Used to be, getting your website up and running was the hard part. You had to spend a lot of money on design and coding before you could even start thinking about your message.
But after you'd made the investment, all you had to do was hire an seo expert to take a few shortcuts and you'd have traffic.
Once the site was done, it was just there, like an online brochure. If you needed a change, you had to go back to the tech person to get it done.
Then, some big changes happened.
- Technology advanced. You still need good design, but these days getting there is much easier, whether you choose the DIY route or hire someone to take care of the technical details. With current content management systems, updates are easily made in house.
- What works for search engine rankings changed. SEO is not about manipulation. It's about the content on your site. This article from Search Engine Watch explains what makes for awesome content from an SEO perspective.
- Social media exploded, and if you want it to work for you, either you create and share quality content on a regular basis, you pay for ads to get social traffic, or both.
So why do so many small and medium sized businesses still allocate most of their budget to designers and developers for their sites, instead of looking for someone who can really make a difference – a content strategist and writer?
Maybe it has to do with perception. ‘We'll throw some content in later.' Because it's not such a big deal, and everyone can write, right? Well, sure, almost everyone can string words and sentences together.
But if you've ever had to read an e-mail five times to understand what someone meant, or struggled to put together a piece of furniture from a box because the instructions didn't make sense, you realize that not everyone writes equally well. And that's just basic business writing and instructional how-to, never mind great content that someone would actually pass on to others.
It's obvious why some site owners make the mistake of putting style before substance. Building good content is a process that takes some time. It happens in layers, and without a good plan, it might seem like an overwhelming task.
Contrast that with hiring a designer. It's easy to understand the value of a designer, because it's just a matter of ‘I pay you $$$, you make it function properly and look pretty, and it's done.'
Except it's not really done. It needs substance.
Your site needs a reason for people to visit, a reason for them to stick around, a reason for them to stay in contact, and a reason for them to come back. The main reason some businesses end up with ineffective websites is that they stop where they should begin. Design is only one part of a good site.
The main element that attracts visitors, gets them to read, and turns them into customers, is site content. It's the substance that allows your site to do its job. Without it, you just have a pretty container.
If you get the content right, and promote it, the results will follow. If you get it wrong, you won't get traffic, you won't get shared, and your search engine rankings won't be where you want them.
So here's the big question. How do you get the content right?
That question has a slightly different answer for every business, and getting to it requires a good hard look at what you're doing now with your site, your content, and your social media presence. It means defining what you want, and really digging in and getting to know your audience and what they find valuable.
After that, it's a matter of planning specific items. Which combination of blogs, how-to guides, newsletter, e-books do you need? How will they will be used, and how they will be integrated with the sales process? When should you deploy each of them so they're most effective?
Good content does not happen by accident.
Careful planning and strategic execution of your plan will help create content assets that will serve your goals not just once, but for years to come.
Be smart about your online presence. Don't make the mistake of putting style before substance. In the connected world we're in, your results depend on it.
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