Then drill down to specifics. Not everyone is willing to invest the time it takes to hit page down. (Incidentally, pagination doesn’t really seem to improve overall readership, and may actually lead to higher drop-off.)
A neat little trick is to embed some really tasty bit of information toward the bottom of your page, as a call-out, sidebar or footer. Do it consistently and, studies have shown, people will anticipate these nuggets—which may gain you better readership for the full article.
The big picture? Create content that demonstrates enthusiasm and passion for your subject, and it will foster a similar reaction in your audience. Add consistency, variety and strong organization, and you will be sure to maximize your efforts and grow a vibrant, valuable website.