Monday, May 16, 2005

Ooooh, Sticky!

A pretty common buzzword in the website world these days is “sticky”. The successful sites are the “sticky” ones. What does it mean?

It means that when people come to your site, they tend to stick around. It’s not just pop in, pop out, but rather something there at your site draws them in and holds them there. And in a word, it’s “content”.

That’s another important buzzword running around the website world. “Content” is what gives your site substance. It’s what search engines look for. It’s what people search for using search engines. It’s what makes visitors choose your site over someone else’s. It’s information, it’s pictures, it’s advice, it’s interest. There’s a very technical term for all this. We call it “Stuff”! Or even better, “Good stuff!”

But we need to back up a moment.

Before you can think of what sort of “good stuff” you want on your site, you need to have a clear picture of what your site is about. What it’s for, what it will do for you and your audience.

Let me throw you some examples. Let’s say your site has some products on the catalog pages. Let’s say you’re selling CD players, speakers, boom boxes, and mp3 players. What is the site really about? Some might say, “It’s about selling stereo gear”. I disagree. I say that it’s really about enjoying music.

Another one: Let’s say that you’re site is selling tents, backpacks, camp stoves, and sleeping bags. Again, it’s not about “selling camping gear”, but, instead it’s all about enjoying the outdoors.

When you take a step back from looking just at you products, you can see that your products are enhancing some kind of experience. It’s that experience that should be the focus of your site. Because with the focus on the experience, then your site opens up to a lot of possible content. You can include much more “stuff” in your site that will interest your audience.

For example, in the case of the audio site, how about reviewing new music CD’s? And not just the major labels. The Internet is famous, now, for expanding the possibilities of indie music, that being music that is recorded and promoted without the benefit of a major label. Make your site about your favorite genre!

If the camping site is what yours is about, then you could include reviews of campsites. Articles about how to set up a campsite, or camp recipes would really fill out the site.

Whatever your site is about, step back from the products and discover the experience. Then brainstorm what sort of information you can share that would be relevant to that experience, and enhance it. Think of your audience. What would they want to know about?

Once you’ve thought of what sorts of things your audience would want to read about or see, then you can go about figuring out how to get it and put it on your site.

If you’ve been at all active in the subject area that your website covers (you should at least be interested in what you’re selling, right?), then you might have a fundamental knowledge base about that topic. That would give you some experience to write your own articles. Like to camp? Write about some of the things you’ve learned. How do you camp in wet weather and stay dry? How do you lay out a camp ground? How about a checklist of things to bring on a camping trip? RV vs. roughing it? You don’t have to be fancy, and you don’t have to be eloquent, you just have to be concise and informative. Tell a few of the stories that taught you what you’ve learned.

It’s good to get started with a few articles, and then add a new one every week or two. It keeps the content fresh. That keeps both visitors and spiders coming back. Build up an archive of great information.

Sometimes, you can go out onto the ‘net and find other people’s articles. Often, with a simple contact, they’ll give you permission to reprint their article on your site simply in exchange for a link back to their site. As an example, if anyone wants to use any of these articles here at SOHOman, just drop me an email and include a linkback.

Encourage your visitors to help you. For example, everyone has a camping horror story. You know, one of those weekend where nothing goes right and, in retrospect, is really funny, even though they weren’t laughing at the time. Have people send in those stories and post them on the pages. Then your visitors get the sense of participating in your site. It builds a community and a rapport. It’s a lot of fun, too.

Here are some more ideas for content. Always remember that the content should be relevant to your site’s theme and audience.

· Quotations and inspirational thoughts
· Puzzles and games
· Jokes
· Case studies/success stories
· On-site blogs
· Resource directories
· Testimonials.

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