The Importance of Content
You’ll hear a lot about “content” these days, if you keep up with any sort of business news, and how it’s important for your business. But what does that mean for you, and what do people mean by content? The dictionary definition says that content in this instance means “information made available by a website or other electronic medium”, and that’s a good place to start because information is key, here. But what makes it so important that people talk about it as being “king” in the modern Internet landscape?
Content in this context means engaging, consumable media. Basically, it’s the real substance of any website – information, as we said earlier. It’s what keeps you on a website, instead of simply clicking away to another page immediately, or getting up and doing something else altogether. Content is what makes people keep looking at your site, and ultimately one of the reasons they make a purchase from you.
An online store might have a blog, or a lot of details in their product descriptions and categories, or even information rich pages on the site giving customers resources they might need for the products and their uses. A news site will have news articles, infographics, opinion pieces, focus pieces, etc. There are a lot of different ways to increase the overall amount of content your website has, but for this article, we’re going to focus the details most important to an online business.
Why Search Engines Like Content
Search engines like Google and Bing have gotten increasingly sophisticated about picking out sites that people will want to visit – among all of the empty sites full of spam and advertisements that used to be so common in the early days of the Internet. They use a number of ways to determine this, but one powerfully simple one is engagement. Engagement is basically answering a few questions about search results:
- How often do people go to this site?
- How much time do they actually spend there before going somewhere else?
Sites that people click to hoping to find what they’re looking for is important, but if they’re immediately backing out and looking somewhere else then you can be pretty sure that’s not a useful resource. If it’s a pattern search engines see develop, that website starts dropping off of the search results. On the other hand, if it’s a site that people really seem to find useful and spend time on, you can see a slow but steady upwards increase in search rankings. That means more shoppers, which means more purchases for your business.
It’s helpful to note that social media companies also pay very close attention to this same thing. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all paying attention to how to give people the content they want to find. They determine this via engagement in just the same way that search engines do, and in fact sometimes spend even more effort to determine which content pieces are most useful to specific groups of people.
For those who are running an online business, at first you may think that all you have to do is put up a list of products with their names and a couple of photographs, then set up the backend system and you’re ready to go! While this is technically true, it’s important to realize that your website isn’t an online inventory list. Your website isn’t a catalog, it’s your store.
Now, it’s true that some businesses get a lot of their traffic from somewhere besides search engines. Social media, a strong existing customer base, brand recognition or advertising via other means – all of these are fantastic ways to have customer outreach! But in the end, your potential customers will tend to behave a lot like search engines in a way. They want to use a website that feels fleshed-out and useful to them far more than one that doesn’t, which brings us to…
Why Site Visitors Appreciate Content
It’s important to keep in mind the your website is your entire store to your online customer. In a brick and mortar store, you can pick up the product, read the packaging, feel the weight, see about how big it is, maybe even use a demo model. If you have questions, you can ask a salesperson nearby in an instant. Also, a quick look around and you’ve seen an entire section of the store’s inventory.
An online store isn’t going to have all of these. You want people to want to spend time on your site. If you sell clothing, for example, you might want to have information on sizing, styles, brands, any number of questions a customer might have. You might want to keep people updated on the latest trends and fashions, or remind them when you’re having sales or new inventory. Give them another reason to visit, other than purely to shop.
When you go to make a purchase offline, you typically go to a store with a nice building and well-maintained space. You’re probably not going to be as comfortable making a transaction with someone who has a hand-painted sign and a card table set up showing off their wares – unless it’s something like a child’s lemonade stand.
The same can be said for your website. Have you ever walked into a new store and felt like it just wasn’t finished? There were too few products on the shelves, or everything wasn’t labeled properly? Did you make a purchase – or just leave and continue shopping? If you did, it probably wasn’t a substantial purchase – and definitely less hefty of a dollar spend than a store with an impressive store display. You can get the same feeling from an online store if it’s just a handful of products and nothing else to see.
Customers appreciate a site with depth. The more there is to get out of your site, the more people will spend time on it, or come back to it again and again. Customers appreciate this kind of attention to the details of your site. They notice that you’ve thought about their needs, and it helps elicits a positive impression of your business.
The rise of “conscious consumers” has also given reasons for providing increased details about your business and your products. People like to know if your products are made domestically, or what materials they are made from. If you have a service, people want to know your hours of availability, and in some cases what to expect from hiring you. If you or your business contribute to or assist with charities, this is a great opportunity to showcase that to the world.
Ways to Increase Your Site’s Content
First and foremost, look at what you already have. Can you expand on it, do your products have enough description and important information available? If you’ve got a Frequently Asked Questions page (and you should), spend some time seeing if you can add more detail and more questions to it. Your “About Us” page should be more than just the date your business was founded and what time you close – this is your chance to tell people the story of your business and hopefully get them to feel invested in you a little bit. A personal story can go a long way in building customer confidence for your brand.
Product categories and brands are also great places to have more information. Some pictures and a few paragraphs about the products or services you carry can help customers have a little peace of mind about giving you their credit card information. You will also want a trust seal from a service verifying that your site meets all the security and safety standards consumers have come to expect from a reputable online business. If your site has had some effort put into it, you’re planning to be available to them in the future, not disappear into the night with their money or information.
Information pages are another useful tool for online businesses. A store that sells art supplies, for example, might have some tutorials on how to use various products or introductions to techniques. An automotive parts store may have writeups about trade shows, how-to guides, showcases of builds, or reviews. Many businesses have pages dedicated to helping customers choose between different products depending on what they need to use it for.
For a store owner, the blog is the most underused tool for increasing visits to your website. This can hold even more true if your blog is actually useful to people. An article or infographic good enough to be shared can mean an increase in traffic many times your everyday visitor count.
What If I Don’t Have Time?
We get it – you’re busy, running a small business or department. Maybe you’ve got time to do a few things, but the kind of upgrade we’re talking about looks like it might take a good chunk of your valuable time. Or perhaps you’re just not that technical/don’t like writing very much. If you’ve got employees, they might be able to assist you with some of this assuming you can spare them. Writing might not be their specialty either, however.
Hiring a professional team to beef up your site’s content can really improve your site’s quality and help increase your traffic. It can even generate repeat business sometimes! The quality and proofreading that goes into such work can make a world of difference, and is less expensive than you would often expect.
Professionals know how to gear the text both to your customers’ needs and the attention of search engines. They can make your page look professional and well-informed without being intrusive. If you can establish yourself as a useful resource in the minds of consumers, your reputation with them will grow right along with that. And as your reputation grows, so does your site’s traffic and your bottom line.
Since your website is your entire online presence, it’s a representative of your brand. It’s more than just a catalog, it’s how you represent yourself to the world. Your website is almost always the beginning and end of each customer interaction with you, so it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward.
In addition, you want people to visit in the first place! Giving the search engines proof that your site is worth listing can be worth its weight in gold, and one of the absolute best ways to do that is by giving search engines what they want – information. Their entire goal is to give users links to sites with lots of information. Customers want links to sites with lots of information when you get right down to it.
Remember, every single new page your site is another potential starting point for someone to find themselves on your website. The more you have, the more chances someone will come to your site. If you can make sure that people are engaged in your site and getting value from their experience, then you’ve already established a tiny fragment of a relationship with them. It’s far easier to grow a small relationship into a larger one than it is to try and start from scratch.
Customers who have everything they need to make an informed decision at the moment they’re ready to make a purchase are customers who aren’t going to leave halfway through shopping and go to some other site to make a purchase. User-provided reviews can provide you with additional content once you start getting more visitors. Having quality content is one of the easiest ways to make your site useful and beneficial to both you and your customers.