Thursday, August 25, 2005

How to Write a Great Website:

Part III Content is King!

So far, we’ve been talking all about the main page. How to draw them in to your site. How you keep them there, however, is more based on your sub pages! That’s where you have the opportunity to really shine. You can provide good useful and valuable information. This is one area where you can compete against the huge retailers. Do they answer product questions? Do they give advice on how to actually use the products? Nope. They just sell ‘em.

Try it. Go to a big retail store. Find someone in a vest and ask them about a feature of a product. 9 times out of ten, what will they say?

“Um… Sorry… I don’t know much about those…”

As a small retailer, you’re in an excellent position to really draw in the customer because you know about your products. You can answer questions. You can help them actually USE the products instead of just HAVE them.

To do that, you have to look past the products.

You have to take stock of the products that you have on your site, and look past the hardware to the experience they represent. Let’s do a couple of case studies.

Let’s say your site is selling cookware and kitchen utensils. Pots, pans, that sort of thing. Look beyond the gear on your site and ask what is the experience the gear brings. What would you use them for? What kind of information would be useful to that audience? Let’s brainstorm:

1. Since these things are used for cooking, how about including some recipes on the site?
2. Articles on how to use spices to their best advantage.
3. Articles on meal planning and nutrition.
4. How to organize a kitchen to most optimal.

Notice that this information is not more marketing hype, but is actually usable and pertinent. That doesn’t mean it can’t be promotional. If you write about using spices, why not include some spices for your customers to order?

A constant rotation of good, informative content can bring visitors back to the site. They want to know what’s new, too, don’t they? And not just the visitors, but the search engine spiders will return more often as well. Each time they find a difference in your site, you’re red flagged for a quicker return. Some of the busier blogs get spidered daily! Make your site a living, growing destination, rather than a static bump on the information superhighway.

OK, you know that you need content. So, how do you write it?

First, realize that writing content is different that writing a main page or a product description. In this case you’re not trying so hard to convince, but rather to inform or instruct. The inverted pyramid we talked about before usually doesn’t work here. A more logic-based structure is better.

If you’re giving instructions, a step-by-step order is simple enough. What do I do first, then what do I do next, then what do I do after that? I don’t recommend assuming any level of understanding in your reader. It’s better to explain something and make sure they understand rather than to assume it.

After a first draft, have someone else look it over. Not just for proofreading, but for logic, too. Do they understand how to do it, now that they’ve read your article? What parts were unclear? Rewrite. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time!

Writing can be very difficult. It also gets easier as you do it more and more. So, as you keep adding new content and keep updating your main page, it’ll constantly improve and move your business forward!

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